Timeline – Shakespeare’s Plays #
Niccolò Bernardo Machiavelli (1469–1527), author of: The Prince, the Discourses on Livy, and The Art of War.
Queen Elizabeth I (1533) ascended to the throne in 1558 – 1603. Elizabethan Era - AKA - The Golden Age of Literature. Elizabeth supported the theatre.
Shakespeare was baptised 26^(th) April, 1564 and buried on the 25^(th) April, 1616, fifty two year later.
John Donne - 1572 - 1631 Difficult to discover their inter-connection. The Sunne-Rising expresses similar sentiments as Shakespeare’s love sonnets and plays.
Sir Francis Bacon, (1561–1626) The English lawyer and philosopher discussed Machiavelli in his The Essayes or Counsels, Civill and Morall (1625), noting his boldness.
Shakespeare’s Plays 1580 - 1590 #
The Taming of the Shrew Set in Padua, Itlay. Considered to be one of Shakespeare’s earliest works, the play is generally believed to have been written before 1592 (28 yrs old) 1590 - 1600. It appears a farce on the gender wars.
Henry VI Part II Believed to have been written in 1591 and Shakespeare’s first play based on English history
Henry VI Part III Written immediately after Part II, a short version of the play was published in Octavo form in 1595
The Two Gentlemen of Verona Known to be written around the 1590s as it was mentioned by Francis Meres in his list of Shakespeare’s plays in 1598, no firm evidence for a particular year
Titus Andronicus Written in 1591/92, with its first performance possibly in January 1594 The Rape of Lucretia
Henry VI Part I Generally assumed to be the ‘harey the vi’ performed at the Rose Theatre in 1592
Richard III Could have been written in 1592, shortly before the plague struck, or in 1594 when the theatres reopened post-plague
The Comedy of Errors Was possibly written for Gray’s Inn Christmas festivities for the legal profession in December 1594
Love’s Labour’s Lost An edition of the play in 1598 refers to it being ‘presented before her Highness [Queen Elizabeth] this last Christmas’, and most scholars date it to 1595-96
A Midsummer Night’s Dream Often dated to 1595-96. Reference in Act 1 Scene 2 to courtiers being afraid of a strange lion may allude to an incident in Scotland in 1594
Romeo and Juliet Set in Verona. Astrological allusions and earthquake reference may suggest composition in 1595-96
Richard II Typically dated 1595-96. Described in 1601 as ‘old and long out of use’
King John Written between 1595 and 1597; an anonymous two-part King John was published in 1591 but Shakespeare’s version is stylistically close to later histories
The Merchant of Venice Registered for publication in 1598, reference to a ship Andrew suggests late 1596 or early 1597 as a Spanish ship of the name was captured around that time
Henry IV Part I Probably written and first performed 1596-97, registered for publication in 1598
Henry IV Part II Written around 1597-98 and registered for publication in 1600, both parts are based on Holinshed’s Chronicles
Much Ado About Nothing Late 1598, not mentioned in Francis Meres’s 1598 list of Shakespeare’s plays but included the role Dogberry for Will Kemp, a comic actor who left the company in early 1599
Henry V Written in 1599, mentions a ‘general… from Ireland coming’, could be referring to the Earl of Essex’s Irish expedition in 1599
As You Like It Typically dated late 1599. Not mentioned in Francis Meres’s 1598 list of Shakespeare’s plays, unless originally called Love’s Labour’s Won
Julius Caesar 1599. Not mentioned in Meres’s 1598 list of plays, seen at the Globe by Swiss visitor Thomas Platter in 1599
1600 – 1610 (36 yrs old) Considered his more serious dark plays.
