When comparing Shakespeare’s body of work to Robert De Niro’s (“frayed at both edges”) I failed to account for a particular factor that Frank Skinner points out in his comparison to Michael Jackson: Once the artist is dead, our attitude toward his work changes.
So it is with Cardenio, or a new Michael Jackson CD, or a new Dr. Seuss book or Frank Herbert or Robert Heinlein, or a new John Hughes movie. When a creator of things we like is taken from us, we’re sad because something in our brain says, “No more stuff from that person.” So then we hear that there might still be more stuff and we’re all, “Hurray! More stuff!” We are so excited, in fact, that we are more willing to overlook the obvious (which kinda gets back to my point) – there may be a reason why this “lost” material was lost to begin with. Maybe it’s just not any good. Maybe the creator never intended for it to be produced. Maybe it wasn’t finished.
An even worse fate that the publishing of unpublished work is when somebody continues it for you. We are so desperate for that new work that, when we hear it is unfinished and therefore we can’t have it, somebody steps up and says, “I’ll finish it!” At this point it’s easy to be torn, because one side of your brain says “Hurray, I get more stuff after all!” but the other side is still able to say, “Hey wait a second, Eoin Colfer, you’re no Douglas Adams !” But still, partial new content is better than nothing, right? Maybe?
I expect this is where Cardenio ends up. Assuming it is real, who knows what state it was in when Theobald got his hands on it? He “punched it up” a bit. It appears now that Brean Hammond and the folks at Arden have done the same thing. So no, it’s not like somebody opened up a desk drawer and found a complete script for “Cardenio, by William Shakespeare ” sitting there waiting for the world to see. But we knew that was never going to happen. Heck, we don’t have *any* of the plays in that sort of form. If it’s legit, this is really the closest we’d ever come to a “new” Shakespeare play.