20 Incredible Works of Art that are Lost Forever

The “Chandos” portrait of William Shakespeare, by John Taylor (c. 1610). Wikimedia Commons.

20. Love’s Labour’s Won and The History of Cardenio – works by legendary dramatist William Shakespeare

A lost play attributed to William Shakespeare, believed to have been written before 1598 and published by 1603, Love’s Labour’s Won has faded into history following the disappearance of all known copies. First mentioned during Francis Meres’ list of plays dating from 1598, scholars have persistently debated whether or not the play was indeed lost or merely renamed to become another of the Bard’s famous repertoire. Initially suggested as The Taming of the Shrew, following debunking of this theory opinion has coalesced either around Much Ado About Nothing or, more likely, that the play was indeed a unique piece designed as a sequel to Love’s Labour’s Lost.

Not the only lost work from the legendary playwright, The History of Cardenio is known to have been performed by the King’s Men – the company to which Shakespeare belonged – in 1613. Attributed in a Stationer’s Register entry from 1653 as co-authored by Shakespeare and John Fletcher, it is thought the play was based on the eponymous character from Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote and his subsequent madness. Although uncertain, with some historians claiming the entry falsely appropriated Shakespeare’s authorship to increase attention, the legitimacy of the lost work is widely accepted by scholars.