Christopher Marlowe, died this day, 1593

Christopher_Marlowe
By Unknown, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=240136

The man who many see as the forerunner to playwright William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, died on this day (May 30) 1593, in Deptford, London.

Marlowe was born in Canterbury, Kent, England, sometime in mid to late February 1564. There is an extant record showing that he was baptised on February 26 of that year.

In those days babies were usually christened quite quickly because of high mortality rates among infants. Therefore Marlowe was probably born just two to three days before this date.

Low Born

Although born to a cobbler, it would seem that young Christopher was quite a precocious child. He went to The King’s School in Canterbury.

It’s worth remembering that then, as still now, Canterbury is the seat of England’s premier archbishop, a very important place.

Later, though perhaps at a relatively late juncture in his early life, he went to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge on a Parker scholarship.

Absences

In 1584 he got his BA degree and an MA in 1587, although the university was reluctant to award him the latter because of certain, irregular, though quite lengthy absences from the college.

Suffice it to say, that much has been written and speculated about these absences, as well as what he purportedly believed. Some say he was an atheist, despite spending years studying divinity.

Meteoric Career

Nevertheless, Marlowe went on to a meteoric literary career as a poet and playwright. He is often credited with inventing blank verse, poetry which doesn’t rhyme but written usually in iambic pentameter.

His play ‘Tamburlaine the Great’, was a huge success in London in 1587, so much so that he wrote a second part to it the following year.

There followed a string of ‘hit’ plays; ‘The Jew of Malta’, ‘Edward the Second’, ‘The Massacre at Paris’ and, probably his most famous play, ‘Doctor Faustus’.

Courted Controversy

The subject matter of his plays was often controversial, as was his apparent second career as a spy, or ‘intelligencer’ for the Elizabethan government. He seems to have been recruited for this whilst still at university.

Such controversy finally caught up with him in May 1593, when, after apparently being arrested on charges of ‘blasphemy’, released on bail, and then spending a whole day in an obscure house or pub with some rather shady ‘friends’ – he ended up being infamously murdered, during an argument about the bill, the ‘reckoning’.

Reputation

The circumstances of this too are endlessly speculated on. Incredibly, the inquest of this murder was discovered as recently as 1925.

Even Shakespeare may allude to this in his play, ‘As You Like It’, where he seems to have known some of the details of Marlowe’s premature death.

So Marlowe’s meteoric rise and fame lasted about six years. After this, his reputation, maybe because of the controversy he courted, fell away dramatically.

Today, however, his reputation is back on the rise. He is seen as the true forerunner to Shakespeare, someone who ‘set the scene’ for The Bard’s longer career.

copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019

Soon I intend to do another piece speculating Marlowe’s birthdate and time for my ‘Astrology Musings’ section.

*If you would like a personal astrology report, please contact me on: leoftanner@gmail.com or details.

The Preview

Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m sorry, but I think you’re in my seat. OK, let’s
have a look at your ticket. Oh yes, that’s it, you
need to move along one. Thanks very much,
no harm done.

Ah, looks like it might be a full house tonight.
Maybe it’s the intrigue surrounding the play.
What do I mean? Well, you know – Cardenio,
and all that. One of his supposed ‘missing’ plays.
Apocrypha, I believe that’s the right term,
although that word always sounds so medicinal
to me! Anyhow, what I mean is, it all seems a
little too suspect, if you want my opinion,
something they’ve cobbled together from
various sources, though I’m sure it will be
enjoyable all the same. Better than reading Don
Quixote again, at any rate! What was that? You
think it is pretty close to the original? Right. Well,
we will see. I mean, who among us has read the
original? Oh, I see. Mn.

But then of course, there are still those who
believe he never wrote any of those plays.
And you must admit, you can see where
they’re coming from, can’t you? Well, he was,
after all, relatively uneducated, say compared
to Fletcher, even Ben Jonson. Could he really
have written Hamlet or King Lear, or described
places like Italy so well without ever setting
foot there? I have my doubts.

I say, are you feeling alright? You’re looking a
little off colour.

Actually, if you don’t mind me asking, have I
seen you here before? Maybe in town
somewhere. I thought so! I do apologise if I’m
staring but there’s something about your face,
your eyes. That hairline. And the beard. Wait!
Do you know, you’re the spitting image of that
portrait of… they found in Corpus Christi…

© copyright David Francis Barker 2012

* some time ago we went to see the play Cardenio at Stratford, which was based on parts of a play which may have been written by Shakespeare, which itself was based on Cervantes’ Don Quixote. I imagined myself in the theatre talking to the ghost of Christopher Marlowe, who some believe to be the real Shakespeare. Complicated, it is! But then real history always is, not like the myth that we are presented with most of the time at school and elsewhere…

Today’s Poem – Who was this man?

Corpus Christi
(for Kit Marlowe)

A voice calls from across the cold centuries,
a harsh whisper in my ear.

There is merit in what he says,
enduring years of indoctrination,

speaking out against that which bore him.
The town of empty palaces, of inordinate wealth,

forcing him to re-position,
to consider the advocacy of freedom,

though mere anarchy in the eyes of the state.
But wait, before you all condemn,

just as a spy must provoke and take a stance,
so a playwright may also be a player.

Does he ask, ‘what kind of world could this be?
What pure lives might we lead?’

If only we could accept the sight before us –
the corruptible body of Christ.

© copyright David Francis Barker