Judi Dench as Countess Rossillion and Claudie Blakley as Helena in Alls Well That Ends Well. The play is now co-credited to Thomas Middleton. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian
Publication of the New Oxford Shakespeares four volumes, as well as a digital edition, is staggered between 27 October and December. It includes the complete works in both original and modern spelling and punctuation, explanatory notes and essays and an authorship companion, with research in attribution studies.
Among texts that have never before been in a complete works of the Bard is Arden of Faversham, which was anonymously published in 1592. Now it is jointly credited to anonymous and Shakespeare.
Taylor said: People for centuries have argued about whether Shakespeare is in some way connected to that play. Were identifying it as an early collaborative play of Shakespeares. Were identifying him in several of the middle scenes. There is very strong, compelling evidence. We have provided a lot of new evidence.
They are yet to identify the other author, but have ruled out previously suggested candidates such as Marlowe and Thomas Kyd.
The difficulty is that the majority of plays written in the 1570s and 1580s have not survived and are known only from their titles. Much of what does survive is anonymous.
Expanding the Shakespeare canon, the new study marks the first time that a complete works has included additions to Kyds The Spanish Tragedy, identifying Shakespeare as the author of the painters scene.
Decisions have been swayed by a complex jigsaw of different kinds of evidence. The researchers believe that computerised textual analysis is now so sophisticated that they can even distinguish between Shakespeare writing under Marlowes influence and Marlowe writing alone.
One piece of evidence identified five Shakespeare-plus words: gentle, answer, beseech, spoke, tonight. Taylor explained: What we mean by Shakespeare-plus is that weve looked at the frequency of certain words which might seem commonplace like tonight in all the plays of that early period, say up to 1600. Anybody could use any of these words. Theyre not words that Shakespeare invented. But we can say Shakespeare used tonight much more often than other playwrights in those 20 years.
Shakespeare-minus words are much less likely to appear in a Shakespeare play. So, this is a statistical argument not simply statistics about individual words, but combinations of individual words. With Marlowe, for example, combinations of words such as glory droopeth appear to be unique to him in that period.
Recent studies by specialists already agree that Shakespeare did not write the passage where Joan of Arc pleads for help from demonic spirits and then is captured by the English [Part One, 5.3, 5.4]. We have added new evidence from unique n-grams: that is, phrases that occur in the passage being tested. Marlowes works contain many more such parallels than any other playwright, Taylor added.
Other words and phrases identified as commonly occurring in Marlowe works include familiar spirit, cull out, regions under earth, oh hold me, to your wonted, see, forsake me, droopeth to, curse, miscreant, ugly, change, shape thou, change my shape, suddenly surprise, your dainty, fell and enchantress.
Taylor acknowledges that doubts may be cast on their conclusions: You cant say anything about Shakespeare without somebody disagreeing with you But our knowledge of the past increases by debate of this kind.
Marlowes life of myth and mystery
The life of
Christopher Marlowe has long been pored over for evidence that he wrote a handful of William Shakepeares works. The scholar JB Steane said in 1969 there were so many rumours it would be absurd to dismiss them all as part of the Marlowe Myth.
Few undisputed facts exist about the playwrights life, but he was baptised in Canterbury on 26 February 1564. The son of a shoemaker, Marlowe attended the Kings school in Canterbury before being awarded a scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, where he received his BA degree in 1584.
Marlowe took lengthy absences and the university was about to refuse him a masters degree when, in 1587, the Privy Council wrote to compliment his good service to the Queen on matters touching the benefit of his country. The letter prompted the theory that he had been a secret agent for Elizabeth Is spymaster, Sir Francis Walsingham.
His plays were wildly popular for the brief period that he was on the Elizabethan literary scene. Dido, Queen of Carthage is thought to have been his first. Tamburlaine the Great, among the first English plays in blank verse, was written around 1587; the Jew of Malta, is thought to have been written around 1589, and Doctor Faustus was first performed between 1588 and 1593.
His death in Deptford in May 1593, aged 29, has provoked years of speculation, from the Queen ordering his assassination because of his atheism, to his being killed by a love rival.
In 1925, the scholar Leslie Hotson published the coroners report in his book The Death of Christopher Marlowe. Witnesses testified that he was stabbed in the eye during a fight over payment of a bill and died instantly. The document did not end speculation, with some supporting the theory that Marlowe faked his death and continued to write as Shakespeare.
This article was amended on 24 October 2016 to correct a reference to the 1986 Oxford Shakespeare. An earlier edition referred to it as the New Oxford Shakespeare.