The Influence of Marlowe in the Shakespeare plays
Of greater significance than the point at which the sense of emulation emerges as
documentable evidence is the firmness with which Marlowe’s influence rooted itself in
Shakespeare and developed, for it continued to thrive for 18 years after Marlowe’s death,
roughly from 1593-1611, the remainder of Shakespeare’s career.
Logan, Robert. 2007. Shakespeare’s Marlowe: The Influence of Christopher Marlowe on Shakespeare’s Artistry.
Hampshire England: Ashgate Publishing Limited.p.8
When Marlowe is writing like this [in Tamburlaine] he bears comparison with Shakespeare in
his finest flights of rhetoric – the battle speeches of Henry V, the eloquence of Mark Antony in
Julius Caesar or of Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra.
Wells, Stanley. 2006. Shakespeare and Co. London: Allen Lane (an imprint of Penguin Books). p.84
That he was mightily impressed and influenced by Marlowe is not in doubt; it is also clear that
in his earliest plays Shakespeare stole or copied some of his lines, parodied him, and generally
competed with him. Marlowe was the contemporary writer that most exercised him. . . . He
haunts Shakespeare’s expression, like a figure standing by his shoulder.
Ackroyd, Peter. 2005. Shakespeare:The Biography. Vintage Books: London p.140
Shakespeare almost certainly saw [Tamburlaine], and he probably went back again and
again, … from its effect upon his early work, it appears to have had upon him an intense,
visceral, indeed life-transforming impact.
Greenblatt, Stephen. 2004. Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare. New York, NY: W.W. Norton
Yet Marlowe, himself a wild original, was Shakespeare’s starting point, curiously difficult for
the young Shakespeare to exorcise completely.… And yet that means the strongest writer
known to us served a seven-year apprenticeship to Christopher Marlowe, only a few months
older than himself, but London’s dominant dramatist from 1587 to 1593, the year of Marlowe’
s extinction by the authorities.
Bloom, Harold, ed. 2002. Bloom’s Major Dramatists: Christopher Marlowe. New York: Chelsea House. p.10
The player [Shakespeare] seems to have acted in the Cambridge poet’s The Jew of Malta—
a work Shakespeare recalled closely in his own plays and which was not in print.
Honan, Park. 1998. Shakespeare: A Life. Oxford: Oxford University Press.p.124
Shakespeare, I suggest, only became Shakespeare because of the death of Marlowe. And he
remained peculiarly haunted by that death.
Bate, Jonathan. 1997. The Genius of Shakespeare. London: Macmillan Publishers, Ltd.p.105
Shakespeare's incorporation and revision of original writing by Marlowe . . . . would help to
account for the subliminal Marlovian characteristics of the Henry VI plays, their invariable
association with each other and with Titus Andronicus, Richard II and Richard III. . . .
Shakespeare may have become the genius he was as a result of defining his talents and values
in relation to those of a rival genius, Marlowe.
Merriam, Thomas, 'Tamburlaine stalks in Henry VI', Computers and the Humanities, 30 (1996), 280.
Shakespeare seems to be very much aware of what Marlowe is up to and chooses to plot a
parallel course, virtually stalking his rival.
Shapiro, James. 1991. Rival Playwrights: Marlowe, Jonson and Shakespeare. New York, NY: Columbia University
The two men may have been acquainted; certainly Shakespeare knew Marlowe’s work and
responded to it in his own first efforts.
Schoenbaum, Samuel. 1977. William Shakespeare: A Compact Documentary Life. New York, NY: Oxford University
In short, Marlowe’s historic achievement was to marry great poetry to the drama; his was the
originating genius. William Shakespeare never forgot him: in his penultimate, valedictory play,
The Tempest, he is still echoing Marlowe’s phrases.
