History Play

Overview

Rodney Bolt?s delightful life of Marlowe plays out a surprising solution to an enduring literary mystery, bringing the spirit of Shakespeare alive as we?ve never seen it before.

 

Rodney Bolt?s book is not an attempt to prove that, rather than dying at 29 in a tavern brawl, Christopher Marlowe staged his own death, fled to Europe, and went on to write the work attributed to Shakespeare. Instead, it takes that as the starting point for a playful and brilliantly written "fake...

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London 2004 Hardcover First edition New in new jacket N. 388 pages. With plates. Rodney Bolt's publishers seem nervous about this splendid book, giving it a jacket blurb that ... denies what the book is and suggesting that its inability to fit in to any standard category has thrown them. They have no need to worry. History Play is a book about the endlessly-fascinating Christopher Marlowe, about William Shakespeare, about Elizabeth and Jacobean times and about the theatre. It mixes fact and fiction, but the research is superb, the fiction highly probable and the style a joy to behold. It brings alive one of the most vibrant periods of English history, puts an informed slant on one of the oldest and most fascinating mysteries of all time and is wonderfully entertaining as well as revelling in its own impudence. Is it fact? Is it fiction? Who cares! It's a great read. Quantity Available: 1. Category: Biographies; Literary History; Renaissance History (1450-1600); English History and Topography; N. ISBN: 00071212 Read more Show Less

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Overview

Rodney Bolt’s delightful life of Marlowe plays out a surprising solution to an enduring literary mystery, bringing the spirit of Shakespeare alive as we’ve never seen it before.

 

Rodney Bolt’s book is not an attempt to prove that, rather than dying at 29 in a tavern brawl, Christopher Marlowe staged his own death, fled to Europe, and went on to write the work attributed to Shakespeare. Instead, it takes that as the starting point for a playful and brilliantly written "fake biography” of Marlowe, which turns out to be a life of the Bard as well. Using real historical sources (as well as the occasional red herring) plus a generous dose of speculation, Bolt paints a rich and rollicking picture of Elizabethan life. As we accompany Marlowe into the halls of academia, the society of the popular English players traveling Europe, and the dangerous underworld of Elizabethan espionage, a fascinating and almost plausible life story emerges, along with a startlingly fresh look at the plays and poetry we know as Shakespeare’s. Tapping into centuries of speculation about the man behind the work, about whom so few facts are known for sure, Rodney Bolt slyly winds the lives of two beloved playwrights into one.

Rodney Bolt was born in South Africa and read English at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge—Marlowe's alma mater. After working in the 1980s as a writer and director in theater in London, he moved to Amsterdam, where he now lives. He is also a travel writer, and has won national travel-writing prizes from Germany and the United States.

Without trying to prove it, Rodney Bolt's biography of Shakespeare assumes that, rather than dying at twenty-nine in a tavern brawl, Christopher Marlowe staged his own death, fled to Europe, and went on to write the work attributed to Shakespeare. This is the starting point for a fictional biography of Marlowe, which turns out to be a life of the Bard as well.

 

Using real historical sources plus some speculation, Bolt paints a picture of Elizabethan life. As we accompany Marlowe into the halls of academia, the society of the popular English players traveling Europe, and the dangerous underworld of Elizabethan espionage, a life story emerges, along with a fresh look at the plays and poetry we know as Shakespeare's. Tapping into centuries of speculation about the man behind the work, about whom so few facts are known for sure, Rodney Bolt winds the lives of two beloved playwrights into one.

"With gobsmacking audacity, Bolt recreates an alternative life of Marlowe that compellingly views the known facts from a different angle."—The Independent (UK)

 

"A triumph . . . It is both a serious remit and [has] enough puns and anagrams to make Shakespeare (or possibly Marlowe) blush. It made me laugh out loud. And, most of all, it made me want to go back to the plays. This was a book that needed to be done perfectly or not at all. It is perfect."—The Spectator (UK)

 

"History Play's richly and meticulously researched portrait of the 16th and 17th centuries is written with a keen sense of Elizabethan metaphor and contemporary analogy."—The Times Literary Supplement

 

"A grand entertainment for literary sleuths."—Kirkus Reviews

 

