First official record: an entry in the Revels Account Book records a performance on 1 November 1611.
First published: First Folio (1623).
First recorded performance: in the banqueting hall at Whitehall Palace on 1 November 1611, performed by the King's Men.
Evidence: the date of The Tempest can be securely fixed between September 1610 and October 1611. Obviously, to have been on stage on 1 November, it must have been completed before November, and it is unlikely that the Whitehall performance was the first performance (plays were rarely performed at court without previously appearing on the public stage). The terminus post quem of September 1610 can be fixed by Shakespeare's use of a real incident as source material. In May 1609 a fleet of nine ships set sail from Plymouth, heading for Virginia, carrying five hundred colonists. On 29 July, the flagship, the Sea Venture, was driven off course by a storm and wrecked on the coast of Bermuda. All hands were thought lost, but on 23 May 1610 her passengers arrived safely in Virginia, having found shelter on Bermuda, where they repaired the pinnaces and completed their journey. The play is particularly indebted to William Strachey's A True Reportory of the Wracke and Redemption of Sir Thomas Gates, written in Virginia, and dated 15 July. The MS was carried back to England byGates himself, who arrived in London in early September. Although True Reportory was not published until 1625, it is known to have been read widely in MS form. Two pamphlets published later in 1610 were also used as sources; Sylvester Jourdain's A Discovery of the Bermudas, the dedication of which is dated 13 October 1610, and the Virginia Company's own A True Declaration of the Estate of the Colonie in Virginia, which was entered into the Stationers Register on 8 November. It is worth noting that although most scholars accept these texts as sources and evidence of dating, not all do so. Kenneth Muir is a notable example of a scholar who questions the argument that Shakespeare used Strachey. Stylistically, a rare vocabulary test, a colloquialism-in-verse test and Ants Oras' pause test all place the play after Coriolanus, Winter's Tale and Cymbeline.
First official record: entered into the Stationers' Register by Humphrey Moseley on 9 September 1653, as "The History of Cardenio, by Mr Fletcher and Shakespeare."
First published: as far as is known, Cardenio itself has never been published, but in 1728 Lewis Theobald published a play called Double Falshood; or, The Distrest Lovers, which he claimed was adapted from Shakespeare's Cardenio. Theobald claimed that he had access to the original play in the form of three manuscripts. The play had been staged at Drury Lane in December 1727, to great box office success, and was revived in 1728. According to an article in the Gazetteer on 31 March 1770, "the original Manuscript of this play is now treasured up in the Museum of Covent Garden Playhouse." However, the article is unclear on whether it is referring to the original Cardenio manuscript by Shakespeare and Fletcher or the original Double Falsehood script by Theobald. In any case, the library burned down in 1808. Theobald's 1728 publication contains a preface which reads, in part, "It has been alleged as incredible, that such a curiosity should be stifled and lost to the world for above a century. To this my answer is short: that though it never till now made its appearance on the stage, yet one of the manuscript copies which I have is of above sixty years standing, in the handwriting of Mr. Downesthe famous old prompter; and, as I am credibly informed, was early in the possession of the celebrated Mr. Betterton and by him designed to have been ushered into the world. What accident prevented this purpose of his, I do not pretend to know; or through what hands it had successively passed before that period of time. There is a tradition (which I have from the noble person, who supplied me with one of my copies) that it was given by our author, as a present of value, to a natural daughter of his, for whose sake he wrote it, in the time of his retirement from the stage. Two other copies I have (one of which I was glad to purchase at a very good rate), which may not, perhaps, be quite so old as the former; but one of them is much more perfect, and has fewer flaws and interruptions in the sense."
First recorded performance: on 20 May 1613, the King's Company received payment for a court performance of "Cardenno."
