Sabotaging Democracy (5): The 2011 vote-suppression fraud: how they got away with it

Sabotaging Democracy (5): The 2011 vote-suppression fraud: how they got away with it

In the 2008 election, the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands was subjected to what amounted to a dress rehearsal for the 2011 fraud, and a laboratory test of the efficacy of fraudulent robocalls. The re-election bid of Conservative Minister of Natural Resources Gary Lunn in that BC riding had been thrown into crisis by the late withdrawal of NDP candidate Julian West, which gave Liberal Briony Penn a strong chance of upsetting Lunn. But taking advantage of the fact that West's name remained on the ballot, Conservative agents or supporters flooded the riding on the day before the election with robocalls, falsely claiming to be from the NDP riding association, which urged NDP supporters to vote for West. A poll had indicated that less than 1% of the electorate intended to vote for this non-candidate -- but on election day another 4.7% were deceived by the robocalls into throwing their votes away.

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The First New A-Text Edition of Doctor Faustus

[First published in the Journal of English and Germanic Philology 86. 3 (1987): 402-04.]


Review of Christopher Marlowe, Dr. Faustus: The A-text, edited by David Ormerod and Christopher Wortham (Nedlands: University of Western Australia Press, 1985)

Christopher Marlowe, having studied for six years at Cambridge, seems not to have loved academics. He made dark comedy out of the murder of one of the most famous professors of his century (“... I say Ramus shall dye: / How answere you that? your nego argumentum / Cannot serve, sirra: kill him”). It might then be surmised that he would have found amusing the sometimes confused efforts of modern textual critics to establish a satisfactory text of his best-known play—the subject of which is of course the damnation of another more seriously muddled scholar.

Several decades ago the major textual problems in Doctor Faustus—those of the relative authority of the 1604 and 1616 quartos (termed by scholars the A- and B-texts), and of the relations between them—appeared to be more or less resolved. The A-text was denounced by Leo Kirschbaum in 1946 as a “bad quarto,” disfigured by memorial corruption, and in 1950 his arguments were massively supplemented by the superb parallel-text edition of W. W. Greg, who dated the B-version of the play to within a year or two of Marlowe's death in 1593, identified the A-text as a reduced form of this version, and proposed that the B-text, when conflated with certain obviously superior readings preserved in A, would represent something close to the form in which Doctor Faustus was first performed. Most of the editions which we and our students now use are based upon these arguments.

But in 1973 Fredson Bowers demonstrated that most of the passages unique to B are derived from a revision (which Greg presumed to have been lost) that was carried out in 1602 by two hack writers at the behest of Henslowe, the theatrical manager. In 1975 a brilliant article by Constance Brown Kuriyama made a strong case for the relatively greater authenticity of the A-text, including even its comic scenes, and in 1981 Michael Warren argued that with Doctor Faustus (as with King Lear) we should content ourselves with the exploration “of two quite separate and different plays ... each attributed to Marlowe”—an exploration which would obviously be facilitated by the existence of a critical edition of the A-text.

My own less stirring contribution to the debate, published in this journal in 1983, ended with a call for a new edition of Doctor Faustus based upon the A-version of the play. But, regrettably, the edition of Ormerod and Wortham is so seriously flawed that the invitation must remain open. Their introduction is in many places unsatisfactory; the theories about the texts of the play which it enunciates are in important respects ill-considered; and in their editorial decisions they have fallen victim to what Greg, in a seminal essay, termed “the tyranny of the copy-text.” To which it must be added that both text and notes are marred by errors. Marlowe's ghost, unfortunately, can be expected to derive further sardonic pleasure from this edition of his play.

