« ZurückWeiter »
to show that Marlowe was distinguished for industry at school. His classical attainments at the beginning of his literary career appear not to have been considerable. In his translation of Ovid's Amores, which is by no means a difficult book, he misses the sense in passages which could be construed to-day with ease by any fourth-form boy. After making all allowance for the inaccuracy of ordinary scholarship in Marlowe's day, it may be safely said that the poet could not have earned much distinction at Cambridge for sound classical knowledge. The probability is that, both at school and college, he read eagerly but not accurately. His fiery spirit, "still climbing after.knowledge infinite," would ill brook to be fettered by the gyves and shackles of an academical training. But whether he held a scholarship or not, he was content to submit so far to the ordinary routine (less irksome then than now) as to secure his Bachelor's Degree in 1583 and commence Master of Arts in 1587.
Dyce puts the question, Who defrayed the expenses of his Academical course if he had no scholarship? It is not improbable that he may have gone to Cambridge at the expense of some patron; and Dyce ventures to suggest that the patron was Sir Roger Manwood, Chief Baron of the Exchequer, who had a mansion at St. Stephen's, near Canterbury. On the back of the titlepage of a copy of Hero and Leander, ed. 1629, Collier found a manuscript Latin epitaph on this gentleman (who died in December 1592), subscribed with Marlowe's name. The epitaph has every appearance of being genuine;1 and as Sir Roger Manwood was distinguished for his munificence, it is not at all unlikely that at some time or other he had made Marlowe the recipient of his bounty. But I must leave the reader to accept or reject Dyce's theory as he pleases.
We have now to consider how Marlowe was engaged after taking his bachelor's degree in 1583. The most plausible view is that of Cunningham, who suggests that the poet trailed a pike in the Low Countries. He points out with some force that Marlowe's "familiarity with military terms, and his fondness for using them are most remarkable." But we must beware of laying too much stress on this argument; for all the Elizabethan dramatists possessed in large measure the faculty, for which Shakespeare was supremely distinguished, of assimilating technical knowledge of every kind. Phillips, who was followed by Antony-a-Wood and Tanner, states in his Theatrum Poetarum that Marlowe "rose from an actor
1 It runs as follows :—
'' In obitum honoratissimi Viri, Rogeri Manwood, Militis, Quaestorii
Reginalis Capitalis Baronis,
/to be a maker of plays;" but the authority of Phillips
A- who was very frequently inaccurate—carries little weight . i \f Collier, who did so much to enlighten students, and so much to perplex them, produced from his capacious portfolio a MS. ballad about Marlowe, entitled the Atheist's Tragedie, from which it would appear that the poet had been an actor at the Curtain and in the performV ance of his professional duties had had the misfortune
to break his leg:—
"A poet was he of repute,
And wrote full many a playe;
He had also a player been
Upon the Curtaine-stage;
When in his early age."1
This is doubtless very ingenious, but I have little hesitation in pronouncing the ballad to be a forgery, though Dyce—who had been victimised on other occasions—and later editors accept it as genuine. The words "When in his early age" can only mean that the poet was a boy-actor at the Curtain; but we know that he could not possibly have been connected with the stage before 1583. I have not seen the MS., and so am unable to deliver any opinion as to the style of the hand-writing; but when we remember how many documents, proved afterwards to be forgeries, Collier put
1 The ballad is given in full at the end of the third volume.
forward as genuine, we shall be quite justified in rejecting the Atheist's Tragedie. It is a work of no great difficulty to imitate with success a doggerel ballad.
Critics are agreed that the first, in order of time, of Marlowe's extant dramatic productions is the" tragedy of Tam.hurfninr. th.e Cirfnt, in two parts. From internal evidence there can be no doubt that Tamburlaine was written wholly by Marlowe; but on the title-page of the early editions there is no author's name, and we have no decisive piece of external evidence to fix the authorship on Marlowe. In Henslowe's Diary there is an entry which, if it had been genuine, would have been conclusive :—
"Pd unto Thomas Dickers, the 20 of Desembr 1597, for adycyous to Fostus twentie shellinges, and fyve shellenges for a prolog to Marloes Tamberlen, so in all I saye payde twentye fyve shellinges." (Henslowe's Diary, ed. J. P. Collier, p. 71.)
Unfortunately this entry, which was received without suspicion by Dyce and other editors, is a forgery. Mr. G. F. Warner, who published in 1881 his careful and elaborate catalogue of the Manuscripts and Muniments of Dulwich College, pronounces that "the whole entry is evidently a forgery, written in clumsy imitation of Henslowe's hand. The forger, however, has shown some skill in his treatment of a narrow blot or smudge which intersects the upper part of the // in the second ' shellinges ;' for in order that the writing may appear to be under and not over the old blot, he has at first carried up the // (as if writing u) only as far as the lower edge of the blot, and then started again from the upper edge to make the loops" (p. 159). The only piece of external evidence which appears to connect Marlowe with Tamburlaine is to be found in a sonnet1 of Gabriel Harvey's, printed at the end of his New Letter of Notable Contents, 1593. From a passage in the Black Book, 1604 (a tract attributed on no sure ground to Thomas Middleton the dramatist), Malone inferred that Tamburlaine was written in whole or part by Nashe. The passage to which Malone referred occurs in the account of an imaginary visit paid to Nashe in his squalid garret. "The testern, or the shadow over the bed," we are informed, "was made of four ells of cobwebs, and a number of small spinner's ropes hung down for curtains: the spindle-shank spiders, which show like great letchers with little legs, went stalking over his head as if they had been conning of Tamburlaine." (Dyce's Middleton, v. 526.) It is difficult to see how any conclusion about the authorship of Tamburlaine can be drawn from this passage. The writer's meaning is that the spiders walked with the pompous gait of an actor rehearsing the part of Tamburlaine. But, putting aside the evidence (in itself conclusive) of style, there is an excellent reason for dismissing Nashe's claims. To Robert Greene's Menaphon, of which the first extant edition is dated 1589 (though some critics suppose that the book was originally published in 1587), Nashe con