Why would Christopher Marlowe be the one and only one that can have written Shakespeare's plays?Can you state a few reasons for this? This is for my homework, and I need to better understand this....

Why would Christopher Marlowe be the one and only one that can have written Shakespeare's plays?

Can you state a few reasons for this? This is for my homework, and I need to better understand this. How do the two authors relate to each other?

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In fact, it isn't true to claim that Marlowe could "be the one and only one" that could have written Shakespeare's plays and sonnets. There is a great debate on this question. On one side are the Stratfordians who adamantly believe that William Shakespeare from Stratford-on-Avon with a provincial education is the one and only possible author of the woks attributed to Shakespeare. On the other side are at least three opposing theories, one fairly well put to rest, one newly highlighted, and one that continues to hold sway, that hold that someone other than the Stratfordian William Shakespeare wrote the works attributed to "Shakespeare."

The theory that is fairly well put to rest is the theory that Francis Bacon is the actual author of Shakespearean works. This theory has quieted down because the authorial styles of the two sets of works are so widely different and because Bacon was so prolific in his own right that it seems illogical that he would also have written in a different style under another name.

The theory that is newly highlighted is that Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford is the author of Shakespeare's works. The theory contends that there is much evidence for parallels between de Vere's life and the events alluded to or heralded in the Shakespearean sonnets and that de Vere's social status as an aristocrat would both give him reason to write secretly under an assumed (or borrowed) name along with worldly and courtly exposure and experience to write with the breadth and depth of detail found in Shakespeare's works.

The theory that continues to hold sway is that Christopher Marlowe, a spy for Queen Elizabeth I and a nonreligious man holding heretical atheistic beliefs, had his death faked by the Queen's spy master Sir Thomas Walsingham to save him from the religious inquisition of the English Star Chamber and after which he escaped to Italy where he flourished and wrote the Shakespearean works. It is theorized that what Marlowe wrote was sent back to England to the spy master who had the manuscripts copied in a different hand and then passed them to William Shakespeare to stage for the public while standing in as the "front man."

The most compelling reason for the Marlowe theory to have ascendancy is that the authorial styles between Marlowe and Shakespeare are so similar and that there is parallelism between lines and passages where Shakespearean lines are virtually identical to lines in Marlowe's works. The current well-reasoned perspective is that the question of Shakespeare's identity and the authenticity of authorship is and must be an open question with serious evidence indicating that William of Stratford-on-Avon may not have been the author of the works bearing his name and that it is possible, pending further evidence, that Marlowe may have been the real author.

M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

They are not related in any way to each other. Marlowe was an aristocrat, upper crust artist with a penchant for self-destruction. He was snobby, a dandy, an alcoholic, a wild man, a brawler, an addict, and also an incredibly talented man.

Shakespeare, born the same year as Marlowe, was from humble beginnings, not college-educated like Marlowe, certainly less wealthy, and did not have the demons that haunted Marlowe.

Marlovian theory states that Marlowe must have been the writer behind Shakespeare's writings because Shakespeare's past, upbringing, personality, education, and temperament does not render him as an artist in any way. He was, in fact, a lawyer and accountant.  How in the world could this man have written Romeo and Juliet? That is a theory, though.

So, since Marlowe was so bad, and had so many enemies everywhere, he had to escape his imminent death penalty which he was about to get for acts of heresy and much more, actually. He supposedly faked his death (someone falsely claimed to have murdered him and helped him escape).

Once gone away from creditors, the police, the kingdom, enemies, boyfriends, and all that haunted him, Marlowe presumably kept writing from afar and sending his documents under the name of William Shakespeare.

HOWEVER: The reason why the theory is so contagious is because Marlowe and Shakespeare indeed have many similarities in style of writing, themes, choice of words, rhythm, vocabulary usage, and just the essence of their writings are strikingly similar.  They also have some differences that people won't admit to for fanatical reasons, though.

  • Shakespeare then "coincidentially" shows up in the theatre scene the very year after the supposed death of Marlowe.
  • They were contemporaries, as they were the same age.
  • They must have known each other since the theatre scene was so small.
  • Marlovian theory basically states: It is more likely that Marlowe wrote Shakespeare's works, even more like than Shakespeare writing Shakespeare's works.

Read the link I included in the answer. It has more information on why Marlowe, and not any other author, would have possibly written these works.