Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe” as Want to Read:
The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Reckoning: The Murder of Christopher Marlowe

4.12 of 5 stars 4.12  ·  rating details  ·  334 ratings  ·  42 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
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 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
188th out of 469 books — 1,214 voters
The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison WeirThe Life of Elizabeth I by Alison WeirThe Children of Henry VIII by Alison WeirBlackamoores by OnyekaWinter King by Thomas Penn
Best Non-Fiction Books about Tudor England
22nd out of 150 books — 46 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 888)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
Richard Thomas
A good attempt at unravelling something which is probably going to be shrouded in mystery for ever. The questions about Marlowe's life and interests make him a fascinating figure in late Elizabethan London; stir in his ambiguous sexuality and the possibility he was a paid agent of the English intelligence service and you have a rich brew for a novel, let alone a history.
What becomes a legend most ?
The writing herein murders Marlowe a 2d time.
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
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
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.
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.
Here is a totally misleading phrase:

"Provides the sheer enjoyment of fiction, and might just be true."

I was totally mislead by this critic's statement, and duped into reading this scholarly tome. No, I am not using the word, "tome" to show off. It's the best word choice, because it describes exactly what this book is: "a book, especially a large, heavy, scholarly one."

Other reviewers have said that this book reads like a John le Carre novel. It doesn't. It reads like a scholarly exploration of a
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,
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
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
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
Bryna Kranzler
This book was described as a medieval thriller focusing on the murder of Christopher Marlowe, but it reads like a medieval police procedural devote of excitement. More of a scholarly work than a factual thriller.
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
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
R.J. Lynch
A really excellent piece of historical detective work.
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.
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 ;-)
Rich, dense, informed history fu. Replete with depressing information about the spies, informers, and agents provocateur of Elizabethan police state intelligence, and a compelling theory regarding Christopher Marlowe's death. This is the original edition, I understand Nicholl completely revised his thesis for the second edition. I find that charming, more historians should do that.
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.
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!
I think it's probably better than a 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.
What a hotbed of dissembling, trickery, plots, schemes and double (triple and more) dealing! What an awful police state was Elizabethan England!
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.
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.
An investigation of the murder of playwright and Shakespeare contemporary Christopher Marlowe that provides a discussion of Victorian-era spying and counter-intelligence.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 29 30 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Christopher Marlowe: Poet & Spy
  • The World of Christopher Marlowe
  • Soul of the Age: A Biography of the Mind of William Shakespeare
  • Her Majesty's Spymaster: Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Walsingham, and the Birth of Modern Espionage
  • A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare: 1599
  • Elizabeth's London: Everyday Life in Elizabethan London
  • The Gunpowder Plot
  • Shakespeare's Restless World: A Portrait of an Era in Twenty Objects
  • Shakespeare and Co.: Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Dekker, Ben Jonson, Thomas Middleton, John Fletcher and the Other Players in His Story
  • Shakespeare
  • Music at Midnight: The Life and Poetry of George Herbert
  • Unnatural Murder: Poison in the Court of James I
  • My Just Desire: The Life of Bess Raleigh, Wife to Sir Walter
  • The Elizabethans
  • Sarah Churchill Duchess of Marlborough: The Queen's Favourite
  • Shakespeare's Kings: The Great Plays and the History of England in the Middle Ages: 1337-1485
  • A Dead Man in Deptford
  • Who Murdered Chaucer?: A Medieval Mystery
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