William Shakespeare or Christopher Marlowe?

The Greatest Deception in English Literature

[While reading Electrical Engineering at Imperial College, London. 1962-65, we were each required to submit an essay on a non-technical subject. This was mine.]

The plays, poems, and sonnets attributed to William Shakespeare, the Stratford born actor, are without doubt, among the finest to have been written in the English Language. His was perhaps the most magnificent English dramatic prose ever written, and few have equalled the sublime sorrow and beauty of his lines, or the depth of feeling to be found in so many of his writings.

To understand Shakespeare it is necessary not merely to browse, but to delve deeply into his works. Only then is it possible to really understand this poet-dramatist whose influence has spread to the four corners of the literary world.

Those who have really studied Shakespeare and understand his work cannot be indifferent to the man himself, whose whole life and personality so plainly haunt the sonnets, and to a lesser degree, some of the plays. I believe that in order to fully comprehend the works of such an unusual genius as William Shakespeare, it is vital to understand something of the author. Samuel Butler is quoted as saying: “A great portrait is always more a portrait of the painter than of the painted”. Surely this is equally as true for writers of Shakespeare’s calibre.

To disprove that Shakespeare wrote the works attributed to him, or to prove that another wrote them, has been a popular sport for some time. It is a sport that can never detract from the value of the Works, however, and it helps us to understand more of their author. I have never been completely satisfied that the Stratford man wrote the works, but for a long time could advance no better candidate.

As a result of investigating the claims of many partisan historians for a wide variety of candidates, there remains little doubt in my mind as to the true author of the most magnificent plays ever to grace the stage.

I intend to prove, firstly, that there is no evidence of Shakespeare having been a playwright, and secondly, that no-one but Christopher Marlowe could possibly have written the so-called Shakespeare cannon.

William Shakespeare

(First Folio engraving)

William Shakespeare was thirty years of age when ‘Venus & Adonis’ was published in 1593. This epic poem, so obviously written by a man of considerable literary stature, heralded the sudden emergence of the playwright who was already well over the threshold of middle age, at a time when the life expectancy was (liberally) forty. All that is known about the man prior to this, is in the official records of his birth, his marriage, and his fatherhood. (His third child was born in 1585).

The missing nine years between 1585 and 1593 should have been his most creative period, when he must surely have been making literary attempts, inherent in the early growth of all artists. Instead there was nothing. Several contemporary writers mentioned and discussed each other, but no-one mentioned Shakespeare, - what plays he had written, or, in fact, any literary attempts at all.

It is surely inconceivable that a playwright of Shakespeare’s stature could emerge spontaneously from oblivion and start composing some of the greatest prose and poetry ever written in the English language. The wide book knowledge and enormous vocabulary of the poet could never have been suddenly acquired but must have been the result of intensive learning. A sculptor or painter, if sufficiently a genius, can be a great artist with no education, but with a writer this is impossible. A writer must studiously apply himself for a long time in order to achieve the literary maturity that Shakespeare had achieved at the time of his first published work.

On the surface, this might be a good argument for late authorship. However, a writer can only learn to write well by actually practising this art. If' Shakespeare was writing and thus consolidating his mastery of the English language, what happened to such trial attempts? Had he shown them to anyone in the literary world, his budding genius would have been recognised as such, and others would have mentioned him. There is no record of such mention, however brief or passing. This, it could be argued, proves nothing, since he could have been keeping his literary attempts secret; but since no-one can suggest a motive for such secrecy, this theory in highly implausible. Furthermore, the onus of proof, surely, rests with those who give the Stratford actor the acclaim. Such scholars have not once in four hundred years provided evidence to show that Shakespeare was writing prior to the publication of the masterly ‘Venus and Adonis’, and so it is only fair to conclude that he was not.

As far as we know, Shakespeare received no formal education of any sort. It is proved that he attended neither of the two universities of the day, Oxford and Cambridge, since complete contemporary records of all students are still available. Likewise, it is most unlikely that he could have been self-educated. At that time there were no dictionaries, encyclopaedias or English grammars, and in fact, access to books of any sort was an impossibility for the average Elizabethan. Some traditional Stratfordians claim that he received his education at the hands of some un-named benevolent patron, but this is only conjecture.

Although there is no evidence to show that he could even construct a complex sentence, we are expected to believe that he was conversant with the arts of grammar, versification, poetics, medicine, philosophy, astronomy, divinity, horticulture and law; with Latin, Greek, French and Italian; and with the works of Lucan, Ovid, Plautus, Pliny, Seneca, Socrates, Sophocles, and Virgil. Such knowledge does not ‘drop like the gentle rain from heaven’.

