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25 February 1993
... ChristopherMarlowe was a spy, it seems. His day of pleasure by the River Thames Should have brought him a handshake and a watch For faithful service. He had done as much For anyone who paid him and so had His three ...

Trust the Coroner

John Bossy: Why Christopher Marlowe​ was probably not a spy

14 December 2006
Christopher MarlowePoet and Spy 
by Park Honan.
Oxford, 421 pp., £25, October 2005, 0 19 818695 9
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... Compared to boring old Shakespeare, ChristopherMarlowe, we think, had a short life and a gay one. When not writing his sonorous verse, he was spying, preaching atheism, fighting and getting murdered. Park Honan has done one of the two already, and now ...

Posthumous Gentleman

Michael Dobson: Kit Marlowe’s Schooldays

19 August 2004
The World of Christopher​ Marlowe 
by David Riggs.
Faber, 411 pp., £25, May 2004, 0 571 22159 9
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Christopher Marlowe​ and Richard Baines: Journeys through the Elizabethan Underground 
by Roy Kendall.
Fairleigh Dickinson, 453 pp., $75, January 2004, 0 8386 3974 7
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Tamburlaine Must Die 
by Louise Welsh.
Canongate, 149 pp., £9.99, July 2004, 1 84195 532 9
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History Play: The Lives and Afterlife of Christopher​ Marlowe 
by Rodney Bolt.
HarperCollins, 388 pp., £17.99, July 2004, 0 00 712123 7
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... and enter the king of navarre and the prince of condé, with their two schoolmasters] How now, my lords, how fare you? NAVARRE: My lord, they say That all the Protestants are massacred! This is ChristopherMarlowe’s The Massacre at Paris, a play free of amateur pageants but featuring 19 onstage killings, most of them stabbings (one of an admiral whom we have already seen being shot, and another, a ...

Canterbury Tale

Charles Nicholl

8 December 1988
Christopher Marlowe​ and Canterbury 
by William Urry, edited by Andrew Butcher.
Faber, 184 pp., £12.95, May 1988, 0 571 14566 3
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John Weever 
by E.A.J. Honigmann.
Manchester, 134 pp., £27.50, April 1987, 0 7190 2217 7
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Rare Sir William Davenant 
by Mary Edmond.
Manchester, 264 pp., £27.50, July 1987, 9780719022869
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... William Urry’s researches on Marlowe have been available in bits and pieces, and his ‘forthcoming book on the Marlowes in Canterbury’ was mentioned by one of Marlowe’s biographers, A.D. Wraight, as long ago as 1965. Here at last it is, seven years after Urry’s death, edited from drafts by his former colleague Andrew Butcher. The text runs to less than a ...
25 June 1992
The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher​ Marlowe 
by Charles Nicholl.
Cape, 413 pp., £19.99, June 1992, 0 224 03100 7
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... You don’t want to see him,’ said the porter at Corpus, when Charles Nicholl went to Cambridge to look at the portrait that is probably ChristopherMarlowe. ‘He died in a tavern brawl.’ Nicholl viewed the putative Marlowe, in his opulent slashed doublet, and wondered how he could afford the outfit. He looked at his buttery bills too, and noted when ...

Scribblers and Assassins

Charles Nicholl: The Crimes of Thomas Drury

31 October 2002
... On 18 May 1593 a warrant was issued to ‘apprehend’ ChristopherMarlowe, and on 20 May he was brought before the Privy Council for questioning. He was not detained, but was ordered to report to the Council daily until ‘licensed to the contrary’. This state of ...
8 March 1990
Dr Faustus 
by Christopher Marlowe, edited by Roma Gill.
Black, 109 pp., £3.95, December 1989, 0 7136 3231 3
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Renaissance Magic and the Return of the Golden Age: The Occult Tradition and Marlowe, Jonson and Shakespeare 
by John Mebane.
Nebraska, 309 pp., £26.95, July 1989, 0 8032 3133 4
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Robert Fludd and the End of the Renaissance 
by William Huffman.
Routledge, 252 pp., £30, November 1989, 0 415 00129 3
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Prophecy and Power: Astrology in Early Modern England 
by Patrick Curry.
Polity, 238 pp., £27.50, September 1989, 0 7456 0604 0
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... Marlowe’s Dr Faustus was an Elizabethan spine-chiller. People came for thrills, and early productions pulled out all the stops to provide them. ‘Shagge-hayred devills’ ran ‘roaring over the stage ...

Zounds

Frank Kermode: Blasphemy

14 January 2002
Blasphemy: Impious Speech in the West from the 17th to the 19th Century 
by Alain Cabantous, translated by Eric Rauth.
Columbia, 288 pp., £21.50, February 2002, 0 231 11876 7
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... Charles Sedley and on the slightly earlier and more philosophical French examples, notably Théophile de Viau. Atheists were of course blasphemers by definition, and we know from the charges against ChristopherMarlowe that, like Théophile, they sometimes larded their tavern conversation with rather juvenile insults to religion – the Virgin was a whore, Christ was a bastard and St John was his bedfellow ...

