It’s time for the final post in the play-a-day series, or at least the last one for now. I’ve come to the final play in Shakespeare & Others: Collaborative Plays having covered nine other works: Arden of Faversham, Locrine, Edward III, The Spanish Tragedy, Thomas Lord Cromwell, Sir Thomas More, The London Prodigal, A Yorkshire Tragedy and Mucedorus, it’s time now for number ten: Double Falsehood. Perhaps, of the plays in the Apocrypha, it’s one of the better known.
It’s full title is quite lengthy, I give it to you here in full: DOUBLE FALSEHOOD or THE DISTRESSED LOVERS. A play as it is acted at the THEATRE-ROYAL in DRURY-LANE. Written Originally by W.SHAKESPEARE; And now Revised and Adapted to the Stage By Mr Theobald, the Author of Shakespeare Restored.
And here’s the glamorous title page of the play with the all-important Shakespeare attribution.
Quite a mouthful – but full of plenty of useful and juicy information. Not least of which where the play was being performed at the time of printing. Theatre-Royal still situated in Drury Lane started life during the Restoration period and remains one of the prettiest theatres in the west end. Today Double Falsehood isn’t showing and you probably know the theatre better for its productions of shows like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in fact the last, and only thing, I have ever seen at the theatre royal was Michael McIntyre’s Christmas Comedy Roadshow which the BBC were filming for a Christmas Day special a few years ago.
Not very Renaissancey admittedly but part of theatre’s history as a whole is the way it adapts and exits thanks to its mutability, catering to its audiences needs and wants. Take Charlie and the Chocolate factory for instance, only a few years ago it was simply a book. Now it’s had several film versions, a musical and all sorts of other things besides. Next reboot? Double Falsehood perhaps! Ok, maybe not. There have been some recent-ish productions of the play, with the RSC for instance running a production in 2011, although it did have a different title. They presented the play as Cardenio, Shakespeare’s Lost Play reimagined. Make of that what you will – I think there’s a danger though with playing around with names or with plays that don’t (at least in terms of names) have a defined identity. It’s a bit like many of the history plays, are we to call Henry Fourth Part One, Henry IV, Henry IV (simply losing any distinction in its two play status) or Henry IV part 1. It may seem to make little difference but I would suggest that such variants in names leave the play with a fluctuating identity, something which is even more distinct in the case of a play like Double Falsehood.
The play opens with a long, and by long I mean giant, preface and dedication before we can get stuck into the play’s action. It’s dedicated to his patron the Right Honourable George Dodington, Esq. and English politician among other things.
Theobald it seems was a strong fan of Shakespeare as he states in the dedication: ‘I bear so dear an affection to the writing and memory of Shakespeare’. The Preface which follows comes from the Editor, justifying the disappearance and subsequent printing of the play and whether or not the play belongs to Shakespeare or Fletcher. The editor has thought long and hard about it it seems: ‘I had once designed a dissertation to prove this play to be of Shakespeare’s writing’.
After a selection of Dramatis Personae, the play begins with a prologue (the scene opens in Andalusia which includes sites like this..).
The prologue is written by Philip Frowde Esquire and spoken by Mr Wilks (or at least in the first performance of the play) who played Henriquez. It talks about Shakespeare, the play, and gives a few snippets of what is to come. But essentially it’s a glorification of how amazing Mr Shakespeare was, as lines such as these indicate:
Such Shakespeare’s genius was: let Britons boast
The glorious birth and, eager, strive who most
Shall celebrate his verse
Shakespeare is held up as emblematic of everything that is marvellous about Britain.
… while we raise
Trophies of fame to him, ourselves we praise
Display the talents of a British mind
And so on.. If you want examples of Bardolatry this speech is oozing with it, but it must be remembered that the players, and the editor, were of course in part justifying their production and adapting of a play by Shakespeare – this goes some way to explaining the emphasis on his genius and his wonderful work. It even goes so far as to imagining the praise Shakespeare would lay upon their King, play, and Britain were he to return to life. He’d be particularly chuffed at them reviving his play of course, or so the prologue claims. He’s give a mighty speech of course in true prodigal son fashion, with plenty of passion: what once was lost now is found, hooray! (Or in the words of the prologue):
Thus answered in his own reviving fame!