Orthodox scholars claim that he wrote between twelve and sixteen plays up to 1598. But until that year he was not known as either a dramatist or a playwright. That is, up to his thirty-sixth year William Shakespeare was not known as a writer in any professional circle; not even a ripple of comment in the contemporary literary and theatrical world; and yet it is claimed that by this time he had written at least one third of all his plays.

There are, however, contemporary references to Shakespeare’s plays after 1598, revolving solely around those to which his name had already been attached. An example is Meres ‘Palladis Tamia’, in 1598, which passes critical judgement on several English writers including Shakespeare, but only on their already staged or published dramas. This is the very first reference to Shakespeare’ writings, but there is no reference in it to the man, professionally or personally.

The only reason for believing that the Stratford-born London actor was the author of the Works that today bear his name is that the name William Shakespeare appears in the title-pages of some (nine out of sixteen) of the Quarto plays, and in the posthumously published (1623) First Folio edition of Shakespeare’s Works. That is, up to his death in 1616 posterity bases its belief that Shakespeare wrote all the plays that today bear his name on the title-pages of nine of the thirty-seven dramas he is supposed to have written. (Appendix II).

Eight other plays were published in Quarto during the actor’s lifetime with his name on the title-page, which never appeared in the First Folio. Although these were published concurrently and by the same publishers, as the Works generally acknowledged as being Shakespeare’s, all but one of these are rejected as not being authentic. (Appendix II).

Heminge and Condell, who collected and had published the First Folio, did not include ‘Pericles, Prince of Tyre’, a play that had already been published in Quarto with Shakespeare’s name as author. Posterity claims that these two actors surely knew what their friend Shakespeare wrote, but did they? ‘Pericles’ was certainly written by the same hand as the Shakespeare canon, that much is certain. Two other questions concern the First Folio.

Now could Heminge and Condell claim that “these plays have had their trial already” when nearly two-thirds of them had never been published before and more than one third of them had never been produced on the stage? This is obviously a lie.

They also stigmatised the quartos as “stolen and surreptitious copies!, although these quartos are in many cases fuller than the same plays in the Folio. To quote Edmund Malone: “instead of printing these plays from manuscripts, the editors, to save labour, or for some other motives, printed the greater part of them from the very quartos which Heminge and Condell represented as maimed and imperfect”.

Furthermore, how could two part-time actors who were by profession a grocer and a publican, compose such a learned and masterly dedication to the Folio, a dedication that is a most ingenious paraphrase of Pliny’s ‘Natural History’? (Appendix II).

Literary ethics in Elizabethan times were very low, and Heminge and Condell might have been used solely to reinforce the masquerade of Shakespeare’s authorship. It is certain that they put their names to a dedication that they could not possibly have written.

Furthermore, it was most unusual at that time for the publishers of such an important and extremely expensive work as the First Folio to employ two actor-tradesmen to write the only advertisement for the work. The most likely reason was to forge as strong and as airtight a link as possible between the name William Shakespeare and the Works.

Furthermore, for the record, at least fourteen Quarto plays, not acknowledged as his by most scholars, were published after his death in 1616, with William Shakespeare on the title-page.

All this shows how unreliable title-page evidence is, and yet it is only on such evidence that the myth of Shakespeare’s authorship is based. His contemporaries who mentioned him were also relying solely on this title-page evidence. That such evidence is flimsy and untrustworthy needs hardly to be argued.

Another fact that orthodox Shakespearean scholars seem to ignore concerns his death. He died in 1616, at the ripe old age (by Elizabethan standards) of 52. During his life he is supposed to have produced more dramas than any of his literary contemporaries, men such as George Peele, Thomas Kyd, John Webster, John Fletcher, John Ford, Francis Beaumont, Edmund Spenser, or Robert Greene. Yet when Shakespeare died no mention was made of him, either privately or publicly, as a man, as a poet, or as a dramatist. He must have known many dramatists, poets, actors, publishers, friends, yet not one line of elegy was written; not one single phrase in memory of the greatest English dramatist ever. And this was in an age when convention required, no, demanded such elegies. His contemporaries, of lesser stature and of smaller renown, at their passing, stirred forth such elegiac verses, but not William Shakespeare. It is well to ask why, and to draw our own conclusions. Could it possibly be that he was not known in the literary world? Only his son-in-law, a Stratford doctor, one John Hall, mentions his death in his diary: “My father-in-law died on Thursday”. J W Mackail, an orthodox Shakespearean scholar, has written: “It is not a little remarkable that, in a copiously elegiac age, there is no trace of the decease of the greatest English dramatist and the foremost figure in English literature, having called forth at the time a single line of elegy”.

