“Newes from the Dead” An Unnatural Moment in the History of Natural Philosophy
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This chapter is about the problem of writing what has already been written. Several years ago I was approached by Renaissance Scholar Stephen Greenblatt to write a so-called “missing” Shakespeare play, a work titled Cardenio that has come down through the tradition as a play by the Bard, though no copy of the original play-text has ever come to light. The strongest clue to the play’s possible plot arises from the fact that the title is the name given to a character, Cardenio, a melancholy hero from Cervantes’s celebrated novel, Don Quixote. In that novel, Cardenio has lost his mind and lives disguised in the mountains because he believes that his beloved has been seduced by the local overlord. Greenblatt’s purpose was surely, at least in part, to consolidate the full extent of the Shakespeare oeuvre and identify any works that might make a claim to belong inside rather than outside the canon. He began to explore literary fragments, and ambiguous works, plays of doubtful attribution, or written as collaborations, and thus at the edge of the fixed authentic Shakespearean writings.