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Shakespeare versus Marlowe


Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe, considered by many learned scholars some 150 years later, could have been the writer of some of William Shakespeare plays.

There are some similarities in their early years; Christopher Marlowe was born in Canterbury in 1564, and his father was a shoemaker.  William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564 as well, and his father worked with leather among other things.

Marlowe attended the Kings School in Canterbury, Corpus Christi College in Cambridge, and received a Batchelor of Arts degree in 1584.  Whilst Shakespeare attended King’s New School in Stratford-upon-Avon, studying grammar and Latin classical works, and in 1582 married Anne Hathoway.

It is believed, whilst Marlowe attended the University of Cambridge, that he was recruited as a government spy, as suggested by Charles Nicholl.  Records indicate that he had long absences from the university, and had money to spend when he was there.

In 1587, the Privy Council ordered the University of Cambridge to award Marlowe a Master of Arts degree.

Theories abound about Marlowe.  One was that in 1589 he became tutor to Arabella Stuart, the niece of Mary Queen of Scots and cousin to James VI of Scotland, later James I of England.

In 1592, he was arrested in Flushing in the Netherlands for alleged counterfeiting, but no trial took place, and no prison sentence followed.

On the 30th May 1593, Christopher Marlowe was killed, and buried in an unmarked grave at St.Nicholas Church, Deptford.

Many theories exist to the manner of his death.  It has been put forward that his death may have been faked to save the government, of a trial for subversive atheism, against one of their own spies.  Could it be, the reason he professed atheism, had more to do with his work as a government spy.

Christopher Marlowe’s first play was “Dido, Queen of Carthage,” performed by Children of the Chapel, a company of boy actors between 1587-1593, and published in 1594, listing authors as Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Nashe.

In 1587, his play “Tamburlaine the Great” was performed in London, and in 1588 part two was released.  It told the story of the rise from shepherd tp war-lord.  Then in 1590, both parts were published.

“The Jew of Malta,” written between 1589-1590 and first performed in 1592, and published in 1594.  The storyline is of a Maltese Jew’s barbarous revenge against the city authorities.

“Edward the Second,” was published in 1594, a year after Marlowe’s supposed death.  The story is about the deposition of King Edward II by his barons and the Queen.

“The Massacre at Paris,” was about the events which took place at the Saint Bartholomew’s Day Massacre in 1572, which involved English Protestants and Catholics.  It features an English Agent, and one believes this has to be Marlowe himself, with his connections to the English secret service.

One would have to say, this was a most dangerous play to have written, for it brought into play, agitators in London who seized on its theme to advocate the murders of refugees from the low countries, and it warns Elizabeth I of this possibility in the final scene.

Marlowe was admired by his critics, as an influential artist of the timer who sadly died before his time.


William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare paid tribute to Christopher Marlowe in his play, “As You Like It.”  The quote read: “When a man’s verses cannot be understood, nor a man’s good wit seconded with the forward a child, understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room.”

Shakespeare was heavily influenced by Marlowe in his works, as can be seen in Anthony and Cleopatra, The Merchant of Venice, Richard III and Macbeth.  There are poignant speeches in Hamlet, which echo the style of Marlowe.

Both men lived and worked in the same timeline, yet their lives differed so much.  We could not in all honesty consider anything other than we were privileged that these two authors wrote many plays during their lifetimes.

Shakespeare continues to be considered one of the greatest writers the world over.  Portraying characters; from our history.  Showing situations which we would experience at one time or another during our lives.  He does this with great understanding of humanity, tolerance and wisdom.

His plays were designed to be performed in such a way, that we understand what it is to be human, and cope with the problems of life.

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