May 18

This Day in History

Literary

May 18, 1593:

Playwright Thomas Kyd's accusations lead to an arrest warrant for Christopher Marlowe

Scholars believe an arrest warrant was issued on this day in 1593 for Christopher Marlowe, after fellow writer Thomas Kyd accused Marlowe of heresy.

Playwright Thomas Kyd, whose Spanish Tragedie (also called Hieronomo) was influential in the development of the revenge tragedy, was arrested on May 15, 1593, and tortured on suspicion of treason. Told that heretical documents had been found in his room, Kyd wrote a letter saying the documents belonged to Christopher Marlowe, with whom he had shared rooms previously. An arrest warrant was issued, and Marlowe was arrested on May 20. He bailed out but was killed in a bar brawl May 30.

Though little is known about Kyd's childhood, scholars believe he was educated at the Merchant Taylor's School in London and raised to be a scrivener, a professional trained to draw up contracts and other business documents. Of his early work, the Spanish Tragedie (1592) brought him the most recognition. Some scholars believe it served as a model for Shakespeare's Hamlet. Kyd died penniless in 1594.

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