While both Hoffman's theory has proved controversial and has kept his reputation as a thinker open to the charge of eccentricity, his legacy is important for Marlowe studies - through the Hoffman prize – providing a continuing role in stimulating debate. In this essay I will leave the wider issues pending, to focus on his theory to explain why the book remains an important part of the history of the controversies around Marlowe.
What I have called the Brewer’s Sting in my little book on Mary Queen of Scots in Staffordshire (Youcaxton 2019) has been underestimated in mainstream histories. In 1585 the Queen was moved back to the grim fortress of Tutbury Castle in order to isolate her from plotters, with a strict regime applied by the puritan Sir Amyas Paulet, but the role of the apparently unimportant supply of beer is underestimated.
The theory that Christopher Marlowe should be seen as a spy as well as a poet gained considerable impetus in 2005 with Park Honan’s Christopher Marlowe, Poet and Spy. Honan’s book sought to establish Marlowe’s credentials in the world of espionage. To a considerable extent he succeeded as entries to the influential Oxford Dictionary of National Biography demonstrate.
Reviewing the evidence and rumours around Christopher Marlowe’s disappearance which remain controversial and the subject of debate to this day. Why is there no final conclusion to this debate and no simple explanation of why Marlowe went to Deptford and was never heard of again?
The research for my book Mary Queen of Scots in Staffordshire threw up many puzzles that were not about Staffordshire. The most puzzling was and is the reasons why she left Scotland after defeat at the battle of Langside in 1568, which current writing cannot explain. None of her advisors were in favour.
The Chillington Estate in South Staffordshire, where the Gifford (currently spelt Giffard) family have lived since 1178, is a classic example of a gentry household – the people there were rarely the Great and the Good but staged memorable developments none the less. The best known incident in the history of the estate, the day Charles II spent in the oak tree at Boscobel on the estate escaping from defeat at the battle of Worcester in 1651, happened through the fortunes of war. But the previous. significant event involving the family followed the equally momentous visit of Elizabeth 1 in 1575.
Chartley Manor in Elizabethan England, was a place of mystery with historians still arguing over what happened when Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned there. But even more mysteries surround Lettice Devereux, nee Knollys, the chatelaine of the Manor in the middle years of Elizabeth 1’s reign who lived there at least until Queen Elizabeth 1, her cousin, visited in 1575. Thereafter with the death of her first husband Walter Devereux the miasma of rumour and misinformation affecting her becomes a fog.
Chartley on the Stafford-Uttoxeter Road (A518) is deeply mysterious – there was once a medieval market next to the castle, but the usual signs of an English village – a church or pub – cannot be seen in Chartley. It is easy to think nothing has ever happened here despite the medieval castle, as there is so little to see. The one legend told about the place is that Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned in the Castle but that is wrong - she was kept in the Old Manor, which burned down in 1781.