There is a subtle but important difference between editing the A-text of Doctor Faustus and producing an A-version edition of the play. In the first case, one is committed to something close to a reprint of the 1604 quarto, modernized perhaps, as in the present instance, and incorporating the occasional reading from B, while avoiding any actual conflation of the A and B texts. In the second case, one would be able to recognize the greater authenticity of that form of the play preserved in the 1604 quarto without also conceding complete authority to what is obviously a defective text. Thus, while taking account of the corrupt state of the A and B texts, of their divergent ideological tendencies, and in particular of the compelling evidence that B is both an extensively revised and a systematically bowdlerized text, an editor could take A as copy-text, and yet admit B as having substantive value both in parallel passages where A's readings seem defective, and also for purposes of comparison in places where A's comic scenes appear to be out of sequence.

The former procedure could be justified by appealing to the need for an accessible reading text of the 1604 quarto (specialists are already well served by the Scolar Press facsimile and by Greg's parallel-text edition). But Ormerod and Wortham prefer to make the stronger claim that wherever B offers superior readings in parallel passages, “these can be put down to intelligent editorial emendation rather than access to a supposed manuscript by Marlowe” (p. xxviii). This opinion, reminiscent of Kirschbaum's no less extreme denigration of A, rests upon equally shaky foundations. In the chorus to Act 3, for example, A lacks fourteen lines which are present in B and which display none of the stylistic traits characteristic of the 1602 revisions. Ormerod and Wortham do not print these lines, having identified them, one must suppose, as editorial emendations.

The view that B is a wholly nonsubstantive text thus seems untenable. It would appear rather that while A and B do in certain respects form an ancestral or monogenous series (B is in part derived from the 1611 reprint of A), the relationship is also a collateral one: they have in many respects the features of a polygenous group derived by different paths of transmission from a lost common ancestor.

Their failure to engage with these complexities leaves Ormerod and Wortham wedded to the worst deficiencies of the A-text: a clowning scene which apparently has two distinct endings, and which, together with another clowning scene, is placed between the chorus to Act 4 and the scene in the imperial court which that chorus introduces. (An editor who felt free to consult the placing of the corresponding scenes in B would be able quickly to restore them to their proper setting: the first should follow the episode of the seven deadly sins, with which it dovetails neatly, and the second belongs after the scene in the papal court.) The same “tyranny of the copy-text” that makes Ormerod and Wortham prefer “terminine” (A: 670 in Greg's lineation) to B's “termine,” and to refuse an obvious emendation like “silk” for “skill” (A: 122), would seem also to have dictated the absence of act or scene divisions in this edition. The point is a debatable one, but their dismissal of the possibility that the play has a five-act structure takes no note of G. K. Hunter's essay on the subject, or of the evidence provided by the choruses, and by the act and scene divisions in 1 and 2 Tamburlaine, the only plays of Marlowe's which were printed during his lifetime.

In some of these largely theoretical issues my own judgments may appear contentious. This edition, however, also features many other less ambiguous errors. In the text itself one observes the misprint “Constanttinople” (p. 107), and the curious adoption of “Mephistophiles,” the spelling of Marlowe's main source, for a name that in the A-text is either “Mephastophilis” or “Mephastophilus” (and once, as in the B-text, Mephostophilis”): a minor point, until in a note on p. 46 we are informed that line A: 466 contains the reading “Mephostophilus.” (It doesn't.) Elsewhere, the notes are more radically untrustworthy as a guide to quarto readings. In A: 278 Ormerod and Wortham print the generally accepted emendation of A. E. Taylor (“Quin redis” in place of “Quin regis”), but ascribe it to the B-text, where this and the two preceding lines do not occur. More venial slips like “consenseus” for “consensus” (p. xlvii), and “Publius Syrus” for “Publilius Syrus” (p. 48) further reduce one's confidence in their work.

