Chronology of Shakespeare's plays

This article presents a possible chronological listing of the plays of William Shakespeare.

Contents

Difficulty of creating a precise chronology

Shakespearean scholars, beginning with Edmond Malone in 1790, have attempted to reconstruct the plays' relative chronology by various means, primarily using external evidence (references by contemporary commentators and in private documents, allusions in other plays, entries in the Stationers' Register, and records of performance and publication), and internal evidence (allusions to contemporary events, composition and publication dates of sources used by Shakespeare, the development of his style and diction over time, and the plays' context in the contemporary theatrical and literary milieu).[1] Most modern chronologies are based on the work of E.K. Chambers in 1930, who dated the composition of 2 Henry VI and 3 Henry VI in 1590-1 as Shakespeare's first plays.[2]

However, while most Shakespearean scholars agree within a few years for the composition of most plays, there is no definitive or precise chronology of the plays because of the fragmentary nature of the surviving evidence. This is especially pronounced in relation to the earlier plays; most chronologies tend to agree on the order of plays written after c.1600, but there are many different versions of the pre-1600 chronology.

Dates of performance are often of limited use, as oftentimes it is impossible to determine if a given performance is the first performance; the first performances of only two plays — Henry VIII and Henry VI, Part 1 — can be identified, and even in this, there is some ambiguity about 1 Henry VI.[3] Similarly, dates of first publication are relatively useless in determining a chronology, as about half of the plays were not published until the First Folio in 1623 (seven years after Shakespeare's death). Performance dates and publication dates are also problematic insofar as many of the plays were performed several years before they were published (for example, Titus Andronicus was performed in 1592, but not published until 1594; Henry VI, Part 3 was performed in 1592 but not published until 1595). Both performance and publication dates can thus be used only to determine terminal dates of composition, and the initial dates are much more speculative.[4]

In addition, some scholars completely break with the conventional dating system. E.A.J. Honigmann for example, dissents from the most common dating of the plays with his "early start theory" by pushing back the beginning of Shakespeare's career four or five years beginning with the composition of Titus Andronicus in 1586 instead of following Chambers.[5][6] Most scholars, however, reject Honigmann's theory, saying it causes more problems than it solves.[7]

Chronology

There are five major scholarly editions of the Complete Works of Shakespeare: The Riverside Shakespeare (G. Blakemore Evans, 1974; 2nd edn., 1996), The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works (Stanley Wells, Gary Taylor, John Jowett and William Montgomery, 1986; 2nd edn., 2005), The Norton Shakespeare: Based on the Oxford Edition (Stephen Greenblatt, Walter Cohen, Jean E. Howard and Katharine Eisaman Haus, 1997; 2nd edn., 2008), The Arden Shakespeare: Complete Works (Richard Proudfoot, Ann Thompson and David Scott Kastan, 1998; 2nd edn. 2002) and The RSC Shakespeare: William Shakespeare, Complete Works (Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen, 2007).[8]

Arden presents the plays alphabetically without any attempt to construct an overall chronology. Oxford, Riverside, Norton and RSC all present chronologies which differ from one another. As such, dates in the following lists are approximate means. This list adopts the Oxford Shakespeare chronology, although none of the major chronologies has any real authority over any of the others.

Plays by Shakespeare

The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1589–1591)

First official record: Francis Meres' Palladis Tamia (1598)
First published: First Folio (1623)
First recorded performance: adaptation by Benjamin Victor performed at David Garrick's Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1762.[9] Earliest known performance of straight Shakespearean text at Royal Opera House in 1784, although because of the inclusion of the play in Palladis Tamia, we know it was definitely performed in Shakespeare's day.[10]
Evidence: The play contains passages which seem to borrow from John Lyly's Midas (1589), meaning it could not have been written prior to 1589.[11] Additionally, Stanley Wells argues that the scenes involving more than four characters, "betray an uncertainty of technique suggestive of inexperience."[12] As such, the play is considered to be one of the first Shakespeare composed upon arriving in London (Roger Warren, following E.A.J. Honigmann, suggests he may have written it prior to his arrival) and, as such, he lacked theatrical experience. This places the date of composition as most likely somewhere between 1589 and 1591.[13]

The Taming of the Shrew (1590–1591)

First official record: possible version of play entered into Stationers' Register on 2 May 1594. First record of play as it exists today found in the First Folio (1623)
First published: possible version of play published in 1594 as A Pleasant Conceited Historie, called the taming of a Shrew. Play as it exists today first published in the First Folio (1623)
First recorded performance: probably performed at Newington Butts Theatre, 13 June 1594, as The Tamynge of A Shrowe.[14]
Evidence: Scholars continue to debate the relationship between the 1594 A Shrew and the 1623 The Shrew. Some theorise that A Shrew is a reported text, meaning The Shrew must have been written prior to 2 May 1594; others, that A Shrew is an early draft, meaning The Shrew must have been completed sometime after 2 May 1594. Other critics argue that A Shrew could have been a source for The Shrew, or they could be two completely unrelated plays based on the same (now lost) source, or A Shrew could be an adaptation of The Shrew. Critics remain divided on this issue, and as such, dating the play is extremely difficult.[15]

Henry VI, Part 2 (1590–1591)

First official record: version of the play entered into the Stationers' Register on 12 March 1594
First published: version of the play published in quarto in 1594 as The First part of the Contention betwixt the two famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster, with the death of the good Duke Humphrey: And the banishment and death of the Duke of Suffolke, and the Tragicall end of the proud Cardinal of Winchester, with the notable Rebellion of Jack Cade: and the Duke of Yorke's first claim unto the Crowne. Play as it exists today first published in the First Folio (1623) as The second Part of Henry the Sixt, with the death of the Good Duke Humfrey
First recorded performance: a performance directed by James Anderson was staged at the Surrey Theatre on 23 April, 1864.[16]
Evidence: It is known that 3 Henry VI was on stage by early 1592, and it is also known that 3 Henry VI was definitely a sequel to 2 Henry VI, meaning 2 Henry VI must have been on stage by early 1592 as well. This places the likely date of composition as 1590–1591.

