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.


History of Cardenio: Spain and England, Then and Now Registration Information

Registration Fee Amount (includes April 28 lunch, refreshments, and a ticket to the April 27 performance of The History of Cardenio):

$50 ~ student (includes admission to both days of conference)

$70 ~ non-student (includes admission to both days of conference)

$35 ~ April 28 presenter (base registration rate only; for April 28 presenters, tickets

to the Friday night performance are provided as an honorarium)

To register, please click here.

Payments may be made by cheque or credit card.

History of Cardenio: Spain and England, Then and Now Event Schedule

Friday April 27, 2012

5:30pm  Pre-performance lecture

  • Gary Taylor, “Working Together: Theater, Collaboration, and Cardenio”

7:00pm      Performance: The History of Cardenio

10:00pm            Post-performance talk-back

Saturday April 28, 2012

9:00 – 10:15am            Cervantes and After

Chair: Gary Taylor

  • Roger Chartier, “Cardenio before “Cardenno”: From Cervantes’ historia to Guillén de Castro’s comedia”
  • Eduardo Olid Guerrero, “Cervantes’ The English Spanish Lady and the history of Elizabeth I in Spain”
  • Joyce Boro, “‘Bum-fidled with a bastard’ or Blessed with a Baby: Fletcher’s The Chances and Cervantes’ novela De la señora Cornelia”

10:15 – 10:45am            Coffee break

10:45 – 12:00pm            Considering John Fletcher

Chair: Suzanne Gossett

  • Vimala Pasupathi, “Fletcher’s Martial Ethos”
  • Huw Griffiths, “Shall I never see a lusty man again?”: John Fletcher’s Men, 1617-1715″
  • Christopher Hicklin, “Fletcher’s Double Falsehood”

12:00 – 1:00pm            Catered lunch

1:00 – 2:15pm            Adaptors and Adaptations

Chair: TBD

  • Adam Hooks, “Genuine Shakespeare”
  • Christopher Marino, “Cardenio Found”
  • Carla Della Gatta,  “Is Spanishness in the Script?: Embodying Duende in The Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2011 Cardenio

2:15 – 2:45pm            Coffee break

2:45 – 4:00pm            Roundtable on Research and Performance

Moderator:             Terri Bourus

  • Joe Cacaci
  • Chris Marino
  • Regina Buccola

4:00 – 6:00pm          Break for dinner

6:00pm     Concert: Spanish Guitar Music

  • John Alvarado, Lecturer, Music and Arts Technology, IUPUI

7:00pm      Performance: The History of Cardenio

10:00pm            Post-performance talk-back

The Secret Life of Props

Catalan Rowel Spur, ca. 1400 (from

by Gary Taylor

One of the many virtues of my faithful computer Jeeves (introduced in the previous chapter) is that he doesn’t complain if I wake him up at 3 or 4 in the morning. He listens patiently as I tap on this keyboard and repeat sentences out loud to myself, over and over, and revise them, over and over

The sentences in question, most recently, were all about spurs. In Wellington in 2009 David Carnegie pointed out to me that, in Act Two of my reconstruction of The History of Cardenio, both Cardenio and Fernando should be wearing spurs. In the early modern theatre spurs were code for “this person has just been riding a horse” (like a modern actor coming on stage taking off a motorcycle helmet). This was one of many moments when I was especially glad to be working with a director who specialized in “original stage practices”. I proposed that spurs should also be included in the scene where Sancho arms Quixot, also in Act Two, thereby creating a visual and thematic parallel between the Cardenio plot and the Quixot plot in adjoining scenes. In theory.

In practice, the cardboard spurs provided by the props department were not at all convincing. This was not Carnegie’s fault; he was working with a very limited budget, and the design elements of the show were provided by a separate class of undergraduate students, over which he had no direct control. So I told myself that the spurs were a good idea, and that they would work fine in an ideal future production with an ideal crew and an ideal budget. I left them in the stage directions, and forgot about them. I focused my attention on the characters.

Now I am working on the future production that I imagined then. The budget may not be ideal, but this time I am involved with the show from the very beginning. Last week we had our first table reading. Terri Bourus (the director) has put together a wonderful cast, and everyone was exhilarated by the reading. The assistant director read stage directions, sporadically, so I was reminded of the spurs, and I resolved that this time they would be real and convincing.