Nor does the introduction to this edition furnish evidence that these editorial faults are balanced by profound scholarship or good critical sense. In alluding to the origins of the legend, Ormerod and Wortham show themselves to be unaware of Frank Baron's important studies, Doctor Faustus from History to Legend (Munich, 1978) and Faustus: Geschichte, Sage, Dichtung (Munich, 1982), and their speculations on the relevance of St. Augustine's Contra Faustum could be replaced by a reference to J. P. Brockbank's 1962 monograph. They seem not to recognize the degree to which Renaissance demonological literature is riddled with inconsistencies and contradictions: it makes dubious sense to claim that the A-text is “orthodox” with respect to “Christian writings on witchcraft,” while B is “startlingly heterodox” (p. xxv). The more important question of the relations of the A and B texts of Doctor Faustus to the Calvinistic theological orthodoxy of Elizabethan England is largely neglected, while a discussion of Renaissance magic digresses rapidly into a competent but almost wholly irrelevant disquisition on numerology: the writings of Cornelius Agrippa, which are drawn on here, might have been more profitably mined in an analysis of Marlowe's sources for the first scene of the play, where Faustus aspires—but not on account of his numerological learning—to be “as cunning as Agrippa was” (A: 150).

One could go on at greater length in this vein. But it may suffice to say that this edition seems in several respects premature. To borrow George Kane's assessment of his own early work on the controversial Kane-Donaldson edition of Piers Plowman, Ormerod and Wortham appear to have been “deluded by the 'ideal' of conservative editing.” The lapses in their editorial theory and practice are not sufficiently balanced by other interpretive merits to make this an edition that one could recommend to students of Marlowe's play.

Antisemitism in Renaissance England: Marlowe's Jew of Malta

[First published in Renaissance and Reformation/Renaissance et Réforme 36.3 (Summer 2013): 193-95.]


Review of Mathew R. Martin, ed., The Jew of Malta. Christopher Marlowe (Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press, 2012)


The Jew of Malta is one of a group of late-Elizabethan texts in which—strangely for a country in which no significant Jewish community had been permitted for fully three centuries—ideas about Jewishness, most of them antisemitic, are strongly foregrounded. Mathew Martin's new edition of the play, with its wide-ranging and thoughtful introduction and four substantial appendices, provides critical guidance and a well-chosen array of primary contextual materials which readers of all kinds will find useful in making sense of a controversial play-text that also remains, in its vicious hilarity, eminently stage-worthy.

Harold Bloom claimed, misleadingly I think, that The Jew of Malta pushes antisemitic tropes so far into farce and absurdity that they are effectively de-fanged. But contextualizing analyses of the kind this edition will encourage should permit a more nuanced understanding of the matter.

In his first appendix, Martin excerpts two scenes from Robert Wilson's Three Ladies of London (1584) in which Mercadorus, a London-based merchant who speaks a generically 'foreign' English, seeks in Turkey to cheat the Jew Gerontus out of the large sum he owes him by converting to Islam (which by Turkish law would free him from prior debts). Rather than see even so crooked a Christian commit apostasy, the humane Gerontus forgives the debt, and shows no resentment when Mercadorus gloats over having “cozened de Jew.”

Marlowe's Barabas (whose only offence, beyond an arrogant narcissism, has been the greed that motivates him to enclose “Infinite riches in a little room”) is similarly cheated by dishonest Christians, who after seizing his property in order to pay the tribute owing to the Turks, keep it even once they've decided to refuse the tribute. The play devolves into a sequence of farcical acts of revenge and cover-up, but the notion that Christians are ethically inferior to Jews remains in circulation: Barabas may outdo in malice the Christians who have robbed him, but he is scarcely their equal in hypocrisy. The Jew of Malta, in short, is antisemitic, but its antisemitism is, at least in part, a means of leveraging a satirical onslaught against Christian mores.

A comparison with the vehemently antisemitic passages excerpted by Martin from Thomas Nashe's The Unfortunate Traveller (1594) may be instructive. In Nashe's text, Dr. Zacharie intends to bleed the captive protagonist to death (thus parodying kosher rules and evoking the blood-libel), while another Jewish villain, Zadoch, plans an orgy of violence involving a cluster of antisemitic tropes: well-poisoning, slaughtering children (and feeding galley-slaves with their pickled flesh), poisoning the hosts used in holy communion, and spreading plague. In contrast, the crimes Barabas boasts of to his slave Ithimore include only two with a specifically antisemitic tone (well-poisoning, and driving people to suicide with usury), while the murders dramatized in the play—poisoning Isabella and her nunnery, strangling one friar and framing another, and poisoning Ithimore, Bellamira, and Pilia-Borza—all follow from Barabas's attempt to conceal his responsibility for the deaths of Lodowick and Mathias. The blood-libel is alluded to in the play, but only in Friar Jacomi's question: “What, hath he crucified a child?” (III.vi.49).

