Confirmed by Science: A New (to Us) Shakespeare Play

For years, Professor Brean Hammond of Nottingham University has been convinced that Double Falsehood, a romantic tragi-comedy credited to Lewis Theobald, was more than based off of Shakespeare’s lost play Cardenio. In 2010, The Guardian quoted Professor Hammond as saying:

I don’t think you can ever be absolutely 100% but, yes, I am convinced that it is Shakespeare…This version of the Shakespeare play has been doctored. Theobald cut out material that he didn’t think appropriate, but this was quite common. Shakespeare was very frequently rewritten in the 17th and 18th centuries.

While Theobald claimed that his own play that came out in 1728 Double Falsehood was based off of Shakespeare play manuscripts, critics at the time, the most vocal being fellow writer and rival Alexander Pope, said that Theobald’s claims were unfounded and were never further looked into. The Independent notes that:

Double Falsehood, also known by the title “Distressed Lovers”, is based on the “Cardenio” episode in Don Quixote and appears be taken from the 1612 translation of Cervantes’ novel by Thomas Shelton. It wasn’t included in Shakespeare’s First Folio and there is little written evidence to link it to the Bard.

The 18th century poet Alexander Pope was among the loudest voices to decry Theobald’s claims that the play had Shakespearean origins soon after it was published.

But all of that changed in the 20th century, when critics agreed that Theobald’s claim should be more thoroughly investigated. Professor Brean Hammond is one of the most vocal modern proponents of the idea that Double Falsehood is an edited version of Shakespeare’s Cardenio, and now two researches at The University of Texas at Austin, Ryan L. Boyd and James W. Pennebaker, have analyzed Shakespeare’s plays and Double Falsehood using software to analyze the “psychological signature” of the texts to see if the play did indeed match Shakespeare’s other works.

And it did.

CNN.Com quotes Boyd as saying:

The match between the ‘Double Falsehood’ play and Shakespeare was a landslide. It was shockingly clear.

The analysis of the text showed that the first half of the play was almost exclusively written by Shakespeare himself, while the second half of the play shows signatures of Shakespeare’s psychological profile and John Fletcher, the playwright that followed in Shakespeare’s footsteps as the playwrite for the King’s Men, the same troupe Shakespeare wrote for that performed at The Globe Theatre.

Theobald’s signature on the play was minimal, and Boyd further told CNN:

We’re certainly not suggesting that Theobald didn’t make edits, but he clearly did not write it.

The research can be found in and read at Psychological Science.

What does Professor Hammond have to say about the analysis?

I think that Shakespeare’s DNA can be found in the play so anything that supports that view is good in my opinion.

But Professor Hammond also notes that:

Those people who don’t believe the play was written by Shakespeare aren’t going to just lay down and die.

So while it’s not 100% provable, thanks to the many fires that ravished England and destroyed Shakespeare’s original manuscripts, we have scientific psychological analysis of Shakespeare’s works and Double Falsehood that show that this could very well be a new (to us) Shakespeare play. What does that mean? It means I have a script to pick up and a new play to study.

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