The first sketchy biography of Shakespeare was written by Rowe in 1709, nearly a century after the poet’s death. By this time the only available material would have been the hearsay evidence of gossips, and the traditions and legends that had already begun to grow. From this shaky foundation, by guesswork and ‘intuition’, stems all we know of the London actor.

On the documentary evidence that exists, it is easier to say with assurance that William Shakespeare never wrote a single one of his Works, than that he was responsible for what is today taken as being the Shakespeare canon.

I will now try to prove, not that Christopher Marlowe might have written the Works, but that no-one but Marlowe could possibly have done so.

Christopher Marlowe

Christopher Marlowe was born in Canterbury in 1564, the same year as Shakespeare. He was unusually intelligent and although a cobbler’s son he won a scholarship to King’s School, Canterbury, and two years later another scholarship to Corpus Christi, Cambridge.

While at Corpus Christi he read Holinshed’s Chronicles on which Shakespeare’s historical plays are largely based, and most of the Greek and Latin authors available. He acted in several college plays, and wrote quite a few of his dramas, including ‘Dido, Queen of Carthage’ and ‘Tamburlaine’. He also translated the “Amores” of Ovid, the Roman poet whose influence is said to be noticeable in the works of both Marlowe and Shakespeare.

His style matured quickly, and his popularity began. While at Cambridge he made many influential friends, the most important being Sir Thomas Walsingham, cousin to Queen Elizabeth’s Secretary of State, Sir Francis Walsingham. Sir Thomas became Marlowe's patron, and, unfortunately his lover, a common enough occurrence in Elizabethan society.

This explains a lot, if Marlowe wrote Shakespeare's Works, although this is not presented as proof. There is no doubt that the author of Shakespeare’s Sonnets held an unknown man, the “onlie begetter of these ensuing sonnets, Mr W H”, in very close, passionate, often sensual affection. Even in the plays the bonds of love between men are stronger than those between men and women. Mr W H could quite easily have been Sir Thomas Walsingham, since his surname was often spelled by the variant Walsing-Ham, a fashion of the time. Mr W H must certainly have been of no higher rank than a knight, otherwise the title Mr would have been a severe breach of etiquette punishable under law. Hence it could not have been Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton, as some have claimed. The reason for the dedication being so obviously obscure was to conceal the identity of the parties concerned, for reasons we shall see.

Marlowe was an outspoken atheist in an age when such were burned alive at the stake and this was to be his downfall. In 1593, the Privy Council ordered his arrest and he was taken from Walsingham’s Chislehurst estate to a London prison. Since he was not a common criminal, and had powerful friends, he was released on bail pending his trial. Flight was out of the question since he would then be a hunted man for the rest of his life, but he knew that his days were numbered.

The only course left open to him, to escape the Queen’s justice, was to arrange for his own faked death with, of course, the aid of his patron, Walsingham, as shall be proved.

On Marlowe’s death, the details of which were generally unknown at the time, there were many tokens of remembrance from poets and dramatists; Marlowe had friends, he had an established, memorialised reputation. Until Marlowe’s death nothing is known of Shakespeare the writer, though. We do not know whether he attended school, whether he read books; whether he spoke to or about others in his field; who spoke or wrote of him; who praised him, envied him, loved him or hated him. Neither is there any evidence that Marlowe and Shakespeare ever met. The inescapable conclusion to the fact that we know nothing of Shakespeare until Marlowe’s death is simple. There was nothing to know. He was just one nondescript actor, living in England with four million other people.

The coroner’s report on Marlowe’s ‘assassination’ was first discovered in the Public Record Office and made public in 1925, after more than three centuries. To his contemporaries, and to the world at large, the details of his death were unknown, it being generally believed that he died in the then-current plague. This document, reproduced in Appendix V, contains so many incongruities and self-evident absurdities that the events could not possibly have happened as described. The only three witnesses could have manufactured the story in order to bring in a verdict of self-defence on the slayer, but it could equally well have been manufactured to fool the coroner in another way. None other than Sir Thomas Walsingham employed these three witnesses, three very unsavoury and crooked men, in various nefarious schemes both prior to the assassination, and for a long time afterwards. This fact alone should be enough to arouse suspicion.

The coroner was fooled by the dead body of an unknown man, claimed to be Marlowe, and by the undisputedly concocted story of the killing. The alleged assassin was acquitted on a verdict of self-defence, and there ended the life story of Christopher Marlowe.

