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In 1593 the brilliant but controversial young playwright Christopher Marlowe was stabbed to death in a Deptford lodging house. The circumstances were shady, the official account—a violent quarrel over the bill, or "recknynge"—has been long regarded as dubious.
Here, in a tour de force of scholarship and ingenuity, Charles Nicholl penetrates four centuries of obscurity to reveal not only a complex and unsettling story of entrapment and betrayal, chimerical plot and sordid felonies, but also a fascinating vision of the underside of the Elizabethan world.
"Provides the sheer enjoyment of fiction, and might just be true."—Michael Kenney, Boston Globe
"Mr. Nicholl's glittering reconstruction of Marlowe's murder is only one of the many fascinating aspects of this book. Indeed, The Reckoning is equally compelling for its masterly evocation of a vanished world, a world of Elizabethan scholars, poets, con men, alchemists and spies, a world of Machiavellian malice, intrigue and dissent."—Michiko Kakutani, New York Times
"The rich substance of the book is his detail, the thick texture of betrayal and evasion which was Marlowe's life."—Thomas Flanagan, Washington Post Book World
Winner of the Crime Writer's Gold Dagger Award for Nonfiction Thriller
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First published in Great Britain in 1992, The Reckoning brilliantly re-creates the dark underworld of Elizabethan spies and conspiracies that enmeshed the 29-year-old poet/playwright Christopher Marlowe, who was stabbed through the eye allegedly as a result of in a brawl over his bill at Widow Bull's house in Deptford. Charles Nicholl is less interested in the poet's texts than in ``the reports of snoops and spies, in Privy Council papers and criminal charge-sheets.... This all happened a long time ago, but I believe it was a case of murder.... We can dig away some of the lies, and perhaps find beneath them a faint preserved outline where the truth once lay.'' Marlowe (1564-93) was killed after spending a day at Bull's with three nasty gents: Ingram Frizer, a crafty loan shark who did the actual stabbing and was acquitted for it; Frizer's dupe, Nicholas Skeres, who seems to have been a government intelligence agent in the pay of the Earl of Essex; and Robert Poley, a sinister, complex double-dealer, informer, agent provocateur and rumored poisoner, called by some ``the very genius of the Elizabethan underworld.'' Nicholl takes as a red herring an imputation by informer Richard Baines that Marlowe was gay, adding that we ``do not know what it meant to be gay in Elizabethan England.'' Baines also accused Marlowe of counterfeiting, of spreading heresies, atheism, and the slander that Christ was a sodomite with St. John, adding that Marlowe--a danger to Christianity--should have his mouth stopped. And Marlowe's dying of plague--another red herring? After carrying us through factions, fictions, and knaveries, Nicholl gives his vision of the murder. The vision is swathed in gauze and sultry with wine, but it sounds plausible and addresses the dark political context leading back to Her Majesty's Privy Council. A fine job of research that could quash forever the myth that Marlowe died in a ``tavern brawl.'' -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Publishers Weekly:
Elizabethan playwright-poet Marlowe was stabbed to death in 1593 at the age of 28, supposedly in a dispute over a tavern bill or "reckoning." In a painstaking piece of scholarship that reads like an intricate detective thriller, British author Nicholl argues that Marlowe was murderd by a court cabal orchestrated by Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, who viewed dramatist-spy Marlowe as an obstacle to his political ambitions. One of the three men with Marlowe the day he died, Nicholas Skeres, was a servant of Devereux; another, Robert Poley, was a government agent who earlier had played a major role in a covert operation to entrap and eliminate the imprisoned Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots. The third, a shady entrepreneur named Ingram Frizer, was the hit man. Nicholl, who goes much further than previous biographers in exploring Marlowe's connections to espionage, concludes that he was a government spy, recruited while a Cambridge student, who informed on subversive Catholic loyalists. Winner of both the British James Tait Black Prize for biography and the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger Award, this highly speculative study provides an extraordinary glimpse of the seamy Elizabethan underworld of espionage replete with double agents, disinformation, torture and murder. Illustrated.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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