The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 20.0228  Wednesday, 13 May 2009

From:       Arnie Perlstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:       Monday, 11 May 2009 13:02:16 -0400
Subject:    Cardenio

I am sorry I have been unable to respond until now to the flurry of 
replies I received to my April 30 message.

I note first with fascination that so much energy is expended in denying 
(indeed, trying to squash) even the possibility that The Second Maiden's 
Tragedy (TSMT for short) might possibly be the missing 1613 Cardenio. 
This should not be surprising, because the question of Shakespearean 
authorship, even partial authorship, is so loaded for Shakespeareans, 
both scholars and amateurs. To have a literary "satyr" placed in 
proximity to the dozens of literary "Hyperions" that Shakespeare is 
known to have written, is disturbing.

What I did not make clear in my first message, however, and what I find 
most fascinating is that in this instance, the furor over authorship of 
TSMT has completely obscured certain important aspects of TSMT, which as 
far as I am aware have been overlooked by Shakespearean scholars. I.e., 
had there been no authorship controversy, one way or the other, i.e., 
and if everyone agreed that TSMT either was, or was not, the partial 
literary production of the Bard, then I suspect that TSMT would have 
been examined more closely than it has been. I assert that TSMT should 
be of interest to Shakespeare scholars, regardless of whether it is that 
very same Cardenio written by Shakespeare and Fletcher, as Hamilton 
claims, or whether TSMT was written by Middleton or by somebody else, 
AND whether or not Theobald had a copy of TSMT in front of him when he 
wrote Double Falshood.

Why? Because what has gotten lost in the shuffle over the authorship 
question is the very curious FACT that the text of TSMT is 
self-evidently intimately bound up in a contemporary Elizabethan 
literary matrix that is steeped in Fletcher, Cervantes AND Shakespeare!

To introduce yourself to that matrix, I urge those of you who are 
interested in the missing Cardenio to first read Hamilton's book, and to 
ignore all of Hamilton's lengthy handwriting analyses, and to also 
ignore all his opinions as the high literary quality of various passages 
he quotes from TSMT. Don't let the authorship issue distract you. 
Instead, just read his chapters looking, fairly thoroughly and 
dispassionately, at that matrix, which involves not only TSMT and Double 
Falshood, but also The Maid's Tragedy (which everyone agrees, as far as 
I am aware, was written by Beaumont and Fletcher in 1610) and also 
(although Hamilton only mentions it in passing), and most crucially, 
Shakespeare's HAMLET!

When you've done that, I think some of you will realize, as I have, that 
something is going on here that is very complicated and worth some 
serious consideration. Even if Shakespeare himself never had anything to 
do with the writing of TSMT, TSMT should still be of interest to 
Shakespeare scholars because it is a contemporary text which interweaves 
plot and character elements from BOTH Hamlet and Don Quixote, the two 
single texts from that era which are, together, widely considered to 
have provided the foundation for modern Western literature!

Many illustrious writers, from the 18th century to the present, have in 
various ways been interested in the relationship between Don Quixote and 
Hamlet, but none of them (other than Hamilton, and he mostly in 
passing), to my knowledge, has ever looked at where TSMT fits in that 
regard. I am going to argue in the book about Hamlet that I am writing 
that this is very fertile ground for scholarly inquiry.

One smaller textual point before I close: Those who have opined that 
TSMT is only distantly related to the main Cardenio plot are, in my 
opinion, not reading closely enough, I believe the parallels are 
significant, and go beyond those presented by Hamilton in his book. 
But.... even if that were not the case, what difference would it make, 
given that the Cardenio subplot is EXTREMELY closely echoed in TSMT? In 
arguing that TSMT could be the missing Cardenio, the point that matters 
is that the disputed parallels to the Cardenio main plot do not stand 
alone, but are in addition to the indisputable parallels to the Cardenio 
subplot. I.e., the probability that the author(s) of TSMT were alluding 
to the Cardenio main plot surely increases dramatically because of the 
CERTAINTY that they alluded to the Cardenio subplot!

And it also does not matter that TSMT gives that Cardenio subplot a 
completely opposite ending to the one Cervantes gives it in DQ. The 
allusion is no less obvious because of that. What is very interesting in 
regard to this diametric plot reversal, however, is that the TSMT 
version of the Cardenio subplot is reminiscent, in regard to its sudden 
eruption of multiple deaths, of the end of Hamlet.

Which is why when I read the following critique . . . .
"Then, in V.i, there are five killings within the space of twenty-five 

  . . . my first thought is that a similarly dense textual concentration 
of climactic killings (Laertes, Gertrude, Claudius and Hamlet) has never 
been considered a defect in that other play which we all know and love 
so well. ;)

Arnie Perlstein, Weston, Florida

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