Additional information (attribution): Cardenio is considered a lost play, and whether or not Shakespeare had anything to do with it is an unanswered (and, given the available evidence, perhaps unanswerable) question. Only two sources attribute it to Shakespeare; Moseley's 1653 Stationers' Register entry and Theobald's 1727 adaptation. Although the 1613 court payment does connect the play to the King's Men, this does not mean Shakespeare wrote it, as the company performed many plays in which he had no hand. The validity of Moseley's attribution is not helped by the fact that he is known to have attributed several other now lost plays to Shakespeare. For example, on 29 June 1660, he made an entry in the Register for "the History of King Stephen. Duke Humphrey, a Tragedy. Iphis and Iantha, or a marriage without a man, a Comedy. By Will: Shakespeare." However, Gary Taylor argues that it is unlikely Moseley was aware of the 1613 court payments to the King's Men, which coincides with Shakespeare's collaboration with Fletcher on two other plays (Henry VIIIand The Two Noble Kinsmen). Taylor believes this adds support to Moseley's claim of Shakespearean authorship, especially as Fletcher's involvement in Henry VIII hadn't been established by 1653. Scholars also continue to debate the validity of Theobald's claims that he was in possession of a Shakespearean play that had been omitted from all previous editions of Shakespeare's work. E.K. Chambers points out several problems with Theobald's asserted ownership of the text; no one else ever confirmed seeing the three manuscripts, Theobald's claim that he owned them is the only evidence we have; there is no evidence Shakespeare had a "natural daughter" (i.e. an illegitimate daughter), he had two legitimate daughters, and one son, who died age eleven (although John Freehafer argues the reference to "a natural daughter" is to Henrietta Maria du Tremblay, the wife of Shakespeare's (alleged) illegitimate son, William Davenant); the manuscripts apparently disappeared after Theobald's death and were not listed in his sale catalogue of 23 October 1744; the play is never mentioned in the writings of either Downes or Betterton; and if Theobald was so certain of Shakespeare's authorship, why did he not include the play in his 1734 edition of the complete works? Scholars remain divided on the issue of Theobald's claims. However, in 2010, Double Falsehood was controversially published under the Arden Shakespeare banner, edited by Brian Hammond, who adopts the position set out by G. Harold Metz in his 1989 book, Sources of Four Plays Ascribed to Shakespeare; "Double Falsehood is mainly Theobald, or Theobald with an earlier adapter, with a substantial admixture of Fletcher and a modicum of Shakespeare." Hammond, for the most part, accepts Theobald's claims, although not without some reservations, and believes Double Falsehood to have been adapted from Cardenio, a play written by Shakespeare and Fletcher.
Evidence: the dating of the play is based on the fact that Cardenio is a character in Don Quixote, which was not published in English until Thomas Shelton's1612 translation.
First official record: a letter by Thomas Lorkin, dated 30 June 1613, in which he describes a fire at the Globe Theatre caused when sparks from an on-stage cannon landed on a thatched roof during a performance of "the play of Hen:8."
First published: First Folio (1623), as The Famous History of the Life of King Henry the Eight.
First recorded performance: the production mentioned in Lorkin's letter took place on 29 June 1613. In a letter by Sir Henry Wotton to Sir Edmund Bacon, dated 2 July 1613, Wotton describes the production as "a new play called All Is True representing some principal pieces of the reign of Henry the VIIIth." Traditionally, this was assumed to have been the first performance. However, in another letter describing the fire, written by London merchant Henry Bluett on 4 July 1613, and only discovered in 1981, the play is described as having "been acted not passing 2 or 3 times before," meaning although the 29 June is the first recorded performance, it was not the first actual performance of the play.
Additional information (attribution): the play is thought to be a collaboration with John Fletcher, a theory first proposed in 1850 by James Spedding (following a suggestion by Alfred, Lord Tennyson), who suggested that Shakespeare's original manuscript was touched up by Fletcher and his regular collaborator, Francis Beaumont. Unlike Shakespeare's other collaboration(s) with Fletcher (Two Noble Kinsmen and, possibly, Cardenio), there is no external evidence that Fletcher worked on Henry VIII, and any arguments for collaboration are based wholly on stylistic analysis. However, much of this evidence does suggest two writers; a rare word test, Ants Oras' pause test, the relationship between prose and verse, vocabulary distribution, and a colloquialism-in-verse test all provide evidence that the play had two different authors. The passages most confidently attributed to Shakespeare are 1.1, 1.2, 2.3, 2.4, 3.2 and 5.1.
