Christopher Marlowe Famous Elizabethan Writer

Christopher Marlowe Birth and Early Life

Christopher Marlowe was born on 26th February 1564 to a shoemaker named John Marlowe and his wife Catherine in Canterbury. The exact date of his birth is not known and 26th February was the day on which he was baptised as is as such considered to be the date of his birth.

He went to King’s School, Canterbury and later on joined Corpus Christi College, Cambridge on a scholarship. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1584. Christopher was an English dramatist, poet and was well-known for his blank verse, he was also regarded as “the father of English tragedy”.

Christopher Marlowe Work

In London, Marlowe joined Lord Admiral’s Company Of Players and started writing plays for the stage. Marlowe was as popular for his work as he was popular for his strong and sometimes agnostic beliefs. His opinions were more often than not considered immoral by the people of his times.


Marlowe’s first drama was Dido, Queen of Carthage and first play that was performed on stage in London was Tamburlaine in 1587. This play is regarded as one of the blank verses. His other plays included works like ‘The Jew of Malta’, ‘Edward the second’, ‘The Massacre at Paris’, etc.

Christopher Marlowe Beliefs

It was believed that Marlowe was a government spy working under Sir Thomas Walsingham. It was also said that Marlowe tutored Arbella Stuart, niece of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1589 as a part of his spying activity. Arbella was another competitor for the throne after Elizabeth I’s death along with James VI of Scotland.

Christopher Marlowe was a atheist, something that was looked down upon as it was regarded as being God’s enemy. Historians believe that his being an atheist was a false story created to cover up that fact that he was a government spy. Marlowe was even arrested on charges of atheism in 1593.

Another story that revolved about Marlowe was that he was homosexual. It has been said by some scholars that there is an evidence of his being a gay in his works like Hero and Leander. Marlowe greatly admired and was regarded as an influential artist by his contemporaries.

There are some contemporaries who think that he was the anonymous author of The Reutrn From Parnassus written in 1598. Even Shakespheare had payed atribute to him through his play As You Like It in which he has qouted a line from Marlowe’s Hero and Leander. Marlowe had a great impact on Shakspeare which is very clear from the fact that Shakspeare in his plays used lines that were there in Marlowe’s plays.

Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe Death

Marlowe’s death is regarded as a tragedy. There is ambiguity about the exact events which lead to his untimely death but it was generally stated that he was killed by Ingram Frizer who also worked for Sir Thomas Walsingham. It was said that Marlowe, along with Frizer, Nicholas Skeres and Robert Poley spent all day together in a house in deptford.

All these men were working for Walsingham. Marlowe and Frizer had a small fight before this major incidence about payment of a bill. However, after some time when Frizer was sitting on a table, Marlowe allegedly attacked Frizer first by snatching Frizer’s dagger.

Frizer, accidently in the heat of the moment stabbed Marlowe just above the right eye, killing him instantly. His body was later on buried in an unmarked in the churchyard of St. Nicholas, Deptford. When this matter was heard by the jury, it concluded that Frizer acted in self-defense which led him to stab Marlowe in a fatal manner.

Christopher Marlowe

The version on the death of Marlowe given by Sir Siney Lee that Marlowe was killed in a drunken fight is till date considered to be the facts which resulted in the death of Marlowe. However, there were some authors Daryl Pinksen, Rodney Bolt, Roderick L Eagle amongst many others who believed that Marlowe had faked his death and he continued writing plays under the adopted name of William Shakespeare. Another speculation was that his death was actually an assassination.

Marlowe during his life had been good friends with eniment personalities like Sir Walter Raleigh. Marlowe’s career barely lasted for four or six years between 1587 and 1593, when he was murdered. At the time of his death, Marlowe was just 29 years old.

In 1589, there was a charge against Marlowe for murdering William Bradley, but was later on acquitted. Again in 1592, an injunction was brought against him for the death of a man resulting from a street fight. Thus ended the life and career of the man who had been a source of inspiration for the future writers.

Christopher Marlowe Plays

Edward the Second is a historical play about the assassination of the King by his Queen and the Barons. He portrayed the Saint Bartholomew’s day massacre in his very vivid work which was named The Massacre at Paris.

Christopher Marlowe

However, his most dangerous play is The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus. This play was based on the German character Faustbuch. Here Marlowe deals with the Faust legend of the devil’s pact.

Dr. Faustus is characterised by his intellect and greed for more knowledge which leads him to make a pact with the devil to sell his soul for a certain period of unparalleled glory and fame. He gets his wish but ends up regretting it and wanting to change it but in the end he is dragged screaming off to hell.

This and many of Marlowe’s later works are a challenge for the scholars because they were rewritten after Marlowe’s death. Maybe in his age Marlowe was considered God’s enemy but it can never be denied that he was a source of great influence to his contemporaries (like Shakespeare) and to this day he continues to influence the literary minds.

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