Double Falsehood • Tho. Dekker & Tho. Middleton?

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  • April 30 2011: I posted one further and third update: Double Falsehood Revisited. See this for my final thoughts and why I’ve come round to Hammond’s opinion.
Since the previous post, I’ve done some targeted reading, lots of comparisons, and while I still see Middleton in the latter three acts, the evidence argues against a Middleton attribution in the first two acts – and I go where the evidence goes. (Ego be damned.) Where does it lead? At the moment, my  reading argues for Dekker as a more likely candidate/collaborator than Shakespeare. Middleton and Dekker were known to have collaborated and some of their mutually written plays survive. According to Thomas Middleton: The Collected Works, their extent collaborations are:
  • News from Gravesend: Sent to Nobody
  • The Meeting of Gallants at an Ordinary; or, The Walk’s in Paul’s
  • The Whole Royal and Magnificent Entertainment of King James through the City of London
  • The Patient Man and the Honest Whore
  • The Bloody Banquet: A Tragedy (As if we hadn’t already guessed it was a tragedy.)
  • The Roaring Girl; or, Moll Cutpurse
  • The Spanish Gypsy
  • The Honest Whore Part 1

In fact, Middleton and Dekker were more than just professional associates, they were friends and were aligned against Ben Jonson during the Poet’s War. So, on those grounds at least, a collaboration between Middleton and Dekker is hardly news. (By the way, I’m very fond of Dekker.)

Curiously, I seem to be the only one who’s calling this for Middleton?

And it’s especially curious because Jonathan Hope’s own book, The authorship of Shakespeare’s Plays, makes a stronger case for Middleton than for Fletcher(?) Though he never seems to question the Fletcher attribution! Maybe Hope has other reasons but, if so, he never shares them. But rather than simply make the assertion, you can decide for yourself, I present the evidence.

Jonathan Hope’s inadvertent case for Dekker

Early Modern English (read Elizabethan English) was in flux. Not only was usage changing, but they were changing with a white heat. Hope reasoned that (depending on education, age, or region of birth) the careful reader should be able to detect noticeable and, theoretically, predictable differences in the use of the English language (socio-linquistics). He applied his thesis to six Elizabethan Dramatists: Shakespeare, Marlowe, Dekker, Fletcher, Middleton, and Massinger and characterized their differences through their use of pronouns like who, that, which, or zero (the absence of a pronoun).  Hope called them Relative Markers For example:

  • The man that I know.
  • The man who I know.
  • The man (0) I know.
  • The man which I know.

In Shakespeare’s day all four could be used regardless of the antecedent (human or inanimate). Hope reasoned that  as the decade progressed, the use of “that” and “which” would change in predictable ways. The use of relative markers didn’t confirm his thesis, but they did and do provide another useful tool for sorting out who wrote what. [The use of the auxiliary do form did, by the way, confirm Hope’s thesis, so all was not lost.) Here is what he discovered in reference to the six dramatists:

With the exclusion of Shakespeare (12 plays), Hopes averages are based on 3 plays for Marlowe, 10 plays for Fletcher, 3 for Marlowe, 4 for Dekker, 5 for Middleton and 5 for Massinger. Each of the bars above represents the average of all the plays. First, notice Fletcher’s almost complete avoidance of the pronoun ‘who’. Hope puts it bluntly: “the most striking feature of Fletcher’s relativisation choices… is his extreme avoidance of ‘who’.” In Fletcher’s contribution to The Woman’s Prize, the percentage appears to be less than 1% and never rises above 3%. Middleton’s percentage ranges from 4 t0 14%. But there’s something interesting about Dekker. Hope puts in this way:

It should be stressed immediately that Dekker seems to be unique in the degree to which his idiolectal usage of relative markers varies: other dramatists may vary in one play in one marker (for example The Comedy of Errors in the early Shakespeare sample), none vary in every play, for virtually every marker. This result does not therefore necessarily undermine the use of relativisation as socio-historical linguistic evidence: rather it stresses that relativisation may be greatly affected by generic or stylistic factors. In Dekker we apparently see a writer who uses relativisation as a stylistic strategy more than other early Modern dramatists, and who is capable of shifting his usage and maintaining that shift over the course of a whole play. [98-99]

