ON 30 MAY 1593, at ten o'clock in the morning, the poet Christopher Marlowe was at Deptford, drinking in the 'house of a certain Eleanor Bull, widow'. He had three companions, all of them intimately connected with Thomas Walsingham, cousin of the head of Queen Elizabeth 1's espionage service. The men spent the day drinking and talking, and walking in the garden on the bank of the Thames. When the time came to settle the bill with Widow Bull, some kind of tavern brawl seems to have developed. At the end of it, Marlowe lay dead in a pool of his own blood, stabbed through the right eye by the lowest of his three companions, one Ingram Frizer.
At the inquest, Frizer claimed that Marlowe had attacked him first, and that he only struck the poet in self-defence. His fellow ruffians supported this story, and Frizer was acquitted by royal pardon. But was Marlowe in fact deliberately murdered? From an early age, it seems, he had himself been