1564 - 1593 (?)
Born in Canterbury, scholarships to King's School Canterbury and Corpus Christi, Cambridge.
Marlowe and Shakespeare:
There are seven plays and various poems and translations that are ascribed to Marlowe's name. Through the plays he gave birth to Elizabethan blank verse drama. There are many parallels in words, phrases and imagery between his work and that of Shakespeare, which, at the very least, indicate that Shakespeare learned his trade from him. Computers seem unable to differentiate between his work and that of Shakespeare.
Accidental Death, Murder or Exile?
As well as being the one of the most successful playwrights of his era, Marlowe worked as an intelligencer for the Elizabethan government. Ten days before his apparent death in Deptford, a warrant was issued for his arrest; government documents show he was accused of blasphemy and atheism: crimes for which he would likely be tortured and executed. The chief accuser was Richard Baines, a Catholic double agent who had unsuccessfully accused Marlowe of a capital crime the previous year. Marlowe's apparent murder occurred at a house close to the Thames and the Naval Dockyard which was owned by Mrs Eleanor Bull, a 'cousin' of the Queen’s trusted servant Blanche Parry, who was in turn a 'cousin' of the Lord Treasurer, William Cecil. Frizer, who is said to have killed Marlowe, claimed it was an accident and that he was acting in self-defence. He was pardoned with unusual rapidity and immediately returned to the service of Thomas Walsingham, Marlowe's friend and patron. Poley, Skeres and Frizer, the three companions with whom Marlowe spent his day, and the only named witnesses, were professional liars: con artists and secret service men. Their statements would not be accepted by a modern jury, and much of the evidence does not tally with their account. Many scholars consider the inquest document to be false, a cover up for an assassination, but this is only partially supported. The theory that Marlowe, with help from secret service colleagues, faked his death to escape torture and execution is better supported by the evidence than the brawl or assassination theories. He may have fled for exile to Italy, and continued to write under the name William Shakespeare with all the intimate knowledge of Italy that the Shakespeare plays demonstrate. The first appearance of the name William Shakespeare in any literary or theatrical context occurs with the publication of Venus and Adonis in June 1593, two weeks after Marlowe's apparent death. There were many clandestine references to Marlowe after 1593, seeming to imply that he was not dead, and the events at Deptford seem to be hinted at in certain of Shakespeare's Sonnets and in As You Like It.