Hope also offers collaborative authorship or textual (scribal) interference as possibilities. In either case, it’s safe to say that any average representation of Dekker’s practice is going to be misleading (in comparison to the other dramatists). Without reprinting every graph from Hope’s book, suffice it say: Dekker shows far more variability than any other dramatist. Here are Dekker’s usages on a play by play basis:

Now we get to the fun part. Here is Hope’s graph for Double Falsehood:

Hope points out, rightfully, that by Theobald’s day the usage of who had become much more standardized. When editing Shakespeare, Theobald would replace which with who. Hope gives an example:

Shakespeare (Richard II 5.0.1 62-63)

He shall thinke that thou which knowest the way
To plant unrightfull kings, wilt know againe

Theobald (Richard II, page 57)

And He shall think, that Thou, who knew’st the way
To plant unrightful Kings, wilt know again [p. 94]

So… Hope argues that we should expect to see an increases in who usage if Theobald had edited Fletcher and Shakespeare. In the graph above (and in Fletcher’s case) Theobald has presumably (and primarily) replaced the pronoun that with who. What troubles me is that if Hope is going to treat averages as representative stand-ins for what might have characterized the original Double Falsehood text, the alteration for Shakespeare is several times that of Fletcher. Are we to believe that Theobald edited a Shakespearean original differently than the Fletcharian portion? Remember, according to contemporary accounts, Theobald initially thought the entirety of the play was by Shakespeare. I find it hard to believe that Theobald would subconsciously revise Shakespeare in a completely different manner than Fletcher. In fact, many critics have professed perplexity at evidence which suggests that Theobald left the “Fletcharian” portions relatively unscathed while butchering Shakespeare. But perhaps this perplexity only arises if one clings (my loaded verb of choice) to the belief that Shakespeare authored the first two acts. And there’s another problem with the Shakespeare ascription:

One piece of relativisation evidence which is difficult to fit into an assumed Theobald adaptation of a Shakespeare and Fletcher collaboration is the low rate of ‘that’ relativisation in Double Falsehood: 39 per cent.This is lower than the rates for that in the collaborations, and in Theobald’s The Persian Princess. [p. 98-99]

In order to preserve the supposition that Shakespeare was the initial author, Hope theorizes that another editorial hand (like Davenant or other restoration meddlers) must have picked a fight with Shakespeare (but not Fletcher), thus “pre”-altering the first two acts before Theobald got his chance. Hope admits that this is sheer speculation. Without this hypothetical intermediate step, the evidence just doesn’t make sense. But wait a minute, what about Dekker? Lo and behold, in two of Dekker’s plays, the relativisation rates of that are less than 39% – they are 35% and 33%. Dekker is the only dramatist with rates that low. If you average Dekker’s relativisation rates in the four plays that Hope has tallied, it comes to 43.25%. Shakespeare’s average, among 11 plays, is 50.63%.  So… if Theobald had been editing Dekker, he would have reduced the number of that pronouns by roughly 4+ percent (if one treats Dekker’s averages as representative). When Theobald rewrote Richard II, according to Hope, the difference is more or less the same, 51% in Shakespeare’s original, to about +- 48% (Hope doesn’t give an exact percentage though he offers a graph). Interestingly, and predictably one might assert, the reduction in that relativisation is closer to what we would expect (and could accept) if Theobald had been editing Dekker. And given Dekker’s wide stylistic disparity, the odds of Dekker resulting in Double Falsehood’s relativisation  rates are surely better than Shakespeare.

(This is what I mean when I say that Hope is inadvertently arguing for Dekker rather than Shakespeare.)

And notice the radically increased appearance of the pronoun ‘who’ in Shakespeare’s portion, as compared to “Fletcher’s”. Is there another dramatist who, in any of his plays, comes close to the 30+ % found in Theobald’s Double Falsehood? Yes. Dekker. In his play If This Be Not  a Good Play the relativisation rate for who is 20%, outpacing any of the other dramatists Hope examined. One might argue that it’s unfair to single out Dekker’s individual plays, rather than an average, but remember that Dekker’s usage varies so widely from play to play that averages are misleading (much more so than his rivals). On those grounds, it’s far more likely (according to Hope’s methodology) that the original two acts of Double Falsehood are by Dekker. None of the relativisation rates are beyond the scope of Dekker’s practice, unlike the presumptive Shakespeare; and one doesn’t need to propose an intermediary restoration author.

