Shakespeare’s authorship has been an issue of constant debate among scholars, and while the theory that Marlowe actually was Shakespeare has been widely discredited, the new research, which involved both traditional textual analysis and the use of computerised tools to examine texts, found that he contributed more to the plays than previously thought.
In fact, 17 plays are now believed to have been worked on by others, more than double the amount in the previous New Oxford Shakespeare published 30 years prior.
An international team of 23 academics have decided that Christopher Marlowe’s work on the plays of William Shakespeare was extensive enough that he deserves a credit in future editions.
The Elizabethan tragedian’s name will appear next to the Bard’s on the title pages of Henry VI, Parts One, Two and Three when they are published under the New Oxford Shakespeare by Oxford University Press this month.
Work on the new edition began in January 2009 and 18 scholars in five countries tussled with the authorship issues.
Editors said the discoveries showed that rather than being rivals that influenced each other, Shakespeare and Marlowe actually worked with each other on the plays, thought to have been written in 1591.
“A lot of scholars have suspected this since the 18th century but until very recently we didn’t have any way to prove it that was reliable,” general editor Gary Taylor of Florida State University said.
He said “big data” computerised databases built up in the last 20 years meant experts could conduct precise comparisons of different authors.
They used a range of methods including establishing the sociolect, the way people spoke at the time, and the idiolect, or speech habits of an individual.