Discovery of ciphers on the Shakespeare monument
at Stratford on Avon, as well as chapters from
three tales about Christopher Marlowe and examples
of linked-anagram stories by Marlowe in his literary
works, including Shakespeare works.

Roberta Ballantine's unconvential biography
Marlowe Up Close
is now available at these online bookstores

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Roberta Ballantine



Beginning a study of Christopher Marlowe's life story in 1978, I soon discovered that his childhood and early life, as well as everything that happened to him after his banishment in 1593, had been kept under wraps, except for a few indisputable facts such as his attendance at the King's School and Corpus Christi at Cambridge University. It became obvious the man was blacklisted, probably by the English Secrets Act, because Marlowe spied for England.
Christopher Marlowe alias William Shakespeare
Christopher Marlowe

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As I continued my inquiry I tried to be discreet, using indirection when corresponding with English, American, Italian and German libraries. I gathered files about people Marlowe knew, read his allowed literary works and the Shakespeare works (I believed he'd written them all) as well as honest scholarly commentaries which had been published, slipping past censorship. After years of evidence-collecting an astonishing picture emerged, shadowed by ifs and lacunae.

Straight-ahead presentations of my findings were unacceptable to academic publications, so I made three short novels from the material – a series of tales dealing with Marlowe's first 29 years – hoping readers could suspend disbelief and enjoy a strange story with notes and sources appended at the end of each book.

One day late in 1978 I was looking at a print of the odd inscription on the Shakespeare monument in Trinity Church at Stratford-on-Avon, in England. My husband, who'd worked for the OWI during WWII, looked over my shoulder and told me it was probably an anagram and that the use of anagrams was an early method of communication between government agents. This discovery led to my decipherment of the remarkable Stratford-on-Avon Trinity Church inscriptions, published years later in the Summer 1996 issue of Shakespeare Bulletin. In that same summer, I read a book about secret diplomacy which taught me that ancient Greek dramatists put their names as by lines in anagrams, in the first lines of their tragedies. Right away I started looking for ciphers in the first lines of Marlowe's works, and found them—thousands of linked-anagram-stories knitted by Christopher Marlowe into his literary works, early and late, including the Shakespeare plays, the Shakespeare Sonnets, Shakespeare "apocrypha" and other writings Marlowe ghosted in later life.

At first I thought Kit Marlowe began ciphering only after his exile, in order to plant his byline on works he sent back to England. But no, his earliest dramas and lyrics contain some form of his name and some bit of what was happening around him, anagramatically knitted into their first lines, and these anagrams thrillingly corroborate my own earlier conclusions about Marlowe's youthful years. His ciphers tell us: he was a sailor, his home port Dover; his natural father was indeed Roger Manwood.

Mary Sidney Herbert:  Christopher Marlowe's loyal lover
Mary Sidney Herbert
Countess of Pembroke

The ciphers evaluate the queen's children who were important in Marlowe's life. And he tells us he loved the courtesan Emilia Bassano who bore his son but married Alfonso Lanier and told Hen Wriothesley the baby was his. Marlowe admits he lost Roger's gold chain of office in a game at Emilia's nightclub, trying to win money to help Hen pay a fine. He tells of his undercover work as Gilbert Gifford; how he survived attempted assassination in Paris, spent eight months in a Paris prison. He writes of his and his dad Roger's part in the Marprelate affair, tells of Roger's murder, ordered by Whitgift; how Mary Sidney Herbert became Marlowe's loyal lover (it was she who helped him make a statement on stage about Roger's death). He makes it clear that Hen gave the queen Marlowe's ciphered poem (it contains a compound anagramatic acrostic!) begging for exile, and that she helped Kit escape to work for her abroad.

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Christopher Marlowe's ciphers contain critical information not known to history – facts about the life of Battista Guarini, Marlowe's years abroad as agent for Bacon and Essex, Marlowe's tragic first marriage to a Venetian noblewoman and the astonishing fortune of his first daughter, his long friendship with Cervantes, details of Guarini's daughter's murder by her courtier husband. Marlowe writes of helping Guarini keep for Ferarra the eastern part of the state when the Vatican wanted to take it all – of having worked in Ireland as staffer for Essex in '99, and of Essex's terrible trouble after that campaign – how Bacon and Cecil provoked him into fatal error. Ciphers mention ones who died then, and how Marlowe stayed in London trying to get a decent chamber for Hen in the Tower – how the queen gave Marlowe a year's work teaching young State Secret Service (SSS) actors Catholicism in Venice; how he was hired to be secretary and bravo for Henry Wotton at a new English embassy in Venice and served there for years, working for Harry and Dudley Carleton.

Ciphers tell about Marlowe's undercover work in Naples, his love for the famous actress Micaela Lujan, their marriage and children. He explicates the State Secret Service corruption, Bacon's treachery and the burning of the Globe, when Marlowe left the SSS to return to his family at Naples. He tells of sailing to Bermuda for Hen Wriothesley, bringing supplies and two new small ships for the settlers – his terrible reception there and sorrowful voyage home. The ciphers detail a tragic loss in his family, trouble piled on trouble, and after Micaela's return, a more peaceful life at the embassy. He describes in ciphers how he organized a sting that bloodlessly foiled the Spanish Plot against Venice in 1618, using as helpers his wife, Venetian friends, his friends the actors from London, and how he acted in the foolery himself, using the name Jakes Pierre.


Those are some highlights in his fifty-eight year lifetime. Marlowe's ciphered work is so extensive I can hope to put only a few thousand lines in print. The many anagram stories I must leave undone should surely be brought to light by others.

But here, presented in serial, are Marlowe stories written before I learned of Marlowe's interior writings. Here are chapters from three of my books of fiction: The Momzer, about Kit Marlowe's childhood; The Honest Men, about his work for Francis Walsingham, and Mori Mihi Lucrum, which tells of Kit's life as a London dramatist, Roger Manwood's character-assassination and murder, and the near-fatal trouble it brought to Marlowe.

Included in these offerings is a piece about Marlowe's love for actress Micaela Lujan and his long friendship with Cervantes. Thoughts about the cenotaph in the church at Stratford-on-Avon end the series.


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Roberta Ballantine
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phone: 802 586 2801

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Roberta Ballantine, the Author of the CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE site
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Shakespeare-Hamlet-Marlowe page

In Memoriam
Alfred Barkov, scholar and writer, who designed and created this web site for me, died in Kiev on 4 January 2004.