okay, brief thesis statement: as you like it is the play where you most directly see shakespeare trying to cope with marlowe’s death.
i’ll explain that in more depth, but first, a little bit about marlowe!
christopher (kit) marlowe was not only another playwright in the period—he began writing before shakespeare, and he basically created elizabethan theater as we know it. he was lower class (the son of a shoemaker), and had by some miracle managed to get scholarships to posh schools, starting with the king’s school in canterbury and continuing up through cambridge, where he studied classics. and by “studied classics” i mean “became the first person to translate ovid’s deeply filthy sex poems into english,” because that’s the sort of person marlowe was. he subsequently quit academia to go into theater, which was, as my prof put it, basically the equivalent of announcing today that you want to put aside your ivy league education for a career in porn.
let me give you a sense of the kind of person kit was
- we know a lot about his life from his arrest record
- he might have been a spy???
- by which i mean he ~mysteriously came into money~ while at cambridge (we know because we have records of the moment when he started buying drinks for everyone. kit.)
- he might have been an atheist???
- whether or not he was, he definitely was fond of telling people (in 16th century england!!!) that jesus was gay
- i’m not kidding
- he’d walk up to people and be like: “so, jesus christ was totally fucking his apostles. thoughts?”
- IN SIXTEENTH-CENTURY ENGLAND
- so it is probably not surprising that he died violently at a young age (*quiet sobs*)
- he got stabbed in the eye in a bar fight at age 29
- but wait! even his death is mysterious!!!
- twelve days before his murder, a warrant was issued for his arrest on vague charges of blasphemy. ten days before, he was called up in front of the privy council, but they didn’t meet for some reason. there were rumors that he was going to implicate some pretty high-up nobles in a SECRET RING OF ATHEISTS.
- there’s more, but basically, there was SHADY SHIT going on, and in the coroner’s report, it says refers to the fight as being over “the reckoning,” which could either be SUPER OMINOUS or be about who would pay the check.
which brings me to as you like it! given the coroner’s report, the lines quoted in that post i reblogged read a little differently:
When a man’s verses cannot be understood, nor a
man’s good wit seconded with the forward child
Understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a
great reckoning in a little room. (III.iii.9-12)
(and this comes in a scene where the characters discuss poets/poetry and whether to be “poetical” is to be honest, and how truth can be communicated through fiction aaaaAAAAAAAAAAHHH)
see, shakespeare and marlowe were really, really close. they had a friendly rivalry
and were having all the sex. their plays constantly reference/one-up each other. marlowe wrote the jew of malta, so shakespeare wrote the merchant of venice. marlowe wrote edward ii, so shakespeare wrote richard ii. and so on and so forth. in each other they each found an intellectual equal, someone who could not only keep up, but challenge them—something pretty rare for both of them.
and then, out of the blue, marlowe dies.
a lot happens out of the blue in as you like it. the plot moves forward with these lightning-strike revelations (suddenly, they’re in love! suddenly, a lion! suddenly, the duke goes to live in a monastery!). it’s comic, but also disorienting, and the characters struggle to keep their balance as their world shifts around them.
the through-line of love at first sight, which constitutes several of those sudden, shocking events, isn’t subtle, and is most clearly pointed out by phoebe when she says:
Dead Shepherd, now I find thy saw of might,
‘Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?’ (III.v.82-83)
want to know why that bolded line is in quotes? because it is a quote.
specifically, from marlowe’s poem hero and leander.
so, shakespeare bases the main plot conceit of ayli on a quote taken directly from marlowe (ABOUT LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT I’M GOING TO DIE) and then proceeds in the same play to reference the “great reckoning” and to write, in a speech by jacques: “the scholar’s melancholy, which is / emulation” (IV.i.10-11).
