Thomas D’Urfey (1653-1723) was one the most prolific Restoration playwrights, and his works covered all literary genres: stage works (encompassing tragedy, dramatic opera, comedy, masque, and musical comedy); songs ranging from solemn elegies to bawdy ditties; poems of every description from political satire to panegyrics; and English translations of French and Italian tales.
His «Comical History of Don Quixote Part I», written and first performed in 1694 at the Dorset Garden Theatre in London, represents the oldest surviving theatrical recreation of Miguel de Cervantes Saavreda’s great novel in English. From the initial publication of «El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha» in 1605, the English reading public became fascinated by the antics of the would-be knight errant and his country squire, Sancho Panza. The novel’s first published translation into English by Thomas Shelton in 1612 likely inspired William Shakespeare and John Fletcher’s collaborative work entitled «The History of Cardenio», based on the interpolated episodes of Cardenio in «Don Quixote». This play is now lost but is known to have been performed in 1613.
This critical edition of D’Urfey’s adaptation produced by Luca Baratta presents modern readers with a thorough understanding of the play’s significance within the historical context of late-seventeenth century England, and the first translation of the play into Spanish by Aaron M. Kahn and Vicente Chacón Carmona opens the work to an entirely new audience.
D’Urfey’s conception of a play based on the masterpiece of the celebrated writer and dramaturge from Alcalá de Henares and its success in theatres provide further evidence that not only was the story and its characters entertaining to the English public, but also that they had become very well known.