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Robert Poley

Little is known of Robert Poley (also known as Robin Poley) except that he existed on the shadowy edges of the State secret police network.

Probably a deep cover agent provocateur, Poley would ingratiate himself with the target he wanted to take down and use whatever method he had to in order to achieve his aim.

An ex-Catholic, Poley would be a near neighbor of Shakespeare's in Bishopsgate when the poet first moved to London, although it is unlikely he would have ever popped over to borrow a cup of arsenic.

Poley is known to have been active on "Her Majesty's secret business" in Brussels, Antwerp and Flushing, where Christopher Marlowe - in his other role as secret agent of the State - was also operating, and would later be arrested. On May 30th, 1593, Poley was the third man in the trio of state-employed witnesses to the murder of the controversial playwright.

Willfully malign and a truly Shakespearean villain, Poley seems too close a prototype for "Othello's" Iago not to have influenced the poet somehow. There is evidence to suggest that Poley even used his own sexual attractiveness to men as a "honeytrap" with which to snare victims.

One of his best known victims wrote these words in a letter to the man who had effectively signed his death warrant for him:

"My beloved Robin (as I hope you are), otherwise of all two footed beings the most wicked."

Nice guy!

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