Accusations against Christopher Marlowe by Richard Baines and others


These notorious manuscripts appear to support the idea of Christopher Marlowe as the wild boy of Elizabethan literature. They present the playwright as a controversial figure, with subversive views of religion and sexuality.

The manuscripts include a famous note from the double agent and informer Richard Baines, making damning accusations that Marlowe was an ‘Atheist’ with too much love for ‘Tobacco & Boies [boys]’. Baines suggests that Marlowe’s ‘dangerous’ mouth should ‘be stopped’ (f. 186r) and, a few days later, the playwright was fatally stabbed at Mrs Bull’s lodging house in Deptford. The inquest said there was a fight about the bill for food and drink. But some critics have suggested that the manuscripts offer other clues about why Marlowe died on 30 May 1593.

Why was Marlowe under suspicion shortly before his death?

In the spring of 1593, the Protestant Queen Elizabeth ordered a crackdown on Catholics and atheists. In particular, she wanted to punish those who were hostile towards Protestant immigrants.

On 5 May, a poem promoting violence against immigrant traders was posted on the wall of a Dutch church in London. It was signed with the name of Marlowe’s character, ‘Tamburlaine’. Initially, the playwright Thomas Kyd was suspected of involvement. But when he was arrested and tortured in mid-May, Kyd pointed the finger at Marlowe, who had been his room-mate in 1591.

The Privy Council ordered the informer, Thomas Drury to find further evidence that Marlowe was an atheist. Drury seems to have persuaded Richard Cholmeley and Richard Baines to make charges against Marlowe. On 18 May a warrant was issued for Marlowe’s arrest, but he was placed on bail and put under government surveillance, up to the time he was killed.

What did Marlowe’s accusers say?

Transcript of Thomas Kyd’s accusations against Marlowe (f. 154r)

This document was written after Marlowe’s death, but it probably reflects what Kyd said about ‘Marlowes monstruous opinions’ when he was interrogated in May 1593. Kyd claims that Marlowe would ‘jest at the devine scriptures’ and make shocking suggestions that Christ had ‘an extraordinary love’ – or sexual relationship – with St John.

Accusations against Marlowe, signed by Baines and handed to the authorities, probably on 27th May 1593 (ff. 185r–86r)

This is the infamous statement by Richard Baines, a known enemy of Marlowe’s. Baines and Marlowe had shared a room in the Dutch town of Flushing, c. 1591–92, where they got embroiled in counterfeiting coins. When Baines informed on his fellows, Marlowe was arrested and deported to England.

Here, Baines seems to take pleasure in characterising Marlowe as the most outrageous of atheists, listing all the scandalous things that he (allegedly) said: religion was invented just ‘to keep men in awe’, ‘Christ was a bastard’, St John ‘was bedfellow to Christ’, Marlowe had as much right to make coins as ‘the Queen of England’, ‘the sacrament … would have bin much better being administred in a Tobacco pipe’.

Papers found in Kyd’s room, which he said he had from Marlowe (ff. 187, 188, 189r–v)

When Kyd was arrested, three pages copied from Proctor's The Fall of the Late Arrian were found in his room. The interrogators wrote, in a note on the back, that the text contained ‘Vile Hereticall’ ideas ‘Denyinge the Deity of Jhesus Christe’, which Kyd said he had got ‘From Marlowe’. Kyd argued, in another letter (Harley MS 6849, ff. 218r–v), that the pages were just ‘fragments of a disputation’, which must have been ‘shufld’ [muddled up] with Kyd’s papers when he and Marlowe were ‘wrytinge in one chamber’ two years before.

The ‘Remembrances’ against Richard Cholmeley (ff. 190r–v; 191r)

These two documents list accusations against the spy and double agent, Richard Cholmeley, probably made by Richard Drury. Cholmley is said to have argued that Marlowe gave persuasive ‘reasons for Atheisme’.