Where did Marlowe go after his alleged death? He probably went to France, or to Italy, which would explain his background knowledge of these places and the customs of the inhabitants, knowledge that the writer of ‘Shakespeare’ certainly possessed. Much later, he probably returned to England, living in disguise in the seclusion of Walsingham’;s Chislehurst estate.

Marlowe continued to write, however, sending his manuscripts to his patron to deal with. Sir Thomas must have had them copied by a scrivener, so that Marlowe’s handwriting never appeared, and then had them published. He must have felt that the world deserved such great works and that their exiled author deserved to know that they were reaching the public’s attention. There was one obstacle, however, in that someone must write them. Walsingham required the services of a steady unimaginative actor, who would lend his name to anything if the price was right. I believe that he found the man he was looking for in William Shakespeare.

It this thesis is correct, many hitherto unexplained points become clear. The mysterious sonnets are seen as outcries to the world for vindication and recognition by probably the most crushed and tortured soul who ever lived, whose immortal words were being credited to another. Another dimension is added to such magnificent dramas as King Lear, Macbeth, and Hamlet, when we ask ourselves why the themes of exile, banishment and disguise so obviously pervade so many of his plays.

If the works of Shakespeare and Marlowe were of the same hand and conjured by the same mind, surely there would be stylistic similarities and similar choices of phrase? Indeed there are.

As far as phraseology is concerned there are numerous parallelisms between the works of Shakespeare and Marlowe. An American, Calvin Hoffman, has compiled quite a list of them, a few of which are quoted in Appendix VI.

Many learned Shakespearean scholars have for many years recognised the peculiar similarity between the writings of Marlowe and Shakespeare, and a selection of their thoughts on this subject is given in Appendix III.

The late J M Robertson, MP, adds further fuel to the theory. He was a staunch conservative scholar, and an outspoken defender of the authenticity of Shakespeare. As a result of verse tests he names fourteen of the First Folio plays, which he says Marlowe must have had a hand in writing. Most of these fourteen were written after Marlowe's alleged murder.

The strongest and most damning evidence has been provided by Dr Mendenhall, an American professor, who wrote in 1900: “Nearly twenty years ago (i.e. about 1880) I devised a method for exhibiting such peculiarities of style in literary composition as seemed to be almost purely mechanical and of which an author would be absolutely unconscious. The chief merit of the method consisted in the fact that its application required no experience or judgement, accurate enumeration being all that was necessary. By displaying one or more phrases of the mechanism of composition, characteristics might be revealed which the author could make no attempt to conceal, being himself unaware of their existence. It was also assumed that owing to the well-known persistence of unconscious habit, personal peculiarities in the construction of sentences, in use of either short or long words, in the number of words in a sentence, etc, would, in the long run, manifest themselves with such regularity that their graphic representation would become a means of identification.”.

It was shown that in no two cases were the results ever alike. If enough composition of a writer was available, he could be accurately identified.

A wealthy American, a century ago, employed Dr. Mendenhall to prove that Sir Francis Bacon wrote the Shakespeare canon. Accordingly, writings from many contemporary authors were analysed, upwards of a million words. With one exception, all the authors had different styles. The exception is explained in the professor's own words: “It was in the counting and plotting of the plays of Christopher Marlowe, however, that something akin to a sensation was produced among those actually engaged in the work. In the characteristic curve of his plays, Christopher Marlowe agrees with Shakespeare as well as Shakespeare agrees with himself.

There is also much internal evidence in the plays of Shakespeare, where the author hints at his identity, but a digression on this would be far too lengthy.

A further avenue of investigation different from all those in the foregoing narrative, concerns the portraits of Marlowe and Shakespeare. As recently as 1953 an old portrait was found at Corpus Christi, College, Cambridge. This portrait was of an unnamed scholar whose age was given as 21 in 1585. It is established from contemporary college records that Marlowe was the only student at Corpus Christi at the time who was 21. There are two interesting facts about this portrait. Firstly, the motto on the painting is: “quod me nutruit me destruit”, “that which nourishes me (my patron), destroys me (arranges for my faked death)” This motto does not appear in any ancient Greek or Roman literature in any form, so it was presumably fabricated for a purpose by someone of that day. A variation of it appears in Pericles as “Quod me alit, me extinguit” (that which lights me, extinguishes me), and also in Sonnet Number 73: “consumed with that which it is nourished by”.

(Portrait from Corpus Christi)

The second and much more important fact, is that leading portrait experts claim that this portrait is of the same person as the First Folio engraving by Martin Droeshout which claims to represent the genuine author of the Folio plays. Furthermore, neither portrait bears any resemblance at all to Dugdale’s sketch of the original stone bust of Shakespeare that was set up at Stratford shortly after the actor's death.