Henry VI, Part 3 (1590–1591)

First official record: version of the play entered into the Stationers Register in 1595
First published: version of the play published in octavo in 1595 as The True Tragedie of Richard Duke of Yorke, and the death of good King Henrie the Sixt, with the Whole Contention betweene the two Houses Lancaster and Yorke. Play as it exists today first published in the First Folio (1623) as The thid Part of Henry the Sixt, with the death of the Duke of Yorke
First recorded performance: adaptations dominated the stage for many years. The earliest known performance of the straight Shakespearean text was in 1906, when F.R. Benson directed a production at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre.[17]
Evidence: It is known that the play was on stage by early 1592 as in A Groatsworth of Wit, Bought with a Million of Repentance, Robert Greene mocked Shakespeare by parodying a line from 3 Henry VI. Groatsworth was registered in the Stationers' Register in September 1592, meaning True Tragedy/3 Henry VI must have been on stage prior to 23 June 1592 as that was when the government shut the London theatres due to an outbreak of plague. To have been on stage by June 1592, the play was most likely written some time in 1590 or 1591.

Henry VI, Part 1 (1592)

First official record: possibly in Philip Henslowe's Diary, 3 March 1592. Henslowe reports seeing a new play entitled Harey Vj (i.e. Henry VI) which could be a reference to 1 Henry VI. Additionally, an entry is found in the Stationers' Register in September, 1598 which refers to "The first and Second parte of Henry VJ". Most critics however feel this probably refers to what we today call 2 Henry VI and 3 Henry VI, not 1 Henry VI.[18] The first definite record of the play was not until the First Folio in 1623, as the Henry VI trilogy was not included in Meres' Palladis Tamia.
First published: First Folio (1623) as The first Part of Henry the Sixt
First recorded performance: possibly on 3 March 1592 at The Rose in Southwark, as seen by Philip Henslowe; earliest definite performance was on 13 March 1738 at Covent Garden.[19]
Evidence: On 3 March 1592, Philip Henslow saw a new play entitled Harey Vj, but gives no further information. In August, Thomas Nashe published Piers Penniless his Supplication to the Devil, in which he refers to a play he had recently seen featuring a rousing depiction of Lord Talbot, a major character in 1 Henry VI. Most critics take Nashe's reference to Talbot as proof that the play Henslow saw was 1 Henry VI. As such, to have been a new play in March 1592, it must have been written some time in 1591.[20] Furthermore, many critics consider 1 Henry VI to have been a prequel to the successful two-part play The Contention and True Tragedy.[21]

Titus Andronicus (1592)

First official record: Philip Henslowe's Diary, 23 January 1594.
First published: version of the play published in quarto in February 1594 as The Most Lamentable Romaine Tragedy of Titus Andronicus. There are only minor differences between the 1594 and subsequent 1623 texts (i.e. the 1594 text is not considered a bad quarto).[22] The Folio text appeared under the title The Lamentable Tragedy of Titus Andronicus
First recorded performance: 23 January 1594 at the Rose Theatre in Southwark.[23]
Evidence: Obviously, to have been on stage by January 1594, the play must have been written some time prior to that. According to the title page of the 1594 quarto, the play had been performed by Pembroke's Men, a company which ceased performing in September 1593. As such, the play must have been composed some time prior to September. Additionally, it is unlikely to have been written later than June 1592, as that was when the London theatres were closed due to an outbreak of plague. The theatres would remain shut for the better part of two years, not fully reopening until March 1594 and Shakespeare concentrated most of his energies during this period on poetry. As such, the play was most likely composed sometime between late-1591 and early 1592.

Richard III (1592-1593)

First official record: version of the play entered into the Stationers' Register on 20 October 1597
First published: version of the play published in quarto in December 1597 as The tragedy of King Richard the third. Containing, his treacherous plots against his brother Clarence: the pittiefull murther of his innocent nephewes: his tyrannicall usurpation: with the whole course of his detested life, and most deserved death. Folio text appears under the title The Tragedy of Richard the Third, with the Landing of Earle Richmond, and the Battell at Bosworth Field
First recorded performance: in 1602, John Manningham mentions seeing Richard Burbage playing the role of Richard III in Shakespeare's play, but he offers no further information. The play was definitely performed at St James's Palace on November 16 and/or 17, 1633 by the King's Men.[24]
Evidence: It is known that Richard III was definitely a sequel to 3 Henry VI, which was on-stage by 23 June 1592, hence Richard III must have been written later than early 1592. Additionally, the play has been argued to contain evidence that it was originally written for Strange's Men, but then rewritten for Pembroke's Men, a company which formed in mid-1592.[25] Also, with the closure of the theatres due to an outbreak of plague in June 1592, the play was unlikely to have been written any later than that, all of which suggests a date of composition as sometime in early-1592.

Edward III[26] (1594)

First official record: entered into the Stationers' Register on 1 December 1595
First published: published in quarto in 1596 as The Raigne of King Edward the third
First recorded performance: 6 March 1911 at the Little Theatre in London, under the title The King and the Countess, directed by Gertrude Kingston and William Poel.[27]
Evidence: Obviously, the play was written by December 1595. According to the title page of the quarto, the play had recently been performed, but no company information is provided. This could mean that the company that performed the play had disbanded during the closure of the theatres from June 1592 to March 1594. Furthermore, internal evidence suggests that the play may have been specifically written for Pembroke's Men, who ceased performing in September 1593. This places the date of composition as somewhere between early 1592 and September 1593.[28]

The Comedy of Errors (1594)

First official record: if this is the same as the play titled "The Night of Errors", it was performed on 28 December 1594 at Gray's Inn.[29]
First published: First Folio (1623)
First recorded performance: 28 December 1594 at Gray's Inn, performed by the Lord Chamberlain's Men.[30]
Evidence: Probably the "errors" referred to in Meres' Palladia Tamia.

