Christopher Marlowe died on the evening of 30th May 1593. He had been stabbed to a depth of two inches just above the right eyeball and had succumbed to either an embolism or a brain haemorrhage. The incident took place in a respectable lodging house in Deptford belonging to the widow Eleanor Bull. Three other men were present of whom one, Ingram Frizer, struck the fatal blow.
These bare facts are as certain as anything can be after 400 years. They were accepted immediately afterwards by the coroner and there appears to be no good reason to doubt them. But the coroner also accepted the evidence of Frizer and the two witnesses that he acted in self-defence. Marlowe had struck first, he had died in the ensuing fight.
It was this interpretation, rather than the facts themselves, that inspired the mythology of Marlowe’s death. He was twenty-nine and a playwright and poet of genius – daft theories are still in circulation that he was the true author of Shakespeare’s plays. His work was dark, violent and ambiguous; the