On the basis of the foregoing points, it is clear that no-one but Christopher Marlowe could possibly have written the Works of Shakespeare. It is thus evident that the literary world has been misled by one of the most cleverly perpetrated hoaxes in literary history; and that Marlowe should be given the acclaim so long erroneously given to Shakespeare.

Appendix I

Everything known about William Shakesepeare

It may be seen that he is never mentioned in any capacity as a playwright.

1564 Baptised at Stratford-upon-Avon on the 26th of April.
1582 Married Anne Hathaway.
1585 Father of 3 children by this time.
1594 Listed as an actor for the first time in the Lord Chamberlain’s Company of Players.
1596 William Wayte craves sureties of the peace against him.
1596-1598 He is assessed for taxes as a resident of St. Helen’s Parish, Bishopsgate.
1597 He purchased ‘New Place’, a house in Stratford-upon-Avon.
1598 He is interested in purchasing land in Shottery.
1598 His name is entered among the chief holders of corn and malt at Stratford-upon-Avon.
1598 He is listed as an actor in the cast of Ben Johnson's ‘Every Man in His Humour’. This was not mentioned, however, until 1616.
1599 He sells a load of stone to Stratford-upon-Avon Corporation.
1599 He becomes part owner of the Globe Theatre.
1601 His name is given passing mention in the will of Thomas Whittington
1602 He is mentioned in an off-colour story as the third party to an assignation.
1602 He buys a large tract of land in Stratford-upon-Avon.
1602 He receives assurance of title to his residence ‘New Place’ in Stratford-upon-Avon.
1602 He buys a cottage and some land opposite ‘New Place’.
1603 He and his theatrical colleagues become the King’s servants.
1603 He is listed as an actor in the cast of Ben Johnson’s play, ‘Sejanus’. (This was first mentioned in 1616).
1604 He is numbered among nine actors who receive a grant of red cloth for King James’ coronation procession.
1602 He sues Philip Rogers, apothecary, for a debt of 35/10d.
1605 Receives bequest of 30/- in will of fellow actor Augustine Phillips.
1605 He purchases an interest in the corn, hay, wool and lamb tithes of Stratford-upon-Avon and other villages.
1608 He sues John Addenbroke of Stratford-upon-Avon for £6 in a lawsuit
1609 Complaint of Shakespeare and others to the Lord Chancellor regarding the tithes of Stratford-upon-Avon.
1610 He increases his purchases of real estate from William and John Combes.
1612 Mentioned as a witness in a dowry suit in the case or Beloit versus Mountjoy
1613 He purchases a house in Blackfriars, London.
1613 The mortgage deed on the Blackfriars property is filed.
1613 William Shakespeare and another actor receive payment from the Earl of Rutland for contributing to the devising of an impresa or personal badge. (The authenticity of this document has been questioned).
1614 He receives a bequest of £5 in the will of one John Combes.
1614 Mentioned in diary of Thomas Greene: “My cousin Shakespeare coming to town (i.e. London). I went to see him how he did.”.
1614 A legal agreement protecting Shakespeare against loss of tithe income at Welcombe.
1614-1615 Notes concerning his attitude toward proposed enclosures of property at Welcombe.
1615 He is involved in a lawsuit concerning some documents relating to his Blackfriars property.
1616 He makes his will March 25th 1616. One month afterwards, he dies. Three of his signatures are contained in the will.
1616 Shakespeare’s death and burial are recorded in the Stratford-upon-Avon Burial Registry as occurring on April 23rd. He is interred in the chancel of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, with an inscription carved in the monument showing his date of death.

Appendix II

The Quarto Plays

Titus Andronicus - published 1594 anonymously
Richard IIl - published 1597 anonymously - see Note 1
Romeo and Juliet - published 1597 anonymously
Love's Labours Lost - published 1598 by W Shakespeare - see Note 1
Henry IV, Part I - published 1598 anonymously - see Note 1
The Merchant of Venice - published 1600 by W Shakespeare
Henry V - published 1600 anonymously
Much Ado about Nothing - published 1600 by W Shakespeare - see Note 2
Henry IV, Part II - published 1600 by W Shakespeare - see Note 2
A Midsummer Night’s Dream - published 1600 by W Shakespeare
Merry Wives of Windsor - published 1602 by W Shakespeare
Hamlet - published 1603 by W Shakespeare - see Note 1
King Lear - published 1608 by W Shakespeare - see Note 2
Troilus and Cressida - published 1609 by W Shakespeare
Othello - published 1622 anonymously - see Note 1

Note 1: Plays alluded to by contemporaries as being produced in London theatres during Shakespeare’s lifetime. These references only mention their titles, plots and characters. The name William Shakespeare is never linked to any of them.

