Christopher Marlowe to receive co-author credit for William Shakespeare plays

As many as 17 plays are now believed to have been worked on by other writers

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

An international team of 23 academics have decided that Christopher Marlowe’s work on the plays of William Shakespeare was extensive enough that he deserves a credit in future editions.

The Elizabethan tragedian’s name will appear next to the Bard’s on the title pages of Henry VI, Parts One, Two and Three when they are published under the New Oxford Shakespeare by Oxford University Press this month.

Shakespeare’s authorship has been an issue of constant debate among scholars, and while the theory that Marlowe actually was Shakespeare has been widely discredited, the new research, which involved both traditional textual analysis and the use of computerised tools to examine texts, found that he contributed more to the plays than previously thought.

In fact, 17 plays are now believed to have been worked on by others, more than double the amount in the previous New Oxford Shakespeare published 30 years prior.

Shakespeare will in future have to share his title page

The team of 23 academics, hailing from five countries, was led by Gary Taylor (Florida State University) John Jowett (Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham), Terri Bourus (Indiana University) and Gabriel Egan (De Montfort University, Leicester).

“The orthodox view was that Shakespeare didn’t collaborate at all,” Taylor told the Guardian.

“When the Oxford Shakespeare in 1986 proposed that eight plays of Shakespeare contained writing by other writers, some people were outraged. 

“What has happened since 1986 is that the accumulation of new scholarship, techniques and resources has made it clear that, in 1986, we underestimated the amount of Shakespeare’s work that’s collaborative.”

“In 1986, eight of 39 plays were identified on their title pages as collaborative, a little more than 20 per cent. In 2016, 17 of 44 plays are identified, a little more than 38 per cent, close to two-fifths.”

While other new credits are in the realms of additions and adaptations, as with the case with Thomas Middleton for All’s Well That Ends Well, Marlowe becomes the first “co-author” with the Henry VI plays.

“We have been able to verify Marlowe’s presence in those three plays strongly and clearly enough,” Taylor added.