Christopher Marlowe was a Freemason and a cabalist. He was also the greatest poet and dramatist of his day. He was by far and away the greatest single influence on Shakespeare and, indeed, the parallelism of their styles is so close that at various times as many as six of the plays included in the 1623 First Folio have been attributed to him (by orthodox scholars). The professional lives of the two writers actually dovetail into each other with the most remarkable precision. Marlowe’s work appeared within a six year period, during which time not pip or squeak had been heard of anyone called Shakespeare. And then, within two weeks of Marlowe’s supposed murder, came Shakespeare’s entry to the literary world, Venus and Adonis. A stylistic analysis by John Baker revealed this to have been the poem Marlowe wrote immediately prior to his unfinished Hero and Leander.
The evidence of Marlowe’s cabalistic prowess appears in his first play Tamburlaine the Great (parts I and II) – already an astounding feat of precocious genius without that extra level of sophistication. It may also be indicative of the fact that he was already initiated as a Freemason when he wrote the play(s) in his final year at Cambridge. This is certainly not impossible, as he was then working for the secret service – and there have always been close links between the two secret organizations. For a detailed examination of Marlowe’s use of the cabala go to my academic paper on Tamburlaine: Marlowe and the Cabala.
The crunch problem for Marlowe’s authorship of Shakespeare is his ‘murder’ in 1593. In theory this rules him out of contention. However, there are extremely good grounds for doubting that the murder ever took place at all. Marlowe had a very strong motive to disappear, he had the right contacts and the means to escape, the alledged murder incident was extremely suspicious and there is evidence of a cover-up:
Motive: He had been arrested ten days previously and was on bail whilst evidence was being gathered against him to try him for atheism – a capital charge that would inevitably be prefaced by torture. His old room-mate and fellow dramatist Thomas Kyd had just been tortured on the rack in the same round-up. In that situation, wouldn’t you want to disappear?
Contacts: Marlowe had been staying at the house of his patron, Thomas Walsingham, when arrested. Thomas was cousin of Queen Elizabeth’s great spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham, and he was his protege, too. Marlowe thus had access to the highest level of the secret service. Additionally, he was almost certainly working for, and being protected by Lord Burghley, the most powerful man in the country (1). As a Freemason, he is likely to have been protected by the Brotherhood. The patron of the theatrical company for whom he was the leading writer was the Lord Admiral – cited in Anderson’s Constitutions of the Freemasons (1723) as a Grand Master of the English Freemasons until 1588.
Murder: Marlowe’s ‘murder’ was unwitnessed by any except the three men that came together and spent the day with him. He knew them all and had worked with them all in the secret service. All three were employed by, or had been employed by, Marlowe’s patron Thomas Walsingham. The ‘murderer’ was actually Walsingham’s private servant – and afterwards not only was he rapidly pardonned by the Queen but also, on his release from gaol, he returned immediately to Walsingham’s service (where he remained for many years to come). There can be little doubt that the events of 30th May 1593 in Deptford were orchestrated by Marlowe’s good friend Thomas Walsingham.
Cover-up: The coroner’s inquest into the death was presided over by the Queen’s coroner William Danby, an old acquaintence of Lord Burghley. In cases where the Queen’s coroner presided it was also a legal requirement that the local coroner should jointly sit. This was the law. The fact that the Deptford coroner was excluded from the proceedings renders the inquest legally ‘erroneous and void’. See Peter Farey’s article “Was Marlowe’s Inquest Void?”. It is almost certain that the Queen was aware of what happened and helped to cover it up. In the aftermath of the Essex rebellion, when Shakespeare’s play Richard II was put on to incite the populace, the queen was furious at the author and screamed, “He that will forget God, will also forget his benefactors; this tragedy was played 40tie times in open streets and houses . . .”. This quotation, referring to the dramatist’s ‘atheism’ and his having been granted the Queen’s protection can only refer to Marlowe (not Shaksper, Bacon or Oxford).
A Curious Hint
In his study of the authorship question, John Michell concludes his chapter on Marlowe – The Professional Candidate – with the words: “Marlowe undoubtedly had a hand in Shakespeare. If he really did survive his own murder there is no limit to what he can be supposed to have done later.” (2)
And what does John believe? Well, ‘Seal up your lips, and give no words but mum’, as someone else once said. It is interesting, however, that John’s first book about gematria, written around the same time he was editing William Stirling’s magnum opus, should sport the curious name The View Over Atlantis. I never understood that name when reading the book, but now I think I understand – for its gematria value of 2923 indicates a tribute to the greatest exponent of literary cabala since John the Evangelist, in other words, “William Shakespeare / Christopher Marlowe” – 1344 + 1579 = 2923. A nod’s as good as a wink to a blind fella, John!
The Legend of Hiram
The greatest exponent of the Marlovian theory in recent years has been the late A.D. Wraight (3). An unpublished book of hers, that I have yet to read, bears the title The Legend of Hiram and reputedly addresses Marlowe’s Masonic connections. Aside from talking to Canterbury Freemasons, who assured her that Marlowe had been one of their own, Wraight must have stumbled onto the theme of her book through a consideration of the extraordinary parallels that exist between the ‘murder’ of Hiram Abif and the ‘murder’ of Christopher Marlowe. This probably accounts for the name of her book.
Was Marlowe’s death enacted as Masonic ritual?
“It was the usual custom of the Grand Master, Hiram Abiff, every day at high twelve when the craft went from labor to refreshment, to enter into the sanctorum.”
Marlowe was relaxing on a couch just behind his fellows, who were eating refreshment at a table.
Hiram Abiff was alone in the sanctorum when three ruffians burst in.
Marlowe spent the whole day in the company of three rough characters.
Hiram Abiff was killed by a blow above the right eye with a gavel.
Marlowe was killed by a blow above the right eye with a dagger.
Hiram’s body was buried in an unnamed grave.
Marlowe’s body was buried in an unmarked grave.
Hiram Abiff was raised from the dead on the third day.
Christopher Marlowe was resurrected and probably on a ship for France on the following day.
Why would Marlowe’s ‘murder’ be modelled on Hiram Abiff’s? Almost certainly because the people helping him were Freemasons (giving relief to a brother in need – as they are sworn to do) and the ritual of Hiram’s death had great meaning for them. It also seems likely that Marlowe was an important figure in Freemasonry even before he became Shakespeare. The man who wrote Shakespeare was an extraordinary person and it is unlikely he would have been regarded as ‘disposable’ by his fellows.
1) Burghley got Marlowe off the hook in 1591 when he was arrested for ‘coining’ in Flushing. It seems that this incident involves a secret service plot that went wrong.
2) John Michell, Who Wrote Shakespeare?, Thames and Hudson, 1996, p.240.
3) Wraight’s work The Story That The Sonnets Tell, Adam Hart, London, 1994, remains the best account of Marlowe’s disappearance and re-emergence as Shakespeare.
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