April 13, 2015, by Emma Thorne

New research backs Nottingham claims Bard’s ‘lost’ play is genuine

A new study by a team of Texan academics has strongly suggested that a disputed play was indeed penned by William Shakespeare, backing previous research by a Nottingham professor published in 2010.

The original authorship of the 18-th century play Double Falsehood has long been debated and the new research by scholars at The University of Nottingham, published in the journal Psychological Science, has re-ignited the debate and made international headlines.

Their evidence, which used computer software to analyse the text of the play to draw comparisons to linguistic patterns and signatures in The Bard’s accepted published works, seems to give further credence to the findings of Nottingham’s Emeritus Professor Brean Hammond, who published the play five years ago in its fully annotated form claiming that he believed it to be the product of a collaboration between Shakespeare and another dramatist John Fletcher.

Professor Hammond has dedicated much of his academic career to researching the origins of the play, Double Falsehood, by an 18th century scholar, Lewis Theobald, who claimed it was a re-working of an original play by the Bard himself. Theobald’s claims that he had three original Shakespeare texts, now lost, had been largely dismissed. But Professor Hammond found what he believed to be credible evidence that indeed links Theobald’s play back to Shakespeare’s ‘lost play’, Cardenio; first performed in 1612.

In the Independent, Emeritus Professor Hammond hailed the Texans for having a more ‘objective view’ than some literary scholars but suggested that their research may still be viewed with suspicion by some because their work analysed words belonging to content categories which are arguably arbitrary.

In an interview with CNN on the play, he said: “I think the support from The University of Texas is marvellous, it is to be warmly welcomed. They have triumphantly vindicated the authorship hypothesis that I put forward in my edition of the play in 2010. I love them and I love their work.

“What I did and what the recent research from Texas has done is show that Shakespeare’s DNA, shall we put it that way, survives in that 18th-century play.”

Professor Hammond described the play as a ‘rattling good yarn’ which is plot driven and features madness and unrequited love. While it lacks the depth of plays like Macbeth and King Lear and disappoints on some levels, he says, it still delivers theatrically.

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