Then, last Friday afternoon, Terri and I met with the production’s designer, Clark Foster, at a local coffee shop. Construction of the theatre is still not complete, so we can’t meet there, and the offices next to the theatre have been monopolized by Music and Arts Technology, so we can’t meet there, and IUPUI has no existing theatre department so there is, of course, no existing store of costumes or props, and hence no spurs. But the play requires lots of costumes, not only because it has so many characters but because some of them—especially Cardenio and Violenta—keep changing the way they look. We show Clark some costumes and accessories we bought on what was supposed to be a vacation in Baja in December. (That’s also where I found and bought the painting by Ivan Hernandez Olivera that is now being used in all the marketing for the show: at a shop called “Indian Hands” in the San Jose art district). Fortunately Clark likes the clothes as much as we do. Fortunately, also, he’s a pro. We both feel really lucky to have him working on the production. Brainstorming with him, we even realize that we can use the clothes we have in better ways than we’d anticipated when we bought them.

But we did not buy spurs in Mexico. I realize that the spurs have not been on Terri’s mind. It dawns on me that I am probably the only person paying attention to them. Brean Hammond’s Arden edition of Double Falsehood wrote about my use of the coffin throughout the play, and several subsequent revivals of Double Falsehood  (including Doran’s RSC Cardenio) have stolen—I mean, “borrowed”—the idea. Sarah Neville started working on procuring the right kind of coffin for this production almost as soon as she read my script. But Hammond didn’t mention the spurs, and Neville hasn’t mentioned the spurs, either. Nobody seems to find them interesting.

So, after the meeting with Clark, I ask Terri, “Tell me the truth: are the spurs working?” And she answers, “No. They aren’t getting in the way of the story, they are not distracting or disturbing, but they aren’t adding anything either.” We’ve already printed out the script for all the actors, but I ask her if I can do another re-write, specifically about the spurs. She says ok, as long as I get it done by Monday morning (because the second table reading would be Tuesday). And she will have the final say about whether to incorporate the revisions in the script for this production. Having been an actor herself for most of her life, Terri is a very actor-oriented director. She knows that some actors don’t like changes to the script during rehearsals. During her own acting career Terri has been told to make changes as she’s standing in the wings about to step on stage, but we can’t do that here.

What, at such short notice, can I do to make the spurs work, as theatre and as poetry? In a modern theatre I can project giant close-up images of spurs onto a screen, but Shakespeare and Fletcher could not have done that, and in everything to do with this script I am limiting myself to what was possible and likely in 1613. I decided to try with the spurs what I have already done with the major roles in the play. In the summer of 2009, after Wellington, instead of revising scenes I revised parts that didn’t satisfy me: Fernando, Cardenio, Violenta, Lucinda, one at a time, straight through from beginning to end. We know that actors worked from a “part” or “side”, so early modern playwrights would have seen their scripts transformed into a set of separate manuscript roles, and it would be natural to start composing with that eventual textual embodiment in mind. Certainly, writing separate parts for the principal characters proved to be, for me, a stimulating creative exercise.

The problem with the spurs is that they were, literally, tacked on. They had been added to the stage directions, and added to the actors’ boots, but not added to the dialogue. If they were going to mean anything, they had to be talked about, they had to be used, they had to become part of the play’s (and the audience’s) imaginary. Both Shakespeare and Fletcher elsewhere and often wrote about literal and metaphorical spurs. We can’t bring panting, kicking, rearing horses onto the stage, so we cannot give Fernando or Cardenio or Quixot the animal companion that identifies him as a horseman, a chevalier, a caballero, a chivalric knight errant.

Doran had noticed the references to horses in Double Falsehood, and he went to visit the Hyde Park Barracks of the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment (pp. 168-70), and then wrote a scene featuring “a rather whippy riding crop” and  “a Spanish saddle and a wooden saddle-stand” (p. 190) . Reading his published script last May, I thought this was Doran’s best new scene. But then I was disappointed by it in the two performances I saw in July. Only now, struggling with my own props problem, without an RSC budget or RSC access to the royal stables, do I realize why I was dissatisfied by Doran’s utterly real props. First, they confined the horse imagery to Fernando—part of what seemed to me a general inflation of Fernando’s part, at the expense of Cardenio’s. (The riding whip was taken, consciously or not, from David Garrick’s adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew, to indicate a gender bully: been there, done that, what else you got?) Second, the props in that scene didn’t connect to anything else in the play: they looked splendid, they caught the eyes of the audience for a few minutes, but they didn’t go anywhere, they didn’t accumulate significance, they didn’t tell a story.

