I cannot profess to be a historian, nor do I want to be one. I am, after all, a mere historical fiction author who delves into history for the simple fact of adding to the stories swarming in my head.
When I decided to write the historical novel “Blood and Ink”, the enormity of the research which lay before me was, at first, daunting. I remember at one point sitting in my writing chair (a comfy oversized brown leather chair with nailheads running along the arm) and laid out before me on the floor was, at least, a hundred notecards; each describing a scene in the book and each with a particular reference to an event in history. I rearranged and shuffled until the story took shape in a beautiful arc.
Many people have asked me, after reading “Blood and Ink”, how did I come to the conclusion of using the particular lines or sonnets from Shakespeare in the novel. First and foremost, I sat down and read every line from the sonnets and jotted down those of interest, those striking my own interest, and those which seemed to hint at a secret or clue to the author’s identity and the situation he might have been in at the moment.
Face it, all of us as writers use various aspects of our own life in our novels. There is always that one character or that one scene which plays out in our autobiography, if even in our own head. So, why should Shakespeare’s writings be any different?
One of the particular sonnets I used, Sonnet 129, truly stuck me because of the severity of the pain and rejection he must have felt (or perhaps Marlowe felt if he is the writer) from the lady. It reads:
“The expense of spirit in a waste of shame is lust in action; and till action, lust is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame, savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust, enjoy’d no sooner but despised straight, past reason hunted, and no sooner had past reason hated, as a swallow’d bait on purpose laid to make the taker mad; mad in pursuit and in possession so; had, having, and in quest to have, extreme; a bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe; before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream, all this the world well knows; yet none knows well to shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.”
This is someone who at a very young age tastes the delights of lust and mistook the feelings for love, thus leading to betrayal and the “hell” of a broken heart. Perhaps the “dark lady” for some of the other sonnets allude to, such as Sonnet 131 where the author says: “in nothing art thou black save in thy deeds.” Who knows… I mean, will any of us ever truly know?
I chose to use these devices in a way to explain a tryst between a young 15-year-old Marlowe and the alluring 17-year-old Countess of Pembroke, Mary Sidney Herbert. From research, the Countess, at only 15, was married to the older Earl of Pembroke as a favor from Queen Elizabeth. Mary was the niece of Elizabeth’s favorite, Lord Robert Dudley, so the marriage would have been an advantageous match for Mary Sidney. But, being the young age of seventeen when Marlowe perhaps visited the Pembroke estate in Salisbury, she, no doubt, craved the delights that any young seventeen-year-old girl who loved poetry and the arts might desire. An encounter between her and Marlowe might seem very plausible, especially when you consider the entire poem of “Venus and Adonis,” which sets the scene in my novel for the encounter between the young playwright and his new-found Muse.
Again, while subjecture, I must say the entire story provided enough clues and speculation to transform into a tale I could not pass up as a fiction writer. While I remain an avid Shakespearean-supporter and true Stratfordian, I must say that after doing so much research, the clues mount up to place even the slightest of doubts in a person’s mind as to the authorship question. People will take sides, ’tis the nature of things. I said once to Sir Derek Jacobi at the authorship debates at the Globe Theatre in London back in 2007 – “the premise makes for a great story.” I also was asked on one occasion if I might ever write another novel in favor of a different man as author of the plays, such as the Earl of Oxford or Francis Bacon, I can say most heartily: “NO!” The die is cast, the words spoke, the lines are written… and as a writer forever in search of the next story to bend a reader’s fancy, I move on and continue down the rabbit hole.
I do think this is interesting, and a little side note to my own novel… you might want to read this article written for BBC News that Marlowe is now credited as being Shakespeare’s co-author! Hmmmm…. very interesting!! Read here: https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-37750558
You can now read my novel “Blood and Ink” in ebook, paperback, hardcover, and soon-to-be-released (September 2018) in Audible format.
Blog book tour is now running and you can enter to win a signed copy of the novel along with some “secret swag”!! Enter here: www.hfvirtualbooktours.com/bloodandinkblogtour – here you can enter the contest and read all the reviews from the bloggers along the way!!
Thank you for reading!
D. K. MarleyRecommended1 recommendationPublished in