Note 2: The only three plays registered at the Stationers’ Company as being by William Shakespeare, up to 1623 (7 years after his death).

Plays appearing only in the First Folio

The Tempest
Julius Caesar
The Two Gentlemen of Verona
Timon of Athens
Measure for Measure
The Comedy of Errors
Henry VIII
As you Like It
King John
The Taming of the Shrew
Henry VI Part 1
Henry VI Part 2
Henry VI Part 3
All’s Well that Ends Well
Anthony and Cleopatra

Plus the following 4 plays alluded to by contemporaries as being produced in London theatres during Shakespeare’s lifetime. These references only mention their titles, plots, and characters. The name William Shakespeare is never linked to any of them.

Twelfth Night
The Winter’s Tale

Other Quarto Plays published during Shakespeare’s life-time, by those who also published Shakespeare’s canonical plays.

1595 Locrine, “Newly set forth, overseen, and corrected by W S” (cf: Love’s Labours Lost, 1598, “Newly corrected and augmented by W Shakespeare”).
1600 Sir John Ordcastle, “Written by William Shakespeare”;.
1602 The True Chronicle History of Thomas Lord Cromwell, “Written by W S”.
1605 The London Prodigal, “By William Shakespeare”;.
1607 The Puritan, “By W S”.
1608 A Yorkshire Tragedy, “Written by W. Shakespeare”. (Registered 1608 at stationers company as by “;William Shakespeare”).
1609 Pericles, Prince of Tyre, “By William Shakespeare”.
1611 The Troublesome Reign of King John, “Written by W Sh”.

Pericles, Prince of Tyre, is the only one of these eight plays which orthodox scholarship believes to have been written by William Shakespeare.

Appendix III

Quotations from Shakespearian scholars, concerning the similarities in style between Shakespeare and Marlowe.

A W Verity

”Marlowe created the noblest vehicle of dramatic expression of which any language is capable. He created a new dramatic form. He created in Edward III a new type of play ... Shakespeare carried to its utmost limits the dramas initiated by Marlowe ... In Shakespeare's Richard II we have a continuation of the legitimate historical play first seen in Marlowe's Edward II.”

R L Ashurst

”Marlowe was by far the greatest and strongest of Elizabethan dramatists; he had a powerful influence in the mental development of the poet we know as Shakespeare.”

Sir Sidney Lee

”Marlowe alone ... can be credited with exerting ... a really substantial influence on Shakespeare.”

Robert M Theobald

”Marlowe’s tones are to be heard in even the most advanced of Shakespeare’;s plays ... There is an organic relation between Marlowe and Shakespeare which requires explanation. There is an audacity about Shakespeare’s diction which comes by direct descent from Marlowe”

Charles Grant

”Marlowe’s Dr Faustus was the first work which bore the unmistakable impress of that tragic power which was to find its highest embodiment in King Lear, Macbeth, Othello and Hamlet.”

Thomas Marc Parrott

”Without Marlowe there would never have been the William Shakespeare whom we know.”

William Hazlitt

”Marlowe has a much fairer claim to be the author of Titus Andronicus than Shakespeare ... from internal evidence.”

F.E. Schelling

”Some assign a hand in Richard III to Christopher Marlowe; others regard it as a joint production of Marlowe and Shakespeare so ....... Richard III shows the influence of Marlowe to a greater degree than any play of Shakespeare’s”

Note 1. There is no evidence that Shakespeare and Marlowe ever met or knew each other.

Note 2. Marlowe supposedly lay buried in the parish churchyard at Deptford when these plays were written.

Appendix IV

The Source of the First Folio Dedication

The First Folio Dedication by Heminge & Condell is in Blue Text
Pliny’s Natural History is in Red Text

For, when we value the places your H.H. sustain, we cannot but know their dignity greater, than to descend to the reading of these trifles.
I considered your situation much too elevated for you to descend to such an office.

Wherein., as we have justly observed, no man to come near your L.L. but with a kind of religious address; it hath been the height of our care, who are the Presenters, to make the present worthy of your H.H. by the perfection.
.... even those who come to pay their respects to you do so with a kind of veneration : on this account I ought to be careful that what is dedicated to you should be worthy of you.

