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The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe (1992)

by Charles Nicholl

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480936,019 (4.19)26
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… (more)



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» See also 26 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
Enjoyed it. The author has a point of view and prosecutes his case, filling in evidence with speculation that hangs together and is amusing to consider. Nicholl takes necessarily spotty historical evidence and weaves a compelling story around it. Did it happen this way? We'll never know, but it was a lively, entertaining, and well-argued read. ( )
  charliesierra | Aug 31, 2014 |
Fascinating - and very well written as well. My best non-fiction find of the year. ( )
  Mouldywarp | May 15, 2013 |
(Recommended by William C.29 June 2011)
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
The winner of the Crime Writers’ Association Non-fiction Gold Dagger Award in 1992 Charles Nicoll has written a fascinating literary detective story. What did happen to Kit Marlowe? Why was he killed in “a tavern brawl” on 30 May, 1593. Was the author of “Dr Faustus” and “The Jew of Malta” a spy? The story is preceded by the epigraph: “I find the matter as in a labyrinth: easier to go in than to go out” and thus it is with this tale. There are countless twists and permutations associated with Marlowe’s death.

By the late 20th early 21st centuries we are inured to conspiracy theories. If anyone in authority suggests a cause of death that does not ring true we are quite happy to accept any other theory than the official one. Marlowe was such a great talent and dies so young we cannot accept that he might have died for so banal a reason as an argument over the reckoning: an account (or bill) owing at a sleazy tavern. The other likely scenario is that he was mixed up in a spying ring and that he became expendable. Of course before we arrive at that point there is also the suggestion that he may have been a counterfeiter in the employ of the Catholic party plotting the return of Mary Queen of Scots; or perhaps he was inciting others to atheism (a capital offence); and then there are any number of literary and other petty jealousies floating around.

Aside from anything else “The Reckoning” is well written and is a delight to read. If you are interested in Marlowe it is a must read. ( )
1 vote BlinkingSam | Apr 23, 2011 |
I'm considering writing on Marlowe for my MA dissertation, I'd previously read the first edition, so knew that this was a must read. Nicholls's investigation into the events surrounding Marlowe's death is both fascinating and informative. Nicholls's prose is very evocative as he explores the paranoia of the period. The fear of the Catholic threat led to the formation of the secret service to both spy on and manipulate suspected Catholic insurgents. Just as it was in the 1930s, during the latter part of the sixteenth century Cambridge was a prime recruiting ground for the secret service and, like so many of his contemporaries, Marlowe was drawn into this dark and shady world. In this revised edition Nicholls incorporates material not available to him at the time of writing the first edition to review and revise his theories. Superb. ( )
1 vote riverwillow | Feb 26, 2011 |
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'I find the matter as in a labyrinth: easier to enter into it than to go out.' - Lord Burghley, 1593
'Espionage is the secret theatre of our society.' - John Le Carre, 1989
For my Mother and Father
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