Double Falsehood, a drama linked to William Shakespeare by its publisher 250 years ago but whose authorship was disputed, is a genuine work by the bard, a British academic has said.
Double Falsehood – published in 1728, more than a century after the bard’s death – is actually a version of Shakespeare’s long-lost play Cardenio, Professor Brean Hammond of Nottingham University said.
As a result of Hammond’s research, the play will now be published alongside works like Hamlet and King Lear in the prestigious Arden Shakespeare series, while the Royal Shakespeare Company is said to be working on a reconstruction of the play.
Cardenio was written by Shakespeare and John Fletcher, a regular collaborator. It was performed twice in 1613, three years before Shakespeare’s death.
Publisher Lewis Theobald later claimed he had three copies of the original play – subsequently lost – and released his adaptation of it in 1728.
But the play – whose full title is Double Falsehood; or, The Distrest Lovers – was dismissed by critics at the time, who said it was not a genuine work by Shakespeare.
“It’s impossible to compare Double Falsehood with Cardenio because those manuscripts have been lost,” Hammond said, quoted by The Daily Telegraph newspaper on Tuesday.
“But if you look inside the text there is the presence of three hands at work: Shakespeare, his collaborator John Fletcher and Theobald.”
The professor has spent 10 years researching the play.
The play revolves around two beautiful women, Violante and Leonora, and two men: Henriquez, an aristocratic villain; and his lower-born rival Julio.
Henriquez perpetrates the “double falsehood” by nearly raping Violante and then courting Leonora, the betrothed of Julio. But the play ends with a reconciliation.
Jonathan Bate, a professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature at Warwick University, said Hammond’s research “proves that it is in some part Shakespearian.”
“Theobald always knew the play was not Shakespeare’s original, but a rewriting to conform to the conventions of Restoration theatre. This was common practice,” he wrote in The Daily Telegraph.
“Double Falsehood is only an indirect version of Shakespeare’s lost Cardenio.”
Stanley Wells, general editor of the Oxford Shakespeare series said: “There’s more reason to believe that the play preserves bits of Fletcher than Shakespeare.
“However, there might be a bit of Shakespearean DNA in it,” he was quoted as saying.