"[A] bold and wickedly fun new fictional biography. Make no mistake, this is not another standard anti-Stratfordian tract attempting to settle the authorship debate. Although he (mostly) sticks to the facts, Bolt freely admits he's making this up. His point is that by doing so, he's not behaving very differently from countless 'legitimate' biographers who, faced with the dearth of available details concerning Marlowe's and Shakespeare's lives, have not hesitated to fill their books with idle speculation . . . [An] audacious and entertaining work."—William D. Walsh, Library Journal

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
History has it all wrong. Christopher Marlowe never died in a bar fight at the tender age of 29. Here's what really happened: Finding himself caught in a web of Elizabethan political intrigue, the young writer faked his death at Widow Bull's tavern, fled to the Continent under the identity of Walter Hoochspier, and allowed a bumpkin opportunist named Will Shakespeare to take credit for his later writings, including such masterpieces as Hamlet and King Lear. At least that's the premise of Bolt's bold and wickedly fun new fictional biography. Make no mistake, this is not another standard anti-Stratfordian tract attempting to settle the authorship debate. Although he (mostly) sticks to the facts, Bolt freely admits he's making this up. His point is that by doing so, he's not behaving very differently from countless "legitimate" biographers who, faced with the dearth of available details concerning Marlowe's and Shakespeare's lives, have not hesitated to fill their books with idle speculation. "Other writers have looked at the evidence and deduced a story," Bolt writes. "I have imagined a story, then supported it with the same sparse evidence." This audacious and entertaining work deserves a space on most libraries' shelves.-William D. Walsh, Georgia State Univ., Atlanta Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Poor Christopher Marlowe, dead in a barroom brawl, not yet 30. Things were tough in 1593. But what if Kit didn't really die? A writer gets involved in political intrigue and disappears, but publishes brilliant work in the name of a far less talented writer. It goes well until the patsy has the audacity to venture rewrites, and then fresh scripts, and sets out on his own career. It's the plot of Martin Ritt's 1976 movie The Front, but the premise has antecedents in the life of Marlowe, at least as Amsterdam-based travel-writer Bolt interprets it. For Marlowe-alias Kit Marlin, alias Tim Larkin-was, as Bolt writes in this lively, speculative biography of the great English playwright, a secret agent in the service of Francis Walsingham, the anti-Catholic spymaster and enforcer for Elizabeth I. Somewhere along the way, Marlowe drifted into heresy himself. To make things worse, on Walsingham's death and without his protection, he stumbled on a plot on the part of Sir Robert Cecil to gain power; in response, Cecil ordered Marlowe's assassination, for "any ripples his removal caused could be easily managed." Bolt's plot, already worthy of Robert Ludlum, becomes more complicated: He supposes that Marlowe's friends faked his murder before Cecil could make it real. Marlowe spent the next few years wandering about Catholic Europe and visiting the likes of Cervantes while sending home plays about Veronese teenagers and mad kings, all full of anagrams and acrostics and hidden clues as to the identity of their true author. But Marlowe got no credit for his resoundingly popular plays: Instead, the glory went to one William Shakespeare, whom Marlowe recruited to be his front. And Shakespeare, Bolt avers,was by far the lesser author. Marlowe, who knew his Continental literature and his classics, spoke many languages and was well-traveled-all attainments that Shakespeare, according to his contemporaries, did not have. A grand entertainment for literary sleuths.
Independent (UK)
"With gobsmacking audacity, Bolt recreates an alternative life of Marlowe that compellingly views the known facts from a different angle."
Spectator (UK)
"A triumph...It has both a serious remit and enough puns and anagrams to make Shakespeare (or possibly Marlowe) blush. It made me laugh out loud. And, most of all, it made me want to go back to the plays. This was a book that needed to be done perfectly or not at all. It is perfect."
Times Literary Supplement (UK)
"History Play's rich and meticulously researched portrait of the 16th and 17th centuries is written with a keen sense of Elizabethan metaphor and contemporary analogy.I was happy to go along for the ride."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780007121236
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/1/2004
  • Pages: 400

Meet the Author

Rodney Bolt was born in South Africa and read English at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge—Marlowe’s alma mater. After working in the 1980s as a writer and director in theater in London, he moved to Amsterdam, where he now lives. He is also a travel writer, and has won national travel-writing prizes from Germany and the United States.

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