And here I am wondering something. He, like just about everybody I've read so far on the topic mentions this passage in As You Like It. The Ovid reference is a little risky: the play was probably written ~1599, when copies of Marlowe's translation of Ovid (see Elizabethan Ponyboy Bondage Smut post below, for link) had just been burned for indecency.
And the bolded passage is a direct reference to the circumstances of Marlowe's death, using some of the exact language of the coroner's report on that murder.
Touchstone: I am heere with thee, and thy Goats, as the most
capricious Poet honest Ouid was among the Gothes.
Iaques: O knowledge ill inhabited, worse then Ioue in
a thatch'd house.
Touchstone: When a mans verses cannot be vnderstood, nor
a mans good wit seconded with the forward childe, vn-
derstanding: it strikes a man more dead then a great rec-
koning in a little roome: truly, I would the Gods hadde
made thee poeticall.
Audrey: I do not know what Poetical is: is it honest in
deed and word: is it a true thing?
Touchstone: No trulie: for the truest poetrie is the most fai-
ning, and Louers are giuen to Poetrie: and what they
sweare in Poetrie, may be said as Louers, they do feigne.
Audrey: Do you wish then that the Gods had made me
Touchstone: I do truly: for thou swear'st to me thou art ho-
nest: Now if thou wert a Poet, I might haue some hope
thou didst feigne.
Audrey: Would you not haue me honest?
Touchstone: No truly, vnlesse thou wert hard fauour'd: for
honestie coupled to beautie, is to haue Honie a sawce to
And this one gets cited a lot too: it's a direct quote from Marlowe's "Hero & Leander"--and it's attributed to him, directly: "Dead Shepherd" in this case is Kit, a reference to "A Passionate Shepherd to his Love." "Saw" is used as in "an old saw" or a saying, aphorism. I think this is the only place Shakespeare ever does this--steals and tacks on an attribution to who he's stealing from. He seems to have lived by Mark Twain's admonition that good artists are influenced; great artists steal.
Phebe: Dead Shepheard, now I find thy saw of might,
Who euer lov'd, that lou'd not at first sight?
Okay. Now there's a couple of more subtle Marlowe references in the play: Rosalind, the protagonist (Go Will! Girl protagonists!) dresses up as a boy. The name she picks for her alter ego is "Ganymede." Which is (a) Elizabethan slang for a young male prostitute (see "rentboy," below.) And b.) a character who is appears in Marlowe's Dido. Also, there's a whole bunchamo shit with shepherds. (Been over that already.)
No, seriously. This kind of thing went on all the time: it's amazing anybody ever appears in Elizabethan/Jacobean literature under their own name: They were all way too busy alluding to one another and being clever and doing that society column thing where you don't actually *name* your victim... just describe him so everybody will absolutely know who you mean.
There's a couple of other bits and pieces of potential Marlowe-reference in Shakespeare: a bit in Romeo and Juliet that caught my eye:
MERCUTIO Without his roe, like a dried herring: flesh, flesh,
how art thou fishified! Now is he for the numbers
that Petrarch flowed in: Laura to his lady was but a
kitchen-wench; marry, she had a better love to
be-rhyme her; Dido a dowdy; Cleopatra a gipsy;
Helen and Hero hildings and harlots; Thisbe a grey
eye or so, but not to the purpose. Signior
Romeo, bon jour! there's a French salutation
to your French slop. You gave us the counterfeit fairly last night.
Romeo & Juliet, Act II, scene iv
(If nothing else, because it alternates women mentioned in Marlowe and Shakespeare. Although the dates are all screwed up. But it is kind of neat. And to be fair, you have to give them both Hero.)
Okay. Now here's the thing I think I may be the first one to catch on to. Back to As You Like It:
Rosalind: Well, in her person, I say I will not haue you.
Orlando: Then in mine owne person, I die.
Rosalind: No faith, die by Attorney: the poore world is
almost six thousand yeeres old, and in all this time there
was not anie man died in his owne person ( videlicet) in
a loue cause: Troilous had his braines dash'd out with a
Grecian club, yet he did what hee could to die before,
and he is one of the patternes of loue. Leander, he would
haue liu'd manie a faire yeere though Hero had turn'd
Nun; if it had not bin for a hot Midsomer-night, for
(good youth) he went but forth to wash him in the Hel-
lespont, and being taken with the crampe, was droun'd,
and the foolish Chronoclers of that age, found it was
Hero of Cestos. But these are all lies, men haue died
from time to time, and wormes haue eaten them, but not
That's from the First Folio, and the fun fun fun uber Shakspeare website here:
This looks like another direct reference, to me, to the circumstances of Marlowe's (Leander's) death not being as they were generally put about. There's a couple of more sublte references here: the line about the world being six thousand years old refers to one of the heresies that Marlowe allegedly repeated (that it was older than that).
Also, the bit about dying in your own self or rather by proxy is--interesting. *g* Given the rumors that the rumors of Kit's death were greatly exaggerated.
(I've seen one version of this somewhere where the line is rendered "foolish coroners of the age." Not sure of the justification of that, but it's an even stronger suggestion of a coverup.)
Now, I don't know what it means, but it really looks to me like Will is sliding references to an old friend into his plays, and raising questions that are generally not considered wise to ask out in the open. And he has a habit of mentioning people he knows (notoriously, the executed John Somerville) in passing in his plays. We modern writers do this too: we call them Easter Eggs, or cookies.)
Which makes me wonder what Will knew that I don't. Doesn't make me think that kit was walking around in a rubber Will suit--one wonders if the people who think Kit was writing plays from Italy for Will to broker has ever been around the set of a play or a movie in production--You want those script changes WHEN?!--and the idea that Kit changed his name to Will Shakespeare and came back and wrote plays from London is about as bright as the idea that if I were a high school student I could change my name, dye my hair, go back to my high school, and pretend to be somebody else.
We're talking about a community of maybe at most 350-400 people among the players of London at that time, and their hangers-on. As that to the number of times that Marlowe was obviously interceded for by very powerful friends--walking away from capital charges without so much as a slap on the wrist--and it bloody well makes me want a time machine.
Dammit. I am putting WAY too much energy into thinking about this.
But I gotta admit, there's something about the trace evidence of a 400 year old conspiracy and coverup that's just bloody fascinating.
On the anti-Oxfordian front, has anybody noticed that these guys who persist in calling Will "Shakspere" and insisting that because the spelling on his baptismal record is different, that the Stratford Man couldn't have been the poet seem to gallantly ignore the fact that the *actor's* name is spelled in print identically with the playwright's?
Amazing how we don't notice the inconvenient evidence.