Rowse, A. L. 1973. Shakespeare: The Man. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press. (1988 reprinting) p.43
But above all Dido suggests Antony and Cleopatra. . . . Marlowe’s imagery here is very like
Steane, J.B. 1964. Marlowe: A Critical Study. London: Cambridge University Press. (Reprinted 1970). p. 59
Shakespeare, too, must have seen Tamburlaine at the Rose . . . . perhaps his reaction to
Tamburlaine was the rewriting of part of a new history of Henry VI. His opening lines were
certainly inspired by that play, and a finer tribute to Marlowe than anything written by the
Halliday, F.E. 1961. The Life of Shakespeare. London: Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd (reprinted with revisions 1964).
What we may anyhow believe is that in  there perished at Deptford the only man of
Shakespeare’s age who could have been a rival poet.
Wilson, F.P. 1951. Marlowe and the Early Shakespeare. The Clark Lectures Trinity College, Cambridge. Oxford:
Even without the contrast of Marlowe’s influence on his followers, including Shakespeare—
especially Shakespeare—the impact of other writers on him is negligible, without trace.…
That they met, that they afterwards collaborated, is certain; the work that bears Shakespeare’
s name, and which is, in part, Marlowe’s, testifies to this. . . . This is the play [Edward II] that
shows how Marlowe, if he had lived, would have matured; this is the book with which
Shakespeare went to school. Only 5 years had elapsed since Tamburlaine, but there is here a
development as impressive as Shakespeare’s was to be—perhaps it was more impressive. . . .
Much that Shakespeare was to do is found in Edward II in epitome, and all of it is shadowed
forth in verse not even he surpassed.
Norman, Charles. 1946 Christopher Marlowe: The Muse’s Darling. Indianapolis: Bobbs Merril (1971 reprinting). p.
Shakespeare quotes Marlowe or alludes to his plays repeatedly … practically the whole of
Marlowe’s work as it is now known. . . . The abundance of Shakespeare’s quotations,
echoes, and allusions [of Marlowe] is especially important because he lets his other literary
contemporaries severely alone.
Bakeless, John. 1942. The Tragical History of Christopher Marlowe. Vol II. Hamden, CT: Archon Books. p. 208,213
Shakespeare already admired Marlowe to the point of close imitation; now he ventured on
rivalry. He too would write a poem in the same style [as Marlowe’s Hero and Leander],
claim a place amongst the poets, and perhaps win the poet’s reward in the patronage of some
great Lord. He found his theme in the embroidery of Hero’s garments.
Harrison, G. B. 1933. Shakespeare at Work: 1592-1603. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press (1958
For in Edward II [Marlowe] shows the dramatic taste of Hamlet, using all gently, suiting the
action to the word, the word to the action, with special observance that his actors o’erstep not
the modesty of nature.
Brooke, C.F. Tucker. 1930. The Life of Marlowe and The Tragedy of Dido Queen of Carthage. London: Methuen &
Co. Ltd.p. 48-9
The father of English tragedy and the creator of English blank verse was therefore also the
teacher and the guide of Shakespeare.
Swinburne, Algernon Charles. 1919. Contemporaries of Shakespeare. London: William Heinemann.p.3
He first, and he alone, guided Shakespeare into the right way of work.… Before him there was
neither genuine blank verse, nor genuine tragedy in our language. After his arrival, the way was
prepared; the paths were made straight, for Shakespeare.
Algernon Charles Swinburne, The Age of Shakespeare, 1908 p.40
[Richard III]shows the influence of Marlowe to a greater degree than any play of
Shakespeare’s shows any single influence, and displays to us the young dramatist advanced a
further step in seeking to rival his most successful competitor with his own weapons in his on
Schelling, Felix E. 1902. The English Chronicle Play: A Study in the Popular Historical Literature Environing
Shakespeare. New York, N.Y.: Burt Franklin.p.96
Throughout Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’ the effort to emulate Marlowe is undeniable.
Lee, Sidney. 1898. A Life of William Shakespeare. Hertfordshire: Oracle Publishing Ltd (1996 reprinting). p.63
But of all those illustrious dead, the greatest is Christopher Marlowe. He was the first, the
only, herald of Shakespeare.