Pleaseth it yo[u]r Honorable L[ordshi]p toching Marlowes monstruouce opiniones as I

cannot but w[i]th an agreved conscience think on him or them so can I but p[ar]ticulariz

fewe in the respect of them that kept him greater company, Howbeit in

discharg of dutie both tow[a]rd[es] god yo[u]r L[ordshi]ps & the world thus much have I though[t]

good breiflie to discover in all humblenes

First it was his custom when I knewe him first & as I heare saie he

contynew[e]d it in table talk or otherwise to iest at the devine scriptures

gybe at princ[es], & stryve in argum[en]t to frustrate & confute what hath byn

spoke or wrytt by prophets & such holie men

1 He wold report St. John to be o[u]r savior Christes Plexis [?] I cover it w[i]th reverence

and trembling that is that Christ did love him w[i]th an extraordinary love/

2 That for me to wryte a poem of St Paule’s conversion as I was determined

he said wold be as if I shold go wryte a book of fast & loose, esteming

Paul a Jugler.

3 That the prodigall Child[es] portion was but fower nobles, he held his

purse so neere the bottom in all pictures, and that it either was a iest

or els fowr nobles then was thought a great patrimony not thinking it a


4 That things esteemed to be donn by devine power might have aswell been don

by observation of men all w[hi]ch he wold so sodenlie take slight occasion to

slyp out as I & many others in regard of his other rashnes in attempting

soden pryvie iniuries to men did overslypp though often reprehend him for it

& for which god is my witnes aswell by my lord[es] comanndm[en]t as in hatred

of his Life & thoughts I left & did refraine his companie

He wold p[er]swade w[i]th men of quallitie to goe unto the K[ing] of Scotts whether

I heare Royden is gon and where if he had liv’d he told me when I

sawe him last he meant to be

A note Containing the opinion of on[e] Christopher

Marly Concerning his Damnable exxxx Judgment

of Religion, and scorn of god[es] word.

That the Indians and many Authors of Antiquity have

assuredly writen of above 16 thousand yeares agone wher

as Moyses ^ Adam is said ^ proved to have lived w[i]thin 6 thowsand yeares.

He affirmeth that Moyses was but a Jugler, & that one

Heriot being Sir W[alter] Raleighs man Can do more then he.

That Moyses made the Jewes to travell xl [40] yeares in the

wildernes (w[hi]ch Jorney might have bin done in lesse then

one yeare) ere they Came to the promised land, to th’intent

that those who were privy to most of his subtilties might

perish and so an everlasting superstition Remain in the hart[es]

of the people.

That the first beginning of Religionn was only to keep men

in awe.

That it was an easy matter for Moyses being brought up in

all the art[es] of the Egiptians to abuse the Jewes being

a rude & grosse people.

That Christ was a bastard and his mother dishonest.

That he was the sonne of a Carpenter, and that if the

Jewes among whome he was borne did Crucify him

theie best knew him and whence he Came.

That Crist deserved better to dy then Barrabas and

that the Jewes made a good Choise, though Barrabas

were both a theif and a murtherer.

That if there be any god or any good Religion, then it

is in the papist[es] because the service of god is perform[ed]

w[i]th more Cerimonies, as Elevation of the mass, organs,

singing men, Shaven Crownes, &cra. that all protestant[es]

are HypoCriticall asses.

That if he were put to write a new Religion, he would

undertake both a more Exellent and Admirable methode

and that all the new testament is filthily written.

That the woman of Samaria & her sister were whores

& that Christ knew them dishonestly.

[in left margin in pencil] f 185 removed for Exhibition April 1964 G.R.Davis

That St John the Evangelist was bedfellow to C[hrist]

and leaned alwaies in his bosome, that he used him

as the sinners of Sodoma.

That all they that love not Tobacco & Boies were fooles.

That all the apostles were fishermen and base fellowes

neyther of wit nor worth, that Paull only had wit

but he was a timerous fellow in bidding men to be

subiect to magistrates against his Conscience

That he had as good Right to Coine as the Queen of

England, and that he was aqainted w[i]th one Poole

a prisoner in Newgate who hath great skills in mix-

ture of mettals and having learned some thing[es] of

him he ment through help of a Cunning stamp

maker to Coin French Crownes pistolet[es] and Eng-

lish shilling[es].

