The drawing of the Swan Theatre (1596)
Hamlet, Doctor Faustus, The Tempest, and Edward the Second are just a few of the plays produced by the two greatest playwrights of the Renaissance: William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe. Born in the same year–1564, they were the two premier writers of their age and arguably among the most important of any era. These are writers who have informed both my studies and entranced my imagination. At Muhlenberg College, I teach Renaissance drama courses and Shakespeare . This summer I am teaching a course called Renaissance Plays In Process, in which we look at several plays and the circumstances surrounding them in the Renaissance as well as how they might be produced today. Whenever I can, I love teaching about these playwrights.
I would love to have the opportunity through a magic time machine to sit down and have a conversation with these two giants of the theater. I would invite both writers to spend an afternoon or evening at a pub–English of course–and over beer and food discuss many topics with them. I am sure that sometimes I would simply listen to them.
I would love to hear what they said about their work and how they felt about each other. I would love to learn from them the specifics of the way their plays were staged. I would ask Marlowe about his mysterious work for the Queen of England. Was he a spy? I do not know if he would answer, but I would still have to ask.
I would ask Shakespeare about the canon of his plays. Were there plays he wrote that are currently lost? If so, what are they? And I have often wondered if he ever considered writing a tragedy about King Arthur.
I also wonder how the two great writers would behave together. Would this be a polite conversation, a deep discussion of theatrical issues, or a wild and fiery debate or argument among bitter rivals?
I wish I could speak with them.