How cry with pride, “Oblivion I forgive,
This y last child to latest times shall live:
Lost to the world, well for the birth it stayed
To thus auspicious era well delayed.”
And if it’s by Fletcher? No, the prologue makes no suggestion of any other potential playwright or collaborator (they were milking the Shakespeare factor it seems so any such suggestion would have hampered their play, I think although the trend is slowly changing the same may still be true today. For most if they’re going to bother seeing a Renaissance play at all chances are they’ll pick Shakespeare over say Middleton, Fletcher or Dekker for instance. I hasten to add I’m not condoning this, merely observing. Equally I’m happy to be proved wrong please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences on this).
But bardolatry aside, on with the play! The opening scene begins (in a royal palace) with Duke Angelo, Roderick and Courtiers. The Duke isn’t happy about the casual way Roderick talks about his death, he knows he’s getting on a bit but still when he gives up his dukedom for death he wants to give it up in a good state to his son Roderick. Roderick blushes, his father explains how he is proud of him but not his disobedient younger brother who is sending him to an early grave with his lawless behaviour and desires.
Roderick vouches that he is certain his brother will learn wisdom with age. The Duke hope he is prophesising and not simply being nice, he’s more inclined to judge on past behaviour as opposed to looking to the untainted future. Roderick isn’t sure where his brother is but is heard he is set to return with horses who he’s made friends with. Roderick is asked by his father to keep watch on his younger brother and inform him upon his return, he wants to meet this Julio that Roderick’s brother speaks so highly of.
Camillo (Julio’s father) opens the next scene with a letter in which the Duke has requested the audience of his son Julio at court, Camillo is confused particularly at the mention of Horsemanship – in which his son is clearly useless. But then his son has little choice anyway:
Prince’s are absolute; they may do what they will in anything, save what they cannot do
Wise words indeed Camillo (this is a theme which appears of course in many of Shakespeare’s plays – Macbeth, Richard II and Richard III to name only a few). These words, or the theme they comprise, seems so familiar that I feel like I’ve almost heard the same turn of phrase before (if only I could find the reference). His son enters and he asks him to read the letter. Camillo declares that the new suits of his son (and his son presumably) are destined for the palace. Julio aside complains that wherever he goes he is a slave, whether to Duke or Leonora. His Dad explains his son is to be praised for his horsemanship and no matter what has occurred in the past he really ought to get going to the palace (not that there’s any choice).
You must needs go; he rather conjures than importunes
His father hopes the fortunes of his son will increase with this new venture. Julio whispers that he’s nervous of what his father might think were he to know that he’s set to be married tonight (Romeo and Juliet flashback anyone?) and he wants his consent. Camillo is ready to help provide for his son to go to court, he heads to his closet and Julio is left alone on stage and he muses about Leonora, who right on cue appears with her maid. He gives here a description heavy salutary speech and deadpan she responds with a chide, “What says your father”. Of course he hasn’t plucked up the courage yet to ask, she urges him if that’s the case not to. Understandably (since she’d asked him to do it in the first place) he’s confused. She’s surprisingly chilled about it though, “Perhaps it was but now I’ve changed my mind”. Charming! She’s got serious doubts about their relationship and Julio is not happy. She thinks he ought to come to a decision himself about his feelings and not rely on his father to give his permission, he’s too much of a wuss for her liking. She wants freedom from this uncertainty bondage she finds herself caught in. Julio is sad she never cared for him and then he spills the beans about the invitation he’s had from the Duke. She’s jealous and thinks he’ll find someone prettier than her there and he’s just been leading her on.
He promises he’s faithful to her and could never love anyone else, she’s sad he has to leave so imminently and referencing the humours (I’ve just been reading up on renaissance science so the reference popped out at me straight away), she says:
‘What, but for parting. I should blush to tell thee:
My heart beats thick with fears’
Basically she’s worried he’ll forget about her in the excitement of the new court and meet a pretty lady with titles who will better her. She grieves as though widowed by his leaving. Certain she’ll be mocked if he find another woman. He promises heartily to be faithful (though with the title in mind I’m sure it’s fair to be sceptical – particularly as he references “falsehood” at the end of the speech). It’s alright Leonora is satisfied (there’s got to be a pun here right?) and promises to save herself for him, he promises Arnold Schwarzenegger style that he’ll be back.
