Sunday, May 15, 2011

Discussion: Double Falsehood

The play: Double Falsehood

The plot tweet: Duke's son rapes Violante and woos friend Julio's love, Leonora. After botched wedding and some wandering, it ends with marriages all around.

My favorite line: n/a

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The Arden third series has long been my preferred Shakespeare text (and not just because it has the best paper for underlining and making notes), and I tend to trust the decisions made by its editors. So, when Arden released Double Falsehood last year, I thought, "Okay, maybe there's something to this idea that the play is based on Shakespeare and Fletcher's lost Cardenio."

Let me just say this: If the Arden editors are right about this, I'm not sure I want to be right. The obvious Shakespeare touches are there -- the heroine disguised as a boy, the overbearing parent forcing a daughter to wed, the escape into a pastoral setting. These are touches that would be easy for Lewis Theobald to fake.

What can't be faked is Shakespeare's genius for characterization and his brilliant bursts of poetry -- neither of which are present in this play.

The Arden editor, Brean Hammond, gives a very guarded endorsement of this play's Shakespearean heritage:
Finding a manuscript of the lost Cardenio would be the only way of proving beyond all doubt that Theobald did not forge it. I cannot claim to have achieved that, but I hope that this edition reinforces the accumulating consensus that the lost play has a continuing presence in its eighteenth-century great-grandchild.
If you'd like to draw your own conclusions, give Hammond's introduction a thorough read. In the meantime, I'm choosing to withhold my endorsement. With any luck, some dotty English matron will find a copy of Cardenio stashed in her attic, and we can finally have the real play instead.

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