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Marlowe's end

Deptford Watergate, London
The watergate at Deptford, London
On 30th May 1593, Christopher Marlowe in his guise as a State spy, attends a meeting with three others, all involved in the dark world of espionage. They meet at Mrs. Bull's lodging house, a government safehouse in Deptford – an area bristling with State establishments.

Attending the meeting with Marlowe are Nicholas Skeres, a common street thug, Ingram Frizer, a blackmailer, and Robin Poley, an agent provocateur of some skill. It is alleged the men ate, smoked and walked in the garden in good humor until later that evening when a quarrel broke out.

a small room in Deptford, London
A small room in Deptford
Frizer allegedly stabbed Marlowe between the eyes in a dispute that at a later inquest was put down to a disagreement over the bill. Frizer was swiftly pardoned much like Poley had been for his agent provocateur role in the Babington plot.

Marlowe's death was most likely a "hit." He had ruffled feathers with his plays, he was an arrogant man with strong and controversial appetites who let his mouth run away with him, and recently he had even been arrested for allegedly making pro-Catholic statements and experimenting with counterfeiting money.

If his death was a result of a fight then it was pretty one-sided. There is no mention of defense wounds, and such a precise stroke between the eyes is in true assassin-style.

In modern times Mafia revenge killings would often see victims perceived to have betrayed the Code shot in the face as a mark of that betrayal. Perhaps Poley and his hired thugs felt betrayed by Marlowe?


portrait not availableRobert Poley

Christopher MarloweChristopher Marlowe


The River Thames, LondonShakespeare's London

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