Martin rather oddly includes in his first appendix a six-page excerpt from Sir Thomas Browne's Pseudodoxia epidemica refuting the antisemitic trope of the foetor judaicus. But this trope occurs in the play only in inverted form, as a foetor christianus—alluded to by Barabas when he tells Lodowick, “Tis a custom held with us / That, when we speak with gentiles like to you, / We turn into the air to purge ourselves” (II.iii.45-7); and again when he notes the arrival of the two friars by saying, “I smelt 'em ere they came” (IV.i.19-20). It might have been of greater value to include material related to Jonathan Gil Harris's telling perception that Barabas's action in leading the invading Turks into Malta through its sewers amounts to a violation of the social body by its abjected other—especially since this would link up to what Martin himself says about abjection in the excellent and well-informed discussion of early modern antisemitism in his introduction.

The materials in Martin's other appendices—on European-Ottoman relations, Machiavellianism, and Marlowe's reputation—are all stimulating, though more could perhaps have been made of the fact that accusers like Robert Greene and Richard Baines appear to have regarded Marlowe's Machiavellianism, 'atheism', and scepticism as components of a single toxic brew. But here one is perhaps only asking for more of a good thing than the format of the Broadview Editions is able to accommodate.

The sustained excellence of Martin's introduction is marred by two small errors. It is surely misleading to say that a BA degree entitled Marlowe “to style himself 'Sir Christopher Marlowe'” (11). (Constance Kuriyama, whose 2002 Marlowe biography Martin follows here, is referring to a not-for-export academic title, an English equivalent to the Latin “Ds.” or “Dominus”—but in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, the faux-cleric Sir Topas is not in anyone's estimate the social equal of a knight or baronet like Sir Toby Belch or Sir Andrew Aguecheek.) Secondly, it seems uncalled-for to describe as “conspiracy theories” the analyses that have led to the conclusion that Marlowe's death was a political murder, rather than the result of “a quarrel over lunch” (13): one can take issue with the views of scholars like David Riggs, but labelling of this kind is not the way to do it.


Playwright, Brawler, Lover, Spy


Review of David Riggs, The World of Christopher Marlowe

(London: Faber and Faber, 2004),

and of Louise Welsh, Tamburlaine Must Die

(Toronto: HarperCollins, 2005).


Christopher Marlowe, the bad boy of the Elizabethan theatre, is back. Set aside Rupert Everett’s cameo role in Shakespeare in Love: since 1993, the four-hundredth anniversary of the poet’s death, well over three dozen books have been devoted to him, including, in the past several years alone, three critical biographies. And now we have, in Louise Welsh’s novel, a re-imagining of the last week of Marlowe’s short life; and in David Riggs’ biography, important new evidence about the causes of his violent death.

Marlowe was killed, aged twenty-nine, by a dagger thrust through the socket of his right eye: an act of self-defense, the coroner ruled. The Queen’s Privy Council had ordered the poet to be available for questioning at Greenwich on matters of sedition and religious dissidence. Welsh recounts in an Author’s Note the official version of what then transpired. Invited on May 30th, 1593 to feast with three other men in a house in nearby Deptford, Marlowe objected to paying “the reckoning” himself. Snatching one of his companions’ dagger, Marlowe wounded him lightly on the scalp. In the ensuing struggle, the dagger was turned and driven into his own face. An Anglican clergyman declared this “a manifest sign of God’s judgment”: the scurrilous blasphemies of this “barking dog” had been punished by the very hand that wrote them.

