Today in the Middle Ages: May 18, 1593

On May 18, 1593, just days before his death, playwright Christopher Marlowe was arrested on charges of atheism. Marlowe's accuser, Richard Baines, appears to have hated him, and their testimony was full of mutual accusations.

Marlowe died young, and only a few of his plays survive, but they show great excellence of language as well as dramatic power. Had he had a longer career, we might now speak of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries as the Marlovian era, rather than the Shakespearean.

The details of Marlowe's death at the end of May 1593 remain murky. For many years, he was simply considered to have disappeared, until documentation of his killing in a tavern resurfaced in the 19th century. The theory that he died in a brawl has wide acceptance, but some still maintain that he was killed at government orders, or, even less provably, at the instigation of William Shakespeare.