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In this issue:
-Kit and Tom, Elizabethans (2)
Christopher ("Kit") Marlowe 1564-1593:
"From Heaven he got his mind, from Hell his vice"---such is the reputation of Christopher Marlowe whom Swinburne considered the most audacious and inspired of the English poets. Very little is known about his life, except that he matriculated at Cambridge, and that he got his degrees there. There are some grounds for thinking that, despite his youth, he may have served as an informer in the Queen's secret police.
He left Cambridge and turned his back on an ecclesiastical career to become an actor and playwright. His brilliant, adventure-filled life was cut short at the age of 29 in a tavern brawl stemming from an argument over who should pay the tab after he had been drinking with disreputable friends. He had many friends among the low-lifes of London and had recently been arrested, some say for sodomy, others say for scathing remarks against religion, but he was killed before the investigation could be completed. The coroner reported that the fatal wound was just above Marlowe's right eye; the blade probably entered the brain through the eye socket.
There is a whole body of believers joined in the argument that Shakespeare, Marlowe's contemporary, was not Shakespeare but somebody else. (Woody Allen: "My only regret in life is that I'm not someone else.") Several people have been proposed as the "real" Shakespeare, such as the articulate philosopher, Sir Francis Bacon. One of the leading contenders for the "title" is Kit Marlowe. (He appears as a character in the Academy-Award-winning film, "Shakespeare in Love," which includes a reference to his tragic death, creating consternation among his theatrical associates.)
Believers believe that he faked his death at the tavern and established a new identity as Will Shakespeare. (I suppose there is as much reason for accepting that as there is for the millions of people today who still believe that the 1969 NASA Apollo moon landing was a hoax staged in a highly secured sound studio in a remote desert of the southwestern USA. The 1978 film Capricorn One re-created the hoax concept, but changed the destination from the moon to Mars, perhaps for political reasons.)
After Marlowe died, assuming he did, his male roommate (in one room!), Thomas Kyd, was arrested on the charge of atheism and tortured into giving evidence against Marlowe. Kyd denied being an atheist (and gay?) and attributed the offending manuscript found in the room to be the work of Marlowe, “shuffled with some of mine (unknown to me) by some occasion of writing in one chamber."
Marlowe and Kyd sound like argumentative gay lovers, living in confined quarters together and subject to domestic spats. They were both poets and playwrights with artistic, probably arrogant and sensitive dispositions. Both were rowdies and spent time in taverns partying with male friends. There were no classically gay bars that we know of until a couple of centuries later, but our kind have always found each other for companionship, and more. Kyd was known around town as "the sporting Kyd" which does not make him sound like a quiet man.
Both were at the beginnings of success. Kyd was older by six years and had written a play called "The Spanish Tragedy" which would become the most popular of Elizabethan times. If Marlowe's death did not embitter him, certainly his arrest and torture afterward did. Under ghastly duress, he declared that all the compromising papers found in his rooms belonged to Marlowe alone.
How could one blame him? Kit was dead, and the statements in the seized documents were of a nature for which he could have been sentenced to be dissected for medical students while still alive or burnt at the stake or hanged from a gallows, statements which cause hysterical reactions even today.
A sampling: "Whoso likes not tobacco and boys is a fool"; "St. John was Christ's bedfellow"; "John used to lie with his head on Christ's breast," and "Christ used him as the sinners of Sodom do."
Heretics were burnt at the stake for less than that. Kyd, imprisoned after his torture, was eventually released from prison, but his spirit never recovered. He died in poverty in a cold December. He was only 36.
The straight world prefers to think that Kyd lied about Marlowe. Why? Because, as ever, it lives in denial that homosexuals produce great works of art. It cannot bear the ttuth: that we are favored as highly as other men. In the case of Marlowe, his work has endured and speaks to the hetroid heart, which deplores any influence from the openly homosexual. Such knowledge must be covert, unseen, preferably unknown, and at any cost, denied, if need be, with lies.
Marlowe's "Dr Faustus"---about a man who sells his soul to the devil---is a classic of English drama. His poems are glorious, and one of his lines in particular strikes a chord in every lover's soul: “Come live with me and be my love.”
His tragic play "Edward the Second" centers on the overtly homosexual relationship between the King and his favorite, Piers Gaveston. In "Hero and Leander" Neptune twines voluptuously around young Leander who is swimming across the Hellespont to rejoin his beloved Hero, and in "Dido, Queen of Carthage" Jupiter fondles Ganymede who is sitting on his knees.
Gay author Julien Green, born in Paris to American parents and who died in Paris at the age of 98 three years ago, noted in his journal in 1950: "Have just re-read 'Hero and Leander' with delight. The sensuality of the Elizabethans is the only one that ever seemed authentic to me. In comparison the erotic writers of today are cold and flat."
