Who Wrote <em>Dido, Queen of Carthage</em>?

  • Ruth Lunney
  • Hugh Craig University of Newcastle


The title page of the 1594 Dido, Queen of Carthage states that it was "Written by Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Nash. Gent," and several centuries of speculation on authorship have followed. In 2008, Martin Wiggins claimed that the "available evidence" proved joint authorship to be beyond doubt, a position reiterated in the second volume of British Drama (2012), edited by Wiggins and Catherine Richardson. The authors of this essay disagree, finding instead that Marlowe wrote the play text and Nashe did not contribute. Our focus is upon the evidence, and we approach the problem of authorship in two, complementary ways. The first approach evaluates the verbal evidence (words, phrases, spellings) that has been proposed as indicating Nashe’s presence; this approach employs analysis of words in context, comparing Dido with the works of Marlowe and Nashe. The second approach is quantitative; it assesses previous quantitative work on the authorship problem before offering new quantitative tests for likenesses between segments of Dido and the works of Marlowe and Nashe. Our two approaches agree: we find no evidence for Nashe’s hand in the play. We suggest instead that Dido influences Nashe, most notably in what he wrote after the publication of Dido, but quite possibly before as well. We believe it should now be possible for students of the play to ignore the statement on the 1594 title page and approach Dido as Marlowe’s unaided work.