THE SCHOLAR’S MELANCHOLY, WHICH IS EMULATION
THE SCHOLAR’S MELANCHOLY, WHICH IS EMULATION
*lies down on the ground*
*tries not to cry*
*cries a lot*
okay i’m losing the ability to talk about this coherently but basically shakespeare was devastated by marlowe’s death and as you like it is his tribute to kit and it destroys me
history lesson through tumblr marlowe wait so OLLA is EVEN WORSE THAN I THOUGHT I WASN’T SUPPOSED TO HAVE THESE FEELINGS RACHEL I haven’t even *read* any marlowe yet and now he’s going to the so jesus was totes gay right? writer before I get to read him by which I mean GREAT CONTEXTUALIZATION
To be fair, I wouldn’t characterize Marlowe as randomly informing random people that Jesus was gay, because that was a really stupid thing to do in Elizabethan England, and while I would not exactly compliment Marlowe on his keen sense of self-preservation, I do want to point out that the only concrete evidence of Marlowe’s atheism/Thoughts on Gay Jesus comes from two sources: one is a statement by Richard Baines, who accused him of heresy in the first place (for complicated reasons), and the other is a statement by Marlowe’s former roommate Thomas Kyd, taken while under torture. None of which means that Marlowe wasn’t an atheist or at least heterodox and didn’t say these things, just that there’s no non-dubious evidence that he did.
But whatever else you may say about Marlowe, he was a great playwright and certainly an influential one to Shakespeare. The description of his and Shakespeare’s working relationship is a little misleading — The Merchant of Venice and Richard II weren’t direct responses to The Jew of Malta and Edward II; both were written quite a bit later although it’s certainly true that they were strongly influenced by Marlowe’s plays (it’s just not Shakespeare going “look, Kit, I can write plays about Jews and gay kings too!), and Edward II in turn probably takes some of its inspiration from the huge success of Shakespeare’s Henry VI plays, so the influence doesn’t go exclusively one way.
He’s also a very different playwright from Shakespeare — I think in a lot of ways he’s less interested in character than in Big Ideas and especially in the whole will-to-power concept. He kind of reads like Nietzsche before Nietzsche. His favorite character type is the person who, through the force of his own ambition, rises to the heights of fortune and power before he overreaches himself and is destroyed: Tamburlaine, Barabas in The Jew of Malta, Doctor Faustus, they’re all this type (as is Mortimer in Edward II, a curious example because this is about the only Marlowe play where this character isn’t the protagonist). He tends to write larger-than-life antiheroes — Shakespeare’s Richard III is probably the most Marlovian of his characters, although while Shakespeare’s plays especially in the first half of his career definitely show the influence of Marlowe, they generally have very different styles and attitudes (plus Shakespeare writes great female characters and Marlowe generally does not). One of the saddest things about Marlowe’s early death is that late in his career he starts to develop a more serious interest in the psychology of his characters:the title characters in Tamburlaine and The Jew of Malta (who has a lot more in common with Aaron the Moor than with Shylock) are essentially incredibly entertaining caricatures, but in Faustus and Edward II the characters start to become real people. Edward II especially is atypical of Marlowe for the amount of sympathy extended to all of its characters (as a general rule I would not call early Marlowe an unusually compassionate dramatist). It’s also, as it happens, my favorite Marlowe play. It’s sad because you really wonder where he might have gone had his talents had the chance to develop further.
(poorshadowspaintedqueens and I were talking about this at Kzoo: what a shame it is that Marlowe never got to write The Tragedy of Cesare Borgia? It would have been FUCKING FLAWLESS.)
My mind has such an erection right now.
One of my best boys is graduating this Sunday and so I made him a handy thing to use whenever people ask “And what do you plan on doing with that?” Which is still every other day of my life, even a year after getting my diploma.
We evolve into a product of society.
Best picture. Ever.
(Source: girtabaix, via alittlebitofshipping)
“women aren’t allowed to—”
“women shouldn’t/can’t ___ because periods”
“men are biologically better than women at—”
“only men can/should—”
“it’s not ladylike to—”
“you’re not a real woman if you don’t—”
“men are dominant and superior—”
“women have to—”
“she’s a slut/whore/trashy woman because she likes to have sex”
“she asked for it/it was her fault for—”
“women should wear—”
get in, no time to explain
I just showed this to my dad and he said “time to split”
yet another person math problems warn us about
(Source: nemoi, via alittlebitofshipping)
Five Ways to Spot Somebody Suffering from Transphobia
reblogging because my anons are fucking up.