1728 quarto of Double Falshood
- First official record: entered into the Stationers' Register by Humphrey Moseley on 9 September 1653, as "The History of Cardenio, by Mr Fletcher and Shakespeare."
- First published: as far as is known, Cardenio itself has never been published, but in 1728 Lewis Theobald published a play called Double Falshood; or, The Distrest Lovers, which he claimed was adapted from Shakespeare's Cardenio. Theobald claimed that he had access to the original play in the form of three manuscripts. The play had been staged at Drury Lane in December 1727, to great box office success, and was revived in 1728. According to an article in the Gazetteer on 31 March 1770, "the original Manuscript of this play is now treasured up in the Museum of Covent Garden Playhouse." However, the article is unclear on whether it is referring to the original Cardenio manuscript by Shakespeare and Fletcher or the original Double Falsehood script by Theobald. In any case, the library burned down in 1808. Theobald's 1728 publication contains a preface which reads, in part, "It has been alleged as incredible, that such a curiosity should be stifled and lost to the world for above a century. To this my answer is short: that though it never till now made its appearance on the stage, yet one of the manuscript copies which I have is of above sixty years standing, in the handwriting of Mr. Downes the famous old prompter; and, as I am credibly informed, was early in the possession of the celebrated Mr. Betterton and by him designed to have been ushered into the world. What accident prevented this purpose of his, I do not pretend to know; or through what hands it had successively passed before that period of time. There is a tradition (which I have from the noble person, who supplied me with one of my copies) that it was given by our author, as a present of value, to a natural daughter of his, for whose sake he wrote it, in the time of his retirement from the stage. Two other copies I have (one of which I was glad to purchase at a very good rate), which may not, perhaps, be quite so old as the former; but one of them is much more perfect, and has fewer flaws and interruptions in the sense."
- First recorded performance: on 20 May 1613, the King's Company received payment for a court performance of "Cardenno."
- Additional information (attribution): Cardenio is considered a lost play, and whether or not Shakespeare had anything to do with it is an unanswered (and, given the available evidence, perhaps unanswerable) question. Only two sources attribute it to Shakespeare; Moseley's 1653 Stationers' Register entry and Theobald's 1727 adaptation. Although the 1613 court payment does connect the play to the King's Men, this does not mean Shakespeare wrote it, as the company performed many plays in which he had no hand. The validity of Moseley's attribution is not helped by the fact that he is known to have attributed several other now lost plays to Shakespeare. For example, on 29 June 1660, he made an entry in the Register for "the History of King Stephen. Duke Humphrey, a Tragedy. Iphis and Iantha, or a marriage without a man, a Comedy. By Will: Shakespeare." However, Gary Taylor argues that it is unlikely Moseley was aware of the 1613 court payments to the King's Men, which coincides with Shakespeare's collaboration with Fletcher on two other plays (Henry VIII and The Two Noble Kinsmen). Taylor believes this adds support to Moseley's claim of Shakespearean authorship, especially as Fletcher's involvement in Henry VIII hadn't been established by 1653. Scholars also continue to debate the validity of Theobald's claims that he was in possession of a Shakespearean play that had been omitted from all previous editions of Shakespeare's work. E.K. Chambers points out several problems with Theobald's asserted ownership of the text; no one else ever confirmed seeing the three manuscripts, Theobald's claim that he owned them is the only evidence we have; there is no evidence Shakespeare had a "natural daughter" (i.e. an illegitimate daughter), he had two legitimate daughters, and one son, who died age eleven (although John Freehafer argues the reference to "a natural daughter" is to Henrietta Maria du Tremblay, the wife of Shakespeare's (alleged) illegitimate son, William Davenant); the manuscripts apparently disappeared after Theobald's death and were not listed in his sale catalogue of 23 October 1744; the play is never mentioned in the writings of either Downes or Betterton; and if Theobald was so certain of Shakespeare's authorship, why did he not include the play in his 1734 edition of the complete works? Scholars remain divided on the issue of Theobald's claims. However, in 2010, Double Falsehood was controversially published under the Arden Shakespeare banner, edited by Brian Hammond, who adopts the position set out by G. Harold Metz in his 1989 book, Sources of Four Plays Ascribed to Shakespeare; "Double Falsehood is mainly Theobald, or Theobald with an earlier adapter, with a substantial admixture of Fletcher and a modicum of Shakespeare." Hammond, for the most part, accepts Theobald's claims, although not without some reservations, and believes Double Falsehood to have been adapted from Cardenio, a play written by Shakespeare and Fletcher.
- Evidence: the dating of the play is based on the fact that Cardenio is a character in Don Quixote, which was not published in English until Thomas Shelton's 1612 translation.