History Play: The Lives and Afterlife of Christopher Marlowe by Rodney Bolt Download (read online) free eBook .pdf.epub.kindle

History Play: The Lives and Afterlife of Christopher Marlowe

Rodney Bolt’s delightful life of Marlowe plays out a surprising solution to an enduring literary mystery, bringing the spirit of Shakespeare alive as we’ve never seen it before.

Rodney Bolt’s book is not an attempt to prove that, rather than dying at 29 in a tavern brawl, Christopher Marlowe staged his own death, fled to Europe, and went on to write the work attributed to S

Rodney Bolt’s book is not an attempt to prove that, rather than dying at 29 in a tavern brawl, Christopher Marlowe staged his own death, fled to Europe, and went on to write the work attributed to Shakespeare. Instead, it takes that as the starting point for a playful and brilliantly written “fake biography” of Marlowe, which turns out to be a life of the Bard as well. Using real historical sources (as well as the occasional red herring) plus a generous dose of speculation, Bolt paints a rich and rollicking picture of Elizabethan life. As we accompany Marlowe into the halls of academia, the society of the popular English players traveling Europe, and the dangerous underworld of Elizabethan espionage, a fascinating and almost plausible life story emerges, along with a startlingly fresh look at the plays and poetry we know as Shakespeare’s. Tapping into centuries of speculation about the man behind the work, about whom so few facts are known for sure, Rodney Bolt slyly winds the lives of two beloved playwrights into one.
…more


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    Ben Babcock

    Few books have managed to disappoint me as much as this one has. The captivating premise of History Play–that Marlowe faked his death and wrote all the plays attributed to Shakespeare–belies its overly-pedantic treatment of Marlovian theory (an actual literary theory supported by several leading Elizabethan scholars).

    The most interesting part of the book is its foreword, which wasn’t even written by Bolt, but instead by Mark Twain! It lists the facts we know definitively about the life of Will

    The most interesting part of the book is its foreword, which wasn’t even written by Bolt, but instead by Mark Twain! It lists the facts we know definitively about the life of William Shakespeare, emphasizing how little we actually know about one considered the greatest playwright of English literature. Academics who favour the mainstream view say this is to be expected; Shakespeare was a commoner, after all, so his life isn’t documented as well as the nobility of Elizabethan England. Others take this as a sign that the William Shakespeare of Stratford couldn’t have written all those plays we know as his–and that’s where Bolt takes up the narrative and presents a fictitious biography of Christopher Marlowe.

    I have to admit I was skimming by the time I reached the halfway point of History Play. Its stultifying writing made me want to put it down, but the rational part of me wanted to see how it ended. It probably wasn’t worth it, in retrospect. Bolt spends too much time mentioning how he acquired this information (“this was in a letter…”) and uses far too many quotations from Marlowe’s plays (both those indisputably attributed to him and those we attribute to Shakespeare). His tone is dry, academic, and bored.

    If this were a paper in a scholarly journal, I can see how that might work. However, biographies need to be somewhat exciting. I’m not asking Bolt to fictionalize his scenes (any more than they already are…), but as it is History Play is lifeless, limp prose. I was hoping to recommend this book to a couple of other people I know who would enjoy seeing this premise explored, but now I shall forbear–I don’t want to inflict this on them!

    It’s my own fault for having such high hopes, of course, so I won’t blame History Play for disappointing me. Unfortunately, I cannot really give it praise.
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    Kay

    Sep 25, 2007

    rated it
    did not like it

     · 
    review of another edition

    Recommends it for:
    nobody

    I’m still struggling to understand the premise behind this book, and I can only conclude that Rodney Bolt, an accomplished historian, is a fiction writer manque. The story is wonderful, really compelling, lovely, and if – like me – the topless towers of Ilium have haunted you since you read your first Marlowe, one you want desperately to believe in. It’s a copiously footnoted account of how the wonderful, raffish Kit Marlowe ‘wrote’ all Shakespeare’s plays, wasn’t stabbed in a tavern duel, and l

    And then … you read the footnotes and realise the the main source for all this wonderful historical research is a fake. He’s a character made up by Bolt to carry the veracity of this story and frankly, the whole conceit of the book hinges on this stinking fish of a false historical personage and as a result, the boook stinks too.

    Why would anybody want to read a book that isn’t historical fact, nor honest fiction, but a self-serving melange of the two? I did read it, right to the end, but I think I wasted my time: I couldn’t trust a single word in it to be factual and yet I never felt that it worked as an imaginery narrative.

    Don’t bother reading it if veracity matters to you, and if you read it for entertainment I guarantee you’ll put it down after a couple of chapters, because the style is textbook dull.


    …more

    Jessica

    May 29, 2008

    rated it
    did not like it

    After the most amazing foreword I’ve ever read (check the book out for the foreword alone. I’m totally serious), I was really let down by the rest of the book. It just got so bogged down in the details that I couldn’t even get to the meat of the author’s argument (that Shakespeare is really Marlowe, his death faked due to royal espionage) before I gave up on the book. Really dissappointing.