(Andrew Dickson’s article appeared in the Guardian, 3/30.)
A controversial document in which the playwright Christopher Marlowereportedly declared that Christ was gay, that the only purpose of religion was to intimidate people, and that “all they that love not tobacco and boys were fools” is to go on show online for the first time.
The so-called “Baines note”, a star item in the British Library’s Renaissance manuscript collection, offers tantalising evidence about the private life of Marlowe, one of the most scandalous and magnetic figures of the Elizabeth period.
Compiled in May 1593 by the police informant and part-time spy Richard Baines, it claims to record a conversation between the two men in which the playwright airs a long list of what Baines describes as “monstrous opinions”.
Among them, Marlowe casts doubt on the existence of God, claims that the New Testament was so “filthily written” that he himself could do a better job, and makes the eyebrow-raising assertion that the Christian communion would be more satisfying if it were smoked “in a tobacco pipe”.