The Imagery

eyes & their beams

Hope’s methodology contributes to identifying authorship, but can’t be the final word (as he himself would assert). There are other reasons for my thinking that Dekker is behind the first two acts. Consider beams. It was as commonplace during Elizabethan times, that the eyes saw by projecting beams. Poets were quick to make use of this conceit, except for Shakespeare. Only once, in his Sonnet 114, does Shakespeare play on this conceit. There are 25 usages of beams in his plays but not one of them is in the context of the eyes’ beams. The beams are always in reference to the sun, the moon, or candles – always in reference to an object that gives off light. By contrast, consider the following from Double Falsehood (Act I Scene i:

Eyes, that are nothing but continual Births
Of new Desires in Those that view their Beams.
You cannot have a Cause to doubt.

This flies against Shakespeare’s practice. (My theory is that Theobald probably would have kept the imagery of the original author, who I believe to be Dekker, while dolling it up with figurative language.) However, Dekker did make use of this conceit in his imagery (from The Shoemaker’s Holiday):

Why, tell me, Oateley : shines not Lacy’s name
As bright in the world’s eye as the gay beams
Of any citizen ?

The Honest Whore Part I:

If ever, whilst frail blood through my veins run,
On woman’s beams I throw affection,

the image cluster of heat, cold, the eye, frost, burning, kindling, thawing, sun/Hyperion.

Double Falsehood

Jul. I do not see that Fervour in the Maid,
Which Youth and Love should kindle.  She consents,
As ’twere to feed without an Appetite;
Tells me, She is content; and plays the Coy one,
Like Those that subtly make their Words their Ward,
Keeping Address at Distance.  This Affection
Is such a feign’d One, as will break untouch’d;
Dye frosty, e’er it can be thaw’d; while mine,
Like to a Clime beneath Hyperion’s Eye,
Burns with one constant Heat.  I’ll strait go to her;
Pray her to regard my Honour:  but She greets me.–

Now here is Dekker from Shoemaker’s Holiday:

And for she thinks me wanton, she denies
To cheer my cold heart with her sunny eyes.
How prettily she works, oh pretty hand!
Oh happy work! It doth me good to stand
Unseen to see her. Thus I oft have stood
In frosty evenings, a light burning by her,
Enduring biting cold, only to eye her.
One only look hath seem’d as rich to me
As a kings crown; such is loves lunacy.
Muffled He pass along, and by that try
Whether she know me.

of dew & flowers.

Double Falsehood:

O Kiss, sweet as the Odours of the Spring,
But cold as Dews that dwell on Morning Flow’rs!

When Shakespeare associates dew with flowers, it is refreshing and always life affirming. When searching through Fletcher’s plays, I notice that his imagery also revolves around dew’s restorative powers. Not so, Dekker. Dekker’s associations with Dew are cold and frequently associated with death and illness:

a sensible cold dew
Stood on thy cheeks, as if that death had wept
To see such beauty alter. [The Honest Whore Part 1]

women & light

Double Falsehood

Th’Obscureness of her Birth
Cannot eclipse the Lustre of her Eyes,
Which make her all One Light.

The Honest Whore Part 1

Those roses withered, that set out her cheeks:
That pair of stars that gave her body light…

Notice the appearance of eyes in both passages. In fact, the habit of thought is almost identical. In both cases, the eyes/that pair of stars give light/Light to her body.

Furthermore, if I search through a Shakespeare concordance, nowhere does Shakespeare equate a woman’s beauty (or body) with light. In fact, Shakespeare usually associates femininity and lightness with… well… being a light-brained wench. The imagery is much more typical of Dekker.

the opposing wind

Double Falsehood

Oh, the opposing Wind,
Should’ring the Tide, makes here a fearful Billow:
I needs must perish in it.

The Noble Spanish Soldier

What whirlwinds can we raise to blow this storm
Back in their faces who thus shoot at me?