Love's Labour's Lost (1594–1595)

First official record: version of the play published in 1598 (this play was never entered into the Stationers' Register)
First published: version of the play published in quarto in 1598 as A Pleasant Conceited Comedie called Loves labors lost
First recorded performance: according to the quarto title page, the play was performed at court for Queen Elizabeth sometime over Christmas 1597.
Evidence:

Love's Labour's Won (1595-1596)

First official record: Francis Meres' Palladis Tamia (1598)
First published: the play has never been published
First recorded performance: there are no recorded performances of the play
Evidence: The play is mentioned in a booklist by Christopher Hunt in August 1603. Aside from this, and the mention in Meres, there is no other evidence for the existence of the play (although the title suggests it was a sequel to Love's Labour's Lost, hence its position in the Oxford chronology). Whether or not this play ever existed is open to debate. The inclusion in Meres has been explained by some critics as a reference to a play we now know as another name. As neither The Taming of the Shrew nor Much Ado About Nothing were included in Meres, these two plays are often cited as possibilities. All's Well That Ends Well has also been suggested.[31]

Richard II (1595)

First official record: version of the play entered into the Stationers' Register on 29 August 1597
First published: version of the play published in quarto in 1597 as The Tragedie of King Richard the second. 1623 Folio text appeared under the title The life and death of King Richard the Second
First recorded performance: possible performance on 9 December 1595 at Sir Edward Hoby's house in Canon Row, watched by Sir Robert Cecil; earliest definite recorded performance at the Globe Theatre on 7 February 7 1601.[32]
Evidence:

Romeo and Juliet (1595)

First official record: version of the play published in 1597 (this play was never entered into the Stationers' Register)
First published: version of the play published in quarto in 1597 as An excellent conceited tragedie of Romeo and Juliet
First recorded performance: 1 March 1662 at Lincoln's Inn Fields, directed by William Davenant.[33]
Evidence:

A Midsummer Night's Dream (1595)

First official record: Francis Meres' Palladis Tamia (1598)
First published: in quarto in November or December 1600
First recorded performance:
Evidence:

The Life and Death of King John (1596)

First official record: Francis Meres' Palladis Tamia (1598)
First published: First Folio (1623)
First recorded performance: although there are several references to the play having been performed during the seventeenth century, none of them offer any specific details, and the first definite performance was on 26 February 1737 at Covent Garden.[34]
Evidence:

The Merchant of Venice (1596)

First official record: version of the play entered into the Stationers' Register on 22 July 1598
First published: version of the play published in quarto in 1598 as The most excellent historie of the merchant of Venice. With the extreame crueltie of Shylocke the Jewe towards the sayd merchant, in cutting a just pound of his flesh: and the obtayning of Portia by the choyse of three chests
First recorded performance: the play was performed at court for King James on 10 February 1605.[35]
Evidence: The play was obviously in existence by 1598, however, other evidence places its date of composition as earlier, probably 1596. Shakespeare's source for the casket subplot is believed to have been Richard Robinson's translation of the Gesta romanorum, which wasn't published until late 1595. In addition, Salarino's reference to "my wealthy Andrew docked in sand" is thought to refer to the San Andréas, a Spanish merchant vessel that ran aground in Essex in June 1596. It is also thought by scholars that the play was written to capitalise on the enormous success of Christopher Marlowe's The Jew of Malta, which was first performed in 1596.[36]

Henry IV, Part 1 (1596-1597)

First official record: version of the play entered into the Stationers' Register on 25 February 1598
First published: version of the play published in quarto in 1598 as The History of Henrie the Fourth, with the battell at Shrewsburie between the King and Lord Henry Percy, surnamed Hotspur of the North, with the humorous conceits of Sir John Falstaffe 1623 Folio text appeared under the title The First Part of Henry the Fourth, with the Life and Death of Henry Sirnamed Hot-spurre
First recorded performance: the play was probably performed at court for an Ambassador from Burgundy on 6 March 1600.
Evidence:

The Merry Wives of Windsor (1597-1598)

First official record: version of the play entered into the Stationers' Register on 18 January 1602
First published: version of the play published in quarto in 1602 as A most pleasaunt and excellent conceited comedie, of Sir John Falstaffe, and the merrie wives of Windsor. Entermixed with sundrie variable and pleasing humors, of Sir Hugh the Welch knight, Justice Shallow, and his wise cousin M. Slender. With the swaggering vaine of Auncient Pistoll, and Corporall Nym
First recorded performance: 4 November 1604 at Whitehall Palace.
Evidence: Textual evidence and certain topical allusions suggest the play was composed as a specially commissioned piece for a Garter Feast (an annual meeting of the Order of the Garter), possibly the Feast on 23 April 1597. It is theorised that Shakespeare interrupted his composition of 2 Henry IV somewhere around Act 3-Act 4, so as to concentrate on writing Merry Wives.[37]

Henry IV, Part 2 (1596–1597)

First official record: version of the play entered into the Stationers' Register on 23 August 1600
First published: version of the play published in quarto in 1600 as The second part of Henrie the fourth, continuing to his death, and coronation of Henrie the fift. With the humours of Sir John Falstaffe, and swaggering Pistoll 1623 Folio text appeared under the title The Second Part of Henry the Fourth, Containing his Death and the Coronation of King Henry the Fift
First recorded performance: a play entitled Sir John Falstaffe was performed at Whitehall over the Christmas period of 1612 which is believed to be 2 Henry IV.[38]
Evidence: The play could not have been written any earlier than January 1596, as it contains an allusion to the Sultanate of Mehmed III, who didn't become sultan until that date.

