The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  276 ratings  ·  38 reviews
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 re...more
Paperback, 424 pages
Published July 15th 1995 by University Of Chicago Press (first published 1992)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Reckoning, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Reckoning

The Children of Henry VIII by Alison WeirThe Life of Elizabeth I by Alison WeirThe Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison WeirBlackamoores by OnyekaWinter King by Thomas Penn
Best Non-Fiction Books about Tudor England
18th out of 148 books — 41 voters
The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa GregoryThe Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison WeirThe Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa GregoryThe Constant Princess by Philippa GregoryThe Queen's Fool by Philippa Gregory
Best Books About Tudor England
216th out of 387 books — 1,114 voters


More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 728)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
D.R. Haney
According to the coroner's report, Christopher Marlowe was fatally knifed following an argument with friends over a dinner bill. Rumor later augmented this story, making Marlowe's killer a romantic rival and the location of their fracas a bawdy house. In fact, it wasn't a bawdy house but a respectable inn run by a widow of means, and Marlowe's killer was a con man, as proved by surviving legal documents, just as documents of a more clandestine nature prove that one of the witnesses to Marlowe's...more
Phillip Kay
As he did in his book on Shakespeare, The Lodger, Nicholl teases out seemingly unconnected pieces of evidence, here concerning the death of Marlowe, and shows a likely relationship between them. Using the same technique that a classical era detective might apply to traces of a crime, but without bringing in a man with a gun, Nicholl makes the reader aware of a lot of Elizabethan history not usually mentioned in the history books, but true nevertheless. The Elizabethan age turns out to have been...more
Jeffrey Hollman
Christopher Marlowe may have been as great as his younger contemporary, William Shakespeare,had he not been murdered at such a young age in 1593. A great playwright before his death, his life was about as complicated as they come. This book begins with his killing in a bar and then goes on to discuss the Elizabethan age with details I had not previously learned.

For example, Catholics were as suspect in England as Communists were in 1950's America. If a person were Catholic, his life was at risk....more
Larry
This is essential reading for anyone interested in Elizabethan Theater and the enigma that was Christopher Marlowe. It reads like a mystry novel and focuses on the events surrounding his murder. Nicholl introduces all the protagonists and the myriad of theories as to why by whom and how Kit Marlowe was killed. A Wonderful read.
Sketchbook
What becomes a legend most ?
The writing herein murders Marlowe a 2d time.
Kathleen
Nicholl makes a very strong case for his theory of political intrigue as the motivation behind the murder of Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe. Nicholl’s scholarly and convincing arguments notwithstanding, I find in my 2000 edition of The Oxford Guide to English Literature that “Marlowe died in a knife fight in a London tavern.” Old myths die hard.

The Elizabethan era was a brutal one. The plague was claiming hundreds of victims annually, the antagonism between Catholics and Protestants...more
Darren
Prompted by the lack of concern shown by most biographers of Marlowe to the circumstances of his violent death, Nicholl sets out in this book to discover what brought about the death of one of the best remembered Elizabethan literary figures.

Of the exact cause of his death there is no doubt; the inquest was overseen by the coroner to the royal household. It found that that during a scuffle the blade of a 12 penny dagger entered Marlowe's forehead making a wound two inches deep and one inch wide,...more
Joe
An amazing book. Nicholl writes brilliantly and he is a clever and obsessive researcher. He shows that Christopher Marlowe was not killed in a drunken tavern brawl but rather at the end of a small day-long meeting in an upscale lodging house. The other men with Marlowe were all, like him, small time government informers, sharps and spies.

Nicholl's theory is that Marlowe was murdered as a result of the rivalry between the factions of Essex and Raleigh in the court of Elizabeth. His book brilliant...more
Brian Daniel
You just don't find books like this very often that can take a relatively obscure event and create a compelling book-length story out of it. And this one comes complete with an intriguing history lesson. The Reckoning is one of my favorite books. The author, Charles Nicholl, takes the murder of Christopher Marlowe, an ahead-of-his-time Elizabethan playwrite and contemporary of Shakespeare—and spins into the wonderful mystery/murder story that it actually is! Readers are taken on a journey of spy...more
Catherine
If you're interested in the playwright Christopher Marlowe, Elizabethan politics, the Elizabethan spy networks, or anything related to those topics, this is the book for you. Nicholl meticulously dissects the available evidence to uncover some interesting theories about the death of Marlowe but manages to keep it engaging and interesting. Highly recommended!
Hanley5545 Hanley
This was read along with 2 other books about Marlow some time ago.
The facts,ambient history as described and the tantalizing connects/research of this one were most interesting and all-in-all quite fresh. Old Kid was a Caravaggio type (And somewhat contemporary) with perhaps a bit more classic spy to his record or at least agent provocateur than most realize....but he was the one who wrote "the face that launched 1,000 ships."

If you love books that get behind the story to the other story this...more
Jan C
Aug 15, 2009 Jan C rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in Elizabethan England
Shelves: england
I found this a fascinating book. And during the course of it, came across two other books about Marlowe - I haven't read them yet -Louise Welsh's "Tambourlaine Must Die" and Anthony Burgess' "A dead Man in Deptford". I think they are better read against the backdrop of "The Reckoning."

