|Poster for the RSC's 2011 production of |
'Cardenio: Shakespeare's Lost Play Reimagined'
There’s a satirical news story going around the internet at the moment that the lost play Cardenio has been found, printed, in the personal collection of a recently deceased English Lord. The ‘holy grail’ of literature, [The History of] Cardenio is a play written in 1612-13 by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher, and dramatises an episode in Cervantes’ Don Quixote. The story has appeared numerous times over the past fortnight, yet the reportage doesn’t change. At least seventeen days too late to be an April Fool’s hoax, I wouldn't doubt if the story is in fact an elaborate kind of meta-hoax designed to celebrate Shakespeare’s four-hundred-and-fiftieth birthday.
Finding Cardenio is akin to discovering Father Christmas doesn’t exist, or that the grass isn’t in fact greener on the other side of the hill. I love the idea of Shakespeare collaborating on a play adapted from Don Quixote; I’d love to know what Shakespeare thought of Cervantes’ story – I’d like to think he was rather quite taken with it, if a little apprehensive, but delighted with its erroneous knight, his portly squire and their wide travails across the length and breadth of
Part of my fascination with the story of Cardenio, as written by Shakespeare and Fletcher, comes from not knowing the play, from not having the Jacobean play-text to hand; comes from not being certain of its contents, composition or plot, apart from its entries in the Stationer’s register, court records for the Christmas period of 1612-13, and the accounts kept by John Heminges for the King’s Men. While we do have a seventeenth century adaptation of the play, published as Double Falsehood, or the Distrest Lovers, the fact we don’t have the original is all the more reason to dream, to conjecture, to rhapsody and to imagine. Sometimes it’s best not to have all the answers; sometimes it’s better to not know everything; sometimes the world is a richer place for muses of fire that transcend the heavens of invention…