OUP to cite Marlowe as Shakespeare's Henry VI co-author

OUP to cite Marlowe as Shakespeare's Henry VI co-author

Oxford University Press is crediting one of Shakespeare's rival contemporaries, Christopher Marlowe, as his co-author in a New Oxford Shakespeare edition it is publishing of the bard's plays this month.

Marlowe, an Elizabethan playwright, best known for penning Doctor Faustus, will be credited on the title pages of Henry VI, Parts One, Two and Three, compiled under the general editorship of Gary Taylor, from Florida State University, John Jowett from the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham, Terri Bourus at Indiana University in Indianapolis and Gabriel Egan at De Montfort University in Leicester.

The decision to credit Marlowe follows new research conducted by a team of 23 academics from five countries, involving the use of computerised tools to analyse the texts, providing "empirical evidence" that Marlowe contributed. The findings further indicate that 17 of 44 Shakespeare's plays were worked on by others, said OUP.  

One of the edition's general editors, Taylor, explained in conversation with the Guardian: "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. 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.”

“We have been able to verify Marlowe’s presence in those three plays strongly and clearly enough,” he continued. “We can now be confident that they didn’t just influence each other, but they worked with each other. Rivals sometimes collaborate.”

The four volumes of The New Oxford Shakespeare will be published on 27th October, priced £295 for the full set.