On 18 May 1593 a warrant was issued to 'apprehend' Christopher Marlowe, and on 20 May he was brought before the Privy Council for questioning. He was not detained, but was ordered to report to the Council daily until 'licensed to the contrary'. This state of precarious liberty lasted only until 30 May, when he was fatally stabbed by a man named Ingram Frizer, though whether his sudden death was a matter of coincidence or conspiracy remains unresolved. The Council's warrant does not give a reason for Marlowe's arrest, but we know it was connected to the arrest of his colleague Thomas Kyd a few days earlier, on a charge of political libelling. During the search of Kyd's lodgings, a certain 'vile heretical' manuscript was found, and under interrogation Kyd 'affirmed' that it belonged to Marlowe; other evidence of Marlowe's heretical opinions was also squeezed out of him. This was probably the pretext for Marlowe's summons, though there is no doubt he was already under suspicion for his anti-religious views, variously described by those who claimed to have heard them as 'monstrous', 'damnable', 'horrible' and (perhaps most to the point) 'dangerous'.
LRB 31 October 2002 | PDF Download