The dialogue in A Day in the Life of Christopher Marlowe has its factual contents pulled from 16th century archives, including the play The Famous Victories of Henry The Fifth which Marlowe is writing. There are two references to old Canterbury events that people talked about during Marlowe's childhood: the story about young Dorothy Hocking getting married through the hole in the wall in her backyard was later used in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The story about the basket would later be found in The Merry Wives of Windsor. Christopher's reference to "Best's son, the tanner from Wingham" is included because there was a tanner named Best living in Wingham near Canterbury at this time. He was put into King Henry VI ( part II: IV, ii) through the character Holland. HOLLAND: I see them! I see them! There's Best's son, the tanner of Wingham.

As far as Marlowe's family coming in with William the Conqueror, on page 5 of the second volume of Grafton’s Chronicle at Large published in 1568, Morley is listed as one “of the Gentlemen that came in with William Conqueror.” On page 4 of the third volume of Holinshed’s Chronicles published in 1586 there appears one Morleian Maine in "The roll of Battell abbeie,' following a “Catalog of such Noble men, Lords, and Gentlemen of name, as came into this land with William the Conqueror.” What is most interesting about this is that in the Folio version of Taming of the Shrew (which had never been played or published until the 1623 Folio) we have the character Christophero Sly, who says in the play:

Enter Beggar and Hostes, Christophero Sly. Beggar.
Ile pheeze you infaith.
Host. A paire of stockes you rogue.
Beg. Y’are a baggage, the Slies are no
Roughs Looke in the Chronicles, we came
In with Richard Conqueror; therefore Pau-
Cas pallabris, let the world slide; Sessa!

Did Marlowe change the name from William to Richard for anonymity's sake? Louis Ule believes there is evidence from Thomas Nashe that backs this up. When his good friend Robert Greene died, Nashe expanded upon Greene’s story of Velvet Breeches and Cloth Breeches in Greene’s News from Heaven and Hell with a witty confutation of Marlowe’s boast that his ancestors had come in with the Conqueror.

In her essay "The Clue in the Shrew", Isabel Gortazar says that Sly’s name in the anonymous play Taming of A Shrew, the early version of the Folios Taming of the Shrew, becomes Don Christo Vary, "which can hardly be a mere coincidence with the future name [in The Shrew] of Christo-phero. . . in the early play, he goes from simply “Slie” to become Christo Vary, a vari-ation of Christoforos, the Greek origin of the name Christopher." She also says, "Another point of interest in the text of The Taming of A Shrew is the number of parallels, no fewer than 17, to be drawn from various Marlowe plays, specifically Tamburlaine The Great, Parts 1 and 2; Dr Faustus, and Edward II; as well as one parallel to 2 Henry VI, which was published also in 1594, with the title: The First Part of the Contention Betweixt the two Famous Houses of York and Lancaster.  Such parallels have been highlighted by Dr. G.R. Proudfoot in his notes to the facsimile edition of The Taming of A Shrew, as published by The Malone Society."

A Day in the Life of Christopher Marlowe

Cynthia Morgan



John Marlowe is in his shoemaker shop at the front of the home. He is holding a boot as he stands before his apprentices and two friends. Thirteen year-old Christopher is sitting at one of two cobbling tables, quill in hand. His dog Crab lies at his feet. The shop is at the front of their home on St. George’s Street in Canterbury. The men are rehearsing the play he has written from stories his father told him about King Henry V. It is on the table before him titled The Famous Victories of Henry The Fifth. The men are going to perform this play at the Buttery Market where his mother sells pastries every Saturday. In the following scene Christopher’s father and friends are distracted from rehearsing. His father, who often embellishes facts with exaggerated fiction, is telling them about the Marlowe family’s ancestry. Hanging on the wall behind him are a bow, battle headpiece, sword, dagger, and brown halcerd.

John Marlowe: Look you, this very boot was worn by one of our family’s ancient lineage who came with William the Conqueror when he invaded our good England in 1066!

Plessington the Baker: Methinks thou dost mean William the Bastard then, John.

The men laugh, Christopher smiles without looking up from his play which he is touching up here and there as he waits for them to get back down to the business of rehearsing.

John Marlowe: Then you are calling my son here the son of the sons of bastards? I swear to you this boot was worn by the first man in our family to step onto good English soil. From the province of Maine in France we come, where the river Maine flows. Look you on page five of Grafton’s Chronicle at Large. There you shall behold one Marley listed as “One of the Gentlemen that came in with William the Conqueror.”

(He puts his hands into both boots and clomps them on the table as if marching.)

John Marlowe: (Taking the headpiece off its hook, putting it on his head) And this I wore fighting those French at Calais. Born of England I am and by marrying my Kate I am a freeman, no man’s servant. And by marrying the church my son here will become a gentleman, just as my dear wife’s brother Thomas. And it is right my son should become a Bishop of the Queen’s Church . . .

Laurence Applegate: A Bishop! Methinks you are writing a play of your own John. In that case, why not make your son the Archbishop of all England then.

The men laugh.

John Marlowe: And mark me, it is right he should become the Archbishop for his father has a trade, Sir, that makes him also a mender of bad soles. If you be out, Sir, I can mend you. If I be out, why, I can mend me too. Mine is a trade, Sirs, that I hope I may use with a safe conscience. (To his son) Put all I just said into the play, Kit.