Marlowe, as Welsh and Riggs agree, was no choir-boy. The biographers inform us that he’d been involved in street-fights, in one of which his opponent was run through by a fellow-poet. Two members of the London watch, in fear for their lives, had taken him before a judge to swear to keep the peace. The playwright Thomas Kyd, who in 1591 shared a writing-room with Marlowe, described him as “intemperate and of a cruel heart,” and denounced his “rashness in attempting sudden privy injuries to men.”

But archival research has made the story that his death resulted from a tavern brawl look pretty thin. Eleanor Bull, in whose house Marlowe died, was no Mistress Quickly: her husband had held office in the household of Queen Elizabeth I, whose palace at Greenwich stood less than a mile away, and the widow Bull had high connections at court. Moreover, Marlowe and the men with whom he spent his last hours all had close links to the Elizabethan secret service. The poet had been recruited, while still a Cambridge student in the mid-1580s, to infiltrate potentially traitorous Roman Catholic circles. Two of his companions were small fish in the game, but the third, Robert Poley—a man whose life exudes a dry stench of betrayal and duplicity—had run the conspiracy that led to the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. Poley had no need to fear questions from a coroner: on his return to the palace at Greenwich he received a warrant specifying that in late May and early June he had been continuously working “in her majesty’s service.”

Oh, and Kyd’s denunciation, which so helpfully corroborates the official story? It was extracted under torture, and Kyd knew when he wrote it that Marlowe was already dead.

In Tamburlaine Must Die, Welsh draws the reader skilfully into this small world of violence and betrayal, sketching with terse economy the menace of the framed poet’s interrogations by the Privy Council, and in several sequences giving a persuasive sense of the eerie brightness imparted to his perceptions by the terror of impending death. Some of Marlowe’s more intriguing contemporaries—among them the turncoat spy Richard Baynes, the mathematician and magician John Dee, and the courtier-poet, adventurer, and skeptic Sir Walter Raleigh—make fine cameo appearances. And Welsh has a lucid appreciation both of the extent to which undercover work of the kind Marlowe had been drawn into is effectively demonic in nature, and also of the contempt which the poet (like the archetypal Accuser) evidently felt for the higher powers he served.

But the twists of plot involving the novella’s only wholly fictive characters—a blind bookseller, and an actor and unsuccessful poet who is also Marlowe’s lover—tip the action into gothic melodrama. Given the extent to which Marlowe’s own plays participate in the “theatre of blood,” it may seem ironically appropriate that he should himself be portrayed here as a slasher-killer. Yet Marlowe’s own habitual defiance of convention and ‘good taste’ does seem, at least intermittently, to have had definable polemical and satirical intentions.

To this reader at least, the basic premise of Welsh’s fiction—that the playwright himself composed this text, which ends at sunrise on the morning of his death with “A Curse on Man and God,” as an angry last testament—is unconvincing. (To impersonate a writer of genius is to set the bar unnecessarily high. Anthony Burgess’s brilliant 1993 novel about Marlowe, A Dead Man in Deptford, managed without pastiche to sound convincingly Elizabethan; its supposed narrator was an actor-companion of the poet.)

The scholars whose work Welsh acknowledges have speculated that the murder, evidently an act of state, was linked to power struggles among Elizabeth’s chief courtiers—notably Sir Walter Raleigh and the Earl of Essex. But as David Riggs’ compulsively readable biography demonstrates, the documentary evidence leads higher, to a decision by Queen Elizabeth herself.

In the spring of 1593 England’s rulers were panicked by evidence of plots to assassinate the Queen and replace her with the Catholic peer Lord Strange (who was patron of the actors’ company Marlowe wrote for). The menace seemed to come from all sides—from a soldier cousin of Strange’s who had defected to the Spanish with the 1,200 Englishmen he commanded; from skeptics like Marlowe whose blasphemies undercut belief in the Queen’s role as Defender of the Faith; and from radical Protestants like Marlowe’s Cambridge contemporary John Penry, who wanted to free the Anglican Church from bishops and state control alike. The state struck back with a campaign of repression: Penry was hanged the day before Marlowe’s murder, and Lord Strange was poisoned in 1594.

