Double Falsehood, or, The Distrest Lovers
By Lewis Theobald (1688-1744)

A man of letters, Lewis Theobald wrote plays, poems, and criticism, as well as translations of classical works into English. In response to Pope's Shakespear of 1725, he published in 1726 Shakespeare restored, or, A specimen of the many errors as well committed, as unamended, by Mr. Pope in his late edition of this poet (1726). When a noble patron, probably the earl of Orrery, presented Theobald with a manuscript of Cardenio by Shakespeare and Fletcher, Theobald acquired two extra manuscripts and revised the play as Double Falshood, or, The Distrest Lovers (1728). Although enemies suggested that the play was a forgery, it was successful on stage. Though his success was insufficient to garner him the poet laureateship, Theobald's 1734 edition of Shakespeare was published in seven volumes, and earned considerable profits. His text, with 1356 explanatory notes, was the most popular in the eighteenth century.

Double Falsehood is available in the Arden Shakespeare.

Act  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5


Written by Philip Frowde, Esq;
And spoken by Mr. Wilks.

As in some Region, where indulgent Skies
Enrich the Soil, a thousand Plants arise
Frequent and bold; a thousand Landskips meet
Our ravisht View, irregularly sweet:
We gaze, divided, now on These, now Those;
While All one beauteous Wilderness compose.

Such Shakespeare’s Genius was: — Let Britons boast
The glorious Birth, and, eager, strive who most
Shall celebrate his Verse; for while we raise
Trophies of Fame to him, ourselves we praise:
Display the Talents of a British mind,
Where All is great, free, open, unconfin’d.
Be it our Pride, to reach his daring Flight;
And relish Beauties, he alone could write.

Most modern Authors, fearful to aspire,
With Imitation cramp their genial Fire;
The well-schemed Plan keep strict before their Eyes,

Dwell on Proportions, trifling Decencies;
While noble Nature all neglected lies.
Nature, that claims Precedency of Place,
Perfection’s Basis, and essential Grace!
Nature so intimately Shakespeare knew,
From her first Springs his Sentiments he drew;
Most greatly wild they flow; and, when most wild, yet true.

While These, secure in what the Criticks teach,
Of servile Laws still dread the dangerous Breach;
His vast, unbounded, Soul disdain’d their Rule,
Above the Precepts of the Pedant School!

Oh! could the Bard, revisiting our Light,
Receive these Honours done his Shade To-night,
How would he bless the Scene this Age displays,
Transcending his Eliza’s golden Days!
When great Augustus fills the British Throne,
And his lov’d Consort makes the Muse her own.
How would he joy, to see fair Merit’s Claim
Thus answer’d in his own reviving Fame!
How cry with Pride — Oblivion I forgive;
This my last Child to latest Times shall live:
Lost to the World, well for the Birth it stay’d
To this auspicious Æra well delay’d.


Written by a Friend.
Spoken by Mrs. Oldfield.

Well, Heaven defend us from these ancient Plays,
These Moral Bards of good Queen Bess’s Days!
They write from Virtue’s Laws, and think no further;
But draw a Rape as dreadful as a Murther.
You modern Wits, more deeply vers’d in Nature,
Can tip the wink, to tell us, you know better;
As who shou’d say— ’Tis no such killing Matter.—
We’ve heard old Stories told, and yet ne’er wonder’d,
Of many a Prude, that has endur’d a Hundred:
And Violante grieves, or we’re mistaken,
Not, because ravisht; but because — forsaken.—

Had this been written to the modern Stage,
Her Manners had been copy’d from the Age.
Then, tho’ she had been once a little wrong,
She still had had the Grace to’ve held her Tongue;
And after all, with downcast Looks, been led
Like any Virgin to the Bridal Bed.
There, if the good Man question’d her Mis-doing,
She’d stop him short— Pray, who made you so knowing?
What, doubt my Virtue!— What’s your base Intention?
Sir, that’s a Point above your Comprehension.—

Well, Heav’n be prais’d, the Virtue of our Times
Secures us from our Gothick Grandsires’ Crimes.
Rapes, Magick, new Opinions, which before
Have fill’d our Chronicles, are now no more:
And this reforming Age may justly boast,
That dreadful Sin Polygamy is lost.
So far from multiplying Wives, ’tis known
Our Husbands find, they’ve Work enough with one.—
Then, as for Rapes, those dangerous days are past;
Our Dapper Sparks are seldom in such haste.

In Shakespeare’s Age the English Youth inspir’d,
Lov’d, as they fought, by him and Beauty fir’d.
’Tis yours to crown the Bard, whose Magick Strain
Cou’d charm the Heroes of that glorious Reign,
Which humbled to the Dust the Pride of Spain.

