Reading Cervantes, or Shelton, or Phillips? The Source(s) of Cardenio and Double Falsehood

  • Gary Taylor
  • Steven Wagschal


Strangely and sadly, Cervantes is almost entirely ignored by modern scholarship on the seventeenth-century play Cardenio and the eighteenth-century play Double Falsehood.1 His name and his novel are often invoked. But the words critics quote and analyze are those of Thomas Shelton, the first translator of the Spanish Don Quijote. Scholars compound this confusion (of the Spanish text with the English translation) by assuming that the eighteenth-century Double Falsehood and the seventeenth-century Cardenio had the same source. But why must we, or should we, make that assumption? The Spanish text was available in England, and being read by Englishmen, in 1612, 1727, and every year between. If we remove these self-imposed blinders, we can learn a lot about Double Falsehood and its relationship to Cervantes.


Henry VIII Spanish Text Scene Location Stage Direction Black Mountain 
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  1. 2.
    Farmer, An Essay on the Learning of Shakespeare, 2nd ed. (Cambridge, 1767), 29; Schevill, “Theobald’s Double Falsehood?Modern Philology 9 (1911): 269–85. The first edition of Double Falsehood is dated on the title-page as “1728”, but it was printed by December 24, 1727: see Brean Hammond, “After Arden,” in Quest, 69–71.Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Graham, “The Cardenio-Double Falsehood Problem,” Modern Philology 14 (1916): 260–80, esp. 271–3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 5.
    Freehafer, “Cardenio, by Shakespeare and Fletcher,” PMLA 84 (1969): 501–13. Because he did not know of the 1611 Spanish edition, Freehafer constructed an elaborate conjecture about Theobald consulting and misunderstanding the Stationers’ Register; this misled scholars for four decades.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 10.
    See A. Luis Pujante, “Double Falsehood and the Verbal Parallels with Shelton’s Don Quixote,” Shakespeare Survey 51 (1998): 95–105. Pujante provides a numbered list of twenty parallels, collected by previous scholars or noted by him for the first time. Of these twenty, twelve (2, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, and 19) do not discriminate between Shelton, Phillips, and Cervantes. Pujante discusses (but does not separately enumerate) two further parallels, cited by Freehafer: “Rodericke” (our Shelton parallel number 8) and “Andalusia” (which appears in both the Spanish and English texts). Another parallel noted by Taylor (“History,” 57) is also indifferent.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 11.
    Miguel de Cervantes, El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha, ed. Luis Murillo, fifth edition, 2 vols. (Madrid: Castalia, 1978), 1.27.340. Subsequent references to the Spanish text cite this edition. There are no substantive variants in seventeenth-century Spanish editions of the parallels we have examined here.Google Scholar
  6. 15.
    For the pastoral romance, see Jorge de Montemayor, Los siete libros de la Diana, ed. Asunción Rallo (Madrid: Cátedra, 1991); for the four extant versions of the anonymous interpolated tale,Google Scholar
  7. see Francisco López Estrada, “El Abencerraje y la hermosa Jarifa”: cuatro textos y su estudio (Madrid: Publicaciones de la Revista de Archivos, Bibliotecas y Museos, 1957). For Montemayor and Two Gentlemen,Google Scholar
  8. see among many others Geoffrey Bullough, Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, 8 vols. (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1957–75), 1: 206. Shakespeare could have read Montemayor in French translation, or in English in manuscript. The earliest surviving edition of Bartholomew Yong’s translation of Diana of George of Montemayor was printed in 1598. Curiously, the character is introduced in a sentence that Shakespeare might have remembered, and that links Rodrigo/Roderick to Fernando, as Cervantes never does: “In the time of the Valiant Prince Don Fernando, who was afterward King of Aragon, lived a knight in Spaine called Rodrigo of Narvaez (Yong, 107).Google Scholar
  9. 22.
    An Apology for the Life of Mr. Colley Cibber, Written by Himself, ed. Robert W. Lowe, 2 vols. (London: Nimmo, 1889), 2: 227–8; Lowe cites in a footnote the corroborating comment, by John Dennis, about flattering Wilks (2:226).Google Scholar
  10. 24.
    Robert S. Miola, in Shakespeare’s Reading (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), endorses the consensus view that Shakespeare read Latin, French, and Italian (165–8), but never mentions Spanish.Google Scholar
  11. 25.
    Wilson, “Rule a Wife and Have a Wife and El Sagaz Estacio,” Review of English Studies, 24 (1948): 189–94, and “Did John Fletcher Read Spanish?” Philological Quarterly 27 (1948): 187–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. See also Lee Bliss, “Don Quixote in English: The Case for The Knight of the Burning Pestle,” Viator 18 (1987): 377, and Trudi L. Darby and Alexander Samson, “Cervantes on the Jacobean Stage,” in Ardila, 209–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 27.
    For the first decade of the novel’s reception in English, see Valerie Wayne, “Don Quixote and Shakespeare’s Collaborative Turn to Romance,” in Quest, 217–38. As Wayne notes, Shelton’s translation was written in Brussels, probably for an English exile there, so its circulation in England before 1612 is uncertain; Wayne calls the novel a “catalyst,” rather than a “source,” between 1607 and 1612. For the 1608 French translation of the “Curious Impertinent,” see The Second Maiden’s Tragedy, ed. Anne Lancashire, Revels Plays (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1978), 30, 77–8.Google Scholar
  14. 28.
    See King Henry VIII, ed. Gordon McMullan (London: Arden Shakespeare, 2000), 279.Google Scholar

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© Terri Bourus and Gary Taylor 2013

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  • Gary Taylor
  • Steven Wagschal

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