Christopher Marlowe was an Elizabethan poet and playwright. He was born on 26 February 1564 in Canterbury, England. He was educated at King’s School, and he was offered a scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.
He received his arts degree but in 1587 the College was reluctant to award him his master’s degree. This may have been because of his frequent truancy or because of rumours that he had converted to Roman Catholicism. But he was eventually presented with his degree on the grounds that he was working “for the benefit of his country”.
There was a theory that Marlowe was a secret agent or spy as records show that he had several prolonged absences from the college which were much longer than the College’s regulations allowed, arousing much suspicion.
His “service to his country” was never clearly defined and a letter sent to him suggests some secret service to the government. Some believe that he may have been in the service of Sir Francis Walsingham, a man who recruited agents for the Secret Service.
Other accounts say that when he was at the College he would spend money on excessive amounts of food and drink, much more than what his income as a scholar would allow. Overall, the only thing that can be concluded is that he had a secondary income.
After he finished College in 1587, he moved to London where he started writing for a theatre. His first play was most likely Dido, Queen of Carthage, but it wasn’t published until 1594.
His other works include:
Tamburlaine the Great (1590)
Marlowe’s first play to be performed on the regular stage in London and is considered the beginning of the mature phase of the Elizabethan theatre and was one of the last plays to be published before his premature death.
The Jew of Malta (1592)
It depicts Barabas, the richest man on the island of Malta. His wealth is seized, nevertheless, he opposes the government to regain it until his death.
Doctor Faustus (1604)
This play is acknowledged as the first stage version of the Faust legend, in which a man sells his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge and power.
Edward the Second (1594)
This is a play about the dethronement of King Edward II by nobleman and the queen, all of whom envy the influence the king’s men have over him. It paved the way for Shakespeare’s more sophisticated historical plays, such as Richard II, Henry IV and Henry V.
It is the only Marlowe plays whose text can be reliably said to be the author’s works, as all of Marlowe’s other plays were profoundly edited or simply reprints from performances.
The Massacre at Paris (1593)
Massacre at Paris depicts the events of the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre of 1572, in which the French monarchy murdered thousands of French Protestants and Huguenots. In London, people thought its theme to be the promotion the murders of refugees. Interestingly enough, an alert to the queen about this theory in the play is from character referred to as “English Agent,” a character who many people think to be Marlowe himself, representing his secret work for a secret service.
There is much speculation over Marlowe’s death aged 29, and there are many theories…
Many believe that Christopher Marlow was murdered in Eleanor Bull’s Tavern in London. Ingram Frizer, a friend of Marlowe’s, was a known prankster and one day he and two of his mates, Skeres and Poley, stumbled downstairs, covered in blood. They claimed that Marlowe had attacked them and Frizer said that he killed him after he attacked them. They went upstairs to show her the room where his body lay, when Mrs Bull opened the door she saw Christopher Marlowe’s lifeless body covered in blood and one glazed eye open, the other bleeding with a knife in it.
She enquired what had happened and they said that they were standing talking to each other and Marlowe was lying on the bed when suddenly he jumped up and attacked them. Mrs Bull asked why Frizer wasn’t dead if he hadn’t seen him, and his reply was that he moved out of the way. She said, “So he just cut your face and stabbed himself in the eye?”
The boys replied that Skeres had managed to stab him in the eye accidentally. Mrs Bull thought that he must have been on his back when the blade went and said that to the men that they would be hung for this crime.
When at court Frizer got away as there was evidence that Marlowe was an atheist (someone who doesn’t believe in God). A man by the name of Thomas Kyd had written something that suggested that Jesus wasn’t the son of God, a piece that was considered heretic at the time. So he said it was Marlowe’s and Frizer got off scot-free, but Kyd died of torture in prison a year later.
Marlowe had been convicted of heresy and as Thomas Kyd had accused Marlowe of writing atheist works he was a good as dead already. Sir Thomas Walsingham, a friend of Marlowe’s didn’t want to get dragged into it, so gave a task to three men Frizer, Skeres and Poley to kill him and make it look like an accident and I’ll pay you and make sure you aren’t prosecuted. So the three agreed to meet Marlowe in a pub and get him drunk so that they could kill him. Skeres and Poley held him down while Frizer pushed the knife into his eye, and then cut themselves with the knife to make their story look legitimate.
Sir Thomas Walsingham was a good friend of Marlowe and upon hearing of his fate, he planned to stage a death for him. He said that Marlowe had to leave the country as soon as possible and that Frizer, Skeres and Poley would take a stranger they would later pretend to be Marlowe to Mrs Bull’s tavern and kill him. Frizer would confess to killing the fake Marlowe and he Marlowe was buried and the real Christopher Marlowe was
Some believe that Marlowe changed his name to William Shakespeare but it is unlikely.
A man named Calvin Hoffman studied the works of both Marlowe and Shakespeare and found that their writing style was almost identical. So was he Shakesphere or is Shakespeare part of the mystery of his death or did he give his works to Shakespeare?
Here are some fishy facts about Shakespeare that suggest that his works may not have been his:
1) Shakespeare’s father couldn’t write and nor could Shakespeare’s kids and the few signatures of Shakespeare are very poor scribblings.
2) There is no manuscripts fo Shakespeare’s in his own handwriting, they were all written by others.
3) A statue of Shakespeare that was put up in Stratford showed him with a sack (the sign of a tradesman) instead of a quill.
4) He was known in his hometown as a businessman, not a writer.
What do you think?