Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cardenio found

Not Hamlet I know, but I read a rumour about this over the weekend and contacted the Royal Shakespeare Company's press office to see if it was hoax. Funnily enough -- it really isn't. Here is the press release:
"Cardenio: Shakespeare’s Lost Play Found

RSC Chief Associate Director, Gregory Doran, chose the opening of his production of Coriolanus at the Teatro Albeniz in Madrid as the occasion to announce the “discovery” of a lost play by William Shakespeare based on an episode in Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes. A play by Shakespeare, England’s greatest writer, based on a story by Spain’s greatest writer, Cervantes, is certainly big news, but would also be an ideal intercultural project to celebrate the Royal Shakespeare Company’s growing relationship with Spain . Last year the Company received a Gold Medal for Excellence in the Fine Arts, awarded by his majesty Juan Carlos following a recent visit by the Company with their production of The Canterbury Tales, and a highly successful season of plays from the Spanish Golden Age which played Madrid in 2004.

Cardenio – the title of this missing masterpiece, was written by Shakespeare and fellow writer John Fletcher, in 1613 after Thomas Shelton’s translation of Don Quixote appeared the previous year. It tells the story of the lunatic lover and a heroine who dresses as a shepherd boy to follow her love into the mountains – familiar terrain in the tragic-comedies of Shakespeare’s late plays.

We have evidence of the play’s performances at Court in 1613 but for some reason the play was not included in the first folio of Shakespeare’s complete works that was published in 1623 after his death. That’s not entirely surprising as Pericles was not included either nor another of Shakespeare’s collaborations with John Fletcher, The Two Noble Kinsmen.

The play surfaced when a manuscript was given to the Shakespeare editor Lewis Theobald in the early eighteenth century by John Downes, a book-keeper and prompter for the Drury Lane Theatre. Theobald adapted the play for the stage and it had a very successful run in the theatre in London. It is probable that the manuscripts were lost in a theatre fire in the early nineteenth century, but luckily we still have Theobald’s adaptation, and of course, the original source, Thomas Shelton’s 1612 translation.

Gregory Doran is busy exploring the possibilities of some sort of collaboration between Spanish and British artists in order to conduct an exploratory workshop and bring a production to the stage of Cervantes’ story of Cardenio – via William Shakespeare – of which both great authors might have been proud.
I'm excited but it's tempered with a bit of confusion. Are they actually annoncing the surfacing of Shakespeare and Fletcher's original verse or some later translation? There seems so be a skirting around that issue in the release -- and in fact it just seems like it will be a version of Theobold and Shelton's work and not actually Shakespeare at all.

The other problem I'm having that considering everything there's been no coverage of this in the media which just seems very odd to me. Google News has nothing and the wikipedia entry hasn't been updated which are usually indications that something is going on. That suggests that others are seeing the same inconsistencies I am.

Anyway, I've emailed the RSC back for a clarification and I'll keep you posted on developments.

Updated! Hmm. In all my excitement I forgot to add the link in to the source of the story which is of course the wonderful Shakespeare Geek. Incidentally I haven't heard back from the RSC press office since I asked for a clarification but I'll let you know when I do.


Anonymous said...

Charles Hamilton has published the script for Cardenio, with over a hundred pages of information about the play. (Glenbridge Pub., c1994)

Katie Alcock said...

Cardenio, Shakespeare's lost play, has recently been reconstructed by Bernard Richards, professor emeritus of Brasenose college, Oxford, using the corrupt Theobald version that survives. Richards has used his extensive knowledge of Shakespeare's style and computer programes to identify the sections of the text most likely written by Shakespeare and Fletcher and has filled in the gaps using Don Quixote as a model.
This version of the play, about to be published by the Arden Shakespeare, is currently being premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival by TACT, The Alternative Cambridge Theatre Company, who have recieved excellent reviews for the performance from both the Scotsman and the Stage.

Further information at www.tact-theatre.co.uk