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Cardenio by William Shakespeare. Ostensibly Shakespeare's "lost play". The full title was The History of Cardenio, though it is often referred to simply as Cardenio.


It is a lost play, known to have been performed by The King's Men, a London theatre company, in 1613, (though some sources, such as the RSC website, aver that records show that a play by Shakespeare called Cardenna was performed at court in the winter of 1612). A play called The History of Cardenio , attributed to William Shakespeare and John Fletcher, was registered in a Stationers' Register entry of 1653 by the publisher and bookseller, Humphrey Moseley.

The content of the play is not known, but it was likely to have been based on an episode in Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote involving the character "Cardenio", a young man who has been driven mad and lives in the Sierra Morena.

Adaptations and reconstructions

Over the years there have been a number of claims to have found the text, or of attempts to "reconstruct" the text. These include Lewis Theobald's Double Falshood, Charles Hamilton's The Second Maiden's Tragedy, Charles Mee and Stephen Greenblatt's Cardenio (2008), Gregory Doran's Cardenio (2010), Jane Taylor's After Cardenio (2011) and Gary Taylor's The History of Cardenio (2012).

The Cardenio Project

The Cardenio Project is an ongoing experiment in cultural mobility. In 2003, Charles Mee, a playwright, and Stephen Greenblatt, an English professor, collaborated in the writing of a play, Cardenio, inspired by a lost play of Shakespeare's. The play was performed at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2008.

After the play had been drafted, Greenblatt contacted theater companies in different parts of the world and asked if they might be interested in reading the script and adapting it for a performance in their own cultural circumstances. With the aid of a generous grant from the Mellon Foundation, Greenblatt offered to pay for a translation of the play that he and Mee had written.

His only stipulation was that the play that would be eventually staged would not be a direct performance of this translated version. His interest, he explained, was in what happened when a story generated within one set of assumptions, preoccupations, constraints, and conventions was transmuted for performance in a very different world. Such a transmutation had taken place when the story of Cardenio, from Cervantes' Don Quixote, was adapted by Shakespeare and his collaborator Fletcher for the Jacobean stage. And another, more drastic transmutation had occurred when the surviving traces of this early seventeenth-century play had been taken up by Mee and Greenblatt as the starting point of their early twenty-first-century version.

Apart from the governing stipulation, no limits were set for the transformations, and no guidelines were given. This website brings together the text of Mee and Greenblatt's play and English translations of the versions produced in the countries involved in the experiment, along with clips and other related materials. It also includes the relevant chapters of Cervantes' Don Quixote and Lewis Theobald's play Double Falshood (full title Double Falsehood or The Distrest Lovers), which Theobald claimed was based on the manuscript of Shakespeare and Fletcher's Cardenio.

Jane Taylor's South African collaborative work, After Cardenio is one of these projects.

Some Twentieth Century adaptations and reconstructions

In 2010 the RSC Chief Associate Director Gregory Doran tried to piece together Shakespeare's 'lost play' as part of the RSC 50th Birthday Season in the Swan Theatre, during winter 2011. It was performed under the title Cardenio. RSC Chief Associate Director Gregory Doran decided to try and piece together Shakespeare's 'lost play' as part of the RSC 50th Birthday Season in the Swan Theatre, during winter 2011.

In 2012 Indiana University and Purdue University-Indianapolis (IUPUI) theatre department staged the first professional, full-scale production of The History of Cardenio, as resurrected by Gary Taylor from Lewis Theobald's text. Drawing on a team of writers which included Cervantes, Shakespeare, Fletcher, Shelton and Lewis Theobald, his re-imagined Cardenio took his audience on a journey to 16th century Spain.

Versions of Cardenio in South Africa

2011: Jane Taylor directed and staged a collaborative work, After Cardenio, in 2011 at Hiddingh Campus’s historical Anatomy Lecture Theatre. It had been created as part of The Cardenio Project and is a work of avant garde puppet theatre, which utilizes a vellum puppet made by South African sculptor Gavin Younge. The production was directed by Jane Taylor, with Aja Marneweck, the Paper Body Collective, Gavin Younge and Penny Siopsis as collaborators. The cast included Jemma Kahn, Dylan Esbach, Martin Kintu, Rouxnet Brown and Jeroen Kranenburg. The text of this work was first published in the South African Theatre Journal, 26(2):185-217(2012).

2013: In 2013 the Gregory Doran text of Cardenio was performed by Artscape, from 12 January to 16 February 2013 at the Maynardville Open-Air Theatre, in repertory with A Midsummer Night's Dream – (23 January to 26 February 2013). Director Roy Sargeant, Music Michael Tuffin, Designs Dicky Longhurst, Lighting Faheem Bardien. Performers Armand Aucamp, Terence Bridgett, Hannah Borthwick, Tivan Bumstead, Nicholas Campbell, Francis Chouler, Stefan Erasmus, Adrian Galley, Andre Jacobs, Peter Krummeck, James Macgregor, Marcel Meyer, Zondwa Njokweni, Wiseman Sitole, Jenny Stead, Murray Steyn, Christia Visser.


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