Much Ado About Nothing (1598-1599)

First official record: version of the play published in 1600 (this play was never entered into the Stationers' Register)
First published: Much adoe about Nothing was published in quarto in 1600
First recorded performance: 14 February 1613, performed at court as part of the festivities to celebrate the marriage of Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia and Frederick V, Elector Palatine
Evidence: The play was not included in Francis Meres' Palladis Tamia, which was registered on 7 September 1598, suggesting it hadn't been performed prior to that date. Furthermore, evidence in the quarto text suggests that Shakespeare originally wrote the role of Dogberry for William Kempe, however, records indicate that Kempe left the Lord Chamberlain's Men sometime in late 1598, so the play must have been written before then. As such, it was most likely composed sometime in the latter half of 1598 and was certainly completed before the new year.[39]

Henry V (1598-1599)

First official record: version of the play entered into the Stationers' Register on 14 August 1600
First published: version of the play published in quarto in 1600 as The cronicle history of Henry the fift, with his battell fought at Agin Court in France. Togither with Auntient Pistoll. 1623 Folio text appeared under the title The Life of Henry the Fift
First recorded performance: 7 January 1605 at the Globe Theatre, performed by the Lord Chamberlain's Men.[40]
Evidence: Of all Shakespeare's plays, Henry V is one of the easiest to date. A reference by the Chorus to the Earl of Essex's Irish expedition of 1599 means the play was most likely written sometime between March 1599 (when Essex left for Ireland) and September 1599 (when he returned).[41]

Julius Caesar (1599)

First official record: Thomas Platter the Younger's Diary, 21 September 1599
First published: First Folio (1623) as The Tragedie of Julius Caesar
First recorded performance: 21 September 1599 at the newly opened Globe Theatre[42]
Evidence: Obviously, the play was completed by September 1599, and may have been composed specifically as the opening play for the new theatre. In addition, because the play is not mentioned in Meres' Palladis Tamia, registered in September 1598, it was unlikely to have been performed prior to then. This places the date of composition as somewhere between September 1598 and September 1599. Additionally, textual analysis has connected the play to Henry V, which was almost certainly written in 1599, suggesting so too was Julius Caesar.[43]

As You Like It (1599-1600)

First official record: on 4 August 1600 a staying order was entered in the Stationers' Register for As yo like yt
First published: First Folio (1623)
First recorded performance: possibly on 2 December 1603 at Wilton House in Wiltshire, where a play was performed for James I;[44] earliest definite performance on 20 December 1740, at Drury Lane.[45]
Evidence:

Hamlet (1599–1601)

First official record: version of the play entered into the Stationers' Register on 26 July 1602. Folio text appeared under the title The Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke
First published: version of the play published in quarto in 1603 as The tragicall historie of Hamlet Prince of Denmarke
First recorded performance: the entry in the Stationers' Register in July 1602 states that the play was "latelie Acted by the Lo: Chamberleyne his servantes", however, it offers no further information. The first definite performance took place on a ship anchored off the coast of Africa in September 1607, the Red Dragon. The play was performed by the crew.[46]
Evidence: Because the versions of Hamlet which appeared in 1603, in 1604 (again in quarto) and in the First Folio of 1623 differ so much from one another, dating the play is exceptionally difficult. There is also the problem of the Ur-Hamlet, a possible source used by Shakespeare and which is now lost. Others however, feel that Ur-Hamlet (if it ever existed) was most likely an early draft. Obviously, the play was written sometime between September 1598 (as it was not included in Meres' Palladis Tamia) and July 1602 (when it was registered in the Stationers Register). Furthermore, internal references to Julius Caesar would indicate the play could not have been written any earlier than September 1599. Additionally, in his 1598 copy of an edition of Geoffrey Chaucer's works, Gabriel Harvey has written that Shakespeare's "Lucrece & his tragedie of Hamlet, prince of Denmarke, have it in them, to please the wiser sort". Harvey also mentions the Earl of Essex as still alive, which would suggest he wrote the note prior to 25 February 1601, when Essex was executed. This would seem to narrow the date of composition to between September 1599 and February 1601, however not all scholars accept the veracity of Harvey's note. Internal evidence in the play has also been cited, usually as illustrative of a date of composition of 1600 or 1601.[47] As such, many scholars interpret the available evidence as suggestive of a date of initial composition sometime in 1600, with subsequent revisions. This dating, however, is far from universally accepted.[48]

Twelfth Night (1601)

First official record: John Manningham mentions in his Diary having seen the play performed in February 1602
First published: First Folio (1623) as Twelfe Night, Or what you will
First recorded performance: John Manningham saw the play performed at the Middle Temple on Candlemas 1602, which fell on 2 February.[49]
Evidence:

Troilus and Cressida (1602)

First official record: version of the play entered into the Stationers' Register on 7 February 1603
First published: version of the play published in quarto in 1609 as The historie of Troylus and Cresseida. 1623 Folio text appeared under the title The Tragedie of Troilus and Cressida
First recorded performance: an adaptation of the play by John Dryden was staged in 1679.[50]
Evidence:

Measure for Measure (1603–1604)