And he’ll leave his friend Lord Henriquez to keep her father happy with good tales of Julio.
I love the “no love by proxy” line too. Brilliant, as if that needed clarification!
Don Bernard enters at the end of this exchange and is mortified that Julio is wooing her in public – they very idea! Worse still Julio hasn’t asked his father, and he wants no contact at all until he’s assured of that. Julio promises to send word in the morning after wishing a passionate goodbye complete with another promise of his sincerity of love he exits. Don Bernard complains about Julio and his father, not wanting to taint her view of him (or is he?!?) she of course is obedient to him – like all good women.. She submits and agrees that if he doesn’t approve she’ll forget her love. What do women know, eh? They agree to wait to hear from Julio father.
Next scene and its Henriquez with servants, music and lights. With my melancholy radar on I see it is mentioned here, personified in fact as lazy, but ready to be rejuvenated by music.
Till Melancholy start from her lazy couch
He’s there to woo Violante (music and balcony Romeo and Juliet style). She’s already rejected him but boy is he persistent, or desperate depending how you look at it. She’s heard stories about his type and they’re not pretty! He accuses her of only reading the bad stories and then generalising. She dismisses him unhappy at this rude awakening – he says that just makes him want to stay more. So she leaves instead. He wants to be title-less if it will win her love, denounce everything for her.
Time for a new act, opened by Lopez, Fabian, and Henriquez and there’s some slinking going on. Fabien and Lopez on one side, Henriquez on the other. Henriquez is gutted he didn’t get to enjoy (wink wink nudge nudge) his love interest, since she “shut the door” on his “ardent longings”. Aw poor Henriquez.
Lopez is quick to figure out what Henriquez is about:
Love! Love! Downright love! I see by the foolishness of it.
Henriquez recalls how the trouble started and how he turned violent, as he “snatched the imperfect joy” (presumably suggesting rape) and the way this ruined the love. He then muses with himself whether it really was rape, or whether she enjoyed it why she screamed whether in pleasure, pain, or both.
Lopez and Fabien declare him mad and vow to follow him keeping a safe distance.
Next scene, Violante alone.
She’s embarrassed at the situation she finds herself in, a Maid and Gerald shortly enter with a letter for Violante from Henriquez (Gerald is Henriquez’s servant) and Violante is scared, she learns that Henriquez’s course has changed and wishes to know why. She doesn’t like this not-knowing business. Then she reads the letter. It contains heartfelt words. He’s gutted he’s lost her, but has finally accepted it. She is sad at what she’s done and will now assume the robes of grief as a marker of this loss:
O wretched and betrayed! Lost Violante!
Heart-wounded with a thousand perjured vows,
Poisoned with studied language, and bequeathed
To desperation. I am now become
The tomb of my own honour: a dark mansion,
For death alone to dwell in..
And so it continues ending with the ‘sorrow be my guide’ which captures neatly the sentiment of the speech. The future is looking bleak and short for Violante who finds now little reason to live.
New scene and on stage is Henriquez and he’s soliloquising about how wrong he was, and is concerned about his honour given recent events, while speaking about Leonora she enters with Don Bernard, Henruquez wants to know if he can finally have Leonora’s love – even though it’s not the best. He sounds like a man desperate for love – very apt on this Valentine’s day! (That’s not to say all men are desperate for love obviously, but rather that – particularly for single men and women – this day flags up that status often leading to desperation for love). But he sees the look in her eye and realises it is not to be so. Her father attempts to persuade her that Henriquez’s love though poorly articulated is true. On her knees she begs her father – she doesn’t want to disobey him. He promises they’ll be no harm done just as soon as she marries Henriquez. Before she might have agreed but the times they are a’changing, she’s already agreed after all to be Julio’s. He orders her to stop having feelings for Julio, to regain her heart: ‘Why then, by my consent, e’en take it back’. He argues Julio wasn’t a true man and therefore the love must now be void. Henriquez adds his two pennies worth arguing his love is far stronger than Julio. This is slowly turning into a primary school better-than contest, the ‘my daddy’s better than your daddy’ kind of game. She thinks it seems rather unfair to pick someone else having already been pledged (by her father no less) to Julio. She critiques his approach. Her father thinks she’s gone mad. Leonora discusses her own mum and the perilous position women are placed in when ‘love and duty’ are at odds. She agrees to do as her mother did, but with less happiness. He vows to disown her unless she marries a man of his choosing in two days time. She’s trapped in a ring of fire (metaphorically of course) and wishes to be a maid who could choose her own husband. After she leaves her father reveals that she was right about her mum. The exact situation also occurred with her. Coincidence, I think not!
