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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Literature in the News: Christopher Marlowe Officially Credited as Co-Author of Shakespeare’s Three Henry VI Plays

This is big in the literature world. From NPR

Oxford University Press has announced that its new edition of the complete works of William Shakespeare will credit Christopher Marlowe as a co-author on the three Henry VI plays.

Despite years of controversy about the authorship of some of Shakespeare's work, this is the first time a major publishing house has formally named Marlowe as a co-author.

Christopher Marlowe is a 16th century British poet and playwright. The extent of his possible influence on (or even collaboration with) William Shakespeare is the subject of much academic scholarship, as NPR has reported, but for many years, mainstream academics had mostly derided efforts of independent scholars who challenged the authorship of plays attributed to Shakespeare.

Christopher Marlowe was a contemporary playwright to Shakespeare and a great poet in his own right.  Marlowe and Shakespeare were born the same year (1564) and Marlowe was a great playwright before Shakespeare.  But Marlowe died young at 29 years old, stabbed to death.  A lot of allegations swirled around Marlowe’s life, but it was uncertain if his murder was related.  It was alleged that Marlowe was an atheist and was to be arrested, but he died before that happened.  All those allegations are rather nebulous, if you ask me, so it’s hard to say what is true.  The NPR article goes on to say: 

Much of the authorship analysis is quite technical because it involves analyzing every word of entire plays, looking for patterns and clues.

I would love to see the analysis in some detail. However this is not a consensus opinion. The article continues:

Carol Rutter, a professor of Shakespeare and performance studies at the University of Warwick, told the BBC, "It will still be open for people to make up their own minds. I don't think [Oxford University Press] putting their brand mark on an attribution settles the issue for most people.

Rutter told the BBC, "I believe Shakespeare collaborated with all kinds of people ... but I would be very surprised if Marlowe was one of them."

As for how Marlowe's vocabulary and style could have made it into Shakespeare's work without direct collaboration, Rutter said: "It's much more likely that he started his career working for a company where he was already an actor, and collaborated not with another playwright but with the actors — who will have had Marlowe very much in their heads, on the stage, in their voices. ... They were the ones putting Marlowe's influence into the plays."

Either way, this is big in the Shakespeare criticism world. 

Here’s a little mini biography of Christopher Marlowe.


  1. One of the greatest controversy about Shakespeare is whether he actually wrote the 30 or so plays, sonnets and such like writings or not. The fact that they have been written is not in dispute; but their authorship is. Nems in the frame are Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe or Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.

    As yotu know, Shakesoeare was an actor who went to London and made a small fortune in the theatre, and also by purchasing properties (theatres amongst others) which made him very rich. He returned to Stratford-upon-Avon and bought a large house and his fame spread.

    There is a possibility that he was only the financial backing behind all these plays he is supposed to have written. He was a rich man, owned many theatres, and it is possible that he put on plays as a business; very much like a modern day producer puts on plays, or makes films or produces music records and CDs these days. It doesn't follow that today's producers write the plays or sing the songs on record.

    In time, Shakespeare's fame and plays became synonymous to saying "hoover" when we mean a vacuum cleaner, or "thermos" when we mean a vacuum flask. People went to see "Shakespeare plays" - that is plays produced and financially backed by, but not written, by him.

    That's what he told me when I last asked him.

    God bless.

    1. No, no, no. Do not believe that. That is all conspiracy theory nonsense. There really was a William Shakespeare, and he wrote the plays and poems. His contemporary playwright and friend, Ben Jonson, wrote this poem to Shakespeare:

      The memorable quote in the poem is this:
      "He was not of an age, but for all time!"

      He wouldn't have written that if he didn't exist or was a fraud. People realized what a genius Shakespeare was even in his life time.

      The best book to explore the actual Shakespeare is The Quest for Shakespeare by Joseph Pearce. It's on Amazon. Plus the book shows how Shakespeare was very likely a Roman Catholic. Well worth the read.