Peter Farey Wins Hoffman Prize
Society Member Announced as Joint Winner of 2007 Prize
In December, the King's School, Canterbury announced that Marlowe Society member Peter Farey had been jointly awarded the annual Hoffman Prize for his submission1 entitled 'Hoffman and the Authorship'. The award was shared with Timothy D. Crowley, a Ph.D student from the University of Maryland in America, for his essay 'Arms and the Boy: Marlowe's Aeneas and the Parody of Imitation in Dido, Queen of Carthage'. The winners were also announced in the Times newspaper on 14th December.
The prize was established as a bequest by The Murder of the Man Who Was Shakespeare, which posited that Marlowe's death in Deptford in 1593 was in fact faked, and that he rather went on to write the works now attributed to Shakespeare. A substantial Trust Fund was set up that will be awarded to anybody who can produce "irrefutable" evidence that Marlowe was the real author., author of the 1955 book
In the meantime, an annual prize is also awarded for the essay that "most convincingly, authoritatively and informatively examines and discusses the life and works of Christopher Marlowe, and the authorship of the plays and poems now commonly attributed to Shakespeare". Both prizes are administered by the King's School, who appoint an appropriate adjudicator each year to make the judgement. This year the adjudicator was Professor Park Honan, Emeritus Professor of English and American Literature at the University of Leeds, and author of critically acclaimed biographies of both Marlowe and Shakespeare.
Peter has held a life-long love of the theatre which was partly established when he acted in a number of Shakespeare's plays during his schooldays at Dulwich College. His fascination with Marlovian theory was triggered by a Calvin Hoffman article he read over forty years ago. Much of his spare time since has been spent researching Marlowe, his life and works, and the Authorship question. Some of the fruits of this work can be found on Peter's own extensive and informative web-site, which presents a great deal of detailed factual information about Marlowe, along with a number of his own eloquent essays.
His essay1 submitted this year analyses Hoffman's own arguments. "The aim was not to persuade the reader that the theory propounded by Calvin Hoffman was necessarily true, but that the probability of it having some merit is such that it should at least be considered worthy of serious academic study. To this end I detailed the main reasons I have for thinking it very probable that the theory is indeed correct."Peter summarises those reasons, expounded in some detail during his 20,000 word essay1, as follows:
- First, that Shakespeare's monument at Stratford can be read as a riddle saying that Christopher Marlowe is somehow 'in' the monument with Shakespeare, and that the probability of this possible interpretation appearing just by chance is as near to zero as makes no difference.
- Second, that the most likely single explanation for the many anomalies surrounding Marlowe's apparent death at Deptford is that it was actually faked, using a substitute body, and that Marlowe was instead sent into exile with a changed identity.
- Third, that there is no difference between the styles of Marlowe and Shakespeare which cannot be perfectly well explained by the passage of time, or by the various changed circumstances which Marlowe - had he survived 1593 - almost certainly experienced.
- Fourth, that the many difficulties found in relating the Sonnets to what we know of Shakespeare's life disappear if we examine very carefully what they actually say, and assume that it was really a surviving Christopher Marlowe who wrote them.
- Finally, that the 'Mr W.H.' mystery is solved if we assume 'W.H.' to have been the initials of the name under which he was living in May 1609, and that the 'well-wishing adventurer' - who had the Sonnets published by Thomas Thorpe as a gift to the poet - was one of the two highest ranking 'adventurers' (i.e. Southampton and Pembroke) on the council of the Virginia Company, which was granted its charter just three days after the Sonnets were registered.
Many wonder whether the principal Hoffman Prize can ever be won. Should any such evidence ever be uncovered, it seems likely that it would be "refuted" regardless. Peter "accepts the virtual impossibility of any single essay ever meeting the criteria given," but the purpose of his essay remains optimistic: "simply to convince the reader that the basic idea behind Hoffman's beliefs should have the status of a legitimate academic topic, rather than being automatically thought of as just another crackpot conspiracy theory, as it certainly has been up until now."
The fact that the annual prize has typically been won by senior scholars in the past makes Peter Farey's achievement all the more impressive. Since the first annual Hoffman prize was awarded in 1988, a distinguished list of winners has included Dr. Lisa Hopkins (Sheffield Hallam University, 1994), Prof. James Shapiro (Columbia University, also 1994), Prof. Jonathan Bate (University of Liverpool, 1995), Prof. David Riggs (Stanford University, 1998), and Prof. Michael Hattaway (University of Sheffield, 2001). Peter has submitted a number of entries previously (including a joint submission with Dolly Wraight in 1995), and his persistence has finally been rewarded.
So, it only remains for us to pass on our sincere congratulations to Peter. Well done indeed!