On this day in 1564 the playwright Christopher Marlowe was born. Shakespeare was born the same year and the two are often compared. Marlowe’s plays were hugely successful and he was, ostensibly, the better educated of the two since he went to Cambridge, whereas Shakespeare’s formal education ended when he left school aged 18 and had to marry an already pregnant Anne Hathaway.
There is so little substantive evidence for the lives of both Marlowe and Shakespeare that we shall probably never get answers to many questions about their lives and deaths. What we do have for them though, is much of their written output. While Shakespeare normally comes out as top poet, Marlowe’s work is extremely fine.
Here is Marlowe’s Dr Faustus meeting Helen of Troy:
Was this the face that launched a thousand ships
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.
Her lips suck forth my soul; see where it flies!
Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again.
Here will I dwell, for Heaven is in these lips,
And all is dross that is not Helena.
And here is Shakespeare’s Troilus meeting Cressida:
I am giddy; expectation whirls me round.
The imaginary relish is so sweet
That it enchants my sense: what will it be,
When that the watery palate tastes indeed
Love’s thrice ruptured nectar?
I think I prefer Marlowe in this instance.
Today I will try to be objective and not be hasty to judge others.