Shakespeare vs. Marlowe


Two great names: William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe -- names with so much in common –- yet they represent writers who were so different. Why?

These two men supposedly:

Lived in the same town: London
At the same time
Worked at the same occupation: writing plays
At the same places: the few theatres of London
Worked with the same people
Each occupied the same prestigious position as foremost poet and playwright in all of England.

And yet the contrasts are almost unbelievable.





Christopher Marlowe

In spite of such narratives as the movie “Shakespeare In Love” and writings by Marlowe biographers (which tell in glowing detail how Shakespeare and Marlowe might have met), there is absolutely no record of the two of them meeting, or working together, or even crossing paths.

Park Honen writes in his highly regarded biography of Marlowe, “Christopher Marlowe, Poet and Spy,” discussing the two of them: “Did they meet? Or become intimate. Plainly, no record of their talk together survives. No obscure diary tell us of the meetings, though shreds of the truth can be discovered if we are willing to be patient, indirect, or somewhat roundabout in assessing Marlowe’s friendship with his prime contemporary.”

The question arises: if the two greatest writers in England at that time ever met, wouldn’t there be some reference to it somewhere?

All the suppositions in the world regarding what might have occurred if Shakespeare and Marlowe met in no way indicate that they did. As a matter of fact, the very fact that there no existing references that England’s two major writers even cross paths, seems to be indicative that there never was such a meeting.

One must ask: why? The two most famous and highly regarded playwrights in England … never met?


With so much in common, it’s amazing that the lives of these two men were so different. As stated above, they worked in the same profession, in the same town, at the same time, with the same people and in the same places (London theatres).

How could they not have met? Examining their differences may offer a clue.

Educationally they were a great contrast. Shakespeare had had little schooling, quitting school when he was fifteen years old. Marlowe, by comparison, had two degrees including a master’s from Corpus Christi College at Cambridge University.

Shakespeare had had no opportunity to learn foreign languages though Marlowe was fluent in many. Marlowe had translated Ovid’s “Amores” while in college and later had done the first translation of Cervantes’s massive classic Don Quixote from Spanish to English. Many of the plays attributed to Shakespeare have reference to foreign cities and foreign languages.

In a similar manner, Shakespeare had had no opportunity to learn protocol of military life, legal matters or court manners, things in which Marlowe was proficient -- things that were frequently a part of many of the Shakespearean plays.

Marlowe had traveled to many countries. According to records, Shakespeare had never left England.








William Shakespeare


There is one area in which the two men share many traits. Their writings.

This is the primary impetus for the conspiracy theory that Marlowe may have written the works attributed to Shakespeare.

There are more than a hundred duplicate lines in the works of Shakespeare taken from previous writings of Marlowe. And more so, there are numerous references to Marlowe’s works in Shakespeare’s writings.

Some historians have pieced together these facts:
There is no record that the two greatest writers of the time ever met.
Marlowe’s death seems fabricated at best.
Shakespeare seems to be missing all the traits and experiences required to write such magnificent plays.
Maybe Marlowe did not die and continued to write under the name of William Shakespeare.


Some historians have argued that Shakespeare’s lack of education, travel experiences, and military knowledge do not preclude his having written the works attributed to him.

But others have disputing these factors, when coupled with all the other peculiarities connected with Shakespeare’s life.

There are questions concerning if Shakespeare was literate. There are no copies of anything handwritten by him. His signature appears only once in a legal document and that one has raised some suspicions.

There are a multitude of questions concerning other issues: why there were no tributes to Shakespeare when he died … why did his plays kept appearing (fourteen in all) after his death … and why did his will list every pot and pan but no books, no quartos of his plays, and no willing to anyone of any present plays on which he was working when he died.

Two different men, with two contrasting lives: presenting more questions than solutions.

That is how conspiracy theories begin.