Christopher: Father, if I am to add all your additions to your life’s story every time we rehearse, we will never finish the Famous Victories nor have the time to practice your lines.

John Marlowe: (Infatuated with the idea his son is writing down his words) My son will make me immortal now! Truth be known, once killed, why, it is nothing. I led our townsmen into battle at Calais, though I be only a bowman, and there I was four or five times slain.

John’s Apprentice, Leanord Doggerell: Four or five times slain? Why, how couldst thou be alive now, John?

Through the open doorway we see Christopher’s pregnant mother Katherine (called “Kate”) in the kitchen with two of her neighbors making scones and peach cobblers to sell at the buttery market tomorrow. His four sisters are sitting at a small table making figures out of the cast-off dough: Margaret age 12, Jane age 8, Anne age 6, Dorothy age 4. The nine month-old baby Thomas sits in Jane’s lap pounding a small piece of dough on the table.

Kate Marlowe: “Four or five times slain.” Ha! Let him have a child four or five times and he’ll know what it is like to be miraculously alive.

Anne Wright: Ay, and I remember one summer in London with my mother’s family when that bloody Mary the Catholic was burning all the Protestants there was that poor woman Helen Pepper big as three cannon balls with child and still they tied her to the stake at Norwich. I saw the flames lick her belly and out of her agony she gave forth her child and my own mother ran up and grabbed the poor babe but then a man pulled the babe from my mother’s arms and tossed it back into the flames so that even the seed of the heretic should perish along with its mother.

Kate: It is the nature of error to silence truth by taking away a good man or woman’s life, of which our Redeemer himself is an instance.

Dorothy Gaint: Ay, and did you hear about the three witches hung at Windsor? Together they murdered the farmer Lanckforde, and the old mayor of Windsor, and a butcher named Switcher.

Anne: Mother Dutten was one of ‘em. She possessed an imp in the form of a toad. Her son Robin said she kept three spirits in her pantry: Great Dick in a wicker bottle, Little Dick in a leather bottle, and Willet in a pot. Robin said she gave the three of ‘em beer and cake and at night they sucked blood from her.

Kate: Robin be a liar good as any.

Dorothy: O, but did you hear that Liza Dumpkin’s story? One day while she was churning her butter there appeared a thing like an ape with a silver whistle about his neck and a pair of horns on his head and a bean pod in his mouth. When the thing asked for butter she did deny it and the bean pod turned into a knife and the ape thing threatened to thrust the knife into her heart.

Kate: Liza Dumpkin was the one said the ape thing caused her toes to rot off her feet. When she was brought to confession court they had to put her in a barrow and roll her before the judges.

Dorothy: And did you hear about young Dorothy Hocking gettin’ betrothed through the crannied hole in that loam wall divides her parent’s back yard from the Holmes’s yard?

Anne: That be the wall they bonded with hair and coated with lime. Dorothy’s dog is always wigglin’ through that hole and stealing Robert Holme’s conger fish he dries out in the sun.

Dorothy: That be the one. You know how Dorothy’s parents are so cruel to her, makin’ her do all the housework and never lettin’ her go outside? She fell in love with Richard Edmunds, and how she got ever to meet with him I don’t know.

Anne: It must have been at Church for her mother and father never let her go out even to the Buttery Market.

Dorothy: Sarah Holmes took it upon herself to get poor Dorothy hitched to Richard through that chink in the wall that separates the backsides of their yards. About five of the clock in the afternoon, make believin’ she wanted to speak about the dog and the conger fish, Sarah drew Dorothy from her mother’s busyness to the backside of the yard and spoke to her secretly through that hole in the wall. Robert Holmes then found Dorothy’s beau Richard Edmunds playing bowls in the backside of Goodman Podice’s house and took him to Dorothy who was waiting at the hole in the wall.

Kate: Ay, Sarah told me the story herself at the Buttery Market last Saturday. Sarah said she told Dorothy to put her hand through the hole in the wall, then Sarah made Richard take it by the finger and ask Dorothy, “Know you who this is that hath you by the finger?” And Dorothy answered in a whisper, “No, not yet.” And Robert whispered back, “It is Richard Edmunds.” And Dorothy whispered, “What would you have of me?” And Richard whispered, “Are your father and mother in the house?” And Dorothy whispered, “No.” And Richard said, “Well, my wench, I bear you good will and if thou cans’t find in thy heart to have me and will be ruled by me I will deliver thee out of thy misery.” And Dorothy said, “I can find it in my heart to love you above all men.” Then Richard asked her how old she was and Dorothy said, “I do believe I am near twenty years but my age is kept from me.”

Anne: Imagine that if you will!

Kate: Ay. And then Richard Edmunds took Dorothy by the hand through the hole in the wall and Dorothy whispered unto him, “I Dorothy take you Richard to my husband forsaking all others for your sake and thereupon I give you my faith and trothe.” Then said Edmunds, “In faith wench, I were to blame if I would not speak the like words unto thee.”

Dorothy: Ay, and then he called for drink, and he and Robert Holmes drunk to Dorothy and after that Richard gave her an old angel in token of their betrothal which Dorothy received thankfully but feared her parents would discover, so she had Sarah Holmes keep it for her.

Kate: That rough-cast stone wall hath both a sinister and holy hole!

Back to the play rehearsal.

John Marlowe: (Looking out the window) There goes Thomas Ovington who brought my horse back all sweaty when he rode him to Ospring. He tore his left shoe off and I sued him and won half a pound. Ay, where are we then?

