A Chronology of Shakespeare’s Plays

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A Chronology of Shakespeare’s Plays

Shakespeare around 1609 / imagenpolitica.comWhile there has always been loud debate about ‘the author of William Shakespeare’s plays’ –  the concept is foolish – there is always a doubt in academe not just about possible or mooted authorship, but also about exactly when WS wrote the plays. Dividing the thirty-seven (38?) into separate sections – comedy, tragedy, history and romance – we present here what could be called a concerted opinion on this contentious subject. As to authorship, it hardly matters! All we need to know is that the plays exist; some of them might have been copied from other authors, some were most definitely inspired by others. It really does not matter. The plays exist, and we choose to place them under the authorship of a man called William Shakespeare. Some might have been written by a man called William Wickleigh. We can be certain that neither C. Marlowe nor F. Bacon wrote any of them. We can also be certain that among Shakespeare’s colleagues in the theatre world there were men clever and erudite to have taken the Master’s notes and sketches and formed them into plays. That was how the First Folios were published. The illustration shows Shakespeare around 1609.


The Comedy of Errors             1590

The Taming of the Shrew         1591

Love’s Labours Lost                1593

Two Gentlemen of Verona       1593

A Midsummer Night’s Dream   1594

The Merchant of Venice           1596

The Merry Wives of Windsor    1597

As You Like It                         1598

Much Ado About Nothing         1599

Twelfth Night                           1600

Troilus and Cressida                 1602

All’s Well That Ends Well         1603

Measure for Measure               1604

Two Noble Kinsmen?              1613


Titus Andronicus                      1590

Romeo and Juliet                      1595

Julius Caesar                            1599

Hamlet                                     1601

Othello                                     1604

King Lear                                 1605

Macbeth                                   1605

Antony and Cleopatra                1606

Timon of Athens                        1606

Coriolanus                                 1608


Henry VI Pts. 1, 2 & 3              1591/92

Richard III                                1592

Richard II                                 1595

King John                                 1596

Henry IV Pt. 1                          1597

Henry IV Pt. 2                          1598

Henry V                                   1599

Henry VIII?                             1613


Pericles, Prince of Tyre             1697

Cymbeline                                 1609

A Winter’s Tale                        1610

The Tempest                             1611

From this table we can see that William Shakespeare’s most prolific years were 1591, 1592 (both Henry VI Pt. I and Richard III), 1595, 1596, 1597, 1599 and especially 1599, when he wrote Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing and Julius Caesar. He wrote his best known history play, Richard III, nine years before Hamlet. Henry VIII (1613) and Two Noble Kinsmen are   italicised because there is no agreement between experts over how much WS was helped by others, and by whom, in their composition.

Classifying The Merchant of Venice as a ‘comedy’ has cost the experts many a heartache, as it is hardly comic to end the play with a character losing his fortune, his house, his means of making a living, his religion and his daughter. Perhaps Shylock would have preferred to lose a pound of flesh as well?                                                                              

By | 2011-08-28T16:23:05+00:00 August 28th, 2011|English Language|0 Comments

About the Author:

‘Dean Swift’ is a pen name: the author has been a soldier; he has worked in sales, TV, the making of films, as a teacher of English and history and a journalist. He is married with three grown-up children. They live in Spain.

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