<i>Cardenio</i> and the Eighteenth-Century Shakespeare Canon

Edmund G. C. King

in The Quest for Cardenio

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199641819
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191749025 | DOI:
Cardenio and the Eighteenth-Century Shakespeare Canon

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This chapter revisits the question of why Double Falsehood/Cardenio never became part of the Shakespeare canon. Looking at the reception of Double Falsehood in the late 1720s, it argues that the play surfaced at a particularly fraught moment in the history of editorial scholarship in England. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, collected editions of authors’ works tended to be inclusive: successive editions were puffed according to how many ‘new’ works they added to their authors’ canons. Starting with Alexander Pope, however, eighteenth-century Shakespeare editors began to distinguish themselves according to their connoisseurship, their ability to separate genuine works from the spurious. In the dispute between Pope and Lewis Theobald over the play’s authenticity, this chapter argues, Double Falsehood became a ‘test case’ for this new, sceptical approach to canon formation, a process that had unfortunately drastic and conclusive results for the play itself.

Keywords: authorship; canon; canon formation; canonicity; Alexander Pope; Lewis Theobald; attribution; editing; eighteenth century

Chapter.  7374 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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