Thomas Beard, from The Theatre of God's Judgments

Thomas Beard's The Theatre of God's Judgments (1597) includes the murder of Christopher Marlowe as an example of divine vengeance. Beard was a Puritan divine. Translated in large part from a French original, The Theatre of God's Judgments, with its many instances of God's spectacular (and often grimly appropriate) punishment of sinners, was his most successful and frequently reprinted work. Beard's account of Marlowe's death is inaccurate. Marlowe was stabbed in a tavern, reportedly in a quarrel over the bill, and his last words are not recorded.

[A Conjurer and Seducer of the People]

Not inferior to any of the former in atheism and impiety, and equal to all in manner of punishment was one of our own nation, of fresh and late memory, called Marlin, >> note 1 by profession a scholar, brought up from his youth in the University of Cambridge, but by practice a play-maker, and a poet of scurrility, >> note 2 who by giving too large a swinge >> note 3 to his own wit, and suffering >> note 4 his lust >> note 5 to have the full reins, fell (not without just desert) to the outrage and extremity that he denied God and his son Christ, and not only in word blasphemed the Trinity, but also (as it is credibly reported) wrote books against it, affirming our Savior to be but a deceiver, and Moses to be but a conjurer and seducer of the people, and the Holy Bible to be but vain and idle stories, and all religion but vain and idle policy.

But see what a hook the Lord put in the nostrils of this barking dog. It so fell out that in London streets as he purposed to stab one whom he owed a grudge unto with his dagger, the other party perceiving so avoided the stroke, that withal catching hold of his wrist, he stabbed his own dagger into his own head, in such sort that notwithstanding all the means of surgery that could be wrought, he shortly after died thereof. The manner of his death being so terrible (for he even cursed and blasphemed to his last gasp, and together with his breath an oath flew out of his mouth) that it was not only a manifest sign of God's judgment, but also an horrible and fearful terror to all that beheld him. But herein did the justice of God most notably appear, in that he compelled his own hand which had written those blasphemies to be the instrument to punish him, and that in his brain, which had devised the same.

I would to God (and I pray it from my heart) that all atheists in this realm, and in all the world beside, would by the remembrance and consideration of this example, either forsake their horrible impiety, or that they might in like manner come to destruction. And so that abominable sin which so flourisheth amongst men of great name might either be extinguished and rooted out, or at least smothered and kept under, that it durst not show it head any more in the world's eye.


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