The Dueling Poets: Marlowe vs Shakespeare

Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare were both born in 1564. But Marlowe was a product of the educated upper class, a university trained classic scholar and translator. The darling of the disaffected elite of his time, he rose to dominate England's literary and dramatic scene. Shakespeare, on the other hand, was forced to withdraw from school at the age of 14, when his father's fortunes began to fail. Though most scholars deny the claim that Marlowe actually wrote the plays we attribute to William Shakespeare, there's no doubt that Christopher Marlowe was a brilliant writer. Among other works, he gave us one of the most memorable love poems of all time. After reading it you will find one of Shakespeare's many great love sonnets. Compare them for yourself, dear reader.

The Passionate Shepherd to His Love

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

And I will make thee beds of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies,
A cap of flowers, and a kirtle
Embroidered all with leaves of myrtle;

A gown made of the finest wool
Which from our pretty lambs we pull;
Fair lined slippers for the cold,
With buckles of the purest gold;

A belt of straw and ivy buds,
With coral clasps and amber studs:
And if these pleasures may thee move,
Come live with me and be my love.

The shepherds' swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.

-- Christopher Marlowe

Sonnet 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

-- William Shakespeare

Read Well, Friend

I found another version of the fourth line of Marlowe listed several times online. In fact, one site published it both ways. Bartlett online uses the version I printed above, and that is the most common. But a few sources say "And all the craggy mountains yield," instead.

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