Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Christopher Marlowe and Me: Guest post by Phillip DePoy

Phillip DePoy is the Edgar Award winning author of the play Easy as well as 14 published novels and 39 theatre pieces that have seen production throughout the country. Phillip DePoy brings Christopher Marlowe--playwright, student, spy--to life unraveling a scheme to assassinate her majesty Queen Elizabeth I.  With his new series he combines his passion and skills to pen a superb historical mystery. Phillip DePoy's A Prisoner in Malta (1/26/16) St Martins Press.

Christopher Marlowe and Me

Although I have not yet been stabbed in the eye, or worked as a spy for Queen Elizabeth, there are at least a few similarities between Christopher Marlowe and me. (Or so I discovered as I researched my latest novel, A PRISONER IN MALTA.)

We’ve both worked as playwrights. His Dr. Faustus has been performed as many times as any Shakespeare play over the course of four hundred years; my play Easy won an Edgar in 2002.

As I write that I realize that it’s not much of a similarity, but it does serve to say that we’ve both known theatre. Marlowe was a spectacular fencing master; I took two fencing lessons and learned the difference between a parry and a pliĆ©, although I think that second one may actually be a ballet term. Another similarity: neither of us ever danced with a ballet company. And while Marlowe is the vastly superior playwright, I have, in fact, written more plays than he. He wrote six that we know of, and another six or so that could conceivably be attributed to him. I’ve written forty-three that have been produced (although, sadly, many of them just once).

Marlowe also wrote poetry. “Come live with me and be my love, and we shall all the pleasures prove that hills and valleys, dale and field, and all the craggy mountains yield.” That’s his, from one of the greatest poems of seduction ever written, a timeless work of genius. My first published poem was in 1973 and it was about a man hiding behind a piano.

Marlowe brawled in the pubs of London and died in one such disagreement, his own knife stuck in his eye. I, on the other hand, am still alive, and wrote part of one of my novels at The Spaniard’s Inn, a pub in London, sitting in the booth where Bram Stoker wrote Dracula—or so the barmaid encouraged me to believe.

And speaking of vampires, Jim Jarmusch’s film Only Lovers Left Alive features a vampire Marlowe, and I composed music for the play Vampyr in 1995.

Obviously the word similarity is now being stretched beyond the breaking point. It’s more important to say that I’ve enjoyed writing about Marlowe more than I have anything else in my life, excluding three things that my wife told me to take out of this sentence. I feel such an affinity with Marlowe. He was the quintessential Renaissance man, genuinely able to fence, compose a poem, solve a riddle, work in the theatre, and make a joke in Latin—often all at the same time. While that’s clearly not a portrait of my abilities, I am often accused of not being able to stick to any one thing, so that’s like a Renaissance Man. I just enjoy doing so many things it’s impossible for me to concentrate on any singular pursuit. For that reason, sometimes people in the theatre think of me as a novelist who writes plays, and some of my friends in the book world consider me a playwright who’s got a few novels to his credit. I think that’s our greatest similarity, in fact, mine and Marlowe’s. We’re in it but not of it, neither fish nor fowl. That’s what makes him such a great detective (and sometime-spy). He’s something of an outsider. It makes him fall in love with people and ideas at the drop of a hat (or a dagger) and suddenly his world is filled with a multiplicity of distractions. Still, he’s able to wade through those distractions, solve the murder and save the day, even if he doesn’t always get the girl.

If ever Marlowe had a code, it might be summed up in his quote, “You must be proud, bold, pleasant, resolute, and now and then stab, when occasion serves.” That’s where we part company, I’m afraid. I’ve never stabbed anyone in my life. I did very lightly bite someone on the arm at Manuel’s Pub in Atlanta one night, but she took it as an overture and we dated for a while after that. Also pride is not one of my sins. Or at least I’m not proud of biting someone on the arm at Manuel’s Pub. And finally I realize that I have Marlowe to thank for all the times I ever said, “Come live with me and be my love” and things turned out so nicely.

1 comment:

Vallery Feldman said...

Very interesting. I've been a fan of Depoy's Fever Devlin books. Now I will look for these.