First official record: entered into the Stationers' Register by Nathaniel Butter and John Busby 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 M. William Shakspeare: His 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 (printed by Nicholas Okes for Nathaniel Butter). This text was republished in 1619, as part of William Jaggard's "False Folio" (printed by Thomas Pavier). The 1623 Folio text appears under the title The Tragedie of King Lear.
Additional information (publication): although the 1608 quarto text is not usually considered a bad quarto per se, it does differ substantially from the Folio text; Q1 contains 285 lines not in F1, and F1 contains about 115 lines not in Q1. Additionally, over one thousand individual words are different between the two texts, each text has completely different punctuation, much of the verse in F1 is printed as prose in Q1, several speeches are given to different characters (including the final speech of the play - Albany in Q1, Edgar in F1) and each text features different scene divisions. The New Cambridge Shakespeare has published scholarly editions of both texts; F1 in 1992, and Q1 in 1994 as part of their Early Quartos series, both versions edited by Jay L. Halio. The 1999 Pelican Shakespeare edition of the play, edited by Stephen Orgel included both Q1 and F1, as well as the conflated text originally created by Alexander Pope in 1725. Similarly, theOxford Shakespeare: Complete Works also included both versions of the play in their second edition of 2005, each edited by Gary Taylor. The Q1 text appears under the title The History of King Lear, and is dated 1605-1606. The Folio text appears under the title The Tragedy of King Lear and is dated 1610. Taylor believes Q1 represents an early draft of the play, written prior to performance, and F1 represents a revision written four or five years later, after numerous performances. He feels the differences in the two texts represent a "more theatrical" version of the play, which streamlines the plot and improves the characterisation of Edgar, at the expense of Kent and Albany. Although Halio disagrees with Taylor's assessment of F1 as "more theatrical," he reaches the same conclusion regarding the provenance of the text; Q1 was probably set from Shakespeare's foul papers, whilst F1 represents a performance text, probably altered by Shakespeare himself. Most scholars today are in agreement with this theory.
First recorded performance: according to the entry in the Stationers' Register in November 1607, the play was performed at Whitehall on 26 December 1606.
Samuel Harsnett's A Declaration of egregious Popish Impostures(1603), one of Shakespeare's sources for Lear.
Evidence: although the existence of two distinct texts complicates the issue of dating the play, what is known for certain is that it must have been completed (in some form) by December 1606. The play could not have been written any earlier than March 1603, as determined by Shakespeare's use of Samuel Harsnett's Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures, from which he took some of Tom O'Bedlam's dialogue, which was entered into the Stationers' Register on 16 March 1603.However, the terminus post quem can possibly be pushed forward to 1605. Gary Taylor believes that Lear was influenced by George Chapman, Ben Jonson and John Marston's Eastward Ho, written in early 1605, and George Wilkins' The Miseries of Enforced Marriage, written no later than mid-1605. Furthermore, the line "these late eclipses in the sun and moon" (Sc.2.101) could refer to the lunar eclipse of 17 September and the solar eclipse of 2 October 1605. Of vital importance in dating the play, however, is the 1605 publication of an older version of the story, the anonymous play The true Chronical History of King Leir and his three daughters, Go.... The publication of Leir in 1605 is often taken as evidence that Shakespeare's Lear was on stage by 1605. Leir was entered into the Stationers' Register on 14 May 1594, but had already been staged, and is usually dated to c.1590. There is no evidence it was ever published prior to 1605, and its sudden appearance in print over ten years after its composition could represent evidence of an attempt to capitalise on the success of Shakespeare's newly released play. On the other hand, in his 1997 edition of the play for the third series of the Arden Shakespeare, R.A. Foakes argues the 1605 publication of Leir inspired Shakespeare to write his own version of the story. There is little doubt that Shakespeare used Leir as a source, and Foakes' believes that some of the parallels are too specific to represent Shakespeare's remembrance of a performance, rather he must have been working with a printed copy. Foakes also argues that the title page of Q1 specifically recalls the title page of the 1605 Leir to "alert" readers