This Day In Literary History
On May 18th, 1593, a warrant was issued by the Queen's Privy Council for the arrest of the legendary English playwright and poet, Christopher Marlowe. The warrant accused Marlowe of spreading "blasphemous and damnable opinions."
Five days earlier, Marlowe's friend, roommate, and fellow playwright Thomas Kyd had been arrested and charged with the same crime. During an interrogation in which Kyd was horribly tortured, he claimed that offending documents found in his possession really belonged to Marlowe.
Marlowe was subsequently arrested. He was released on bail while the prosecutors prepared their case. The day before Marlowe was scheduled to appear in court, he was killed in a drunken brawl when a dagger was driven through his eye. He was 29 years old.
Although in life, he had been a controversial personality - he was known to be a hot-tempered alcoholic frequently in trouble with the law - he proved to be far more controversial in death.
The same Privy Council that had charged Marlowe with blasphemy had intervened on his behalf six years earlier to explain to Cambridge University why Marlowe frequently cut classes.
Pleading that he not be expelled, they claimed that Marlowe wasn't a miscreant student - he had cut classes to be of service to the Queen in "matters touching the benefit of his country."
That was actually true. Christopher Marlowe had been recruited as a secret agent while at university, and it now appears that he died not at a pub, but at a government safe house, while in the company of other spies and their associates.
With Marlowe's volatile personality and controversial libertine philosophy, his housemates undoubtedly had motive to kill him, especially if he'd flown into one of his drunken rages.
Conspiracy theories continue to follow the death of Christopher Marlowe. Some believe that Marlowe's death was faked to protect him from enemy agents.
What became of him afterward? Well, some believe that while the rest of Britain thought that he was dead, Marlowe continued to write plays.
One conspiracy theory claims that Marlowe hired an actor named William Shakespeare to be the front for his plays. Another theory claims that William Shakespeare was Marlowe's pseudonym and that an actor with the same name decided to take credit for his work.
According to this theory, the fake Shakespeare either knew or hoped that the real author wouldn't (or couldn't) reveal himself and dispute the false claim. Both theories, while intriguing, have yet to be proven. Most scholars regard them as nonsense.
One thing is definitely true: as a playwright, Christopher Marlowe's talent was on a par with Shakespeare. For centuries, scholars have agreed that Marlowe's plays, such as Tamburlaine the Great, Edward II, The Jew of Malta, and Doctor Faustus were in the same league as Shakespeare's classic tragedies.
Quote Of The Day
"I count religion but a childish toy, and hold there is no sin but ignorance." - Christopher Marlowe
Today's video features a complete performance of Christopher Marlowe's classic play, Edward II - starring Sir Ian McKellen! Enjoy!