Internet Shakespeare Editions


The mysterious life (and death) of Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe.
From Chris Cleary's Middleton site.

Marlowe's life seems to have been as excessive as some of his characters. When Kyd was arrested for "lewd and mutinous libels," it was alleged that papers were found in his possession proving Marlowe to be an atheist--a serious charge. A certain Richard Baines reported a whole series of scandalous things Marlowe was alleged* to have said, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

Marlowe was killed by Ingram Frizer in a tavern brawl on 30 May, 1593.

What Marlowe said . . . ?

Baines alleged:

He affirmeth that Moyses was but a Jugler & that one Heriot being Sir W Raleighs man Can do more than he.
That Moyses made the Jewes to travell xi yeares in the wildernes (which Jorney might haue bin done in lesse then one yeare) ere they Came to the promised land to th'intent that those who were privy to most of his subtilities might perish and so an everlasting superstition Remain in the hartes of the people. . . .
That Christ was a bastard and his mother dishonest.
That he was the sonne of a Carpenter, and that if the Jewes among whome he was borne did Crucify him theie best know him and whence he Came.
That Crist deserved better to dy then Barrabas and that the Jewes made a good Choise, though Barrabas was both a theif and a murtherer.
That all they that loue not Tobacco & Boies* were fooles.


  1. A tricky accusation

    The accusation that Marlowe advocated pederasty may have been simply sensational, based upon the treatment of Edward II in the play of that name, or Marlowe might have been quoting Plato or Plutarch. Baines is hardly a reliable witness. It is equally possible that Marlowe was indeed what we would call homosexual, though this concept of sexuality would not have been understood in our modern sense. More on sexuality in Elizabethan England.