New sightings of Christopher Marlowe in London

Mateer, David (2008). New sightings of Christopher Marlowe in London. Early Theatre, 11(2) pp. 13–38.




Two lawsuits – one certainly relating to Christopher Marlowe, the other probably relating to him – have been discovered among the records of the court of King’s Bench at The National Archives in Kew, London. In the first, one Edward Elvyn, a friend from his student days at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, sued ‘Christopher Marley’ in debt for the unpaid sum of £10 lent to him in London in April 1588. In the second, James Wheatley, a hackney-man from the parish of Allhallows London Wall, brought suit against ‘Christopher Marlo’ in conversion for the non-delivery of a horse and tackle that the latter had hired from him in August 1587. These documents help to fill a yawning gap in Marlowe’s biography by locating him in the theatrical community living around Bishopsgate, in London’s north-east suburbs, immediately after leaving Cambridge on completion of his studies there. His difficulties with the hackney-man are tentatively linked with the horse-courser episode in Doctor Faustus, which, it is suggested, may have implications for the dating of the play. The transgressive nature of Marlowe’s behaviour, as revealed by the new documents, appears to confirm at an early date his reputation as the ‘bad boy’ of Elizabethan theatre.

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