Christopher Marlowe and Richard Baines: Journeys through the Elizabethan Underground

By Roy Kendall | Go to book overview

13

"As Fast as Iris or Jove's Mercury”

AS THE ASSESSMENT OF THE INFLUENCE OF RICHARD BAINES ON LITerary history is part of the purpose of this study, it would seem appropriate to take a moment before resuming the central narrative to consider in more detail some of the ramifications of the Flushing episode on English literature, and in particular on parts of the Shakespeare canon.

If it could be argued with certainty that Baines's betrayal of Marlowe in Flushing was a cause that set off a chain of effects (the Baines Note being one of the last, if not the last, of them) eventually ending in Marlowe's death (and this book goes some way toward arguing this case) one would not be dealing with a single chapter but with a separate and full-scale study, because it could be further argued that by dying at Deptford in 1593 Marlowe left Shakespeare an open field, not to mention a three-quarters full inkwell that Shakespeare was quick to use. Had there been as worthy a competitor in the field as Marlowe for the whole of Shakespeare's writing life, Shakespeare's plays might have been very different. It is even possible that some of those plays and poems might never have been written, and also possible that others might have been written which were not.

It is likewise possible that Shakespeare's influence on his contemporaries might have been different—for good or ill—from that which modern scholars have shown it to have been. And if Marlowe had not died at the age of twenty-nine, what plays might he have written? And what influence might they have had on literary history? It is probably just as well for Baines that a direct line of cause and effect between his betrayal of Marlowe in Flushing and Marlowe's death cannot be traced with absolute certainty (even though it should be more than plain by now that by betraying Marlowe to Sidney and in writing his note he did nothing to keep Marlowe alive), otherwise even more disapprobation would be attached to the name of Richard Baines in the future than has been the case in the past.

-192-

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