The Double Falsehood of Double Falsehood
A respected edition of Shakespeare self-destructively tries to "extend the brand."
Oh, here's another good one: The Theobald line is "soul-spotted hind"; the line from Shakespeare, "shallow cowardly hind." QED! Slam dunk! Game over!
(Except, um, what could "soul-spotted" mean?)
And how about this brilliant Theobald line: "hurt my brain." Yes Lear contains the line "cut to the brains," but Theobald's line—and not just this one, all of them—hurts my brain.
But hark! Another goody from Theobald the Dunce's Double Falsehood, allegedly by Shakespeare: "aught of humane in you or a soul that's gentle." Which causes Salerno to point to Shakespeare's line, "But touched with humane gentleness and love." Simple and beautiful (from Merchant of Venice) while "aught of humane in you" argues that Theobald suffered from a language learning deficit.
OK, one more:
"Sounds the depths of falsehood" is from Double Falsehood. Here Salerno refers us to Hamlet's "You would sound from me my lowest note ..."
But Salerno may have missed a clue. "Depths of falsehood" within a Double Falsehood: Could Theobald be winking at us? I hope so.
But I doubt it. This play really is the botched comic gift that keeps on giving. Consider this lame joke from Act 4:
Roderick: Good even my friend. I thought you all had been asleep in this country.
Master [of the shepherds]: You had lied then, for you were awaking when you thought so.
Get it? Roderick says he thought everyone was asleep, but he himself wasn't asleep! Which would make sense if he had not said: I thought you people were asleep. It's a witless example of an attempt at Shakespearean wit. But, hey, Arden wants you to believe this is somehow worthy of the Arden Shakepeare of seal of approval.
Ron Rosenbaum is the author of The Shakespeare Wars and Explaining Hitler. His latest book is How the End Begins: The Road to a Nuclear World War III.
Illustration by Charlie Powell.