March 26, 2019
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18th century "Don Quixote" theater adaptation rediscovered in USA

 A handout photo from Oviedo University of professor Emilio Martínez Mata who has rediscovered a manuscript by James Wadham Whitchurch, titled

A handout photo from Oviedo University of professor Emilio Martínez Mata who has rediscovered a manuscript by James Wadham Whitchurch, titled "Don Quixote, A Comedy" (1774-1776) considered a previously unkown adaptation of Miguel Cervantes' novel. EFE/Universidad de Oviedo

Oviedo, Spain, Mar 13 (efe-epa).- A professor specializing in the Golden Age of Spanish Literature has found a manuscript at a library at Harvard University in the United States that was believed to be an unknown 18th century theatrical adaptation of Miguel de Cervantes' "Don Quixote," the Spanish researcher told EFE on Wednesday.

The as yet unprinted manuscript titled "Don Quixote, A Comedy" (1774-76), has been attributed to James Wadham Whitchurch and was discovered by Emilio Marínez Mata at Houghton Library, which has since published an article about the find in its latest bulletin.

The newly discovered book is reminiscent of "The History of Cardenio," — William Shakespeare and John Fletcher's lost play which is thought to have been based on an early scene from Cervantes' Quixote — but, Martínez Mata said, was different in that this adaptation was throughout very true to the original.

The Wadham Whitchurch play gave, according to the expert, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza (Quixote's trustworthy squire) an accurate characterization to that featured in Cervantes' renowned novel.

The Harvard Library Bulletin has published the Wadham Whitchurch comedy with an introduction and notes by both Martínez Mata and Clark Colahan, a former Spanish professor at Whitman College in Washington.

The professor said that Cervantes interspersed the adventures of Don Quixote in order to discuss the moral conundrums of the time and how the iniquitous actions of some characters affected others, and that Whitchurch was true to this narrative except for some alterations made to adapt the story to a play script.

Whitchurch, an Anglican priest known for his "An Essay Upon Education," also managed to portray the ethical sentimentalism which was so prevalent during the Age of English Enlightenment, Martínez Mata continued.

"(The author also incorporated) a kind interpretation of human nature based on Shaftesbury's (Anthony Ashley-Cooper, Third Earl of Shaftesbury) idea of morality, which was hugely influential on British thinkers of the 18th century, particularly David Hume, Francis Hutcheson and Adam Smith."

Martínez Mata is of the view that Whitchurch managed, with his adaptation of Don Quixote, "an expression of the new values of England during its Age of Reason, benevolence and empathy."

One of the founding examples of modern literature, Don Quixote follows the adventures of Alonso Quixano, a nobleman of questionable sanity who becomes so obsessed with romance novels that he decides to up sticks, become a knight and travel the arid lands of Castilla la Mancha under his pseudonym Don Quixote with his squire, a simple farmer called Sancho Panza.

The Ingenious Nobleman Sir Quixote of La Mancha was first published in 1605.

The first theatrical adaptation of the novel featuring the eccentric knight and his faithful Sancho took place in London, England, in 1611.

Miguel de Cervantes died aged 68 in Madrid in 1616.

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