William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare’s (baptised 26 April 1564; † 3 May 1616) life and work may be assumed to be well known.

The mutual influence of Marlowe and Shakespeare is an inexhaustible subject on which books have already been written. (The following is therefore deliberately brief.) Direct reference to Marlowe can be found in The Merry Wives of Windsor and As You Like It. In both plays, quotations are taken from the lyrical works, not from the dramas.

It is repeatedly said that Marlowe was Shakespeare’s pathfinder. If this is true, Shakespeare turned off this path very early. In the overall view of their works, the divisive aspects predominate.

"Marlowe’s true successors […] were the Jacobean dramatists like Webster, Middleton, and Ford, who rejected the Shakespearian synthesis and, beginning with Marlowe’s sceptical view, sought in their independent ways for a comprehensive vision of reality."1

The Marlovian hero flashes through sporadically in Shakespeare: Aaron in Titus Andronicus, Suffolk, York and Margaret in Henry VI2, Richard III and Iago. Marlowe was necessary to make Gloucester say: "I am myself alone."3 However, Shakespeare did not allow these Marlovian character traits to develop further and remained in the morally unambiguous classification of good and evil, which was always alien to Marlowe.4 For him, suffering is not a mystical state to be ennobled with words.

"Whereas Shakespeare, like Sophocles, mystifies and ennobles human suffering, Marlowe demystifies and brutally degrades it, making it the occasion for a monstrous joke about social relations."5

In their histories, they also start from different presuppositions. In Shakespearean histories, history is a fate-ordained course of events to liberate England from its enemies. In Marlowe, history is determined by the ability of those in power.6 The most obvious difference between the two, however, is their attitude to order.7 Shakespeare is a stickler for order. As soon as the orderly world gets out of joint, everything is done to eliminate the troublemakers. Only with their end is harmony restored. In Marlowe’s case, the world has never been in order and the decease of the perpetrators of the disorder hardly changes that. Shakespeare tries to make up for the subversion, Marlowe reinforces it.8 In brief: Marlowe’s "[…] work is transgressive where Shakespeare’s is bourgeois."9

  1. Ribner (1963), 114↩︎
  2. Brooke (1961)↩︎
  3. 3 Henry VI. V,6,84↩︎
  4. Brooke (1961)↩︎
  5. Goldberg (1992), 237↩︎
  6. Ribner (1955); Bevington (2008)↩︎
  7. Ribner (1963); Ribner (1964)↩︎
  8. Goldberg (1992); Cartelli (1999)↩︎
  9. Bartels and Smith (2013), 1↩︎

Aktualisiert am 24.05.2024

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