The Marlowe Society

Marlowe's Education

Marlowe's Education

1. Early Years, Canterbury

Christopher Marlowe was the son of a Canterbury shoemaker, born in the same artisan class and in the same year (1564) as William Shakespeare.

His exceptional gifts were recognised when a boy and he gained a scholarship to the prestigious King's School. This was the ancient choir school administered by the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral and whose Statutes provided education for 'fifty boys both destitute of the help of friends and endowed with minds apt for learning'.

In fact it was the Kentish gentry who snapped up the coveted places for their sons, and a poor man's son, though he had 'a mind apt for learning', only gained a place when a vacancy occurred. Those waiting for such a vacancy would necessarily have been among the ten fee-paying special choristers who were taught with the King's scholars and dined at their table.

Young Marlowe was evidently one of these, his fees probably being paid by the local philanthropist, Sir Roger Manwood. The latter was a friend of Dr. John Parker, son of Archbishop Parker, who administered the scholarship awards. On Sir Roger's death in 1592 Marlowe wrote a Latin elegy in his memory.

The long-awaited vacancy for a scholarship did not occur until he was fourteen, almost at the upper age limit of the choir school which ranged from nine to fifteen.

Canterbury Cathedral

Canterbury Cathedral: The King's School was built in 1544, in the shadows of the great church.