William Shakespeare (1564-1616); Although not a “Londoner,” Shakespeare spent most of his working life there, writing and performing plays still well known today, and 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 London around 1590. Residences of Shakespeare in London include Silver Street in Shoreditch (1), as that was where the first playhouses were built, like The Theater and the Curtain (2). Great literary talents Tomas Watson and Christopher Marlowe lived nearby in the Liberty of Norton Folgate, just south of Shoreditch. Robert Greene also lived in the area. George Wilkins – who most likely collaborated with Shakespeare – may also have spent early years there. There is also evidence of Shakespeare residing across the Thames River in the Liberty of the Clink in Southwark, Surrey, (3) due to the opening of the new Globe Theater. The date he retired back to Stratford is unclear, but the burning down of the Globe on July 25, 1613 marks both a symbolic and approximate date for when he stopped coming to London.
Shakespeare has many ties to the “University Wits,” especially through Marlowe. Marlowe dedicated Hero and Leander to Thomas Walsingham, who employed Marlowe as an intelligencer, and this work influenced Shakespeare. Both 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 ongoing research and debate about the extent of the literary connection between Marlowe and Shakespeare, but one scholar, Robert A. Logan, in Shakespeare’s Marlowe, cites that about twenty of Shakespeare’s plays have traces of Marlowe’s influence, and eight of the twenty include actual quotations from Marlowe’s works. Logan believes it’s reasonable to think that Shakespeare and Marlowe would have 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. It is also believed by other literary researchers that Marlowe had a hand in Edward III, because two scenes in the play shadow twelve variables and passages of Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great. Theories and arguments continue to develop as scholars continue to uncover the connection between Shakespeare, Marlowe, and the other University Wits.
- *Silver Street in Shoreditch
- *The Theater and the Curtain
- *The Liberty of the Clink, Southwark, Surry
*Found in Nicholl, Charles. The Lodger Shakespeare:
His Life on Silver Street. London, Viking, 2008.