Christopher Marlowe, born just two months before William Shakespeare, was a playwright of the Elizabethan period whose life has remained a mystery to the literary world. To supplement the mystery, many stories and rumors have arisen about the happenings of Mister Marlowe, perhaps the most noteworthy of which surrounding his death; according to some, it all ended in a bar fight- if you’re going to go out, go out with a bang, I suppose.
The “official” story states that it all went down on the evening of May 31st, 1593 when an argument broke out between Marlowe and three other gentlemen (Ingram Frizer, Nicholas Skires, and Robert Poley) over who would be responsible for paying their bar tab. Now, we college students love free beer as much as the next guy, but not even the most frugal of frat stars would engage in the battle that followed this drunken debacle.
The day had been relatively uneventful up until the bar tab debate: the four men had met up, eaten, and played backgammon before returning to the room where the fateful argument broke out. Ingram Frizer had been sitting at a table with Poley and Skires while Marlowe relaxed on a bed before abruptly leaping up, snatching Frizer’s dagger, and inflicting several wounds to Frizer’s head.
In his own defense, Frizer took the dagger and turned it on his enemy, giving Marlowe the fatal blow to his right eye. Being stabbed anywhere sounds pretty terrible, right? Now imagine death via a stab to the eye… TO. THE. EYE.
I’m just going to let that sink in for a second. Are you cringing yet? Good.
In a time where daggers, knives, and swords were just basic accessories to your every day outfits, no one was overly surprised at the events of the night and blamed much of the fuel behind the argument on drunken debauchery. Frizar was deemed innocent by the coroner who believed his need for self defense. While the alcohol most likely provoked the impulsive actions of Marlowe to grab the dagger and initiate the battle, the mysteries of Mr. Marlowe only grow more and more bizarre as allegations of life as a (terrible) spy seemed to play a role in his death.
While the official investigation, as told above, blames the fatal argument on a drunken fight between acquaintances, it seems that things may not be quite so simple. Each of the three other men present for the event of Marlowe’s death were linked to powerful leaders in the world of espionage. Could this freakshow stabbing have actually been a means of a political assassination or was it simply an alcohol-induced “accident”? Like much of the life of Christopher Marlowe- the world may never know.