Why the case for Marlowe is different
Shakespeare did not write the plays and poems attributed to him,
admittedly a huge if, there is only one candidate who can step in and fill the void. Christopher Marlowe was not only a recognized poet and playwright working in the period immediately before the debut of "Shakespeare," it was Marlowe who actually created "Shakespearean drama."
Unlike any other candidate, only with Marlowe do we have the demonstrated ability to write poems and plays at a Shakespearean level. Two centuries of scholarship reveal a startling consensus - the
writer of the Shakespeare plays shows an obvious affinity for the work, style, and sound of Marlowe. Book after book attempts to explain this remarkable similarity as Shakespeare's emulation of Marlowe, his re-writing of Marlowe's work, or his collaboration with Marlowe. Read en masse, there is something a little startling in these refrains. The possibility that the similarity of the two bodies of work is evidence of a single authorship, by contrast, has a harmony and a simplicity that eliminates all of the tortured logic found in the traditional biographies.
The biggest problem with the Marlowe case is, ironically, also its biggest asset. Marlowe was reported killed on May 30, 1593, while facing accusations of atheism, blasphemy, and treason. We believe the evidence shows that Marlowe escaped into exile and assumed a new identity to avoid a possible death sentence. That the first mention of Shakespeare as a writer occurs within less than a month of his disappearance is therefore not a coincidence.
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 works.