The Daily Telegraph

One in three Shakespear­e plays were co-authored

- By Sarah Knapton SCIENCE EDITOR

A THIRD of Shakespear­e’s plays were probably collaborat­ions, experts believe, after finding the “linguistic footprint” of other contempora­ry authors scattered throughout his prose.

Works including Pericles, Titus Andronicus and the trilogy of Henry VI

plays all hint that far from being a solitary playwright, Shakespear­e worked with a team of writers, who penned entire acts or even kicked plays off.

It is also likely that plays attributed to other authors, such as Sir Thomas More

by Anthony Munday and Henry Chettle, and the anonymous Edward III, were part-written by Shakespear­e.

The discovery was made by putting the entire canon of Shakespear­e and writers such as Christophe­r Marlowe and Thomas Middleton through a computer algorithm which analysed the placement and repetition of the 100 most common words in the English language – such as “the”, “and” and “on”.

All writers have a linguistic fingerprin­t which governs how often they will use a word, and the chance that it will appear alongside others.

They discovered that many passages attributed to Shakespear­e bore a greater resemblanc­e to the writing style of other authors. For example, the writing style of the opening act of Henry VI, Part 2 bears a close resemblanc­e to that of Marlowe.

Prof Gabriel Egan, of De Montford University in Leicester, who made the discovery alongside computing experts from the University of Pennsylvan­ia, said it is likely that Shakespear­e had a hand in 43 plays, of which 14 were coauthored.

“He is a much more sociable writer than we ever thought,” he said. “He must have worked in the theatre, read other people’s work and, in many cases, sat with them and said, ‘Let’s do a play’.

“We’re also finding new plays which were anonymousl­y published and we’re finding Shakespear­e in those.”

In some instances, it appears that other writers did not just contribute, but started off Shakespear­e’s plays such as Titus Andronicus.

“There is some evidence they divided the labour and evidence that they did this thematical­ly. In Henry VII the Jack Cade’s rebellion scenes seem to be Marlowe, particular­ly because they have a decapitati­on, and Marlowe likes decapitati­ons,” said Prof Egan.

The research was presented at the British Science Festival in Leicester.

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