Evidence: the fact that the 29 June performance was such an early performances suggests a date of composition of 1612-1613, a date with which most modern scholars concur. Ever since Spedding, scholars have tended to link the play with the marriage of Princess Elizabeth to Frederick V, Elector Palatine in February 1613. In his 1957 edition of the play for the second series of the Arden Shakespeare, R.A. Foakes argues the overriding theme of the play, especially the final scene, showing the christening of the future Queen Elizabeth, would have perfectly suited the political atmosphere of the period. In early 1613, there was much suspicion of Spain, and Catholic conspiracy, and it was hoped that the marriage would produce an alliance with the devoutly Protestant German princes. In terms of stylistic analysis, the most significant data in terms of dating the play is MacDonald P. Jackson's rare word test, which found that the sections of the play thought to be by Shakespeare must be dated to the very end of his career, and if the non-Shakespearean sections were treated as Shakespearean they would be dated to 1599-1600, an obvious impossibility.
First official record: a fragment from the King's Office of the Revels, dated 1619, includes a list of plays which may have been recently performed at court. Two Noble Kinsmen is one of the plays mentioned.
First published: published in quarto in 1634 (printed by Thomas Cotes for John Waterson).
First recorded performance: although the play must have been staged prior to October 1614, records of early productions are vague. The 1619 list may be a list of recently performed plays, but it could also be a list of plays proposed for future performance. The inclusion of two actors names in stage directions in the 1634 quarto text (18.104.22.168 and 22.214.171.124) suggest the play was staged in 1625 or 1626 (the actors mentioned are "Curtis" (probably Curtis Greville) and "T. Tucke", (Thomas Tuckfield), both of whom were with the King's Men for the 1625-1626 season only). The quarto text also claims the play had recently been performed at Blackfriars. However, the earliest known performance is in the form of William Davenant's adaptation The Rivals in 1664. The earliest known production of the straight Shakespearean/Fletcher text was in The Old Vic on 28 March 1928, directed by Andrew Leigh.
Additional information (attribution): attributed to Shakespeare and Fletcher by both the Stationers' Register entry and the 1634 quarto, there is also much internal evidence that the play was a collaboration between the two. Studies of vocabulary, metre, imagery, pause patterns, the treatment of sources as well as linguistic analysis and rare word tests all suggest the play had two distinct authors. Shakespeare is thought to have written Act 1, 2.1, 3.1, 3.2, and most of Act 5 (except 5.4).
Evidence: the morris dance in 3.5 borrows from Francis Beaumont's The Masque of the Inner Temple and Gray's Inn, which was performed at court on 20 February 1613, probably by the King's Men. A terminus ante quem is fixed by Ben Jonson's Bartholomew Fair, first performed on 31 October 1614, which twice sarcastically refers to "Palemon"; Palamon is one of the protagonists in Noble Kinsmen. This establishes a date of composition sometime between February 1613 and October 1614. The argument has also been made that the play may have been commissioned specifically for the festivities surrounding the marriage of Princess Elizabeth to Frederick V, Elector Palatine in February 1613. At the time, the country was still in mourning for Prince Henry, who had died in November 1612. Henry was devoutly Protestant, a keen proponent of chivalry and was delighted with Elizabeth's choice of husband. Until his death, he was the main planner behind the wedding celebrations and it has been speculated that perhaps Beaumont's The Masque of the Inner Temple was written to cater to Henry's penchant for chivalry. Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Knight's Tale", upon which Two Noble Kinsmen is based, is a chivalric romance, and would have been especially fitting for a wedding organised by Henry.