A Dead Man in Deptford

Last updated
A Dead Man in Deptford
First edition
Author Anthony Burgess
Cover artisttop: "London from Southwark" (c. 1630, Dutch School)
bottom: Anonymous portrait 1585, believed to show Christopher Marlowe
CountryUnited Kingdom
Genre Historical fiction
Publisher Hutchinson
Publication date
6 May 1993
Media typePrint (hardcover & paperback)
Pages288 (hardcover)
ISBN 0-09-177977-4
OCLC 32241420
823/.914 20
LC Class PR6052.U638 D42 1995

A Dead Man in Deptford is a 1993 novel by Anthony Burgess, the last to be published during his lifetime. It depicts the life and character of Christopher Marlowe, a renowned playwright of the Elizabethan era.

Anthony Burgess 20th-century English writer and composer

John Anthony Burgess Wilson,, who published under the name Anthony Burgess, was an English writer and composer.

Christopher Marlowe 16th-century English dramatist, poet and translator

Christopher Marlowe, also known as Kit Marlowe, was an English playwright, poet and translator of the Elizabethan era. Marlowe was the foremost Elizabethan tragedian of his day. He greatly influenced William Shakespeare, who was born in the same year as Marlowe and who rose to become the pre-eminent Elizabethan playwright after Marlowe's mysterious early death. Marlowe's plays are known for the use of blank verse and their overreaching protagonists.

Playwright Person who writes plays

A playwright or dramatist is a person who writes plays. One such person, one of the most famous in the world, is William Shakespeare, who lived during both the Tudor and Stuart eras of British history.



Reckless but brilliant Cambridge scholar Kit Marlowe is conscripted by Francis Walsingham to be a spy for Queen Elizabeth. It is love at first sight for Kit and Walsingham's young cousin Thomas, and Kit is soon sent to the English college at Rheims to ferret out recusants conspiring against the Queen and her Church of England. Walsingham and his agents have enabled a conspiracy, later known as the Babington Plot, as a means to effect the execution of Elizabeth's rival, Mary, Queen of Scots. Kit is instrumental in the arrest of the conspirators, but horrified by their execution.

Corpus Christi College, Cambridge College of the University of Cambridge, founded 1352

Corpus Christi College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. It is notable as the only college founded by Cambridge townspeople: it was established in 1352 by the Guild of Corpus Christi and the Guild of the Blessed Virgin Mary, making it the sixth-oldest college in Cambridge. With around 250 undergraduates and 200 postgraduates, it also has the second smallest student body of the traditional colleges of the University.

Francis Walsingham English spy, diplomat and politician

Sir Francis Walsingham was principal secretary to Queen Elizabeth I of England from 20 December 1573 until his death and is popularly remembered as her "spymaster".

Elizabeth I of England Queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until 24 March 1603

Elizabeth I was Queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death on 24 March 1603. Sometimes called the Virgin Queen, Gloriana or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the last of the five monarchs of the House of Tudor.

Marlowe is portrayed as a secretive, solitary and eventually isolated person. Burgess explores his sexual addiction and passion for the theatre.


A feature film adaptation was announced in September 2010, starring Sam Riley as Kit and costarring James Purefoy, Ray Winstone, Ed Speleers, and Adam Sinclair in undisclosed roles. The screenplay was written by Michael Elias, and Nick Copus was set to direct. [1] [2] [3]

Sam Riley British actor

Samuel Peter W. Riley is an English actor and singer. He is best known for his performance in the 2007 biographical film Control about the life of Ian Curtis, as protagonist Sal Paradise in the 2012 adaptation of the Jack Kerouac novel On the Road, and as Diaval in the 2014 film Maleficent.

James Purefoy English actor

James Brian Mark Purefoy is an English actor. He played Mark Antony in the HBO series Rome, former college professor-turned-serial-killer Joe Carroll in the series The Following, and Solomon Kane in the feature film Solomon Kane. In February 2018 he starred as Laurens Bancroft in Altered Carbon, a Netflix original series.

Ray Winstone British film and television actor

Raymond Andrew Winstone is an English film and television actor. He is mostly known for his "hard man" roles beginning with his role as Carlin in the 1979 film Scum. He also played Kevin, an ex-army soldier, in Quadrophenia as well as Will Scarlet in the television series Robin of Sherwood. He has also become well known as a voice over actor, and has recently branched out into film production.

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Babington Plot 1586 plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth of England

The Babington Plot was a plan in 1586 to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I, a Protestant, and put Mary, Queen of Scots, her Roman Catholic cousin, on the English throne. It led to the Queen of Scots' execution, a result of a letter sent by Mary in which she consented to the assassination of Elizabeth.

<i>Shakespeare in Love</i> 1998 film by John Madden

Shakespeare in Love is a 1998 American romantic period comedy-drama film directed by John Madden, written by Marc Norman and playwright Tom Stoppard.

