Scholar's Quotes on Shakespeare's Similarities to Marlowe


After reading these scholar's quotes, The Earl of Oxford, Edward De Vere, of whom we have only second-rate poetry to compare with Shakespeare's, pales significantly as a candidate for the Works. Read some of De Vere's poems, and judge for yourself.

The Marlowe Studies would like to thank Daryl Pinksen for his research which provided most of the scholar's quotes below. You can see more of them at The International Marlowe-Shakespeare Society. It should be noted that Christopher Marlowe's dramatic works were not "discovered" by scholars until long after the orthodox notion of Shakespeare was set in stone. As soon as Marlowe was found, the similarities between he and Shakespeare began to be noticed. For those who believe Marlowe was Shakespeare, this one is particularly ironic:

"Shakespeare, I suggest, only became Shakespeare because of the death of Marlowe. And he remained peculiarly haunted by that death."
Jonathan Bate, 1997




On Richard III
"This only 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 to end."
Algernon Swinburne, 1880

"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."
A.C. Bradley, 1880

On Edward III

". . . so good that we are forced to think of Shakspere and of Marlowe, of Shakspere in his period of lyricism, or of Shakspere following the track of Marlowe."
John Addington Symonds, 1884

"In all literature there are few figures more attractive, and few more exalted, than this of the young poet who swept from the English stage the tatters of barbarism, and habited Tragedy in stately robes; who was the first to conceive largely and exhibit souls struggling in the bonds of circumstance."
A.H. Bullen, 1885

"Blank verse, as we understand it, as Shakespeare understood it, came into birth at the bidding of Christopher Marlowe."
A .W. Verity, 1886

"Throughout Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’ the effort to emulate Marlowe is undeniable."
Sidney Lee, 1898

"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."
Swinburne, 1908


The poet Swinburne
The 20th century reassessment of Marlowe began with the poet Algernon Charles Swinburne (Born in London, April 5, 1837). He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in every year from 1903-1907 and again in 1909.

"If Marlowe had lived longer and accomplished the work that lay clearly before him, he would have stood beside Shakespeare."
Edward Dowden, 1912

"Marlowe is the greatest discoverer, the most daring pioneer, in all our poetic literature. Before Marlowe there was no genuine blank verse and genuine tragedy in our language. After his arrival the way was prepared, the path made straight for Shakespeare. Marlowe differs from the other poets of his time not in degree, but in kind; not as an eagle differs from wrens and tit-mice, but as an eagle differs from frogs and tadpoles . . . he first, and he alone, gave wings to English poetry; he first brought into its serene and radiant atmosphere the new strange element of sublimity . . . Among all English poets he was the first full-grown man. Only young and immature by comparison with‘such disciples and successors as Shakespeare and Milton; but the first born among us of their kind."
Algernon Charles Swinburne, 1914

"The father of English tragedy and the creator of English blank verse was therefore also the teacher and the guide of Shakespeare."
Swinburne, 1919

"He comes trailing the clouds of glory of the pioneer, of the herald of the full dramatic day. His is the magnetic appeal of genius cut down in its prime, with its rich achievement, and with an even richer promise unfulfilled."
F. Boas, 1929

"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."
C.F. Tucker Brooke, 1930

The corresponding styles of Venus & Adonis and Marlowe's Hero and Leander:
"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 . . . "
G.B. Harrison, 1933

"Without Marlowe there would never have been the William Shakespeare we know."
Thomas Marc Parrott, 1934

"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."
John Bakeless, 1942

"What he did, he did almost without models . . . Nothing sets the sheer genius of the man so far beyond cavil or dispute as the way in which his plays, one by one, -each in its own separate and unrepeated genre- are caught up and the formula of each developed by other hands."
John Bakeless, 1942

"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 . . . "
Charles Norman, 1946

"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."
Charles Norman, 1946

"What we may anyhow believe is that in [1593] there perished at Deptford the only man of Shakespeare’s age who could have been a rival poet."
F.P. Wilson, 1951

On Henry VI
"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 University Wits."
F.E. Halliday, 1961
The Marlowe Studies says: It should be noted there never was a group conscious of itself as "the University Wits". This term was coined by Shakespeare scholars long after the 16th century. Marlowe was unique unto himself.

"Dido suggests Antony and Cleopatra. . . . Marlowe’s imagery here is very like Shakespeare’s."
J.B. Steane, 1964

"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."
A.L. Rowse, 1973

"Shakespeare seems to be very much aware of what Marlowe is up to and chooses to plot a parallel course, virtually stalking his rival."
James Shapiro, 1991

"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 . . . "
Thomas Merriam, 1996

"Shakespeare, I suggest, only became Shakespeare because of the death of Marlowe. And he remained peculiarly haunted by that death."
Jonathan Bate, 1997

"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."
Park Honan, 1998

"Yet Marlowe, himself a wild original, was Shakespeare’s starting point, curiously difficult for the young Shakespeare to exorcise completely . . . "
Harold Bloom, 2002

"If Shakespeare had a direct precursor it had to be Marlowe, who was scarcely six months older. Yet, in comparison to Shakespeare, Marlowe represents persons only by caricature."
Harold Bloom, 2003
The Marlowe Studies suggests that Shakespeare would have started out exactly as Marlowe did. It takes time to evolve from "caricature” to more rounded characters. One sees Marlowe's progressive stylistic leaps evolving toward his mature "Shakespeare" works in each new play he wrote.

"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."
Stephen Greenblatt, 2004

"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."
Peter Ackroyd, 2005

On Tamburlaine
"When Marlowe is writing like this 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."
Stanley Wells, 2006

"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 care."
Robert Logan, 2007





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