The Honest Whore Part 2

He’s damned that raised this whirlwind, which hath blown
Into her eyes this jealousy :

Note: The use of wind occurs 198 times in Shakespeare. Of all my comparisons, this is the weakest. However, I  find it interesting that Double Falsehood and Dekker’s examples all contain the idea of the wind as being in opposition. The same can’t be said for Shakespeare’s usages, which are far more varied and don’t, at first glance (Harvard concordance), contain a single example of an oppositional wind. Shakespeare’s winds are fickle, rude, unruly, vexing, gamboling, etc… but never, strangely, oppositional.

swiftest wing

Consider this passage from Caroline Spurgeon’s Shakespeare’s Imagery:

We have seen that Dekker, alone of these five other dramatists, shows in his images something of Shakespeare’s sympathy with the poor and oppressed, especially with prisoners. There is one characteristic seen in another group of images altogether -that of birds- which I may just mention, as it emphasizes this point. This is the quite remarkably large number of images he has from ‘wings’: soaring and riding on wings, being transported on the wind’s swift wings, escaping by putting on ‘winged feet’, clapping on swift wings and the like… ¶ Next to those of Shakespeare, Dekker’s images… seem more alive and human, more charged with his personality and direct experience that those of any other of the dramatists here analysed… [p. 40]

Double Falsehood

Jul. Fear not, but I with swiftest Wing of Time
Will labor my Return…

the fox & her den

Spurgeon also points out that Dekker comes nearest to Shakespeare in his imagery of sport and game. Consider the following from Double Falsehood:

Cam. I profess, a Fox might earth in the Hollowness of your
Heart, Neighbour, and there’s an End.

(Notice the anthimeria of earth, probably an addition by Theobald.) None of Shakespeare’s fox imagery seems drawn from actual experience and none refer to the fox’s den or desire to hide. Shakespeare’s references to the fox are more symbolic. Dekker’s fox imagery, on the other hand, seems drawn from real experience:

The Honest Whore Part 1

Faugh, not I, makes your breath stink like the
piss of a fox.

The Honest Whore Part 2

But the old fox is so crafty, we shall hardly hunt
him out of his den.

The Noble Spanish Soldier

Young cub’s flayed, but the she-fox shifting her hole is fled. The
little jackanapes, the boy’s brained.

On the durability of Imagery

I’m going to conjecture that if the original text had been Shakespeare’s or Dekker’s, some of their imagery would have survived. I’ve read and heard repeated assertions by various Shakespeare scholars that the first two acts of Double Falsehood might have been altered, not just be Theobald, but by the likes of Davenant (or any restoration reviser). They offer this possibility (and not without reason) as a rationalization for the wide discrepancies between what they should find, if there were Shakespeare, and what they do find (which is not Shakespeare). But if Hazelton Spencer’s book SHAKESPEARE improved is any guide, then my conjecture is a possibility. Some of Shakespeare’s (or Dekker’s) core imagery ought to have survived. The kinds of alterations Davenant made often retained Shakespeare’s core imagery (just as Theobald’s revisions of Richard II) :

From Richard II:


The which no balme can cure but his heart bloud
Which breathde this poyson


The which no Balm can cure, but his Heart’s Blood,
Who breath’d this Poison

From Hamlet:


“Shews sick and pale with Thought.”


“Is sicklied ore with the pale cast of thought.”

From Macbeth:


Better be with him
Whom we to gain the Crown, have sent to peace;
Then on the torture of the Mind to lye
In restless Agony. Duncan is dead;
He, after life’s short feavor, now sleeps; Well:
Treason has done it’s worst; nor Steel, nor Poyson,
No Ferreign force, nor yet Domestick Malice
Can touch him further.


Better be with the dead,
Whom we, to gayne our peace, have sent to peace,
Then on the torture of the Minde to lye
In restless extasie
Dancane is in his Grave:
After Life’s fitful Fever, he sleepes well,
Treason ha’s done his worst: nor Steele, nor Poyson,
Malice domestique, forraine Levie, nothing,
Can touch him further.

On the other hand, from Measure for Measure,  one finds examples of Davenant’s more destructive editing:


Oh Sister, ’tis to go we know not whither.
We lye in silent darkness, and we rot;
Where long our motion is not stopt, for though
In Graves none walk upright (proudly to face
The Stars) yet there we move again, when our
Courruption makes those worms in whom we crawl.
Perhaps the spirit (which is future life)
Dwells Salamander-like, unharmed in fire:
Or else with wand’ring winds is blown about
The world. But if condemn’d like those
Whome our incertain thought imagines howling;
Than the most loath’d and the most weary life
Which Age, or Ache, want, or imprisonment
Can lay on Nature, is a Paradise
To what we fear in death.


