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4.5 out of 5 stars14
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 27 May 2004
This is a fascinating book, probably the best historical(-ish!) novel I've read. It's full of the feel of the period, thanks to the style and imagination with which Burgess conjures up all manner of settings and situations from the squalid to the opulent. This is a fascinating story of Marlowe's rise and demise, taking in espionage, homosexuality, poetry and finally murder. Two particular episodes stick in my mind - a gruesome execution scene which really conveys the horror of drawing and quartering; and an hilarious sex scene written in pidgin Latin. Buy this book - it's a real gem.
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on 12 February 2000
Once one becomes accustomed to the language, which whether reading james elroy or shakespeare always takes getting used to, Anthony Burgess takes one spiraling down into the chaotic, paranoid, hopeless elizabethan world where once denounced one was always guilty, always tortured, always drawn and quartered. I felt for the first time what it must be like to live within a framework of absolute fear, of saying, of doing, of thinking,and yet we are still able to enjoy the plays of Marlowe today. It is astounding that a man could create under those circumstances and that what he created has remained for us to enjoy these last 400 or so years. An amazing book.
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on 25 August 2010
Historical novels all too easily lapse into archaic pastiche, but the masterful Burgess manages to make the book feel both escapist and relevant.

It surprises me that no one has mentioned two of the most intriguing themes of this book, firstly the rise of the professional author and secondly, God and atheism. Many novels treat Renaissance faith in a stale and demeaning fashion, and it is refreshing to encounter a book where even an accused atheist and blasphemer thinks seriously about life's bigger questions. Marlowe cuts a rare but believable figure, the rogue or reprobate who is nonetheless tortured by the question of the existence of God, sin, and the afterlife. I also loved the interaction between the coterie of playwrights and authors, their jealous barbs and support of each other in times of need. Here was a time where writers were provocative, but also arrested for being so; where to make your name, you relied as much on your fists and your sword as you did your pen. A world where writers had to be brawny and politically informed, where their expressions could land them amongst an appreciative nobility as easily as in the torture chamber.

I have always been fascinated with Marlowe as a personage and have been greatly touched by his 'Tamburlaine' and 'Faustus' - but I didn't think anyone could convince me that he was actually a likeable and even heroic character. Whether or not he really was like this will always remain a mystery, but Burgess has taught me to believe the best after wandering blissfully in Marlowe's shoes.
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on 21 February 2009
Despite the frivolity of my title, Anthony Burgess's swan song novel is no light read. However, if the allure of an escape from the mundane realities of the present financial crisis is to your liking then this comes as a highly rated alternative.

Kit Marlowe, in part an often underrated dramatist having lived in the shadow of the "Great Bard", is a subject worthy of research, investigation and focus. Burgess invites the reader into an Elizabethan world which oozes reality, discomfort, brutality, poverty and unrequited love.Graphic imagery is to the fore, dialogue truly atmospheric, love of the word and the theatre take centre stage.

In this 400 year old time capsule, it is easy to forget that the novel's main plots lie in the politics of religion; the seizure of monarchical power; and the alleged spying activities of Marlowe. Intrigue combined with a hefty smattering of homosexual interludes; guarantee the reader's inclusion in a world far beyond our modern day comprehension.

Burgess' love affair with the English written word resonates within the book's covers, and for me overshadows any qualms about the possible poetic license taken by Burgess in his portrayal his protagonist.

As the book's title suggests, that Marlowe died is undisputed, but the circumstances surrounding his life invite further scrutiny.
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on 7 July 2011
The way Burgess conjures the late Elizabethan period is just amazing. This is a master at work. This is one of the best books I have ever read and has really stayed with me. This is the only review I've written on Amazon.
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on 2 June 2010
My not being an "intellectual" but having a great interest in history made this book a bit of a dichotomy for me. On the one hand it is written in Elizabethan style language which isn't always easy to interpret, and on the other it contains all the historical facts of the events (in gory detail)

I very nearly gave up a few times, but the book is so obviously lovingly written by Mr Burgess and I thought it would be a disservice to his great knowlegde and effort to give up on it .Ultimately I'm glad i didn't.

It seems a shame that we learn so much about Shakespeare and not so much about Kit Marlowe . Perhaps that is a legacy of his lifestyle, which according to this book was rather naughty !
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on 15 January 2014
First time in my reading life I've felt that a book is bigger than my reading ability. Halfway through this book helped me to raise my level and left me with huge joy.
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on 22 February 2015
Narrated by one of the players who acted Christopher Marlowe's plays the novel uses an approximation of the language spoken at the time. This takes a little getting used to, but once you are tuned into the 16thC modes of speech you are swept along by the narrative and the panache with which Burgess describes this sinister and colourful world. Burgess' explanation of Marlowe's death seems as likely as any I've read and the last 20 pages or so carry a feeling of inevitable doom, of which the reader is aware, but Marlowe is not.
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on 6 August 2002
I don't know anything about Anthony Burgess's sex life, but A Dead Man in Deptford (and his masterpiece, Earthly Powers) are two of the most thorough explorations of homosexuality and its place in the culture. Here he recreates Marlowe as a horny Elizabethan jack-the-lad, taking advantage of his fellow theatricals, carrying on with the aristocracy, and debating the nature of sex at every turn. The sex scenes themselves are great, and very funny (at one point the squeamish narrator lapses into latin, which is great for those of us with an O Level). Read it and be amazed.
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on 3 January 2016
There are some exquisite Elizabethan words (clothes, mainly) and a great deal of supping and eating. Burgess comes out with some great lines and it is a tour de force of theatre in the seventeenth century. However, the characters are a bit stock and it comes across as something of a pirate army.
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