Country hands reach forth milk, cream, fruits, or what they have; and many Nations (we have heard) that had not gums and incense obtained their requests with a leavened cake. It was no fault to approach their Gods by what means they could.
But the country people, and indeed, come whole Nations, offer milk to the Gods, and those who cannot procure frankincense substitute in its place salted cakes, for the Gods are satisfied when they are worshipped by everyone to the best of his ability.

And the most, though meanest, of things are made more precious when they are dedicated to Temples.
.... for things are often conceived to be of great value, solely because they are consecrated in Temples.

And while we name them trifles, we have deprived ourselves of the Defence of our Dedication.
And by this dedication I have deprived myself of the benefit of challenge.

But since your L.L. have been pleased to think these trifles something, heretofore; and have prosecuted both them, and their author living with so much favour....
For still thou neer wouldst quite despise the trifles that I write.

There is a great difference whether any Book choose his Patrons, or find them; This hath done both.
For it is a very different thing whether a person has a judge given him by lot, or whether he voluntarily selects one.

In the Bankside Shakespeare, the editor, Appleton Morgan, writes concerning the similarity between the First Folio dedication and Pliny’s Natural History: “Such a deadly parallel column .... sufficiently indicates that Heminge and Condell is a pseudonym for someone who was very much another sort of person from the two actors who ended their days as a grocer and a publican.

The translation of Pliny’s Natural History is that of John Bostock and H T Riley.

Appendix V

Report of the Coroner’s inquest on the death of Christopher Marlowe.

Dated June 1st 1593 and written in Latin.

The following is an English version.

Inquisition indented taken at Deptford Strand in the aforesaid County of Kent, within the verge, on the 1st day of June, 1593, in the presence of William Danby, Gent, Coroner of the Household of our said Lady the Queen, upon view of the body of Christopher Marlowe, there lying, dead and slain, upon oath of ... (there are sixteen named witnesses) who say upon their oath that when a certain Ingram Frizer, late of London, and the aforesaid Christopher Marlowe and one Nicholas Skeres and Robert Poley on the 30th day of May, at Deptford Strand, within the verge, ... met together in a room in the house of a certain Eleanor Bull, widow ...
... and after supper the said Ingram and Christopher Marlowe were in speech and uttered one to the other divers malicious words for the reason that they could not be at one nor agree about the payment of the sum of pence, that is, le recknynge there (Note 1), and the said Christopher Marlowe then lying upon a bed in the room where they supped, and moved with anger against the said Ingram Frizer upon the words as aforesaid spoken between them; and the said Ingram Frizer then and there sitting in the room aforesaid, with his back toward the bed where the said Christopher Marlowe was then lying (Note 2), sitting near the bed that is, near the bed mid with the front part of his body near the table and the aforesaid Nicholas Skeres and Robert Poley sitting on either side of the said Ingram in such a manner that the came Ingram Frizer in no wise could take flight; it so befell that the said Christopher Marlowe on a sudden and of his malice towards the said Ingram aforethought, was at his back, and with the same dagger the said Christopher Marlowe then and there maliciously gave the aforesaid Ingram two wounds on his head of the length of two inches and of the depth of a quarter of an inch (Note 3), whereupon the said Ingram, in fear of being slain, and sitting in the manner aforesaid between the said Nicholas Skeres and. Robert Poley so that he could in no wise get away (Note 4), in his own defence and for the saving of his own life, then and there struggled with the said Christopher Marlowe to get from him his dagger aforesaid (Note 5), in which affray the same Ingram could not get away from the said Christopher Marlowe, and so it befell in the affray that the said Ingram, in defence of his life, with the dagger aforesaid of the value of 12d, gave the said Christopher then and there a mortal wound over his right eye of the depth of two inches and the width of one inch; of which mortal wound the aforesaid Christopher Marlowe then and there instantly died (Note 6).

Commentary on the Coroner's Inquest Report.

On first reading this document, it might appear that there is nothing incongruous in it all. If it is carefully studied, however, the following points emerge.

Note 1. (This digression does not pretend to reveal incongruities). In the play ‘As you like it’, which first appeared in the First Folio, the clown, Touchstone utters come interesting lines when addressing Audrey: - “I am here with thee and thy goats, as the most capricious poet, honest Ovid, was among the Goths”. We know that historically, Ovid was banished from his native country to the land of the Goths. We also know that Ovid wielded a strong literary influence on Marlowe. Could Marlowe have been hinting at his own situation?

Touchstone goes on to say: “When a man’s verses cannot be understood, nor a man’s good wit seconded with the forward child, understanding, it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room.” Audrey answers that she does not understand Touchstone. There is, in fact, no motivation for the clown’s lines, which are highly irrelevant to the play. Perhaps Marlowe is telling us that his verses cannot be understood, and that this strikes him more cruelly than the official cause of his death:
it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room.