I, but to die, and go we know not where,
To lie in cold obstruction, and to rot,
This sensible warme motion, to become
A kneaded clod; And the delighted spirit
To bath in fierie floods, or to recide
In thrilling Region of thicke-ribbed Ice,
To be imprison’d in the viewlesse windes
And blowne with restlesse violence round about
The pendant world: or to be worse then worst
Of those, that lawlesse and incertaine thought,
Imagine howling, ’tis too horrible.
The weariest, and most loathed worldly life
That Age, Ache, periury, and imprisonment
Can lay on nature, is a Paradise
To what we feare of death

So… while there are exceptions, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if echoes of an original author’s imagery might have survived in Double Falsehood. If  so, then I would argue that the core imagery suggests Dekker rather than Shakespeare. Not only that, but if one grants that  the original was Dekker, then there’s no need to posit a third hand besides Theobald’s. If the original was Dekker, then Dekker’s imagery survives under a layer of psuedo-Shakespearean additions (figurative language mostly characterized by anthimeria – a hallmark of Shakespare’s style and exactly what Theobald would have imitated).

Shakespeare’s imagery (his pattern of associations) aren’t to be found in lines like:  “Teach Sound to languish thro’ the Night’s dull Ear,/Till melancholy start from her lazy Couch,/And Carelessness grow Convert to Attention.” Shakespeare never used the word Laziness and according to OED, they find only three other uses during Shakespeare’s lifetime, one of which by Spenser (who Shakespeare might have read). Shakespeare used the word carelessness only once in all of his known works. Is it possible that Shakespeare used both these words at this particular moment? Yes. Is it likely? I say no, but decide for yourself.

All in all, the first two acts are surprisingly devoid of the imagery Shakespeare favored toward the end of his career. And even if I’m right in suspecting Dekker, Theobald has meddled to such a degree that Dekker’s voice has been completely erased.

If the original was Shakespeare’s, then there’s nothing left of him.

As for Arden, the book will probably sell well and that may be reason enough. I’ll purchase the book, though more to read the reasons for its inclusion in Shakespeare’s canon than to read the play.

The case for Middleton

Thanks to some digital tinkering, I was able to rearrange some of Hope’s graphs. Here are the results:

The graphs compared at right (comparing Middleton to Double Falsehood B – Acts III-V) are my own work. Hope states of the Fletcher/DF-B comparison:

…it will be seen that section B shows a strikingly good fit to the Fletcher comparison sample…

Now look at the comparison between Middleton and DFB. You decide. To me, the Middleton sample is an even better fit. And remember, many scholars have commented that Theobald seems to have left the last three acts relatively unmolested. At minimum, Hope’s own study cannot be used to favor Fletcher over Middleton. Even auxiliary “do” evidence meshes acceptably with a Dekker/Middleton collaboration.

Middleton’s Colloquial Contractions

Using MacDonald Jackson’s own criteria (so far as I know them) the evidence for a Middleton ascription is favored yet again. (Note: I found a copy of Jackson’s Studies in Attribution: Middleton and Shakespeare for a relatively (rolls eyes) cheap $54. It’s being shipped from Berlin, Germany (of all places) and if there’s anything that adds or detracts from my assertions, I’ll duly note them. (I should be getting the book within the next three months…)

E’en for even. This wouldn’t be typical for Theobald, but would be for Middleton.

Double Falsehood

Acts 1-2: 1
Acts 3-5: 2

Thomas Dekker

Middleton’s (Chaste Maid in Cheapside)


Fletcher (Philaster)


Fletcher (The Faithful Shepherdess)



Double Falsehood

Acts 1-2: 0
Acts 3-5: 4

Middleton’s (Chaste Maid in Cheapside)


Fletcher (Philaster)


Fletcher (The Faithful Shepherdess)



Double Falsehood

Acts 1-2: 1
Acts 3-5: 2

Middleton’s (Chaste Maid in Cheapside)


Fletcher (Philaster)


Fletcher (The Faithful Shepherdess)



Double Falsehood

Acts 1-2: 0
Acts 3-5: 1

Middleton’s (Chaste Maid in Cheapside)


Fletcher (Philaster)


Fletcher (The Faithful Shepherdess)



