The History of Cardenio: Media Roundup

Over the previous week, The History of Cardenio has received considerable press. Here is a selection of articles and reviews from local Indianapolis media:

“Lost” play launches state-of-art IUPUI theater (NUVO)

Review: The History of Cardenio at IUPUI (NUVO)

New IUPUI theater goes back 400 years for re-imagined ‘Cardenio’ (IndyStar)

Reconstructed ‘Cardenio’ Christens IUPUI’s New Campus Center Theater (ArtsAmerica)

the premiere of History of Cardenio is provocate’s theatre pick of the week — maybe the event of the year (Provocate)

Terri Bourus and Gary Taylor talking about The History of Cardenio on Indianapolis NPR affiliate WFYI’s “The Art of the Matter” on April 6, 2012.

An Old-New Play In A Very New Space (Indiana Public Media)

Stay tuned!  We have three more performances to go!


“When is Sex Legal? Rape, Coercion, Bigamy, Mixed-Race Marriage, Transvestism, and Not Being Straight”

A conversation between Dr. Gary Taylor and Dr. Jennifer Drobac, Professor of Law, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.

The discussion will be STREAMED LIVE from the IUPUI Theatre at: between 5:20-6:15pm EST today (Friday, April 20, 2012).

Dr. Drobac is the author of SEXUAL HARASSMENT LAW: History, Cases, and Theory. She has also published more generally on sexual consent, family law, and AIDS law, and is an award-winning teacher. She will discuss, from a legal perspective, the issues surrounding sexuality, and particularly the sexuality of young people, raised by the Cardenio story.

Dr. Taylor will be approaching the same issues from the perspective of literary history and men’s studies.

Graduate CFP has a New Deadline: Abstracts Considered until April 1, 2012

The History of Cardenio: Spain and England, Then and Now

Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis

April 27, 2012

Keynote Speaker: Gary Taylor, George Matthew Edgar Professor of English at Florida State University

Despite its status as a collaborative play based on an episode in Don Quixote, much of the scholarly work on William Shakespeare and John Fletcher’s “lost” 1612 play, The History of Cardenio, has largely focused on Cardenio’s status as a work by Shakespeare alone, with Cervantes’ and Fletcher’s contributions to the text treated as incidental. Fortunately, recent work on the play has begun to redirect attention away from Shakespeare and towards Cardenio’s historical and literary contexts. Such recent scholarship will be presented at a colloquium of renowned Cervantes, Fletcher and Shakespeare scholars that will be held in Indianapolis on April 28, 2012. Confirmed participants include Roger Chartier, Barbara Fuchs, Joe Cacaci, Chris Marino, Suzanne Gossett, Joyce Boro, Vimala Pasupathi, Douglas Lanier, Eduardo Olid Guerrero, Adam Hooks, Christopher Hicklin, Huw Griffiths, and Regina Buccola.

To complement this colloquium of senior scholars, “The History of Cardenio: Spain and England, Then and Now” graduate colloquium similarly seeks 15-minute papers that broaden current understanding of early modern Anglo-Spanish relations, especially the relationship between Cervantes and English drama, in order to better contextualize Cardenio within the early modern imaginary. Also welcomed are papers that engage with issues of collaboration (particularly those considering the relationship between Fletcher and Shakespeare), adaptation (particularly those considering Lewis Theobald’s Double Falsehood), and performance-based research. Participants in the graduate colloquium on April 27 are encouraged to stay for the April 28 colloquium of senior scholars, several of whom will be available to chair panels in the graduate sessions. Conference participants who arrive on early will be able to attend a free pre-performance lecture by Professor Ayanna Thompson on ”Shakespeare and Race” on April 26.

Both the senior and graduate colloquia take place in conjunction with the premiere of a fullscale production of “The History of Cardenio”, a version of Shakespeare and Fletcher’s play directed by Terri Bourus, an Equity actor and one of the three General Editors of the New Oxford Shakespeare. The text of Cardenio has been reconstructed and re-imagined by Gary Taylor, General Editor of the Oxford Shakespeare and the Oxford Middleton, and co-editor of Fletcher’s The Tamer Tamed, or The Woman’s Prize. The production is taking place April 19-28 in Indianapolis, home to a Spanish-speaking population of over 200,000 people. “The History of Cardenio” celebrates the grand opening of a new, state-of-the-art, 248-seat, $2.5 million theatre at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), a campus which has recently been hailed as one of the top five up- and-coming American universities.

More information about the production is available here.

Abstracts of 300 words, submitted in a .doc or .pdf format, along with a 50 word bio, should be sent to Dr. Francis Connor at fconnor |at| Review of abstracts begins immediately; abstracts will be considered until April 1, 2012.

In Praise of Passion


by Gary Taylor

Not what an academic does best. Passion. That’s why, generally speaking, theatre folk distrust the tribe of pedantic analysis. Because, as even Aristotle recognized, punters go to the theatre for passion.