Deptford district of south-east London, England

Deptford, an area on the south bank of the River Thames in south-east London, is named after a ford of the River Ravensbourne. From the mid 16th century to the late 19th it was home to Deptford Dockyard, the first of the Royal Dockyards. This was a major shipbuilding dock and attracted Peter the Great to come and study shipbuilding. Deptford and the docks are associated with the knighting of Sir Francis Drake by Queen Elizabeth I aboard the Golden Hind, the legend of Sir Walter Raleigh laying down his cape for Elizabeth, Captain James Cook's third voyage aboard Resolution, and the mysterious murder of Christopher Marlowe in a house along Deptford Strand.

William Davison was secretary to Queen Elizabeth I. He played a key and diplomatic role in the 1587 execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, and was made the scapegoat for this event in British history. As a Secretary of some influence, he was active in forging alliances with England's Protestant friends in Holland and Scotland to prevent war with France.

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Marlovian theory of Shakespeare authorship fringe theory that Cristopher Marlowe was the real author of William Shakespeares works

The Marlovian theory of Shakespeare authorship holds that the Elizabethan poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe was the main author of the poems and plays attributed to William Shakespeare. Further, the theory says Marlowe did not die in Deptford on 30 May 1593, as the historical records state, but that his death was faked.

Ingram Frizer was an English gentleman and businessman of the late 16th and early 17th centuries who is notable for his reported killing of the playwright Christopher Marlowe in the home of Eleanor Bull on 30 May 1593. He has been described as "a property speculator, a commodity broker, a fixer for gentlemen of good worship" and a confidence trickster gulling "young fools" out of their money.

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Edward John "Ed" Speleers is an English actor and producer. He is best known for playing the title role in the 2006 film Eragon, as well as starring in the TV series Downton Abbey. Speleers has been nominated for both the Saturn Awards, as Best Young Actor, and the British Academy Film Awards, for a short film he co-produced.

Events from the 1590s in England.

Eleanor Bull was an English woman who is known for owning the establishment in which Christopher Marlowe, the Elizabethan playwright and poet, was killed in 1593.

Nicholas Skeres was an Elizabethan con-man and government informer—i.e. a "professional deceiver"—and one of the three "gentlemen" who were with the poet and playwright Christopher Marlowe when he was killed in Deptford in May 1593. Together with another of the men there, Robert Poley, he had played a part in the discovery of the Babington plot against the life of the Queen in 1586, and at the time of Marlowe's death was engaged in a money-lending swindle with the third of them, Marlowe's reported killer Ingram Frizer.

Sir Thomas Walsingham was a courtier to Queen Elizabeth I and literary patron to such poets as Thomas Watson, Thomas Nashe, George Chapman and Christopher Marlowe. He was related to Elizabeth's spymaster Francis Walsingham and the employer of Marlowe's murderer Ingram Frizer. This connection is one of the reasons offered for suggesting that Marlowe's death may have been linked with intelligence work, and not a dispute over a bill for food and accommodation, as in the coroner's verdict.

Kit Harington English actor and producer

Christopher Catesby Harington, known professionally as Kit Harington, is an English actor and producer. Born in Acton, Greater London, Harington graduated from the Royal Central School of Speech & Drama in 2008. While still at drama school, he made his professional acting debut in the National Theatre and West End with the leading role of Albert in the critically acclaimed adaptation of the play War Horse.

The School of Night is a play by Peter Whelan. It was first performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon on 4 November 1992.

Robert Poley, or Pooley was an English double agent, government messenger and agent provocateur employed by members of the Privy Council during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I; he was described as "the very genius of the Elizabethan underworld". Poley is particularly noted for his central role in uncovering the so-called Babington plot to assassinate the Queen in 1586, and for being a witness of, and even a possible party to, the reported killing in self-defence by Ingram Frizer of the famous poet/dramatist Christopher Marlowe in May 1593.

William Danby was a sixteenth-century lawyer and Coroner of the Queen's Household towards the end of the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. He is particularly noted for having presided over the inquest into the controversial death at Deptford in 1593 of the poet/dramatist Christopher Marlowe.

Shakespeare in Love is a play by Lee Hall adapted from the film of the same title.

Christopher Marlowe in fiction

Christopher Marlowe, English playwright and poet, has appeared in works of fiction since the nineteenth century. He was a contemporary of William Shakespeare, and has been suggested as an alternative author of Shakespeare's works, an idea not accepted in mainstream scholarship. Marlowe, alleged to have been a government spy and frequently claimed to have been homosexual, was killed in 1593.


  1. Kilda, Gregg (12 September 2010). "Sam Riley to play Kit Marlowe in Dead Man". The Hollywood Reporter . Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  2. Fischer, Russ (13 September 2010). "Sam Riley Will Play Christopher Marlowe in A Dead Man In Deptford". /Film . Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  3. White, James (13 September 2010). "Sam Riley Is A Dead Man In Deptford". Empire . Archived from the original on 7 July 2017. Retrieved 7 July 2017.