Hamlet Set in Denmark. Dated around 1600, registered for publication in summer 1602. There are allusions to Julius Caesar, which was written in 1599
The Merry Wives of Windsor Estimated 1597 - 1601, though an allusion to the Order of the Garter might indicate that it was performed at the Garter Feast in 1597
Twelfth Night 1601. Not mentioned in Meres’s 1598 list of plays and alludes to a map first published in 1599
Troilus and Cressida Dated 1601-02, registered for publication early 1603 and alludes to the play Thomas Lord Cromwell, which was registered for publication in 1602
Othello Dated 1604 though some argue for a slightly earlier date. It is recorded to have been performed in court in November 1604
Measure for Measure Set in Venice. Performed at court for Christmas 1604, probably written earlier the same year
All’s Well That Ends Well No strong evidence for date written or first performed, but it is usually dated 1603-06 on stylistic grounds
Timon of Athens Estimated 1604-06 based on stylistic similarity to King Lear
King Lear Dated 1605-06. Performed at court December 1606 and seems to refer to eclipses of September and October 1605
Macbeth 1606. Certainly more Jacobean than Elizabethan based on the play’s several compliments to King James
Antony and Cleopatra Dated 1606-07, registered for publication in 1608 and perhaps performed at court in 1606 or 1607
Coriolanus Perhaps written in 1608. Allusion to ‘coal of fire upon ice’ in Act 1 could refer to the great frost of winter in 1607/08
Pericles 1608. Registered for publication in 1608; Wilkin’s novel The Painful Adventures of Pericles, cashing in on the success of the play, was published in 1608
Cymbeline 1610. A performance in 1611 is recorded. Theatres were reopened in spring 1610 after a long closure due to the plague
The Winter’s Tale 1611. Performed at the Globe May 1611; dance of satyrs apparently borrows from a court entertainment of January 1611
The Tempest 1611. Performed at court in November 1611; uses source material not available before autumn 1610
Henry VIII 1613. The first Globe theatre burnt down in a fire that started during a performance of the play on 29 June 1613
The Two Noble Kinsmen 1613-14; ‘our loss’ in the Prologue probably refers to the Globe fire of 1613
First Folio #
Seven years after his death, in November 1623 several fellow actors and playwrights gathered the plays of Shakespeare and published them in a Folio, a collection.
Ben Jonson described him as:
“not of an age, but for all time”.
‘Reade him, therefore; and againe, and againe’.
And if then you doe not like him,
surely you are in some manifest danger,
not to understand him.
Before this there were individual copies, known as quartos. circulating, some edited by Shakespeare himself. Quarto refers to a sheet of paper folded in two to make four pages.
There are significant differences between the quartos and the Folio. Hamlet’s last lines was changed by Shakespeare from:
Divinity that shapes our ends
Heaven receive my soul.
The rest is silence
In King Lear, Dr Christie Carson, Royal Holloway University of London, http://www.bl.uk/works/king-lear asserts that:
over time the text of King Lear has changed drastically owing to the work of editors and theatre artists. From the outset King Lear existed in two very different versions, the Quarto of 1608 and the Folio of 1623. While there are many hypotheses about the origins of the Quarto editions all that is certain is that they appeared in Shakespeare’s lifetime - but the playwright seems not to have been involved in their creation. The Folio, on the other hand, created after Shakespeare’s death, was published with the involvement of two members of his company with the expressed purpose of keeping his memory and work alive.
As a result, the Folio is often considered more authoritative.
David McInnis Associate Professor of Shakespeare and Early Modern Drama, The University of Melbourne writing for The Conversation:
The folio contains 36 Shakespeare plays – 18 of which had never been published before – along with two poems by Jonson that have significantly shaped Shakespeare’s reputation. The first published collection of Shakespeare’s plays, it was put together by his fellow actors John Heminge and Henry Condell, seven years after Shakespeare’s death. Plays published here for the first time included:
Macbeth, The Taming of the Shrew, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, The Tempest, Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar and As You Like It.
The pair are at pains to emphasise the lowly quality of their offering, likening the plays to the “leavened Cake” offered to the gods of many nations “that had not gummes & incense”.
English commercial plays didn’t typically use a five-act structure, because his company began performing at an indoor playhouse, where candles needed to be trimmed at regular intervals during performance, that it began to deliberately include the five act breaks.
Catherine Nicholson’s essay in The NYRB on the First Folio, “Theater for a New Audience,” traces the contingencies that have helped to shape our idea of Shakespeare through the big posthumous book of his plays, revealing among other things how our understanding of foundational texts can be enlarged by studying the history of their reception.
It seems clear that most plays written in Shakespeare’s lifetime lived exclusively in the theaters.
That environment must have shaped Shakespeare’s relationship to his work. No doubt he did sometimes find it frustrating to have his words altered without his say-so. Hamlet’s irritable injunction to the players—
“let those that play your clowns speak no more than is set down for them”
—gives us a glimpse of the sometimes fraught relations between writers and performers, especially those with the most license to improvise on stage.
But that speech itself runs quite a bit longer in the 1603 quarto (Q1) than it does in the 1623 folio: in 1603 Hamlet goes on to recite a string of random comic catchphrases exactly like the ones he doesn’t want forced into his own play.
As much as we think we know about Shakespeare, there is so much more that we don’t know.