26. This scholarship was inaugurated by Matthew Parker, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1559 till his death in 1575, and intended for boys from the King’s School, with the stipulation that candidates must be able to sing a tune, sight-read music and write verse.
27. The only known genuine extant sample of Kit’s writing is his 1585 signature, on the will of former Canterbury neighbour Katherine Benchkin, below his father’s and alongside those of his uncle Thomas Arthur and his brother-in-law John Moore, widower of Kit’s sister Jane.
28. The handwritten and unpublished extract (known as the Collier Leaf) from “Massacre at Paris” has not been proved authentic and could be the work of a forger.
29. Kit is believed to have been recruited as a spy for the government of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth I, while still at Cambridge. In fact, his long absences from his college nearly resulted in his being denied his MA, but a letter written by members of the Privy Council explained he had been working for Her Majesty’s Government.
30. Records, still extant at Cambridge University, reveal that after his lengthy absences in his post-graduate years, Kit returned and spent lavishly on food and drink in The Buttery, an unaffordable expense on just his scholarship income.
31. While at Cambridge Kit translated Ovid’s “Amores” from Latin into English. These were later published under the name “Ovid’s Elegies”.
32. It seems Kit was an outstanding student, was fluent in Latin and had a knowledge of other European languages, including Ancient Greek.
33. On leaving Cambridge with his MA, Kit appears to have continued to lead a double life – as a very successful playwright and as a part-time spy for Queen Elizabeth’s government. There is no written evidence to support the latter, but it is widely believed that he spent some of his time engaged in such shady activities and this may have provided him with enough spare time to write as well.
34. Kit is said to have liked to wear fine clothes and, once he was earning money, would choose velvets so was often elaborately dressed.
35. In 1952 a portrait of an ornately dressed young man was found during refurbishments at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. It was renovated and is considered to be of Christopher Marlowe, though there is no definite evidence.
36. While the portrait gives no indication of the name of either the sitter or the artist, there are Latin inscriptions in the top left-hand corner which hint at the subject being Kit himself:
“Anno dni aetatis svae 21 1585” (“Aged 21 in the year 1585”)
“Quod me nutrit me destruit” (“That which nourishes me destroys me”) which is said to have been Kit’s motto, possibly a phrase of his own, and is a concept used in his plays. However, with his writing Kit coined many phrases which are still used today, among them: “sink or swim” (Dido), “Che serà, serà” (Dr Faustus), “The face that launched a thousand ships” (Dr Faustus).
37. Kit was a poet, playwright and translator, as well as a leading exponent of blank verse in iambic pentameter, and is said to have influenced his contemporary William Shakespeare and revolutionised Tudor theatre.
38. Kit’s works include the poems “The Passionate Shepherd to his Love” and “Hero and Leander”, his translations “Ovid’s Elegies” and “Lucan’s First Book of the Civil War” (known as “Pharsalia”) and his plays, which were all performed in his lifetime, “Dido, Queen of Carthage”, “Tamburlaine the Great”, “Tamburlaine Part II”, “The Jew of Malta”, “Doctor Faustus”, “Edward II” and “Massacre at Paris”.
39. There are other plays and poems which he is thought to have written but no proof of authorship exists and so more Marlowe Mysteries are added to the others.
40. The leading actor in the original performances of “Tamburlaine the Great”, “Tamburlaine Part II”, “Doctor Faustus” and “The Jew of Malta” was Edward Alleyn, a tall man and imposing actor whose theatrical abilities enhanced the roles Marlowe had created.
41. All of Marlowe’s plays were performed at The Rose Theatre, owned by Philip Henslowe, with the exception of “Edward II” which was staged at The Theatre, with Richard Burbage in the lead role. Philip Henslowe kept an accounts book which he also used as a diary. This is still extant and gives information on the plays performed at The Rose, including the writers, popularity with audiences and the takings.
42. As a result of his writing prowess, Kit was called The Muses’ Darling by an admirer but also had other nicknames: Mercury, The Morning Star, Machiavel and of course there is Ben Jonson’s reference to “Marlowe’s Mighty Line”.
43. It is believed that a secret club (nicknamed School of Night) was formed which attracted the interest of Tudor freethinkers Henry Percy (9th Earl of Northumberland), Walter Raleigh, Thomas Hariot and Christopher Marlowe. They are said to have met at Syon House to discuss the arts and sciences but there is no proof that this club actually existed.
44. On 30th May 1593, while at a “safe house” in Deptford, South London, Kit is said to have been murdered following an argument with Ingram Frizer over a matter of money, either an unpaid debt or the payment of a meal bill (the reckoning as it was known in the Elizabethan era).
45. Kit was also said to have been buried in an unmarked grave in the nearby churchyard of St Nicholas. Today there is a memorial stone placed in the wall of the churchyard which claims he was buried there and includes a quote from “Doctor Faustus”:
“Near this spot lie the mortal remains of Christopher Marlowe who met his untimely death in Deptford on 30th May 1593
Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight”
46. At the time of his alleged murder, Marlowe was on bail, having been arrested on 20th May 1593 for the crime of atheism; if found guilty his punishment could have led to execution.
47. The Marlovian Theory contends that his murder never occurred and he was sent into exile for his protection. Various reasons are given for this conclusion, including the suggestion that he wrote Shakespeare’s plays post-1593. However, there is no definite evidence to prove the Marlovian Theory, although there are some plausible ideas surrounding it.
48. In 2016 Oxford University scholars concluded that all three parts of “Henry VI” had been co-written by William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe (probably in 1592) and now both their names appear on copies of The Oxford University Press publication. However, some academics dispute this, claiming that Marlowe had no hand in the writing of any part of this play.
49. The house where Kit is believed to have been born (and lived during his early life), as well as the church where he was baptised, stood for centuries but were both flattened by a German bomb in 1942. However, the church clock tower escaped and still stands today, with a blue plaque dedicated to Kit. On the site of the Marlowes’ home is the Canterbury branch of Fenwicks, and the Marlowe Society is in discussion with the department store’s owners regarding a Christopher Marlowe memorial.
50. Modern-day Canterbury has not forgotten its most famous writer. In the city The Marlowe Theatre and a late-Victorian statue (sculpted in bronze by Edward Onslow Ford), symbolising the Muse of Poetry, are dedicated to him and his plays, with a more modern sculpture by Steven Porchmouth awaiting funding and commission. The King’s School has remembered him, naming one of their houses after him, and the town planners have noted his fame with Marlowe Road and Marlowe Avenue, not to mention Tamburlaine Court and Marlowe Court. In London, Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner Kit is remembered with a stained glass window, commissioned by The Marlowe Society.
Portrait thought to be of Christopher Marlowe, part of the Corpus Christi College Collection – © The Master and Fellows of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge
Kit’s baptismal record in the parish register of St George the Martyr for 1564, stating “The 26th day of February was christened Christofer, the sonne of John Marlow”
Only known extant copy of Christopher Marlowe’s signature – from 1585 when, with members of his family, he witnessed the will of former neighbour Katherine Benchkin.
To the best of my knowledge the above points are correct but please accept my apologies for any inaccuracies. I am indebted to a variety of sources, including the Marlowe Society’s excellent website, which gives so much information on Kit’s life and works, and any errors in the above are entirely from my misunderstanding. Therefore, for fuller details on Christopher Marlowe, I would recommend visiting: http://www.marlowe-society.org/