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Oxford Is Adding a Co-Credit to Some of William Shakespeare’s Plays

Christopher Marlowe
Keystone—Getty Images English dramatist Christopher Marlowe (1564 - 1593), 1585.

Christopher Marlowe will be credited for three Henry VI plays

Oxford University Press’ new edition of William Shakespeare’s work will have the 16th-century playwright Christopher Marlowe co-credit three of Shakespeare’s plays.

The decision comes after a team of 23 academics used software to analyze texts as they questioned whether Britain’s most-famous bard had collaborated with other writers. Three Henry VI plays as well as up to 17 plays are now believed to contain writing by other people, doubling the figure in the previous Oxford Shakespeare anthology, the Guardian reports.

“The orthodox view was that Shakespeare didn’t collaborate at all. When the Oxford Shakespeare in 1986 proposed that eight plays of Shakespeare contained writing by other writers, some people were outraged” Gary Taylor, a Florida State University English professor who was one of the scholars researching the matter, told the newspaper. “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.”

Marlowe’s influence in sections of Henry VI plays have been suspected since the 18th century, with some going as far as suggesting Marlowe was, in fact, Shakespeare himself (a widely dismissed claim). “We can now be confident that they didn’t just influence each other, but they worked with each other. Rivals sometimes collaborate” Taylor said.


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