Marlowe was an English dramatist, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. As the foremost Elizabethan tragedian, next to William Shakespeare, he is known for his blank verse, his overreaching protagonists, and his mysterious death.
Dido, Queen of Carthage (c.1586) (possibly co-written with Thomas Nashe) Tamburlaine, part 1 (c.1587) Tamburlaine, part 2 (c.1587-1588) The Jew of Malta (c.1589) Doctor Faustus (c.1589, or, c.1593) The passionate Edward II (c.1592) shepherd The Massacre at Paris (c.1593)
An anonymous portrait in Corpus Christi College, Cambridge believed to show Christopher Marlowe.
Translation of Book One of Lucan's Pharsalia (date unknown) Translation of Ovid's Elegies (c. 1580s?) The Passionate Shepherd to His Love (pre-1593) Hero and Leander (c. 1593, unfinished; completed by George Chapman, 1598) Marlowe was born to a shoemaker in Canterbury named John Marlowe and his wife Catherine. His d.o.b. is not known, but he was baptised on 26 February 1564, two months before Shakespeare (whose d.o.b. is also not known), who was baptised on 26 April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon. Marlowe attended The King's School, Canterbury (where a house is now named after him) and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge on a scholarship and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1584. In 1587 the university hesitated to award him his master's degree because of a rumour that he had converted to Roman Catholicism and intended to go to the English college at Rheims to prepare for the priesthood. However, his degree was awarded when the Privy Council intervened, commending him for his "faithful dealing" and "good service" to the Queen. The nature of Marlowe's service was not specified by the Council, but its letter to the Cambridge authorities has provoked much speculation, notably the theory that Marlowe was operating as a secret agent working for Sir Francis Walsingham's intelligence service.
Marlowe was christened at St. George's Church, in Canterbury.
Marlowe is often alleged to have been a government spy and the author Charles Nicholl suggests that he was recruited while he was at Cambridge. College records indicate he had a series of absences from the university that began in the academic year 1584-1585. College buttery (dining room) accounts indicate he began spending lavishly on food and drink during the periods he was in attendance – more than he could have afforded on his known scholarship income. In 1587 the Privy Council ordered Cambridge University to award Marlowe his MA, saying that he had been engaged in unspecified "affaires" on "matters touching the benefit of his country". In 1592 Marlowe was arrested in the town of Flushing in the Netherlands for his alleged involvement in the counterfeiting of coins. He was sent to the Lord Treasurer (Burghley) but no charge or imprisonment resulted. This arrest may have disrupted another of Marlowe's spying missions: perhaps by giving the counterfeit coinage to the Catholic cause he was to infiltrate the followers of the active Catholic William Stanley and report back to Burghley. 1
Arrest and death
Early May 1593: Bills were posted about London threatening Protestant refugees from France and the Netherlands who had settled in the city. One of these, the "Dutch church libel," written in blank verse, contained allusions to several of Marlowe's plays and was signed, "Tamburlaine". 11 May: The Privy Council ordered the arrest of those responsible for the libels. 12 May: Marlowe's colleague Thomas Kyd was arrested. Kyd's lodgings were searched and a heretical tract was found. Kyd asserted that it had belonged to Marlowe, with whom he had been writing "in one chamber" two years earlier.
18 May: Marlowe's arrest was ordered. Marlowe was staying with Thomas Walsingham, whose father was a first cousin of the late Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth's principal...