"[I]ygging vaines" and "riming mother wits": Marlowe, Clowns and the Early Frameworks of Dramatic Authorship

Kirk Melnikoff
University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Kirk Melnikoff."'[I]ygging vaines' and 'riming mother wits': Marlowe, Clowns and the Early Frameworks of Dramatic Authorship". Early Modern Literary Studies Special Issue 16 (October, 2007) 8.1-37<URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/si-16/melnjygg.htm>.

Ham.  [L]et those that play your clownes speake no more then is set downe for them, for there be of them that wil themselues laugh, to set on some quantitie of barraine spectators to laugh to, though in the meane time, some necessary question of the play be then to be considered, that's villanous, and shewes a most pittifull ambition in the foole that uses it. 

                        Hamlet (1604)


From jygging vaines of riming mother wits,

And such conceits as clownage keepes in pay,

Weele lead you to the stately tent of War.

"The Prologue," Tamburlaine (1590)


  1. When Hamlet unleashes his attack upon "clownes" in Hamlet's third Act (G4-G4v), he sets his sights on what had become a recurring Elizabethan target, one that had emerged as early as the 1570s when Sidney grumbled about "Clownes [being thrust in] by head & shoulders, to play a part in maiesticall matters, with neither decencie, nor discretion" (K2).[1] By the time of Hamlet, however, Sidney would not have been singular in his indignation. In 1599, cries for the reformation of clowning no longer simply amounted to invocations of neoclassical requirements that the stage observe literary decorum. They also increasingly constituted calls by both players and playwrights alike for a theatre devoted to representational modes of playing, a theatre where the festive "jygging" energy, the "vile russetings," and the extemporal comedy of the clown would be held in check by a playtext and the scripted action it mapped out.[2]

  2. Hamlet's invocation to the Players, then, amounted to a relatively new demand for theatrical reform, a demand that would continue within the professional theatre in the seventeenth century. His worry about the disruptive presence of the clown, however, is slightly anachronistic.[3] At the turn of the sixteenth century, Richard Tarlton had been dead for over a decade, Will Kemp had just left the Chamberlain's Men to morris dance his way to parts unknown, and the professional stage had already gone a long way towards transforming itself into a theatre of representation and text-based playing.[4] Cultural negotiations, in other words, between clown and dramatist, player and playwright had in fact been ongoing throughout the long 1590s. As if meant to underscore his transformed status as a result of these negotiations, no clown headlines the troupe that arrives at Elsinore. Ultimately, Hamlet's invocation of a menacing clown speaks more to his frantic desire to produce a reliable test of Claudius's guilt than it does to the possibility of any "pittifull ambition" within the staged Mouse-trap.

  3. Of course, Ben Jonson would provide the most explicit resistance to the extra-textual tradition of the professional stage seventeen years later, editing his plays and publishing them together as The Works of Ben Jonson in 1616. But as Lukas Erne has recently argued, "[a]s early as the 1590s, we can witness a process of legitimation of dramatic publications leading to their establishment as a genre of printed texts in their own right rather than as a pale reflection of what properly belongs on stage. Similarly, the dramatic author…was in the making considerably earlier than is often presumed" (33).[5]   

  4. This essay is about one such case of the "dramatic author . . . in the making," about the pre-"bibliographic ego" of Christopher Marlowe in the late 1580s and early 1590s. It focuses specifically on the kind of "clownage" that Marlowe's own work "kept in pay," contending that the dramaturgy of the clown should be understood as a fundamental element through which Marlowe defines the frameworks of his dramatic art.

  5. To consider clowning to be a central component of Marlowe's artistic practice is to put oneself at odds with a latent orthodoxy of critical opinion that Marlowe would not, as A.H. Bullen wrote, "don alternately the buskin and the sock" (xxvii). Originating in the nineteenth-century reclamation of Marlowe and based at least in part upon a dismissive attitude towards "popular" forms of drama, this critical orthodoxy has focused particularly on Tamburlaine's prologue, reading it not simply as an early-career rejection of "riming mother wits, / And such conceits as clownage keepes in pay" but also as Marlowe's definitive artistic manifesto, one that unambiguously announces what will be his unwavering rejection of clowning and all contemporary playwrighting in the vein of the Queen's Men.[6] Grounded by such readings, this orthodoxy has essentially ignored the comic aspects of The Jew of Malta and dismissed the "low" comedy of Doctor Faustus.[7] It has also contributed to an overly simplified understanding of Marlowe's "bi-fold" dramaturgy, one that has all too confidently assumed Marlowe to be one of the first champions of "writerly authority" in the professional theatres.[8] This essay will offer a different perspective. 

                                 "so neatly Plotted . . . so well perform'd"

  6. Written after Tamburlaine and its prologue, The Jew of Malta nonetheless shows ample signs of Marlowe's working familiarity with the dramaturgy of the Elizabethan clown.[9] As many commentators have pointed out, the play contains more than Marlowe's signature dark humour; it is also ripe with knockabout, comic interludes and music—dramatic mainstays of clownage. Moreover, echoing the narrative arc of Doctor Faustus, The Jew of Malta's action progressively gravitates towards farce, culminating in Barabas's disguised performance with a lute at the end of Act 4.[10] Marlowe's work with clowning is most fully evident, though, in his construction of Barabas's slave Ithamore.[11] Drawn with Marlowe's signature irony, Ithamore – as a Turkish slave –  combines the clown's traditional guise of the rustic outsider with a hyperbolized notion of what constitutes the outside.[12] With Ithamore, Marlowe not only demonstrates his debt to the "jygging vaines" of clownage; he also at the same time reveals his own particular engagement with a text-based, literary culture.  

  7. Like many of his clown-character contemporaries, Ithamore consistently enacts "union in division," his existence both in the world of the play and in the world of the audience.[13] Ithamore's place outside of the play world of The Jew of Malta is subtly revealed by his unwavering focus on the present. Whereas plotting is of primary importance to Barabas, Ithamore shows himself to be patently incapable of (even uninterested in) "cast[ing] with cunning for the time to come" (C3). Though he is in a position to overhear Abigail's entreaty to Barabas that "I will haue Don Mathias, he is my love" (E4v) and thus should recognize that he must deal "cunningly" with her when it comes to Barabas's plot against Mathias, Ithamore nevertheless happily reveals to Abigail that "the deuil inuented a challenge, my Mr. writ it, And I carried it, first to Lodowicke, and imprimis to Mathia [sic]" (F2v). Similarly, after strangling Friar Bernardine with Barabas, he shows the same comic inability to plot. Though his request that Barabas "be rul'd by me a little; so, let him leane Vpon his staffe" creates an expectation that he has come up with a plot, instead, it turns out that he only intervenes to make a joke: "excellent, he stands as if he were begging of Bacon" (G4). Ithamore's lack of foresight is further underscored when he is manipulated by Bellamira and Pilia-Borza.  Not only is Ithamore unable to come up with his own plan for stealing from Barabas, declaring that it is "by no meanes possible" (H1v) to find out where Barabas buries his treasure and forcing Pilia-Borza to suggest blackmail, but Ithamore also lacks the cunning necessary to write an effective letter of extortion:
    Pil. Send for a hundred Crownes at least.
    He writes.
    Ith.  Ten hundred thousand crownes,--Mr. Barabas.
    Write not so submissiuely, but threatning him.
      Sirrah Barabas, send me a hundred crownes.
    Put in two hundred at least.
    I charge thee send me 300 by this bearer, and this
    Shall be your warrant; if you doe not, no more but so.  (H2)
    Comically incapable of coming up with an effective requested sum, an effective tone, or even the necessary threat for his letter, Ithamore reveals himself to be bound by the present. He is, as Barabas says, one that "measure[s] nought but by the present time" (C3).

