A rare edition of Shakespeare’s last play has been found in a Scottish Catholic college in Spain.
The volume dating to 1634 was found by an academic researching Scots economist Adam Smith. The Two Noble Kinsmen, written by Shakespeare with John Fletcher, was found by a researcher investigating the work of the Scots economist Adam Smith. The 1634 volume could be the oldest Shakespearean work in the country.
In the 17th Century the seminary in Madrid was an important source of English literature for Spanish intellectuals.
The Two Noble Kinsmen was included in a volume made up of several English plays printed from 1630 to 1635. “Friendship turns to rivalry in this study of the intoxication and strangeness of love,” is how the Royal Shakespeare Company described the play, which is based on Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale.
It was probably written around 1613-14 by Shakespeare and John Fletcher, one of the house playwrights in the Bard’s theatre company the King’s Men. The Jacobean tragicomedy is believed to have been Shakespeare’s final play before he retired to Stratford-on-Avon. He died there in 1616 at the age of 52. Described as a “tragicomedy” the play features best friends, who are knights captured in a battle. From the window of their prison they see a beautiful woman with whom they each fall in love. Within a moment they have turned from intimate friends to jealous rivals in a strange love story which features absurd adventures and confusions.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, English book collections were scarce in Spain due to ecclesiastical censorship, but the Scottish college had special permission to import whatever it wanted.
English plays were exceptionally rare at the time – and Shakespeare’s earliest work in Spain was previously thought to be a volume found at the English Royal College of Saint Alban in Valladolid.
It is believed to have arrived in Spain within a decade of the volume found at the Scottish College.
Scots College rector Father Tom Kilbride said the college was proud that such an important work had been discovered in its library.