Theobald’s Pattern of Adaptation: <i>The Duchess of Malfi</i> and <i>Richard II</i>

David Carnegie

in The Quest for Cardenio

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199641819
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191749025 | DOI:
Theobald’s Pattern of Adaptation: The Duchess of Malfi and Richard II

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This chapter analyses Lewis Theobald’s adaptations of two early modern plays that survive in their original form, with the intention of providing evidence of the kind of treatment he might be expected to have given the lost Fletcher/Shakespeare Cardenio in adapting it as Double Falsehood (1727). Close examination of Theobald’s The Fatal Secret, based on John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi, and The Tragedy of King Richard II, based on Shakespeare’s play, reveals a coherent pattern of adaptation to suit neoclassical norms of the early eighteenth-century theatre. He consistently cuts and rewrites to achieve neoclassical unities, decorum, and plausibility. He frequently retains original speeches but gives them to other characters for different purposes. Importantly, he nearly always writes his own scene- and act-endings. These various techniques provide suggestive evidence about how Double Falsehood may differ from its early modern original.

Keywords: Cardenio; Theobald; Shakespeare; adaptation; neoclassical theatre; Double Falsehood; unities; act-endings; early modern theatre

Chapter.  4825 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (1500 to 1800)

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