  8. Yet it is not simply that Ithamore has no relationship with the future in these scenes; he also has no firm hold on the past. Marlowe repeatedly makes this point about Ithamore in Acts two and three. Ithamore's failure to foresee the necessity of withholding information from Abigail is as much a failure of memory as it is of foresight. The same could be said of his inabilities as an extortioner – he cannot foresee the need for a threat of a confession because he has immediately forgotten Pilia-Borza's suggestion that there must be "some secrets of the Iew, which if they were Reveal'd, would doe him harme" (H2). Ithamore's weak memory along with his lack of foresight is also at comic issue when Barabas decides that he will poison an entire nunnery in order to safeguard himself against his daughter. Unable to foresee what a pot of rice has to do with killing Abigail –"Why, master, wil you poison her with a messe of rice Porredge that will preserue life, make her round & plump, And batten more then you are aware";(F4) – Ithamore must have the entire plot spelled out to him. Yet even then, after Barabas explains the altruistic practices of "St. Jacques' Even," Ithamore almost leaves with the yet-to-be-poisoned pot of rice: "There Ithamore," Barabas says, "must thou goe place this pot: Stay, let me spice it first" (F4v). Ithamore exhibits the same failure of memory after Barabas stays him in order to stir the plot: "What a blessing has he giu'nt!" Ithamore muses, "was ever pot of Rice porredge so sauc't?  What shall I doe with it?" (F4v).    

  9. Ithamore's early indifference to the play world's future or its past reveals more than his simplicity; it is also indicative of his liminality, of the fact that in the first half of the scenes in which he appears he as much outside of the play as he is within it. Before being seduced by Bellamira, Ithamore enjoys free access to the audience, an access only rivalled by that of Barabas. He often comments upon the play's action in dramatic monologues – "Well, I have deliuer'd the challenge in such sort, / As meet they will, and fighting dye; braue sport" (F1v) – and he has many comic asides.[14] When Barabas tells him to go and retrieve the pot of rice Ithamore turns to the audience and makes the simple observation "I hold my head my master's hungry" (F4). Similarly, when Barabas says that he "smelt 'em ere they came," referring to the entrance of Friar Jacomo and Friar Bernadine, Ithamore replies to the audience, "God-a-mercy nose" (G2v).

  10. These monologues and asides establish a relatively close relationship between Ithamore and the audience; they also help to reinforce his extra-dramatic presence. At times, they make Ithamore an auditor of the play first and a character second.  His monologue in the third scene of Act three particularly serves this function in that it suggests Ithamore's familiarity with a scene that he was not on stage to witness.  Commenting upon Lodowicke's and Mathias's fatal duel in the previous scene, Ithamore asks, "Why was there euer seene such villany, so neatly Plotted, and so well perform'd?  both held in hand, and Flatly both beguil'd" (F2). At other times, these monologues and asides suggest his frequent indifference to the fictional world of which he is supposed to be a part. Ithamore's unmarked aside about Barabas's nose provides a good example of this indifference. Though the friars are loathsome to Ithamore (he calls them "religious caterpillars") and they inspire his desire to exit immediately ("come let's be gone," he says to Barabas), he nonetheless cannot contain his bemusement at the prospect of Barabas's nose, exclaiming, "God-a-mercy nose." Of course, Barabas's nose was likely an impressive affair, drawing attention to itself as costume. It turns up as one of the properties listed in Henslowe's Diary, and Ithamore twice refers to it earlier in the play: after hearing Barabas's long description of his past villainy, Ithamore cries out, "Oh braue, master, I worship your nose for this" (E2); and in his scene with Abigail, he describes Barabas as "Bottle-nos'd" (F2). Ithamore's frequent references to it remind the audience of its property-ness; they also suggest Ithamore's liminal perspective as both character within and auditor without the play. 

  11. Indeed, Ithamore continually displays a penchant for spectacle, for "brave" shows that impress in and of themselves, and this desire reflects his present focus. When Barabas, for example, tells Ithamore to take his letter feigned from Lodowicke to Mathias, Ithamore immediately pines for an immediate actualization of Barabas's enmity, asking his master, "`Tis poyson'd, is it not?" (E4v). With a similar focus upon the material, viewable effects of villainy, he announces to the audience the spectacular end of Barabas's plot against Lodowicke and Mathias, "Why was there euer seene such villainy?". And Ithamore's villainy is driven as much by his desire for entertainment as it is by enmity. This is perhaps most forcefully revealed in his first long speech in the play recounting his past to Barabas:
    Faith, Master, in setting Christian villages on fire,
    Chaining of Eunuches, binding gally-slaues.
    One time I was an Hostler in an Inne,
    And in the night time secretly would I steale
    To trauellers Chambers, and there cut their throats:
    Once at Jerusalem, where the pilgrims kneel'd,
    I strowed powder on the Marble stones,
    And therewithal their knees would rankle, so
    That I haue laugh'd agood to see the cripples
    Goe limping home to Christendome on stilts.  (E2v)
  12. Though in the first half of the speech Ithamore recounts a series of malevolent acts, it is clearly – given the scope and place of the anecdote in his speech – his abuse of the Jerusalem pilgrims of which he is most proud. What Ithamore most enjoyed about this abuse was that he was able to "laugh agood to see the cripples / Goe limping home to Christendome on stilts," that their pain provided a good comic show.

  13. Marlowe frequently creates scenarios which give Ithamore much latitude for the creation of his own comic shows. Many of these moments are isolated and short, consisting, for example, of Ithamore's presumably famished tasting of Barabas's porridge in the third Act, which results in the remark, "Troth Mr. I'm loth such a pot of pottage should be spoyld" (F4v), of his drunken hiccoughing in the fourth Act, evident when he demands, "Wilt drinke French-man, here's to thee with a – Pox on this drunken hick-vp" (H4), and of his lustful and relatively extended first sight of Bellamira which sparks his Faustian exclamation,"O the sweetest face that euer I beheld!" (F1v). The actor playing Ithamore is given the most performative scope when he prefaces his account of Mathias's fate with an extensive run of uncontrollable laughter:
    Abig.Why how now Ithimore, why laugh'st thou so?
    Ith.  Oh, Mistresse, ha ha ha.
    Abig. Why what ayl'st thou?
    Ith.  Oh my master.
    Abig.  Ha.
    Ith.  Oh Mistris!  I have the brauest, grauest, secret, subtil Bottle-nos'd knaue to my Master, that euer Gentleman had.  (F2)
    Ithamore's laughter runs at least from his entrance through the first nine lines of the scene. The success of this part of the scene entirely depends upon the skills of the clown actor and testifies to Marlowe's willingness to take advantage of them.