That if Christ would have instituted the sacrament

w[i]th more Ceremoniall Reverence it would have

bin had in more admiration, that it would have

bin much better being administred in a Tobacco pipe

That the Angell Gabriell was baud to the Holy

ghost, because he brought the salutation to Mary.

xxxx That on[e] Ric[hard] Cholmley xxxx xxxxx hath Confessed

that he was perswaded by Marloe’s Reasons to become an Atheist.

These thing[es], w[i]th many other shall by good &

honest witnes be aproved to be his opinions and

Comon Speeches and that this Marlow doth not

only hould them himself but almost into every

Company he Cometh he perswades men to Atheism

willing them not to be afeard of bug-beares and

hobgoblins, and utterly scorning both god and his

ministers as I Richard Baines will Justify &

approve both by mine oth and the testimony

of many honest men, and almost al men with

whome he hath Conversed any time will

testify the same, and as I think all men in

Cristianity ought to indevor that the mouth of

so dangerous a member may be stopped, he saith likewise

that he hath quoted a number of Contrarieties oute of

the Scripture w[hi]ch he hath given to some great men who

in Convenient time shalbe named, when these thing[es] shalbe

Called in question the witnes shalbe produced.

Richard Baines

for how may it be thought tru religion which uniteth in

one subiect contraries as visibilitie & invisibilitie

mortallitie & imortallitie & cet[era]

It is lawfull by many wayes to se the infirmitie of Jhesus

Christ whom Paul in the last chapter to the Corinthia[n]s

of the second Epistle denieth not to be crucified through

infirmitie And the whole course & consent of the Evan=

gelicall history doth make him subiect to the passions of

man as hunger thirst wearines & fear To the same end

ar swete anxietie continuall praier the consolation of the

Angell again spitting whipping rebukes or checks His

corps wrapt in the linnen cloth unburied And to beleve

forsooth that this nature subiect to theis infirmiteis &

passions is God or any part of the divine essence what is

it other but to make God mightie & of power of th’one

part weak & impotent of th’other part which thing to

think it wer madness & follie To persuade others impie-


The Nature divine is single comunicable to no creature compre-

hensible of no creat understanding explicable w[i]t[h] no speche

But as Paul saith in the first of the Romains by the visi-

ble structure of the world we deprehend the invisible of

power sapience & goodnes of God wher it is by the Scriptures

evident That ther is one God As in the sixt of Deut: yo[u]r

God is one God yet the vocable is stransferred to other

& therfore it is written in the eightenth Psalme of

David God stood in the sinagog of Gods which place

Christ in the tenth of John declareth to agree to the

Prophett[es] whiles he studieth to avoid the crime of Blas=

phemie for that the calling of God Father had signified

himselfe to be the Sonn of God And Paul the first

to the Corinthians 8 Chapter And though ther be which

ar called Gods whether in heaven or in earth as ther be

Gods many & lords many yet unto me ther is but one God

which is the father of whom ar all thing[es] & we in him &

saith Paul ther be to whom their bellie is God But to many

Idols according to that saying all the Gods of the gentils

Idols And Paul in the second to the Corinthians fourth Cap:

doth call Satan the God of this world To me it is app=

lied but seldom yet somtime it is And then we underst-

and it as a name of mean power & not of the everlasting

power Exodus two & twentie Thow shalt not detract

the Gods And Moises be he a God to Pharao Again

Paul to the Romains Ninth calleth Christ God blessed

forever And in the Gospell of John Chap: twentie Thomas

Didimus doth acknowledge him God thorough the feling of

the wound many times that I remember I do not finde

will say throughly w[i]th one & the same perpetuall tenor

& consent.