Double Falsehood

Acts 1-2: 1
Acts 3-5: 2

Middleton’s (Chaste Maid in Cheapside)


Fletcher (Philaster)


Fletcher (The Faithful Shepherdess)



Double Falsehood

Acts 1-2: 1
Acts 3-5: 3

Thomas Middleton

Middleton’s (Chaste Maid in Cheapside)


Fletcher (Philaster)


Fletcher (The Faithful Shepherdess)



Double Falsehood

Acts 1-2: 1
Acts 3-5: 5

Middleton’s (Chaste Maid in Cheapside)

64 (give or take 2)

Fletcher (Philaster)


Fletcher (The Faithful Shepherdess)



In every case, the use of such colloquial contractions increases in the portion usually ascribed to Fletcher. This makes no sense, but it does if the original author were Middleton. (Admittedly, my sampling is probably too small, but that Middleton favored such contractions in comparison to Fletcher is not in dispute). One has to suffer from willful denial not to see the correspondence. Admittedly, the number of contractions is much lower in Double Falsehood (than in Middleton’s unmolested works) but they are there and tellingly similar to what one finds in Timon of Athens (a collaboration between Shakespeare and Middleton). It’s possible that Theobald edited some of them out – but that’s speculation. On the other hand, I find that far more likely than the supposition that he added them.

There’s the evidence.

You decide.

I’m not going to pretend that I’ve made my case. Far from it. But, as a starting point, I don’t think this post is too shabby.

Ultimately, given that Double Falsehood‘s text has been edited and altered by Theobald (if one accepts an actual manuscript behind the play), I can’t see how any individual’s work will settle the matter. One can only offer likelihoods. It is more likely that Dekker wrote the portion ascribed to Shakespeare; and if that’s the case, then it is more likely that his collaborator would have been Middleton. There are no known collaborations between Dekker and Fletcher.

There is one certainty: Whether or not Shakespeare had anything to do with Cardenio, there is no Shakespeare in Double Falsehood.

9 responses

  1. Pingback: “Double Falsehood” • It’s not Shakespeare « PoemShape

  2. Have you seen my answer to Ron Rosenbaum’s objections to Double Falsehood being a Shakespeare & Fletcher collaboration? It’s at:

    I don’t claim to have proven anything either, but I would note that such “Fletcherisms” as “fair-snouted/snout-fair” and “human(e) in you” do not appear in the works of either Middleton or Dekker.

    If Double Falsehood is derived from Cardenio, and if Fletcher did have a hand in it, then Shakespeare is still the most likely collaborator–since Cardenio dates from a time when two other Shakespeare & Fletcher collaborations are known to have been completed.

    With all due respect, I cannot conclude from your post that it is a “certainty” that there is “no” Shakespeare in Double Falsehood. Knowing from his own admission that Theobald did have a hand in “editing and adapting” Double Falsehood from the original, Hope’s explanation for the divergences from the average usages illustrated by his charts appears adequate, and Brean Hammond, among others, have explained why Theobald’s hand would most likely have been heavier in the Shakespeare portion of the play.

    I too wait to hear what Brian Vickers has to say on the latest edition of Double Falsehood, but if you haven’t already, I’d suggest that you read Brean Hammond’s compelling argument in his extensive introduction before you totally dismiss the possibility that Shakespeare was involved in the making of the play.


    • Hi Clark, thanks so much for commenting. Here are my observations:

      Have you seen my answer to Ron Rosenbaum’s objections to Double Falsehood being a Shakespeare & Fletcher collaboration?

      No, but I just read it; and I agree with you to the extent that there’s an Elizabethan original behind DF.

      I would note that such “Fletcherisms” as “fair-snouted/snout-fair” and “human(e) in you” do not appear in the works of either Middleton or Dekker.

      I just did a search to confirm that. A “snout” combination does appear in Dekker’s The Honest Whore Part II:

      Cath. He a soldier ? a pander, a dog that will
      lick up sixpence. Do ye hear, you master swine’s-
      , how long is’t since you held the door for me,
      and cried, To’t again, nobody comes ! ye rogue you ?

      You can confirm this yourself at the following site: Gutenburg. It is a dismal example of OCR, by the way.

      Among the plays online, I couldn’t find another example of snout-fair, in particular, except Fletcher’s Coxcomb (as you already know).

