The Marlowe Papers: A Novel

The Marlowe Papers: A Novel

by Ros Barber


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Winner of the 2013 Desmond Elliott Prize

Longlisted for the 2013 Women's Prize for Fiction

You're the author of the greatest plays of all time.

But nobody knows.

And if it gets out, you're dead.

On May 30, 1593, a celebrated young playwright was killed in a tavern brawl in London. That, at least, was the official version. Now Christopher Marlowe reveals the truth: that his "death" was an elaborate ruse to avoid a conviction of heresy; that he was spirited across the English Channel to live on in lonely exile; that he continued to write plays and poetry, hiding behind the name of a colorless man from Stratford—one William Shakespeare.

With the grip of a thriller and the emotional force of a sonnet, this remarkable novel in verse gives voice to a man who was brilliant, passionate, and mercurial. A cobbler's son who counted nobles among his friends, a spy in the Queen's service, a fickle lover and a declared religious skeptic, Christopher Marlowe always courted trouble. In this memoir, love letter, confession, and settling of accounts, Ros Barber brings Christopher Marlowe and his era to vivid life in The Marlowe Papers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250044808
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 01/21/2014
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 1,037,722
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 10.50(h) x 1.80(d)

About the Author

ROS BARBER was born in Washington, DC and raised in England. She is the author of three poetry collections and her poetry has appeared in Poetry Review, London Magazine, The Guardian among many other publications. Ros has a PhD in Marlowe studies and has taught writing at The University of Sussex for more than a decade. In 2011, she was awarded the prestigious Hoffman Prize for The Marlowe Papers. She lives in Brighton, England.

Read an Excerpt

Marlowe Papers, The

THE MARLOWE PAPERSDEATH S A GREAT DISGUISERChurch-dead. And not a headstone in my name. No brassy plaque, no monument, no tomb, no whittled initials on a makeshift cross, no pile of stones upon a mountain top. The plague is the excuse; the age's curse that swells to life as spring gives way to summer, to sun, unconscious kisser of a warmth that wakens canker as it wakens bloom. 

Now fear infects the wind, and every breath that neighbour breathes on neighbour in the street brings death so close you smell it on the stairs. Rats multiply, as God would have them do. And fear infects like mould; like fungus, spreads -folk catch it from the chopped-off ears and thumbs, the burning heretics and eyeless heads that slow-revolve the poles on London Bridge. 

The child of casual violence grows inured, an audience too used to real blood; they've watched a preacher butchered, still awake, and handed his beating heart like it was love. And now the sanctioned butchery of State breeds sadists who delight to man the rack, reduce men from divine belief and brain to begging, and the rubble of their spines. 

From all this, I am dead. Reduced to ink that magicks up my spirit from the page: a voice who knows what mortals cannot think of; a ghost, whose words ring deeper from the grave. 

Corpse-dead. A gory stab-hole for an eye; and that's what they must think. No, must believe, those thug-head pursers bent on gagging speech, if I'm to slip their noose and stay alive. Now I'm as dead as any to the world, the foulest rain of blackened corpses on the body that is entered in my name: the plague pit where Kit Marlowe now belongs. For who could afford for that infected earth to be dug up to check identities? And so, I leave my former name behind. Gone on the Deptford tide, the whole world blind. 

Friend, I'm no one. If I write to you, in fading light that distances the threat, it's as a breeze that strokes the Channel's waves, the spray that blesses some small vessel's deck.THE MARLOWE PAPERS. Copyright © 2012 by Ros Barber. All rights reserved. . For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

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