When the violent arrest of an innocent apprentice sparks a riot in Southwark during the summer of 1592, more lies behind it than a simple grievance. Increasing poverty, vagrancy, and crime in a restless London compel a nervous Privy Council to close the playhouses, forcing Lord Strange’s Men to go on tour, while hostility to foreign refugees, aggravated by Marlowe’s play, The Jew of Malta, adds to the danger on the streets for Strangers like Kit Alvarez.
Other dangers are more subtle. The ensnaring of young men by illegal loan sharks and the circulation of damning accusations, both public and private, increase the atmosphere of fear and distrust which permeates a city threatened by twin evils – death of the body from plague, death of the soul from heresy. The performance of the new play of Dr Faustus seems prophetic when it is followed by ‘a great reckoning in a little room’.