      With all due respect, I cannot conclude from your post that it is a “certainty” that there is “no” Shakespeare in Double Falsehood.

      Here’s what I wrote:

      “Whether or not Shakespeare had anything to do with Cardenio, there is no Shakespeare in Double Falsehood.”

      What I meant is that if Shakespeare had a hand in the play that became DF, it’s so muddled and altered that it’s gone. Which is to say, my certainty is not that he never had a hand in the play but that even if one were to concede a Shakespearean origin, the stamp of his artistry is gone. But I suppose that must remain my opinion, though I’m certain of it. :-)

      If you like classical music, then you might be aware of some of the reconstructions of Beethoven’s 10th Symphony. Some are quite interesting. However (and though they’re based on Beethoven’s sketches) the resultant reconstructions are not Beethoven. Likewise, grant that Theobald may have had his hands on something that amounted to a sketch (after the ravishment of a restoration dramatist) his reconstruction is hardly worth a Shakespeare assignation. Did you know that a contemporary Spanish composer (a contemporary of Mozart’s) completed Mozart’s Requiem? I’m not talking about Sussmeyer. It’s good music, but nobody performs it and nobody brandishes it as Mozart.

      “Fletcherisms” as “fair-snouted/snout-fair”…

      In fairness, calling a phrase like “fair-snouted” a Fletcherism because it appears once in the entire corpus of his plays (as far as I know) is a breathtaking stretch – and that’s putting it mildly. At best, I think it’s enough to point out that the phrase appears in Fletcher and does not appear in Dekker or Middleton (though it does appear among other Elizabethan authors or so I read).

      But, if you ask me, the strongest evidence in favor of Fletcher is the appearance of the elocutionary afterthought (see Kukowski’s The Hand of John Fletcher in Double Falsehood). It appears twice in DF:

      This is a fine Hand,
      A delicate fine Hnd, – Never change Colour;
      You understand me, – and a Woman’s Hand (DF 4.I.168-70)

      And dare you lose these to becomer Advocate
      For such a Brother, such a sinful Brother,
      Such an unfaithful, treacherous, brutal Brother? (DF 5.I.16-18)

      As far as evidence goes, these are Fletcherisms and it’s damned strong evidence. If I ever find similar examples in Middleton, then the game is on; but, absent such examples, I go where the evidence goes. Despite circumstantial evidence for Middleton and Dekker, I concede that the evidence for Fletcher (for the time being) is stronger.

      Conceding Fletcher makes Shakespeare more likely, as you say, but the evidence for Shakespeare is comparatively weak.

      I haven’t read Hammond’s introduction and look forward to doing so.


  3. I was aware of the appearance of “swine’s-snout” in Dekker, having done a search on Google Books just prior to posting my comment, but it’s not any combination with “snout” that’s significant–it’s the use of that precise term.

    In fact, “snout-fair” was common slang, according to John S. Farmer and W.E. Henley in “Slang and its Analogues”, Vol. VI, 1903. They give two other examples of it being used by other authors of the time–just not by Middleton or Dekker, as you say.

    And I was using the term “Fletcherisms” with a bit of tongue-in-cheek (hence the quotes).

    As for Shakespeare’s hand in Double Falsehood, at this point I’d agree that if it is there, there are only traces left. As I read the play, there are only two or three passages that strike me as particularly Shakespearean. But if there are any traces left, I think Arden is making a wise choice in making the play available in a new edition.

    I must admit, however, that assuming that Theobald’s account was true, it’s incredibly ironic that he managed to edit out so much that must have been Shakespearean in his newly discovered Shakespeare play before presenting it on the stage and in print.


    • And I was using the term “Fletcherisms” with a bit of tongue-in-cheek (hence the quotes).

      You’re right. I missed that.

      it’s incredibly ironic that he managed to edit out so much

      If the original was Shakespeare, then I find it too hard to believe that Theobald would have edited out the Shakespearean portions. He was too good an editor. The most likely explanation (assuming a Shakespearean origin) is that he held a copy that had already been bastardized by a restoration revision. The Shakespearean portions are exactly the kinds of things they would have tinkered with. But even so, the results (apparent in DF) demand severe editing by one, both, or possibly more editors. I haven’t seen that kind of editing in restoration revisions – but then my reading of such texts is limited.

