Christopher Marlowe: Playwright Spy

For day five of Elizabethan Intrigue week I have chosen to focus on the figure of the great playwright, Christopher Marlowe.   Christopher Marlowe, who was known to his friends as Kit, died a mysterious death.   His death has long been attributed to his other job, spy for Elizabeth I!

Kit Marlowe is best remembered for his plays, like the great Doctor Faustus.   He is also very remembered for the mysterious way in which he died.    It is known that he was found outside of a tavern in 1593, and died of wounds inflicted.    This led to a lot of debate, was he simply in a bar fight?   Was he murdered for his work with the queen as her spy?   Had he been working as a double agent, and killed by the crown?    Or my favorite of the theories is, did he fake his death?    

In the faked death theory many anti-stratfordians claim that he could have been Shakespeare.    Regular readers may remember my post discussing my favorite candidates for the authorship of the Shakespeare plays and poems, if it was not the man from Stratford.   This particular candidate makes sense given his life as a spy, which would have put him in danger, and the fact that his plays read as similar to later Shakespeare works.   Now that can be partial coincidence, given they were writing in the same city and the same era, but it is a tantalizing theory to think over!

Kit Marlowe is another figure that you might recognize from the All Souls trilogy/A Discovery of Witches.    He is a character with a large part in the second book Shadow of Night, and the second season of the series.    He is a very close friend of Matthew, the male lead, and they are reunited when Diana and Matthew time walk to the Elizabethan era!

Whether you believe he was murdered, he faked his death to later become Shakespeare, or he died in a bar brawl gone wrong, it is not hard to see why the life of Kit Marlowe was rife with Elizabethan intrigue!    I hope you have enjoyed learning a little about this great playwright.   Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is a portrait of Christopher Marlowe.    I found the image on

Further Reading

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