Character Names: William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe
Relationship: Roommates; Playwrights; Co-authors
World: New Hell
Books: Rogues in Hell; Dreamers in Hell; Poets in Hell; Pirates in Hell (Heroes in Hell series)
How and where did you meet?
Will Shakespeare: When alive, we met as rival playwrights, Kit holding forth in the ‘Admiral’s Men company’ wheresoever the troupe played, or at the Rose; and I at the Globe, where I owned an interest in the house.
Kit Marlowe: Eyewash, all that. Shakespeare’s a famous liar. My Tamburlaine the Great, Parts I and II, were performed in my lifetime; the rest, posthumously, but for Dido, Queen of Carthage, writ by me and Thomas Nashe, and ‘performed’ by the ‘Children of the Chapel,’ as fair a clutch of boy charmers as ever gamboled on any stage. I met my death not too long after I met Will, a matter of my spying here and lying there, most times with Walsingham, whose wife took umbrage, as women will, when boys and men make love. Still, those plays set a new standard in quality and introduced blank verse. Mine were not, like Will’s, tripe writ for money-grubbery by the uneducated and for the uneducated. I helped Will write his Henry VI, Parts One, Two and Three and got no credit for it. Still, my own four plays performed on Earth after I arrived in Hell did what art should do: shined lights on evils hidden and calumny of the vilest kind.
Will: Kit, let’s not linger on this question, unfortunate as it may be. We were sometime lovers, sometime haters of one another, but always haters of repression and Elizabethan frippery. If your spying got you killed, Kit, your love of controversy sparked it — yea, incited it.
Kit: Incited? Poor choice of words, methinks. Edward the Second was first performed five weeks after my death; so that play, at least, retained its bite.
What is it you like most about the other person?
Kit: Like about Will? His soft white skin, his ample buttocks — his mobile mouth, empowered tongue, and nubile breasts.
Will: Kit means he adores my ear for language, my deeply probing artist’s soul, and my knack of staying out of trouble whilst I slip and slide among the rich and reprehensible at Court. Do recall I’m not the one who ended life with a bodkin thrust deep in that eye so like a doe’s.
What is it you hate most about each other?
Will: We said that. But, since you ask for more: his blasphemy and his need to fill his pages with the ‘vile heretical conceits’ that sent him to trial before the Privy Council.
Kit: We told you that, and, like the Privy Council, you’ll acquit me on the grounds that truth itself can’t be denied — for long.
Will: Christopher Marlowe, like your English Agent in the Massacre at Paris, I hate your overweening pride and lurid need to confess your days of secret agency under so thin a guise as that play. What were you thinking, to warn Elizabeth of agitators, a theme far too dangerous to survive? And how many refugees from the low countries died of your ideas planted in their tiny little heads?
Do you think your partnership will last?
Kit: Henry Sixth answers that, for my part. It’s what Shakey would have writ had he an education or a life made dangerous enough to enjoy. And the rest, you see before you: two souls forever doomed to one another’s company in the bowels of perdition, to count eternity’s every day, and nights more deadly still.
Will: Kit’s a good boy, a young fellow led astray by childish derring-do, and with a taste for the hurly-burly that snuffed his life before its time. But now I have infernity to reform him, and Satan provides the irritant around which we’ll secrete a necklace of pearls while we write as we’ve never writ before.
Describe the other person (max 100 words):
Kit: Will, go ye first, and light our path with your dulcet tones, so like a cello but a string or two short.
Will: Master Marlowe, my thanks for your recital, though it best be delivered later and revisited daily, as the Privy Council sentenced you to come before them every day: every day of the ten you had yet to live . . . Withal, I’ll try to answer the question: this Marlowe creature hungers for adoration and thirsts for justice, both of which were as precious scarce in life as they remain dubious in afterlife. Nevertheless, his talent is wider than the face of Paradise and tempered by a lifetime few would have dared to live — and I love him for his childish heart and indomitable soul.
Kit: My turn, then, to laud the Bard in terms free of spite and full with admiration: such a mind for the human animal has ne’er been seen on the black earth — not before he lived his quick span, or at any time thereafter. Although glorifying humanity may be an empty effort, he’s made them look into themselves, and find there what joy can be had, and give it value.
Describe how you think the other person sees you
Will: I think not, for safety’s bereftest sake.
Kit: As my better half insinuates, ‘twould take a three-part comedy of errors to do that story justice. So I’ll not begin it, lest it never stop till eternity runs out.
Tell us a little about your adventures.
Will: Then or now? Becoming famous in life holds no candle to sustaining afterlife. We’ve written three plays now for Satan, and suffered the attendant woes of those who know true ignominy. We wrote Hell Bent, and died in it every night. We wrote The Witch and the Tyrant, and fell afoul of its graveyard stench. We wrote another, Pirates in Perdition, and found the very sounding of its name an incantation to summon fiends and demons and all manner of unexculpated souls.
Kit: Read our plays writ here, to Abbadon’s order, or don’t. But be warned: you’ll risk your wizened hearts every time you turn our pages and let your eyes rub words too dangerous to speak aloud.
Tell us about your world – and your part of it.
Will: Hell is the Reformation come to grief, with no Third Act to cure it.
Kit: Hell is where the heart is, and seldom beats. But when it does, that heart beats as only love can. We are Satan’s personal poets, and no worse can befall a soul who yet owns an ear for courage or for rhyme.
Where do you see yourselves in five years?
Kit: Right here. Scoffing at evil while we glorify every flaw that makes man human. What else, in hell, is a playwright to do?
Will: Enough, Kit. The last line of this comedy is mine: We’ll be here as long as ghosts roam the world and fools rule it; as long as regrets power penance and singers keen their pain.
You can find Will and Kit in the following: