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1. Shakespeare's plays

The first of Shakespeare’s plays to be printed in quarto was Titus Andronicus, in 1594. The earliest quartos were anonymous. Shakespeare’s name did not appear on a title-page until 1598, with Love’s Labour’s Lost. Until recently, scholars have been agreed that Shakespeare took no interest in the printing of his plays. Fresh research suggests that he and his company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, intended to have his plays printed.

Nineteen of Shakespeare’s plays had appeared in quarto by 1622. In the following year the first folio added another 18. A handful of plays were excluded from the first folio, probably because they were known not to be wholly by Shakespeare. One of these, Pericles, is now accepted as his. At least one of the excluded plays, Cardenio (which Shakespeare wrote in collaboration with John Fletcher in 1612-1613), is now lost.

Many of the plays which had been printed before the first folio continued to appear in new quarto editions after 1623. One, The Taming of the Shrew, was printed in quarto for the first time in 1631. The first folio was followed by a second folio in 1632. The first folio divided Shakespeare’s plays into comedies, histories, and tragedies, and they have been thought of in this way ever since.

Seventeen of Shakespeare’s plays are usually thought of as comedies:

  • The Taming of the Shrew, created in about 1590-1591 or perhaps earlier. First printed in the first folio of 1623. Reprinted in quarto in 1631.
  • The Two Gentlemen of Verona, created in about 1592-1593. First printed in the first folio of 1623.
  • The Comedy of Errors, created by 1594. First printed in the first folio of 1623.
  • Love’s Labour’s Lost, created in about 1594-1595. First printed in quarto in 1598.
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream, created in about 1595-1596. First printed in quarto in 1600.
  • The Merchant of Venice, created between 1596 and 1598. First printed in quarto in 1600.
  • Much Ado About Nothing, created in about 1598-1599. First printed in quarto in 1600.
  • As You Like It, created in about 1599. First printed in the first folio of 1623.
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor, created in about 1599-1600. First printed in quarto in 1602.
  • Twelfth Night, created in about 1601. First printed in the first folio of 1623.
  • Troilus and Cressida, created in about 1601. First printed in quarto in 1609.
  • All’s Well that End’s Well, created in about 1603-1604. First printed in the first folio of 1623.
  • Measure for Measure, created in about 1604. First printed in the first folio of 1623.
  • Pericles, created in about 1607-1608. George Wilkins may have written part of the play. First printed in quarto in 1609. Excluded from the first folio of 1623.
  • Cymbeline, created in about 1609. First printed in the first folio of 1623.
  • The Winter’s Tale, created in about 1611. First printed in the first folio of 1623.
  • The Tempest, created in about 1611. First printed in the first folio of 1623.

The Shepheardes Calender
Spenser's The Shepheardes Calender was one of Shakespeare's sources for A Midsummer Night's Dream . Edmund Spenser, The Shepheardes Calender, 1579. British Library, G.11532, f. 16r. Larger image

Shakespeare wrote 10 plays which drew on English history:

  • Henry VI, Part 2, created by 1591. First printed in quarto, with the title The First Part of the Contention Betwixt the Two Famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster, in 1594.
  • Richard III, created in about 1591. First printed in quarto in 1597.
  • Henry VI, Part 3, created by 1592. First printed in octavo, with the title The True Tragedie of Richard Duke of York, and the Death of Good King Henrie the Sixt, in 1595.
  • Henry VI, Part 1, created in about 1592. Shakespeare may have collaborated with other dramatists, including Thomas Nash. First printed in the first folio of 1623.
  • King John, created between 1593 and 1596. First printed in the first folio of 1623.
  • Richard II, created in about 1595. First printed in quarto in 1597.
  • Henry IV, Part 1, created in about 1596-1597. First printed in quarto in 1598.
  • Henry IV, Part 2, created in about 1597. First printed in quarto in 1600.
  • Henry V, created in about 1599. First printed in quarto in 1600.
  • Henry VIII (All is True), created in 1613. Shakespeare may have collaborated with John Fletcher. First printed in the first folio of 1623.

Woodcut at head of titlepage
Hall's chronicle was used by Shakespeare as a source for several of his history plays . Edward Hall, The Union of the Two Noble and Illustrate Famelies of Lancastre & Yorke, 1548. British Library, C.122.h.4. Titlepage. Larger image

Shakespeare wrote 10 tragedies:

  • Titus Andronicus, created in about 1593. First printed in quarto in 1594.
  • Romeo and Juliet, created in about 1595. First printed in quarto in 1597.
  • Julius Caesar, created in about 1599. First printed in the first folio of 1623.
  • Hamlet, created in about 1600-1601. First printed in quarto in 1603.
  • Othello, created in about 1601-1602. First printed in quarto in 1622.
  • King Lear, created in about 1605-1606. First printed in quarto in 1608.
  • Macbeth, created in about 1606. First printed in the first folio of 1623.
  • Anthony and Cleopatra, created in about 1606-1607. First printed in the first folio of 1623.
  • Timon of Athens, created in about 1607-1608. First printed in the first folio of 1623.
  • Coriolanus, created in about 1608. First printed in the first folio of 1623.

Shakespeare’s plays admired
Shakespeare's plays admired. Francis Meres, Palladis Tamia, 1598. British Library, G.10375, f. 282. Larger image

At least three other plays were written by Shakespeare in collaboration with others:

  • Sir Thomas More, written in collaboration with Henry Chettle, Thomas Dekker and Thomas Heywood. This play survives only in a manuscript, now in the British Library (Harley MS 7368). One section of the play is thought to be in Shakespeare’s hand.
  • The Raigne of King Edward the Third, created between 1588 and 1595. First printed in quarto in 1596. Excluded from the first folio of 1623.
  • The Two Noble Kinsmen, written with John Fletcher in about 1613-1614. Excluded from the first folio of 1623. First published in quarto in 1634.
 
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