My spurs could not dominate the stage like Doran’s wooden saddle mount and saddle. But they could, indeed had to, appear in more than one scene. I didn’t know why, but I wanted to write the new material backward. First, I wrote two new lines for the Duke at the end of the play; promising Cardenio golden spurs. (Teaser: you’ll understand why, when you see the show.) Then, I added two lines to Cardenio’s first mad scene, where he already says—in lines preserved in Double Falsehood– “riding shall be abolished” and “Let the barbed steed Loose to his native wildness”. Cardenio is here explicitly abandoning his identity as a chivalric horseman, so throwing away his spurs would be a natural gesture. It embodies the act of renunciation, self-degradation, identity-destruction, that Theobald’s adaptation only talks about. This moment when Cardenio holds the spurs in his hands, and does something with them, happens right after the episode where Quixot and Sancho discover the saddle he has abandoned in the mountains, and do something with it. In fact, the saddle that Cardenio abandoned is still on stage when we see him throw away his spurs, too.

But these two moments—in Act Four’s first mad scene, and Act Five’s final scene—will make climactic sense to an audience only if the significance of the spurs has already been established earlier. And the obvious place to do that is Act Two, where in Carnegie’s production Cardenio and Fernando and Quixot all acquired spurs. Moving backward, still, I first worked on Quixot’s arming scene. Instead of leaving the spurs as an unspecified part of the armor that Sancho attaches to Quixot, I made them the second thing that Quixot asks for (after his “sword Castilian”). And I made Quixot reiterate their significance when his transformation into a knight errant is complete, “from spur to helmet”. Suddenly, it made perfect sense that the scene ends (as it has always done) with an exchange of speeches about Rozinante: for Quixot, his imaginary new identity requires him to accessorize himself so that he can ride the magnificent horse of a mounted warrior.

Immediately preceding this arming scene is a sequence requiring rapid changes of locale, after Cardenio and Fernando both leave court. Cardenio rides to deliver Fernando’s message to Violenta, while Fernando rides to deliver Cardenio’s letter to Lucinda. Cardenio rides from Violenta’s farmhouse back to his home town, where both his father and Lucinda live. There he meets Fernando, who sends him riding back to court—in order to fetch money that Fernando can use to purchase . . . horses. Thus, this sequence of three scenes depends on riding horses and buying horses. Fernando’s aristocratic status means that he has always been a horseman; but Cardenio, by contrast, has just become one, as a result of his elevation to the status of Fernando’s intimate friend and a court favorite. So all three of these male principals in Act Two wear spurs, but each has a different relationship to them.

Of these three scenes, the most important is the third, and it is also the one which absolutely must, because of the plot, talk about horses. Still working backward, I began there, in the dialogue between Fernando and Cardenio. In last week’s script (and in all my previous incarnations of the play), the necessary plot-twist about purchasing horses had come out of nowhere. Now, I made it emerge from the preceding dialogue, a seemingly irrelevant digression by Fernando, as he feels his way toward the betrayal of his friend.

The scene before that is the shortest in the play, a mere twelve lines, enacting Fernando’s arrival at Don Barnard’s house and his first sight of Lucinda. Like Doran, I had always wanted to show the audience that disastrously transformative first encounter between them. But as it stood, the mini-scene began with a long stage direction, first bringing on Don Barnard and his household at one door, then Fernando at the other. In the Wellington performances this had involved a bit of awkward dumb show. Now, I supplied the mime with dialogue, spacing out the entrances, beginning with Marcela and the other servants, talking about the exciting unexpected arrival of an amazing horse and amazing horseman, then Don Barnard entering with his daughter and silencing the indecorous servants, then Fernando. Three extra lines of blank verse established this social pyramid, and also clearly distinguished Fernando’s conspicuous-consumption high-fashion aristocratic spurs from Cardenio’s more ordinary accessories.

In the preceding scene, Cardenio makes his own spurred debut, and I wanted it to be noticed, but the emphasis there could not be on the magnificence of his horse and equipment. Instead, I adjusted the dialogue to emphasize the speed with which he has ridden from court, and his resolution to ride on to Lucinda just as quickly as possible. For Cardenio the spurs are functional; for Fernando they are ornamental and symbolic; for Quixot, they are symbolic, too, but they are also unintentionally parodic, because he doesn’t have Fernando’s resources or youth. They are like tacky Star Trek memorabilia he picked up at a fan convention thirty years ago and still treasures.

