One of the most common conspiracy theories surrounding Christopher Marlowe’s life is whether he and William Shakespeare were the same person. Many believe that Marlowe had faked his death and continued to write under the alias “William Shakespeare”. Some believe that one of the two authors had never existed. However, the amount of verifiable information defending these theories is slim to none; those that do provide “proof” have cited average theorists with little background in researching Marlowe’s history as sources. Most professional researchers, though their path to conclusions may vary slightly, have provided that Marlowe and Shakespeare were most indeed different people.
Irving Ribner, author of Marlowe and Shakespeare, points out various differences between Marlowe and Shakespeare’s writing styles. For example, the first thing Ribner mentions is that Marlowe and Shakespeare were born on two different days, more specifically two months apart. How can two people born on separate occasions be the same person? Ribner also uses his article to discuss the various writing styles between Marlowe and Shakespeare, mostly focusing on the more soft-spoken religious differences within their works. He says:
… we have Shakespeare palliating the antisemitism of Marlowe with a more sympathetic portrait of a Jew; to others we have Shakespeare striving to outdo Marlowe in antisemitism by presenting a more sympathetic view of the Christian world than Marlowe’s so that the blackness of his Jewish stereotype may stand out in sharper contrast (Ribner 45).
Robert Sawyer agrees with Ribner’s piece and points out how the poets ideas and works seem to be polar opposites, and view life of their time very differently (Sawyer 46). So, although Marlowe and Shakespeare did have their similarities in writing styles, these resemblances shouldn’t overshadow their individuality. He elaborates further on Ribner’s work, agreeing how “… the two writers also portray love differently. For Marlowe, love is a ‘weakness’ which briefly keeps the overreacher from his ‘heroic destiny,’ while for Shakespeare… ‘the love of a man and woman is an all-embracing commitment which causes youth to grow in maturity and wisdom'” (Sawyer 46).
Shakespeare was a collaborative writer, as were many other poets during his time. The diction and prevalence of certain themes within Marlowe’s works strengthens the idea that he may have collaborated with Shakespeare. Those who claim that Shakespeare and Marlowe are one entity based on this premise are simply confusing Marlowe and Shakespeare being one in the same with collaboration between the two playwrights.
In an article by Josh Hrala, a writer for ScienceAlert, he continues to provide support for the argument involving writing styles. He explains the prevalence of certain words known through Shakespeare’s works, and how these specific words are also used in Marlowe’s works as well (Hrala, ScienceAlert). His article focuses more on the actual word usage within each of the poets’ works. He continues to argue that “… using these specific words and word combinations, the teams says they can accurately figure out who was writing what, finding that Marlowe’s common words – like ‘glory droppeth’ or ‘shape thou’ – also appear in Shakespeare’s works even though the Bard doesn’t often use them” (Hrala, ScienceAlert).
Not only does this provide another discrepancy between the two authors, but it also defends the argument that they’re writing styles are unalike. Yes, there are overlaps, as with many authors of multiple eras, but this examination of word usage between the playwrights helps divide them into two, singular beings. Had they truly been one person, such differences would not have been easily found.