to the fact that Shakespeare's version is based on the older version, but is much improved. For example, this explains the reference to Edgar and Gloucester on the title page. These characters are not in Leir, and their inclusion in the title of Q1 serves as an advertisement that Shakespeare's version of the story is more complex than Leir. If Foakes is correct, it means Shakespeare could not have started writing Learuntil May 1605. In his 2000 edition of the play for the Oxford Shakespeare, however, Stanley Wells argues there are echoes of Leir in plays as chronologically wide-ranging as The Taming of the Shrew, Richard II, Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet, suggesting Shakespeare was very familiar with the play from at least the early 1590s. The publication of Leir in 1605 could also be connected to the case of Brian Annesley, a wealthy Kentishman, who may, or may not, have influenced Shakespeare in writing Lear. In 1603, Annesley's eldest daughter, Grace, tried to have him declared a lunatic so she would be placed in charge of his estate. She seems to have been supported in this by her husband (Sir John Wildgose), her sister (Christian) and her brother-in-law (William Sandys). However, Annesley's youngest daughter, Cordell, wrote to Robert Cecil, Earl of Salisbury for help, and successfully blocked Grace's plan. Annesley died in July 1604, and most of his estate was left to Cordell. Whether or not Shakespeare knew about the case is unknown, but if he did, it provides more evidence for a date of composition in the period 1604-1606. Whatever the case regarding Leir and Annesley, however, Halio, Foakes, and Wellsall date the initial composition of the play to 1605-1606. In regards to the revision of the text, stylistic analysis tends to view Q1 and F1 as two distinct texts, and in this sense, a rare word test, pause test and metrical test of Q1 all place it between Othello and Macbeth, and either immediately before or immediately afterTimon of Athens. A rare word test of the passages unique to F1, however, place it closest to The Winter's Tale, Cymbeline, The Tempest and Henry VIII.
Thomas Middleton, who probably worked on Timon in some capacity.
First official record: mentioned in the Stationers' Register entry for the First Folio, on 8 November 1623.
First published: First Folio (1623), as The Life of Tymon of Athens.
First recorded performance: there is no known evidence of a performance in Shakespeare's lifetime. The earliest known production of the play was in 1674, when Thomas Shadwell wrote an adaptation under the title The History of Timon of Athens, The Man-hater. Multiple other adaptations followed over the next century, by writers such as Thomas Hull,James Love and Richard Cumberland. Although the earliest known performance of the straight Shakespearean text was at Smock Alley in Dublin in 1761, adaptations continued to dominate the stage until well into the twentieth century.The earliest known production of a predominantly Shakespearean version of the play in the United Kingdom was at Sadler's Wells in 1851. Adapted by Samuel Phelps, the production cut all scenes involving the Fool, the return of the Poet and the Painter and much of the sexual material. He also changed the ending, having a solemn Alcibiades marching to Timon'sgrave and reading the epitaph himself, a far less ambiguous ending than the original.
Additional information (attribution): dating Timon of Athens is rendered more difficult because of the probable involvement of Thomas Middleton. The play contains several narrative inconsistencies uncharacteristic of Shakespeare, an unusually unsatisfying dénouement, drastically different styles in different places and an unusually large number of long lines which don't scan. One theory is that the play as it appears in the First Folio is unfinished. E.K. Chambers believes Shakespeare began the play, but abandoned it due to a mental breakdown, never returning to finish it. F.W. Brownlow believes the play to have been Shakespeare's last, and remained uncompleted at his death. A more predominant theory, however, is one proposed by Charles Knight in 1838; the play was a collaboration between Shakespeare and at least one other dramatist. Today, many scholars believe that other dramatist was Thomas Middleton. However, the exact nature of the collaboration is disputed. Did Middleton revise a piece begun by Shakespeare, did Shakespeare revise Middleton's work, or did they work together? John Jowett, editor of the play for both the Oxford Shakespeare: Complete Works and the individual Oxford Shakespeare edition, believes Middleton worked with Shakespeare in an understudy capacity and wrote scenes 2 (1.2 in editions which divide the play into acts), 5 (3.1), 6 (3.2), 7 (3.3), 8 (3.4), 9 (3.5), 10 (3.6) and the last eighty lines of 14 (4.3).
Evidence: because there is no reference to Timon until 1623, attempts to date the play must rely on topical allusions and stylistic analysis. A possible terminus ante quem is 1608. In his 2004 edition for the Oxford Shakespeare, John Jowett argues the lack of act divisions in the Folio text is an important factor in determining a date. The King's Men only began to use act divisions in their scripts when they occupied the indoor Blackfriars Theatre in August 1608 as their winter playhouse. Timon is notoriously difficult to divide into acts, suggesting to Jowett that it was written at a time when act divisions were of no concern to the writer, hence it must have been written prior to August 1608. A terminus post quem may come from a possible topical allusion to the Gunpowder Plot of November 1605; "those that under hot ardent zeal would set whole realms on fire" (Sc.7.32-33). In the context of the play, the line is referring to religious zeal, but some scholars feel it is a subtle reference to the events of November. The play may also have been influenced by a pamphlet published in June 1605, Two Unnatural and Bloody Murders, which served as the primary source for Thomas Middleton's A Yorkshire Tragedy. This would narrow the possible range of dates to sometime between November 1605 and August 1608. Narrowing the date further, however, must come wholly from stylistic analysis. A metrical test links the play most closely with Hamlet, Troilus and Cressida and King Lear, whilst a colloquialism-in-verse test places it after All's Well but beforeMacbeth. Furthermore, MacDonald P. Jackson's rare word test found the conjectured Shakespearean parts of the text date to 1605-1606. However, if one were to analyse the conjectured non-Shakespearean sections as if they were by Shakespeare, the rare word test produces a date of 1594-1595, an obvious impossibility. Going further, Jackson found that if one examines the non-Shakespearean sections in the context of Middleton's career, a date of 1605-1606 also results.
First official record: in his notes for a book on "Common Policy" (i.e. public morals), Simon Forman records seeing the play at the Globe on 20 April 1611. He actually dates the performance "1610, the 20th April, Saturday," but in 1610, 20 April was a Tuesday, and most scholars feel he accidentally wrote the wrong year.
First published: First Folio (1623), as The Tragedie of Macbeth.
First recorded performance: possibly on 20 April 1611 at the Globe, recorded by Simon Forman. However, there is some doubt amongst scholars as to the veracity of Forman's account. Initially, the document itself was thought to be a forgery, as it was first brought to light by John Payne Collier amongst a group of documents many of which did prove to be inauthentic. Although J. Dover Wilson proved the document was genuine in 1947, doubts remain as to the reliability of Forman's report. For example, he makes no mention of the apparitions, or of Hecate, and he virtually ignores the conclusion of the play, which is strange considering he was taking notes for a book about morals. He also mentions seeing Macbeth andBanquo on horseback riding through a wood, something highly unlikely on the Globe stage. Furthermore, he describes theWeïrd Sisters as "nymphs or fairies," an unusual way to describe the characters as they appear in the play. However, "nymphs" is how they are described in one of Shakespeare's sources for Macbeth, Holinshed's Chronicles. This suggests Forman may have conflated witnessing a performance with reading the source material. If Forman's account is not accepted as genuine, the first recorded performance was on 5 November 1664, as recorded by Samuel Pepys.
Additional information (revision): because it is theorised by some scholars that the Folio text of Macbeth shows signs of revision, dating the play can be difficult. Macbeth is extremely short for a Shakespearean tragedy, and it is thought that F1 may have been set from a prompt book that had been shortened for performance, rather than from Shakespeare's own foul papers. First suggested by W.G. Clarke and W.A. Wright in their 1869 edition of the play for Clarendon Press, the most likely person to have carried out the revision is Thomas Middleton.The play is listed in the Oxford Shakespeare: Complete Works as "The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare, Adapted by Thomas Middleton," and its date is recorded as "1606; adapted 1616." Middleton is conjectured to have written 3.5 and much of 4.1; the only scenes which feature Hecate. The nature of these scenes suggest revision as opposed to collaboration. The main reason Middleton's name is attached to the conjectured revision is because 4.1 calls for the use of two songs from The Witch, a play by Middleton himself. However, Middleton's involvement with the play, and the notion of revision work itself, is not universally accepted. Two notable scholars who dissent from this theory are Jonathan Hope and Brian Vickers.
Evidence: the play is closely connected to King James, and scholars are in general agreement that it is unlikely to have been written prior to his accession in 1603. He considered Banquo his direct ancestor, and eight Stuart kings preceded James, just as Banquo is depicted at the end of "a show of eight kings" (22.214.171.124-2). In 1790, Edmond Malone dated the play 1606, and the majority of scholars still accept this date even whilst acknowledging little conclusive evidence exists, other than the fact that it 'seems' correct in the context of Shakespeare's other work of the period. There are some possible topical allusions, however, which do support a date of 1606. For example, the Porter's mention of "an equivocator that could swear in both the scales against either scale" (2.3.7-9) is a possible reference to the Gunpowder plot, specifically the trial of Henry Garnet in March 1606. Furthermore the Weïrd Sisters' account ofThe Tiger (1.3.8-26) is thought to allude to a ship of the same name that returned to England on 27 June 1606 after a disastrous voyage in which many of the crew were killed by pirates. At 1.3.22-23, the First Witch says "Weary sev'n-nights, nine times nine,/Shall he dwindle, peak, and pine." The real ship was at sea 567 days, the product of 7x9x9, which has been taken as a confirmation of the allusion. If this theory is correct, the play could not have been written any earlier than July 1606. In his 1997 edition of the play for the New Cambridge Shakespeare, however, A.R. Braunmuller finds the arguments for topical allusions inconclusive, and instead argues for a date closer to James' accession in 1603. From a stylistic perspective, a metrical test and colloquialism-in-verse test place the play after Lear and Timon but before Antony and Cleopatra, although Ants Oras' pause test places it before all three plays. A rare word test places it closest to Troilus and Lear.
First official record: entered into the Stationers' Register by Edward Blount on 20 May 1608 as "a booke Called Anthony. and Cleopatra." Jointly entered with Pericles, Prince of Tyre.
First published: First Folio (1623), as The Tragedie of Anthonie, and Cleopatra.
First recorded performance: in 1669 the Lord Chamberlain's office granted the right to perform the play to Thomas Killigrew, with the added note that it had been "formerly acted at the Blackfriars," but no further information is given. The earliest definite performance was in 1759 when it was staged by David Garrick at Drury Lane, from a script prepared by Edward Capell. However, this production was heavily influenced by John Dryden's All for Love, which, along with Charles Sedley's Antony and Cleopatra had dominated the stage from 1677 onwards. Different adaptations were staged by John Philip Kemble at Covent Garden in 1813, William Macready at Drury Lane in 1833, Samuel Phelps at Sadler's Wells in 1849,Andrew Halliday at Drury Lane in 1873, and Herbert Beerbohm Tree at His Majesty's Theatre in 1906. The earliest known production of the straight Shakespearean text was in a production by Robert Atkins at The Old Vic in 1922.
Evidence: obviously, the play was written by May 1608. However, an earlier terminus ante quem can perhaps be established by Samuel Daniel's republication of his play The Tragedie of Cleopatra (originally written in 1594) in a "newly altered version," which seems to have been influenced by Shakespeare's Anthony and Cleoptra. For example, Daniel includes a newly added allusion to "Cydnus" as the meeting place of the lovers, adds the characters of Dircetus, Diomedes and Gallus, and includes several verbal echoes. If the play was an influence on Daniel then it must have been on stage by Easter 1607, due to the closing of the theatres because of plague. This suggests it was written in 1606 or very early 1607. That 1606 is the most likely date seems fixed by Barnabe Barnes' The Devil's Charter, acted by the King's Men on 2 February 1607. Barnes refers to "aspics," which are used to kill two young princes in their sleep, as "Cleopatra's birds," and the princes as "competitors with Cleopatra." If Barnes is here alluding to Anthony and Cleopatra, in which Cleopatra kills herself by making an asp bite her on the breast and arm (5.2.302-312), it must have been on stage by January 1607 at the very latest, suggesting composition in 1606.
First official record: entered into the Stationers' Register by Edward Blount on 20 May 1608 as "A booke called. The booke of Pericles prynce of Tyre." Jointly entered with Antony and Cleopatra.