So when it comes to reimagining “Shakespeare’s Lost Play”, Greg Doran, who has spent his life acting and directing, should have a profound advantage over Professor Starched Shirt. And, true to form, Doran goes looking for passion. Impoverished Lewis Theobald’s pathetic funeral, attended only by a single life-long friend; hunchbacked Alexander Pope’s surprisingly tender letter to a departed friend; the petrified young actor John Downes, drying on stage in front of a packed house that included King Charles II, in a stretched moment of terror that would reroute his life—these stories tell us nothing about the authenticity of Double Falsehood, or the lost Jacobean play, but they fill the pages of Doran’s memoir with imaginative sympathy for human suffering.

And what do you remember about Doran’s Cardenio, if you saw it in the theatre? What I remember is the loud, raunchy, chaotic street festival–and the haunting voice of the flamenco singer Javier Macías, floating high above the stage in the Swan Theatre–and the prolonged Fight Club physical battle between Cardenio and Fernando in the final scene. These were the moments which justify Michael Billington’s praise of the RSC Cardenio as “theatrically powerful”. They were certainly more engrossing than anything I saw in the Classic Stage Company’s earnest, faithful, dull revival of Double Falsehood in New York last March.

Part of the reason I passionately wanted Terri Bourus to direct my own reconstruction of The History of Cardenio is that, like Doran, she disagrees with Aristotle’s dismissal of the importance of theatrical music and spectacle. She has been a professional singer and dancer; she is certified in stage combat. She met with the play’s choreographer, Paige Craigie, in October, and our three musicians began working together even before the play was cast. At the second table reading, last Tuesday, everyone got to hear Tyrone Van Tantenhove (Fernando) and Alys Dickerson (Violenta) sing two of the play’s five songs. It was as exhilarating for the rest of the cast and crew, as we hope it will be, next month, for audiences.

But there remains a fundamental difference between Doran’s approach and mine (or Terri’s). The most passionate elements of Doran’s play were wordless. Javier was presumably singing words, but they were in a foreign language, and they are not reproduced in Doran’s script; effectively, his voice was simply a musical instrument, rising above the other instruments in the band, providing the script with a movie soundtrack, which drowned out some of what the actors were saying below.

Shakespeare and Fletcher were both brilliant at representing, and delivering, passion. But they did so with what Hamlet calls “passionate speech”. English words in English sentences. And that is precisely what Doran’s script never delivers. As the famous RSC voice coach Cicely Berry said, after an early workshop reading, “It’s the language, isn’t it? It’s just not Shakespeare. Not surprising enough. It doesn’t fly” (76).

When Doran realized that he would need to write some new scenes and new dialogue for the play, he went to John Barton to learn to “bombast out a line or two”. Barton gave him, as an instructive exemplar of blank verse, the line “I want to go and have a cup of tea” (44). Very British, but not very passionate.

Hester Booth, image from the V&A Museum

It’s not that Anglophones are incapable of Passion with a capital Penis. Shakespeare, Middleton, Marlowe, Webster, Ford were all master passionistas. Anybody paying attention to the Republican primaries knows that Americans can generate as much “sound and fury, signifying nothing” as Zorba the Greek, and nowadays American drunk undergraduate dirty dancing can be as sexually charged as anything that tourists will find in Spain, or Cuba. But Theobald, writing for decorous Augustan critics and for the decorous actor Barton Booth and his decorous wife Hester Santlow, undoubtedly stripped much of the passion out of the Jacobean play. And that passion cannot be recaptured in John Barton’s iambic pentameteacup. Moreover, those plodding Bartonesque rhythms might have been convincing when inserted into scenes from the three Henry VI plays, where the verse is not much better. But twenty or more years later, when The History of Cardenio was written and performed, dramatic verse had been radically transformed by the poetic experiments of Shakespeare, Jonson, Middleton, Beaumont and Fletcher. One thing we absolutely and undeniably know about “Shakespeare’s lost play” is that it was not written in the verse style of the late 1580s and early 1590s.

Doran and I (and Bernard Richardson, and almost everyone else) agree that Theobald omitted the scene, narrated in Don Quixote, in which Fernando bribes his way into a woman’s house in order to seduce her (if possible) or rape her (if necessary). Cervantes tells the story from the woman’s perspective, so he provides the foundation for her speeches. Here is a sample of Doran’s version of her passionate resistance.

With me your violence cannot prevail,

Your wealth gain grace, your words have power to cheat,

Nor yet your sighs and tears have power to move.

And here is my version of the same moment:

The services that you would do me, sir,

I know full well, and fulsome, it abhors me.

Are there no drabs at court, that you must venture

So far abroad to feed your codpiece? Fie!

And I am not so simple, though a poor

Unpracticed maiden, to untie my ribbon

At the first fair word, and take for love

A little scratching on a guitar, or

This golden show of changeable attire,

Nor showers of dropped ducats, cracked sighs and tears

Cannot blow down my fastness–for what follows?

Honor goodnight, another broken maid

Gotten with child by promises.

Is my version as good as your favorite “passionate speech” by Shakespeare? No. Is it better than Doran? Ask any actress.