Biography of Christopher Marlowe

marloweChristopher Marlowe also known as Kit Marlowe (baptized 26 February 1564 – 30 May 1593), was an English playwright, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. His date of birth is not known, but he was baptized on 26 February 1564, and is likely to have been born a few days before. Thus he was just two months older than his contemporary William Shakespeare, who was baptized on 26 April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon. Marlowe was the foremost Elizabethan tragedian of his day. He greatly influenced William Shakespeare, who was born in the same year as Marlowe and who rose to become the pre-eminent Elizabethan playwright after Marlowe’s mysterious early death. Marlowe’s plays are known for the use of blank verse and their overreaching protagonists.

A warrant was issued for Marlowe’s arrest on 18 May 1593. No reason was given for it, though it was thought to be connected to allegations of blasphemy—a manuscript believed to have been written by Marlowe was said to contain “vile heretical conceipts”. On 20 May he was brought to the court to attend upon the Privy Council for questioning. There is no record of their having met that day, however, and he was commanded to attend upon them each day thereafter until “licensed to the contrary”. Ten days later, he was stabbed to death by Ingram Frizer. Whether the stabbing was connected to his arrest has never been resolved.

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Marlowe attended The King’s School in Canterbury (where a house is now named after him) and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he studied on a scholarship and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1584.In 1587 the university hesitated to award him his Master of Arts degree because of a rumor that he intended to go to the English college at Rheims, presumably to prepare for ordination as a Roman Catholic priest. However, his degree was awarded on schedule when the Privy Council intervened on his behalf, 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. No direct evidence supports this theory, although the Council’s letter is evidence that Marlowe had served the government in some secret capacity.

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