Christopher: The end scene of the battle at Agincourt.

Plessington the Baker: Ay, that fight at which our King Henry the Fifth won with the help of our father’s father’s fathers.

Christopher: You must say it simple. Say, “At the hands of our Ancestors.”

Plessington the Baker: Won with the help our Ancestors. And countrymen, I might add.

Christopher: We left off here where Dericke speaks. It is your turn, Dericke. Do you remember your lines?

Dericke the Tailor: That I do. (Playing Dericke) Ay, John, thou saucy fellow. I was called the bloodiest soldier amongst you all. Do you recall?

John Marlowe: (Playing John Cobbler) No.

Dericke: (Playing Dericke) Surely you recall what I will tell thee, John. Every day when I went into the field, I would take a straw and thrust it into my nose and make my nose bleed, and when the Captain saw me, he would say, Peace! A bloody soldier! Then he would bid me stand aside. Whereof I was glad and I went and stood safe behind a tree.

John Marlowe: (Playing John Cobbler) Dericke, thou has a witty head.

Dericke: (playing Dericke) Ay, John.

John Marlowe: (Getting off-track again) More witty than our neighbor Laurence here (points to Laurence with the awl in his hand) who let his privy overflow onto Iron Bar Lane two weeks past.

Laurence Applegate: To be sure I did not dig that pit deep enough. (Whispers to John) But I will open a thing unto you John if you will keep it a secret. There is a place wherein I did dig deep, for I have had my pleasure of Goodwife Chapman’s daughter Dodelif.

John Marlowe: (To Christopher) Did you write that down into the rest, my son? That must be added to our play.

Laurence Applegate: Do not write it down Kit.

Christopher: I cannot write it for I did not hear it.

John: We shall act our play in front of the Cathedral where Archbishop Parker will see it. I shall tell him “My son wrote it and you Master Parker must make him one of your Divinity scholars!”

Kate: (To her friends) My mother used to say, if you want to hear God laughing, just tell him your plans for the future. I will say this much, if our Archbishop will hear my son sing, he will surely give him the scholarship.

Christopher’s twelve year-old sister Margaret comes out from the kitchen and sits beside him. She slips him a piece of buttered scone. Timidly she will point to words on his pages and he will whisper them to her. It is evident he is teaching her how to read.

Christopher: Now, Dericke, do you remember what you say when you see John Cobbler after the fighting is finished?

Dericke: I do. (Playing Dericke) Look at all my shoes!

Christopher: Nay, that is what John Cobbler says.

Dericke: Read it to me then.

Christopher: (Reading from his papers) “But what hast thou there?
I think thou hast been robbing the French men.”

Dericke: Ay. (Playing Dericke): What hast thou there! Methinks thou hast been robbing the French Men of their shoes!

Christopher: Father, take thy part of John Cobbler.

John Marlowe: (Playing John Cobbler) In faith Dericke, I have gotten some shoes. For I’ll tell thee what I did when the French soldiers were dead, I would go take off all their shoes. And what hast thou got there, Dericke?

Dericke: I know it. I know it. (Playing Dericke) I have got reparrell to carry home to my wife.

John Marlowe (Playing John Cobbler): I, but Dericke, how shall we get home with carrying all this reparrell. (To Christopher) I never used this word “reparrell” when telling you the story. This is a stinking Frenchmans’ word and it smells like garlic.

Christopher: You do not have to say the word, then. Our audience will know what you mean, for your hands will be so full of shoes they shall be falling to the ground as you walk among the dead French soldiers.

John Marlowe: Good.

Christopher: Your turn, Dericke.

Dericke (Playing Dericke): Nay sownds, should any French soldiers take us, they will hang us . . . (To Christopher) I forget the last part.

Christopher: “If it be thy fortune to be hanged, Be hanged in thy own language whatsoever thou doest.”

John Marlowe: And what does that mean? That was nothing I told you of the story.

Christopher: T’is a bit of humor I put in, father.

Dericke: Whatsoever we do we must insure if we be hanged we are hanged in our own language . . . Ha ha! That is a good one Kit! (He gets carried away) But I say, let all Traitors be hanged! Cut down still alive! Entrails burnt before his face! Body cut into quarters to be set up in various parts of the kingdom as an example to others! Head set up on a spike . . .

Plessington the Baker: So the devil shall find them!

The men laugh, Christopher is annoyed.

Christopher: Stay with the lines as I wrote them. Take it up now, Father.

John Marlowe: Where are we then?

Christopher: You say, “Why Dericke, the war is done . . .”

John Marlowe: (Playing John Cobbler) Why Dericke the war is done, we may go home now.

Master Gresshop, the headmaster at The King’s School where John Marlowe wants his son to be received on a scholarship, enters the shop carrying a bag and a book. Only the two apprentices notice him.

Dericke: (Playing Dericke) Ay, but you may not go before you ask our King Henry leave. But I do know a way to go home, and ask the King no leave.

John Marlowe: (Playing John Cobbler) How is that, Dericke?

Dericke: (Playing Dericke) Why John, thou knowest the Duke of York’s Funeral must be carried into England, doest thou not?

John Marlowe: (Playing John Cobbler) Ay, that I do.

Dericke (Playing Dericke) Why then thou knowest we shall go with it.
Sownds, thou knows that in every French Towne there will be ringing, and there will be cakes and drink.

