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The long-forgotten drama was published in 1634 as part of a volume of English plays intended for Spanish intellectuals and to help gain a greater understanding of the language. The Royal Shakespeare Company claimed the play was based on Geoffrey Chaucher’s ‘The Knight’s Tale’. The RSC described the plot as: “Friendship turns to rivalry in this study of the intoxication and strangeness of love”. The 386-year-old book was discovered by Dr John Stone in Salamanca, Spain, in the Royal Scots College.
Dr Stone explained that the play likely “arrived as part of some student’s personal library or at the request of the rector of the Royal Scots College, Hugh Semple”.
He believed it was acquired around 1635 by an English or Scottish traveller who “might have wanted to take these plays – all London editions – with him to Madrid”, which was where the building originally stood.
Dr Stone told the BBC: “By the 1630s, English plays were increasingly associated with elite culture.
“This small community of Scots was briefly the most significant intellectual bridge between the Spanish and English-speaking worlds.”
While 17th and 18th Century books in English were said to be rare in Spain due to censorship of the time, the Scots college was permitted “to import whatever they wanted”.
Prior to this discovery last month, the oldest Shakespeare play in Spain arrived in the 1640s – a decade after this newly unearthed copy.
Father Tom Kilbride, the rector of the Scots College, said they were proud to have such an important work discovered hidden within their library – where it was accidentally placed in the philosophy section.
He said it proved trainee priests were getting “a rounded education in which the culture of the period was an important part”.
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Father Kilbride added: “To think that plays would have been read, and possibly performed at that time is quite exciting.
“There was clearly a great interest in Spain at that time in English literature.”
‘The Two Noble Kinsmen’ was believed to have been written around 1613 by Shakespeare and John Fletcher, who was one of the house playwrights in the Bard’s theatre company.
It is believed to be Shakespeare’s final play before he retired to Stratford-upon-Avon, where he died three years later at the age of 52.
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