Christopher Marlowe: Timeline

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Christopher Marlowe


Born in Canterbury, England to Catherine and John Marlowe (a shoemaker).

February 26, baptized at St. George's church.



January, becomes a Queen's scholar at King's School, Canterbury (a school with a strong tradition in theatrical productions).

December, enters Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.


May, awarded the Archbishop Parker scholarship (normally granted to students who intend to take holy orders).


Spring, graduates with a B.A. from Cambridge. Continues his education as an M.A. student.

Is possibly recruited by the government for work in espionage.

1585 - 1586

Increasingly absent from university (at least 8 weeks of sporadic and unexplained absence).

Translates Ovid's 'Amores' and Lucan's 'Wars'.

Writes 'Dido Queen of Carthage' and 'Tamburlaine: Part One'.


Spring, Cambridge tries to deny awarding Marlowe his M.A. (apparently due to his many absences).

June 29, Her Majesty's Privy Council intervenes on Marlowe's behalf, stating in an official letter that Marlowe's absences were due to "matters touching the benefit of his country". 

July, finally graduates from Cambridge with an M.A.

Autumn, the Lord Admiral's Men perform 'Tamburlaine: Part One' with Edward Alleyn in the title role. The company is based at James Burbage's playhouse 'The Theatre' in Shoreditch.

November, due to the immense popularity of 'Tamburlaine: Part One', a sequel ('Tamburlaine: Part Two') is quickly written and performed.


'The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus' is possibly performed by the Lord Admiral's Men.


Between 2pm-3pm, Marlowe is involved in a swordfight with William Bradley in Hog Lane, Shoreditch. Thomas Watson assists Marlowe and kills Bradley. Both Marlowe and Watson are arrested and incarcerated in Newgate Prison, but Marlowe is soon freed (12 days later) and Watson is eventually released under self-defense.

The Admiral's Men perform 'The Jew of Malta'.

The Admiral's Men merge with Lord Strange's Men (who employ a young William Shakespeare as a writer and reviser of plays).


Sir Francis Walsingham (the Queen's spymaster) dies. His death allows Lord Burghley and the Earl of Essex to form rival spy networks.


February, a disagreement over finances with Burbage means that the Admiral's-Lord Strange's Men leave 'The Theatre' and move across the Thames to join Philip Henslowe's new playhouse 'The Rose' at Bankside. 

Summer, Marlowe shares a room with the playwright Thomas Kyd.

The Admiral's-Lord Strange's Men become the nation's most popular play company. Inside only three months, they perform six times at court for Queen Elizabeth (more than any other company).


Pembroke's Men perform 'Edward II'.

Marlowe possibly assists Shakespeare with parts of the 'Henry VI' trilogy.

January, arrested and deported from Flushing under charges of counterfeiting made by Richard Baines.

May, bound to 'keep the peace' by two constables of Shoreditch (Allen Nichols and Nicholas Elliot).

23 June, theatres close until October due to an outbreak of the plague.

September 15, involved in a fight with William Corkine (a tailor) in Canterbury. The case is settled out of court.

Winter, theatres reopen.


January 26, Lord Strange's Men perform 'The Massacre at Paris'.

Plague outbreak closes the theatres again.

Marlowe writes the poem 'Hero and Leander'.

March 19, warrant issued for the arrest of Richard Cholmeley (charges against him also implicate Marlowe as an atheist).

April 15, the first of many placards (libels) threatening violence on foreigners is posted in London.

April 22, as the libels continue to appear, the Privy Council sets up a five man commission to investigate the author(s) of the libels.

May 5, between 11pm-12am a particularly violent libel is posted at the Dutch Church on Broad Street, London. The libel makes frequent reference to Marlowe's plays ('The Jew of Malta' and 'The Massacre of Paris') and is signed 'Tamburlaine'.

May 10, a proclamation is read at Guild Hall offering 100 shillings for any information on the libels.

May 11, the Privy Council grants permission to the Lord Mayor's commissioners for the use of torture on persons suspected of posting the libels.

May 12, Kyd's rooms are searched, documents "denying the deity of Jesus Christ" are found, and Kyd is arrested and imprisoned on charges of atheism. Under pain of torture, he names Marlowe as the owner of the heretical documents and denounces Marlowe as an atheist.

May 18, warrant issued for Marlowe's arrest. 

Sunday, May 20, arrested at the estate of Thomas Walsingham in Scadbury, Kent. Shortly after, he appears before the Privy Council at Nonsuch Palace in Surrey on charges of atheism (he is not imprisoned, but his daily attendance upon the court is required thereafter).

May 27, Richard Baines supplies the Privy Council with a note describing Marlowe's "blasphemies".

May 29, at 4pm John Penry is executed for radical Puritanism by Archbishop Whitgift. He is hanged at St. Thomas a'Watering, a town 2.5 miles from Deptford.

Wednesday, May 30, Marlowe spends eight hours in the company of Robert Poley, Nicholas Skeres, and Ingram Frizer at Eleanor Bull's meeting house in Deptford. A fight breaks out over the payment of a bill for eight meals and Marlowe is reportedly killed by Frizer.

June 1, William Danby (Coroner to the Royal Household) officiates at Marlowe's inquest. Frizer is acquitted of murder (and is eventually pardoned on grounds of self-defense on June 28).

After the inquest, Marlowe's body is immediately buried in St. Nicholas's Church, Deptford in an unmarked grave (near the north tower).



Keefer, Michael. Introduction. Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus. By Christopher Marlowe. Ed. Michael Keefer. Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Literary Texts, 1991. 

Kuriyama, Constance Brown. Christopher Marlowe: A Renaissance Life. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 2002.

"The Life of Christopher Marlowe." Southwest College. 2007. Houston Community College System. 21 June 2007.

"Marlowe, Christopher." Encyclopedia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 21 June 2007.

Nicholls, Charles. The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe. Illinois: University of Chicago Press, 1995.