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a tavern in deptford
by rc dewinter
- Artist Notes
- © 2010 RC deWinter ~ All Rights Reserved
During his lifetime, Christopher Marlowe was considered the foremost tragic playwright of the Elizabethan theater.
Son of a shoemaker in Canterbury, Marlowe received a scholarship to Cambridge University, where he earned a degree from Corpus Christi College. Marlowe's 'Tamburlaine' was the first of his plays performed on the stage in London and is regarded as the seed of sophisticated Elizabethan theater.
Not much can be definitively known about Marlowe, given that most authenticated details of his life come from legal documents that have survived the centuries. However, he has been variously described by contemporaries as a 'magician, brawler and rake-hell'.
It seems likely that Marlowe was a spy or was otherwise engaged in espionage service for the government; he was often mysteriously absent from Cambridge for prolonged periods during his years there and, upon his return, had enough money to spend lavishly on food, drink and entertainment - far above his scholarship allowance.
In addition, the government ordered Cambridge to award Marlowe his MA when the university was reluctant to do so, fearing he was a secret Catholic.
When he was arrested for counterfeiting in the Netherlands, he was remanded to the England's treasurer, Lord Burghley, but charges were never preferred by the Crown.
Marlowe eventually was arrested in England, however, under suspicion of authoring anonymous threats to French and Dutch Protestant émigrés. Appearing before the Privy Council on May 20, 1593, he was ordered to appear before them daily until they notified him that they required his presence no more, and then released on his own recognizance.
Ten days later, on the night of May 30, Marlowe, along with three companions, was roistering in an ordinary in Deptford. A quarrel regarding the bill erupted (although some believe he was the victim of a political assassination), and in the ensuing brawl, Marlowe was stabbed and killed with his own knife by Ingram Frizer. He was 29 years old.
Here a serving-man in that tavern watches in sad disbelief as Marlowe is stabbed.
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