catholic vs. protestant
Surprisingly, the battle going on in Europe in the 1590s between Catholics and Protestants was a major contributing factor in the determination of who really wrote the works of Shakespeare.
A BIT OF BACKGROUND
When the Pope declined the request for a marriage annulment from King Henry VIII early in the 16th century, few could have foreseen the consequences that would result.
And few would have thought that one of these consequences would be the conflict over the authorship of Shakespeare’s writings.
The battle lines were drawn. Catholic Spain, Italy and France on one side and on the other: Protestant England, with its newly formed Church of England. English spies left London for Rheims in France, supposedly to join a Catholic monastery while actually spying on the Catholics. Catholic priests were secretly sent into England to try to keep regenerating the faith of the remaining Catholics there. When these priests were discovered, they were put on trial for treason. Spain even sent a Spanish Armada in an effort to remove Elizabeth I from power.
It quickly became very dangerous to belong to one religion if one was in the area of the other. The Spanish Inquisition tortured and killed anyone suspected of being (though not necessarily proven to be) a Protestant.
And on March 26, 1593, Queen Elizabeth I created a Royal Commission to hunt down and punish vagrants, counterfeiters, and Catholics. The new law sent to prison anyone who “refused to repair to the Church to hear Devine services.”
AND RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF ALL THIS: CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE
Christopher Marlowe could probably have been tried for heresy by either the Catholics or the Protestants.
Believing that it was his responsibility to expose all the faults of religion and to free the world from the shackles of a corrupt church, Marlowe scattered throughout London a myriad of remarks about Christianity.
He promoted the idea that Jesus was just a magician, that his mother was a whore, that St. John the Evangelist was a bedfellow of Christ and that Christ used him as did the sinners of Sodom. He told Londoners that Moses was a fool who took forty years to lead the Jews out of the desert when it could have been done in less than a year.
Richard Chomley, a former roommate of Marlowe, related to authorities that Marlowe had converted him to atheism and claimed that “Marlowe is able to show more sound reasons for atheism than any divine in England is able to prove divinity.”
All of this was from the person who had received both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. He had attended on a scholarship designed to educate men for the ministry.
In 1587 the ministers at Cambridge College unexpectedly withheld Marlowe’s master’s degree. He was accused of defecting to the Catholic seminary at Rheims, in France, to study for the priesthood. But, just as unexpectedly, the Privy Council of England intervened and pointed out that “in his absence from Cambridge he had been doing the queen good service,” and he got his master’s. “Good service” was common code term for spying. Obviously, Marlowe had been in France as a double spy – defecting to the Catholic seminary while actually spying on them for Protestant England.
The world knew that Christopher Marlowe was a spy. But no one was quite sure for which side. The only thing that was clear was that Marlowe was not keen on any religion.
It was common for spies to accuse almost anyone else of heresy. Once the Queen created the Religious Commission, England experienced a feeding frenzy over rewards for exposing atheists or Catholics. Suddenly spies seemed to find Catholics everywhere and created sedition where there was none. Other spies were a prime target for accusations.
MARLOWE IS ACCUSED OF TREASON
The perfect storm was created when:
the war of the religions began;
Marlowe became known for his anti-religious rantings;
spies learned they could “earn rewards” for exposing others and accusing people of heresy.
On May 11, 1593, the residence was raided belonging to Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Kyd, another playwright. Three pages of Marlowe’s “vile, heretical concepts denying the deity of Jesus Christ our Savior” were found and Marlowe was accused of treason. In England in 1593 treason and heresy had become the same once the King created his own religion.
THE FAKED MURDER
Marlowe had two choices:
appear before the Privy Council for treason and be sentenced to death
On May 30, 1593, just days before he was to be sentenced, Christopher Marlowe and three “rather rough gents” spent the entire day at a the rooming house of Widow Eleanor Bull, in rural Deptford on the Thames, three miles outside of London.
According to records, after dinner there was a quarrel as to who was to pay the bill for dinner. Marlowe grabbed the knife of one of them, Ingram Frizer, and gave him a few small cuts on the arm. Frizer grabbed the knife back and stabbed Marlowe in the right eye, killing him instantly.
Supposedly, the men then buried Marlowe in an unmarked grave in a nearby churchyard. No ceremony. No headstone. No markings. No services. No tributes.
The war between Catholics and Protestants had triggered a conspiracy theory.