The Marlowe Society

Marlowe's Education

Marlowe's Education

2. King's School, Canterbury

Educational philanthropy was very popular in Elizabeth's reign, for education was highly prized and eagerly sought, the Queen herself setting an example of daily application to learning.

At King's, Marlowe received a rigorous education rated as the best available in his day. The school day began at 6am with a Psalm and Litany, and ended at 5pm with a Psalm, a Litany and a prayer. Then there was 'prep' to be done between 6 and 7pm in which the day's lessons were memorised and the brighter boys helped the slower ones.

Besides instruction in Religion and Music, for they sang Mass in the Cathedral every morning, they were thoroughly grounded in Latin grammar and 'becoming practised in the classical poetic tales and familiar with the Letters of learned men of Latin and Greek literature', and as they progressed were led 'to taste Horace and Cicero'. Both ancient and modern history were taught and boys were encouraged to compose Latin poetry, and regularly performed plays in Latin and Greek, sometimes lavishly 'furnished' (i.e. with costumes and props). The boys were supposed to speak only in Latin even when at play. They wore long gowns and were provided with a new gown every Christmas.

Once he had gained his scholarship, through which his education was funded by the Church, Marlowe became eligible for the next stage in his education, and at the age of sixteen and a half was awarded a second scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. For this he was required to compose a Latin verse and to sing plain-song at sight and to demonstrate his mastery of Latin syntax and grammar.

The Norman Staircase at King's School Canterbury.

The Norman Staircase at King's School, Canterbury.