Christopher Marlowe (1564 - 1593)
The son of a shoemaker, Christopher Marlowe was born two months before Shakespeare. He attended King's School, Canterbury and Corpus Christi College where he received his Bachelor of Arts in 1584 and his Masters degree three years later. According to university records, Marlowe disappeared frequently during his last years at school, exceeding the number of absences permitted him by statute and putting his degree in jeopardy.
However, his degree was awarded on schedule when the Privy Council intervened on his behalf, commending him for his "faithful dealing" and "good service" to the Queen. The nature of Marlowe's service was not specified by the Council, but its letter to the Cambridge authorities has provoked much speculation, notably the theory that Marlowe was operating as a secret agent working for Sir Francis Walsingham's intelligence service. No direct evidence supports this theory, although the Council's letter is evidence that Marlowe had served the government in some capacity.
He settled in London in 1587 and began his career as a playwright – although he may still have been in the employ of the secret service as well. The young poet plunged himself into a social circle that included such colorful literary figures as Sir Phillip Sidney and Sir Walter Raleigh. He shared a room with fellow playwright Thomas Kyd and was often seen frequenting the taverns of London with the likes of Robert Greene and Thomas Nashe.
When a plague caused the London theatres to close in 1592, he went and lived with a patron, Thomas Walsingham, under whose brother he had worked as a secret agent. In 1593, after pointing out what he considered to be inconsistencies in the Bible, Marlowe fell under suspicion of heresy. Thomas Kyd was tortured into giving evidence against him, but before he could be brought before the Privy Council, the twenty-nine-year-old poet was killed at Dame Eleanore Bull's tavern in Deptford.
According to witnesses, there was a quarrel over a bill and Marlowe drew his dagger on another man who, defending himself, drove the dagger back into the young poet's eye, mortally wounding him. There is reason to believe, however, that Marlowe may have been deliberately provoked and murdered in order to prevent his arrest. Had he been brought before the Privy Council, he might have implicated men of importance such as Raleigh.
Marlowe was buried in an unmarked grave in the churchyard of St. Nicholas, Deptford on 1 June 1593.
Who Ever Loved, That Loved Not at First Sight?
It lies not in our power to love or hate,
For will in us is overruled by fate.
When two are stripped, long ere the course begin,
We wish that one should love, the other win;
And one especially do we affect
Of two gold ingots, like in each respect:
The reason no man knows, let it suffice,
What we behold is censured by our eyes.
Where both deliberate, the love is slight:
Who ever loved, that loved not at first sight?
I WALK'D along a stream, for pureness rare,
Brighter than sun-shine; for it did acquaint
The dullest sight with all the glorious prey
That in the pebble-paved channel lay.
No molten crystal, but a richer mine,
Even Nature's rarest alchymy ran there,--
Diamonds resolv'd, and substance more divine,
Through whose bright-gliding current might appear
A thousand naked nymphs, whose ivory shine,
Enamelling the banks, made them more dear
Than ever was that glorious palace' gate
Where the day-shining Sun in triumph sate.
Upon this brim the eglantine and rose,
The tamarisk, olive, and the almond tree,
As kind companions, in one union grows,
Folding their twining arms, as oft we see
Turtle-taught lovers either other close,
Lending to dulness feeling sympathy;
And as a costly valance o'er a bed,
So did their garland-tops the brook o'erspread.
Their leaves, that differ'd both in shape and show,
Though all were green, yet difference such in green,
Like to the checker'd bent of Iris' bow,
Prided the running main, as it had been--