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The Marlovian Theory


Simply put, the Marlovian Theory is the idea that Christopher Marlowe staged his death, went in hiding, and re-emerged under the new name of William Shakespeare, essentially being the exact same dude we frustratingly make movies about, try to understand, and dramatize nearly every month. According to Trivia Library, W.G. Zeigler, a California lawyer, was the first to suggest (in 1895) this theory. “Several other writers supported the theory in occasional magazine pieces between 1901 and 1923.” The theory was further supported by an Ohio professor, Thomas C. Mendenhall, who had counted 400,000 Shakespeare words, not to mention various other authors, and devised a “individual stylistic ‘fingerprint’ for each author.” Mendenhall found that “in the characteristic curve of his plays, Christopher Marlowe agrees with Shakespeare as well as Shakespeare agrees with himself.”


The wheels really started spinning with Calvin Hoffman’s 1955 book The Murder of the Man Who Was Shakespeare, who also suggested Marlowe and Shakespeare were the same man. To point: Shakespeare’s earliest work arrived two/four months after Marlowe’s “death.” Hoffman asserted that someone did indeed die in that pub in Deptford, but not Marlowe, who was en route to France. Completely staged, along with Marlowe’s blessing, and masterminded by Marlowe’s ‘lover’ Sir Thomas Walsingham, who seemingly bribed the coroner and three mates in the pub to say it was Marlowe. The real Shakespeare was a nimwit actor, and willing to lend his name to the author; Sir Thomas Walsingham saw this through. The fact that Marlowe was involved in some sort of top-secret government is also a strong point Marlovian theorists press when defending the notion, suggesting that the Continent could have easily assisted a cover-up.


Obviously the theory was met with controversy, and the defense is as so: the most notable response is that despite the fact that there exists literary similarities, Shakespeare himself made note of his fallen predecessor in As You Like It, even using a Marlowe quote: “Dead shepherd, now I find thy saw a might:


"Who ever lov'd that lov'd not at first sight?"


Rebuttal part two: of course there were similarities; the more writers he analyzed, the higher the similarities he would, naturally, find. Part three: modern editions were used for his word countage, ignoring the various other editions in existence. Part three: concerning the assertion of Walsingham and Marlowe as lovers, no evidence exists; additionally, no records that Marlowe lived anywhere after his ‘death’, let alone this actor named William Shakespeare allowing the use of his name. Part four: the logistics; if the endgame was saving Marlowe’s neck, why stage a murder? And the probability of the Queen’s gamble in something like this would basically be “unrealistic.”


For a quicker, 'Marlovian Theory for Dummies', check out this YouTube video that I sadly couldn't hotlink to (meanies). Enjoy!