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The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe Paperback – 3 Oct 2002
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"An absorbing detective story with many twists and dark secrets. It is a passionate tale that haunts the imagination" (Michael Sheldon Daily Telegraph, Books of the Year)
"Remarkable...for the first time reveals the true mystery of his death... Extraordinary" (The Times)
"A book full of wit, scholarship and ingenuity... Extraordinary" (Colm Toibin Irish Times)
"A remarkable academic thriller, a brilliant recontruction" (Michael Coveney Observer)
"This book blows open the world of Elizabethan espionage, and presents the most comprehensive case yet for disbelieving the official inquest" (Independent)
‘A masterpiece of biographical investigation’ Richard HolmesSee all Product description
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A good deal of the book is concerned to explain the espionage situation – difficult to unravel, since many of the spies seemed to be working for both sides. References appear in the poem he was writing at the time: Hero and Leander, leading to veiled allusions to his death. Nothing is straightforward, however. The author was Shakespeare, and the play, As You Like It. In the middle of the play – the line delivered by Touchstone, leaves an echo of Marlowe’s death: “It strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room.” Shakespeare had used lines before from Marlowe’s works: notably this:
Dead shepherd, now I find your saw of might:
Whoever loved, who loved not at first sight.
But there was no ill will between them – that came later as Marlowe was drawn into the world of spies – never a prime actor in that world, nevertheless of it, and drawn into it. In the account the witnesses gave they wrote themselves out of the story. It was all about Marlowe and Ingram Frizer. The true story will never be told.
But Nicholls gives us more than we have had before, unravelling connections and peopling the action. It is heavy going in places but secondary contributors include many famous names: Mary Queen of Scots, Essex, Walter Ralegh, Sir Robert Cecil, and the whole panoply of Elizabethan espionage under Walsingham.
Marlowe emerges from the investigation an ambiguous charachter - probably a nasty manipulator and betrayer of some close to him, but, something that the author does not seem to have considered, perhaps someone ultimately sympathetic to the Catholic cause and caught up like so many others in the brutal machinations of the nascent police slate.
Overall an exemplary demonstration of rigourous archival research and analysis to produce a highly coherent and readable account of a complex and confusing mystery.
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