Shake­speare’s pal: the role of Mar­lowe only deep­ens the plot

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION -

For hun­dreds of years, Wil­liam Shake­speare has been on the busi­ness end of whis­per­ing cam­paigns call­ing into ques­tion the au­thor­ship of many of his most fa­mous plays. Be­ing dead for half a mil­len­nium has put the Bard in the awk­ward po­si­tion of not be­ing able to force­fully con­test these the­o­ries.

One name that con­sis­tently comes up as some­one whose hand­i­work can be de­tected in plays tra­di­tion­ally at­trib­uted to Shake­speare is Christo­pher Mar­lowe, the El­iz­a­bethan play­wright. While the the­o­ries that Mar­lowe (or any­one else) was the sole au­thor of any of Shake­speare’s plays have been mostly de­bunked, there’s a good rea­son that his name keeps resur­fac­ing: he and the Bard col­lab­o­rated on at least three plays.

In fact, Shake­speare is be­lieved to have col­lab­o­rated with many other writ­ers of the El­iz­a­bethan era, as well. Ac­cord­ing to an in­ter­na­tional com­mit­tee of 23 dis­tin­guished Shake­speare schol­ars, a com­puter-as­sisted anal­y­sis of re­cur­ring phrases and lan­guage points to the like­li­hood that Mar­lowe should be cred­ited as co-writer of at least the three Henry VI plays now at­trib­uted solely to Shake­speare.

That’s why the lat­est edi­tion of “The New Ox­ford Shake­speare” lists their names jointly on the ti­tle pages of Parts One, Two and Three of “Henry VI” for the first time.

There’s much ex­cite­ment in the aca­demic world about this be­cause it rep­re­sents an hon­est ac­knowl­edg­ment of ir­refutable schol­ar­ship and tex­tual anal­y­sis.

This move also makes it pos­si­ble to as­sess the 17 Shake­speare plays that are be­lieved to be the re­sult of un­cred­ited col­lab­o­ra­tions, whether with Mar­lowe or other writ­ers. A more re­al­is­tic un­der­stand­ing of Shake­speare’s out­put and work process will only deepen our re­spect for the most in­flu­en­tial writer of the last 500 years — not lessen it.

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