Was Shakespeare really Shakespeare?

    All of us are absolutely familiar with William Shakespeare and his plays. They are a part of school curriculums all over the world and have lots of adaptations in popular culture. However, very few people are familiar with his contemporary Christopher Marlowe also known as Kit Marlowe. He was very popular at the time when he was writing but unfortunately or suspiciously, his career lasted only 6 years and he died at the age of 29 years under suspicious circumstances. Or did he?

    There are a lot of conspiracy theories surrounding Shakespeare. Some suggest that Shakespeare was not a person at all but a group of different writers that wrote under the pen name of William Shakespeare while others say that Shakespeare was not a writer, but an actor. Amidst all this, one unpopular but interesting theory says that William Shakespeare and his contemporary Christopher Marlowe were actually the same people. Yes, it sounds absurd but we have certain things that strengthen this idea.

    Controversy around Marlowe


    A fellow writer of Marlowe’s, Thomas Kyd has accused him of heresy leading to Marlowe’s arrest. He has also been accused of atheism, homosexuality, and spying. Imagine a man being surrounded by so many controversies in the orthodox English society under Queen Elizabeth.

    The Timelines

    Christopher Marlowe: 1564-1593

    William Shakespeare: 1564-1616

    The records of both William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe state that they were born in the year 1564 at Stratford upon Avon and Canterbury respectively. Christopher Marlowe’s last play The Tragedy of Doctor Faustus was first performed in 1592 while Shakespeare’s first play is believed to be first performed around 1591-92.

    Death under suspicious circumstances

    On 30th May 1593, the day of his death, Marlowe was drunk when he entered the bar along with some of his friends. There he got into a brawl with somebody and died after being stabbed. A lot of people believe that his death was actually an assassination by Queen Elizabeth because of his controversial beliefs. Some others believe that Marlowe actually faked his death and fled from England. In an article tilted Shakespeare=Marlowe, it is said that his corpse was buried immediately after an investigation in an unmarked grave. Why in an unmarked grave? Interestingly enough, his murder was released after 28 days by the Queen!

    Contract with the devil

    A very interesting fact about Marlowe’s life is that he studied theology or religion academically but when he graduated from college, he was an atheist. In his last play, The Tragedy of Doctor Faustus, the protagonist, Doctor Faustus sells his soul to the devil by having a contract with him.

    The tragedy of Dr. Faustus.
    The Tragedy of Doctor Faustus
    image source-

    To put all of this together, the theory sums up as follows. Marlowe knew that he would be assassinated by the Queen. So just like in his play, the protagonist has a deal with the devil, Marlowe had a deal with Queen Elizabeth that he would disappear forever. He then faked his own death in the drunk brawl and shifted to another place to write plays under the name of William Shakespeare. This theory is strengthened by the fact that neither Shakespeare nor Marlowe’s birth and death are proven by official records. Although critics say that the writing style of Marlowe was very different from Shakespeare, their handwritings were similar and the fact is that both of them (or one of them) were great playwrights and could’ve easily altered the style.

    Also, they look quite similar 🙂

    Marlowe and Shakespeare's picture together.
    image source-

    So maybe, Will was Kit and Kit was Will.


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