Research proves that Christopher Marlowe not only didn’t die in 1593 at the age of 29, but that he wrote the plays that made Shakespeare famous. So says author and playwright Peter B Hodges whose Off-Broadway play on the subject, Marlowe’s Fate, is now running at London’s White Bear Theatre until 27 November. He told us more about it. Time to get booking!
Everyone knows Christopher Marlowe was stabbed in a tavern brawl in Deptford and died in May 1593 – but what if he didn’t?
This witty literary mystery implicates Queen Elizabeth’s spymasters in a disappearance. This might have been the end of the story, but Marlowe continued to write and needed an alias. In Richard Field’s printshop, Shaxper (aka Shakespeare) arrives looking for work and the plot thickens.
Marlowe’s Fate ran Off-Broadway in 2018 at Theatre Row Studios. The UK premiere pits Nicholas Limm as Marlowe against Lewis Allcock as Shaxpear, along with Susan Brooke, Gary Dunnington, Zoë Lambrakis, PK Taylor and Robert Vernon.
In conversation with Peter Hodges
Peter Hodges is the founder of the Caravan Theatre Company, Inc., the author of Marlowe’s Complaint, a critical history of the life of Christopher Marlowe, over a dozen plays, three novels, a memoir and a critical history of the plays of Sadakichi Hartmann. Born in 1951, he was raised in Virginia, Texas and California before moving to New York City in 1977. From 1980 to 2008, he worked in the professional liability insurance field, becoming a vice president at Marsh & McLennan, Chubb and lastly at Zurich American.
He received a BFA in Acting from the University of Washington in 1975 and a Ph.D. from the City University Graduate School of New York City College in 1992. He has a lifelong interest in theatre and has produced over two dozen plays in New York City, New Haven, CT and now London.
Where did the idea come from for Marlowe’s Fate?
I discovered that Christoper Marlowe wrote the plays attributed to Shakespeare when I read Calvin Hoffman’s The Murder of the Man Who Wrote Shakespeare in 1971. I’ve been researching the issue on and off ever since. I wanted to tell the story in an entertaining way that would give an audience a better rendition of the known facts than are generally accepted.
Marlowe’s Fate is one part of the result. Marlowe’s Complaint, my book on the subject, is a more scholarly, historian’s version of the same story from which the play is derived. The book contains all the research and data to make the case clear while also being presented as an exciting detective story.
How much research did you do?
Volumes. Marlowe’s Complaint includes over 600 notes citing several hundred manuscripts, books, articles and original source documents. Several hundred more were researched but not included in the notes. All of this had a direct effect on the play. A good example of this is Shaxper’s defense at the end of Act I. This is a direct quote from the Gesta Grayorum, the original report of the Night of Errors.
Which is your favourite Marlowe play & why?
Twelfth Night, As You Like It and Pericles, all of which include exiles, mistaken identities, reunions and heroes travelling in disguise. Tamburlaine and The Massacre at Paris are top of the list for the early ones.
How was the run in New York? What, if anything, has changed since then?
The New York show was very successful. It was different largely because, at the time, I did not think that Marlowe and Shaxper ever met. My research for Marlowe’s Complaint changed my point of view on that as the Night of Errors scene in the play now demonstrates. That scene was not in the New York version. Also, Marlowe did not return at the end in the New York version. I think it is likely that he made several attempts to return, but was thwarted each time.
A taste of glorious costumes,and puppets. Wonderful actors brining Marlowe's Fate alive. Courtesy of video graphed, Benji Paris. pic.twitter.com/negwT50hAV
— @marlowesfate (@marlowesfate) November 5, 2021
Why did you want to bring the play to London? And the White Bear specifically?
I love London. When I met Michael Kingsbury, I felt the White Bear would be a perfect venue to get started producing here.
Tell us a little about the puppets in the play.
The idea for the puppets was a way of having Marlowe and Shakespeare face off when I still thought they never actually met. After I changed my mind about that, I kept it in the play because most people seem to enjoy it.
What would you like audiences to take away from Marlowe’s Fate?
I want the audience to have a good time and maybe ask themselves: what if Marlowe didn’t die in 1593?
Anything else you’d like to add?
Read Marlowe’s Complaint. Marlowe’s life after Deptford is really amazing. As the play says, the Sonnets tell the whole story, I just add the details.
Marlowe’s Fate runs from 3 to 28 November 2021 at the White Bear Theatre, 138 Kennington Park Rd, London SE11 4DJ, with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7.15pm. Tickets priced £16 (concessions £14). CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!