  14. Yet even as he constructs a strong presentational dimension for The Jew of Malta, Marlowe also betrays a relatively unique confidence in circumscribing the stage energy of the clown. Such confidence is betrayed by Ithamore's first appearance, an entrance  made with barely a whisper. Ithamore is neither the sole "slaue" discussed by the two Officers who enter with him nor is he even noticed by Barabas when he enters six lines later. Clown actors like Tarlton, Adams, Singer, Wilson, Laneham or Kemp seem rarely to have been introduced in such an unacknowledged fashion. In the 1580s and early 1590s, the clown's first entrance conventionally commands attention. Joseph Hall refers to such attention in his negative description of clown entrances in Virgidemiarum:
    midst the silent rout,
    Comes leaping in a self-misformed lout,
    And laughs, and grins, and frames his mimic face,
    And justles straight into the prince's place:
    Then doth the theatre echo all aloud,
    With gladsome noise of that applauding crowd.  (1.3)
    Such applause was a function both of the clown's popularity and of his liminality in the period's drama.  In The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, the clown Dericke enters "rouing" with the cry "Who, who there, who there?" (A4).  Bullithrumble in The First Part of the Tragicall Raigne of Selimus makes his entrance with similar noise: "Enter Bullithrumble, the shepheard running in hast, and laughing to himselfe" (H1). Like Adam in A Looking Glasse for London and Englande, the "Clowne" in Lodge's The Wounds of Civil War enters "drunke" (G3) and immediately is accosted by the other characters on stage. In The Lamentable Tragedy of Locrine, Strumbo enters alone and gives a long comic monologue to the audience. In some of these plays, the clown's entrance is more subdued but is still the focal point of the action.  Simplicity's entrance in Robert Wilson's The Pleasant and Stately Morall, of the Three Lordes and Three Ladies of London is made silently "in bare blacke, like a poore Citizen" (B4), yet he is the immediate focus of attention for all the other characters on the stage. Miles in Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay and Slipper in James IV make similarly obtrusive entrances.

  15. Unconventional too is Ithamore's initial silence. In his first scene, he does not speak or command attention for close to 130 lines. When he finally does speak, it is only after his two slave cohorts are addressed, and his words are not particularly attention-grabbing:

    1 Off. Here's a leaner, how like you him?
    Bar. Where was thou borne?
    Itha. In Trace; brought vp in Arabia.
    Bar.So much the better, thou art for my turne. 
    An hundred Crownes, I'le haue him; there's the coyne.  (E1v)     

    Ithamore's opening words are hardly comic and they cue Ithamore's drifting to the background for another twenty-five lines while Barabas interacts with Mathias and his mother. Even after Ithamore has his first real exchange with Barabas halfway through the scene, he is again silently drawn to the background for 150 lines while Barabas forwards his plot against Lodowicke and Mathias. That Ithamore is meant to be watching such plotting and not engaging in any extradramatic play is suggested by his next exchange with Barabas after Lodowicke, Mathias and Abigail have exited.  When Barabas asks how he likes the plot, Ithamore shows that he has paid close attention throughout by replying, "Faith Master, I thinke by this / You purchase both their lives; is it not so?" (E4v).

  16. With few exceptions, clowns in other plays of the period always loom large in the scenes in which they appear. This is particularly true of plays like The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, Locrine, and A Looking Glasse for London and Englande where Dericke, Strumbo and Adam respectively are the driving forces of almost all of their scenes. In the few instances where these clowns share the spotlight with other characters as in the trial scene in The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth, the battle scenes in Locrine and the scene in which Jonas confronts Rasni in A Looking Glasse for London and Englande, the scenes are ripe with the expectation that they will be interrupted by the clown. This is most particularly the case when Strumbo "fall[s] downe" (E1) during a battle between Humber's and Albanact's armies in Locrine.  Strongly reminiscent of Falstaff's own counterfeiting of death in the later 1 Henry IV, Strumbo's fall competes with Albanact's long monologue for attention until Strumbo presumably raises himself up on one elbow and says, "Lord have mercy upon us, masters I think this is a holie day, every man lies sleeping in the fields, but God knowes full sore against their wills" (E1v).  This dramatic mode, built upon a tension between the action of the play and the threat of the clown's interruption, also exists in the second and fifth Acts of James IV, where Slipper's clownish energy is similarly ubiquitous.

  17. The uniqueness of Marlowe's rendering of Ithamore does not consist merely of the character's understated first appearance; it is also apparent in Ithamore's attempted seduction of Bellamira. Amorous rapture was evidently a popular routine for clowns in the 1580s and early 1590s. In some plays, such routines could take the form of exchanges with the audience. In James IV, for example, Slipper provides the audience with a catalogue of his amorous possibilities: "shall I marrie with Alice, good master Grimshaues daughter, shee is faire, but indeede her tongue is like Clocks on Shrouetuesday, alwaies out of temper. Shall I wed Sicley of the Whightõ? Oh, o she is like a frog in a parcely bed, as scittish as an ele, if I seek to hamper her, she will horne me" (G4). In other plays, this amorous bit involves both the clown and the object of his affection. Locrine's clown Strumbo is confronted with his love Dorothie after comically making his first entrance under the influence of love: "the little god," he cries, "nay the desperate god Cupid, with one of his vengible birdbolts, hath shot me unto the heele: so not onlie, but also, oh fine phrase, I burne, I burne, and I burne a, in love, in love, and in love a" (B4v). In A Looking Glasse for London and Englande, Adam's third appearance on stage involves wooing his master's wife: "Why but heare you mistresse," Adam croons, "you know a womans eies are like a paire of pattens, fit to save shoo leather in summer, and to keepe away the cold in winter, so you may like your husband with the one eye, because you are married, and me with the other, because I am your man" (F1v).

  18. In the wooing scenes of these plays, the clowns are not simply circumscribed by their lower-order idiom but they also clearly have no grasp of the fashionable languages of love. Strumbo's Petrarchan wooing of his love Dorothie, for example, is both overinflated and poetically inept:
    Oh my sweet and pigsney, the fecunditie of my ingenie is not so great, that may declare unto you the sorrowful sobs, and broken sleeps, that I suffer for your sake; and therefore I desire you to receive me into your familiaritie.
    For your love doth lie,
    As neare and as nigh:
    Unto my heart within,
    As mine eye to my nose,
    My legge unto my hose,
    And my fleshe unto my skin. (C1v)
    Overembellished at best, Strumbo's intermittently latinate wooing strongly clashes with his own and his beloved's humble origins. His poetry is not only verbally uneconomical in its language – "For your love doth lie, / As neare and as nigh:" – but indecorous (transcendent love does not mix well with "hose," legs, flesh and skin) and ultimately ironic (Strumbo's love is not in his heart).  Boiled down, however, the social assumptions underlying this scene's comedy are contradictory. Even as the scene presumes and mocks lower-order social aspiration, it at the same time festively demystifies the forms of elite amorous discourse: "If any of you be in love," Strumbo says before exiting with Dorothie, "provide ye a capcase full of new coined wordes, and then shall you soone have the succado de labres, and something else" (C1v).

