The author best known for the dystopian future of A Clockwork Orange here delves into the life and death of sixteenth century British playwright Kit (or Christopher) Marlowe (or Morely, or Marley as the fluidity of the English language in those times would have it) and exposes a tale of spying, lying, more lying – this time in one another’s beds – and poetry. It’s a very impressive evocation of time and place as well as language, but even more striking is the mindset of his main characters, where religion and poetry are intricately bound to politics and money, life is cheap and brutality common, yet the bedrock of human nature is not at all different from what we know and struggle with today.
A challenging read, but one which rewards and also yields a new respect for the men (women figure very little in Burgess’ vision) of Shakespeare’s (or Shakespur’s, or Cheeckpurse’s) time.
Yields great respect also for Burgess the writer, as opposed to the pop culture figure he has become thanks to the notorious film version of his most widely-known novel.
P.S. – A Wikipedia query reveals that Burgess was quite the intellectual, a prolific writer of both fiction and non-, and an even more prolific composer. His earlier novel about Shakespeare, Nothing Like the Sun, focuses on the man’s love life and is now high on my want-to-read list.