It's mechanics time. I've decided, for various reasons, that the first book will have a very brief author's note at the front "This is the first three fifths of a novel. The last two fifths are in another volume, The Dead Shepherd.
A complete Author's Note and Acknowledgements, enumerating this narrative's extensive historical and linguistic malfeasances, and encompassing a semi-exhaustive list of who may be assessed for the same, can be found at the end of the second book."
The second book will have something to this effect at the front:
This is the last two fifths of a novel. The first three fifths are in another volume, entitled The Stratford Man. Turn back! Turn back! Find the other book! Read it first!
Otherwise, I expect this will not make a lick of sense.
And something a little more complete at the end.
This novel would have been impossible to complete without the recent outpouring of popular scholarship concerning the Elizabethan stage, and in particular Mssrs. Shakespeare, Jonson, and Marlowe. In addition, the work of multifarious authors, dabblers, artists, and historians was used during my preparation for writing this novel. I have never met Anthony Burgess, Stephen Booth, Peter Ackroyd, Charles Nicholl, Michael Wood, Liza Picard, Stephen Greenblatt, David Riggs, David Crystal, Constance Brown Kuriyama, Peter Farey, Jennifer Westwood, Antonia Frazier, Alan H. Nelson, C. Northcote Parkinson, Elaine Pagels, Jaroslav Pelikan, Lawrence Stone, Gustav Davidson, Richard Hosley, Alan Bray, or any of the other wonderfully obsessed individuals whose work I consulted in preparing this glorious disservice to history. However, I owe them all an enormous debt of gratitude, and I spent immeasurable hours in their company while in process of this book.
A couple of historical and linguistic quirks for the reader's interest: the Elizabethan year began on Lady Day, in March, rather than January 1st. In result, Christofer Marley was, to his contemporaries, born at the end of 1563 and William Shakespeare at the beginning of 1564. To a modern eye, their birthdates would be in February and April, both of 1564.
I have chosen to preserve this quirk of the times, along with a characteristic bit of English in transition: at the time to which the writing refers, the familiar form of the English second-person pronoun (thee) was beginning to drift out of use, but had not yet lost the war, and the plural pronoun (you) had--under French influence--come to be used as a singular pronoun in more formal relationships, but was not exclusive. As a result, conversation between familiar friends showed a good deal of fluidity, even switching forms within a single sentence, depending on the emotion and affection of the moment.
I have not availed myself of such transitional forms of address for nobility that were in use at the time, under the belief that it would cause more confusion than it would be worth: instead, I've tried to limit courtesy titles to one per customer, for clarity. Also, I have discarded the Elizabethan habit of referring to oneself in the formal third person, with the exception of sparing use in correspondence, etc. As well, during the time period in question, the older third-person verb conjugation -eth (She desireth, he loveth, she hath, etc.) was being replaced by the modern -s or -es, and in some cases words were written with the older idiom and pronounced in the modern one. In the interests of transparency--this is a work of fiction, intended to entertain, after all--sincere attempts have been made to preserve the music of Early Modern English while making its vocabulary transparent to the modern eye and ear, but what is rendered in this book is, at best, nature-identical Elizabethan flavoring rather than any near approximation of the genuine animal.
I recommend David Crystal's excellent books Pronouncing Shakespeare and Shakespeare's Words for an accurate picture of the speech of the times.
I was unable or unwilling to avoid the use of some words that have a well-defined meaning in Modern English, but are slipperier in EME, and to which our own cultural assumptions do not apply. Those who were spoken of as Atheists did not necessarily deny the existence of a God, though they denied God's goodness and agency in intervening in mortal lives, for example.
The word "sodomy" covered a lot of ground, and its practice was akin to witchcraft and devil-worship... as opposed to same-sex encounters and even relationships, which seem to have been largely winked at. Of course, even Platonic Elizabethan same-sex friendships could be very intense, even passionate in modern terms, and one can find examples in Shakespeare and other chroniclers of the times of the language of love used casually between friends and nothing thought of it. However, some squeamish criticism to the contrary, it is this reader's opinion that the language of Shakespeare's sonnets is homoerotic rather than homosocial, and I have chosen to run with that reading.
On the family front, a cousin was not the child of an aunt or uncle, but merely any relative close enough to be considered kin, but not a member of the immediate family--a niece or a third cousin twice removed as easily as a more traditional "cousin."
Some historical events have herein been consolidated for the sake of narrative clarity, a few dates altered, (notably moving the construction of the Globe back a year to ease narrative clutter, moving the Essex rebellion by a day for purposes of pacing, and removing Master Richard Baines to France some few years after his historically documented tenure at Rheims) and certain notable individuals dispensed with entirely, or prematurely, or their lives extended somewhat. In addition, Miss Anne Poley has received both a sex- and a name-change, and Mistress Poley is the recipient of a first name chosen entirely for unobtrusiveness in the milieu. The relationship of that same Mistress Poley, born "one Watson's daughter," to our old friend Tricky Tom Watson is strictly a matter of conjecture.
As I was trained as an anthropologist rather than a historian, and as the following is a work of fiction, I have chosen to apply the standard that absence of evidence is not the same thing as evidence of absence, and I've chosen to make free with some conjectures frequently presented as absolutes (such as Anne Hathaway's alleged illiteracy) which are not documented but rather a part of the common legendry and educated guesswork. In addition, certain questionable bits of tradition relating to the authorship of various notable works of 16th and 17th century literature (Edward III, the King James Bible) and the original ownership of certain objects (notably the Stratford churchyard "W.S." signet ring) are treated as fact rather than rawest speculation. And I must admit that my interpretation of intentions behind the post-Lopez revival of The Jew of Malta and The Merchant of Venice is, at best, bogus--though not quite as bogus as my chronology of Shakespeare's plays.
History is not narrative, alas. And Elizabethan political and theatrical history is less narrative than most. To paraphrase Velvet Brown, the facts are all tangled up together and it's impossible to cut one clean.
This is a work of fiction. While there are any number of actual facts enmeshed in the web of its creation, it should not be treated as representative, as a whole, of my opinion on any particular historical theories or opinions. Nor should my suggestions regarding additions to the seemingly endless litany of Christopher Marlowe's suspected lovers be taken seriously. It's vilest calumny, all of it.
Well, except the bit about Edward de Vere's proclivities for transporting choirboys across international boundaries for immoral purposes. You can take that part as gospel.
To sum up, what I mean is that I consider this novel to be a grand disservice to history in the tradition of those two innovators who brought the Fictional History into vogue in the English Language, and don't consider it necessary to be any more faithful to Kit and Will than they were to various British Sovereigns not of the Tudor persuasion.
Really, considering what they wrought upon various Edwards and Richards and maybe the occasional Henry or so, Kit and Will deserve whatever the Hell they get from me.
It's been a deep and abiding joy telling lies about them, however, and I'm pleased they came into my life. I do however hope that they are sharing a fine laugh at the irony of it, wherever they are.
After all, we're each storytellers here.
In other news, I'm pleased to say that the well-known phenomenon of inspiration being found dissolved in common tap water, especially when the water is on the warmish side, holds true, as I have this morning in the shower come up with the solution for a sex scene I've been displeased with for the past two years.
And no, arcaedia, it's not the one you didn't like. *g* I just keep adding more bad puns to that one.
Now, tea and bread and butter, and on to fix that scene before I forget what I was going to do.