  19. Ithamore's language of love is quite different. It does not possess the striking absurdity of Strumbo's and Adam's language. In fact, Ithamore woos with a poetic eloquence unrivalled by the other clowns of his day. Particularly striking are his metaphoric descriptions of Bellamira's kissing and eyes: "That kiss againe; she runs diuision of my lips. / What an eye she casts on me? / It twinckles like a Starre" (H2v). His language is similarly admirable – though slightly absurd in its arithmetic and hyperbole – after Bellamira proposes that they go "in and sleepe together": "Oh that ten thousand nights were put in one," Ithamore raves, "That wee might sleepe seuen yeeres together afore / We wake" (H2v). Ithamore achieves his highest pitch, though, when he woos Bellamira with a version of Marlowe's own pastoral love lyric:
     Content, but we will leave this paltry land,
    And saile from hence to Greece, to louely Greece,
    I'le be thy Jason, thou my golden Fleece;
    Where painted Carpets o're the meads are hurl'd,
    And Bacchus vineyards ore-spread the world:
    Where Woods and Forrests goe in goodly greene,
    I'le be Adonis, thou shalt be Loues Queene.
    The Meads, the Orchards, and the Primrose lanes,
    Instead of Sedge and Reed, beare Sugar Canes:
    Thou in those Groues, by Dis aboue,
    Shalt live with me and be my love.  (H2)
    Though made awkward by its repetition of "to Greece" or ridiculous by its "Sugar Canes" and comparison of Bellamira to Jason's "golden Fleece," Ithamore's pastoral invitation to love nevertheless amounts to a unique effort by a clown, one on an entirely different plane than Strumbo's trimeter stanza.[16] From its aptly-rhymed pentameter couplets, to its alliterative "goe in goodly greene," to its imagery of "painted Carpets" and costumed "Woods and Forrests," Ithamore's poem is nowhere near as jarring as the poetic efforts of his stage peers.

  20. Ithamore's love lines, though, are not without humour; they are comic but in multi-faceted way. Certainly, the broad comedy of this episode has much to do with the comic dissonance between Ithamore's low status and his courtly poetic language. More subtle, however, are the ironies within Ithamore's pastoral lyric. That Jason and Adonis proved to be anything but satisfying mates, or that Dis existed below rather than "above," is the stuff of a grammar-school education. It is unlikely as well that the majority of the audience at the Rose would have cared to notice that "Sugar Canes" do not necessarily offer good substitutes for "sedge and reed."  

  21. Least germane to a general audience, though, are the failings of Ithamore's poem in the context of a manuscript tradition of lyric love poetry. Marlowe had made a mark on this tradition when he was one of the first to circulate a pastoral invitation-to-love poem in 1588.[17] Modelled upon the poetry of Theocritus and Ovid, Marlowe's "The Passionate Shepherd to his Love" masks itself as a simple pastoral lyric in its language and rhythms while actually providing a subtle and complicated critique of courtly lyricism.[18]  Marlowe's speaker offers not a path to virtue in his love (as is promised in other Petrarchan-influenced pastoral love sonnets); he also does not offer his audience a voyeuristic moral education (as in Sidney's Astophil and Stella). Instead, he presents the pleasures of the poetic imagination. After inviting his shepherdess to imagine with him a number of pleasurable activities among "hilles and vallies, dales, and fields," Marlowe's speaker concludes, "And if these pleasures may thee move, / Then Live with me, and be my Love." Ithamore's poem is laughable by comparison, demonstrating that its speaker has no sense of the occasion or rhetorical complexity of the poetic (sub)genre which Marlowe had regenerated. Moreover, Ithamore's composition is comically pointless as an invitation-to-love after he has been told by Bellamira "I have no husband, sweet, I'le marry thee" (H2). The poem's argument falters as well. Not showing the same self-consciousness about his imaginative offers as the speaker of "The Passionate Shepherd to his Love," Ithamore's imagination promises the vague paradises of "painted Carpets" and "Bacchus vineyards," promises that only prove effective because Bellamira has already proclaimed herself smitten.   

  22. The abundance of Ithamore's clownish traits coupled with the nuances of his poetic failings together constitutes one version of Marlowe's bi-fold engagement with the performance tradition of the clown. Throughout much of the play, Marlowe freely grants Ithamore many of the conventional stage liberties of the Elizabethan clown performer – his liminality, his extra-textual exuberance, his festive derision. Yet at the same time, Marlowe also delimits Ithamore's performances, both by muting his stage entrance and by later making him the vehicle of what is meant to be seen as a second-rate Marlovian poetics. The poetic failings of Ithamore's love poetry undercut his performance as an aspiring suitor. But because his language does not command the subtleties of the poetics that he is trying to deploy, Ithamore's performance cannot but fail to subject Marlowe's pastoral lyricism to the topsy-turvy of the clown's festive derision. In effect, Ithamore is made to function as a tool in a restricted game of literary allusion.[20] As we shall see, though, Marlowe's particular approach to clownage in The Jew of Malta —encouragement and containment – does not represent the whole story of Marlowe's reckoning with the heirs of Tarlton.                   

                       "Be Silent then, for danger is in words"              

  23. Anyone familiar with the first edition of Doctor Faustus (1604) well knows that the play is top-full of clowns and clowning.[21] Not only does the play feature four "clown characters" (the "Clown," Robin and Rafe, and the Horse-courser) and a number of clown-centered exchanges, but many of the play's scenes contain prose dialogue, knockabout, and extra-dramatic addresses, the stock-in-trade of Tarlton and his heirs. Produced later than Tamburlaine's prologue, the play has routinely been considered collaborative with Marlowe contributing the "tragic" scenes and a collaborator the "comic and farcical" scenes.[22] As the most recent voice for Doctor Faustus's collaborative underpinnings has surmised, the scenes involving Wagner and the scholars, Wagner and the Clown, Robin and Rafe, Carolus, the injurious knight, and the Horse-courser were all written separately yet concurrently by someone other than Marlowe (Rasmussen 62-75). As I will show, however, the play taken as a whole offers a sustained and coherent engagement with the performance tradition of the clown, one that suggests a unified authorial design.[23] This engagement strongly resonates with the play's larger themes and also reveals Marlowe's own particular contribution to the burgeoning dichotomy between stage and page.       

  24. Akin to The Two Gentlemen of Verona and 1 King Henry IV, Doctor Faustus contains "low" comic scenes that are — through parody, allusion, and irony — subtly melded to the play's titular narrative. Just as Wagner's indenturing of the "Clown" to "bind [him] self presently unto [Wagner] for seven years" echoes Faustus's conjuring of Mephistophilis in the previous scene, Robin and Rafe's adventures, first with the "coniuring books" and then with the "siluer goblet" strongly resonate with the actions of Faustus in prior scenes.[24] These farcical scenes are oftentimes ironically unstable in their terms of parody. In the scene of the clown's indenture, for example, it is the Clown, not Wagner, who is offered incentives for his apprenticeship, making him seem more a caricature of Faustus than of Mephistophilis. Robin and Rafe's adventures similarly burlesque Faustus. But a coherent design is not simply suggested by the fact that many of Doctor Faustus's comic and farcical scenes are tightly connected to the themes and subtle ironies of the tragic scenes; it is also suggested by the fact that many of play's tragic scenes are strongly engaged, both theatrically and thematically, with clowning and a performance-oriented stage.[25]  

