‘New’ Shakespeare play rediscovered

This video from the University of Nottingham in England says about itself:

A literary detective believes he has evidence that links an 18th Century play, Double Falsehood, to a lost work by Shakespeare.

From the Daily Telegraph in England:

Why William Shakespeare‘s lost play is not a forgery

A fierce debate raged in the press and the coffee-houses of London when Double Falsehood was first published in 1728.

By Jonathan Bate, Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature at the University of Warwick

Published: 8:00AM GMT 16 Mar 2010

Had Lewis Theobald unearthed the holy grail of literary scholarship, a lost Shakespeare play? Or was he boldly conning the public with a forgery?

Theobald always maintained that he had worked from an authentic manuscript, but he did not include the play in his subsequent edition of Shakespeare’s complete works. What accounts for this seeming inconsistency?

The simple answer is that Theobald always knew that the play was not Shakespeare’s original, but rather a rewriting of the script to make it conform to the conventions of the Restoration theatre.

This was common practice – everyone knew that in the 1680s Nahum Tate had rewritten King Lear with a happy ending.

The title and the characters’ names were changed not by Theobald but by the unknown Restoration adapter. Double Falsehood is only an indirect version of Shakespeare’s lost Cardenio.

The more complicated answer to the question of why Theobald went cold on his own discovery paradoxically offers the proof that the play was not a forgery.

One argument of the doubters who attacked Theobald was that the style of the play was closer to that of John Fletcher than that of Shakespeare.

Theobald, who knew the repertoire of Elizabethan and Jacobean drama exceptionally well, could not deny this.

But here’s the thing: no one in Theobald’s time knew that Shakespeare and Fletcher also collaborated on two other plays, Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen.

How could Theobald have set out to forge a Shakespeare play and produced a script in a style that is two parts Fletcher to one part Shakespeare when he did not know that Shakespeare and Fletcher were collaborators? Rather, the very Fletcherianness of the play proves that is in some part Shakespearean.

Since the time of Theobald, scholars have found the rock solid evidence that Shakespeare and Fletcher co-wrote Cardenio soon after the publication in 1612 of the first English translation of Cervantes’ Don Quixote.

The play was performed to acclaim at court. The original script is lost, but the publication of Theobald’s adaptation in the Arden Shakespeare series is to be welcomed.

And even more exciting is the news that Gregory Doran, Chief Associate Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, is working towards a production of a conjectural reconstruction of the original.

Even though the play was popular at court, the play seems to contain criticism by the commoner Shakespeare of social hierarchies of the Renaissance period (as there was in CervantesDon Quixote, on which the play is based): by casting a nobleman as a villain and a commoner as a hero. More than 150 years later, on the eve of the French revolution, this would happen again in The Marriage of Figaro.

Also from the Daily Telegraph:

William Shakespeare’s lost play Double Falsehood: a synopsis

The plot of Double Falsehood contains all the ingredients of an intriguing play in both the Elizabethan and 18th century periods.

By Richard Alleyne

Published: 8:30AM GMT 16 Mar 2010

It stars two beautiful female protagonists Violante and Leonora and two contrasting leading men, one honourable and of modest birth, and the other an aristocratic villain.

It is the latter Henriquez who is the perpetrator of the “double falsehood” of the title, nearly raping Violante and then courting Leonora, the betrothed of his lower born male rival Julio.

The lively plot contains an interrupted marriage, cross dressing and crude and unwelcome sexual advances to keep audiences hooked from start to finish.

There is a final grand confrontation and reconciliation scene at the play’s end which results in Julio and Leonora being happily reunited and a repentant Henriquez wanting to marry Violante to make up for his crimes.

Meanwhile all that is known about the play Cardenio was that it was performed by London theatre group, The King’s Men, in 1613 and appears to have been based on the character of the title from Cervantes’ Don Quixote.

But the full text of the play has disappeared, leaving scholars with just the music and lyrics to one or two songs.

4 thoughts on “‘New’ Shakespeare play rediscovered

  1. Macbeth banned in Thailand

    THAILAND: Film censors have banned an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, saying that it could “cause divisiveness” in the kingdom where it is illegal to criticise the monarchy.

    The Thai-language film Shakespeare Must Die is about a theatre group in a fictional country resembling Thailand that is staging a production of Macbeth, in which an ambitious general murders his way to the Scottish throne.

    Director Ing K said on Wednesday that censors felt politically violent scenes in the film “could cause divisiveness among the people of the nation.”



  2. Pingback: New Shakespeare discovery | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Monday 3rd July 2017

    posted by Morning Star in Arts

    Julius Caesar

    Bristol Old Vic


    Let’s be honest. Julius Caesar is not Bill at his best.

    Untrammelled by sub-plots, it tells the simple tale of concerns about Caesar’s ambition driving a conspiracy which leads to assassination followed by warfare to determine succession.

    With a thin storyline and little onstage action but with many words, this is a play about politics and power. It thus lends itself well as a vehicle to illuminate and analyse other political situations, historical or contemporary, with which parallels can be drawn.

    This may be direct as with the current New York production where Caesar has a blond comb-over and a bright red tie or, as in the recent version in Sheffield, the events are set against the current tide of populism. The play can be done “straight,” and often is, but the success of such a production will be that much more dependent on the skills of the actors and the subtlety of the direction.

    In this production director Simon Dormandy has Julian Glover (Caesar) and Lynn Farleigh (Calpurnia) heading a cast otherwise drawn from the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. He’s opted for a “straight” interpretation and might have been better advised not to have done so.

    Admittedly, there production has its contemporary references — there are demonstrators with placards and the spraying of graffiti and even the chanting of “Oh, Julius Caesar!” as in “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn!”

    But that’s as far as it goes. I don’t think the suggestion is that Corbyn harbours imperial ambitions and this opportunistic but essentially meaningless nod to contemporaneity demonstrates the paucity of thought which lets the production down.

    Young actors may well have many abilities and, for the most part, those in this production showed why they had been selected by the Old Vic school. But basic skills are not enough. What young actors don’t have is life experience.

    The main players in the Caesar story were powerful and important middle-aged politicians and young actors need help and coaching if they are credibly to represent such characters. This production lets them down in this respect.

    Julian Glover, as Caesar, barely moves out of first gear but his gravitas and presence only serve to show up those who sought to remove him as over-excitable ingenues.

    On the positive side, Sarah Mercade deserves mention for a simple but very effective set enhanced by an exciting lighting plot by Paul Pyant.

    Review by Mick Greenway



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