Christopher Marlowe did not "die" in a tavern brawl on May 30, 1593. The "death" occurred at the home of the widower Eleanor Bull, a relative of Queen Elizabeth confidante Lord Burghley(William Cecil), who was then the lord treasurer of England. According to Samuel Blumenfeld in The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection: A New Study of the Authorship Question, Deptford, on the southern bank of the Thames, was a "seaport where Burghley's spies conveniently went abroad and returned and could freshen up at Eleanor Bull's safe house before making their way to London." Deptford, writes Blumefeld, "was also the home port of the Muscovy Company, also known as the Russia Company . . . the earliest investors were Lord Burghley and Francis Walsingham. Its purpose was to promote trade with Russia and Asia and sponsor maritime explorations." Present at Bull's with Christopher Marlowe were three interesting men. Ingram Frizer, who allegedly "killed" Marlowe in self-defense, was Thomas Walsingham's servant and a low-level swindler/con man. As Blumenfeld informs us, after the "killing" Frizer was eventually pardoned by Queen Elizabeth and returned to work for Walsingham (interesting how Walsingham took Frizer back, given how close Walsingham was to Marlowe). Nicholas Skeres, as Peter Farey writes in "Marlowe's Sudden and Fearful End: Self-Defence, Murder, or Fake?" (found on his exceptional Marlowe Page on the web), was involved in Frizer's financial rackets and "has been connected with the so-called 'Babington Plot' against the Queen's life, as one of Sir Francis Walsingham's agents provocateurs." Finally, there is Robert Poley, who, according to Blumenfeld, was Francis Walsingham's chief double agent during the Babington Plot, "an expert in double-dealing, a well-experienced informer, and a very clever agent provocateur."
Blumenfeld raises a good point about the alleged fight over a bill that led to Marlowe's "death": "Why this fuss over a bill that was either to be paid by [Thomas] Walsingham or Burghley? The four men were there on some sort of 'business.' So the idea that there would be a dispute between Ingram and Marlowe over the bill is preposterous."
And what exactly was their business on that day? A very curious gathering of men at a very curious location on May 30, 1593, wouldn't you say? May 30, by the way, was ten days after Marlowe had appeared before the Star Chamber and had been released on bail (the warrant for his arrest on the charge of heresy--punishable by death--was issued on May 18, two days before his Chamber appearance). But things get even more curious. Stay tuned!
© The Marlowe-Shakespeare Connection, July 2008
Click here for Sam Blumenfeld's 5/23/09 post on Eleanor Bull.
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