John Marlowe: (Playing John Cobbler) Then I will go with thee, and drink to thee all the way.

Dericke: (Playing Dericke) But I marvel what my dame will say when we come home to Canterbury, because we have not a French word to cast at a Dog.

John Marlowe: (Playing John Cobbler) Why, what shall we do Dericke?

Dericke: (Playing Dericke) Why John, I’ll go before and call my dame whore. And thou shalt come after and set fire on the house. We may do it John, because we be soldiers. She will not remember about such French words after all that.

John Marlowe: (Playing John Cobbler) Dericke help me to carry my shoes and boots.

Christopher: (Picks up a tiny toy trumpet and blows) Exeunt!

John Marlowe: Another Frenchman’s word! My son is turning traitor for the French!

Christopher: That is a Latin word, father.

Master Gresshop puts his bag and book on the counter. He claps his hands.

John Marlowe: Master Gresshop, Sir. I did not see you standing there.

Gresshop: What play is that from, John?

John Marlowe: My son Christopher wrote this, Sir. I told him the story of our great King Henry the Fifth and how he saved all England at Agincourt and he wrote my words onto paper. He put me and he put Dericke in it, too, and has thus made us immortal. My son was the best of all the students at the petty school where Father Sweeting was his teacher. He went on to the elementary school and learned some of the Latin. They have nothing more to teach him now.

Master Gresshop: Can you sing, Christopher?

John Marlowe: He’s got his mother’s voice, he has. She’s the one taught him how to sing. Kate! Get in here my great sea-faring girl!

Katherine has been listening, leaning against the cupboard just inside the doorway, while peeling rutabagas and carrots for their lunch of vegetable beef soup. Marlowe’s other sister, eight year-old Joan, is hanging on her mother’s skirt. The two neighbor women are silent, listening hard to Master Gresshop.

Kate: I’ll be comin’ soon as we get this soup in the bowls. Come in here Margaret! You can carry the food to the men. Joan, get the planks and put them out there, you know how they spill their food and get it on the leathers.

Master Gresshop goes over to Christopher, stands above him, picks up the pages he’s written and skims over them.

Kate: (To the women) I’ll be hoping Master Gresshop stays for a bit of soup and scones.

Master Gresshop picks up the book he put on the counter and carries it over to Christopher.

Master Gresshop: Do you know what this is?

Christopher: The Canterbury Tales. Our school teacher read us a bit of it, and when I told him I have read the whole book he had me reading to the students every day. My grandfather in Dover gave it to us when I was very young.

Outside the window of the shop we see four of Christopher’s friends peering in. They are waiting for him.

Master Gresshop: Do you like to read, Christopher?

Kate: My brother Thomas gave us the Geneva Bible one year past and my son has read all the words within that book.

Master Gresshop: The whole of it? That is a very large task.

Christopher: I should like to read Holinshed’s Chronicles, Sir, for they tell of the our England’s ancient times. But I have nowhere to find the book. (He sees his friends out on the street.)

Master Gresshop: I have it in my library at the King’s School.

Kate: (Whispers to the women) Ah, that Master Gresshop has the library of a Giant. I hear it is filled with as many books as those at the universities.

Master Gresshop: (To John Marlowe) We do need more voices in the Cathedral choir. A young man as smart as your son who can also sing might find it worth his time. Our Archbishop Parker is going to add four more scholarships to the Queen’s amount and he wants smart boys who otherwise might not be able to go on to school. (To Christopher) But a boy can not obtain a scholarship unless he is able to sing and read music, so our scholars are always plucked from the choir.

Kate: Those choir boys are all scholars, Sir?

Master Gresshop: Nay, but the scholars are all choir boys. (With a twinkling eye he looks down at Christopher again) Do you know what I just did?

Christopher: You reversed my mother’s words, Sir.

Master Gresshop: That I did. Should you become a scholar you will learn that the central concern of logic is the evaluation of arguments. What you have witnessed here is the art of deduction. (He is taking a pair of boots out of the bag, speaks to John Marlowe) These are Archbishop Parker’s Cordovan boots. He would rather keep them than buy a pair of new ones in London for he says they have become part of his feet.

John Marlowe: (Examining the worn soles) Truly, sir, all that I live by is with the awl. I am, indeed, Sir, a surgeon to old shoes; when they are in great danger, I recover them. As proper men as ever trod upon neat's leather have gone upon my handiwork.

Master Gresshop: I do believe you speak the truth, John.

John Marlowe: I am ever at your service, Sir.

Kate: Will you stay for a bit of soup and scones Master Gresshop?

Master Gresshop: Another time. I must get back to the school. We can arrange a time for you to return the shoes and bring your son to sing for our Master William Faunt. He is the singing man at the Cathedral and will teach young Christopher plain song and how to make sweet division in the musical notes.

John: I shall be ever happy to do so Master Gresshop.

Master Gresshop leaves the shop.

Christopher: Might I go and play bowls out in the abbey ruins with my friends?

Kate: Yes, Kit. But you will be back before the bells. Tomorrow we take the cakes and cobblers to market.

Laurence Applegate: Ha, that would be you, John. Your wife is taking you to market and she will sell you, for you are all worn out.

Kate: I will get more for the cakes than I will for my dear husband, I am afraid.