Riggs is a sensitive guide to the radical novelty of Marlowe’s writings. He has a keen eye for the ways in which Marlowe’s knowledge of classical literatures helped him voice sexual dissidence as well as opposition to Christian and monarchical orthodoxies. Yet he and Welsh both overlook what may be the most tantalizing resonances of the poet’s death—its very contemporary-sounding connections (analyzed by Richard Wilson nearly a decade ago) with the arms trade and with insider trading.

Marlowe died a stone’s throw from the warehouses of the Muscovy Company, England’s first joint-stock corporation, whose London agent (we would say, CEO) was one Anthony Marlowe.

The Company’s trade was in armaments, and in imperial geopolitics. High-quality English cannons and gunpowder enabled Ivan the Terrible and his successors to expand with murderous violence into central Asia; in return, the Company imported the cordage that equipped the fleet which defeated the Spanish Armada. This was an early form of the “Great Game”; its goal was English access to the Silk Road and the Far East, by-passing Spanish sea power and the armies of the Ottoman Empire.

The two Marlowes were probably distant cousins, with common roots in Faversham, in Kent. Yet as Richard Wilson has argued, Christopher’s first stage hits, his two Tamburlaine plays, come close to being public relations for the Company’s Eurasian geopolitics. Add to the possibility that these plays were somehow commissioned as propaganda the fact that in 1587, the year they were first staged, Anthony Marlowe and other directors of the Company had just got away with England’s inaugural insider-trading scandal, and we may have stumbled upon a further motive for the dagger in the eye.

A last detail. In one of the bloodiest scenes of the second play, Tamburlaine’s army storms the city of Babylon. He orders his soldiers to massacre combatants and civilians alike, and has the city’s governor hung up on the wall for them to shoot at. (Falluja, anyone?) In one early performance, a gun used in this sequence was accidentally loaded with bullets as well as powder, and when it was discharged killed a pregnant woman in the audience. Call it ‘blow-back,’ if you like.

Ponderous / Illuminating: Two New Editions of Marlowe's Edward II

First published in Marlowe Society of America Book Reviews 15.2 (Winter 1996): 1-2.

 

Review of Christopher Marlowe, Edward the Second, ed. Charles R. Forker (The Revels Plays; Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994), and of The Complete Works of Christopher Marlowe, Volume III: Edward II, ed. Richard Rowland (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994)

 

 

It is not just because of their intrinsic value that the concurrent publication of two major editions of Edward II is a welcome event: this conjunction also provides us with an occasion for reflection upon the range of purposes served by contemporary textual scholarship.

The text of Edward II is unproblematic. The earliest surviving edition, that of 1594, which appears also to have been the first, now exists in a single copy (another copy that disappeared at the end of World War II contained trifling differences on the outer forme of a single sheet). There is thus only one substantive text. However, this play's interpretation is another matter. Recent analyses of the need for historical contextualization, of the cultural constitution of gender, and of the striking differences between early modern and contemporary discourses on gender and sexuality, together with the social impact of the gay pride movement, have profoundly altered the canons of judgment that critics bring to a performance or to their reading of Marlowe's Edward II.

However uncomplicated the textual situation may be, Richard Rowland and Charles Forker have had to make significant decisions about format and apparatus. Thus Rowland, recognizing that the sparse pointing of the 1594 text calls for emendation, sensibly gives preference in his old-spelling edition to the punctuation variants of the other early quartos, and provides a list of emendations to accidentals. (More dubiously, he offers scene numbers while eschewing act divisions. Why not give both? Neither kind of division appears in pre-nineteenth-century editions of the play—although as Forker remarks, Edward II does have a clearly defined five-act structure.)

