Cardenio and the Eighteenth-century Shakespeare Canon

King, Edmund (2012). Cardenio and the Eighteenth-century Shakespeare Canon. In: Carnegie, David and Taylor, Gary eds. The Quest for Cardenio: Shakespeare, Fletcher, Cervantes and the Lost Play. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 81–94.



In 1728, in the preface to the second printing of Double Falsehood, Lewis Theobald for the first time published his intention to produce a complete edition of Shakespeare. ‘I … think it not amiss here’, he announced, ‘to promise that … if I live, the public shall receive from my hand [Shakespeare’s] whole Works corrected, with my best Care and Ability’ (DF, 170n.). When this edition finally appeared, however, one of its more noticeable omissions was Double Falsehood itself. Other plays that Theobald believed that Shakespeare had written, at least in part, were also excluded. There was no space for The Two Noble Kinsmen, despite it being a ‘favourite play’ of Theobald’s, and one that he repeatedly stated had been co-authored by Shakespeare. Neither did Theobald’s edition include Pericles and the ‘apocryphal’ plays that appeared in the 1664 second issue of the Third Folio, works that Theobald likewise considered part of a wider Shakespeare canon (Theobald 1733, I, vii and VI, 100n.). Indeed, despite Theobald’s promise to set forth the ‘whole’ works of Shakespeare, and despite his belief that these extended well beyond the traditional 36-play canon, the 1733 Works was identical, in terms of extent, to the 1623 First Folio.

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