The “Unscene” and Unstaged in Double Falsehood, Cardenio, and Shakespeare’s Romances

  • Lori Leigh


Onstage in both the first and last scene of Gary Taylor’s The History of Cardenio, an emblematic coffin bookends the action of the play. A coffin, which simultaneously (and paradoxically) evokes “presence” and “absence”— the presence of a body and the absence of a life—seems an appropriate prop for Shakespeare and Fletcher’s lost play Cardenio.


Stage Level Final Scene Private World Stage Direction Contemporary Production 
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  1. 3.
    Garber, “‘The Rest Is Silence’: Ineffability and the ‘Unscene’ in Shakespeare’s Plays,” in Ineffability, Naming the Unnameable from Dante to Beckett, ed. Peter S. Hawkins and Anne Howland Schotter (New York: AMS Press, 1983), 36.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Marjorie Garber, Shakespeare after All (NewYork: Anchor Books, 2005), 112.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    See Leigh, “Tis no such killing matter: Rape in Fletcher and Shakespeare’s Cardenio and in Lewis Theobald’s Double Falsehood,” Shakespeare 7:3 (2011): 284–96, and “Transvestism, Transformation, and Text: Cross-Dressing and Gender Roles in Double Falsehood/The History of Cardenio,” Quest, 258–66. The discussion of the rape is extensive in Quest: see Taylor, “History,” 40–4; Hammond, 76–7; Taylor and Nance, 198–9, 213; Richards, 345–6; Proudfoot, 354; Doran, 361; Carnegie and Leigh, 374–6. Peter Kirwan also writes about the rape at length in his blog: Scholar
  4. 22.
    This commonplace phrase is taken from J. V. Cunningham’s book Woe or Wonder: The Emotional Effect of Shakespearean Tragedy (Denver: Alan Swallow, 1960).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Terri Bourus and Gary Taylor 2013

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  • Lori Leigh

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