Forker's modernized edition may be, as the Revels editors tell us, “the most complete and detailed edition of Edward II ever published,” but the results are not uniformly happy. Forker's work in collating forty-six editions of the play is Herculean, but do we really need, above and beyond a listing of substantive variants and a due acknowledgment of the sources of all emendations accepted (or seriously considered) by the editor, the more than five pages of additional collations of the 1818 editions of Broughton and Oxberry that Forker provides? (Most of these are “corrections” of metrical irregularities, “improvements” of diction and sense of the kind that pre-critical editors regarded as their prerogative, or, like Oxberry's substitution of “head” for “ghost” and “ghost” for “head” at V. vi. 98-99, mere carelessness.)

Forker's 136-page introduction begins with an excellent bibliographical and textual analysis. The ensuing sections on the date of the play, and on the complex web of mutual indebtedness that linked Marlowe and Shakespeare in the years surrounding the composition of Edward II, are also remarkable. The exhaustively researched study of the play's stage history with which Forker's introduction concludes will prove indispensable to the growing numbers of scholars interested in performance issues.

Nevertheless, this introduction may be more magisterial in scale than in achievement, as a comparison of the ways in which Charles Forker and Richard Rowland contextualize the play can show. Forker limits his gaze almost exclusively to two categories of writing: the printed chronicle histories which Marlowe can be shown to have used, and plays and poems from which he borrowed or which borrowed from him. Rowland is aware of much wider contexts in social and political history. The result, in much briefer context, is a continuously illuminating exploration of Marlowe's play.

In an analysis of Marlowe's use of chronicle sources that is longer than Rowland's entire introduction, Forker details such matters as Marlowe's deliberate debasing of the social rank of Gaveston and the Spencers. Rowland goes at once beyond this level, showing what makes Marlowe's dramatization of an “exhilarating and nightmarish” (xxiv) world in which traditional power structures are threatened with dissolution by the upward social mobility of royal minions not just formally intriguing but also topically relevant. As he observes, the 1587 expansion of Holinshed's Chronicles was contentious, to the point of “attract[ing] the hostile scrutiny of the Privy Council,” because it concluded with English events as recent as the execution of Mary Queen of Scots—and, in the Historie of Scotland, with reports on the manner in which the “roiall qualities” of her son, James VI, were being “obscured by the craft & subtiltie of some lewd and wicked persons ... for the most part of base linage,” who “keepe his maiestie thrall to authorise by his roiall power their abhominable and execrable facts” (xix-xx). An elegant analysis of the extensive parallels between Edward II and James VI (which includes a reminder of Thomas Kyd's accusation that Marlowe himself—perhaps like one of Gaveston's “wanton Poets”—intended to seek a place in the court of Elizabeth's probable heir) leads to the conclusion that Marlowe's main deviations from his sources serve to enhance the resonances of his play with this contemporary context, and at the same time to destabilize “the polarizations which the chroniclers were at pains to clarify and sustain” (xxiv).

The same sureness of touch and scholarly and critical acuity are evident throughout Rowland's introduction and his textual commentary. But when the Revels format obliges Forker to give an account of the play's critical receptions, he paints himself into a corner. His own commitments are made clear when, having devoted a full page (including two paragraphs of quotation) to Douglas Cole's 1962 book, he relegates the contemporary materialist work of Simon Shepherd, Jennifer Brady, Thomas Cartelli and Gregory Bredbeck to a single unfriendly footnote. Fair enough: they have at least been mentioned. But it will not do to counter Alan Bray's Homosexuality in Renaissance England by an allusion to unnamed “recent psycho-biological researches, which suggest that sexual orientation, at least in part, may be genetically determined and therefore transhistorical” (94). As Stephen Jay Gould has argued, the belief that partial genetic determination permits an escape from history is a non sequitur. And are literary scholars really too lazy to want information about these vigorously contested researches?        

Making Sense of the Primary Source of Marlowe's Doctor Faustus

When the German magician, humanist, alchemist, astrologer and fortune-teller known variously as Georgius Sabellicus Faustus, Doctor Georg Faustus "the great sodomite and necromancer," or more simply as Faustus, or Faust, expired some time around 1539, neither he nor his contemporaries could have imagined that within fifty years a wildly sensational (and wholly fictive) account of his life would become a best-seller across much of north-western Europe. 

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