Marlowe and Shakespeare co-authored Henry VI

Oxford University Press is now crediting Christopher Marlowe as co-author of the three Henry VI plays with Shakespeare.


Christopher Marlowe

Oxford says Shakespeare will share credit for Henry VI

Marlowe, a playwright, poet and spy, will share billing in the latest version of the New Oxford Shakespeare being published this week. While scholars have long suspected that Shakespeare’s plays included the work of others, new analytical methods helped researchers conclude that sections bore the hallmarks of Marlowe’s hand.

A team of 23 international scholars looked afresh at the man many consider the greatest writer in the English language.

Five of the world’s most senior Shakespeare scholars —Taylor, Hugh Craig at the University of Newcastle in Australia, MacDonald P. Jackson at the University of Auckland in New Zealand; Gabriel Egan at De Montfort University, Leicester and John Jowett of the Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham — had to be convinced of the issues of authorship in the works.

The editors concluded that 17 of 44 works associated with Shakespeare had input from others. The scholars used computerized data sets to reveal patterns, trends and associations — analyzing not only Shakespeare’s words, but also those of his contemporaries.

To study them, the team of scholars used what Taylor described as the analytic equivalent of combining voice recognition, fingerprints and DNA testing — looking for patterns to see how various authors and playwrights wrote and worked.

“Shakespeare has now entered the world of big data,” Taylor said, adding that while the bard’s work has been studied intensively, that’s not always the case in the same measure for other writers of his generation.

“What you need is a method that treats all the writers as the same and try to identify in an empirical way what distinguishes him as a writer — what makes him different than the others,” he said.

Marlowe, born in 1564, the same year as Shakespeare, was a graduate of Cambridge University who wrote poetry and plays such as the two part “Tamburlaine” and “Dido, Queen of Carthage.” A part-time spy for the government of Queen Elizabeth I, Marlowe is believed to have died in 1593 when he was stabbed under mysterious circumstances.

Oxford University Press says that “identifying Marlowe’s hand in the Henry VI plays is just one of the fresh features of this project.”


William Shakespeare