Law Text Culture

Article Title

Dead reckoning


B. Ball


Four hundred years after Christopher Marlowe's death in a Deptford inn, stabbed through the right eye by one Ingram Frizer, two books continue searching for the reasons behind the murder: Charles Nicholl's The Reckoning and Anthony Burgess's A Dead Man in Deptford. In part, the anniversary itself is occasion to reopen the inquest, particularly for the clockwatcher Burgess. Moreover, some new evidence has emerged in the last few decades which needs to be incorporated in the story. But underlying these motives is the feeling that after four hundred years we are getting closer to understanding the duplicitous, seething cauldron of the Elizabethan world, rather than further away. Marlowe's plays speak to us of Power with shifting irony, in our own 'modem' cynical voice. His brief life, too, is a psychological link between the sixteenth and twentieth- centuries: the original antiauthoritarian James Dean, Marlowe lived fast and died young, a rebel with a cause.