What the Scriptures do witnes of God it is clere &

manifest inough for first Paul to the Romains declareth

that he is everlasting And to Timothi im[m]ortall & invisible

to the Thessalonians living & true James teacheth also

that he is incom[m]utable which thing in the old law &

Prophet[es] likwise ar thought infixed inculcate so often

that they cannot escape the Reader And yf we think

thes epithet[i]ons not vainly put but truly & proffitably

adiect And that they agree to God And that they we

must not beleve him to be God to whom the same agree not

we therfor call God which onlie is worthie this name &

appellation Everlasting, Invisible, Incom[m]utable Incom=

prehensible Im[m]ortall &c

What the Scriptures do witness of God it is clere &

manifest inough & so forth as is above rehearced.

And yf Jhesus Christ even he which was borne of Marie

was God so shall he be a visible God comprehensible &

mortall which is not compted God w[i]t[h] me quote great

Athanasius of Allexandriæ &c.

For yf we be not able to comprehend nor the Angels

nor owr own sowles which ar things creat to wrongfully

then & absurdly we mak the creator of them comprehen-

sible especiallie contrary to so manifest testimonies of

the Scriptures &cet

Albeit in this veheme[n]t & unthought on perturbation of

mind reverend father all labor is odious writing difficult

& hard comentatio[n] unpleazant & grievos unto me yet in

the defence of my caus being required to write for the rever=

ence I ow to your Lordshipp Above other I have purposed

brefely & compendiously to com[m]it in writing what I think

touching Th’articles.

W[hi]ch mine opinion by the comuncation before had w[i]t[h] your

Lordshipp might have bin evident inough & sufficiently

known withowt writing for first at the beginning when yo[u]r

Lordshipp admitted me to disputation before many witnesses

And then after to private & familier talk I did plainly

say all that then came into my mind verilie I have not

dissembled my opinion which I got not or borrowed owt

of Sarcerius, Conradus, Pellican, & such garbages or

rather sinks or gutters but owt of the sacred fountain.

To w[hi]ch sacred fountain iust & right faith ought to cleave

& lean in all controversies touching religion chefly in this

point w[hi]ch semeth to be the piller & stay of our religion.

Wher it is called in question concerning the invocation of

sainct[es] or expiation of sowles A man may err withowt great

danger in this point being the ground & foundation of owr

faith we may not err withowt dam[m]age to owr religion,

I call that true religion which instructeth mans minde

w[i]t[h] right faith & worthy opinion of God And I call that

right faith which doth creddit & beleve that of God w[hi]ch

the scriptures do testifie not in a few places & the

[name/same?] depraved &detort[__in]to wrong [___] [original damaged]

12 May 1593

Vile Hereticall Conceipt

Denyinge the Deity of Jhesus

Christe o[u]r Savior fownd

emongest the pap[er]s of Tho[mas]

Kydd prisoner

w[hi]ch he affirmethe That he

had From Marlowe.

Remembrannces of Wordes & matter againste Ric[hard] Cholmeley

That hee speaketh in generall all evill of the Counsell; sayenge that they

are all Athiest[es] & Machiavillians, especially my Lord Admirall

That hee made certen libellious verses in Com[m]endac[i]on of papist[es] & Seminary

priestes very greately inveighenge againste the State, amonge w[hi]ch lynes

this was one, Nor may the Prince deny the Papall Crowne/

That hee had a certen booke (as hee saieth) deliv[er]ed him by S[i]r Rob[er]t Cecill

of whom hee geveth very scandalous report[es], that hee should incite him

to consider thereof & to frame verses & libells in the Com[m]endac[i]on of constant

Priest[es] & vertuous Recusant[es], this booke is in Custodie & is called an

Epistle of Comnforte & is printed at Paris

That hee railes at Mr Topcliffe & hath written another libell Jointlye

againste S[i]r Frauncis Drake & Justice Younge whom hee saieth hee

will Couple up together because hee hateth them alike

That when the muteny happened after the Portingale voyage in the Stande

hee said that hee repented him of nothinge more then that hee had not

killed my Lord Threasorer w[i]th his owne handes sayenge that hee could

nev[er] have done god better service, this was spoken in the hearinge of

Frauncis Clerke & many other Souldiours

That hee saieth hee doth entierly hate the Lord Chamberleyn & hath good cause

so to doe

That hee saieth & verely beleveth that one Marlowe is able to shewe more

sounde reasons for Atheisme then any devine in Englande is able to geve to

prove devinitie & that Marloe tolde him that hee hath read the Atheist lecture

to S[i]r Walter Raliegh & others.

