First published in 1728, Double Falsehood was written by Lewis Theobald, who claimed to have adapted it from three original Shakespeare manuscripts, which were subsequently destroyed in a library fire. One is claimed to have been Cardenio, a play widely accepted as being a lost Shakespeare play, and regarded as something of a Holy Grail by Shakespeareans. Other scripts alleging to be the lost Cardenio have surfaced over the years.
The Independent of London reported that researchers at the University of Texas combined psychological theory and text analyzing software on Shakespeare's accepted plays "to build up a profile of Shakespearean characteristics and linguistic patterns." As a result, the researchers “strongly identified” Double Falsehood as coming from the same author.
Thirty-three plays by Shakespeare, twelve by Theobald and nine by Shakespeare's collaborator John Fletcher were examined in the study published in Psychological Science.
In the meantime, Double Falsehood already enjoyed a New York premiere at Classic Stage Company Off-Broadway in March 2011. Artistic director Brian Kulick directed Theobald's script in what was billed as its first professional staging in 250 years.
According to CSC notes for the 2011 production, Double Falsehood "is now believed to be an adaptation of the long-lost play Cardenio by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher that was rediscovered and adapted in the 18th century by Lewis Theobald." The CSC cast included Clayton Apgar, Jon DeVries, Bryce Gill, Helen Hayes Award winner Philip Goodwin, Slate Holmgren, 2011 Helen Hayes Award nominee Mackenzie Meehan and Hayley Treider.
The play has prompted a spirited debate, according to CSC, having been called both "a piece of fraudulence" (Ron Rosenbaum, Slate Magazine) and "brilliant and unusual…the Bard’s style and influence seem irrefutable" (The Observer).
The Times of London wrote, "For the most part of three centuries Double Falsehood has been ridiculed as a hoax. That all changed when the Arden Shakespeare, one of the best regarded scholarly editions of Shakespeare's works, endorsed its credentials and made it available."