Christopher Marlowe and Richard Baines: Journeys through the Elizabethan Underground

By Roy Kendall | Go to book overview
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5

"That Like I Best That Flies Beyond My Reach”

1

GIVEN ALL THE EVIDENCE REGARDING BAINES'S TIME AT RHEIMS, much of it supplied by Baines himself, there is one pertinent conclusion that cannot be avoided: Richard Baines was an overreacher. Consider this. He is undercover in Rheims as one of England's most important, not to say most indispensable, spies; a plot to invade his mother country of which, as I have argued previously, he must have been cognizant is being hatched around him; and one by one, week by week, his fellow students are being sent back to England in disguise with aliases to support loyal Catholics as best they can and to undermine the Protestant religion in any way they can, knowing full well that almost certainly violent and terrifying death upon the gallows awaits those who get caught. In the midst of all this, and blithely it would seem, Baines walks into his cell on a Friday evening with a meat pie! Amusing though this is in retrospect, it would appear at first glance that Baines was almost wafting this pie under the noses of the college authorities in an attempt to expose himself as an apostate or an impostor. Friday being the traditional day of abstinence for Catholics then as now, why on earth did Baines take the risk of alerting William Allen, Thomas Bailey, and others to his activities? In other words, why did he not at least buy fish pies on Fridays? He might have been accused of gluttony, but at least he would not have been committing an overtly Protestant act.

It is hard to imagine any scenario other than Baines smuggling the pies into the seminary under his cloak, a dangerous act in itself, but then, as the duke of Guise says in The Massacre at Paris, "perill is the cheefest way to happines” (line 95). Of course, only four lines later the Guise makes the memorable comment, "That like I

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