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SATURDAY LETTERS : Christopher Marlowe: Let His Plays Live

June 05, 1993

Four hundred years ago, on May 30, Christopher Marlowe was killed at a public eating house southeast of London near the big bend of the Thames. The fight was supposedly over the dinner bill. But was the anger over something more serious? At least three, if not all four, of the men present were agents or spies for the British government. Perhaps we shall never know the reasons for what happened.

So the life of the playwright that changed Elizabethan drama ended in mid-career. His great plays stand in their own right; but Shakespeare and others would build on his work and create one of the greatest periods of English drama.

Only one play, "Tamburlaine the Great," was published during Marlowe's life. Within 12 years of his death, all his major works were published.

Shortly before he died, Marlowe had agreed to defend himself before the Star Chamber of the Privy Council to answer charges of heresy. Epithets ranging from Roman Catholic to atheist were thrown at Marlowe.

At this time, all plays were censored by high government officials and each master copy had to carry the signature of approval. Imagine living in such a period of history. Our Founding Fathers were well aware of this great tragedy when they wrote the American Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

It does not seem that anyone in this area is performing Marlowe on this anniversary. One can find the plays in bookstores and libraries and enjoy reading them, but plays belong on the stage. So let us hope that we can see some of Marlowe's plays brought to life soon.



The Problem With TV

Isn't it likely that the real problem with television, especially for children, is its intimacy and the false sense of personal relationship that it not only creates but requires ("Good vs. Bad on TV: Check the Scorecard," May 28)?

Look at the last episode of "Cheers," for example. Listen to people in fast-food outlets, gossiping not (as they used to) about neighbors, co-workers and family but about TV characters.

But television is the significant other that does not mirror or respond. It looks straight at us and tells us its deepest secrets; it pleads for our understanding, acceptance and love but cannot see or hear us.

I don't think it's the violence on television that's the problem; it's the violence on television . Even loved and emotionally healthy children occasionally "act out" for attention. To the young heart that screams out, "See me, listen to me, know me," violence must eventually look like the only out from invisibility.

There is no way we can make TV not matter to people. But we have to keep telling ourselves that the reality TV presents is not even virtual. It is nothing but an optical illusion. If we don't keep slapping ourselves awake, we're almost as likely to fall through the screen into its pathological unreality as our children are.


Long Beach

Ford Chronology

I feel as if I have been wiped out of history in "The Ford's Pilgrimage: A Chronology" (May 31). The chronology says, "1973--The Free Shakespeare Festival starts under a 3-year contract, lasting only one season."

I took over the Free Shakespeare Festival at the end of 1974 and produced five seasons of Shakespeare at the Ford starting in 1975 and ending in 1979:

* 1975--"Romeo and Juliet."

* 1976--"Othello."

* 1977--"Much Ado About Nothing."

* 1978--"A Midsummer Night's Dream."

* 1979--"Twelfth Night."

At the same time, I presented Free Shakespeare in the Parks from 1975 through 1980.

The Ford is a great space, and I hope this season will be successful.


Los Angeles

David the Great

Rick Du Brow and Howard Rosenberg: Please tell me what makes David Letterman so great, in your opinion. I sincerely want to know--am I missing something?

I am 40 years old, a college graduate, and I should qualify as one of his admirers. Letterman is so obnoxious, insulting and rude. When he does his punch-drunk routine--making faces and sticking out his tongue--I cringe.

Please print this letter, as I sincerely want to know how many people agree with me.


Beverly Hills

Carlo's Big Chance

A long time ago--1975, to be exact--I worked at a Licorice Pizza store on the Sunset Strip. One of my colleagues was a young manager (I think he was 18) named Gary Gersh.

Even at that young age, he showed great promise and looked to have a successful future. I've followed his career since then, and I'm gratified to see that he has been named president of Capitol Records ("Capitol Betting Millions on Gersh," May 27).

I wonder if he'll be gratified to hear from me when I send him a resume next week. . . .



The Anchor Speaks

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