William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
Although not a “Londoner,” Shakespeare spent most of his adult life there writing and performing plays, socializing in the same literary circle as Christopher Marlowe and other University Wits.
After Shakespeare left Stratford-upon-Avon to pursue his professional career, he moved to Silver Street in London’s Shoreditch section around 1590. It was here the first playhouses were built, like The Theater and the Curtain Theater. Near Shoreditch lived literary talents Tomas Watson and Christopher Marlowe on Norton Folgate Street. Robert Greene also lived in the area. George Wilkins – who most likely collaborated with Shakespeare – may also have also spent time there. Shakespeare later moved near the Thames river in Surrey, coinciding with the opening of the Globe Theater. The date he retired back to Stratford-upon-Avon is unclear, but the burning down of the Globe on 25 July 1613 is a close estimate.
Shakespeare had many ties to the “University Wits.” Marlowe dedicated Hero and Leander to Thomas Walsingham, who employed him as an intelligencer. This work influenced Shakespeare’s own. Shakespeare and Marlowe’s names are mentioned by Robert Greene in his Groats-worth of Wit (1592), with many scholars concluding that Greene’s famous “upstart crow” line was directed at Shakespeare for being an actor with the temerity to write his own plays, despite not being a university-educated playwright. There is much debate about the literary connection between Marlowe and Shakespeare. One scholar, Robert A. Logan, in Shakespeare’s Marlowe, states that about twenty of Shakespeare’s plays have traces of Marlowe’s influence, with eight plays including actual quotations from Marlowe’s works. Logan believes it’s reasonable to think that Shakespeare and Marlowe would have at least seen each other’s work, as both Henry VI and The Jew of Malta were being performed at the Rose Theatre in 1592. Arguments against Marlowe’s authorship are due to his death in 1593. However, new evidence from the New Oxford Shakespeare credits Marlowe in parts of Henry VI. Some literary researchers argue that Marlowe also had a hand in Edward III, because two scenes in the play shadow twelve passages of Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great. Theories and arguments continue to develop as scholars uncover more about the connection between Shakespeare, Marlowe, and the other University Wits.
Author & Editor: Casey Lyons