Dramatis Personae.

Duke Angelo. Mr. Corey.
Roderick, his Elder Son. Mr. Mills.
Henriquez, his Younger Son. Mr. Wilks.
Don Bernard, Father to Leonora. Mr. Harper.
Camillo, Father to Julio. Mr. Griffin.
Julio, in Love with Leonora. Mr. Booth.
Citizen. Mr. Oates.
Master of the Flocks. Mr. Bridgewater.
First Shepherd. Mr. Norris.
Second Shepherd. Mr. Ray.
[A Churchman.]
[Fabian, a Clown.]
[Lopez, another.]
[Gerald, servant to Henriquez.]
[Servant to Henriquez.]
[Servant to Violante.]
A Gentleman
Leonora. Mrs. Porter.
Violante. Mrs. Booth.
[Maid to Leonora.]
[Maid to Violante.]
Gentlemen, Servants, Musicians, Attendants to Leonora, etc.

Scene, the Province of Andalusia in Spain.

Double Falshood; or,
The Distrest Lovers.

Act I. Scene I.

Scene, A Royal Palace.

Duke Angelo, Roderick, and Courtiers.

My gracious Father, this unwonted Strain
Visits my heart with Sadness.

Duke.                                     Why, my Son?
Making my Death familiar to my Tongue
Digs not my Grave one Jot before the Date.
I’ve worn the Garland of my Honours long,
And would not leave it wither’d to thy Brow,
But flourishing and green; worthy the Man,
Who, with my Dukedoms, heirs my better Glories.

Roder. This Praise, which is my Pride, spreads me with Blushes.

Duke. Think not, that I can flatter thee, my Roderick;
Or let the Scale of Love o’er-poize my Judgment.
Like a fair Glass of Retrospection, Thou
Reflect’st the Virtues of my early Youth;
Making my old Blood mend its Pace with Transport:
While fond Henriquez, thy irregular Brother,
Sets the large Credit of his Name at Stake,
A Truant to my Wishes, and his Birth.
His Taints of Wildness hurt our nicer Honour,
And call for swift Reclaim.

Roder.                                I trust, my Brother
Will, by the Vantage of his cooler Wisdom,
E’er-while redeem the hot Escapes of Youth,
And court Opinion with a golden Conduct.

Duke. Be Thou a Prophet in that kind Suggestion!
But I, by Fears weighing his unweigh’d Course,
Interpret for the Future from the Past.
And strange Misgivings, why he hath of late
By Importunity, and strain’d Petition,
Wrested our Leave of Absence from the Court,
Awake Suspicion. Thou art inward with him;
And, haply, from the bosom’d Trust can’st shape
Some formal Cause to qualify my Doubts.

Roder. Why he hath press’d this Absence, Sir, I know not;
But have his Letters of a modern Date,
Wherein by Julio, good Camillo’s Son,
(Who, as he says, shall follow hard upon;
And whom I with the growing Hour expect:)
He doth sollicit the Return of Gold
To purchase certain Horse, that like him well.
This Julio he encounter’d first in France,
And lovingly commends him to my Favour;
Wishing, I would detain him some few Days,
To know the Value of his well-placed Trust.

Duke. O, do it, Roderick; and assay to mould him
An honest Spy upon thy Brother’s Riots.
Make us acquainted when the Youth arrives;
We’ll see this Julio, and he shall from Us
Receive the secret Loan his Friend requires.
Bring him to Court.


Scene II. Prospect of a Village at a Distance.

Enters Camillo with a Letter.

Cam. How comes the Duke to take such Notice of my Son, that he must needs have him in Court, and I must send him upon the View of his Letter? — Horsemanship! What Horsemanship has Julio? I think, he can no more but gallop a Hackney, unless he practised Riding in France. It may be, he did so; for he was there a good Continuance. But I have not heard him speak much of his Horsemanship. That’s no Matter: if he be not a good Horseman, all’s one in such a Case, he must bear. Princes are absolute; they may do what they will in any Thing, save what they cannot do.

Enters Julio.

O, come on, Sir; read this Paper: no more Ado, but read it: It must not be answer’d by my Hand, nor yours, but, in Gross, by your Person; your sole Person. Read aloud.

Jul. ’Please you, to let me first o’erlook it, Sir.

Cam. I was this other day in a Spleen against your new Suits: I do now think, some Fate was the Taylour that hath fitted them: for, this Hour, they are for the Palace of the Duke. — Your Father’s House is too dusty.