Note 2. Frizer and Marlowe were both men of action, and were having a violent quarrel. It is surely inconceivable that Frizer would sit in such a dangerous position, with his back to Marlowe, and wedged between two others in such a way that he could not easily move.

Note 3. We are expected to believe that Marlowe, a strong and rugged individual, who was armed with a dagger, and positioned in a most favourable position behind Frizer, could do no more than inflict two slight scalp wounds.
We are further expected to believe that Frizer sat perfectly still after the first blow, until he had received a second identical blow, before doing anything.

Note 4. Skeres and Poley also sat perfectly still during this initial incident. In addition, these two made no attempt to intervene and stop the fight, but simply stood by doing nothing. This is somewhat unrealistic.

Note 5. If Frizer was positioned between Skeres and Poley in such a way “so that he could in no wise get away”, how could he have “then and there struggled with the said Christopher Marlowe to get from him his dagger”, when Marlowe was behind him?

Note 6. Medical experts who have examined this document state authoritatively that it is impossible to die instantaneously from a wound as described. Present day neurosurgeons claim that such a wound, even if six or eight inches deep need not result in death at all. Marlowe’s wound was only two inches deep. One so wounded could linger for days in a prolonged coma, although in Elizabethan times he would almost certainly have died from it eventually.

Conclusion. Taken singly, each of these points might not warrant question of the evidence. However, taken as a whole, it would seem that every single action that took place in Eleanor Bull’s room is unlikely to have happened as described. Since the Queen’s Privy Council had virtually fixed the date of Marlowe’s execution for the capital offence of atheism, it is quite conceivable that the Queen’s coroner (who officiated since the Queen was within twenty miles of Deptford) had been given instructions not to inquire too deeply.

To summarise, the report of the death of Marlowe (which is definitely an authentic document) is shown almost conclusively to be a travesty of fact.

Appendix VI

A few parallelisms between the earlier works of William Shakespeare and the works of Christopher Marlowe.

Christopher Marlowe William Shakespeare
.. on thy shining face,
Where Beauty, mother to the muses, sits
And comments volumes with her ivory pen,
Taking instructions from thy flowing eyes.
Romeo & Juliet
Read o'er the volume of your Paris' face.
Edward II
Gallop apace, bright Phoebus, through the sky,
And dusky night in rusty iron car,
Between you shorten the time, I pray,
That I may see that most desired day.
Romeo & Juliet
Gallop apace, you fiery footed steeds
Towards Phoebus lodging : such a waggoner
As Phaeton would whip you to the west
And bring in cloudy night immediately.
Edward II
A lofty cedar tree fair flourishing,
On whose top-branches kingly eagles perch.
Henry VI Part III
Thus yields the cedar to the axis edge
Whose arms gave shelter to the princely eagle.
Hero & Leander
...leapt into the water for a kiss
Of his own shadow.
Venus & Adonis
Died to kiss his shadow in the brook.
Hero & Leander
Love is too full of faith, too credulous,
With folly and fake hope deluding us.
Venus & Adonis
0 hard-believing love how strange it seems
Not to believe, and yet too credulous.

Appendix VII


Concerning William Shakespeare:

Sir Sidney Lee: A Life of William Shakespeare;
Sir Edmund Charles: A Biography of William Shakespeare;
Virgil Whitaker: Shakespeare's use of Learning;

Concerning the authorship of the Shakespeare Canon and similar topics:

Calvin Hoffman: The Murder of the Man who was Shakespeare;
Lt Col Montagu Douglas: Lord Oxford & the Shakespeare Group;
Gilbert Slater: Seven Shakespeares;
William & Elizabeth Friedman: The Shakespearian Ciphers Examined;
Amphett: Who was Shakespeare? ;
Robert Gittings: Shakespeare's Rivals;
Kenneth Muir: Shakespeare as Collaborator;
A W Titherley: Shakespeare's Identity;
Seymour Pitcher: Shakespeare: The First Folio;

Concerning Christopher Marlowe:

Dr. Samuel Tannerbraum: The Assassination of Christopher Marlowe;
Leslie Motson: The Death of Christopher Marlowe;
Frederick Boas: A Biography of Christopher Marlowe;
C F Tucker Brooke: The Reputation of Christopher Marlowe;


The translation of Pliny's Natural History by John Bostock and M T Riley;
The complete works of William Shakespeare, including prefaces and introductions;
The complete works of Christopher Marlowe, including prefaces and introductions.

Return to the top of this page, to the Home Page or to the Blog Index.