From the ‘Saturday Review’ (19 September 1891). [The unveiling of the Memorial to Christopher Marlowe by Mr.
Henry Irving] in Maclure, Millar, ed. 1979. Marlowe: The Critical Heritage 1588-1896. London: Routledge & Kegan
Blank verse, as we understand it, as Shakespeare understood it, came into birth at the bidding
of Christopher Marlowe.
Verity, A. W. 1886. The Influence of Christopher Marlowe on Shakespeare’s Earlier Style. Folcroft PA: The Folcroft
[Edward III] is indeed so good that we are forced to think of Shakspere and of Marlowe, of
Shakspere in his period of lyrism, or of Shakspere following the track of Marlowe.
Symonds, John Addington. 1884. Shakspere’s Predecessors in the English Drama. London: Smith, Elder & Co. p. 379
But it is only Shakespeare who can do everything; and Shakespeare did not die at twenty-
nine. That Marlowe must have stood nearer to him than any other dramatic poet of that time,
or perhaps of any later time, is probably the verdict of nearly all students of the drama.
Bradley, A.C. 1880. From Christopher Marlowe, in ‘The English Poets, Selections’, ed. T.H. Ward (1880), I, 411-17 p.
This only [Richard III] of all Shakespeare’s plays belongs absolutely in the school of
Marlowe. The influence of the elder master, and that influence alone, is perceptible from end
Swinburne, Algernon Charles. 1880. A Study of Shakespeare. London: Chatto and Windus, Piccadilly. p.43
Only the almost superstitious reverance we have for the name of Shakespeare has kept in
comparative oblivion the rival drama [Edward II] – certainly the masterpiece of history plays
at the time of its production.
Fleay, F.G., ed. 1877. Marlow’s Tragedy of Edward the Second. London and Glascow: William Collins, Sons, and Co.
Marlowe was the first poet before Shakespeare who possessed any thing like real dramatic
genius, or who seemed to have any distinct notion of what a drama should be.
Revival of ‘The Jew of Malta’ by Edmund Kean. From an unsigned review in ‘Blackwood’s Magazine’ (May 1818),
The only writer with the proven ability
to write poetry and dramatic verse at a
"Shakespearean" level. For two
centuries, scholars have proclaimed
that Shakespeare learned how to write
by studying Marlowe's style.
Speculation that they were friends and
shared manuscripts is prompted by
the striking similarity of Marlowe's
later works to Shakespeare's early
What Shakespeare scholars say about Marlowe
For nearly two centuries, the closeness of the work of Christopher Marlowe and William
Shakespeare has been an accepted fact of Shakespearean scholarship. Shakespeare scholars have
dealt with this in a number of ways. In the nineteenth century it was common for scholars to argue
that Marlowe was a part author of many of the early Shakespeare works. Other scholars argued that
several of the early Shakespeare plays were originally written by Marlowe, but were later re-written
In the twentieth century, the focus was on Shakespeare's supposed close study and attempt to
imitate Marlowe's style. This is how Shakespeare learned to write drama, so the argument goes, and
this is why the early work of Shakespeare is so similar to Marlowe's work.
We at the International Marlowe-Shakespeare Society propose a different view: the work of Marlowe
and Shakespeare is so much alike because they were written by the same person. This would
eliminate speculation about how Shakespeare managed to equal Marlowe's facility with language and
his vast erudition, which Marlowe had been developing since childhood. It would solve many of the
problems of the Stratford claim, and supply a rational solution. No other candidate can offer what
Read this selection of opinion from scholars to see why:
Who was Christopher
Click here to read about Marlowe's life
Why do we think that
Marlowe did not die in 1593?
Click here to learn about what we call
"The Great Puzzle" of Marlowe's death.
Think the idea of faking
one's own death is unusual?
Click here to find out how common it
What do Shakespeare
scholars say about Marlowe?
Click here to read opinions about
Marlowe's influence in the Shakespeare
Is there a problem with
Click here to learn why we at the
IMSS are skeptical that Shakespeare
was a writer.