Double Falshood; or, The Distrest Lovers
Introduction by John W. Kennedy
In 1727, London’s Drury Lane theatre produced a new play by Lewis Theobald (1688–1744) entitled Double Falshood; or, The Distrest Lovers. What made this play special is that Theobald claimed that he had based it on three manuscripts of a lost play by Shakespeare. Controversy over Theobald's claim lasted for centuries, but by the 1990s most scholars accepted his claim as honest. However, the original play turned out not to be by Shakespeare alone, but rather by Shakespeare and John Fletcher (1579–1625), the young playwright who took over Shakespeare's job when he retired. We know this because the plot of Double Falshood is obviously based on an episode in Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote, the hero of that episode is named
Cardenio, and we have documents mentioning a lost play named Cardenio by Shakespeare and Fletcher.
In 1728, two octavo editions of the play were printed in London (the second edition having a somewhat longer preface), and the first edition was also reprinted in duodecimo in Dublin. After Theobald’s death, a third edition of Double Falshood was printed in 1767, with a few changes that appear to have been inserted by actors, as they make some of the plot a little clearer, but are written and inserted rather clumsily. This edition is based on the second edition of 1728, which appears to best represent Theobald's final intentions.
In 2001, I discovered that the text of Double Falshood was not available on-line, and that it had not been printed in any form since a flawed version in 1920. In addition, while there were some microfilms, and a facsimile edition printed in 1970, they all had minor faults of reproduction, and were hard to obtain. I therefore made it my business to provide a good electronic text, based on the original printings. During my work of transcription, I also discovered that all the microfilms and the facsimile were based on the first printing of the first edition, the poorest of all the early printings. My electronic version first went on-line, in both HTML and text forms, in late 2001.
Read Double Falshood
- HTML edition
- Plain-text edition
- TEI edition (for use in electronic archives)
- Errata and addenda sheet for the 1970 Muir facsimile
The forsaken Maid
In Act IV, Double Falshood includes a song sung from offstage by the character of Violante. The song is preserved, although we know little of the composer, a Mr. Gouge. Here is a transcription of the printed music, with thoroughbass, and a Sibelius Scorch file with a realization of the continuo for Lute.