Camillo enters (remember Julio’s dad?) What perfect timing! Don Bernard pretends to have an inkling of this tale of two loves. But then in deeply ironic matter notes how much things can change at great speed in terms of love.
… in love-matters, you know, there are abundance of changes in half an hour. Time, time, neighbour, plays tricks with all of us.
Well yes especially if you’re orchestrating those changes eh Don Bernard? He claims his daughter will fall in love with anyone – Camillo isn’t having any of this and off he heads to find Leonora with Don Bernard hot at his heels.
Next scene and Leonora is at the window musing, she speaks to a citizen and asks if he will give a letter to Julio for her (experience of letters in Renaissance plays suggests that this is not the best move.. From the comic swapped letters of Love’s Labour’s Lost to the more tragic tales of letters received too late, like Romeo and Juliet) with her father fast approaching she dispatches the letter and speaks of her passionate mourning for lost love.
New scene and Julio has received the letter. It must be a Renaissance miracle! He curses Henriquez and laments the situation his lover finds herself in – he feels her pain. In the height of his anger he utters these lines:
Such a villainy
A writer could not put down in his scene,
Without taxation of his auditory
For fiction most enormous
Brilliant to find right in the middle of this um fictional play. But I think he makes his point. Julio asks the letter deliver is he can fix him up with a disguise (surely one of the hallmarks of Renaissance plays) so that he can visit Leonora asap.
Next scene and Leonora is certain either Julio is inconstant or never received the letter as she still hasn’t heard anything from him. Now she’s got to marry Henriquez, she is at the point of leaving and then Julio enters disguised. She’s very happy to see him. She thinks he’s crying but he says he’s not weeping, though he wishes he was. They’re both full of emotions and experiencing the violence of these battling passions within. Leonora wants to know what Julio’s plan is (don’t we all). He’s not sure and wants her advice. He thinks he’ll murder. Then he suggests they flee together, but they can’t. She’s being tracked at all times. She suggests he should stay too. That would be torture of course for him and he’s not happy about the situation at all. Besides it’s not manly not to act. She urges patience; she’s already got a plan of course. She has her reasons, but she’s not ready to reveal them. (The line about reasons caused me to have a flashback to this moment in Friends).
(Later there’s a moment when the following line is utter: “Joey had reasons, they were three-fold” which is why no doubt my brain rustled up the memory).
She orders him to remain quiet and statue-like.
She’s armed with a dagger and she’s not afraid to use it (on herself of course – this is a romantic plot after all, perhaps she’s even taking tips from Romeo and Juliet). She heads out and Henriquez runs into her arms. He wishes she were happier she’s bursting his bubble and ruining his feelings of love for her.
She is resolute and will not change, although he suggests to her she might. She curses and her father thinks she’s gone mad (again). Henriquez remains hopeful she’ll change. He father orders her either to be obedient or to get out. She promises to be dutiful even at the cost of her happiness. So he gives her away to Henriquez. Julio steps in between interrupting proceedings. He’s got time of claim on his side and endeavours to use this to his advantage (but he’s not obeying the statue orders of Leonora, naughty boy!). Henriquez then reveals that it was his orders which sent Julio to court (the sneaky man) and critiques him for leaving unfinished business behind. Julio is not having any of that. He’s been wronged and he wants the world to know! And if they can’t talk about it then he’ll seize her, he’ll fight for his love (perhaps even Cheryl Cole style..)!
Julio is seized and taken off her. At this Leonora faints (Much Ado flashback anyone?) or as Julio puts it, ‘she dies’. There’s a renaissance humour explanation for all of this but I won’t bore you with it for now, back to the action it is. As she faint a piece of paper falls from her hand. Don Bernard orders she be given air; Henriquez is more interested in the letter than the state of his love to be. Rude! The paper reveals that Leonora is suicidal (complete with dagger).He father takes this of proof of her madness while Henriquez orders she be taken to her chamber to rest and regain her strength and blood in her veins.