That hee saieth that hee hath certen men corrupted by his p[er]suasions,

who wilbee ready at all tymes & for all causes to sweare whatsoev[er] seemeth

good to him, Amonge whom is one Henry Younge & Jasp[er] Borage & others.

That hee so highly esteemeth his owne witt & Judgement that hee saieth

that no man are sooner deceyved & abused then the Counsell themselves

& that hee can goe beyonde & Cossen them as hee liste & that if hee make

any Complainte in behalfe of the Queene, hee shall not onely bee p[rese]ntely

heard & enterteyned, but hee will so urge the Counsell for money that w[i]thout

hee have what hee liste, he will doe nothinge

That beinge imployed by some of her Ma[jes]t[ie]s prevy Counsaile for the apprehens[i]on

of Papist[es] & other danngerous men hee used as hee saieth to take money of

them & would lett them passe in spighte of the Counsell

That hee saieth that Will[ia]m Parry was hanged drawen & quartered but in

Jeste, that hee was a grosse asse, overreached by Conninge, & that in trueth

hee nev[er] meante to kill the Queene more then himselfe had

Righte Worshipfull whereas I p[ro]mised to sende you worde when Cholmeley

was w[i]th mee; these are to lett you understande that hee hath not yet

bene w[i]th mee for hee doeth partely suspecte that I will bewray his villanye

& his companye. But yesterday hee sente two of his Companions to mee

to knowe if I woulde Joyne w[i]th him in familiaritie & bee one of their

dampnable Crue. I sothed the villaynes w[i]th faire wordes in their follies

because I would thereby dive into the secretes of their develishe hartes

that I mighte the better bewray their purposes to drawe her Ma[jes]t[ie]s subiect[es]

to bee Athiest[es], their practise is after her Ma[jes]t[ies] decease to make a kinge

amonge themselves & live accordinge to their owne lawes, & this saieth

Cholmeley wilbee done easely, because they bee & shortely wilbe by his & his

felowes p[er]suasions asmany of their opynion as of any other religion

Mr Cholmeley his mann[er] of p[ro]ceedinge in seducinge the Queenes subiect[es]

is firste to make slaunderous reportes of most noble peeres & Honourable

Counsailors, as the Lord Threasorer the Lord Chamberleyn the Lord

Admirall, S[i]r Rob[er]t Cecill, These saieth hee have p[ro]founde wittes, bee

sounde Athiest[es] & their lives & deedes shewe that they thinke their soules

doe ende vanishe & p[er]ishe w[i]th their bodies

His seconde course is to make a Jeste of the Scripture w[i]th these fearefull

horrible & damnable speeches, that Jhesus Christe was a bastarde

St Mary a whore & the Anngell Gabriell a Bawde to the holy ghoste

& that Christe was Justly p[ro]secuted by the Jewes for his owne foolishnes,

that Moyses was a Jugler & Aaron a Cosoner the one for his miracles

to Pharao to prove there was a god, & the other for takinge the Earering[es]

of the children of Israell to make a golden calfe w[i]th many other blasphe=

mous speeches of the devine essence of god w[hi]ch I feare to rehearse

This Cursed Cholmeley hath LX [60] of his company & hee is seldome from

his felowes & therefore I beeseech yo[u]r Worship have a speciall care of yo[u]r

selfe in apprehendinge him for they bee resolute murderinge myndes

yo[u]r Worshippes

Full title:
A Folio containing Papers chiefly relating to Ecclesiastical Affairs.
16th century, London
Richard Baines, Thomas Kyd
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Harley MS 6848

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