This retrograde process eventually led me back to the scene between Fernando and Cardenio at court. Like Doran, I had always recognized that the play needed an early scene between Fernando and Cardenio, to establish the nature of their relationship, and like Doran I followed Cervantes in setting that scene at court. But that’s the only resemblance between our two scenes. I had always ended the scene with Fernando’s decision to leave the court, and take Cardenio with him, as a way of re-establishing the primacy of their male-male relationship. But now I realized that the half-line “Hunting?  What say you?” was utterly inadequate. No actor could make those words do all the work they needed to do. Fernando has to explain what is so thrillingly charismatic about the expensive hobby of riding horses, and especially hunting on horseback (so important to King James, and to the upper-class fox-hunting horsey set in Britain ever since). Shakespeare wrote passionately and brilliantly about horses throughout his career, and Fernando needs to be equally eloquent in this scene. And Fernando also, as the dominant partner socially and politically, has to change the pace. The preceding scene, “the bowling scene”, is the most relaxed in the entire play. Fernando now ends his scene with Cardenio with the imperative “quick, quick!”, as they exit in different directions. He establishes the velocity of the following three scenes, and more generally of the entire sequence from this exit to the wedding scene, which Lucinda tries but fails to slow down.

The spurs work as a metonymy for the horses that the play needs, narratively and symbolically, but cannot have. Thomas Shelton translated the Spanish of Cervantes into English; but Shakespeare and Fletcher, in order to make a play of that novel, had to translate the horses of Cervantes into spurs worn by actors. The problem in Wellington was not that the props department failed to provide good props, or that a modern urban audience failed to pay attention to an accessory that belongs to an essentially agricultural world. The problem was that, until last weekend, Gary Taylor had failed to pay attention to the spurs, and hence had failed to pay attention to the offstage horses, and hence had failed to pay attention to what, literally and figuratively, moves these characters. And moves them fast.

Monday morning I read Terri the changes. She approved. I spent the rest of the day notifying each actor whose part had been changed (in some cases by only a single word or phrase). We asked Clark to prioritize getting the spurs, so that the three actors (Ty, Tom, and Jonah) can start wearing them, getting used to them, playing with them, incorporating them into the way they walk, into their embodiment of their characters, even before they get the rest of their costumes.

This is why I have always been determined not to publish my own reconstruction of the play until I could work with a group of experienced actors and crew through the entire practical process from the initial decision to perform the play through to the end of the last performance and the last audience talk-back.

Now, with the spurs behind me (sorry, bad Shakespearian pun), I have to start learning my lines, as under-study for Duke Angelo. . . But I don’t need Jeeves for that, so I’m going to let him take the rest of the night off.

On Doran and directing Cardenio

From the History of Cardenio's first readthru. Image by Raincliffs Photography.

by Gary Taylor

Greg will, unfortunately, not be able to attend the colloquium, or even see the show, because during that entire period he is filming his production of Julius Caesar for the BBC. This is our loss—but also, as Shakespearians, our gain, because it means we will be able eventually to buy the DVD of his BBC film, to use in our own classrooms.

Reading his book, I am struck by the fact that almost everything he does involves meeting other people. Even going to the library is characterized, by him, as a meeting with a librarian. Since the beginning of my career, I have insisted that theatre is a collaborative art-form, but watching Terri Bourus work on the upcoming production of Cardenio (since last September) I have been amazed and appalled by how much time she spends in meetings and on the phone. Although I have learned more than I care to admit from the various readings and workshops of my evolving reconstruction, most of my writing and research is done alone in my home or office, attended only by my faithful computer Jeeves, who doesn’t ask too many questions or get upset if I don’t give him enough face-time. I guess I am more of a misanthrope than I ever realized. Certainly, life as a director would kill me, or kill someone else in my vicinity.

On sitting down to read Doran again

by Gary Taylor

“Fantastico!” cried the King of Spain.

That’s how Doran begins. As a modern exclamation the Spanish word means “Great! Fantastic! Terrific!” This is what the Oxford English Dictionary describes as the “trivial use” of the word, dating from 1938. But the earlier meaning of the Spanish fantastico (and the English fantastic) is more relevant to Don Quixote, or to Cervantes and Shakespeare and Fletcher more generally: imaginary, imaginative, eccentric, a product of fantasy. What is so disappointing about Double Falsehood, at the level of both plot and language, is the 1727 text’s paucity of the fantastic. There is little, here, of what Shakespeare and Fletcher would have called “fancy”, let alone “fantasy”.

But back to Doran. “‘Fantastico!’ cried the King of Spain when I told him that Shakespeare may have written a play based on Cervantes.”