John: I am a shoemaker, and one who can read and write better than most, if this be not so I would not be Warden of our Guild of the Brethren of the Assumption of Our Lady of the Crafts and Mysteries of Shoe-Makers.

Derricke: Ay, John, and I am happy that long-winded Guild is not something I must remember to say in our play.

Christopher has slipped out the door. His younger sister Margaret, and their dog Crab tag behind.

John Marlowe: (Pointing to two of Christopher’s friends) Those two boys are French Huguenots. Their aunt and cousins were all thrown into the Seine by the Catholic French during the massacre on Bartholomew’s Day five years ago.

Laurence Applegate: Their father is a tailor. Those French have something to teach me when it comes to thread and tuck, I fear.

John Marlowe: It is those boys have put the smell of garlic in my son’s mouth. (Calls out the door to Christopher) Lead those boys about the streets my son! Wear out their shoes and we shall get ourselves more work!

The boys and Margaret run up St. George’s Street toward the Buttery Market instead of the opposite direction toward the ruins of St. Augustine’s Abbey.

Christopher’s two friends, Louis and Phillip Le Doux are still learning English. They speak in both English and French. Christopher helps them with English words, and he is learning French from them. Christopher is the only boy who is curious enough to want to know what the French words mean. As the boys run up St. George’s Street we see cosmopolitan Canterbury. Several languages fill the air: Dutch Sailors, Italians, Spanish, French men and women along with the English.

Louis: There is to be a hanging at the West Gate! If we hurry we will see it!

Phillip: Father says it is one of the Catholics trying to convert some Protestant cleric in Canterbury!

They pass women gathered around doorways gossiping and sewing.

Goodwife 1: Where you children running to?

Phillip: There’s to be a hanging at the West Gate!

Goodwife 2: Then the gibbets must be occupied. Whose in the gibbets today?

Goodwife 3: I hear one of them is the spinster Rose Allen taken up for non-attendance in her parish.

Goodwife 1: Mercy me. I do think of poor Alice Benden. We were to be Catholics then, remember? I was only ten years old when her own husband Edward turned her in for non-attendance. A bigoted Catholic he was.

Goodwife 2: He be roasting in hell forevermore.

Goodwife 1: Bloody Mary be to blame. That is all she will be remembered for. Three murderous years of reign and almost three hundred good Protestant English men and women burned outside our city walls in Martyr’s field.

Goodwife 2: We did feel their pain. (To Christopher) And I stood beside your father at Wincheap where that Bloody Mary had forty good Protestants burnt at the stake.

Goodwife 3: Canon Darrell is in a gibbet today. He was suspended from his canonry for bedding Clemence Ward. She be that woman of suspect behavior living in the Parish of St. Alphege.

Goodwife 2: Mrs. Hunt saw it herself. She said she saw two people staggering through Christchurch Gate into the Cathedral grounds on the way to Canon Darrell’s house by the Canterbury wall carrying between them a big laundry basket over which a coverlet was spread. They walked along the Cathedral’s cemetery until they came to the oak trees in front of Canon Darrell’s house. There they set the basket down among the trees. Then Mr. Wade the Cathedral clerk came along and drew out his dagger and plunged it into the basket. Out leaped Clemence Ward with a wound in her arm from the dagger’s thrust.

Goodwife 1: I remember years past Clemence Ward had to do penance by appearing clad in a white sheet, standing in the church porch of St. Alphege before Sunday service and remain on bended knees throughout the service?

Goodwife 3: Ay, and when she failed to do so she was declared excommunicate.

Goodwife 2: So Clemence Ward be the third one in the gibbets today?

Goodwife 1: Let us go and see.

The children have reached Canterbury’s West Gate. Nearby, four savage bulldogs are set upon a bear chained at a stake. A small crowd is gathered to see the bear fight off the dogs. Christopher’s dog Crab shows interest. Christopher picks him up in his arms. The boys pause a moment to watch, then continue over to watch the man about to be hanged.



The boys listen intently to the Fat Chaplain who is speaking to the condemned man.

Fat Chaplain: Now is death over your head, and the axe is put to the roots of the tree. Repent you truly of your trespasses against the sacred person of the Queen, her State and her Government. Now is the time of your rising to God, or your falling into everlasting darkness!

Christopher: (To his friends) What do you think he did?

(People in the crowd reply)

Man 1: He stole a heifer.

Man 2: Nay, the penalty for that is slitting of the nostrils.

Woman 1: Nay, is cutting off hands or ears.

Woman 2: Is all of those!

Man 3: He is to be hung, he must be a Catholic sympathizer.

Woman 1: Heresy!

Woman 3: I hear it is because he has denied there be a Trinity!

Man 4: I hear he believes in the Father and Son, but not the Holy Ghost!

Man 2: I hear he be a Protestant who says no one stands between him and God, not even the Queen!

Man 1: Treason!

Woman 2: Just like poor Friar Stone. Our good Queen’s father King Henry had Friar Stone indicted for high treason when he denied him to be the Supreme Head of the Protestant Church.

Woman 3: (Whispering) Ay, the Pope would not let him divorce poor Katherine to marry Anne so he made himself Pope of England.

A man sits nearby playing the thimblerig game (now called the shell game and played with three walnut shells and a pea). Men come up to him and place their bets. “Now you see the pea and now you don’t,” he chants repeatedly as he swiftly moves his three thimbles around.