First official record: revels accounts for Christmas 1604–1605 state the play was performed over the holidays
First published: First Folio (1623)
First recorded performance: Revels accounts for Christmas 1604–1605 indicate the play was performed at Whitehall on St. Stephen's Day 1604.
Evidence: This play is notoriously difficult to date specifically partly due to a lack of solid evidence and partly due to the theory that the text which appeared in the First Folio was not Shakespeare's original text. Obviously the play was written (in some form) prior to December 1604. The only other evidence are possible topical references within the play itself which would seem to indicate a date most likely in 1602,[51], however this is not universally accepted by all scholars. Furthermore, there is a theory that Thomas Middleton rewrote the play after Shakespeare's death, possibly in 1621, which throws further doubt on the exact date of initial composition.[52]

Othello (1603–1604)

First official record: revels accounts refer to the play having been performed in November 1604
First published: version of the play published in quarto in 1622 as The Tragedy of Othello, the Moore of Venice
First recorded performance: revels accounts indicate the play was performed at Whitehall on 1 November 1604.
Evidence:

King Lear (1605–1606)

First official record: version of the play entered into the Stationers' Register on 26 November 1607 as A booke called. Mr William Shakespeare his historye of Kinge Lear
First published: version of the play published in quarto in 1608 as The true chronicle historie of the life and death of King Lear and his three daughters. With the unfortunate life of Edgar, sonne and heire to the Earle of Gloster, and his sullen and assumed humor of Tom of Bedlam
First recorded performance: according to the Stationers' Register, the play was performed at Whitehall on 26 December 1606
Evidence: the play must have been written by late 1606. Additionally, most scholars agree that it couldn't have been written any earlier than 1603, as it seems to be partially indebted to Samuel Harsnett's Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures (entered into the Stationers' Register on 16 March 1603). This would place the date of composition as somewhere between March 1603 and December 1606. A further possible source for the play has evoked some disagreement however. Whilst many scholars feel that Shakespeare used the anonymous play The True Chronicle History of King Leir (entered into the Stationers' Register on 8 May 1605), and hence must have been written between May 1605 and December 1606, others argue that the relationship between the two plays has been inverted, and The True Chronicle History of King Leir was actually written to capitalise on the success of Shakespeare's play, which was probably written in 1603 or 1604. No real critical consensus has been reached regarding this disagreement.[53]

Timon of Athens (1605–1606)

First official record: entered into the Stationers' Register on 8 May 1623
First published: First Folio (1623) as The Life of Timon of Athens
First recorded performance: in 1674, Thomas Shadwell wrote an adaptation of the play under the title Timon of Athens: Or, The Man-hater
Evidence: This play is another which is extremely difficult to date precisely, not the least cause of which is the claim that Shakespeare may only have written part of it, with the play being subsequently edited by Thomas Middleton. It has also been argued that the play could not have been staged at the Globe, and hence, Shakespeare's involvement may be minimal. There is no reference to the play whatsoever prior to 1623, and as such, evidence for its date of composition must come from within the play itself.

Macbeth (1606)

First official record: possibly by Simon Forman, who records seeing the play in April 1611. However, there is considerable debate amongst scholars as to whether Forman's account is genuine
First published: First Folio (1623) as The Tragedie of Macbeth
First recorded performance: possibly in April 1611, recorded by Simon Forman
Evidence: A reference to 'dire combustion' seems to allude to the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. Most scholars place the date of composition as somewhere between 1603 and 1607, and efforts to narrow that date have proved inconclusive. In 1790, Edward Malone dated the play 1606, and most scholars agree with this date, however they acknowledge that there is little solid evidence, and instead, the date simply seems correct in the context of Shakespeare's other work of the period. One piece of evidence cited as suggestive of a date in late 1606 is the sisters "sev'n-nights, nine times nine" chant. It has been suggested that this alludes to a real ship which was lost in a tempest in December 1604, before rejoining the fleet and eventually returning to harbour in June 1606 after 567 days at sea. 7x9x9 is 567, which some believe is a reference to the voyage. Furthermore, the name of the ship was Tiger's Whelp, and the Weird Sisters do allude in the play to a ship called the Tiger. If this is correct, the play could not have been written any earlier than July 1606.[54]

Antony and Cleopatra (1606)

First official record: entered into the Stationers' Register on 20 May 1608
First published: First Folio (1623) as The Tragedie of Antony and Cleopatra
First recorded performance: according to the 1669 records for the Lord Chamberlain's Men, the play had recently been performed at Blackfriars, but no further information is given; earliest definite performance in 1759 when it was staged by David Garrick.
Evidence:

All's Well That Ends Well (1606–1607)

First official record: First Folio (1623)
First published: First Folio (1623)
First recorded performance: 1741 at Goodman's Fields Theatre, directed by Henry Giffard.[55]
Evidence:

Pericles, Prince of Tyre (1607)

First official record: version of the play entered into the Stationers' Register on 20 May 1608
First published: version of the play published in quarto in 1609 as The Late and much admired Play Called Pericles, Prince of Tyre, with the true Relation of the whole History, adventures, and fortunes of the sayd Prince: As also, the no lesse strange, and worthy accidents, in the Birth and Life, of his Daughter Mariana
First recorded performance: April 1607, seen by the Venetian ambassador to England, Zorzi Giustinian.[56]
Evidence: Because the play was not included in the First Folio, there has always been doubt as to whether or not Shakespeare actually wrote it at all. The general theory today is that Shakespeare wrote an initial version of the play, which was then altered by George Wilkins. In 1608, Wilkins published a prose narrative of Pericles which contains several lines that seem to recall specific lines in the play, leading to the conclusion that his editing of the play led him to the composition of the prose. This would place Wilkins' revision in 1607–1608. Furthermore, textual analysis of the play have led it to be placed as near contemporaneous with All's Well That Ends Well and Coriolanus, which would confirm a date of 1607–1608.[57]

Coriolanus (1608)

