Christopher “Kit” Marlowe is one of the more mysterious figures of Elizabethan England. A talented playwright and educated man, Kit became a well-known face in the world of theater during the 1580s. His plays and poems grew in popularity, and he is even credited for collaborating with another infamous English playwright, William Shakespeare, per The Guardian. As a young, successful man with many connections, things appeared to be going well for Marlowe until May 30, 1593. On this day, his life was tragically cut short at the age of 29, and this is where the mystery begins.
The story of Kit’s death has been that he was killed in a bar fight over who would pay the bill, according to History. While this has been the “official” word for over 400 years, there have been many questions about what actually happened. Over time, speculation has grown, and when it comes to the circumstances surrounding the death of Christopher Marlowe, the truth might be stranger than fiction.
Though he was best known as a writer, it turns out there were many different sides to Kit Marlowe. According to Great Writers Inspire, evidence also exists that he was also a spy for Queen Elizabeth’s government, an atheist, a counterfeiter. He also drew scrutiny for his alleged homosexuality, which was a serious crime at the time. Many now suspect that one or all of these things (if true) could have been a reason for his death.
A man with many sides
Some speculate that Christopher “Kit” Marlowe began working as a spy while pursuing his education at Cambridge University, as the government intervened to help him when he was supposed to be denied his master’s degree. Despite reportedly spying for the crown, he was arrested in 1592 for creating counterfeit coins, Great Writers Inspire reports. Though counterfeiting was a crime punishable by hanging at the time, some entity intervened, and Kit walked free. He was also apparently pretty vocal about his beliefs in atheism, which in Elizabethan times was a definite no-no, per Mental Floss. Marlowe also did himself no favors by using homosexual themes in some of his writing, in addition to fueling rumors of actual same-sex trysts with men in real life.
Needless to say, Kit appears to have developed a reputation for being a rule-breaker and a firecracker. The things he did and said — as well as some of his associates — could have very well gotten him into serious trouble and maybe even led to his assassination. We may never know if he died in a silly fight that simply got out of hand or if some of the most powerful people in the country eliminated him for becoming more trouble than he was worth. One thing that cannot be denied is the talent he possessed and the impact he made on literature as we know it today.
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