  25. Such an engagement is signalled in the play's prologue. Claiming that Doctor Faustus only comes to fruition in the immediate and temporary conditions of the coming performance, this short choral introduction speaks pointedly from a stage perspective:
    Not marching now in fields of Thracimene,
    Where Mars did mate the Carthaginians,
    Nor sporting in the dalliance of loue,
    In courts of Kings where state is ouerturnd,
    Nor in the pompe of prowd audacious deedes,
    Intends our Muse to daunt his heauenly verse:
    Onely this (Gentlemen) we must performe,
    The forme of Faustus fortunes good or bad. (A2)
    Imagining its author's endeavours not in the past but in the future, Marlowe's choral speaker makes it clear not that the play's "muse" intended to turn to a less "daunt[ing]" subject but that he intends to do so in the coming two hours' traffic of the stage. The play, in other words, begins with the assumption that it does not exist outside of the immediate parameters of its performance.[26] Surprisingly, this is very different from what is suggested in Henry V's famed prologue.[27] There, Shakespeare's chorus imagines the play as existing outside of its theatrical enactment: "O pardon, since a crooked figure may / Attest in a little place a million, / And let us, ciphers to this great accompt, / On your imaginary forces work" (Prologue 15-18). Indeed, where Marlowe's chorus promises an unprecedented experience to its audience, Shakespeare's actor chorus humbly refers to a preexisting "great accompt," defining the cast – in a telling metaphor – as "[C]iphers."  

  26. Yet even as Doctor Faustus begins thoroughly marked as a performance to-be-seen rather than a text to-be-read, the interchanges between Mephastophilis and Faustus present a complicated attitude towards performance, more specifically towards the presentation-oriented modes of the past. Such an attitude emerges in the early scenes of the play where Mephastophilis three times deploys theatrical shows "somewhat to delight [Faustus's] minde" (C1) and disrupt his theological waverings. When Faustus becomes alarmed by the inscription "Homo fuge" after he has signed his binding "bill" and is led to wonder "whither should [he] flie," Mephastophilis intervenes with a show of "diuels, giuing crownes and rich apparell to Faustus, and daunc[ing]" (C1). When Faustus then demands that Mephastophilis "let [him] haue a wife," Mephastophilis responds to Faustus's marital request by "Enter[ing] with a diuell drest like a woman, with fier workes" (C2). And when Mephastophilis's refusal to name God as the maker of the world sparks Faustus's cry "Ah Christ my Sauiour, seeke to saue distressed Faustus soule" (C3v), Mephastophilis presents the theatrical procession of the Seven Deadly Sins.

  27. Like the performances of the Clown, Robin and Rafe, these shows recall the festive entertainments of the 1570s and 1580s stage. In outline, two of the three are essentially unscripted. In calling simply for "daunc[ing]" and an entrance with "fier workes," these scenes rely heavily upon immediate staging for their spatial and temporal dimensions. At the same time, with their prompter Mephastophilis standing in full view of each, these two shows are neither self-contained nor strictly representational. In the first, Faustus both watches and participates in the show by accepting "crownes" and "apparell." In the second, the "divell['s]'"; cross-dressing is anything but seamless, inspiring Faustus's immediate response "A plague on her for a hote whore" (C2). The entertainment of the Seven Deadly Sins is similarly extra-dramatic, existing at one moment in its own time and place, at another in Faustus's, and in still another in the audience's. At particular moments, Faustus intervenes in the entertainment by "examin[ing the sins] of their seuerall names and dispositions" (C4); at other moments, certain Sins transcend the imaginative boundaries of Doctor Faustus itself. "Couetousnes," for example, ends his routine by turning to the audience and saying, "and might I haue my wish, I would desire, that this house, and all the people in it were turnd to go[l]de, that I might locke you vppe in my good chest" (C4). Looking past Faustus, Wrath similarly tells Faustus's auditors "that some of you shalbe my father" (C4v).

  28. Partaking of the past theatrical routines of the Vice and the contemporary routines of the clown, Gluttony's performance in particular puts pressure on the self-contained illusion of Marlowe's play.[28] Unlike the presentations of the other six sins, Gluttony's references to "beauers" (snacks), "gammon[s] of bacon," "hogs head[s] of Claret-wine," and "March-béere" are all highly idiomatic, directed more at Doctor Faustus's London audience than at the German-born Faustus:
    [W]ho I sir, I am Gluttony, my parents are al dead, and the diuel a peny they haue left me, but a bare pention, and that is 30. meales a day, and tenne beauers, a small triflle to suffice nature, O I come of a royall parentage, my grandfather was a gammon of bacon, my grandmother a hogs head of Claret-wine: My godfathers were these, Peter Pickle-herring, and Martin Martlemas biefe, O but my godmother she was a iolly gentlewoman, and welbeloued in euery good towne and Citie, her name was mistresse Margery March-béere: now Faustus, thou hast heard all my Progeny, wilt thou bid me to supper? (C4)
    Gluttony's "Martin Martlemas biefe" and "Peter Pickle-herring" respectively invoke English holiday festivals and contemporary clown performers. "March-béere" and "Martlemas bief" were both associated with springtime and St. Martin's Day festive celebrations, and "Pickle-herring" was the stage-name of a famed English clown acting in Germany as late as the 1620s.[29] Moreover, "Martin Martlemas" seems also to refer to the dissenting Protestant pamphleteer "Martin Marprelate," connecting Gluttony with the series of farcical and satiric shows surrounding the Marprelate controversy, and with Marprelate's playful, Tarlton-inspired clown persona.[30]   

  29. As his early responses well show, Faustus is more than amenable to Mephastophilis's performance-oriented — as opposed to scripted – brand of theatre, and his gravitation towards such interactive entertainment continues in the second half of the play. When Mephastophilis brings him to St. Peter's to "take some part of holy Peters feast," for example, Faustus readily agrees "to compasse then some sport, / And by their folly make vs merriment" (D2). "Compass[ing] then some sport" quickly translates into Faustus gleefully initiating an interactive knockabout, and by the end of his anti-Catholic "merriment," Faustus speaks in the playful doggerel idiom of Tarlton and his heirs. In response to Mephastophilis's guess that they will be "curst with bell, booke, and candle," Faustus replies, "How? bell, booke, and candle, candle, booke, and bell, / Forward and backward, to curse Faustus to hell. / Anon you shal heare a hogge grunt, a calfe bleate, and an asse braye, [/] Because it is S. Peters holy day" (D2v).[31]

  30. In the scene involving Emperor Carolus the Fifth, Faustus continues to betray his distance from a strictly representational theatre. After being asked by the Emperor to raise Alexander the Great "from hollow vaults below" (D4v), Faustus admits to the Emperor that "it is not in my abilitie to present before your eyes, the true substantiall bodies of those two deceased princes which long since are consumed to dust." He instead promises to present "such spirites as can liuely resemble Alexander and his Paramour" (D4v). More than a rare moment of honesty, Faustus's words help to short-circuit an illusionary effect. For Faustus, what are impressive are his spirits' "lively" abilities, not the veracity of what they perform. That presentation is more important for Faustus than representation is suggested by Marlowe's changes to his source, The Historie of the Damnable Life, and Deserved Death of Doctor John Faustus. While Marlowe's scene essentially follows The Historie in this episode, Marlowe alters Faustus's apology for his art. In the source, Faustus says, "yet your maiestie shall know, that their dead bodies are not able substantially to be brought before you, but such Spirits as haue seene Alexander and his Paramour aliue, shall appeare vnto you in manner and forme as they both liued in their most florishing time" (G2v). Unlike in Doctor Faustus, in The Historie, Faustus underscores the source of his spirit's representation: promised are not simply likenesses but likenesses from "the most flourishing" time in the couple's lives. Marlowe's Faustus promises "liuely resembl[ances]"; The Historie of the Damnable Life's Faustus promises representations that are accurate in both "manner and forme."[32]

