Christopher Marlowe: Poet and Spy

By Park Honan | Go to book overview
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The King's School

Then haste thee to some solitary grove,
And bear wise Bacon's and Albanus' works,
The Hebrew Psalter, and New Testament;
And whatever else is requisite…
·     ·     ·     ·     ·     ·     
First, I'll instruct thee in the rudiments.

(Valdes, Doctor Faustus)

The Jews of Canterbury

IN the cobbler's workshop, crises may not have tested domestic harmony, but they must have affected the family's income. As his son approached puberty, John Marlowe's troubles with the law, his apprentices, and his guild did not vanish, and he continued to struggle to earn enough to buy stocks of leather. Christopher, who lived at home during his schooling, no doubt developed some immunity to tense, meagre conditions later in his life. Any emotional gap between himself and his parents left him a little freer; and by the time he parted from their city he was ready to take high risks.

In about 1572 he was probably sent to grammar school. At 9, he would have been eligible to go to the cathedral's school (usually called the King's School) but, so far as we know, his entrance there was delayed. Meanwhile, he was absorbing more than Latin grammar, and gradually learning more about his metropolis, which had only about 4,000 souls though it was grand enough to entertain the queen. Thanks to a charter, Canterbury was virtually a county in its own right, independent of Kent, and so was entitled to a sheriff (an office once held by the cobbler's friend


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