You can see here, and from this memoir generally, what makes Doran a good director. He begins with an anecdote, a little social scene, immediately intelligible to a modern reader or spectator. One of the characters is a King, and the other is a representative from the Royal Shakespeare Company. Lifestyles of the rich and famous, familiar enough to be comprehensible, exotic enough to be interesting. Two pages later, the Cuban-born artistic director of a classical theatre festival in La Mancha, with an “emphatic sweep of his hand”, spills vino tinto all over Doran’s white dinner jacket.

The memoir is full of such moments. When Doran walks one sunny morning from his home in Islington to “the Library and Archives of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers, at Stationers’ Hall, at Amen Corner on Ave Maria Lane in the City of London’, the clerk is “a  city gent straight from central casting, with a pinstripe suit, and loud pink tie” (99-100). Doran does not discover in the Stationers’ Register anything about The History of Cardenio not already familiar to bibliographers, but he is constantly alive to settings and costumes and characters.

But this is also why Doran was right to conclude that his approach to reconstructing the text of Cardenio was incompatible with mine. I did not begin with a living King of Spain, or a trip to Cordoba, or plans to collaborate with Spanish theatre companies, or the famous Gustave Dore illustrations of Don Quixote (which Doran loves).  I began with what Shakespeare and Fletcher knew in 1612 or 1613. There is no evidence that either of them ever visited Spain. Theobald owned two editions of Don Quixote in Spanish, but The History of Cardenio was clearly based on the 1612 English translation of what we now consider only the first half of the novel. In all the years I have worked on Cardenio, I have never read the second half, or any other translation, and I have checked the Spanish only once, to verify that one phrase in the 1612 translation does not come from the original. I have focused on what stay-at-home literary Englishmen in 1612 knew or thought about Spain and Cervantes.

Doran’s approach is more cosmopolitan, more politically correct, more respectful of Cervantes and Spain, and more attuned to the commercial realities of the international theatre circuit. By contrast, my own approach is determinedly parochial.

Why? I’ve been to Spain myself–but to Valencia, not Andalucia, and what I like best about Valencia is the modern City of Arts and Sciences in the dry river bed created by re-routing the river that used to flood the medieval and renaissance city. I read Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia and Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls before I ever read Don Quixote. I am primarily interested in modern Spain, and I believe Cervantes still speaks to the modern world, inside and outside the Iberian peninsula. But there have been, over the centuries, lots of plays, in lots of languages, based on Don Quixote. Writing another one of these disposable adaptations does not interest me.

I am interested in The History of Cardenio only insofar as it represents the intersection of Cervantes, Shakespeare, and Fletcher. I have great respect for the monarchy’s role in returning Spain to democracy after the Franco’s horrific Christian dictatorship. But when it comes to The History of Cardenio, the King of Spain is irrelevant.

On NOT reading Doran’s Shakespeare’s Last Play

by Gary Taylor

Okay, okay, I know that if I’m going to write a blog, I need to write faithfully every day, so that my vast virtual readership can get in the habit of sipping me with their morning coffee. This is, I suppose, why I have never been good at writing journals, or a diary. But in this case I do have an excuse: I’ve been working as dramaturg on the Cardenio  production, not co-organizer of the Cardenio colloquium. Which, depending on your point of view, means I’ve put the scholar in my pocket—or not. Anyway, something closer to Doran.

Tonight is the first table reading for the Indianapolis production. This means that the actors all need their own hard-copy final script. But Terri Bourus (who’s directing) also wanted me to provide them each with a synopsis, with a paragraph describing every fact about each character that can be discerned from the script, and with a pronunciation guide for unusual proper names. Also, the university wanted an excerpt from the script to use in invitations to the Gala opening, which needs to be printed this week.

I thought I had finished revising the script a month ago, when we emailed it to all the actors. But they are pretty much all working, and we don’t expect any of them to be off book for the reading. So I’ve been able to make small adjustments. And last Friday I received an email from Gerald Baker, an English scholar-director who is interested in mounting a production in Twickenham (ironic, given its association with Pope).. He has been working on the Cardenio/Double Falsehood problem for some time, and among other things has done a lot of work on Fletcher. After attending the Globe reading of my version last November, he sent me long, detailed, and very useful notes, which helped me in my post-Globe revision. So I sent him that revision last month, and this weekend he sent me some more notes on it—just in time for me to take them into account in the script that the actors will read tonight! Baker is coming to the colloquium, incidentally, so you can ask him which two speeches in Sancho’s part he convinced me to change.

So that is what I’ve been doing, instead of reading and writing about Doran.