Because this book gives the factual background of what was going on at the time. All of the espionage that led up to the man dying in Deptford and why. A lot of it is supposition, but Nicholl has facts to back up...more
David Tendo
Nicholl does a fabulous job of reconstructing some of the clues and historical evidence to fashion a fascinating insight into the dark underbelly of the Elizabethan world. His theory of why Marlowe really died is convincing and exhaustively researched, and invokes an era of extreme paranoia, intrigue, espionage and religious bigotry - everyone's out to get each other behind each others' backs, and you might survive if you say you believe in what the majority believes in. However, the book, thoug...more
Patricia
What a hotbed of dissembling, trickery, plots, schemes and double (triple and more) dealing! What an awful police state was Elizabethan England!


R.J. Lynch
A really excellent piece of historical detective work.
Hilary
A tour de force of literary research, beautifully structured around the day that Christopher Marlowe was murdered in a house in Deptford, possibly (or possibly not) in a fight over the bill for entertainment (the reckoning). Nicholl takes this as a jumping off point for an exploration of the evidence for Marlowe as a spy. The book has a great sense of atmosphere, and is a wonderfully vivid account of the shady side of Elizabethan politics. Highly recommended.
Susan
It was a good complement to A Dead Man in Deptford as Anthony Burgess used the findings from this book to craft his fictional tale of Marlowe. This book was confusing because the events and people were confusing - not the author's fault and the main points were accessible. It did take me a WHOLE WEEK to read though (fell asleep quite often) so something lighter would be good and that will be the end of my reading about Marlowe ;-)
Wendy
The book was certainly interesting. However, there were so many threads woven, connections made (or insinuated) and multiple spelling of names I had a very difficult time keeping track of where Nicholl was going. Ultimately, I gave up, being unable to follow his "story". Maybe if I had had more background information it would have been easier to understand his thesis.
Mike Elliott
Very strange...I was reading this on a flight to Britan, it was engrossing. A week later, the tour bus dumped us off right in front of Marlowe's college in Cambridge. This was totally random, I had know clue where this this was going. I found myself standing in front of the heart of the story I was reading about.
Shady
An enthralling work on both the murder of Marlowe and the anti-Catholic intelligence network that existed under Elizabeth I. The degree to which Elizabethan England was not a free society, but rather a police state filled with informers and agents provacateurs is both appalling and amazing.
Peggy Euteneier
Reads like a John Le Carre novel -- complex, interwoven, difficult to follow at times. But it's an altogether fascinating look at espionage and politics and government intrigue in Elizabethan England as well as the involvement of poets and writers in this shady business. A great read!
Edwinnaarden
I think it's probably better than a 4...so probably more like 4.5. It was a bit hard to read but I think I learned a lot about Elizabethean England that you probably wouldn't have learned from most conventional history books. It was really excellent.
Colin Rennert-may
Nicholl's argument about the reasons for Marlowe's killing are a little circumstantial for me, but he paints an interesting picture of the police state atmosphere of Elizabethan England. I'll never read Macbeth in quite the same way again.
R.M. Engelhardt
My first glimpse into what has been the question for centuries. Did Marlowe actually live and write what were thought to be the poems & plays of the author who was credited, William Shakespeare?

In my opinion? YES.
Charlene
Thoroughly well research, gripping account of a 400-year-old murder of one of the greatest English playwrights at the age of 29. He was Shakespeare's peer, acquaintance, and greatest rival.
Christian
An investigation of the murder of playwright and Shakespeare contemporary Christopher Marlowe that provides a discussion of Victorian-era spying and counter-intelligence.
Jenn
Sep 13, 2008 Jenn added it
Shelves: i-tried
This is a fascinating book that really gave me a lot of insights into life during Shakespeare's time, but I do not have the time at this moment in my life to finish.
Janet
Aug 23, 2011 Janet added it
Shelves: failed-attempts
I was expecting more focus on Christopher Marlowe, not a vast overview of the History of Spying in Elizabethan England. Much too dry for my taste.
L. W.
I loved this little, convoluted book of historical plots and twists -- all in the Elizabethan age of Star Chamber and double-spies. LOVE IT!! :)
Tony Glover
A fascinating examination of the mysterious events surrounding the murder of Elizabethan playwright, Christopher Marlowe.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 24 25 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Elizabeth's London: Everyday Life in Elizabethan London
  • A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599
  • Shakespeare's Restless World: A Portrait of an Era in Twenty Objects
  • Her Majesty's Spymaster: Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, and the Birth of Modern Espionage
  • Soul of the Age: A Biography of the Mind of William Shakespeare
  • Who Murdered Chaucer?: A Medieval Mystery
  • A Rage to Live: A Biography of Richard and Isabel Burton
  • A Dead Man in Deptford
  • The Gunpowder Plot
  • Unnatural Murder: Poison in the Court of James I
  • Shakespeare's Kings: The Great Plays and the History of England in the Middle Ages: 1337-1485
  • Henry II
  • Tudor England
  • Shakespeare
  • April Blood: Florence and the Plot against the Medici
  • Shakespeare by Another Name: The Life of Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford, the Man Who Was Shakespeare
  • The Queen's Conjurer: The Science and Magic of Dr. John Dee, Advisor to Queen Elizabeth I
  • Jonathan Swift: His Life and His World
Leonardo da Vinci: Flights of the Mind The Lodger Shakespeare: His Life on Silver Street The Fruit Palace Somebody Else: Arthur Rimbaud in Africa 1880-91 Borderlines: A Journey in Thailand and Burma

Share This Book