Monday, March 07, 2005

Marlowe's 'Damnable Judgement'

Marlowe's life was full of libels--attacks upon him circulated like flies long before his corpse was in the ground--but two in particular sealed his fate. On the night of May 5, 1593, an anonymous set of rhyming couplets appeared on the wall of the Dutch churchyard in London. The poem threatened the city's commercial immigrants, whose presence was protected by the Queen; it alluded to two of Marlowe's plays, and was signed simply 'Tamburlaine.' Three weeks later, the Queen's governing Privy Council received a document titled 'Note Containing the opinion of one Christopher Marly Concerning his Damnable Judgement of Religion, and scorn of God's word.' The note was signed by Richard Baines, an old acquaintance of Marlowe's: The two men had been jointly investigated a few years earlier for counterfeiting currency, and Baines was well-known as a spy and double agent. According to Baines, Marlowe believed 'that Christ was a bastard and his mother dishonest,' 'that St John the Evangelist was bedfellow to Christ' and 'that all they that love not boys and tobacco are fools.' The combination was lethal. Marlowe was summoned to appear before the council, and a week later was stabbed to death in a bar in Deptford by a government agent.

From a review in the Nation of a new biography of, and novel inspired by, Christopher Marlowe.

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