I’m a fan of Shakespeare and while I would love nothing more than for there to be a new play of his uncovered, it simply isn’t going to be found in some family’s attic or basement or in the form of a book. Recently, a website called The World News Daily Report posted a story that claimed the following:
The team of experts from the auction house Christie’s, have confirmed this morning that a 16th century book found recently in the personnal collection of a recently deceased English Lord, is indeed an authentic printed version of William Shakespeare’s lost play, The History of Cardenio.
Seems legit, right? Well, let’s see what else is on the front page of this news source:
The Daily News Report is not a real news website, as the above picture confirms, but there are other clues in their claim of a new Shakespeare text that points to falsehood.
First and foremost, Shakespeare’s works were never completely written down before the publication of the first folios of his work, which are thought to be frauds. Instead, what he wrote were cue scripts, or scripts that had the lines for that actor only, along with a few lines from the person speaking directly before them.
You see, publishing wasn’t a way of making money back then. So Shakespeare wouldn’t have really sought to publish his works. With that knowledge, it seems perfectly reasonable, since Shakespeare’s plays were stolen and published without his permission and that he wrote pieces of the script rather than the whole, that a new play could be found.
But that play wouldn’t be found in a book in someone’s home. The play wouldn’t have been written down, at least not by Shakespeare, and not in a book. If this article had claimed it found pieces of a Shakespeare play or perhaps a cue script, Shakespeareans would have rejoiced! Not only have people been searching for “lost plays” by Shakespeare for years, but we already have a general idea of what those plays were, and news of those lost plays would have gotten us excited. But a vague article claiming to have found an abstract “lost play” in a book in someone’s house is nothing to get excited for.
While there is speculation of a lost Shakespeare play or works of his we do not yet know, it wouldn’t be hiding in someone’s basement, lord or not. More than likely, the plays exist but have another playwright’s name attached to them. For instance, The Spanish Tragedy, credited to Thomas Kyd, is theorized to actually have been written by Shakespeare. The New York Times, a legitimate news source, ran a story on this last year.
I guess the moral of the blog post is to check the source of the material you post on Facebook and other social media outlets before you repost.
You can follow Amanda on Twitter @ThePandaBard, on Pinterest @ThePandaBard, or on Medium @ThePandaBard. You can also find her research on Academia.Edu at Cpp.Academia.Edu/MandaRiggle.