The Marlowe Society

Death in Deptford

Death in Deptford

2. Arrest

Marlowe was arrested on Sunday 20th May 1593, on a charge of atheism, which was heresy, a serious crime for which the ultimate penalty was to be burned at the stake. Despite the seriousness of the charge, however, he was not immediately imprisoned or tortured on the rack, as his fellow playwright Thomas Kyd had been. He was granted bail on condition he reported daily to an officer of the Court.

Soon an old enemy of Marlowe's, Richard Baines, produced to the Privy Council a "Note" against Marlowe repeating what he was alleged to have said (worthless hearsay evidence), and implicating him in the capital crimes of scorning Scripture and the Church, and of coining.

This "Baines Note" was remarkably similar in content to the (false) confession that Baines himself had been compelled to sign at the Catholic Seminary at Rheims in 1582 before they would release him. It was a fairly standard formula of accusation/confession.

On Wednesday 30th May Marlowe was said to have spent the day at Deptford with Poley, Frizer, and Skeres. The official Coroner's Report reveals what was supposed to have happened, but at the time it was not public knowledge. Marlowe was rumoured to have been killed in a tavern brawl, and all else was speculation. The Coroner's report was only discovered in 1925 by Dr. Leslie Hotson.

The Chislehurst village sign today still shows Marlowe's patron, Thomas Walsingham, being knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1597

The Chislehurst village sign today still shows Marlowe's patron, Thomas Walsingham, being knighted by Queen Elizabeth in 1597.

 
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