  31. Faustus's performance-oriented approach to the stage does not last the entire play, however. When he conjures up Helen first for "two or three Schollers" and then for his own enjoyment, he displays a patently different relationship with shows. Even though Faustus well knows that Mephastophilis can only produce "such spirites as can liuely resemble" Helen, he still requests "That heauenly Helen which I saw of late, / Whose swéete imbracings may extinguish cleane / These thoughts that do disswade me from my vow, / And kéepe mine oath I made to Lucifer" (E4v). Here Faustus willfully pursues not just a paragon of beauty but the full suspension of his own disbelief as well. This latter pursuit is signalled earlier in the scene when Faustus first presents Helen to his scholar peers. Here, Faustus encourages the scholars to lose themselves in his theatrical illusion, authorizing his production in terms of its representational fidelity to history rather than in terms of its "lively" presentation:
    Faustus custome is not to de[n]ie the iust requests of those that wish him well, you shall behold that pearelesse dame of Greece, no otherwaies for pompe and maiestie, then when sir Paris crost the seas with her, and brought the spoiles to rich Dardania. Be silent then, for danger is in words.
    Musicke sounds, and Helen passeth ouer the Stage. (E3v-E4)

    Collapsing the difference between his representation of Helen and Helen herself – "no otherwaies for pompe and maiestie, then when sir Paris crost the seas with her" –Faustus for the first time endorses a theatre of illusion and suspended disbelief. That he also tells his peers to be "silent" reinforces this end in that it promotes a theatrical experience different from that available in the vociferous, interactive open-arena stages, one that will soon come to define the darkened private theatres. Suggestively, Faustus's passion for Helen is correlated with the stability of her representation – no gap between the performance and the performer opens up during the course of the scene. It is also related to her reproducibility. Unlike the play's other shows, Helen's appearance is twice staged, with the suggestion that her figure in her first appearance to the scholars is exactly that of her second appearance to Faustus. 

  32. Just as Faustus conceives of and responds to it in entirely new theatrical terms, Helen's second appearance is shown to have a profoundly different impact upon him than Mephastophilis's other entertainments.[33] After these shows, Faustus emerges undauntedly active. Dressed in "crownes and rich apparell" following Mephastophilis's first pastime, Faustus responds with the commanding question, "Speake Mephastophilis, what meanes this shewe?" (C1). Mephastophilis's second show produces a similarly self-assured Faustus who responds, "A plague on her for a hote whore" (C2). And perhaps most tellingly, after participating in the pastime of the seven deadly sins, Faustus responds with "O this feedes my soule" (D1). As we have seen, appetite is not only a pervading feature of the early Faustus's overreaching language, but it is also markedly conjoined with the presentational figure of the clown. Of the seven possible deadly sins, Marlowe chooses the clown to be Gluttony's most proper analogue. And in his interview of the "Clown" in the play's fourth scene, Wagner immediately characterizes the rustic knave in terms of his profound hunger: "Alas poore slaue, sée how pouerty iesteth in his nakednesse, the vilaine is bare, and out of seruice, and so hungry, that I know he would giue his soule to the Diuel for a shoulder of mutton, though it were blood rawe" (B3). It is in his great appetite that the Clown most obviously parodies Faustus's overreaching desire for wealth, knowledge and power. 

  33. Rather than being fed by Mephastophilis's staging of Helen, though, Faustus imagines himself as being consumed by it. After a requested kiss, he waxes rhapsodic, "Her lips suckes forth my soule, see where it flies" (G4v). In essence, the spectacle of Helen is transformative for Faustus. His final allusions in describing her make this abundantly clear:
    Brighter art thou then flaming Iupiter,
    When he appeard to haplesse Semele,
    More louely then the monarke of the skie
    In wanton Arethusaes azurd armes,
    And none but thou shalt be my paramour. (F1)
    In comparing his "paramour['s]" brightness and loveliness to that of Jupiter, Faustus ultimately figures himself in the position not of the powerful male agents of Jupiter or the sun ("monarke of the skie") but instead in the position of female lovers that were variously transformed through experiences with their omnipotent lovers. After asking at Hera's bidding to see her supreme lover in all his glory, "haplesse Semele" was by set ablaze by brightness of Jupiter. Similarly, after bathing in the river god Alpheus's stream, "Arethusae" was pursued by the god only to be saved by Artemis by being transformed into a fountain.

  34. As many commentators have pointed out, the Helen of Troy scene is a key episode in the play. It has been understood as the real moment of Faustus's damnation (since he is pursuing intercourse with a demon), as a sequence epitomizing the Renaissance overreacher's search for worldly glory and perfection, and as the peak of Marlowe's ironic art. Understood as the culmination of the play's concern with kinds of theatre and their differing effects, Helen's appearance also reveals Marlowe's particular engagement with an emerging page/stage dichotomy. The scene juxtaposes two brands of performance against one another — the participatory and festive theatre of the preceding scenes against the illusion-based, representational theatre of Faustus' final hours. Significantly, Marlowe figures them both in demonic terms. Even as his taste for clowning and festive theatre is consistently shown to trump his spiritual waverings, Faustus's late attachment to the illusion of Helen is made to preface his closing damnation. Of course, both scenes are also ironic in their effects. Just as Faustus is consistently enlivened by clownage, his desire for Helen is strangely liberating, inspiring one of his most poetic speeches of the play. Ultimately, the stage, in the farcical scenes and in the tragic scenes, functions as both vehicle and theme in Doctor Faustus.

    This essay has proceeded under the terms of what has strangely become a radical presumption: that Marlowe, like other hired Elizabethan playwrights, was expected to construct plays that fit into a professional playing company's established repertory and that employed the full acting resources of that company. In the late 1580s and early 1590s, these repertories and resources included clowning and clowns. Beginning his playwrighting career in relative obscurity and in a theatrical world that had yet to bury either Tarlton or the Queen's Men, Marlowe necessarily incorporated clownage into his dramaturgy.[34] As we have seen, this incorporation was neither reluctant nor consistent. In The Jew of Malta, Marlowe constructs a play that authorizes yet contains the clownish routines of Ithamore; he also uses this character to endorse his own participation in what was the restricted textual arena of manuscript poetry. In Doctor Faustus, on the other hand, Marlowe dissects the performance tradition of the clown, ultimately weighing it against the more representional and script-oriented modes of performance that would soon come to dominate the London professional stages. In effect, these two plays offer anything but a simple dismissal of the "jygging vaines of riming mother wits, / And such conceits as clownage keepes in pay." What they do suggest, though, is that Marlowe was very much working within a page/stage conceptual dichotomy; one, however, best understood within the manuscript-oriented cultures of the social elite and the theatre.

