Beating the Drum for Marlowe

Francis Hamit’s “A Pre-Announcement on the Re-Publication of Marlowe: An Elizabethan Tragedy” follows the jump. It says, in short, he will soon be taking pre-publication orders for a book edition of his hard-to-find script.

The play’s 1988 production was praised by an LA Times critic:

In this world premiere of a play about the secret life of Christopher Marlowe, William Shakespeare is a supporting character, at one point graciously taking playwrighting tips at the dawn of his career from the already established Marlowe.

The thrust of the drama (subtitled “An Elizabethan Tragedy”), written, researched, and directed by Francis Hamit, is Marlowe’s double life as a spy in the service of his queen. Staged at the Globe Playhouse and launching a canon of Marlowe’s plays to be staged by the Shakespeare Society of America, the production is historically gripping, portraying the arrogance of a genius who played too many cards for his own good.


By Francis Hamit

The original script, if you can find one, sells for about $140.00. So we are bringing out a new edition soon as a print on demand paperback. We haven’t set the price or figured out the distribution, but we assume that it will be a low-demand/high margin title.

First of all, about the play itself. This was based on something I discovered when I was working for the Britannica in the early 1980s. Christopher Marlowe, the poet and playwright, was also a secret agent for the early English Secret Service under Sir Francis Walsingham. There is documentation on this point.

In 1983 I did about six months of research on this and wrote the first draft in three weeks, tracing Marlowe’s secret career from the Babington Plot in 1585 to his mysterious death in 1593. I was associated with the Playwrights Center of Chicago and had a staged reading there. Good response but no one was interested in producing it. After I moved to Los Angeles, I was able to arrange another staged reading and was referred to Thad Taylor at the Shakespeare Society of America who decided to produce in 1988 and part of a series of three new plays about the Elizabethan era.

It was produced as an Equity Waiver production to excellent reviews in June 1988. Given all the technical problems associated with this production, the costumes, the period language, the large cast, only Thad was brave enough to take it on.

Thad died in 2006 and his nephew, Terry Taylor, has taken the burden of running the Shakespeare Society of America on, re-orienting its mission towards creating a museum and research archive. Thad had assembled this huge collection of materials about Shakespeare and his contemporaries.

In the archives is a lot of material about the original production and we are going to use some of that to add value to the new edition. I am also looking at making this into a radio play and/or a screenplay, but for the moment we will stick with the original script. We have some photos from that production as well.

This edition will be dedicated to Thad’s memory, in the hopes of raising awareness about his unique contribution to the American Theatre and to the new mission of the non-profit he founded.

It was my first stage play and I could not have done it without him.

8 thoughts on “Beating the Drum for Marlowe

  1. Wow. I must have sent this several months or even a year ago. Since then I have a deal with Mike Donahue, who will direct and we will do a crowdfunding appeal to allow Shakespeare Society of America to buy back in (their rights expired in 1993). The screenplay has been done a published as large format paperback book. The ISBN is 978-1-59595-999-7. It’s official price is $20.00. You can order it through any book store service by Ingram of Baker & Taylor or from We will be at the West Hollywood Book Fair on October 2nd and will have copies there for sale. We did not ad extras to this particular version and are saving those for another edition to be published later when the film is closer to release. The original stage play is available on Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook as an e-book for $9.99. There is not much difference between the two except for the respective mechanics needed for stage or screen and some additional dialog for the latter.

  2. @Francis: My mistake. You sent me a message on Facebook today, but not this one.

    On the other hand, what the hey, it’s publicity!

  3. For more Marlowe one could read Howard Waldrop’s “Heart of Whitenesse” that has not only Christopher Marlowe, but also channels the Marlowe who narrates “Heart of Darkness” and Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe.

  4. You mean, a story about Marlowe in which he does NOT turn out to be the hidden author of Shakespeare’s plays? I’ll take one!

  5. Marlowe as Shakespeare: In my play he is seen teaching Shakespeare about playwrighting. I came to this conclusion after doing some textual analysis of Henry VI, parts One and Two and Richard the Third. You see Marlowe’s style there, the so-called “mighty line”. But Marlowe only wrote seven plays that survive and they were all bloody-minded kill-fests except for Dr, Faustus.( which is the “required reading” play). No comedies. I don’t think he had a comedy in him. The other thing to remember is that very few plays of that era were truly original. Most were based on prior works or real incidents and it was the writing that made them stand out. Marlowe had the Cambridge education but Shakespeare was, IMO, the better writer, an occupation that requires no degrees or special social status; just talent.

  6. Of course it’s ridiculous, if you know anything about Marlowe, to suppose that he could have written Shakespeare’s plays, had he somehow been spirited off and lived. It’s equally ridiculous, if you know anything about them, to suppose that the Earl of Oxford or Sir Francis Bacon could have done it. Yet people make all three assumptions all the time.

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