Shakespeare's lost labour finally found, experts say
It may be a case of all's well that ends well, or simply much ado about nothing, but an academic claims to have solved a mystery which intrigued Shakespeare scholars for hundreds of years.
An 18th-century drama attributed to the Bard but dismissed as a hoax, truly is his work, according to an expert in the literature of the time.
'Double Falsehood', published by Lewis Theobald in 1728, is a version of Shakespeare's long-lost play 'Cardenio', he believes.
The original was a collaboration between Shakespeare and John Fletcher, his successor as house playwright to the King's Men company. It was performed twice in 1613 but never made it into print and was lost to history.
Theobald claimed, more than a century later, to have had three copies of the play, which were also subsequently lost, on which he based his adaptation.
'Double Falsehood' was declared a hoax soon after it opened and disappeared, although Theobald became a famous editor of the playwright.
However, after 10 years' research, Brean Hammond, professor of Modern English Literature at Nottingham University, believes he has found proof of its authenticity from historical evidence and analysis of the text.
"It's impossible to compare 'Double Falsehood' with 'Cardenio' because those manuscripts have been lost," he said yesterday.
"But if you look inside the text there is the presence of three hands at work, Shakespeare, his collaborator John Fletcher and Theobald."
Some words in 'Double Falsehood' were not in any of Theobald or Fletcher's other works, he said.
"A small example is the word 'absonant' which appears in the first act of 'Double Falsehood'. It means displeasing to the ear, harsh or discordant. This word does not appear in Theobald or Fletcher's work but it does appear to be a word that was invented by Shakespeare."
In the play, Henriquez, a noble, tries to ruin a young girl named Violante. He then tries to seduce Leonora, the intended of his friend Julio.
Ultimately he gets his "comeuppance", Prof Hammond said.
As a result of his research, Theobald's adaptation is to be published in the Arden Shakespeare series and the Royal Shakespeare Company is working towards a conjectural reconstruction of the original.
Professor Jonathan Bate, of Warwick University, says that the research "proves that it is in some part Shakespearean".
Stanley Wells, general editor of the Oxford Shakespeare series was less excited.
He 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." (©Daily Telegraph, London)