Christopher Marlowe and Richard Baines: Journeys through the Elizabethan Underground

By Roy Kendall | Go to book overview

14

"Danger Is in Words”

AS A RESULT OF TRYING TO PASS OFF A COUNTERFEIT SLIP AS THE genuine article, Christopher Marlowe appears to have blown his cover as a secret agent. There is a saying in the British intelligence services that neatly sums up the effect that this action had on the rest of Marlowe's life (and by extension, as we shall see, on Richard Baines's too). It is simply, and frighteningly: "When your cover is blown you're on your own.” This study has until now dealt almost exclusively with the underground world of Baines and Marlowe that was, of its nature, hidden from the view of Marlowe's public. Suddenly, in late January/early February 1592, as a result of the act of betrayal in Flushing, the "real” Marlowe was about to surface. It would appear, therefore, that a land-slip had shot a shaft of daylight into one of the many tunnels under Elizabethan England (as described in the introduction to this study). However, it must be remembered that Lord Governor Sidney's letter to Lord Burghley did not actually see the light of day for almost another four hundred years. And yet there are signs that this particular tunnel was breached by daylight; in other words, news of Marlowe's activities in Flushing did leak out—or was deliberately leaked—and was picked up, if not by the general public at least by the political and literary cognoscenti. And this "outing” of Marlowe's underground activities begun by Richard Baines in symbiotic combination with Marlowe's "selfouting” as previously discussed (i.e., in his attempt to publish his anti-Trinitarian book, his delivery of his underground lecture, his writing of Edward II, etc.), as will be shown in the last part of this study, had a cumulative effect that finally made it impossible for him to retreat into those dark passages that had hitherto afforded him protection. As a result, he was effectively left with two options: exile or death.


1

However one interprets the actions of Richard Baines, Christopher Marlowe, and Gifford Gilbert in Flushing, and whatever was

-211-

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