Editor delves into the cold world of Shakespearean lies
by Claire Nunez
As students, we are constantly told that plagiarism is wrong-- and it is most definitely not right to copy or take credit for someone else’s work. What if we found out that one of the most famous writers of all time, William Shakespeare, has taken full responsibility for some of the best written works ever? Would everything in our lives be a lie? I mean, maybe, that’s for you to determine yourself, but Shakespeare did in fact receive all the fame for Henry VI, when playwright, Christopher Marlowe should have been credited also.
Shakespeare’s plagiarism controversy has been a conflict amongst academics for several centuries. Did he actually write any of his own plays? The answer is practically impossible to determine without using a time machine. One of the main reasons Shakespeare’s hand in his own plays is so contended is that there is so little information on the man himself. There are so few documents proving Shakespeare’s existence, however there are a few documents confirming his marriage, two portraits, a will, in addition to some miscellaneous business transactions, but not one manuscript has been found in the past two centuries that has been confirmed to have been written by Shakespeare. It is not exactly likely, but it is possible that William Shakespeare did not exist at all.
To add to all of the drama, the editors of the Oxford Complete Shakespeare have credited Christopher Marlowe as a contributor to three of Shakespeare’s Henry VI plays. A team of 23 academics from several nations have worked through the 17 various parts of Henry VI. The team has analyzed the writing style and word use in the play and compared their findings to the work of Christopher Marlowe; his works more closely resembled the works of Marlowe than that of other writers of Shakespeare’s time. Some schools of scholars believed that Marlowe faked his own death and continued to write on as Shakespeare. The academics at Oxford are currently using their findings to dismiss this theory since they determined that there are sections that are not Marlovian.
The relationship between William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe is unclear. Some academics theorized that William Shakespeare was a name that Christopher Marlowe worked under. It was speculated that Marlowe faked his own death-- which was ordered by the state-- and continued to publish as Shakespeare. This theory gained prominence due to the similar writing style of the two authors; they both used a specific syntax, diction and punctuation. This idea has been dismissed before because scholars attributed these similarities as Marlowe’s influence on Shakespeare. Other scholars believed that Marlowe was a lover of Shakespeare’s. This idea is a bit harder to prove since there is so little evidence even confirming Shakespeare’s existence. Most literary critics attribute their relationship to that of a superstar writer and an impressionable fan.
Because the true author of Shakespeare has been so highly debated for several centuries, Oxford Press’ credit to Christopher Marlowe is a BIG DEAL. This opens up the door for other academics and literary research centers to look more in depth at Shakespeare’s works. It is entirely possible that there were more writers that contributed to Shakespeare’s plays and poems than just Marlowe, at the moment there are at least seven other speculated authors. So English majors grab your pickaxe and flashlight; it’s time to dig through all of Will Shakespeare’s works and find out if there are any other authors out there.