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Christopher Marlowe (1564-1593) was born in Canterbury the year of Shakespeare’s birth. Like Shakespeare, he was of a prosperous middle-class family, but unlike Shakespeare he went to a university, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he received the bachelor’s degree in 1584 and the master’s degree in 1587. The terms of his scholarship implied that he was preparing for the clergy but he did not become a clergyman. Shortly before he received his M.A. the University seems to have wished to withhold it, apparently suspecting him of conversion to Roman Catholicism, but the Queen’s Privy Council intervened on his behalf, stating that he “had done her majesty good service” and had been employed “in matters touching the benefit of the country.” His precise service is unknown. After Cambridge, Marlowe went to London, where he apparently lived a turbulent life (he had two brushes with the law and was said to be disreputable) while pursuing a career as a dramatist. He wrote seven plays–the dates of which are uncertain–before he was yet again in legal difficulties: he was arrested in 1593, accused of atheism. He was not imprisoned, and before his case could be decided he was dead, having been stabbed in a tavern while quarreling over the bill.
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