Christopher Marlowe was born in Canterbury, England in 1564. He was the eldest son born to his parents and very little is known of his life up until he was enrolled in school.
As a young man, he attended King’s School and was later awarded a scholarship to study at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. He graduated from the college in 1584, gaining a bachelor’s degree in arts. He intended to continue on to receive his masters, but the university required the convincing of the Privy Council to finally award it to him in 1587. They declared any absences he might have occurred were due to his service to Elizabeth I.
It is still unclear today what it was that Marlowe was doing for his country, or what involvement he may have had with the intelligence service. It is possible that he held a job with the service, in some kind of capacity as a spy, but there is no convincing evidence one way or the other.
After graduating from school he moved to London and began his writing career. Marlowe’s first play, Dido, Queen of Carthage, was published in 1594 but was written much earlier. It was followed by the two-part, Tamburlaine the Great. This play was performed on stage and is part of the greatest era of Elizabethan theatre.
Once more, the details of his life are scant, but it is thought that his well-known work, Doctor Faustus, followed soon after. Later came the works, Edward the Second and The Massacre at Paris. These were just a few of the plays that served to build Marlowe’s reputation as a master playwright.
Arrest and Death
Throughout his life, mostly due to the subject matter of some of his written material, Marlowe was rumoured to be an atheist. The tension built until he was finally arrested on May 20, 1593, on the charge of heresy. Oddly for the times, he was soon released by the court with the stipulation that he return regularly to report to an officer of the law.
His freedom and good luck did not last long as he was killed ten days later by Ingram Frizer after a fight broke out in a lodging house. Marlowe died instantly after being stabbed by Frizer in the forehead. The reason for the playwright’s death is not thought to be this simple though, some believe it was a result of his service as an alleged spy or perhaps to the previous charge of atheism.