Marlowe, May 1593, and the 'Must-Have' Theory of Biography

Downie, Alan (J. A.). 2007. Marlowe, May 1593, and the 'Must-Have' Theory of Biography. The Review of English Studies, 58(235), pp. 245-267. ISSN 0034-6551 [Article]

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The enduring ability of the name of Christopher Marlowe to generate speculation and controversy regardless of the exiguity of the materials at our disposal never ceases to astonish. The temptation to try to extrapolate Marlowe's artistic intentions not only from the text of his plays and poems, but from the little that is known about his dramatic career, continues to lead those who write about his life down blind alleys. This tendency to make use of what I like to describe as the ‘must-have’ theory of biography, according to which Marlowe must have thought this or must have known that, is widespread. A few years ago, I attempted to demonstrate how little we know for certain about Marlowe's life. Since the publication of Constructing Christopher Marlowe in 2000, however, several further attempts to explain what happened in the weeks leading up to Marlowe's death in Deptford on 30 May 1593 have been published. While M. J. Trow and Taliesin Trow suggest that he was simply the victim of an Elizabethan contract killing, David Riggs insists that Elizabeth I personally gave the order for Marlowe to be murdered.4 In the ‘Revised Edition’ of his conspiracy thesis, The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe, Charles Nicholl follows Professor Riggs in suspecting government complicity in Marlowe's death.

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English and Comparative Literature



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30 Sep 2010 13:52

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29 Apr 2020 15:49


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