  35. Indeed, these lines from Tamburlaine's prologue do not necessarily have to be interpreted as an anti-clowning manifesto. Imagined in the immediacy of the theatre, they can also be heard to refer not abstractly to the practice of playwrighting but pragmatically to the coming narrative of the production at hand.[35] Tamburlaine not only does "lead" its audience "to [Tamburlaine's] stately tent of war" in the second scene, but it also opens with "a riming mother wit." As set down in the 1590 quarto, Mycetes may not be a Derick or Strumbo, but his language does gravitate towards rhyme– "Monstor of nature" Mycetes tells his brother Cosroe, "shame vnto thy stocke, / That darst presume thy Soueraigne for to mocke"(A3v)–and comes from a character limited to his own "mother wit"–"Wel, wel," Mycetes tells Meander, "thou art deeply read: / And hauing thee, I haue a jewell sure" (B4v). Tamburlaine's prologue is, in fact, more immediately descriptive than derisively prescriptive, delivering an assurance that the play will deliver the best of what the Admiral's Men have to offer — Ned Alleyn, "high astounding terms," and clowns.



[1] In 1597, Joseph Hall echoes Sidney's attack upon clowns in one of his verse satires: "Now, lest such frightful shows of Fortune's fall, / And bloody tyrant's rage, should chance appall / The dead-struck audience, midst the silent rout, / Comes leaping in a self-misformed lout, / And laugh, and grins, and frames his mimic face, / And justles straight into the prince's place: / Then doth the theatre echo all aloud, / With gladsome noise of the applauding crowd. / A goodly hodge-potch!  When vile russetings / Are match'd with monarchs, and with mighty kings. / A goodly grace to sober Tragic Muse, / When each base clown his clumsy fist doth bruise, / And show his teeth in double rotten row, / For laughter at his self-resembled show" (Virgidemiarum 1.3).


[2] The pressure upon the performance practice of clowning at the end of the sixteenth century is comically suggested by the University play The Pilgrimage to Parnassus. Towards its conclusion, Dromo drags an unwilling "Clowne" onto the stage and reassures him that his presence on stage is a necessity: "Why, what an ass art thou? Dost thou not knowe a playe cannot be without a clowne? Clownes have bene thrust into playes by head & shoulders, euer since Kempe could make a scuruey face" (129). David Wiles sees the Elizabethan clown as a "synthesis" of the professional minstrel, the lord of misrule, and the Vice. For more on the performance practices of the 1570s and 1580s stage clown, see Wiles 11-23 and Weimann, Shakespeare 185-192.


[3] Wiles writes, "The style of clowning which Hamlet conjures up left its imprint upon the theatre of the 1590s, but belongs properly to an earlier generation" (viii). According to Wiles, Hamlet's speech reminds his Elizabethan audience that the Chamberlain's Men had recently lost the services of Will Kemp.


[4] Tarlton's date of birth is unknown; he died in September, 1588. Kemp's date of birth is also unknown.  A member of Leicester's Men since at least 1580, Kemp joined Strange's Men in 1588 and the Chamberlain's Men in 1594. He left the latter company in Autumn, 1599. Kemp's Nine Day's Wonder (1600) records Kemp's infamous morris dance to Norwich in 1600. In 1601, Kemp took his morris dance across the Alps. He likely died in London's 1603 plague epidemic. See Wiles 24-42.


[5] For other accounts of the rise of vernacular drama as literature and the professional dramatist as "author," see Lowenstein, Ben Jonson and Possessive Authorship;Lowenstein, The Author's Due; Brooks; Masten, Weimann, and Johnson.


[6] Also discounted has been the 1590 preface to Tamburlaine where Marlowe's first publisher Richard Jones claims to have "(purposely) omitted and left out some fond and frivolous Iestures, digressing (and in my poore opinion) far unmeet for the matter" (A2). For more on Jones and his publication of Tamburlaine, see my "Jones's Pen and Marlowe's Socks." For more on the Queen's Men and their dramaturgy, see McMillian and MacLean. For readings of the prologue as a dramatic manifesto, see particularly Dawson xi, Leech 42 and Cheney 118-121. For a more nuanced argument about Marlowe's "textually determined purpose of playing," see Weimann, Author's Pen 56-62.


[7] Roma Gill, the editor of the New Mermaids A-text edition of Doctor Faustus, has embraced such readings of Tamburlaine's prologue. She writes, "[T]he comedy [of Doctor Faustus] does not seem to be that of the author of The Jew of Malta and The Massacre of Paris, whose humour is cool, witty, and even cruel. The Prologue to Part 1 of Tamburlaine was scornful of contemporary theatrical practice and the crude 'conceits that clownage keeps in pay'" (xiv). The well-known tradition of separating Marlowe from much of the farcical comedy in his plays was essentially inaugurated by A.H. Bullen, and bolstered by F.P. Wilson, Paul H. Kocher, W.W. Greg and most recently by Eric Rasmussen in his function-word testing of Doctor Faustus (62-75). For dissenting positions, see Kirschbaum (97) and Ormerod (xxvii). While David Bevington has allowed for the possibility that Marlowe was responsible for scenes of clowning in the earliest performed versions of Tamburlaine, he has suggested that Marlowe chose to dismiss such clowning in what was an added or revised prologue for the printed edition of the play (201-202).


[8] See Weimann, Author's Pen 56-62.


[9] The prologue's reference to the Duke of Guise's death (which occurred in December, 1588) suggests that the play was composed after the two parts of Tamburlaine, possibly between1589 and 1590. Although the first extant edition is a 1633 quarto, it was first entered in the Stationers' Register in May, 1594 by Nicholas Ling. Though some have suggested that the 1633 edition is some kind of revision, I will be assuming with Bawcutt and others that it provides a "good and reliable text" (40), "a foul papers text of high authority" (Bawcutt 44).


[10] James R. Siemon, in his introduction to his New Mermaid edition of the play, has drawn attention to this narrative pattern (xv).


[11] The extent to which Marlowe's construction of Ithamore is fully in dialogue with the presentational modes of earlier stages, though, has been almost unrecognized. Dale G. Priest is one of the few critics to have dedicated an article to Ithamore's significance to the play. Priest argues that Ithamore functions as a "zany" throughout and would have been recognized as such by Renaissance audiences.


[12] For accounts of the "Turk" in Marlowe's plays and Elizabethan culture, see Bartels 6-9 and Vitkus 163-198.


[13] See Weimann, Shakespeare.


[14] Asides in The Jew of Malta are rarely indicated; I follow Siemon's liberal identification of asides.


[15] Adam's wooing of the Smith's wife in A Looking Glasse for London and Englande is similarly overinflated and ridiculous.


[16] That Ithamore's comparison is not necessarily comic is suggested by the fact that a similar comparison can be found in The Merchant of Venice. In the first scene, Bassanio too compares his beloved to the golden fleece: "Nor is the wide world ignorant of [Portia's] worth, / For the four winds blow in every coast / Renowned suitors, and her sunny locks / Hang on her temples like a golden fleece, / Which makes her seat of Belmont Colchos' strond, / And many Jasons come in quest of her" (1.2.168-172).

