Much Ado About the Bard’s Lost Play

The University of Nottingham’s Professor of English Studies, Brean Hammond, has received backing to publish what he believes to be one of Shakespeare’s lost plays. The text, which will be published by Arden, will be available in fully annotated form for the first time in 250 years.

The work, under the title of ‘The Double Falsehood’, was originally thought to be a production of 18th century scholar Lewis Theobald. He, however, had made frequent claims that he was inspired by a copy of Shakespeare’s play ‘Cardenio’ that he had in his possession. Academics had previously dismissed Theobald’s assertions as a hoax, but after around 8 years of research, Professor Hammond has gathered significant evidence to plausibly dismiss these accusations of fraudulence.

‘Cardenio’ has long been acknowledged as a text missing from the Shakespearean canon, but similarities between ‘The Double Falsehood’ and ‘Cardenio’ have also been considered – both texts are based on the Cardenio story from Don Quixote. Hammond began investigating ‘The Double Falsehood’ in the 1980s, but struggled to achieve publication and thought about giving up on the project. After dedication to the cause, though, which began to pick up speed in 2002, Hammond feels he is plausible in his belief that ‘The Double Falsehood’ is an adaptation of ‘Cardenio.’

Being an adaptation, the lost Shakespearean text has been re-worked and altered by Theobald to suit an 18th century audience. Professor Hammond described the play as having “all the ingredients of a good story”, but there is a definite absence of what we recognise as Shakespearean metaphorically dense speeches, which may disappoint some readers. “Directors may find they need to supplement the play and do a bit of padding out”, advised Hammond.

Professor Hammond strongly believes there is one other lost play of Shakespeare’s, probably called Edward III, although Hammond, being rightly satisfied with bringing ‘Cardenio’ back into the limelight, is leaving this text to be discovered by another academic.

Emily Sargent


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