I finished A Dead Man in Deptford a few days ago and had posted some comments--basically just agreeing with what Sterling said--in the Nothing Like the Sun thread.
I like your idea of Marlowe as a "champion of freedom and independent thinking." I suppose he and others like him were the forerunners of the Enlightenment.
It is interesting, but not surprising, that Marlowe is investigated by the authorities for his religious thinking, not for his sexual behavior, even though he was rather careless about the latter. The power of the state rested on a religious foundation, so it reacted more vigorously to threats in that direction.
To a limited degree, I think Burgess's two novels reflected the time in which they were written. Nothing Like the Sun, written in the early 1960s, displays a bold open-mindedness about sexuality and race, issues that were at the forefront in the 1960s. In A Dead Man in Deptford, Burgess introduces religious controversy and the problems of immigration and cultural assimilation, issues that were more pertinent in the 1990s.
I found it amusing that people like Walsingham complained so much about the stench of tobacco while surrounded by open sewers, rotting meat, and unwashed bodies. It's all a matter of what you were used to. When I was a child the use of tobacco was so pervasive that no one noticed it. I'm sure the first thing a time traveler would remark, whether going to the 1590s or the 1950s, is the smell.
And speaking of time travel, we seem to be taking intermittent trips to London, but going steadily back in time. Last year it was to the 1660s with A Journal of the Plague Year. This month to the 1590s with two playwrights. In June to the early 1500s with Wolf Hall.
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