The controversy surrounding Marlowe and Shakespeare is something that has been discussed for hundreds of years, and now there is a definitive answer to at least part of it. News broke yesterday that the Oxford University Press will begin to credit Christopher Marlowe as a co-author of three of the Henry VI plays. I immediately emailed my undergraduate Shakespeare professor. Up is down! Left is right! What is happening in the world?!
As someone who primarily studied classic and canonical literature throughout my undergraduate education, this certainly newsworthy. While I don’t think that it will change the way that these plays are taught, I do think that it opens the door for more discussion about collaboration and, perhaps, plagiarism. One of the things that I found most interesting about this is they way that it was determined that Marlowe did contribute. According to The Washington Post, different academics went through a very rigorous process:
“To find out if collaboration occurred, 23 international scholars performed text analysis by scanning through Marlowe’s (and other contemporary writers’) works, creating computerized data sets of the words and phrases he would repeat, along with how he did so — all of the idiosyncrasies that comprise one’s writing. Once they had a solid sample set of unique patterns, the Times noted, they cross-referenced it with Shakespeare’s plays.
The result? Seventeen of 44 of Shakespeare’s works probably had some sort of input from others. The three Henry VI plays proved to have enough of Marlowe’s literary footprint that his name deserved to be added as a co-author”.
I’m interested in what the rest of the class thinks about this development.