Woman 2: That was when the bloody battles between the Catholics and Protestants started. Would better to be hanged than parboiled like Friar Stone. They quartered him after that and carried his parts to the West Gate and hung them on meat hooks until the scavenger birds pecked his parts down to the bones.

Woman 1: My grandmother was still Catholic herself when they paid her two halfpennies to scour Friar Stones Kettle.

Man 1: My uncle was one of them who carried his body parts to the gate and set them up on the stakes. What he was paid I know not. But he was Catholic too. We all be Protestants now.

The man playing the Thimblerig game can be heard in the background chanting, “Now you see it, now you don’t!” The boys watch intensely as the plank under the man’s feet is pulled back and he’s hung. Margaret takes hold of Christopher’s hand.

Louis: (To Christopher) Here you kill the Catholics, from where we come in France they kill the Protestants. This wasn’t much. We saw our friends hanging wherever they could string up a rope in Paris. And if they weren’t hung by the rope they were thrown into the Seine.

Phillip: Our auntie Helene and our cousins Brigitte and Claire were thrown into that river of blood. The Catholics threw stones at them and father had to hold mother back from jumping in to save them. Father had to throw her over his shoulder and bring her back home.

Louis: When we returned home the back of his neck was as bloody as the river from our mother biting him all the way.

Over at the bear-baiting two dogs leap onto the bear’s back, another takes this as his cue and leaps at the bear’s throat. A flatbed stage wagon pulls up. An actor standing on the wagon shouts to the crowd:

Actor: Open the door and let us come in
I hope your favor we shall win
Whether we stand or whether we fall
We'll endeavor to please you all.

The children watch a few actors present an old Morality Play about The Expulsion: A man made up to be Eve is eating the apple. Painted sky and clouds on two pieces of board slide back to reveal the face of Lucifer who has a large evil red mouth. The mouth opens and fire and smoke shoot out, then a few firecrackers. (The painted Lucifer looks remarkably like the Fat Chaplain we saw earlier.

Christopher: This is one of the old plays. Soon you will see the newer ones they are bringing in.

The children run back down the street toward the St. Augustine Abbey Ruins; the dog leads the way, Margaret trails behind. A few of their friends that were at the hanging run with them. At the Buttery Market they slow down in front of another stage wagon presenting the folk play St. George the Dragon Slayer.


St George: Here come I, the brave St George,
from England did I spring.
I'll soon dispatch this dragon bold,
my wonders to begin.
I'll clip his wings, he shall not fly.
I'll cut him down, or else I'll die.

Dragon: Who is this seeks a dragon proud
And calls so angry and so loud?
This English dog, though he might boast,
My fiery breath his flesh shall roast.
With my long teeth, and dagger claw,
Of such as him, I'd eat a score,
Yet leave my stomach ache for more.

St.George attacks the Dragon with a mighty sword. The dragon dies in the fight.

Actor: Good people all, our play is most ended.
 So I pass round the hat, which is highly commended.
 This hat it would speak, if it had but a tongue.
 So give up some money, and think it no wrong.

Woman in crowd: Rogues and Vagabonds!

Actor: (Whispers to her) Good woman, you might like to purchase one of these genuine relics of St. George’s bones. The whole of the Saint be in each part, and in his death and resurrection will bestow upon his faithful the power to overcome the effects of natural physical decay.

Woman: Ay, you know we are not to have the bones of Saints any longer.

(Still, the woman shows interest in these bones.)

 Christopher: Cow bones!

Margaret: (Proudly, to the boys) Kit and I were both baptized in St. George’s Church.

Christopher: And before George became a Saint he was a Roman soldier!

 They run toward the ruins of St. Augustine’s Abbey just outside the city’s East Gate.

marloweSt. Augustine Abbey ruins

The abbey ruins are only 600 yards from Christopher’s house. As the boys run past his house, we see and hear his father through the open door.

John Marlowe: (Holding up three different shoes) And these be the shoes of a butcher, stained with blood. And these be the shoes of a lawyer, soft soled so you do not hear him coming. And these be the shoes of an old woman on relief, they are one size too big for her feet, so Leanord here will be lining ‘em with lamb’s wool . . .

The children talk as they near the old Roman wall that runs around Canterbury.


Christopher: That play could have been better. God told George he would die three deaths before entering Paradise. When George told the heathen Persian King he believed in Christ, the king had George stretched out on the rack and ripped to shreds with flesh hooks, harnessed to machines that drew him apart. They should have done that in the play.

Friend 2: Then the Persians beat him and poured salt into his wounds, and after that they rubbed his wounds with a haircloth.

Louis: Then they pressed him into a box and pierced the box with nails and plunged it into boiling water.

Philippe: Then they crushed his head with a hammer!

Christopher smiles wryly as he watches his friends speaking.

Louis: Then they cut him up some more on a wheel of swords, cut him into ten pieces-nay, a thousand pieces, and threw him into a well which they sealed with a stone so he could not swim to the top of the water!

Margaret: Nay, that was Christ’s burial place they sealed with a stone.

Philippe: Then they tied poor George to an iron bed where molten lead was poured into his mouth!

Friend 3: And eyes!

Friend 1: And after that twenty-thousand nails were driven into his skull!

Christopher: Nay, sixty nails.

Friend 1: Ay, sixty nails! And he was hung upside down over a fire with a stone tied around his neck.

Friend 3: And he was put into the revolving belly of a metal ox which was filled with swords and nails.