Nolanus Nullanus

Charles Nicholl

12 March 1992
Giordano Bruno and the Embassy Affair 
by John Bossy.
Yale, 294 pp., £16.95, September 1991, 0 300 04993 5
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The Elizabethan Secret Service 
by Alison Plowden.
Harvester Wheatsheaf, 158 pp., £30, September 1991, 0 7108 1152 7
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The Lord of Uraniborg: A Biography of Tycho Brahe 
by Victor Thoren.
Cambridge, 523 pp., £40, May 1991, 0 521 35158 8
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... protector, Michel de Castelnau, Sieur de la Mauvissière. He stayed just two years in England, and returned to France with Castelnau in the autumn of 1585. His presence reverberated on, not least in Marlowe’s Dr Faustus and Shakespeare’s Hamlet, both of which contain traces of Bruno’s occultist ‘mission’ in England. The other protagonist of the story, Henry Fagot, must at least have known ...

Best Known for His Guzzleosity

Helen Hackett: Shakespeare’s Authors

11 March 2010
Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare? 
by James Shapiro.
Faber, 367 pp., £20, April 2010, 978 0 571 23576 6
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... Shakespeare (2005), is in no doubt that William Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon is the author of the works published in his name: not Sir Francis Bacon, or Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, or ChristopherMarlowe, living on in secret after his apparent death in a brawl in 1593 (before most of Shakespeare’s works were written), or one of the more than 50 alternative candidates who have been proposed ...

Father-Daughter Problems

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare’s Bad Daughters

8 May 2008
The Lodger: Shakespeare in Silver Street 
by Charles Nicholl.
Allen Lane, 378 pp., £20, November 2007, 978 0 7139 9890 0
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... my King and master; so much my office. King Harry: What is thy name? I know thy quality. Herald: Montjoy. Marie Mountjoy, of Silver Street, near the Barbican, ran a business with her husband, Christopher, making ‘tires’, ornamental headwear fashionable among ladies at court (‘tires’ were elaborate compounds of wire, jewellery and false hair). Thanks to a lawsuit brought in 1612 by their son ...

There are some limits Marlowes just won’t cross

Christopher​ Tayler: Banville’s Marlowe

2 April 2014
The Black-Eyed Blonde 
by Benjamin Black.
Mantle, 320 pp., £16.99, February 2014, 978 1 4472 3668 9
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... I was beginning to think perhaps you worked in bed, like Marcel Proust,’ a waiting femme fatale says when Philip Marlowe hits his office in The Big Sleep (1939). Marlowe’s response: ‘Who’s he?’ ‘A French writer,’ she says, ‘a connoisseur in degenerates. You wouldn’t know him.’ She couldn’t have said the same to Philo Vance, S.S. Van Dine’s ...

Turncoats and Opportunists

Alexandra Walsham: Francis Walsingham

5 July 2012
The Queen’s Agent: Francis Walsingham at the Court of Elizabeth I 
by John Cooper.
Faber, 400 pp., £9.99, July 2012, 978 0 571 21827 1
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... Among these agents were the Catholic priests Gilbert Gifford and Anthony Tyrrell, slippery figures who crossed confessional boundaries and betrayed their masters more than once. Another was ChristopherMarlowe, whose casual employment by Walsingham in 1587 and sordid murder in Deptford six years later, has fuelled a minor literary industry. Surprisingly, Cooper doesn’t mention Henry Fagot, a key ...

Not to Be Read without Shuddering

Adam Smyth: The Atheist’s Bible

20 February 2014
The Atheist’s Bible: The Most Dangerous Book That Never Existed 
by Georges Minois, translated by Lys Ann Weiss.
Chicago, 249 pp., £21, October 2012, 978 0 226 53029 1
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... attempts briefly to conjure individuals from the vast cast of rulers, publishers, authors and literary oddballs who flit through the narrative, like Gustavus Adolphus (‘military genius’), or ChristopherMarlowe (‘quite troubled’), or Savonarola (‘especially erratic monk’). The glossary at the back doesn’t help much: ‘Müller, Johann Joachim. 1661-1733. German jurist’; ‘Viret, Pierre ...

Walsingham’s Plumber

Patrick Collinson: John Bossy

5 July 2001
Under the Molehill: An Elizabethan Spy Story 
by John Bossy.
Yale, 189 pp., £18.95, May 2001, 0 300 08400 5
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... intelligence business, is very sceptical about its scale and professionality. The scepticism has shown, for example, in his reaction to Charles Nicholl’s intriguing account in The Reckoning of what ChristopherMarlowe may have been up to in the years and months preceding his violent death. Under the Molehill strengthens the impression gained by other historians (myself included) that often there appeared ...

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