CHRISTOPHER Marlowe has for the first time been officially credited with lending Shakespeare a helping hand.
The Elizabethan playwright has long been suspected of contributing to the work of the Bard, and now the The New Oxford Shakespeare is the first edition of Shakespeare’s Complete Works to identify Marlowe as co-author on the title pages of three plays – Henry VI parts one, two and three.
Marlowe, whose own works include Doctor Faustus, Tamburlaine, and the Jew of Malta, has been credited after extensive study by a team of Shakespeare scholars who have put together the new edition.
The New Oxford Shakespeare also includes Arden of Faversham, published anonymously in 1592, which features for the first time in any edition of Shakespeare’s works, as a collaborative play by “Anonymous and Shakespeare”.
Additions purportedly made by Shakespeare to Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy are also included, and Thomas Middleton’s contribution to All’s Well That Ends Well is also recognised.
Gary Taylor, lead general editor on The New Oxford Shakespeare, explained more about how new techniques make so much more possible in Shakespeare research.
He said: “Shakespeare has now fully entered the era of Big Data. Earlier attempts to answer all these questions about Shakespeare’s collaborative work have been limited to intuitions, or to hand counts of a small number of features.
“We can now situate Shakespeare within large digital databases of almost all extant early modern plays, and almost all early modern printed poetry and literary prose. This makes it possible to distinguish, more precisely and more confidently, Shakespeare’s stylistic identity from that of his fellow playwrights.”
Undoubtedly, there will be some controversy in the academic community surrounding the revelations. However, the editors are confident in the new research.
Prof Taylor added: “Unlike most other editions of Shakespeare’s works, The New Oxford Shakespeare is a research project. New research always generates some initial controversy. When the 1986 Oxford Shakespeare identified five plays as collaborative, some scholars were outraged.
“But those identifications have all stood the test of time, and are now almost universally accepted. We are equally confident about the attributions of Shakespeare’s collaborative plays in the New Oxford Shakespeare.”