First official record: entered into the Stationers' Register on 8 November 1623
First published: First Folio (1623) as The Tragedy of Coriolanus
First recorded performance: an adaptation of the play by Nahum Tate was performed at Drury Lane in 1681, under the title The Ingratitude of a Common-Wealth
Evidence: Stylistic tests place the composition of the play after Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra,[58] and the form of the verse and imagery fit well with Timon, Antony, and Pericles.[59] Shakespeare's treatment of the grain riots is strikingly reminiscent of the Midlands corn riots of 1607.[60] Though Menenius' fable of the belly was used in other contemporary works, the wording of Menenius's speech about the body politic is derived from William Camden's Remaines (1605).[61] Two possible echoes of George Chapman's Illiad (registered 14 November 1608) support a date of 1608-9. A reference to "the coal of fire upon ice" (1.1.170) is a possible allusion to the winter of 1607-08, when the frost was so severe that vendors set up booths on the frozen Thames river and pans of coals were placed on the ice so that pedestrians could warm themselves.[62] An allusion to the complaints about Hugh Middleton's project to bring water to London has also been detected in Martius' warning to the patricians (3.1.98-9).[63] Wells and Taylor say that the cumulative internal evidence all points to a composition date of no earlier than spring of 1608,[64] while others favor late 1608 to early 1609.[65]
Several allusions in other works establish a terminal date of composition: Ben Jonson's Epicoene, composed in late 1609, mocks a peculiar phrase in the play, and Phantasma (registered 6 February 1609), written by Robert Armin, a member of the King's Men from 1599 to 1610, contains a close literary parallel.[66] Critics also suggest that the regular act intervals indicate that it could have been written for the indoor Blackfriars Theatre, which Shakespeare's company acquired in 1608.[67]

The Winter's Tale (1609–1610)

First official record: Simon Forman saw the play at the Globe on 15 May 1611; it was performed at Court 11 November 1611
First published: First Folio (1623)
Evidence: The dance of twelve satyrs is similar to the dance of satyrs in Ben Jonson's masque Oberon performed at Court on 1 January 1611, but Wells and Taylor believe it is a later interpolation. It shares some of the same source material as Cymbeline, and stylistically it is in Shakespeare's late period. Most critics agree that it should be paired with Cymbeline.[68]

Cymbeline (1610–1611)

First official record: Simon Forman saw it performed at the Globe in 1611
First published: First Folio (1623) as The Tragedie of Cymbeline
First recorded performance: In an undated entry, Simon Forman saw the play performed at the Globe in 1611
Evidence:

The Tempest (1610–1611)

First official record: revels accounts refer to the play having been performed in November 1611
First published: First Folio (1623)
First recorded performance: 1 November 1611, at Whitehall for James I, performed by the King’s Men.
Evidence:

Cardenio (1612–1613)

First official record: entered into the Stationers' Register in 1653, attributed to William Shakespeare and John Fletcher
First published: an adaptation was published in 1727 by Lewis Theobald entitled , Double Falshood, or the Distrest Lovers
First recorded performance: 1613, performed at the Globe by the King's Company
Evidence: A lost play, published only in an adaptation by Lewis Theobald entitled Double Falshood (1728).

Henry VIII, or All is True (1613)

First official record:
First published: First Folio (1623) as The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eight
First recorded performance: 29 June 1613, the night the Globe burnt down.
Evidence: Probably written in collaboration with John Fletcher

The Two Noble Kinsmen (1613)

First official record: entered into the Stationer' Register on 8 April 1634
First published: published in quarto in 1634
First recorded performance:
Evidence: Not included in the First Folio; written in collaboration with John Fletcher.

Apocrypha

Sir John Oldcastle (1600)

First official record:
First published: 1600 (Q1), printed by Valentine Simmes for the bookseller Thomas Pavier.
First recorded performance:
Attribution to Shakespeare: 1619 (Q2), part of William Jaggard's so-called False Folio, carried an attribution to William Shakespeare. In 1664, the play was one of seven dramas added to the second impression of the Shakespeare Third Folio by publisher Philip Chetwinde.
Evidence: Philip Henslowe's diary records it was actually written by Anthony Munday, Michael Drayton, Richard Hathwaye and Robert Wilson in collaboration. (An entry in Henslowe's Diary records a later payment to Drayton for a second part to the play,which has not survived; because of this fact, the extant play has sometimes been called Sir John Oldcastle, Part I or 1 Sir John Oldcastle.)

Sir Thomas More (Shakespeare's involvement: 1603–1604)

First official record: 1728, MS owned by John Murray
First published: 1844 by the Shakespeare Society
First recorded performance: at the Nottingham Playhouse in 1964, starring Ian McKellen.[69]
First attribution to Shakespeare: 1871-2, Shakespearean appearance of ms. additions to the play first noted by Richard Simpson, a prominent Shakespeare scholar, and by James Spedding, editor of the works of Sir Francis Bacon. 1916, paleographer Sir Edward Maunde Thompson judged the addition in Hand D to be in Shakespeare's handwriting. 1923, publication of Shakespeare's Hand in the Play of Sir Thomas More by a quintet of major scholars analyzed the play from multiple perspectives, all of which supported the Shakespearean attribution.
Evidence: The original play is believed to have been written in 1591–1592 by Anthony Munday and Henry Chettle. Due to censorship issues and problems staging the play because of an unusually large number of speaking parts, the play was substantially revised by Thomas Heywood, Thomas Dekker and (possibly) William Shakespeare. When the revision took place is difficult to determine, as evidence places it at some time between 1593 and 1604, although the majority of critics seem to favour a later date of 1603–1604.[70] Whether or not Shakespeare was involved with the writing of the play is still open to debate. The argument is that three pages of the MS are in his handwriting, but this is not universally accepted. Of the various editions of the complete works, only the Oxford 2nd edition of 2005 includes the play. However, Oxford have never issued a stand-alone scholarly edition of the play, neither have Cambridge, Norton or Penguin. A scholarly edition is available under the Revels Plays banner and in the Arden Shakespeare however.

