I’ve just finished reading a book I picked up in Cambridge called The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe. I’ve always loved Kit Marlowe and the stories and conspiracies around him; one of the best college plays I ever saw was a take on his Faust, done with 1930s clothes and a very dark theme song (the Garbage song from Romeo and Juliet done only with sax and bass).
Anyway, this is Charles Nicholl’s attempt to find as much as information as he can about the people who were actually present at Marlowe’s death (Frizer, Skeres and Poley), their various connections and dealings iin life, and make some sense of them. He’s also found as much information as he can about Marlowe and his possible/probable spying efforts.
There is a lot of information gathered here. Some of it at least may have been more suited to a book on spies in Elizabethan times, which I still would have read anyway, although I can see the point of including most of it here – good background, shows just what sort of people were involved, and lends weight to Nicholl’s idea that it wasnt just a drunken brawl over the bill that left Marlowe with a dagger in his eye.
I’m not entirely convinced by Nicholl’s final ideas, which is that Marlowe was being set up in order to discredit Walter Raleigh (who was indeed jailed for treason about a decade later – Marlowe was killed in 1593). Marlowe’s connections to Raleigh seemed a bit tenuous, and even more so did the reasons for wanting to bring Raleigh down. Maybe I am too straight-forward a thinker that I can’t get my head around the convolutions that seemed to be involved in Elizabethan politics (and probably are today, in the murkier side of things).
I enjoyed it as a book. It’s easy to read, although I got lost a few times trying to keep up with who was who and how they were connected, although Nicholls does a fair job of keeping the reader up to speed with little reminders about info that has come before, which was most welcome. As I said, not entirely convinced that Raleigh was ultimately the reason for his death, but I am definitely willing to believe that there was some dastardly conspiracy behind it all.
On a related note, the last board you read as go out of the Globe in London is about the whole Shakespeare and authorship issue. Marlowe is, of course, mentioned… and there are leaflets for the Marlowe Society next to the board. I love that.