Still the Shakespeare cop was not ready to make an arrest until he undertook a second reading of this travesty. I've always believed that one of the reasons I continue to read and reread Shakespeare is that each rereading takes me ever deeper into the mysteries that don't disclose themselves on first reading. One mystery being the mystery of what, exactly, we mean when we say something is "Shakespearean." What is the signature of his vision or the keynote of his ear? Close reading—and rereading—is the Shakespeare cop's CSI.
And by that method, that standard, after two readings of the Arden "Shakespeare" Double Falsehood the cop has this to say: Busted! I charge Arden with misrepresenting Shakespeare, selling a subprime imitation.
You have to read the whole play to understand how truly, madly, deeply bad it is, but let me exhibit some snippets of evidence. The play's flaws lie not just in the language but in the laughable plotting. Consider the moment in Act 4 when one of the two brothers at the center of the play, Roderick, comes up with a crazy plan—so crazy it just might work! It involves their attempt to find Roderick's brother Henriquez's intended bride, Leonora, who loathes him so much she's fled to a nunnery. (Thus the fabulous line "Tell me the way to the next nunnery.")
Of course, there's the problem of how to get into the no-males-allowed nunnery once they find it. Hey, what if we pretended we were monks carrying a corpse to a funeral? Roderick asks his brother. Then they'd let us into the nunnery! And what do you know!? As soon Roderick comes up with the idea, his brother, Henriquez, sights a vacant hearse passing by! Who woulda thunk it? A stroke of luck like that. Or as Theobald has one of them exclaim about this stroke of good luck: "And, opportune, a vacant Hearse pass'd by from Rites but new perform'd."
Don't you love "And, opportune," a hearse passed by? Opportune, indeed. Has anything more clumsy been done in the name of Shakespeare, who was so masterful at masking the fluidity of plot manipulation? It's less like Shakespeare than Shakespeare's poor befuddled Mechanicals, trying to put on a play with comic ineptitude in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Proponents of Shakespearean involvement in Double Falsehood are always quoting passages in which Theobald uses phrases that Shakespeare used. Voila! Must be Shakespeare's work! Really, that's the quality of most of the argument.
But the fact the same words and phrases in both Shakespeare and Theobald doesn't meant that Shakespeare wrote Theobald's play; all it means is that Theobald read Shakespeare. (Lucky Shakespeare, not having to read Theobald!) The author of Double Falsehood may have deliberately used Shakespearean words and phrases in order to make his "discovery" a more credible facsimile.
Editor Hammond brings forth all sorts of quantitative stylemetric analysis—unconvincing to me—in support of his shaky (self-doubting) case for Double Falsehood. What I'd like to do is make use of a slim volume defending the Shakespearean attribution, written by one Henry Salerno, a former professor of English and exhibits the fallacy of Shakespearean allusions by giving us some one hundred instances of a word appearing in both authors work.
Consider one of my favorite felicitous Theobald phrases: "Fair snouted skittish woman" Salerno finds Shakespeare using "skittish" but ignores Theobald's yucky "fair-snouted" which is not to be found in Shakespeare. A phrase which no emendation by Salerno ("fair-snouted" can mean "fair-faced" according to the OED, he tells us) can remedy. I'm sorry, try calling your girlfriend "fair snouted" and then tell her, if she's ever speaking to you again, that it's Shakespearean compliment.
Or, since we're speaking of snouts, how about "broken your complexion" from Theobald, which Salerno points out shares the word "broken" with a line in Troilus and Cressida, that brilliant, dark, and savagely comic play that uses the phrase "broken music." Theobald's use, by contrast, suggests acne or broken wind.