[17] The earliest printed version of the poem comes from The Passionate Pilgrim (1599). This version, however, does not ascribe the poem to any author. England's Helicon (1600) is the first collection to ascribe the basic poem to Marlowe – at the bottom of the poem is printed "Chr. Marlow."  This collection offers both slightly different versions of The Passionate Pilgrim's four stanzas and two more stanzas not found in the earlier poem. It also includes an anonymous reply to Marlowe's poem, "The Nimphs reply to the Sheepheard."


[18] I am indebted to Diana Henderson's approach to the poem. As she has pointed out, "Marlowe's rhetoric in this poem suggests the aesthetic appeal but also the fragility and self-deceit of lyric pleading" (122).


[19] Marlowe may have already been playing with the idea of making his popular drama presentable to the more restricted audience of manuscript culture. Richard Dutton has argued in "The Birth of the Author" that Marlowe had earlier made attributed copies of plays like Dido and Tamburlaine available as manuscripts to be read by the elite. Ithamore's overtly Marlovian rhetoric in his wooing of Bellamira might have been meant for a more restricted audience as moments of self-satire or burlesque just as Ithamore's invitation-to-love poem might have been. 


[20] Henderson argues that Marlowe uses Ithamore's lines of love to satirize lyric poetry altogether: "That such characters should mouth 'sugared' (literally) poetry on the public stage says quite a lot. As Nashe and other commentators lamented, it seems that absolutely everyone could now babble a sonnet or a love song–albeit ineptly and at their own expense" (156). I am suggesting that Ithamore's poetry needs to be understood both within the complicated communicative terms of his festive performance mode and within the restricted textual tradition of manuscript poetry.


[21] I will be assuming with a number of recent critics and editors that the 1604 "A" text (as opposed to the 1616 "B" text) is the only version directly connected with Marlowe's pen. Rasmussen — in his attempt to establish that the play was collaboratively written  – has convincingly argued that the A text of Doctor Faustus was printed from a foul-paper manuscript (8-39). Critics are divided as to the play's date of composition: some like Bevington and Rasmussen support an early date, sometime after the two Tamburlaines, perhaps as early as 1588; others like Keefer and Gill support a later date, claiming that the play was Marlowe's last before his death in 1593. The play's reference to the 1589-90 Marprelate controversy in the Pageant of the Seven Deadly Sins, the vogue for magic plays in the late 1580s, the possibility that the translated Faust book existed either in manuscript or in an earlier printed version than its edition of 1592, and the publication of a 1589 ballad about Faustus all support an earlier, possibly 1590 date.


[22] See Greg; Bowers; Gill, "'Such conceits'"; Gill, Doctor Faustus xiv-xv; and Rasmussen among others.


[23] Not arguing from the highly questionable evidence of style and artistic predilection, Rasmussen has contended that simultaneous compositing, contradictions between different scenes, and differing word-frequencies in different scenes together suggest that the A-text was set from an interleaved authorial manuscript composed by Marlowe and another dramatist. While Rasmussen's contention that the A-text of Faustus was printed from an authorial manuscript is convincing (12-24), his argument for a collaborative manuscript is for a number of reasons less compelling. For starters, he himself has admitted that "two compositors using two type-cases could conceivably have worked by turns" from one manuscript (Bevington and Rasmussen 69). Contradictions between various scenes are not only few but also could readily be explained as authorial oversight. Moreover, Rasmussen's word-frequency analysis does not use Marlowe's entire canon to establish standard function-word frequency figures (64-68). And in choosing only four tragic scenes from Faustus as his standards, Rasmussen essentially weighs Doctor Faustus's tragic language against its comic language. That there are differences in the word frequencies in these scene sets is unsurprising given their differing genres. Lastly, half of what Rasmussen concludes to be collaborator-written scenes vary from Marlowe's "standard" function-word frequencies only in one-quarter of their sampled words.

[24] Wagner's second-scene exchange with the scholars is similarly parodic, echoing Faustus's previous invocation and rejection of logic, medicine, law, and divinity in his own respective responses: "Yes I know, but that followes not" (logic); "For is not he corpus naturale?" (medicine); "I do not doubt to sée you both hang'd the next Sessions" (law); and  "I will set my countnance like a precisian" (divinity) (B1-B1v).


[25] Of course, this argument alone does not eliminate either the possibility that Marlowe planned the whole and then farmed out the comic scenes (as Greg has surmised) or that Marlowe's incomplete version was supplemented with comic scenes after his death (as Gill among others believes). Each of these possibilities, however, could explain the play's sustained and complicated engagement with clowning, either as initially conceived by Marlowe or by a thoughtful collaborator. 


[26] Something of the same ambiguity can be read in the chorus's open-ended promise that they will perform "Faustus fortunes good or bad."


[27] In suggesting this, I am putting myself at odds with a long tradition of scholarship which insists that Shakespeare was consistently a stage-oriented writer. This tradition, however, has recently been questioned by Dutton, Melchiori, and Erne.


[28] Compare Gluttony's monologue on his ancestors with Slipper's in James IV: "I tell thee, it is my neer kinsman, for I am Slipper, which hath his best grace in summer to bee suted in Iackass skins, Guidwife Clarke was my Grandmother, and Goodman Neatherleather mine Vnkle; but my mother good woman, Alas, she was a Spaniard, and being wel tande and drest by a good fellow, an Englishman, is growne to some wealth: as when I haue but my vpper parts, clad in her husbands costlie Spanish leather, I may bee bold to kisse the fayrest Ladies foote in this contrey" (1779-1789).


[29] See Bevington and Rasmussen 158n.


[30] See Coolidge 527.


[31] In Tarlton's Jests, the jest "Tarlton's Answer in Defence of his Flat Nose" records Tarlton's doggerel reply to a question from the audience at a "play in the country."  To the question "how cam'st by thy flat nose" (28), Tarlton extemporally replies, "Friend or foe, if thou wilt needs know, / Marke me well: / With parting dogs and bears, then, by the ears, / This chance fell: / But what of that? / Though my nose be flat, / My credit to save, / Yet very well, I can by the smell, / Scent an honest man from a knave" (29).


[32] Doctor Faustus's Horse-courser scene offers a further case of this general pattern. Walking on a "faire and pleasant gréene" Faustus suddenly becomes melancholy, thinking that his "fatall time doth drawe to finall end" (E2). He then seemingly lays down to "rest,. . . quiet in conceit," but upon being accosted by the Horse-courser he again revels in "tricks," this time involving a fake leg.


[33] Critics such as Greg, Brooks, Levin and Cheney have usually seen Faustus's desire for Helen as the culminating moment on his road to damnation.


[34] It is important to remember that the regard of modern critics is not necessarily that of his Elizabethan peers. Even as many of his plays were huge theatrical successes, Marlowe's name did not appear upon any of his printed plays until 1594, a year after his death.


[35] Of course, such prologues were a conventional part of Tudor interlude tradition and 1590s professional drama (i.e. Romeo and Juliet). As many critics have pointed out, the moral interlude was a dramatic form to which many of Marlowe's plays owe a large debt.


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Responses to this piece intended for the Readers' Forum may be sent to the Editor at M.Steggle@shu.ac.uk.

© 2007-, Matthew Steggle (Editor, EMLS)