Christopher: They thought he was dead, but  God resurrected him!

Louis: To die his second death poor Saint George was sawed in two and those two parts boiled to bits. And they buried the bits.

Christopher: Yet he did not die a second death! After five days buried, God resurrected him again!

Louis: So they decapitated poor George and at last he ascended up to Heaven.

Christopher: Most gratefully. And being dead he is a Saint. T’is a lot of work becoming a Saint.

They have reached the end of St. George Street and run along the old earthwork faced with medieval stone to the spot where atheists, heretics, traitors, and witches used to meet their fate: the pre-historic mound known now as the Dane John mound.

 Friend 2: There are a thousand atheists, heretics, traitors, and witches buried in this mound and we are walking on them now.

Christopher: All martyrs now.

Friend 1: This is where they boiled Friar Stone in the cauldron.

Christopher:  And his last words were, "In my death I shall find life!”

Now they are outside the bastion of the old Roman Walls encircling Canterbury. Cows graze in the meadows, cherry orchards are seen in the distance. The broken stone abbey wall lies in the middle of the immediate field. The boys have gathered piles of round stones from the ruins and keep them hidden in the crevices of this ancient wall. They use the stones to play their own form of the game called Bowls.


Christopher: I am a valiant soldier come with William the Conqueror to take the Roman town of Canterbury. Morley is my name!

Boy 1:  Stand off Morley. My Roman head and body is covered in steel!

Christopher: With your thick head and little wit I will hash thee and smash thee into bits!

The boys go over to one of the chinks in the walls where they keep the small pile of grey and brown stones. These are the stones they play bowls with.

Boy 2: I am the blind-maker today! Line up my fellow soldiers!

Boy 1: You must pull out your stone first, then. I shall cover your eyes while you do it.

Boy: 2 (Pulls out a grey stone) I Shall be Protestant today.

The boys form a line. One by one the blind-maker (Boy 2) holds his hands over their eyes while they reach into the chink in the wall and pull out a stone.


Boy 1: (Pulls out a brown stone) Today I must be Catholic.

Boy: 3 (Pulls out a brown stone) And I am with you.

Boy 4: (Pulls out a grey stone) I shall be of the Church of England!

Boy 5: (Pulls out a brown stone) Nay, I must be Catholic today.

Philippe: (Pulls out a brown stone) Brown is Catholic? Nay, I shall not be Catholic.

Boys all together: You must!

Christopher: Yes, but let him be a Catholic traitor come to the side of England.

Philippe: That I shall be.

Louis: (Pulls out a grey stone): And I shall be Protestant.

Christopher: (Pulls out a grey stone): Today we are at evens for I am also Protestant. Four and four.

Boy 1 (with a brown stone): Nay, but one of our side shall turn traitor. No fairness in that.

Christopher: My sister shall play a Catholic then. Margaret!

Margaret has been picking flowers growing among the stones of the Abbey choir ruins. Right now she is peering into a chink in a broken wall where a dove sits on a nest of eggs. She turns to Christopher, puts her finger to her lips as if to say, “Hush.”


Christopher: Come Margaret, you are going to play a Catholic.

Margaret: I shall not.

Christopher: Not if you can be the Queen?

Margaret: The bloody Mary? I shall never.

Christopher: Then we will call you Guinevere.

Margaret: I shall play Guinevere.

She walks over to the boys with a small bunch of flowers in her hand. The “Catholic” boys with the brown stones take turns rolling them toward St. Augustine’s tomb. The object is to get as close as possible without touching the tomb. One of the boy’s stones strikes the tomb.

Protestant boy: Already our prisoner!

Christopher: Thou shall be hanged up in chains upon the city walls!

The “Catholic” boy goes over to the “Protestant” boys and stands behind them, a prisoner. Now the Protestant boys roll their stones, each one attempting to strike one of the brown stones.

Louis: I have made a strike! I take thee, Dick, as my prisoner. And you, Philippe, you must bring him to me, for you are a traitor to the Catholic side!

The two boys come over. Now there is only one Catholic left. It is his turn to roll his stone. He strikes Christopher’s stone.

The Boy: I shall fight to the death! Take out your sword Kit!

Christopher: You cruel soldier of Rome, I’ll force your face to hit the ground! Then you will not run away from us . . . like a swallow over the meads!

Boy 1: Get the swords! I’ll smash you Pagan savages into porridge!

Christopher: Not with porridge for brains. Do you forget? We are not Pagans now. Now we are Protestants.

Beside the chink in the wall there are two tree branches they have long ago whittled into swords. Christopher gets them, throws one to Boy 1. They duel. While they are dueling, Margaret slips away, back to the ruined choir area.

Christopher: With this I cut off your arms and force your towers to the ground. My men will take you to the prison now.

Louis: He brings no conquest home to his Julius Caesar on this day!

Boy 2: Now you are condemned! You must go to the condemned cell!

Leg irons in the condemned cell where prisoner's arms and legs were chained.

Christopher: Let us climb to the prison tower.

Boy 4: You are all our prisoners now!

Boy 1: (Lying “dead” on the ground): Nay, I am dead.

Boy 4: Nay, you are what I say you are-or off with your head!

They take their prisoners up through a tower, where ancient leg and arm irons are still in a condemned cell similar to those in the Westgate tower.

