Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Christopher Marlowe: Secret Agent Man

Yes, Marlowe did have the kinds of high-level connections to possibly stage his own death on May 30, 1593, in Deptford in order to escape torture and a possible death sentence. Marlowe, of course, had been arrested on May 20 on charges of heresy and was released on bail. There's also the Baines Note submitted to the Privy Council on May 27 that accused Marlowe of far more serious offenses.

Click here and check out this rather imposing letter Cambridge University authorities received in 1587 when they were set to deny Marlowe his Master's Degree. As Peter Farey writes, "Before the award of the M.A. in 1587, some rumours had apparently been circulating that he [Marlowe] intended ('was determined') to go to Rheims and, having gone, to remain there. This would normally mean training for priesthood at the Catholic College at Rheims, with the probable intention of eventually returning to England as a Catholic subversive."

We can reasonably conclude, from the Privy Council letter to Cambridge, that Marlowe was partaking in significant intelligence activity on behalf of Queen Elizabeth's secret service.

As Daryl Pinksen writes in Marlowe's Ghost, the letter "shows the regard in which the young intelligence agent was held by the most powerful men in the English government."Marlowe spy theory

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Anders said...

This is my favorite authorship site. This past year, studying the Marlowe theory, has been a wonderful experience.

HyannisEllen said...

Marlowe is so intriguing. Can't get enough.

Anonymous said...

cool stuff!

ArtT said...

What a life: spy and amazing playwright . . .he IS the perfect candidate to have written Shakespeare; love your posts on Marlowe & Shakespeare style similarities, and Mr. Pinksen's YouTube clip.

Rado Klose said...

Hi Carlo
This is of course the question central to The case for Marlowe as Shakespeare, As ever more irregularities concerning the inquest are revealed the case strengthens . There are a couple of Questions I would like to ask. Do records of Marlowes arrest exist? I seem to remember reading some time ago an account which has Burghley laid low with gout (I think ) and absent from the initial hearing, but getting off his sick bed to arrange Marlowes' bail. Am I imagining I read this this ? Perhaps it was on the occasionally over imaginative but much missed John Baker web pages. There is no mention of such documentation on Peter Fareys' website. Next, most accounts have Poley interrupting his return from the continent to be at Deptford. Isn't the ten days between arrest and the meeting about the time it would take to summon him back? Making Deptford the reason for his return . The fact that he is apparently missing for another 7 days or so makes a period of nearly three weeks in which his only known activity was an involvement with the affairs of Christopher Marlowe. I'm sure most of this is common knowledge but enlightenment would be welcome here.

Daryl Pinksen said...


Here is what Charles Nicholl says (The Reckoning, 2002) about the warrant for Marlowe to appear before the Council:

"On 18 May, the Privy Council issued a warrant for Marlowe to be apprehended. They commanded one of the Queen’s Messengers, Henry Maunder,

‘to repair to the house of Mr. Tho: Walsingham in Kent, or to any other place where he shall understand Christofer Marlow to be remaining, and by virtue hereof to apprehend and bring him to the Court in his company. And in case of need, to require aid.’

This is conventional phrasing for a warrant, and does not indicate special powers. Maunder found his man and brought him in. On 20 May Marlowe appeared before the Council. The clerk wrote:

'This day Christofer Marley of London, gent, being sent for by warrant from their Lordships, hath entered his appearance accordingly for the indemnity herein, and is commanded to give his daily attendance on their Lordships, until he shall be licensed to the contrary.'

He was not, at this stage anyway, under arrest. He was on bail (the ‘indemnity) and under orders to remain at the Council’s disposal.” p.53-4

As for Poley's absence, it is the week after Deptford that Poley is unaccounted for. Nicholl says:

“Poley was dispatched from court – then being held at Archbishop Whitgift’s manor-house at Croydon – on 8 May, and returned to court, by then removed to Nonesuch palace, exactly a month later on 8 June. As we know from the Deptford inquest, he was actually back in England by the morning of 30 May at the latest. There is in other words, a period of about ten days during which Poley was involved in some other kind of business than the transmission of intelligence between the court and the Low Countries. This other business apparently detains him for a week after the killing at Deptford, for it is not until 8 June that he presents himself and his ‘letters of great importance’ at Nonesuch.” p. 36-7

Peter Farey said...

Hi Rado,

Whilst I have heard mention of correspondence concerning Burghley's sickness it is not something I have actually come across myself. As regards whether he was absent from the meeting on 18th May I find it unlikely for two reasons.

The first is that he is known to have been at Nonsuch on that day, since he signed a warrant there for "Romano Cavaliere: upon a warrant signed by the Lord Treasurer dated at the Court the 18th day of May 1593, for bringing of letters in post ... to the Court at Nonsuch". Although we don't actually know where the meeting was held - and several that month were held in Westminster even though the Court was at Nonsuch - one must assume that any meeting of the Privy Council would most probably have been held where both he and the Court were.

The second is that the meetings on the 18th and the 20th are the only Privy Council meetings for which there is no record of who attended, and of the other 11 held between 11th May and 1st June Burghley attended every one. In fact on 31st May (the day after Marlowe's "sudden end") he was the only Privy Councillor to attend both a Privy Council meeting in Westminster's Star Chamber in the morning and one at Nonsuch in the afternoon!

Peter Farey

Rado Klose said...

Thanks to Daryl and Peter for taking the time to answer. I should have taken time for a reread of Nichols' book and saved you the trouble. Shame about the sick bed story though.
I will see if i can find what it was that put the idea in my head.

Peter Farey said...

I don't think you will find what I said in Nicholl's book or anywhere else Rado. Yet again, something (as far as I know) never noticed by anyone before, has been revealed on Carlo's blog for the very first time!

Peter Farey

Ryan said...