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