The poems and plays attributed to William Shakespeare demonstrate a powerful intellect, backed up by extraordinary learning and a wide exposure to what goes on at the very top of political, scientific, philosophical and artistic society. There is, however, no evidence at all of the man from Stratford having had any such ability, contacts or experience. We know nothing of his schooling, nothing of any source for his reading, and we know that he did not go to University. We have no evidence at all of any familiarity with the aristocracy, with high level statesmen, or with the top thinkers, artists, scientists, explorers, poets or musicians of the time. With Marlowe we certainly do, in every case.

There is no actual evidence of Shakespeare having written anything at all before his thirtieth year when, immediately following Marlowe's death, brilliant poetry and some two or three plays a year started flowing from his pen. What was he doing before that? And how is it that the Sonnets reflect nothing of what we know about the Stratford Shakespeare? Saying that they were not intended to be autobiographical must surely be a reaction to this strange gap, rather than a genuine response to the poems themselves.

On the other hand, there is no need to assume because of this that William Shakespeare of Stratford was incapable of writing plays. There appears to have been no doubt expressed at the time that he was a playwright, and this is apparentlyly backed up by the evidence of the First Folio and the Stratford monument. It seems most probable that he presented himself as the sole author of them at the time, and was sufficiently educated, and familiar with their content, to convince others that this was the case.

However, it is generally accepted that he collaborated with another writer both at the start and at the end of his career, so why not for the rest of the time?

Most commentators acknowledge the enormous debt owed by Shakespeare to Christopher Marlowe. As I mentioned earlier, Jonathan Bate's latest book, The Genius of Shakespeare, has a whole Chapter devoted to this fact. In this, he shows how Shakespeare first tended to imitate Marlowe, then parody him, and finally to improve upon his approach. This, I suggest, would have been all the more probable had they been working together on the plays. Now, with the evidence of Marlowe's survival, we can see that this would indeed have been possible.

The huge question this begs, of course, is the nature of that collaboration. How much of the result was Marlowe, and how much Shakespeare?


Let us see whether Le Doux's relatively short booklist supports the idea that Marlowe had an input to those plays that we think of as Shakespeare's.

It certainly does. Two thirds of Shakespeare's plays have had books from this list cited as being among their sources.

Two enormous influences on the work of William Shakespeare were the Roman dramatists Terence and Plautus. Sure enough, we find them in Le Doux's collection too.

There are also several books which, although not specifically named as sources, may well have also had a significant contribution to make.

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1 M. R. Ridley, ed. Othello, Moor of Venice (1958) The Arden Shakespeare, Methuen. p.xv. and E.A.J. Honigmann, ed. Othello (1997) The Arden Shakespeare, Thomas Nelson, p.2. Honigmann shows very clearly how the versions used by Shakespeare certainly included one in Italian, as this one is.

2 J. W. Lever, ed. Measure for Measure (1965) The Arden Shakespeare, Methuen. p.xxxv.

3 A Shakespeare Encyclopędia (1966) Methuen. p.852.

4 A. R. Humphreys, ed. Much Ado About Nothing (1981) The Arden Shakespeare, Methuen. p.15. He says that Beatrice and Benedick are based on Lady Emilia Pia and Pallavicino in this work, and (p.16) that it was the "seminal inspiration" for the play as a whole.

5 Frank Kermode, ed. The Tempest (1954) The Arden Shakespeare, Methuen. p.xliv.

6 Kenneth Muir, ed. King Lear (1952) The Arden Shakespeare, Methuen. p.249. and R.A. Foakes, ed. King Lear (1997) The Arden Shakespeare, Thomas Nelson & sons. pp.104-5.

7 J. H. P. Pafford, ed. The Winter's Tale (1963) The Arden Shakespeare, Methuen. p.xxxvi.

8 Harold Jenkins, ed. Hamlet (1982) The Arden Shakespeare, Methuen. p.108.

9 Sir George Greenwood, The Shakespeare Problem Restated (1908) London. p.123.

10 Brian Gibbons, ed. Romeo and Juliet (1980) The Arden Shakespeare, Methuen. p.185n.

11 Greenwood, op. cit. p.433.

12 Jonathan Bate, ed. Titus Andronicus (1997), The Arden Shakespeare, Thomas Nelson. pp.93-4. Titus and Andronicus were the main characters in one of Guevara's stories. This might also explain Philip Henslowe's calling it titus & ondronicus in his diary.

13 G. Blakemore Evans, ed. The Riverside Shakespeare (1974), Houghton Mifflin, Boston. p.83.

14 J. M. Nosworthy, ed. Cymbeline (1974), (1955) The Arden Shakespeare, Methuen. p.189. Nosworthy suggests that it was Underdowne's translation used by Shakespeare, but the stronger of the four connections could certainly be from the (Spanish) translation possessed by Le Doux, whereas the remaining two - related to Underdowne - are very weak indeed.

15 Murray Hartman, in A Shakespeare Encyclopędia, op. cit., p.864, said that both Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night's Dream had part of their plot from Terence's Andria.

16 G. K. Hunter, ed. All's Well that Ends Well (1959) The Arden Shakespeare, Methuen.

17 R. A. Foakes, ed. The Comedy of Errors (1962) The Arden Shakespeare, Methuen. p.xxxiii note.

18 Brian Morris, ed. The Taming of the Shrew (1981) The Arden Shakespeare, Methuen. p.79.

19 R. A. Foakes, op. cit. pp.xxiv & xxvii.

20 Murray Hartman, op. cit. p.635.

21 H. J. Oliver, ed. The Merry Wives of Windsor (1971) The Arden Shakespeare, Methuen. p.lix.

22 Murray Hartman, op. cit., p.635, also said that "The plays of Shakespeare show Plautine evidence down to the very end of his literary activity." We should perhaps mention the Commedia Erudata, which was popular in Italy at this time. This was the performance, usually by non-professionals, of plays (either in Latin or Italian) based upon classical writers, such as Plautus or Terence. Le Doux possessed copies of the comedies of Plautus in Italian, and those of Terence in both Italian and Latin. Perhaps he had attended, or even performed in, such events?

23 R. R. Simpson, Shakespeare and Medicine (1959), Livingstone, London, p.113. Simpson also demolishes the theory that Shakespeare must have picked up his knowledge from his son-in-law John Hall. "Romeo and Juliet alone shows us quite clearly that Shakespeare had no need of any help from John Hall, either in the knowledge of drugs or the pharmacology of them, as it was understood in his day." (p.118). The play was written at least 5 years before Hall's arrival in Stratford, and 12 years before his marriage to William's daughter, Susanna.

24 2 Henry VI, IV.vii.59-60.

25 Ibid.

26 Robert C. Fox, in The Shakespeare Encyclopędia, op. cit. p.70.

27 A. L. Rowse, Shakespeare's Characters (1984) Methuen p.12. Rowse puts it with typical vehemence: "This incontestable identification was made by Martin Hume, historian of Spain, at the beginning of the century, but has hardly even yet entered the closed minds of literary Shakespeareans".

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