To be credited, or not to be

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For the first time in Shakespearean scholarly history some of Shakespeare’s works will feature the literary legend as co-author.

Today, Oxford University Press announced that Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare’s names would both be appearing on the title pages for all three Henry VI plays.

Whilst this may come as a surprise to some, to many it has simply reassured their long held suspicions.

There has always been controversy around the authorship of Shakespeare’s work, with certain works attracting more lively debate than others.

There have been many suggested authors, most famously Sir Frances Bacon, William Stanley, the 6th Earl of Derby and Edward de Vere, 7th Earl of Oxford.

Marlowe was often viewed as a literary rival and is in his own right a very successful playwright; one of his most famous plays being Doctor Faustus.

However, this is the first time that co-authorship suspicions have been confirmed academically and further printed in an edition of Shakespeare’s collected works.

The scholars who have been working on the New Oxford Shakespeare edition, which is a collection of all his known works, have carried out the most extensive study to date.

23 international scholars have found that 17 out of 44 Shakespeare plays have been co-written.

Despite the evidence gathered by the 23 scholars, who closely analysed word patterns to establish the Marlowe connection, there will still be debate amongst academics.

Carol Rutter, professor of Shakespeare and performance studies at the University of Warwick, has already spoken to the BBC about her doubts of the Marlowe collaboration.

It is an interesting coincidence that the year that celebrates the 400 year anniversary of Shakespeare’s death also marks the year that affirms Shakespeare’s co-authorship and calls into question the works absolute credibility.

I imagine this will spark even more years of theories and research. A definitive answer to authorship may never really be found, but this is pretty close.

Photograph: Magnus D

 

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