Christopher Marlowe is going to be credited as co-author of the three Henry VI plays in the upcoming edition of the complete works of William Shakespeare, announced Oxford University Press.
This is the first time a major publishing house has officially listed Shakespeare’s colleague and rival as a co-author, despite years of controversy regarding the authorship of Shakespearean plays. Editor Gary Taylor said that researchers have verified Marlowe’s contribution “strongly and clearly enough”.
Marlowe, the Elizabethan playwright known for his renowned works such as Doctor Faustus, Tamburlaine and The Jew of Malta, was first suspected of contributing to Henry VI as early as 18th century. This is the first time Marlowe received official credit for collaborating as a co-author for Shakespeare.
To determine the accuracy regarding authorship, researchers used advanced tools of text analysis to investigate the works. These techniques have revealed that Marlowe’s vocabulary and style including frequent use of certain articles, certain words occurring in a row or being close to each other in the text. Further tests were carried out when similarity in patterns and clues were found to determine the authorship.
The authorship of Shakespearean plays has been a subject of debate for centuries in the literary circles. Academics have mostly concluded that four writers, including Christopher Marlowe, wrote some or all of the plays by Shakespeare.
However, attributing Christopher Marlowe as co-author has not settled the raging debate regarding Shakespearean plays among the academia.
Carol Rutter, a professor of Shakespeare and performance studies at the University of Warwick, told the BBC, “It will still be open for people to make up their own minds. I don’t think [Oxford University Press] putting their brand mark on an attribution settles the issue for most people.”
Rutter told the BBC, “I believe Shakespeare collaborated with all kinds of people … but I would be very surprised if Marlowe was one of them.”
Mark Twain, a renowned American novelist, had expressed doubts regarding the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays in the early twentieth century. In his book Is Shakespeare Dead? (1909), Twain had claimed, “So far as anybody actually knows and can prove, Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon never wrote a play in his life.”