LAST TIME : 48) Keith Tomlinson (b.1980) climbed Mount Elbrus in Russia, one of the 7 highest continental mountains (the Seven Summits), a mountaineering challenge completed by 49) Cason Crane (b.1992). A parallel challenge of running a marathon on each continent has been completed by 50) Todd J. Henry, an astronomer who searched for extra-terrestrial intelligence, a subject speculated upon in the 16th century by 51) Giordano Bruno (1548-1600).
Giordano Bruno was one
of the leading mathematicians of his age, though his controversial views on the
multiple existence of Christ on alien worlds put him in the black books of
scientists and the Church alike and led to his execution for heresy.
In 1591 he applied for the
vacant professorship of mathematics at Padua University. He was unsuccessful.
Instead the position went to an up-and-coming mathematician by the name of
Galileo. But then Galileo had influential patrons who campaigned on his behalf
him to the university, though they denied it. These patrons were the Del Monte
brothers, one of whom was 52) Cardinal
Francesco del Monte (1549-1627).
Cardinal del Monte was
also an amateur mathematician like his brothers, and it was his eldest brother,
the Marchese del Monte, who influenced Galileo’s work on trajectories. The
Cardinal is most famous (apart from being the first recorded owner of the
Portland vase) as the patron of another rising young star of the Renaissance,
the artist Caravaggio, under his patronage he painted “The Cardsharps”.
After failing to get the
professorship at Padua Giordano Bruno found himself increasingly at odds with
both the Church and the authorities over his views. Very shortly afterwards he
became the subject of the heresy trial that led to his execution.
It is Bruno’s two-year
stay in England that leads us on to the most intriguing (in more ways than one)
period of his life. In 1583 he arrived in London as a guest of the French
ambassador to the court of Queen Elizabeth I. The ambassador had made many
friends in London, a few of them from the world of the theatre as well as
politics. It was probably at one of his many dinners that the ambassador
introduced Giordano Bruno to 53) Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593).
I cannot bring Marlowe
into the story without mentioning two things about him. The first is his role
as a spy, the other we’ll come to later. The French ambassador was no stranger
to espionage himself. As ambassador he was able to place French Catholic spies
at Elizabeth’s Protestant court and, no doubt, knew who some of Elizabeth’s
spies were. Perhaps he knew that Christopher Marlowe was a spy.
Marlowe was just one of
many in the pay of Elizabeth’s spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham. He was
employed for many years to spy on Catholic sympathisers and plotters. But the
French ambassador probably didn’t know there was another spy living under his
When Giordano Bruno
arrived there was a plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth, invade England from
Spain, and put Mary Queen of Scots on the throne. Plans for this were rather
carelessly revealed during the after-dinner chat at the French ambassador’s
residence. Walsingham was informed and the plotter executed for treason.
Walsingham had a double agent working in the ambassador’s house called Henry
Fagot. It has been revealed in recent years that Fagot was actually 51) Giordano Bruno.
The other thing to mention
about 53) Christopher Marlowe is his
often alleged authorship of some (or all) of the works of Shakespeare. While
this is a subject of constant discussion and speculation there is evidence that
one of Marlowe’s works influenced one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays.
Another famous writer
often alleged to have written Shakespeare’s plays, or at least the ones written
after Marlowe’s death was Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626). He
makes just a cameo appearance today because his brother, 54) Anthony Bacon (1558-1601), also worked in Walsingham’s spy
ring. One intriguing theory put forward recently is that Christopher Marlowe
faked his own death and that Anthony Bacon helped him to escape to France.
Back to Marlowe’s
influence on Shakespeare. “Titus Andronicus” is one of the Bard’s early plays
whose authorship has been questioned the most. It isn’t considered one of his
best. T. S. Eliot called it “one of the stupidest and most uninspired plays
ever written”. In that respect it can be said to have inspired a genre of film
that is popular purely because it is just that.
“Titus Andronicus” was
partly inspired by several Elizabethan revenge tragedies, one of which was
called “Tambourline”, written by Christopher Marlowe. What marks “Titus” out is
its violence and gore. It was very popular with Elizabethan audiences, and it
still is. A recent production by The Globe even had people fainting in the
audience because of the graphic nature of the modern stage effects of rape and
mutilation. It’s all very reminiscent of the reports of audience reactions when
“The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was first released. And that’s the next
connection in the chain (pardon the pun).
Modern slasher films and
splatter movies are deliberately made to highlight the gore and horror and are
not known for their strength of script or depth of character. Most characters
are there purely to be disposed of in the most gruesome and entertaining manner
possible. T. S. Eliot could have used his above-quoted remark to describe any
slasher film. However, it is a genre with a distinguished history going back to
“Titus Andronicus” and beyond and remains one of the greatest contributors to
Even though there have
been many lgbt characters in horror and slasher films over the years (the most
famous being Norman Bates in “Psycho”), and there have been many lgbt horror
writers, the genre didn’t really get a specifically gay slasher film until 2004
when “Hellbent” was released. The writer and director of that film was 55) Paul Etheredge.
When “80 Gays” returns in
a couple of weeks we’ll discover what slasher films have in common with