Jul. Hem!— to Court? Which is the better, to serve a Mistress, or a Duke? I am sued to be his Slave, and I sue to be Leonora’s.      [ Aside.

Cam. You shall find your Horsemanship much praised there; Are you so good a Horseman?

Jul. I have been,
E’er now, commended for my Seat, or mock’d.

Cam. Take one Commendation with another, every Third’s a Mock.— Affect not therefore to be praised. Here’s a deal of Command and Entreaty mixt; there’s no denying; you must go, peremptorily he inforces That.

Jul. What Fortune soever my Going shall encounter, cannot be good Fortune; What I part withal unseasons any other Goodness.           [Aside.

Cam. You must needs go; he rather conjures, than importunes.

Jul. No moving of my Love-Suit to him now?—


Cam. Great Fortunes have grown out of less Grounds.

Jul. What may her Father think of me, who expects to be sollicited this very Night?           [Aside.

Cam. Those scatter’d Pieces of Virtue, which are in him, the Court will solder together, varnish, and rectify.

Jul. He will surely think I deal too slightly, or unmannerly, or foolishly, indeed; nay, dishonestly; to bear him in hand with my Father’s Consent, who yet hath not been touch’d with so much as a Request to it.           [Aside.

Cam. Well, Sir, have you read it over?

Jul. Yes, Sir.

Cam. And consider’d it?

Jul. As I can.

Cam. If you are courted by good Fortune, you must go.

Jul. So it please You, Sir.

Cam. By any Means, and to morrow: Is it not there the Limit of his Request?

Jul. It is, Sir.

Cam. I must bethink me of some Necessaries, without which you might be unfurnish’d: And my Supplies shall at all Convenience follow You. Come to my Closet by and by; I would there speak with You.

[Exit Camillo.

Manet Julio solus.

Jul. I do not see that Fervour in the Maid,
Which Youth and Love should kindle. She consents,
As ’twere to feed without an Appetite;
Tells me, She is content; and plays the Coy one,
Like Those that subtly make their Words their Ward,
Keeping Address at Distance. This Affection
Is such a feign’d One, as will break untouch’d;
Dye frosty, e’er it can be thaw’d; while mine,
Like to a Clime beneath Hyperion’s Eye,
Burns with one constant Heat. I’ll strait go to her;
Pray her to regard my Honour: but She greets me.—

Enter Leonora, and Maid.

See, how her Beauty doth inrich the Place!
O, add the Musick of thy charming Tongue,
Sweet as the Lark that wakens up the Morn,
And make me think it Paradise indeed.
I was about to seek thee, Leonora,
And chide thy Coldness, Love.

Leon.                                   What says your Father?

Jul. I have not mov’d him yet.

Leon.                                       Then do not, Julio.

Jul. Not move him? Was it not your own Command,
That his Consent should ratify our Loves?

Leon. Perhaps, it was: but now I’ve chang’d my Mind.
You purchase at too dear a Rate, that puts You
To wooe me and your Father too: Besides,
As He, perchance, may say, you shall not have me;
You, who are so obedient, must discharge me
Out of your Fancy:Then, you know, ’twill prove
My Shame and Sorrow, meeting such Repulse,
To wear the Willow in my Prime of Youth.

Jul. Oh! do not rack me with these ill-placed Doubts;
Nor think, tho’ Age has in my Father’s Breast
Put out Love’s Flame, he therefore has not Eyes,
Or is in Judgment blind. You wrong your Beauties,
Venus will frown if you disprize her Gifts,
That have a Face would make a frozen Hermit
Leap from his Cell, and burn his Beads to kiss it;
Eyes, that are nothing but continual Births
Of new Desires in Those that view their Beams.
You cannot have a Cause to doubt.

Leon.                                          Why, Julio?
When you that dare not chuse without your Father,
And, where you love, you dare not vouch it; must not,
Though you have Eyes, see with ’em; — can I, think you,
Somewhat, perhaps, infected with your Suit,
Sit down content to say, You would, but dare not?

Jul. Urge not Suspicions of what cannot be;
You deal unkindly; mis-becomingly,
I’m loth to say: For All that waits on you,
Is graced, and graces. — No Impediment
Shall bar my Wishes, but such grave Delays
As Reason presses Patience with; which blunt not,
But rather whet our Loves. Be patient, Sweet.

Leon. Patient! What else? My Flames are in the Flint.
Haply, to lose a Husband I may weep;
Never, to get One: When I cry for Bondage,
Let Freedom quit me.

Jul.                             From what a Spirit comes This?
I now perceive too plain, you care not for me.
Duke, I obey thy Summons, be its Tenour
Whate’er it will: If War, I come thy Souldier:
Or if to waste my silken Hours at Court,
The Slave of Fashion, I with willing Soul
Embrace the lazy Banishment for Life;
Since Leonora has pronounc’d my Doom.