Henriquez blames her passions, because she is a woman, obviously!
Don Bernard, this wild tumult soon will cease,
The cause removed and all return to calmness.
Passions in women are as short in working,
As strong in their effect.
But in response his soul is on fire (is this a reference to his heated passions and lusty feelings for Leonora perhaps) at the delay of their joining.
New scene opens with Roderick (Henriquez’s brother), and he’s feeling suspicious, he neither sleeps nor eats. Camillo enters and Roderick is glad to see him but the feeling is certainly not mutual. Roderick’s brother has after all wronged Camillo’s son Julio. Roderick kind of saw this coming; he knew his brother was up to something. But just because they look alike doesn’t mean they’re the same person (he states emphatically).
Violante enters, and then swiftly retires. Roderick makes it clear he no longer wants to be associated with his brother – appearances are deceiving after all. Camillo begs his pardon, which Roderick gives. The citizen (aka letter boy) brings news of Julio’s interruption of the wedding. Camillo is not happy with the news, and is concerned for his son. Roderick hopes things will improve.
Don Bernard enters and blames himself entirely for the predicament – compares himself to a solitary old oak, beaten by weather from all sides. Camillo approaches and Don Bernard says he wishes he was dead and asks Camillo to kill him, he offers to draw. At which point Roderick enters. They’ve both lost sons (as has Roderick’s father) and this should unite them not cause them to fight: ‘let your joint sorrow be as balm to heal/These worunds of adverse fortune’. The shake hands and make up. Roderick suggests they split up to find these ‘lost friends’ of theirs.
Violante appears again, and vows to follow Henriquez to find the betrayer. The servant comes to let Violante know that her father is searching for her high and low. Violante then asks the informing servant for a shepherds disguise (yes, I know another disguise), she puts her trust in him and the scene ends.
New act and new scene time (we’re now in act 4) with a couple of shepherds which oddly I misread as superheroes. That would be quite a different play.. And they’re discussing a melancholic man who wanders the hills. The second shepherd (no not the one of the Second Shepherd’s Play) suspects a woman is the root of this bloke’s melancholic madness. He was even allured by their love-ditties. It’s Julio they’re talking about of course and right on cue in he comes. Raving ‘wild stuff’ about phoenixes and all kinds of things. In short, he’s lost it. He talks to them about love and its fleeting nature, their crying habits, he calls Violante a woman – she thinks he’s found her out the shepherds think this firm evidence of his madness. He tries to figure out why she’s sad and almost hits the nail on the head. He suggests she kills herself to get back at the bloke who’s wronged her. Needless to say she’s shocked at the advice. Julio vows to avenge her. He hallucinates that one of the shepherds is Henriquez and goes to kill, but just in time they rescue the shepherd from his grasp. Julio exits, the shepherds think a relocation (away from the madmen who seems a bit like Edgar from King Lear) is in order.
The Master is onto Violante and is certain she’s a woman. He tests this theory by asking her probing questions about the art of shepherdry. She tries to lie her wait out of the situation, then she runs out at the voice of Roderick. Having begged the Master to kill her. And then it’s the line we’ve all been waiting for. That’s right when Roderick asks directions to the nearest nunnery. I wonder if that’s an option in the latest sat navs..
The master knows but isn’t willing to spill the beans. Roderick is not impressed and is still looking for his brother, and lo and behold in enters Henriquez and he’s apologetic (or is he?) she’s hiding in a nunnery and the only way in Roderick thinks is to pretend to be bring a body. Obviously, knocking is far too mainstream! Thankfully there happens to be a spare hearse nearby. Henriquez whispers to Gerald who swiftly exits. Although Roderick is happy to help he makes it clear to Henriquez that for the final wooing he must ask his father’s permission. Henriquez assure him he’s made a good choice, she’s noble and a virgin what more could you want. Roderick is slightly concerned his brother might have hazy vision thanks to his love, but prepares to enact their plan.
New scene with Julio and a couple of gentlemen also concerned about his mental health. Violante sings nearby. His sorrow is as a result of his love as he attempts to explain to gentlemen one who has never felt love. He’s touched by the music. Violante enters and laments the sad state of the world, Julio is moved but says nothing so Violante continues. He comes to the conclusion she must be sent from heave since she’s not Leonora.