      I find it more likely that the collaborator was not Shakespeare. If it was Fletcher, then Beaumont is a possibility. Massinger is also a possibility and had begun collaborating with Fletcher around this time (I think). There’s no record of Dekker having collaborated with Fletcher but, while unlikely, it’s not out of the question.


    • Addendum: There’s another possibility and I don’t think it’s one that’s been suggested or discussed. And that’s that Theobald never had the first two acts for one reason or another and that they are complete fabrications. I think this notion might be easy to explore (or even dismiss), but I’ve never seen it considered.


    • According to Stephan Kukowski, in “The Hand of John Fletcher in Double Falsehood,” Shakespeare Survey 43, 1999, we have Davenant’s Restoration adaptation of Fletcher & Shakespeare’s The Two Noble Kinsmen, and in Davenant’s version, not a line of the passages most confidently ascribed to Shakespeare remain intact. He changed every one of them in some way.

      According to Hammond, the most likely scenario for the survival of an earlier manuscript of Cardenio/Double Falsehood is that it came down via Davenant.

      If Davenant had adapted Double Falsehood, which seems likely, considering that Theobald said that at least one of his manuscripts was in the hand of John Downes, Davenant’s prompter, who probably wouldn’t have bothered if Davenant hadn’t intended to stage the play, then we wouldn’t expect much of Shakespeare’s original text to be uncorrupted.

      In addition, Double Falsehood is much shorter than Shakespeare and Fletcher’s other plays–just as all Restoration and later adaptations of their plays are shorter, which means that probably much was cut from the original play. The most obvious cuts appear to come from the first half of the surviving play. So again we lose a lot that would have been Shakespeare’s.

      The problem with the suggestion in your addendum is that there are a number of passages in Double Falsehood, including in the first two acts, which uniquely correspond with passages in Shelton’s 1612 translation of Don Quixote. If Theobald had felt it necessary to reconstruct the first two acts, there’s little reason to suspect that he would have gone back to Shelton’s 1612 text for his source.


    • According to Stephan Kukowski, in “The Hand of John Fletcher in Double Falsehood,” Shakespeare Survey 43, 1999, we have Davenant’s Restoration adaptation of Fletcher & Shakespeare’s The Two Noble Kinsmen, and in Davenant’s version, not a line of the passages most confidently ascribed to Shakespeare remain intact.

      I wouldn’t call it an adaptation – Kukowski calls it “much revised”. You can actually read Davenant’s play here. But your point is taken. If one is going to insist that Shakespeare was Fletcher’s collaborator, then such a mutilation is the only explanation.


      1.) if one is going to hoist The Rivals as an example
      2.) and given that “not a line” of Shakespeare’s original was left intact

      Then it remains absurd for Arden or Brean to publish The Double Falsehood with Shakespeare’s name on it. What if we didn’t have The Two Noble Kinsmen? Using Brean’s reasoning, why shouldn’t Arden also publish The Rivals under Shakespeare’s name? After all, some of Fletcher’s fingerprints are there. Ergo, Shakespeare must have been the collaborator. Kukowski’s reference to Kinsmen gives Brean and Arden even less of an excuse.

      If anything, DF should have been published under Fletcher’s name. I wonder why it wasn’t? <— Sarcasm.

      The problem with the suggestion in your addendum is that there are a number of passages in Double Falsehood, including in the first two acts, which uniquely correspond with passages in Shelton’s 1612 translation of Don Quixote. If Theobald had felt it necessary to reconstruct the first two acts, there’s little reason to suspect that he would have gone back to Shelton’s 1612 text for his source.

      Right. That would be unlikely.

      The argument, to me, boils down to these two items:

      1.) Does Shakespeare’s style survive in DF? No. Does Fletcher’s style survive in DF? Yes. Therefore, the play should be published under Fletcher’s name, not Shakespeare’s (if it’s to be published at all).

      2.) Do the stylistic markers of the first two acts merit an ascription to Shakespeare? No. The only evidence in support of Shakespeare’s involvement is external and circumstantial. Stylistically, I find echoes of Dekker more than Shakespeare. However, even if the powers-that-be were to agree with me, the first two acts still wouldn’t merit Dekker’s name.

      The play should have been published as by John Fletcher/co-author Lost to Revision.


  4. Pingback: Double Falsehood Revisited « PoemShape

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