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“The Forgery of Some Modern Author”?: Theobald’s Shakespeare and Cardenio’s Double Falsehood


Most critics looking for evidence of Shakespeare, Fletcher, or Shelton (the 1612 translator of Cervantes’s Don Quixote) in Lewis Theobald’s Double Falshood [sic] have found it; this “evidence” has been treated as proof that Double Falshood contains traces of a lost play, Cardenio, said to have been based on Don Quixote and written by Shakespeare and Fletcher. Yet there is only weak information linking Shakespeare to “Cardenio”; while Theobald’s putative texts, all of which are called Double Falshood (he never uses the name “Cardenio”) have no unambiguous pre- or post-Theobald history. They seem to have varied in number (from one to four), age (from early modern to Restoration), and handwriting (from Shakespeare’s to Downes’s), depending when and where they were described. In the light of the Arden Shakespeare’s recent decision to publish The History of Cardenio / by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher / Adapted for the Eighteenth-Century Stage as Double Falsehood / Or / The Distressed Lovers / by / Lewis Theobald (although no author is named on the cover of this 2010 edition), Stern’s essay reexamines who wrote Double Falshood and who wrote Cardenio.

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