First published: 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 (printed by William White and Thomas Creede for Henry Gosson). This text was republished in 1609 (again by White and Creede for Gosson), 1611 (by Simon Stafford for Gosson) 1619 (as part of William Jaggard's "False Folio", printed by Thomas Pavier), 1630 (by John Norton for Robert Bird) and 1635 (byThomas Cotes for Robert Bird). Pericles did not appear in the First Folio (1623), the Second Folio (1632) or the first impression of the Third Folio (1663). It was added to the second impression of the Third Folio (1664; printed by Coates forPhilip Chetwinde) as The much admired Play, called, Pericles, Prince of Tyre. With the true Relation of the whole History, Adventures, and Fortunes of the sayd Prince.
First recorded performance: the Venetian ambassador to England from 5 January 1606 to 23 November 1608, Zorzi Giustinian, saw a production of the play during his time in London. He was accompanied by the French ambassador, Antoine Lefevre de la Boderie, and his wife, who arrived in England in April 1607. Giustinian noted that he paid admission, so the play must have been public. As the theatres were closed from April to December 1607 and from July to November in 1608, he must have seen the play at sometime between January and June of 1608. The earliest known datable production was at Whitehall on 20 May 1619, performed by the King's Men for the departure of the French ambassador. The production is described in a letter from Sir Gerard Herbert to Dudley Carleton, Viscount Dorchester.
Additional information (attribution): as the play was not included in the First Folio, there has always been doubt as to whether or not Shakespeare actually wrote it. The second impression of the Third Folio added seven new plays, six of which have been proven to be part of the Shakespeare Apocrypha; Locrine,The London Prodigal, The Puritan, Sir John Oldcastle, Thomas Lord Cromwell, and A Yorkshire Tragedy. Traditionally, for some scholars, the simple fact thatPericles is included with such a group is proof enough that Shakespeare did not write it. In a contested field, the most widely accepted theory is that Shakespeare collaborated on the play with another playwright, probably George Wilkins. Although the collaboration theory dates back to at least 1709 (Nicholas Rowe's The Works of Mr. William Shakespeare), the theory of Wilkins' involvement originated in 1868, suggested by Nicolaus Delius. Wilkins status as co-author is generally accepted by modern scholars, and Delius' original breakdown of scenes remains the most widely agreed upon; Wilkins worked on scenes 1-9 and Shakespeare on scenes 10-22. However, because the 1609 quarto is so badly corrupted and generally regarded as a poorly constructed memorial reconstruction, there is no complete agreement as to the motives or mechanism of the collaboration, with some scholars arguing for Shakespeare as sole author. For example, in their 1998 edition of the play for the New Cambridge Shakespeare, Doreen Delvecchio and Anthony Hammond reject the theory of co-authorship, arguing that the problems inherent in the text arise not because of collaborative writing, but because of especially poor memorial reconstruction.On the other hand, in his 2002 book Shakespeare, Co-Author, Brian Vickers is highly critical of Delvecchio and Hammond's analysis, arguing that co-authorship of the play is a virtual certainty. Similarly, in 2003 book, Defining Shakespeare, MacDonald P. Jackson analyses, amongst other aspects, versification, rhyme, function words, pronoun usage, metrical patterns and elisions. He too is especially critical of Delvecchio and Hammond, and he too concludes that Wilkins' status as co-author is virtually certain.
Evidence: in 1608, Wilkins published a prose version of the story called The Painful Adventures of Pericles Prince of Tyre, Being the True History of the Play of Pericles, as it was lately presented by the worthy and ancient poet John Gower, which contains numerous phrases that seem to recall specific lines from the play, suggesting work on the play preceded composition of the prose version. In fact, some scholars consider Wilkins' prose version to be a more accurate record of the original script than the 1609 quarto, and several modern editors have incorporated passages from Wilkins' prose into the play text, such as Roger Warren's 2003 edition for the Oxford Shakespeare, based on a text prepared by Gary Taylor and MacDonald P. Jackson, or the version in the 2nd edition of theOxford Shakespeare: Complete Works (2005), edited by Taylor. Stylistic analysis places the play in the period of 1607-1608. A rare word test of scenes 10-22 place them closest to The Tempest, whereas a rare word test of scenes 1-9 place them closest to 1 Henry IV. If Shakespeare wrote 10-22, the proximity to The Tempest makes sense. If Wilkins wrote 1-9, Gary Taylor has suggested that due to the immense popularity of 1 Henry IV, Wilkins may have read it during composition in an effort to write in a Shakespearean manner. Ants Oras' pause test places scenes 10-22 closest to Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra.Taken together, the stylistic evidence, the 1608 Stationers' Register entry, Wilkins' 1608 prose version, the 1608 performance seen by Giustinian, and the 1609 quarto, all serve to suggest a date of composition of 1607 or very early 1608.
