Shakespeare's 'lost play' finally published

15 Mar 2010 00:00:00.000

PA 48/10

A literary detective from The University of Nottingham who claims to have found evidence of a ‘lost play’ by Shakespeare has won the backing of the acclaimed Shakespeare publishers, Arden, with the publication of his new book, Double Falsehood, or the Distressed Lovers.


Professor Brean Hammond has spent the past 10 years researching the origins of the play, Double Falsehood, by an 18th  century scholar, Lewis Theobald, who claimed it was a re-working of an original play by the Bard himself. Theobald’s claims that he had three original Shakespeare texts, now lost, were largely dismissed until now. Professor Hammond believes he has found credible evidence that indeed links Theobald’s play back to Shakespeare’s ‘lost play’, Cardenio; a collaboration between Shakespeare and John Fletcher performed in 1613.


The new Arden Third Series edition, published on March 22 2010, will make the play available in a fully annotated form for the first time in 250 years. It brings all the latest evidence to light in a detailed introduction by Professor Hammond explaining how the 18th century play appears to be a genuine version of Shakespeare’s earlier work, a revision of the Cardenio co-written by Shakespeare and John Fletcher.

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Professor Hammond said: “Ever since Wednesday December 13 1727, when Lewis Theobald mounted at Drury Lane Theatre a play entitled Double Falsehood; or, the Distressed Lovers, claiming it to be his version of a lost original by William Shakespeare, there has been scepticism about the play’s status. The early consensus, however, was that Theobald had either forged it or passed it off as written by Shakespeare when it clearly was not Shakespeare’s work. As the 20th century progressed, however, a gradual trickle of belief — not in the idea that the play as it stands is Shakespeare, or even Shakespeare edited by Theobald — but in a much more complex story, developed into an irresistible flood.”

Arden’s General Editor, Professor Richard Proudfoot, added: “The Arden Shakespeare Third Series has chosen to include collaborative plays from outside the 1623 canon and the inclusion of Double Falsehood is our most controversial decision. That it represents in some form the otherwise lost play of Cardenio, by Fletcher and Shakespeare, is a sufficiently sustainable position to recommend publication in Arden 3 of Lewis Theobald’s avowedly thorough 18th  century adaptation, thus making it accessible for the first time in 250 years. Here is a true Shakespeare mystery for an age addicted to fictional mysteries attached to him”.     

Double Falsehood’s plot contains all the ingredients of an intriguing play of both the Elizabethan and 18th century periods; two contrasting beautiful female protagonists, one lowborn and one of higher birth but not aristocratic; and two contrasting leading men, one, of modest birth, full of honour and probity and the other an aristocratic villain. An interrupted marriage, a series of mad scenes and a near-rape make sure that the play does not lack incident.

Double Falsehood, edited by Professor Brean Hammond, is published by Arden Shakespeare and is now available, priced £16.99 paperback. ISBN 9781903436776. 

— Ends —

Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.  More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.

The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's “only truly global university”, it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.

 Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives
(www.science-city.co.uk) in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.

Story credits

More information and interviews are available through Suzi Williamson at Arden, on +44 (0)207 494 6567 swilliamson@acblack.com; or Media Relations Manager Emma Rayner in the University's Communications Office on +44 (0)115 951 5793, emma.rayner@nottingham.ac.uk

More University of Nottingham news: http://communications/nottingham.ac.uk/

  Emma Rayner

Emma Rayner - Media Relations Manager

Email: emma.rayner@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5793 Location: University Park

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