Julio wants to know if she’s weeping. Yep, say’s the gentlemen ‘ she weeps extremely’ she’s about to leave and Julio figures out who she is, yes she is indeed that ‘hopeless Violante’, he declares his own identity – though they both feel they have lost who they ever were. Grief got in the way of them determining each other’s identities before now. Julio suggests they compare woes and off they go.
New act and scene. Act 5 the last one of the play, though there are still a couple of scenes to go with an epilogue to boot.
Roderick, Leonora, Henriquez and mourners enter. Leonora is unsure where she is, not the nunnery Roderick helpfully replies (Gloucester from King Lear flashback anyone?). He reveals to her their sneaky plan and Henriquez’s real love. She thought better of Roderick than this; she didn’t expect him to help his sinful brother. She asks him – if he’s taking her – to protect her from his brother. Henriquez declares his love passionately which as far as she’s concerned only makes matters worse, ‘this well-disssembled passion/Has gained you nothing but a deeper hate’. She doesn’t know whether she can stomach his poisonous passion. Roderick asks her to go along with them and learn the truth. As they go to leave Violante grabs Roderick, she thanks him for saving him and tells him she was once in love with his brother, on knowledge of this news he is determined to ‘sound the depths of falsehood’ and boy he is not happy with his brother’s behaviour. He asks Violante to take him to Julio.
New scene, the last of the play. Duke, Don Bernard and Camillo are present (there’s something strangely Poirot-esque about the final scenes of some Renaissance plays when all the characters are brough back in and their real selves, and indeed character development throughout the play, are revealed). Camillo’s grave is beckoning and things are not looking good for his son. He has decided he’s cried too much and deserves to be hung. The Duke thinks Camillo is mourning like a man, Don Bernard is behaving like an April forecast: rain, wind, and shine all over the place but the Duke can empathise. He feels the same. They hope things will have changed and Roderick’s delay is not something to be alarmed about. A Gentlemen enters to let them know Roderick is en route, with a hearse (they suspect the worst – and think Henriquez dead).
He enters and they beg to know fresh news, ‘Do you bring joy or grief, my lord?’ Camillo is ready for death (as he keeps reminding us), he hopes those he ahas brough with him will help explain. Henriquez begs pardon from Camillo and his own father. Leonora is also there, Violante offers to show herself but is frequently dismissed, the Duke notices this and queries who she is. Roderick tells Henriquez who Violante is in coded words, and he (I imagine) goes redder and redder as realisation sets in. Violante claims her name is Florio. Henriquez claims never to have seen ‘the boy’ before. Violante is sick of not being believed and begs to bring in a witness. After she leaves Roderick reads, and it’s Henriquez’s words to Violante.
Henriquez confesses and begs his dad’s pardon. Julio enters disguised and Violante enters, as herself. Violante doesn’t come to demand anything except her honour with which she will die remaining faithful to Henriquez. He’s horrified at what he’s done and asks if she’ll take him back. He apologies for forcing himself on Leonora. Then Leonora is introduced to the disguised Julio, when she realises they hug with happiness, well it’s been a long time coming, as Roderick say’s: ‘Let ’em alone; they’re almost starved for kisses’. Camillo doesn’t recognise his son when he recognises his son and Leonora he leaps with joy. Yes literally.
Everyone is happy, and forgiveness is offered all round, fathers give away their children conscious perhaps of the dangers of parents deciding their children’s futures as witness earlier in the play and in the words spoken after the discovery of the bodies of Romeo and Juliet. Duke wishes them all the best and promises to ensure they are happily married (both couples). And with that the curtain falls. But the play isn’t quite over. It’s time for an epilogue. Which gives us (Aesops fables style) the moral of the play. Just in case you haven’t quite got it. But we are warned against any kind of ‘knowing better’. It’s no good being high and mighty and thinking these things only occurred in Renaissance times, as the epilogue hints at although perhaps there really is no hint of irony in the words when she calls the times in which this version of the play was produced as a ‘reforming age’. Sadly the same may not be said today. But, and this is a semi-Shakespeare play after all, the epilogue ends with a toast to Shakespeare. And there endeth the play, a play-a-day (at least for now), and the collection of ten which make up Shakespeare & Others: Collaborative Plays.