a novel in dialogue
Robin Chapman

Shakespeare and
Cervantes attend a fringe production
of Cardenio starring Don Quixote
and Sancho Panza.

"A work as Quixotic in style as its title implies, and as multiple in its play with meanings and connections, past and present. It is set in the theatre of Robin Chapman's mind, which proves a magical arena. This recovery of Shakespeare's lost play, Cardenio, is both topical and made to yield a treasure trove of information, textual, biographical and critical. Always in the spirit of high comedy. A real instance of subtle learning worn with a deceptive lightness of touch."
Jean Gooder

"Learned, structurally ingenious, evocative and pleasurable."
Karl Miller 

"The novel successfully creates the bustling action of early modern drama. Don Quixote and his squire furnish the perfect subplot. What distinguishes Chapman's work is its interrogation of adaptation itself. Compelling."
The Times Literary Supplement 


SHAKESPEARE’S DON QUIXOTE recreates what might have been: a lost play presented at Whitehall Palace in 1613.

On St Valentine’s day of that year King James’s daughter, Princess Elizabeth Stuart, married a German prince, the Elector Palatine. Shakespeare’s company – the King’s Men – provided fourteen plays for this magnificent state event. One was called Cardenio; registered for publication forty years later as by Mr Fletcher and, as an apparent afterthought, Shakespeare. The original script has never been found but an enigmatic 18th century version, retitled Double Falsehood, may contain echoes of their work together.

story occurs in Don Quixote, Cervantes’s instant, universal best-seller. The vexed teenage protagonist, along with three other young lovers, encounters the would-be knight errant and his sceptical squire.

If John Fletcher, as dramaturge-designate with the King’s Men, did draw Shakespeare’s attention to the story’s dramatic potential – he regularly raided Cervantes’s works for plots – it seems inconceivable that their collaboration would not have featured Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Shakespeare would have found them irresistible.

Acting upon this hypothesis Robin Chapman’s novel plays out today in a theatre of the mind. Among the audience the reader will find the attentive spirits of Shakespeare, Fletcher and Cervantes. Inevitably they soon become involved with each other and in the performance.