Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe

Early Life

Christopher Marlowe was born in the year 1564 as the son to a Canterbury shoemaker (Norton Anthology). The exact date of his birth is unknown, but it is known that he was baptized on February 26 1564. Marlowe attended the Corpus Christi College of Cambridge in 1580 and graduated in 1584. He then went on to try to earn his Master of Arts degree in 1587 and was almost denied by the college because they believed he was going to join the English College of Catholics at Rheims, significant because this was during a Protestant Regime. Stepping in to save Marlowe’s Master’s Degree was the Privy Council, a body of advisers to the sovereign of the Kingdom of England. The Privy Council requested on the behalf of Marlowe that he receive his masters because Marlowe had done the Queen “good service” and therefore it would be disgraceful for him to be denied a Masters.

Now not much is known of what “good service” Marlowe had done for the Queen but it is believed he served as a spy within English Catholic groups for the Protestant Regime to thwart attempts by the Catholics to overthrow the Protestants.

Literary History

Tambourlaine’s chariot in a 2007-2008 production of Christopher Marlowe’s “Tamburlaine” at the Shakespeare Theatre Company.


Marlowe’s inaugural play was written in either 1587 or 1588. The play is in two parts and is based on the life of Timur, the Central Asian emperor.

“The Jew of Malta”

Written in either in 1589 or 1590, Marlowe’s second play is a story about religious conflict and the struggles between Spain and the Ottoman Empire.

Dr. Faustus

Published eleven years after his death, Dr. Faustus is considered one of the most controversial Elizabethan plays. For more information, click here.

“Edward II”

Marlowe’s play about Edward II is one of the earliest historical plays about England. The play was entered into the Stationers’ Register in July 1593, a few weeks after Marlowe’s death.

“The Massacre at Paris”

Marlowe’s final history play was written in 1593. The play was performed by The Lord Strange’s Men on January 30, 1593, and then ten more times by The Admiral’s Men.

Later Life

Marlowe’s first theatrical success, Tamburlaine the Great, was premiered when he was just 23 in 1584 (Norton Anthology). The years following would be just as dramatic as his plays proved to be. In 1589 Marlowe was involved in a fight with William Bradley, and poet Thomas Watson intervened and ended up killing William Bradley. Watson pleased self-defense and he and Marlowe were quickly released. In 1593 Richard Baines submitted a note to the Privy Council which branded Marlowe with atheism, sedition, and homosexuality. Only four days later at an Inn in London Marlowe was killed with a dagger during what was said to be an argument over a bill, those connected with the murder were held and then quickly released. Modern scholars believe that those involved with the murder had similar connections to the world of spies as Marlowe is believed to have had.

Works Cited

Greenblatt. Norton Anthology, English Literature, Volume 1 9th Edition. W.W Norton & Co. INC.
Tamburlaine Picture:
“Which “Tamburlaine” Photo Is Your Favorite?” SodaHead. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Dec. 2015.