The Cardenio Project is an ongoing experiment in cultural mobility. In 2003, Charles Mee, a playwright, and Stephen Greenblatt, an English professor, collaborated in the writing of a play, Cardenio, inspired by a lost play of Shakespeare's. The play was performed at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2008. After the play had been drafted, Greenblatt contacted theater companies in different parts of the world and asked if they might be interested in reading the script and adapting it for a performance in their own cultural circumstances. With the aid of a generous grant from the Mellon Foundation, Greenblatt offered to pay for a translation of the play that he and Mee had written.
His only stipulation was that the play that would be eventually staged would not be a direct performance of this translated version. His interest, he explained, was in what happened when a story generated within one set of assumptions, preoccupations, constraints, and conventions was transmuted for performance in a very different world. Such a transmutation had taken place when the story of Cardenio, from Cervantes' Don Quixote, was adapted by Shakespeare and his collaborator Fletcher for the Jacobean stage. And another, more drastic transmutation had occurred when the surviving traces of this early seventeenth-century play had been taken up by Mee and Greenblatt as the starting point of their early twenty-first-century version.
Apart from the governing stipulation, no limits were set for the transformations, and no guidelines were given. This website brings together the text of Mee and Greenblatt's play and English translations of the versions produced in the countries involved in the experiment, along with clipss and other related materials. It also includes the relevant chapters of Cervantes' Don Quixote and Lewis Theobald's play Double Falsehood, which Theobald claimed was based on the manuscript of Shakespeare and Fletcher's Cardenio.