Leon. What do you mean? Why talk you of the Duke?
Wherefore of War, or Court, or Banishment?

Jul. How this new Note is grown of me, I know not;
But the Duke writes for Me. Coming to move
My Father in our Bus’ness, I did find him
Reading this Letter; whose Contents require
My instant Service, and Repair to Court.

Leon. Now I perceive the Birth of these Delays;
Why Leonora was not worth your Suit.
Repair to Court? Ay, there you shall, perhaps,
(Rather, past Doubt;) behold some choicer Beauty,
Rich in her Charms, train’d to the Arts of Soothing,
Shall prompt you to a Spirit of Hardiness,
To say, So please you, Father, I have chosen
This Mistress for my own. —

Jul.                                    Still you mistake me:
Ever your Servant I profess my self;
And will not blot me with a Change, for all
That Sea and Land inherit.

Leon.                            But when go you?

Jul. To morrow, Love; so runs the Duke’s Command;
Stinting our Farewell-kisses, cutting off
The Forms of Parting, and the Interchange
Of thousand precious Vows, with Haste too rude.
Lovers have Things of Moment to debate,
More than a Prince, or dreaming Statesman, know:
Such Ceremonies wait on Cupid’s Throne.
Why heav’d that Sigh?

Leon.                      O Julio, let me whisper
What, but for Parting, I should blush to tell thee:
My Heart beats thick with Fears, lest the gay Scene,
The Splendors of a Court, should from thy Breast
Banish my Image, kill my Int’rest in thee,
And I be left, the Scoff of Maids, to drop
A Widow’s Tear for thy departed Faith.

Jul. O let Assurance, strong as Words can bind,
Tell thy pleas’d Soul, I will be wond’rous faithful;
True, as the Sun is to his Race of Light,
As Shade to Darkness, as Desire to Beauty:
And when I swerve, let Wretchedness o’ertake me,
Great as e’er Falshood met, or Change can merit.

Leon. Enough; I’m satisfied: and will remain
Yours, with a firm and untir’d Constancy.
Make not your Absence long: Old Men are wav’ring;
And sway’d by Int’rest more than Promise giv’n.
Should some fresh Offer start, when you’re away,
I may be prest to Something, which must put
My Faith, or my Obedience, to the Rack.

Jul. Fear not, but I with swiftest Wing of Time
Will labour my Return. And in my Absence,
My noble Friend, and now our honour’d Guest,
The Lord Henriquez, will in my behalf
Hang at your Father’s Ear, and with kind Hints,
Pour’d from a friendly Tongue, secure my Claim;
And play the Lover for thy absent Julio.

Leon. Is there no Instance of a Friend turn’d false?
Take Heed of That: No Love by Proxy, Julio.
My Father—;

Enters Don Bernard.

D. Bern. What, Julio, in publick? This Wooeing is too urgent. Is your Father yet moved in the Suit, who must be the prime Unfolder of this Business?

Jul. I have not yet, indeed, at full possess’d
My Father, whom it is my Service follows;
But only that I have a Wife in Chase.

D. Bern. Chase! — Let Chase alone: No Matter for That.— You may halt after her, whom you profess to pursue, and catch her too; Marry, not unless your Father let you slip. — Briefly, I desire you, (for she tells me, my Instructions shall be both Eyes and Feet to her;) no farther to insist in your Requiring, ’till, as I have formerly said, Camillo make known to Me, that his good Liking goes along with Us; which but once breath’d, all is done; ’till when, the Business has no Life, and cannot find a Beginning.

Jul. Sir, I will know his Mind, e’er I taste Sleep:
At Morn, you shall be learn’d in his Desire.
I take my Leave. — O virtuous Leonora,
Repose, sweet as thy Beauties, seal thy Eyes;
Once more, adieu. I have thy Promise, Love;
Remember, and be faithful.          [Ex. Julio.

D. Bern. His Father is as unsettled, as he is wayward, in his Disposition. If I thought young Julio’s Temper were not mended by the Mettal of his Mother, I should be something crazy in giving my Consent to this Match: And, to tell you true, if my Eyes might be the Directors to your Mind, I could in this Town look upon Twenty Men of more delicate Choice. I speak not This altogether to unbend your Affections to him: But the Meaning of what I say is, that you set such Price upon yourself to him, as Many, and much his Betters, would buy you at; (and reckon those Virtues in you at the rate of their Scarcity;) to which if he come not up, you remain for a better Mart.

