Wednesday, June 18, 2008
In 1593 Christopher Marlowe, one of England’s finestpoets and dramatists, was stabbed to death by IngramFrizer at the age of twenty-nine. Historians acknowledgethat his murder was probably the result of a bar brawl—adispute over who should pay the bill, in fact—but somepeople believe that his mysterious death may well have hada political cause. Prior to his death, accusations of blasphemy,subversion and homosexuality had destroyed hispublic image; he was also charged with atheism on the evidenceof his former roommate and fellow dramatist,Thomas Kyd. As a result of his sacrilegious beliefs, somescholars allege that Marlowe was murdered by FrancisWalsingham, a Puritan sympathizer and agent of ElizabethI. Others accuse royalists, in particular the supporters ofthe Earl of Essex, of his murder. Significantly, Marlowe’skiller eventually received a pardon from the Queen.In the sixteenth century, the punishment for such crimesas Marlowe was accused of included being boiled alive,burnt at the stake, or hanged, drawn and quartered. Takingthese penalties into consideration, it is hardly surprisingthat some people believe that Christopher Marlowe faked his own death. Had he simply fled the country, or gone intohiding, he would have been pursued as a fugitive for therest of his life. A much better solution would have been tostage his own murder and assume a new identity. Havingworked as a secret agent for years, Marlowe would havehad both the experience and the contacts to hatch such aplan. Indeed, the fact that the coroner’s inquest and subsequentburial of the body—in an unmarked grave—werecompleted within forty-eight hours of the “killing” giveseven more credence to this idea.To this day, conspiracy theories rather than facts shroudthe events leading up to Marlowe’s death. Though IngramFrizer was named as the writer’s killer, the real truth aboutMarlowe’s end will probably never be known.