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Abstract

Two lawsuits – one certainly relating to Christopher Marlowe, the other probably relating to him – have been discovered among the records of the court of King’s Bench at The National Archives in Kew, London. In the first, one Edward Elvyn, a friend from his student days at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, sued ‘Christopher Marley’ in debt for the unpaid sum of £10 lent to him in London in April 1588. In the second, James Wheatley, a hackney-man from the parish of Allhallows London Wall, brought suit against ‘Christopher Marlo’ in conversion for the non-delivery of a horse and tackle that the latter had hired from him in August 1587. These documents help to fill a yawning gap in Marlowe’s biography by locating him in the theatrical community living around Bishopsgate, in London’s north-east suburbs, immediately after leaving Cambridge on completion of his studies there. His difficulties with the hackney-man are tentatively linked with the horse-courser episode in Doctor Faustus, which, it is suggested, may have implications for the dating of the play. The transgressive nature of Marlowe’s behaviour, as revealed by the new documents, appears to confirm at an early date his reputation as the ‘bad boy’ of Elizabethan theatre.

Author Biography

David Mateer is Lecturer in the Department of Music at the Open University, Milton Keynes, and has published widely in the field of English music of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, most recently in the form of editions of William Byrd's Songs of sundrie natures (Byrd Edition 13) and two volumes of pre-Reformation liturgical settings from the Gyffard partbooks (Early English Church Music 48 and 51). From an interest in legal records as musicological documents, he has developed a theatre-historical side to his research, with recent articles appearing in Review of English Studies (on relations between Richard Perkins, Francis Langley and Edward Alleyn) and English Literary Renaissance (on the early history of the Theatre in Shoreditch).

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