Shakespeare In the past, I've written about how the uncertainty surrounding Shakespeare's authorship of some plays has led me to deciding upon my own personal canon of about forty odd plays. Essentially if there seems to be decent evidence that the playwright had his hand in, the play's added to the list.

Imagine my surprise over the weekend when publication of a New Oxford Shakespeare was reported in the media with news of the inclusion of the 1602 rewrites of The Spanish Tragedy and Arden of Faversham.

The latter has been published as apocrypha before but this is the first time, I think, that it's been included within the main body of the rest of his work, albeit as a collaboration with an anonymous writer.

The eye-catching other decision is to list the Henry VI plays as a collaboration with Christopher Marlowe, something which has oft been suspected but again, this is the first time it's been marked for co-authorship.  See also All's Well That Ends Well, which adds Thomas Middleton's name.

How much of this is true depends on whether you agree with the data mining methodology of comparing the texts to corpuses of data about how these writers utilised language in the plays which are well established as theirs.

My own theory is that there might even be other plays floating around, currently listed as anonymous, which might well also be his work as well as others.  Despite his genius, there has to be work which pre-dates what we know to be his earliest plays.  No one, not even him, can start there.

Does co-authorship diminish his status?  Possibly, yes, maybe, no?  To an extent, he's been elevated above his peers to an unfair degree.  Each of this collaborators had equally rich careers which are barely performed or studied to the same degree.

So really it serves to bring them to the fore.  I'd love to see a BBC season about Shakespeare's peers, without whom he wouldn't be the playwright he became.  Has Middlton's A Chaste Maid in Cheapside ever been recorded?

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