Murder of Christopher Marlowe
The death of Christopher Marlowe, poet, playwright and probable spy, has left a mystery worthy of his own pen or that of his great contemporary Shakespeare . Indeed some contend, less than convincingly, that Shakespeare was Marlowe living under another name.
When he died Marlowe was still not 30. His brief life encompassed academic excellence via the King's School in Canterbury and Corpus Christi Cambridge ; stage success with Doctor Faustus and The Jew of Malta among others; and personal scandal aplenty: expulsion from the Low Countries for counterfeiting; involvement in a fatal fight; open atheism at a time when that was criminal; homosexuality likewise; and almost certainly work in the murky world of Elizabeth I ’s secret service under Sir Francis Walsingham .
Marlowe was a wanted man, betrayed by a friend, albeit under torture, for his atheism. He, known-criminal Ingram Frizer, and another two acquaintances dined and drank at Eleanor Bull’s tavern in Deptford, then argued about the bill. This got beyond the ‘I didn’t have pudding’ stage: Marlowe supposedly grabbed Frizer’s dagger and struck him twice before the latter retrieved it and stabbed Marlowe fatally just above the eye.
Frizer was rapidly released on grounds of self-defence; Marlowe was buried in an unmarked grave. And ever since conspiracy theorists and literary scholars have put forward explanations of varying credibility regarding the killing: it was assassination to silence a spy; revenge for Marlowe hinting at secrets in his drama; faked to let Marlowe escape justice; or simply a grubby drunken pub brawl.
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