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Trust the Coroner

John Bossy: Why Christopher Marlowe was probably not a spy, 14 December 2006

Christopher MarlowePoet and Spy 
by Park Honan.
Oxford, 421 pp., £25, October 2005, 0 19 818695 9
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... Compared to boring old Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, we think, had a short life and a gay one. When not writing his sonorous verse, he was spying, preaching atheism, fighting and getting murdered. Park Honan has done one of the two already, and now has done the other. Coming shortly after David Riggs’s solid, even too-solid The World of Christopher Marlowe, his Christopher Marlowe: Poet and Spy feels a little lightweight ...

The night Marlowe died

Patricia Beer, 25 February 1993

... Christopher Marlowe was a spy, it seems. His day of pleasure by the River Thames Should have brought him a handshake and a watch For faithful service. He had done as much For anyone who paid him and so had His three companions. They were really good. In those days spying was expertly done. Informers took each other’s washing in ...

Posthumous Gentleman

Michael Dobson: Kit Marlowe’s Schooldays, 19 August 2004

The World of Christopher Marlowe 
by David Riggs.
Faber, 411 pp., £25, May 2004, 0 571 22159 9
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Christopher Marlowe and Richard Baines: Journeys through the Elizabethan Underground 
by Roy Kendall.
Fairleigh Dickinson, 453 pp., $75, January 2004, 0 8386 3974 7
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Tamburlaine Must Die 
by Louise Welsh.
Canongate, 149 pp., £9.99, July 2004, 1 84195 532 9
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History Play: The Lives and Afterlife of Christopher Marlowe 
by Rodney Bolt.
HarperCollins, 388 pp., £17.99, July 2004, 0 00 712123 7
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... lords, how fare you? NAVARRE: My lord, they say That all the Protestants are massacred! This is Christopher Marlowe’s The Massacre at Paris, a play free of amateur pageants but featuring 19 onstage killings, most of them stabbings (one of an admiral whom we have already seen being shot, and another, a regicide, using an envenomed dagger). There is ...

Blame it on the Belgians

Hilary Mantel, 25 June 1992

The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe 
by Charles Nicholl.
Cape, 413 pp., £19.99, June 1992, 0 224 03100 7
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... porter at Corpus, when Charles Nicholl went to Cambridge to look at the portrait that is probably Christopher Marlowe. ‘He died in a tavern brawl.’ Nicholl viewed the putative Marlowe, in his opulent slashed doublet, and wondered how he could afford the outfit. He looked at his buttery bills too, and noted when the ...

Canterbury Tale

Charles Nicholl, 8 December 1988

Christopher Marlowe and Canterbury 
by William Urry, edited by Andrew Butcher.
Faber, 184 pp., £12.95, May 1988, 0 571 14566 3
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John Weever 
by E.A.J. Honigmann.
Manchester, 134 pp., £27.50, April 1987, 0 7190 2217 7
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Rare Sir William Davenant 
by Mary Edmond.
Manchester, 264 pp., £27.50, July 1987, 9780719022869
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... William Urry’s researches on Marlowe have been available in bits and pieces, and his ‘forthcoming book on the Marlowes in Canterbury’ was mentioned by one of Marlowe’s biographers, A.D. Wraight, as long ago as 1965. Here at last it is, seven years after Urry’s death, edited from drafts by his former colleague Andrew Butcher ...

Scribblers and Assassins

Charles Nicholl: The Crimes of Thomas Drury, 31 October 2002

... On 18 May 1593 a warrant was issued to ‘apprehend’ Christopher Marlowe, and on 20 May he was brought before the Privy Council for questioning. He was not detained, but was ordered to report to the Council daily until ‘licensed to the contrary’. This state of precarious liberty lasted only until 30 May, when he was fatally stabbed by a man named Ingram Frizer, though whether his sudden death was a matter of coincidence or conspiracy remains unresolved ...

‘Faustus’ and the Politics of Magic

Charles Nicholl, 8 March 1990

Dr Faustus 
by Christopher Marlowe, edited by Roma Gill.
Black, 109 pp., £3.95, December 1989, 0 7136 3231 3
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Renaissance Magic and the Return of the Golden Age: The Occult Tradition and Marlowe, Jonson and Shakespeare 
by John Mebane.
Nebraska, 309 pp., £26.95, July 1989, 0 8032 3133 4
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Robert Fludd and the End of the Renaissance 
by William Huffman.
Routledge, 252 pp., £30, November 1989, 0 415 00129 3
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Prophecy and Power: Astrology in Early Modern England 
by Patrick Curry.
Polity, 238 pp., £27.50, September 1989, 0 7456 0604 0
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... Marlowe’s Dr Faustus was an Elizabethan spine-chiller. People came for thrills, and early productions pulled out all the stops to provide them. ‘Shagge-hayred devills’ ran ‘roaring over the stage with squibs in their mouthes’. Drummers thundered backstage. Stage-hands hung aloft to ‘make artificiall lightning in their heavens ...

