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20 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Alackaday, 6 April 2010
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This review is from: Double Falsehood (Arden Shakespeare Third Series) (The Arden Shakespeare Third Series) (Paperback)
Blast, how slow am I to have quickly fallen for a 300 year old fraud? Like my namesake The Antiquary a ready dupe for any charlatan with a piece of muddy broken pottery and tales of auld lang syne.

The best hope that is reached for is that Double Falsehood is a 'ghost' of the lost Cardenio by Shakespeare and Fletcher (also see the 'found' Cardenio or the Second Maiden's Tragedy, rejected as false). For ghost read rip-off, forgery, (in)famous and typical 18th century meddling.

Double Falsehood, apart from sounding like a Shakespearean Bond film, and aptly named now with this revival, is such an obvious early 18th century guess of what this Shakespearean play might have been that surely no-one who actually reads it can be fooled.

Three stars stolen from me for being an interesting curiosity - but it won't be shaming the same shelf as my facsimile of the first folio. Minus 5 stars and curses to 21st century academics, who in their pseudo-scientific socio-historical-linguistics only take us further away from history and art. To Brean Hammond, out of whose interest in Pope and his enemy Theobald, rather than Shakespeare, this work seems to have sprung: 'Thy sin's not accidental but a trade'. And boils to publisher and media for getting my hopes up and failing miserably to justify the headlines.

Somebody please send for an aged philologist to flay this corpse.
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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 28 May 2010 21:42:06 BDT
D. P. Hunter says:
Hmm. I'd be a bit more charitable. The play doesn't read like the real deal but there are moments when something suggestive appears in the verse. It's perhaps like getting a glimpse of the original in a canvas where something old and rough has been over-restored by subsequent hands. It's not like Pericles where different authors are almost audible in different parts. DF is a curiosity but it's a better piece than some of its neighbours in the Apocrypha Gardens.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jun 2010 18:37:19 BDT
Last edited by the author on 22 Aug 2012 08:41:28 BDT
I confess that I thoroughly enjoyed 'Double Falsehood' and (drum-rolls, please) that I don't care about the famous - hackneyed? - plays, preferring the lesser-known works ('Troilus & Cressida', 'Timon of Athens', 'Love's Labour's Lost', 'King John', etc), not to mention Shakespearean source-plays like 'King Leir', 'Promos & Cassandra', and 'A Shrew' and those partly or wholly ascribed to him (eg 'Sir Thomas More, 'The Two Noble Kinsmen' and 'Edward III'). That the plot of 'Double Falsehood' isn't unlike those of 'The Two Gents', 'All's Well' and 'Much Ado' doesn't make it rubbish. I would have understood other readers' disappointment if Arden had chosen something written by a contemporary and attributed it to Shakespeare: eg Charles Hamilton's edition of what he thinks is 'Cardenio', which is none other than Middleton's 'The Second Maiden's Tragedy'. Anyway, since we're talking about drama (not literature), the focus should be on the work's stagecraft, rather than only the plot (stage directions, the use of the sections of the stage, gestures, and 3D staging, a notable characteristic of Elizabethan and Jacobean plays which Theobald employs skilfully). PS Any period script (including those of doubtful authorship) is bound to arouse my curiosity. It's a well-known fact that many (especially early) Elizabethan plays were collaborations, so it didn't matter much who wrote which lines, as long as the work was finished and staged. The pirate edition (or so-called 'bad quarto') of 'Hamlet', for instance, isn't entirely worthless simply because it contains poor lines. Even so, I believe that a line like 'To be, or not, to be; ay, there's the point' is stronger than the 'authentic' version we're familiar with, because a) it's perfect unrhymed iambic pentameter - ie blank verse - which the other famous version isn't, since it consists of 11 syllables, instead of 10 (though we lose the ritardando characteristic of the mature Shakespeare, where an extra syllable signals a speaker's hesitation, as in this soliloquy, which contains hypermetrical lines); b) the word 'point' rings a more modern bell than 'question', which is an advantage for the contemporary audience.

In reply to an earlier post on 5 Jun 2010 21:23:37 BDT
Last edited by the author on 5 Jun 2010 21:25:58 BDT
Good evening Filippo,

3D staging? One of the reasons Shakespeare has proved so flexible is the lack of stage direction - in fact there is a general lack of stage direction until the 20th century. Cues being wrung out of the language instead.

I wouldn't take too much focus off of the literature - as you know the plays are sourced from literature and written as heightened language - it is drama and literature. Wanting to focus on stagecraft - a tradition about which the play provides little extra evidence - does suggest a lack of faith in the words? And remember the plays are seldom hackneyed to pupils.

I am still not convinced DP Hunter, I do think Theobald had a great natural feel for Shakespearean English and you are right, it is probably the best attempt I've seen - but taking his 18th century habits as a corruption of an original rather than an unavoidable stylistic consequence of forgery is a desperate hope (and essentially, despite the effort put into the case, without proof) and I think a commercial one.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Jun 2010 05:45:01 BDT
Last edited by the author on 6 Jun 2010 16:05:15 BDT
Good morning, the antiquary.

Many thanks for your thoughtful comment.

