This is the third in a series of articles about Christopher Marlowe's last days:
1. Thomas Kyd's Arrest
2. Shakespeare and Marlowe's Last Words
On 30 May 1593, Christopher Marlowe was killed.
But in his period of history, at the dawn of the English Renaissance, it was almost impossible to know what was true or not. Stories and myths, like Robin Hood, were considered fact, not fiction.
Imagine the greatest actors in London, or in history for that matter, gathered together to celebrate the life of Marlowe -- and roast him while they were at it!
Shakespeare may have thought it was a shame that other people, who had never met Marlowe while he lived, might not understand how brilliant, how talented, how devilishly funny Marlowe was.
As Shakespeare went back to his flat he may have wondered... what now?
How he could he properly pay his respects to Marlowe? How could he publicly express the love and the admiration he had for Marlowe?
And most importantly, how to make it funny and entertaining?
Well, Shakespeare was a playwright, so he would have searched his mind for some way to tell a story that was in fact a story about Marlowe.
I think that Shakespeare took Richard III, a play that he had already staged, or was working on at the time that Marlowe was killed, and re-wrote it for this purpose.
Why did he re-write it? Because in re-writing a history play about King Richard III, he could create a public spectacle which served to celebrate the life and memory of Christopher Marlowe.
Shakespeare's play Richard III would be something of a Requiem Mass.
Much has been written about the influence that Marlowe had on Shakespeare, and on several of Shakespeare's characters including Richard III.
If Marlowe was such an influence on Shakespeare, then it stands to reason that these characters are descriptions of Marlowe himself.
In my version of Richard III, I explore the love/hate relationship between Shakespeare and Marlowe in the months leading up to his death.
Richard III is considered one of Shakespeare's masterpieces, and probably his very first.
It makes a lot of sense that Shakespeare's first great work was written for the purpose of remembering Marlowe, who was the greatest of them all... before Shakespeare, that is.
Shakespeare must have known that if he pulled it off, if he could conjure the spirit of Christopher Marlowe on stage in the form of bloody King Richard, he could have a huge hit.
Shakespeare knew that this play could announce that he was the undisputed and rightful heir to Marlowe.
I hope you take a moment today to remember Marlowe. Please raise a glass of something, and toast to his memory.
David B. Schajer
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