Nolanus Nullanus

Charles Nicholl, 12 March 1992

Giordano Bruno and the Embassy Affair 
by John Bossy.
Yale, 294 pp., £16.95, September 1991, 0 300 04993 5
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The Elizabethan Secret Service 
by Alison Plowden.
Harvester Wheatsheaf, 158 pp., £30, September 1991, 0 7108 1152 7
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The Lord of Uraniborg: A Biography of Tycho Brahe 
by Victor Thoren.
Cambridge, 523 pp., £40, May 1991, 0 521 35158 8
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... to France with Castelnau in the autumn of 1585. His presence reverberated on, not least in Marlowe’s Dr Faustus and Shakespeare’s Hamlet, both of which contain traces of Bruno’s occultist ‘mission’ in England. The other protagonist of the story, Henry Fagot, must at least have known Bruno quite well. He too was an habitué of the French ...

Great Instructor

Charles Nicholl, 31 August 1989

Ben Jonson: A Life 
by David Riggs.
Harvard, 399 pp., £27.95, April 1989, 0 674 06625 1
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... out of him. One of these was Robert Poley, the government agent who was present at the death of Christopher Marlowe in Deptford four years earlier. This was the first of many skirmishes with the authorities. In 1603 his tragedy Sejanus was denounced to the Council for ‘popery and treason’, and in 1605 he was in prison again, for the comedy Eastward ...

Zounds

Frank Kermode: Blasphemy, 14 January 2002

Blasphemy: Impious Speech in the West from the 17th to the 19th Century 
by Alain Cabantous, translated by Eric Rauth.
Columbia, 288 pp., £21.50, February 2002, 0 231 11876 7
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... de Viau. Atheists were of course blasphemers by definition, and we know from the charges against Christopher Marlowe that, like Théophile, they sometimes larded their tavern conversation with rather juvenile insults to religion – the Virgin was a whore, Christ was a bastard and St John was his bedfellow, and so on. It seems that one somehow needed to ...

Pillors of Fier

Frank Kermode: Anthony Burgess, 11 July 2002

Nothing like the Sun: reissue 
by Anthony Burgess.
Allison and Busby, 234 pp., £7.99, January 2002, 0 7490 0512 2
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... Poet of Sonnet 86 remains George Chapman, not, as some think, Samuel Daniel or Michael Drayton or Christopher Marlowe or Ben Jonson or, since his was assuredly an ‘alien pen’ (Sonnet 78), Torquato Tasso. Candidates for the doubtful honour of being the Dark Lady are discussed (so far as the list went in 1970) and a slight preference is registered for ...

Best Known for His Guzzleosity

Helen Hackett: Shakespeare’s Authors, 11 March 2010

Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? 
by James Shapiro.
Faber, 367 pp., £20, April 2010, 978 0 571 23576 6
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... of the works published in his name: not Sir Francis Bacon, or Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, or Christopher Marlowe, living on in secret after his apparent death in a brawl in 1593 (before most of Shakespeare’s works were written), or one of the more than 50 alternative candidates who have been proposed since the mid-19th century. The case for ...

Father-Daughter Problems

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare’s Bad Daughters, 8 May 2008

The Lodger: Shakespeare in Silver Street 
by Charles Nicholl.
Allen Lane, 378 pp., £20, November 2007, 978 0 7139 9890 0
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... Montjoy. Marie Mountjoy, of Silver Street, near the Barbican, ran a business with her husband, Christopher, making ‘tires’, ornamental headwear fashionable among ladies at court (‘tires’ were elaborate compounds of wire, jewellery and false hair). Thanks to a lawsuit brought in 1612 by their son-in-law, Stephen Belott, over the non-payment of the ...

Not to Be Read without Shuddering

Adam Smyth: The Atheist’s Bible, 20 February 2014

The Atheist’s Bible: The Most Dangerous Book That Never Existed 
by Georges Minois, translated by Lys Ann Weiss.
Chicago, 249 pp., £21, October 2012, 978 0 226 53029 1
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... oddballs who flit through the narrative, like Gustavus Adolphus (‘military genius’), or Christopher Marlowe (‘quite troubled’), or Savonarola (‘especially erratic monk’). The glossary at the back doesn’t help much: ‘Müller, Johann Joachim. 1661-1733. German jurist’; ‘Viret, Pierre. 1511-1571. Swiss theologian’; ‘von ...

Turncoats and Opportunists

Alexandra Walsham: Francis Walsingham, 5 July 2012

The Queen’s Agent: Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I 
by John Cooper.
Faber, 400 pp., £9.99, July 2012, 978 0 571 21827 1
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... figures who crossed confessional boundaries and betrayed their masters more than once. Another was Christopher Marlowe, whose casual employment by Walsingham in 1587 and sordid murder in Deptford six years later, has fuelled a minor literary industry. Surprisingly, Cooper doesn’t mention Henry Fagot, a key figure in his intelligence-gathering activities ...

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