It's a tale of disputed identity that could have sat happily in many of the Bard's famous works: and it looks like it may have finally been settled in favour of the man himself.
The play Double Falsehood - also known at The Distrest Lovers, was published in 1728 by the English writer and playwright Lewis Theobald, who claimed that his version was based on three manuscripts of an unnamed lost Shakespeare play. Subsequently, having initially rejected these claims of Shakespearean origin, some scholars had come to believe it to be an adaptation of a lost play called Cardenio, which had been written by the Bard and John Fletcher - another English playwright who was equally famous at the time when they were both writing.
Now new research conducted by The University of Texas, based in Austin, suggests that it is "strongly" believed to be the work primarily of Shakespeare.
Ryan Boyd and James Pennebaker used psychological theory and text analysing software based on thirty three Shakespeare plays, twelve from Theobald and nine from Fletcher, looking at the use of function words (pronouns, articles and prepositions) and words in different content categories (eg. emotions, family, religion). The research found that on every measure, bar one, Shakespeare was the likely author.
“Honestly, I was surprised to see such a strong signal for Shakespeare showing through in the results,” said Boyd. “Going into the research without any real background knowledge, I had just kind of assumed that it was going to be a pretty cut and dry case of a fake Shakespeare play, which would have been really interesting in and of itself.”
The play, based on the 'Cardenio' episode in Cervantes' famous novel Don Quixote, is set in Andalusia in Spain and is a tragedy, laced with comedy; however, it was not included in Shakespeare's First Folio, and there is scant written evidence linking it directly to the Bard.
You can read the abstract of the research, published in the journal Psychological Science here - the debate is sure to rage on from here.
[via The Independent]