First official record: mentioned in the Stationers' Register entry for the First Folio, on 8 November 1623.
First published: First Folio (1623), as The Tragedy of Coriolanus.
First recorded performance: the earliest known production of the play was a 1681 adaptation by Nahum Tate performed at Drury Lane. Called The Ingratitude of a Commonwealth; or, The Fall of Coriolanus, the play was specifically written to protest the anti-Catholic riots which arose in response to the "Popish Plot" to assassinate Charles II. In 1719, John Dennis adapted the play, again into a political protest piece staged at Drury Lane. The Invader of his Country; or, The Fatal Resentment was written in response to the Jacobite rising of 1715. More adaptations followed; James Thomson's 1747 version Coriolanus: A Tragedy was performed at Covent Garden in protest against the Jacobite rising of 1745, and Thomas Sheridan's Coriolanus: The Roman Matron, which combined Shakespeare's original with Thomson's version and was performed at Smock Alley in Dublin in 1752. The earliest known production of the straight Shakespearean text was on 11 November 1754, when David Garrick staged an abridged production at Drury Lane.
Evidence: the play must have been written between 1605 and 1609. A terminus post quem of 1605 is fixed by Menenius' speech regarding the body politic (1.1.93-152), which is partly derived from a speech attributed to Pope Adrian IV in William Camden's Remaines of a Greater Worke, Concerning Britaine, which was published in 1605. A terminus ante quem of 1609 can be fixed by Ben Jonson's Epicœne, or The silent woman, which mocks the line "he lurched all swords of thegarland" (2.2.99), and Robert Armin's Phantasma the Italian Tailor and his Boy, which contains a close parallel to the line "they threw their caps/As they would hang them on the horns o'th'moon" (1.1.209-210).Epicœne was written in 1609, and Phantasma was entered into the Stationers Register on 6 February 1609. Topical allusions, however, can be used to narrow the date further. For example, the presentation of the grain riots is strikingly reminiscent of the Midlands corn riots of 1607. Perhaps significantly, Shakespeare was in Stratford-upon-Avon for much of autumn 1608, organising his mother's funeral and conducting business, and thus would have been close to the origin point of the unrest. The reference to "the coal of fire upon the 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. Also, an allusion to the complaints about Hugh Myddelton's project to bring clean water to London from the River Lea (which originated in 1608) has been detected in Martius' warning to the patricians "to say he'll turn your current in a ditch/And make your channel his" (3.1.98-9). Gary Taylor also finds the use of act divisions in the Foliotext important, as the King's Men only began to use act divisions when they occupied the indoors Blackfriars Theatre in August 1608. Lee Bliss argues that the five act structure is built into the thematic fabric of the play, further strengthening the argument that it was written for Blackfriars. Indeed, Bliss believesCoriolanus may have been the King's Men's debut play at the theatre. Taylor believes that the cumulative internal evidence all points to a composition date of no earlier than spring 1608. In his 1994 edition of the play for the Oxford Shakespeare, R.B. Parker dates the play mid-1608. In his 2000 edition for the New Cambridge Shakespeare, Lee Bliss is unconvinced by the arguments that Shakespeare is referring to the freezing of the Thames or to Myddelton's scheme, and settles on a date of late 1608 to early 1609.
First official record: in his journal, Simon Forman recorded seeing a performance of the play at the Globe on 15 May 1611.
First published: First Folio (1623).
First recorded performance: a production of the play by the King's Men was staged at the Globe on 15 May 1611, as recorded by Simon Forman.