Christopher: In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ we do here give into the hands of Satan to be destroyed in three days the bodies of all those heretics that maintain any error against His most holy Word, or do condemn His most holy truth for heresy.

The “Protestant” Boys:  Good Lord, so be it. Amen."

Philippe: You are now excommunicated. To burn in hell you go!

Boy 2: To burn in ten thousand fires forevermore!

Boy 3 (One of the “Catholic” boys): We Martyrs shall find immortality through the redeeming blood of the Lamb!

Louis: Nay, only the Protestants shall find immortality through the redeeming blood of the Lamb!

Boy 5: Catholics!

Boy 4: Protestants!

Boy 5: Catholics!

Boy 4: Protestants!

All the “Catholic” boys together: Catholics!

All the Protestant boys together: Protestants!

In the Tower of St. George the curfew bells toll. Other Canterbury bells can be heard ringing in the distance. Christopher's friends head home. He walks over to Margaret who is still in the ruined Abbey choir. He lies down on St. Augustine’s tomb and watches the passing clouds above his head. These clouds gradually form into the shapes of Greek and Roman Gods, as if that is what his imagination makes of them. We see the lettering on the tomb:

Here rests the first Archbishop of Canterbury sent here by the City of Rome, and being helped by God to work miracles, drew over King Ethelbert and his Pagan race from the worship of idols to the faith of Christ. A.D. 605.



Christopher watches a partridge moving in the grass. He picks up  a stone to kill it, then sees it is a female hiding her eggs. The stone rolls out of his hand. He lies down on the tomb again. A nightingale sings.

Margaret: We must go home now Kit. I am afraid to be out after the bells. Mother will be worried.

Christopher: Do you know whose tomb this is?

Margaret: T’is St. Augustine’s tomb.

Christopher: And who was he?

Margaret: A Saint.

Christopher: That’s not enough. What did he do?

Margaret: He brought the Catholic religion to Canterbury from Rome.

Christopher: A full thousand years ago when all of England was Pagan the Romans thought we were savages. They say Augustine performed a miracle when he brought the Pagan King Ethelbert to the faith of Christ.


St. Augustine Ruins where the graves of Kent Kings is located.

Margaret: What is “Pagan” Christopher?

Christopher: A Pagan King has his people worship the earth and he puts a  different god into each thing so there is a tree god, a rock god, a mountain god, a god of stones, instead of one God who lives beyond the clouds where we cannot see him.

Margaret: And is there a spider God?

Christopher: Yes.

Margaret: For there is a spider doing tricks below your hand. Look you there.

She points to a spider who is spinning its threads making a web. The web glistens in the twilight. The spider can be seen leaping from one side of the web to the other.

Christopher: That little spider owes nothing to anyone. He is much to be admired for he struggles to the top by his efforts alone, making a beautiful ladder from his own belly to the sun.

Margaret: You should say the moon, Kit. The sun is going away now. We must go home.

He points to a big, ancient tanning-bark stone.

Christopher: Do you see the face of the stone god there?

Margaret: Yes!

Christopher: Those were the stones King Ethelbert’s people used to soften the skins of cows and sheep.

Margaret: The leather father uses to make shoes.

Christopher: Yes. Now it is Best’s son, the tanner of Wingham, who does that work for father.
Margaret: And was there a flower god?

Christopher:  Of course.

Margaret: Surely there was. All flowers have a face. I will pick a bundle of nose-gays for mother then she will not be angry when we come in after the bells.

Christopher lies down on the tomb again, looking up at passing clouds. The partridge is sitting on one of the ruined pillars. Her song has only two notes: one short and fast, the other long and swinging up. Keeping time with the bird’s call, Christopher flicks his hand short and fast, then lifts it long and swinging up. He watches three doves cooing and pecking for bugs in the toppled abbey walls.

Christopher: Only one note has the peaceful dove who has inherited these Christian ruins.

A chirping rock wren creeps into holes in the wall looking for bugs. Suddenly it calls an exuberant, warbling trill which it repeats three times. Then it sings again, changing the variation of its original phrase.

Christopher: No better musician than the wren. Its song brings joy to the heart.

 Margaret: Mother says birds are angels.

 We hear the thresher bird, perched somewhere nearby. In rapid succession it imitates the wren perfectly.

Christopher: You hear that? It is the thresher imitating the rock wren. She has not got her own song so she steals the songs of all the other birds. Do you know how to tell when the thresher is singing?

Margaret: No.

Christopher: She only repeats each phrase twice before going to the next. My favorite is the hermit thrush. He can sing in harmony with all the others. Each of his calls starts on a new note that is musically related to his previous song. But he always keeps a respectful silence before he begins the next song.

Margaret: Where do the birds learn their songs, Kit?

Christopher: In the school of song! And if what Master Gresshop says comes to be, soon I will be going to the Cathedral’s School of Song,

They walk home. She has two bouquets now. She hands one to Christopher to give their mother so he won’t get into trouble. Christopher sings an ancient song to her called I Have A Young Sister:


I have a young sister
Far beyond the sea;
Many be the gifts
That she sent to me.

She sent me a cherry
Without any stone,
She sent me a dove
Without any bone.

Margaret sings:

How should any cherry
Be without a stone?
And how should any dove
Be without any bone?

Christopher sings:

When the cherry was a flower,
Then had it no stone;
When the dove was an egg,
Then had it no bone.





Roman bricks composed the abbey walls.