May 30th – Murder in Deptford

1593

Tonight in a drinking house owned by a widow Eleanor Bull in Deptford , three miles from London, four men are spending the evening.

A witness would later testify that an argument broke out between two of the men over payment of the bill. One man grabbed a dagger and attacked the other giving him two head wounds. In retaliation the injured man stabbed the other straight through the right eye killing him instantly.

When the authorities arrived, the dead man was identified as the famous actor and playwright Christopher Marlowe.

An anonymous portrait in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, believed to show Christopher Marlowe

An anonymous portrait in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, believed to show Christopher Marlowe

Marlowe was hugely admired by his colleagues and critics alike, penning such long-standing works as Dr Faustus and The Jew of Malta, and was a contemporary and friend of Shakespeare.

Conspiracy theories still abound about his death, including that it might have been over a woman. It seems highly likely that Marlowe had been recruited by Elizabeth I’s spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham to join his immense and complex network bent on protecting the Queen and her church from heresy and attack.

Marlowe was known to have a volatile temper and many of his escapades, including the production of counterfeit coins, had been brushed under the carpet or somehow “absolved” by the government.

A few weeks before his death he had even been arrested himself for possessing a heretical tract however he was murdered before any action was taken against him.

His body was buried in an unmarked grave in the church of St Nicholas in Deptford. In 2002 the Marlowe Society gifted a memorial window to be placed in Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey.

 

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