As you rightly argue, stage directions are sparse in Elizabethan and Jacobean drama, many of those being suggested in the lines themselves (I call them - mistakenly perhaps - 'linguistic' or 'verbal' stage directions, since they are 'spoken', rather than printed in italics). And that is exactly what Theobald echoes (18th-century plays normally include more stage directions than those occurring in the plays of the two previous centuries).

The 3D-staging technique I was referring to (common in the plays of the period) is the repetition of a specific word, synonyms, or antonyms, three times, or (usually with the aid of anaphora, epistrophe, anadiplosis, hypophora, chiasmus, etc) the division of a particular part of a speech into three sections (regardless of the verse lineation), showing that the dramatists (while composing their scripts) had in mind the semi-circular design of the audience seats at public playhouses like the Swan and the Globe. This would involve the rotation of a player's audiovisual focus (very much like the lens of a camera) from one section of the audience to another - right, centre, and left - ensuring a strong 4th-wall-free bond with them, even if he is conversing with other players on the stage: eg 'O blood,/blood,/blood' ('Othello'); 'To be,/or not to be,/that is the question' (Hamlet); 'In thunder,/lightning,/or in rain' and 'Tomorrow,/and tomorrow,/and tomorrow' (Macbeth); 'Death,/death,/O amiable lovely death' ('King John'); 'Am I in earth,/in heaven,/or in hell?' ('The Comedy of Errors'); 'Must he submit? The King shall do it./Must he be dopsed? The King shall be contented./Must he lose the name of King? a God's name let it go' ('Richard II'); 'She is a woman, therefore may be wooed,/She is a woman, therefore may be won,/She is Lavinia, therefore must be loved' ('Titus Andronicus'). My list is too long for an Amazon comment!

One notable aspect that Theobald didn't echo convincingly is Shakespeare's frequent use of sexual innuendos. If I recall correctly (I read the text only once), there is just one bawdy allusion: the 'nose' reference with the same meaning occurring memorably in 'Antony & Cleopatra'. But, then, there are no heavily explicit expressions in plays like 'Coriolanus', 'Julius Caesar', 'Richard II' and 'King John', apart from some mild references (as opposed to, say, 'All's Well', 'Troilus' and 'Measure for Measure', which abound with explicit sexual vocabulary and double entendres).

Thanks for your attention.

PS In case you think I'm one of those who pressed the no-vote button, I hereby declare myself 'Not guilty': I firmly disbelieve in the malicious act of considering a review unhelpful simply because one disagrees with the reviewer's opinion.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Jun 2010 16:15:50 BDT
Yes, I see what you mean now about 3D staging, an also excellent point about the lack of innuendo. Ah, for time for a proper review.

No worries about the vote, no-voters rarely leave interesting and thoughtful comments.

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Jun 2010 12:34:59 BDT
Last edited by the author on 22 Jul 2010 05:30:49 BDT
Oh, I forgot to mention that Arden will release 'Edward III' and 'Sir Thomas More' next year as parts of their Shakespeare series (this must be bad news for you, but I've pre-ordered my copies!).

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Jun 2010 16:06:16 BDT
Last edited by the author on 7 Jun 2010 16:14:07 BDT
Really? They can publish what they like, only I think it must damage their reputation if they insist that any doubtful relation is definitely Shakespeare's work. These extra plays really ought to have been presented as an offshoot, an apocrypha, instead of Arden trying to claim to be the arbiters of the canon and artificially inflating it. Sadly this marketing trick seems to be working for them if they are branching out again (at least the other two are contemporary).

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Jun 2010 09:44:00 BDT
Last edited by the author on 22 Jul 2010 05:30:32 BDT
Issuing these plays separately as 'apocrypha' is a good suggestion. However, I hardly think that Arden will publish them in their new edition of the 'complete works' (even as an appendix), but I might be wrong. The Cambridge Shakespeare published 'Edward III' 12 years ago: it's the best edition currently available, but I await Arden's with eagerness, as I rate this anonymous play highly. Other Cambridge titles published as part of their Shakespeare series are the Q versions of 'Hamlet' and 'A Shrew'. Back to 'genuine' Shaksepeare, I've also pre-ordered my copies of Arden's forthcoming editions of 'Coriolanus' (to my mind, Shakespeare's greatest tragedy) and 'King John' (I consider it to be his best history play: RSC's magnificent 2001 production of this rarity at the Swan was unforgettable): both of these overdue editions will be out next year.

PS It would be great if Arden also considered the anonymous and unfinished 'Thomas of Woodstock' (available - like the collaborative 'Sir Thomas More' - as one of the Revels plays, with the subtitle 'Part 1 of Richard II'): this is a must for those who (like myself) admire 'Richard II', the language (both verse and prose) and stage business being of the highest quality (one fascinating stage direction - unique to the plays of the period - is the appearance of a character on horseback!).

Posted on 18 Dec 2010 11:52:25 GMT
'Double Falsehood' will be produced under the title 'Cardenio' by the RSC (to be performed at the Swan Theatre next year in April-October). Yay!

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Aug 2012 21:59:02 BDT
A. Redha says:
Excellent point on the use of ritardando, Filippo.
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