The Marlowe Society
30 November 2012

Corkyn in Court

Cynthia Morgan uncovers new evidence of Corkyn's court appearances

It has long been known that Christopher Marlowe stood accused of attacking one William Corkyn (or Corkine) "with staff and dagger" on the corner of Mercery Lane in Canterbury on Friday 15th September 1592. Corkyn filed a suit for this claimed assault, and Marlowe responded with his own counter-claim, accusing Corkyn of assaulting him on 10th September when he "did there and then beat, wound and maltreat [and inflict] other atrocities ... upon the said Christopher Marlowe".1.

This glimpse of Marlowe in the legal records is of course understandably discussed at some length in most biographies of the poet. Quite often, it is used as evidence along with other incidents, such as the Hog Lane affray in 1589, to suggest that Marlowe had a violent, or at least confrontational, character. In his detailed and finely researched book, Christopher Marlowe and Canterbury, even William Urry appears to side with Corkyn, for whom he provides a favourable character reference as a "tailor of musical accomplishments who daily left his stitching to sing in the cathedral choir"2. The Grand Jury assembled on 26 September to hear Marlowe's claim "soon made up their minds, ... and threw out the indictment". In contrast, the claims against Marlowe were heard a week later whereupon the case was adjourned for another week, by which time Urry believes "tempers had cooled, and by mutual assent the case was dropped."3

However, new research in the Canterbury archives by Cynthia Morgan, Editor of The Marlowe Studies website, has uncovered further extensive evidence of William Corkyn in the Canterbury courts. Her findings have been published in Notes and Queries by the Oxford Journal, and may well lead to some reassessment of the context in which we must consider Corkyn's accusations against Marlowe, and what indeed we might reasonably conclude about Marlowe as a result.

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