Leon. My Obedience, Sir, is chain’d to your Advice.

D. Bern. ’Tis well said, and wisely. I fear, your Lover is a little Folly-tainted; which, shortly after it proves so, you will repent.

Leon. Sir, I confess, I approve him of all the Men I know; but that Approbation is nothing, ’till season’d by your Consent.

D. Bern. We shall hear soon what his Father will do, and so proceed accordingly. I have no great Heart to the Business, neither will I with any Violence oppose it: But leave it to that Power which rules in these Conjunctions, and there’s an End. Come; haste We homeward, Girl.           [Exeunt.

Scene III.

Enter Henriquez, and Servants with Lights.

Henr. Bear the Lights close: — Where is the Musick, Sirs?

Serv. Coming, my Lord.

Henr. Let ’em not come too near. This Maid,
For whom my Sighs ride on the Night’s chill Vapour,
Is born most humbly, tho’ she be as fair
As Nature’s richest Mould and Skill can make her,
Mended with strong Imagination.
But what of That? Th’ Obscureness of her Birth
Cannot eclipse the Lustre of her Eyes,
Which make her all One Light.— Strike up, my Masters;
But touch the Strings with a religious Softness;
Teach Sound to languish thro’ the Night’s dull Ear,
’Till Melancholy start from her lazy Couch,
And Carelessness grow Convert to Attention.

[Musick plays.

She drives me into Wonder, when I sometimes
Hear her discourse; The Court, whereof Report,
And Guess alone inform her, she will rave at,
As if she there sev’n Reigns had slander’d Time.
Then, when she reasons on her Country State,
Health, Virtue, Plainness, and Simplicity,
On Beauties true in Title, scorning Art,
Freedom as well to do, as think, what’s good;
My Heart grows sick of Birth and empty Rank,
And I become a Villager in Wish.
Play on; — She sleeps too sound: — Be still, and vanish:
A Gleam of Day breaks sudden from her Window:
O Taper, graced by that midnight Hand!

Violante appears above at her Window.

Viol. Who is’t, that wooes at this late Hour? What are you?

Henr. One, who for your dear Sake —

Viol.                                                      Watches the starless Night!
My Lord Henriquez, or my Ear deceives me.
You’ve had my Answer, and ’tis more than strange
You’ll combat these Repulses. Good my Lord,
Be Friend to your own Health; and give me Leave,
Securing my poor Fame, nothing to pity
What Pangs you swear you suffer. ’Tis impossible
To plant your choice Affections in my Shade,
At least, for them to grow there.

Henr.                                     Why, Violante?

Viol. Alas! Sir, there are Reasons numberless
To bar your Aims. Be warn’d to Hours more wholesom;
For, These you watch in vain. I have read Stories,
(I fear, too true ones;) how young Lords, like you,
Have thus besung mean Windows, rhymed their Sufferings
Ev’n to th’Abuse of Things Divine, set up
Plain Girls, like me, the Idols of their Worship,
Then left them to bewail their easie Faith,
And stand the World’s Contempt.

Henr.                                        Your Memory,
Too faithful to the Wrongs of few lost Maids,
Makes Fear too general.

Viol.                           Let us be homely,
And let us too be chast, doing you Lords no Wrong;
But crediting your Oaths with such a Spirit,
As you profess them: so no Party trusted
Shall make a losing Bargain. Home, my Lord,
What you can say, is most unseasonable; what sing,
Most absonant and harsh: Nay, your Perfume,
Which I smell hither, cheers not my Sense
Like our Field-violet’s Breath.

Henr.                                 Why this Dismission
Does more invite my Staying.

Viol.                                  Men of your Temper
Make ev’ry Thing their Bramble. But I wrong
That which I am preserving, my Maid’s Name,
To hold so long Discourse. Your Virtues guide you
T’effect some nobler Purpose!          [Ex. Violante.

Henr.                                 Stay, bright Maid!
Come back, and leave me with a fairer Hope.
She’s gone:—  Who am I, that am thus contemn’d?
The second Son to a Prince? — Yes; well; What then?
Why, your great Birth forbids you to descend
To a low Alliance: —  Her’s is the self-same Stuff,
Whereof we Dukes are made; but Clay more pure!
And take away my Title, which is acquir’d
Not by my self, but thrown by Fortune on Me,
Or by the Merit of some Ancestour
Of singular Quality, She doth inherit
Deserts t’outweigh me. — I must stoop to gain her;
Throw all my gay Comparisons aside,
And turn my proud Additions out of Service,
Rather than keep them to become my Masters.
     The Dignities we wear, are Gifts of Pride;
     And laugh’d at by the Wise, as meer Outside.


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