Shakespeare, Lost and Found

How could it be that a Shakespeare play currently being performed at the American Repertory Theatre was actually written not by The Bard, but by two men of Harvard?

How could it be that a Shakespeare play currently being performed at the American Repertory Theatre was actually written not by The Bard, but by two men of Harvard?

The play is Cardenio, a "lost play" by Shakespeare that was performed twice in 1613, but then went missing. The coauthors are Shakespeare scholar and Cogan University Professor Stephen Greenblatt and playwright Charles Mee ’60.

In the absence of the original text, Greenblatt and Mee started with scholarly research on Cardenio's contents: it took its basic plot and main character's name from Don Quixote; a Shakespeare editor of the eighteenth century claimed a play he wrote himself, and whose text survives, was based on Cardenio. But they add their own modern-day riffs on the play's theme of jealousy and mistrust in love.

Asked how much Shakespeare is in the play, Greenblatt tells the Boston Globe, "A lot, and nothing... There is nothing directly quoted from him, but there are a lot of Shakespeare's devices."

Friends of Harvard Magazine hosts an event with Greenblatt at the Charles Hotel before this Thursday's performance; if you're in Cambridge for Commencement or a reunion, you might also take in a show then. (It runs through June 8.) If neither of those are options, the Globe story offers a nice introduction; also check out these articles on Greenblatt from the Harvard Magazine archives:

The Mysterious Mr. Shakespeare tells more about his work.

In the essay Writing as Performance, Greenblatt offers his thoughts on what makes good scholarly writing.

You might also like

Kevin Young Named 2024 Harvard Arts Medalist

Museum director and poet to be honored April 24

How Air Pollution Affects Our Brains

An expert Harvard panel discusses the links between air pollution and dementia, learning, mental health, and mood.

Steven Pinker on Apple’s Vision Pro

Professor of psychology on the science and history behind the Vision Pro.

Most popular

Klarman Hall Breaks Ground

Harvard Business School’s expansion proceeds, amid debate about capitalism.

Birthing a Legacy

Centennial celebrations for John F. Kennedy in Brookline

Adams House Will Be Renewed after Lowell

Renewal will make Adams wheelchair-accessible and add new social and activity spaces. 

More to explore

Photograph of Winthrop Bell 1910

Winthrop Bell

Brief life of a philosopher and spy: 1884-1965

Illustration of people talking to each other with colorful thought bubbles above their heads

Talking about Talking

Fostering healthy disagreement

Vacationing with a Purpose

New England “summer camps” for adults