The London Prodigal (1604)

First official record:
First published: 1605 by the stationer Nathaniel Butter, and printed by Thomas Cotes.
First recorded performance:
First attribution to Shakespeare: 1605, on the title page of the first edition.
Evidence: Acted by Shakespeare's company and published under his name, but the style is not his. Individual scholars have attributed the play to Ben Jonson, Thomas Dekker, John Marston, and Michael Drayton;[71] others have suggested Thomas Heywood and George Wilkins.[72] None of these attributions has been accepted by a significant proportion of the critical community.

A Yorkshire Tragedy (1605)

First official record: May 2, 1608, entered into the Stationers' Register.
First published: 1608, in a quarto issued by bookseller Thomas Pavier.
First recorded performance:
First attribution to Shakespeare: May 2, 1608, in the Stationers' Register entry; the attribution is repeated in the 1608 quarto, the 1619 reprint (part of William Jaggard's False Folio, and the 1664 inclusion among the seven plays Philip Chetwinde added to the second impression of the Shakespeare Third Folio.
Evidence: Acted by Shakespeare's company and published under his name, but the style is not his. While some early critics allowed the possibility of Shakespeare's authorship, most in the past two centuries, have doubted the attribution. The modern critical consensus favors Thomas Middleton as the author, citing internal evidence from the text of the play.[73] Cases for the authorship of Thomas Heywood or George Wilkins have been made, but have convinced few commentators.[74]