Evidence: The Winter's Tale can be a difficult play to date precisely due to a lack of contemporary references and topical allusions. Aside from the Forman reference (and some subsequent dated productions at court), and a possible allusion to a Ben Jonson piece, the play must be dated using stylistic analysis.The possible Jonson reference occurs during the sheep-shearing feast, when twelve countrymen perform a satyrs' dance that three are said to have already "danced before the King" (4.4.333). This may be an allusion to Ben Jonson's masque Oberon, the Faery Prince, which was performed at court on 1 January 1611. This would place the most likely date of composition sometime in mid-1610. However, not all scholars believe the reference need be taken that literally, and even those that do accept the Jonson allusion, such as Stanley Wells (editor of the play for the Oxford Shakespeare: Complete Works), agree that the passage may have been added at a later date, and is therefore of little use in dating the play. Traditionally, the play is paired with Cymbeline in terms of style, theme and tone, with The Winter's Tale seen as the superior play, and therefore the later of the two. However, stylistic analysis would suggest Winter's Tale preceded Cymbeline; a rare word test places it closest to Measure for Measure, Ants Oras pause test places it closest to Pericles, a colloquialism-in-verse test places it after Coriolanus but before Cymbeline, a metrical test places it closest to Antony and Cleopatra. In his 2010 edition of the play for the third series of the Arden Shakespeare, John Pitcher argues for a date of late 1610-early 1611, believing Shakespeare wrote Winter's Tale, Cymbeline and The Tempest in this period after the reopening of the theatres in early 1611, although he acknowledges this creates a gap in the chronology which would suggest Shakespeare wrote nothing in 1609.
First official record: Simon Forman saw a production on an unspecified date in 1611. It is thought he saw the play not long before he died, on 8 September of that year.
First published: First Folio (1623), as The Tragedie of Cymbeline.
First recorded performance: Simon Forman saw the play in 1611, although the date (and location) is unknown. The earliest known datable performance was on 1 January 1634, when the play was performed at court for Charles I and Henrietta Maria, where it was described as "well likte by the kinge."
Evidence: obviously, the play was complete by September 1611. A terminus post quem of 1608 can be fixed with reasonable certainty insofar as the spectacular stage direction in 5.3, when "Jupiter descends in thunder and lightning, sitting upon an eagle," suggests Shakespeare wrote the play with the indoor stage equipment of Blackfriars in mind, which places the date as after August 1608. The play also has connections with two other plays of the period; Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher's Philaster, or Love Lies a-Bleeding and Thomas Heywood's The Golden Age. Philaster andCymbeline have strong verbal and tonal parallels, and both feature a broadly similar plot. Scholars are in general agreement that the plays were written around the same period, and that one influenced the other. The direction of influence, however, is not certain. If Beaumont and Fletcher were influenced by Cymbeline, they must have seen it in performance. However, the theatres were closed until at least December 1609, meaning the play could not have been staged until early 1610.Philaster was read in MS by John Davies in October 1610, so if Philaster was influenced by Cymbeline, it must have been written in the first half of 1610. However, this contradicts Andrew Gurr's evidence that Philaster was written in late 1609. On the other hand, Shakespeare would have had access to the Philaster MS, making it more likely that Philasterpreceded Cymbeline. If Gurr's late 1609 date for Philaster is correct, this would suggest Shakespeare wrote Cymbeline in 1610. The play is also connected to Thomas Heywood's The Golden Age, which, like Cymbeline, features Jupiter descending on a cloud, as well as some tentative verbal parallels. As Heywood commonly borrowed from Shakespeare's work, the likely explanation here is that Cymbeline preceded Golden Age. However, the date of Golden Age is uncertain. It was published in 1611, but there is some evidence it may have been written in late 1610. If one accepts this date, it suggests a date of mid-1610 for Cymbeline. Further evidence for 1610 is presented by Roger Warren, in his 1998 edition of the play for the Oxford Shakespeare. Warren argues that the play was performed at court during the investiture of James' eldest son Henry as Prince of Wales, which ran from 31 May to 6 June. Central to the celebrations was Samuel Daniels' Tethys' Festival, which foregrounded Milford Haven as the "port of union" where Henry's ancestor Henry Tudor had landed to face Richard III. Milford is similarly foregrounded in Cymbeline, which also deals with the iconography and cultural significance of Welshness, providing a correlation between the geography of the play and the politics of the period. In his 2005 edition for the New Cambridge Shakespeare, Martin Butler, citing much of the same evidence as Warren (although he is unconvinced by the connection with Golden Age), agrees with a date of mid-1610.