Following are some notes on Marlowe's "Dido, Queen of Carthage" and a brief discussion of its Jupiter and Ganymede scene:
Marlowe based "Dido" on a portion of the story Vergil tells in his epic poem "Aeneid" about the adventures of the Trojan general Aeneas after being defeated by Agamemnon, et al., in the Trojan War. En route to Italy he is shipwrecked in North Africa, in what is now Libya, near the great city of Carthage which is ruled by the beautiful Queen Dido. She falls in love with the handsome soldier Aeneas, but at the end destroys herself on a funeral pyre (like King Croesus) when, at Jupiter's command, Aeneas leaves her to continue his journey to Italy. Jupiter and several other gods are characters in the play.
Jupiter is a Roman name for the Greek Zeus, principal god on Mount Olympus. You have also met him as Jove, another of his Roman incarnations. He is memorialized thus in the expression "By Jove!" which is an oath more acceptable to devout Christians than "By God!" on account of the divine admonishment, "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain."
You may recall that Jupiter, in his incarnation as Zeus, changed himself into an eagle after falling in love with Ganymede and swept him up to Heaven---Mount Olympus---as his cup-bearer, an ancient Greek euphemism for a young lover.
Reaching Heaven safely, Ganymede was assigned the task of serving the gods wine at their meals, as well as dispensing his own sweet juices to his mentor, Jupiter. But all was not well, for Ganymede's presence gave Jupiter's wife, Juno (who was also Jupiter's sister), fits of jealousy. She raised so much hell in Heaven about Ganymede that Jupiter (Zeus/Jove) had to send the youth away---to become the Aquarian constellation of stars.
The curtain rises to reveal the silverfoxy god Jupiter in an intimate moment with his lover, Ganymede. The young foxhunter is sitting on his lap. Jupiter asks Ganymede to "play with me. I love thee well, say Juno what she will." Ganymede pouts and speaks of Jupiter's "worthless love" because "it will not shield me from her shrewish blows!" He then tells Jupiter that at lunch when he was filling cups with wine, Juno boxed his ears for spilling a drop or two. "She reached me such a rap for that I spilled, as made the blood run down about mine ears."
Jupiter, enraged---a fearsome sight because, after all, he is the god of thunder, vows that he will bind his wife with golden cord, hang her up, and shake her like an earthquake if she so much as frowns at his darling in future. Pleased, Ganymede offers a radiant smile and promises that if Jupiter will really do that, "I will spend my time in thy bright arms."
Respondng to the promse, Jupiter gently caresses the young man's knees and speaks of wonderful gifts, including power over the gods, and says that he will have his nine daughters sing for Ganymede when he is sad.
Stroking Ganymede's inner thighs, the wily silverfox increases the stakes in this game of love by swearing he will pluck the feathers from Juno's peacocks to make his lover cooling fans and will strip the down from the swans of Venus to "sweeten out the slumbers of thy bed." Then he gives him his wife's wedding jewels, but for a "wanton youth" (Juno's term for him) like Ganymede, nothing is ever quite enough. He wants more.
"I would have a jewel for mine ear, And a fine brooch to put in my hat, And then I'll hug with you an hundred times."
Resting his hand at last on the young man's groin, the lovestruck old man of a god tells Ganymede he can have it all, "if thou wilt be my love."
One gathers from the dialogue that Kit Marlowe had run across a number of accomplished gay hustlers in his day.
(Coming soon: "Gay love? Stick it up your arse!" Your homework is to watch Mel Gibson's "Braveheart" on video.)
The evidence is there, that he was a spy. When Cambridge wanted to withhold his degree because of excessive absence, the Privy Council intervened with Cambridge on his behalf.
Ugly Frog Joke::
A princess is walking along a pond in the royal gardens when she looks down and sees a really ugly frog. Picking the frog up, she comments on the creature's rather hideous appearance.
Princess: "My, but you are really an ugly frog!"
Frog: "I know, I know, I got a really bad spell on me."
Princess: "Well I've seen frogs with spells but, none as ugly as you."
Frog: "Look, leave me alone my dear. I told you, it's a really bad spell."
Princess: "Well even so, if I kiss you will you turn into a prince?"
Frog: "I don't know dear, a spell this bad will probably take a blow job."
A guy walks into a post office one day to see a middle-aged, balding man standing at the counter methodically placing "Love" stamps on bright pink envelopes with hearts all over them. The balding man then takes out a perfume bottle and starts spraying them all. His curiosity getting the better of him, he goes up to the balding man and asks him what he is doing. The man says, "I'm sending out 1,000 Valentine cards signed, 'Guess who?'"
"But why?" asks the man.
"I'm a divorce lawyer."
End of silverfoxesclub-digest V1 #213