References

  1. ^ Chambers, E. K. (1930). "The Problem of chronology" in William Shakespeare: A Study of Facts and Problems. 2 vols., Oxford: Clarendon Press, I:243—274.
  2. ^ Chambers, I:270.
  3. ^ Wells, Stanley, and Gary Taylor, with John Jowett and William Montgomery (1987, 1997), William Shakespeare: A Textual Companion, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0198129149, p. 89.
  4. ^ Chambers, I:245.
  5. ^ Thomas, Sidney. "On the Dating of Shakespeare's Early Plays." Shakespeare Quarterly 39:2 (1988) 187–94; 187.
  6. ^ Honigmann, E. A. J. Shakespeare's Impact on his Contemporaries, (1982) London: Macmillan.
  7. ^ Wells and Taylor 1987, p.97.
  8. ^ Likewise, the New Cambridge Shakespeare, the New Penguin Shakespeare, the Pelican Shakespeare, Signet Classic Shakespeare, the Dover Wilson Shakespeare, the Shakespeare Folios and the Folger Shakespeare Library all publish scholarly editions of the plays, but none of them have issued a complete works volume.
  9. ^ Roger Warren (ed.), The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 1
  10. ^ Kurt Schlueter (ed.), The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 22
  11. ^ Roger Warren (ed.), The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 26–27
  12. ^ Stanley Wells, Gary Taylor, John Jowett and William Montgomery (eds.) The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986; 2nd edn., 2005), 3
  13. ^ See, for example, the various modern editions of the play, such as Kurt Schlueter (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), Mary Beth Rose (London: Pelican, 2000), William C. Carroll (London: Arden, 2004), Russell Jackson (London: Penguin, 2005), Sylvan Barnet (New York, Signet, 2007) and Roger Warren (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)
  14. ^ Recorded in Philip Henslowe's Diary
  15. ^ For the reported text theory, see H.J. Oliver (ed.), The Taming of the Shrew (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982). For the early draft theory, see Richard Hosley (ed.), The Taming of the Shrew (The Pelican Shakespeare; London, Penguin, 1964; revised edition 1978). For the source theory see. J.W. Shroeder "The Taming of a Shrew and The Taming of the Shrew: A Case Reopened", Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 57:4 (October, 1958), 424–442. For the lost play theory see G.I. Duthie "The Taming of a Shrew and The Taming of the Shrew", Review of English Studies, 19 (1943), 337–356. For the adaptation theory see Stephen Roy Miller (ed.) The Taming of a Shrew: The 1594 Quarto (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998)
  16. ^ Roger Warren, Henry VI, Part Two (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 7
  17. ^ F.E. Halliday, A Shakespeare Companion, 1564–1964 (Baltimore: Penguin, 1964), 217
  18. ^ For more information, see Randall Martin, Henry VI, Part Three (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001), 104n1
  19. ^ Michael Hattaway (ed.), The First Part of King Henry VI (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 43
  20. ^ See Gary Taylor, "Shakespeare and Others: The Authorship of Henry the Sixth, Part One", Medieval and Renaissance Drama, 7 (1995), 145–205 and Michael Taylor, Henry VI, Part One (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003)
  21. ^ See Eliot Slater, The Problem of the Reign of King Edward III: A Statistical Approach (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), or Gary Taylor, "Shakespeare and Others: The Authorship of Henry the Sixth, Part One", Medieval and Renaissance Drama, 7 (1995), 145–205 for more information on the prequel theory.
  22. ^ See Eugene M. Waith (ed.), Titus Andronicus (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984), or J.Q. Adams (ed.), Titus Andronicus: The First Quarto, 1594 (London: Folger Shakespeare Library Press, 1936) for more information
  23. ^ Recorded in Philip Henslowe's Diary
  24. ^ John Jowett (ed.) Richard III (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 81
  25. ^ John Jowett (ed.) Richard III (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 7
  26. ^ Although the question of Shakespeare's authorship of this play is still in doubt, most scholars do now agree that he was involved in some way with writing it, and as such, it deserves a place in the official Shakespearean canon. Specifically, the argument is often made that if 1 Henry VI can be attributed to Shakespeare so too can Edward III, as some scholars argue that Shakespeare only wrote about 20% of 1 Henry VI, whereas estimates for Edward III tend to range from 40% to all of it. In 1998, the New Cambridge Shakespeare was the first scholarly edition of the play published under Shakespeare's name, although the play had been included in the 2nd edition of the Riverside Shakespeare in 1996. It was also included in the 2nd edition of The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works in 2005 and in the 2nd edition of the Norton Shakespeare in 2008. As of early 2011, Oxford, Arden and Penguin are all working on scholarly editions of the play under their Shakespeare banner.
  27. ^ Giorgio Melchiori (ed.), King Edward III (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 46
  28. ^ See Giorgio Melchiori (ed.), King Edward III (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 3–9; Karl P. Wentersdorf, "The Date of Edward III", Shakespeare Quarterly, 16:3 (Fall, 1965), 227–231; Roger Prior, "The Date of Edward III", Notes & Queries, 235 (1990), 178–180; Richard Proudfoot, "The Reign of King Edward III and Shakespeare", Proceedings of the British Academy, 71(1985), 169–185; Eliot Slater, The Problem of 'The Reign of King Edward III': A Statistical Approach (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988)
  29. ^ Charles Whitworth (ed.) The Comedy of Errors (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 1
  30. ^ Charles Whitworth (ed.) The Comedy of Errors (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 1
  31. ^ See H.R. Woudhuysen (ed.), Love's Labour's Lost (London: Arden, 1998)
  32. ^ Charles R. Forker (ed.) King Richard II (London: Arden, 2002), 15
  33. ^ Jill, M. Levenson (ed.), Romeo and Juliet (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 70
  34. ^ A.R. Braunmiller (ed.), King John (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 88
  35. ^ Jay L. Halio (ed.), The Merchant of Venice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 59
  36. ^ Jay L. Halio (ed.), The Merchant of Venice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 27–29
  37. ^ T.W. Craik (ed.), The Merry Wives of Windsor (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), 1–13. See also H.J. Oliver (ed.) The Merry Wives of Windsor (London: Arden, 1972), lv and Leslie Hotson Shakespeare versus Shallow (London: Kessinger, 2003), 111–122
  38. ^ René Weis (ed.), Henry IV, Part Two (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 42
  39. ^ Sheldon P. Zitner (ed.), Much Ado About Nothing (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 5–6
  40. ^ Gary Taylor (ed.), Henry V (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), 9
  41. ^ See Gary Taylor (ed.), Henry V (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), 4–6, and T.W. Craik (ed.) King Henry V (London: Arden, 2002), 1–6
  42. ^ Recorded in Thomas Platter the Younger's Diary
  43. ^ Arthur Humphries (ed.), Julius Caesar (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984), 1–3
  44. ^ Juliet Dusinberre (ed.), As You Like It (London: Arden, 2006), 43–44
  45. ^ Alan Brissenden (ed.), As You Like It (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), 50
  46. ^ Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor (eds.), Hamlet (London: Arden, 2006), 53–55
  47. ^ Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor (eds.), Hamlet (London: Arden, 2006), 49–53
  48. ^ See G.R. Hibbard (ed.), Hamlet (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987), 1–3 and 67–89; Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor (eds.), Hamlet: The Texts of 1603 and 1623 (London: Arden, 2006); and Kathleen O. Irace, The First Quarto of Hamlet (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998)
  49. ^ Roger Warren and Stanley Wells (eds.), Twelfth Night, Or What You Will (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), 1
  50. ^ Kenneth Muir (ed.), Troilus and Cressida (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), 9
  51. ^ N.W. Bawcutt (ed.), Measure for Measure (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991), 1–6
  52. ^ See Gary Taylor and John Jowett, Shakespeare Reshaped: 1606–1623 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993)
  53. ^ See Stanley Wells (ed.), The History of King Lear (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 9–14, and R.A. Foakes (ed.), King Lear (London: Arden, 1997), 89–110
  54. ^ E.A. Loomis, "The Master of the Tiger", Shakespeare Quarterly, 7:4 (Winter, 1956) and Nicholas Brooke (ed.), The Tragedy of Macbeth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), 59–64
  55. ^ Russell Fraser (ed.), All's Well That Ends Well (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 14
  56. ^ Suzanne Gossett (ed.), Pericles (London: Arden, 2004), 3
  57. ^ Roger Warren (ed.), A Reconstructed Text of Pericles, Prince of Tyre (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), 60–71
  58. ^ Wells and Taylor 1987, p. 131.
  59. ^ Parker, R. B., ed. (1994) Coriolanus, Oxford: Oxford University Press, p 2.
  60. ^ Well and Taylor 1987, p. 131.
  61. ^ Parker, R. B., ed. (1994) Coriolanus, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 17–21.
  62. ^ Parker 1994 5.
  63. ^ ibid.
  64. ^ Wells and Taylor, 1987, p. 121.
  65. ^ Bliss, Lee, ed. Coriolanus (2000) Cambridge University Press, p. 7; Parker 1994, 2, 7.
  66. ^ Wells and Taylor, 1987, p. 121.
  67. ^ ibid.
  68. ^ Wells and Taylor 1987, pp. 131, 601.
  69. ^ Charles Boyce, Shakespeare A to Z (London: Dell Publishing, 1990)
  70. ^ See Stanley Wells, Gary Taylor, John Jowett and William Montgomery (eds.). The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 813–843; Scott McMillin, The Elizabethan Theatre and The Book of Sir Thomas More (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1987); and Vittorio Gabrieli and Giorgio Melchiori (eds.) Sir Thomas More (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990)
  71. ^ Logan and Smith, The New Intellectuals, p. 92.
  72. ^ Logan and Smith, The Popular School, p. 221.
  73. ^ Lake, pp. 163-74.
  74. ^ Logan and Smith, pp. 231-2.

Bibliography

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