In 1949, when I was eleven, our family moved from Luton, Beds., where I was born, to South London. We needed to live nearer the Old Vic Theatre School, where my step-father was employed as an Assistant Director (i.e. teacher), working for the three Directors, George Devine, Michel Saint-Denis, and Glen Byam Shaw.
Having managed to pass the dreaded "eleven plus" while still in Luton (and apparently with just a little encouragement from George Devine, who knew one of its governors!) I was very lucky to be accepted at Dulwich College, on a scholarship.
The school itself had been founded in 1619 by the actor/manager Edward Alleyn, whose imposing portrait hung in a prominent position in the 'lower hall'. But at that time I knew nothing else about him, or about the person whose name was that of the athletic house to which I was allocated - Marlowe. Nor was there then any way of knowing how this Marlowe might have looked, unlike Alleyn himself or the namesakes of all the other houses - Drake, Grenville, Raleigh, Sidney and Spenser. The image that most of us now have of Marlowe, whether really of him or not, was not to be discovered until I was in my third year there, and it wouldn't actually be linked to him - not that I knew anything about it - for another couple of years at least.
For as long as I can remember, and like both of my parents and my step-father, I had enjoyed acting; and it was through acting in Shakespeare's plays while at Dulwich that I began to appreciate, and eventually grow to love, his works. At Herne Hill, where we lived, we were also lucky enough to be within a short (number 68 or 196) bus-ride of the Old Vic Theatre itself, where sixpence bought a seat on the benches up in the 'gods' even on first nights. For example, I'll never forget seeing the first night of 'Othello' in 1956, with John Neville in the title role and Richard Burton as Iago, and then the second night when they reversed the roles, creating what seemed to be a totally different play!
However, I'm jumping ahead a bit. Having a 'dad' in the company did allow me certain perks. I was there on the opening night of the company's return to Waterloo Road, their having been at the New Theatre after the war, and even remember the first lines of Edith Evans's prologue:
London be glad! Your Shakespeare's home againIn 1951 I was allowed into the dress rehearsal of a show which left me gobsmacked - Tyrone Guthrie's Tamburlaine the Great, with Donald Wolfit as Tamburlaine. I even met the great man himself (terrifying in full costume and make-up) and learned not only that the first actor ever to play the part was the founder of my school, Edward Alleyn, but also that it was written by my Christopher Marlowe. I was hooked. Not that I was able to see another play of his for a very long time, but over the next few years I read the lot, and loved them.
After his sojourn in St Martin's Lane.
Meanwhile, back at school, whilst I acted in Shakespeare, I played rugger and cricket for Marlowe, ran for Marlowe, boxed for Marlowe, sang for Marlowe, and even acted for him, in the House Drama Competition.
I left Dulwich in Summer 1956, and having little chance of getting to University with the GCE 'A' level passes I got (no 'grades' in those days), I started my National Service in October. This allowed just enough time that summer for me to appear in an all-male production of Henry V, produced and directed by a teacher from a local boys' school (Alleyn's, another off-shoot of Edward Alleyn's original foundation). The teacher was Michael Croft, and this was the very first production of what was soon to become the National Youth Theatre. (A young Simon Ward played Princess Katherine, and among those with a non-speaking part was a kid called Derek Jacobi).
National Service (The Royal Fusiliers, Intelligence Corps, and Brixmis - officially based behind the Iron Curtain) allowed few chances for watching or taking part in Elizabethan drama of any kind, so after that Marlowe and I went our separate ways for a while.
Not long after my demob I joined what was then B.O.A.C., and remained with them (and British Airways as we later became) for the next thirty years. I had a whole range of jobs in that time, some overseas, and finished up specialising in management training and development. This was of enormous benefit to me personally, teaching me many of the techniques of clear thinking, problem solving and decision making that have served me well ever since. The experience also allowed me to go on and get the M.A. degree that my earlier education had not provided, and to set up as an independent consultant when I took early retirement from B.A. in 1989.
For several years I had also specialised in the design and layout of airport terminals, both passenger and cargo, which involved a great deal of overseas travel. It was on a trip of this type to New York in the early sixties, in fact, that I happened to pick up a copy of Esquire magazine, noticing that it apparently contained an article about Christopher Marlowe.
This turned out to be by a man called Calvin Hoffman, and outlined a theory that Marlowe's death in 1593 had been faked, and that it was really Marlowe who had been responsible for the works we know of as Shakespeare's. It made a great story, but I assumed that a closer look at the facts would show it to be the rubbish that it clearly had to be.
Well, that was some forty-five years ago, and having looked at the facts as closely as anyone can have done since then, I still cannot refute the theory, and much that I have found strongly supports it. Although Calvin Hoffman's actual argument was deeply flawed, and those of others since him often not much better, I now find it far more likely that the basic theory is right than that it is not.
This site therefore has two quite separate aims. The main one is to provide a reliable source
of information about the life and work of Christopher Marlowe, a brilliant poet and dramatist
in his own right, whatever may have happened to him later. The second is to explain why I
think that the idea of Marlowe's survival, and his playing a major part in writing what we
think of as Shakespeare's work, is not only feasible, but highly probable. In each of the
items that follow it should be fairly clear which of those two objectives is intended to be
Peter Farey, 2004 (updated 2009)
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