The Oxford University Press will credit Christopher Marlowe as the co-writer in William Shakespeare’s three Henry VI plays, after a research conducted by 23 international scholars supported the theory of his contribution.
Using traditional methods and computerized tools to examine the text, the scholars determined ”strongly and clearly enough” that Marlowe contributed to creating the plays, editor Gary Taylor, who led the research, told the BBC. The publisher will now credit Marlowe alongside William Shakespeare on the title pages of Henry VI parts 1, 2 and 3.
This will be the first time that Marlowe, himself the author of many plays including Doctor Faustus, will receive official credit in a major edition Shakespeare’s plays, although suspicions about his part in the plays began in the 18th century, the Guardian reported. Some conspiracy theories even go so far as to suggest that Marlowe faked his own murder and began publishing as Shakespeare.
“No one has had the confidence to put the name actually on the title page,” Taylor told the New York Times (paywall). “Which is perfectly reasonable because the only reason that we can do it now is because Shakespeare has entered the world of big data.”
The true authorship of Shakespeare’s plays has long been the subject of literary analysis and debate. The group of scholars has identified 17 of the 44 of Shakespeare’s plays as collaborations with other people, much more than the eight plays identified in 1986.
Responding to the argument that Marlowe was a rival of Shakespeare, and therefore would not have written alongside him, Taylor told the Guardian: “We can now be confident that they didn’t just influence each other, but they worked with each other. Rivals sometimes collaborate.”