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Shakespeare's Plays

A List in Probable Date Order

Shakespeare portrait


Below is a list of plays known or thought to have been written by Shakespeare. I have listed them next to the years in which I think they were played for the first time. The order and dates are not to be taken as fact, because nobody knows when many of the plays were first performed. I have based my order on several authorities, but where their opinions differ I have chosen the date that seems most plausible to me.

A few plays may not belong in the list at all, but many scholars believe that Shakespeare had a substantial hand in their writing even if he did not write them alone.

In case you don't know, Shakespeare's plays were published in two forms known as quarto and Folio. A quarto edition was a booklet containing the text of a single play often published to cash in on a successful stage performance. Copies of many of these have survived.

After Shakespeare's death in 1616 his fellow players John Heminges and Henry Condell gathered the texts of his plays, eighteen already published in quarto editions, and eighteen more previously unpublished, in a single volume known as the First Folio. It was published in 1623. Of the plays now universally accepted as Shakespeare's, only Pericles wasn't in that Folio edition.

There are three extra titles in the list over which there is controversy. They are Two Noble Kinsmen, Edward III and Cardenio.

Two Noble Kinsmen was probably co-written with John Fletcher who took over as the King's Men's chief playwright when Shakespeare retired. This is generally accepted as a Shakespeare work nowadays.

Edward III, was officially accepted as partly or wholly by Shakespeare in the late 1990's. Heminges and Condell didn't include the play in the First Folio, even though two previous quarto editions had already been published in 1595 and 1599. Neither quarto mentioned the author (or authors) nor the actors company that had performed the play ‘about the city of London’.

I saw the Royal Shakespeare Company production in 2003 and thought that the sub-plot in the middle section of the play, in which Edward tries to force his attentions on the beautiful Countess, didn't seem to fit with the war tale around it. Roger Warren in the text of the play (Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk ) published by the RSC disagrees, citing the importance of honouring one's oaths to both parts of the play. You read it, or better still see a production, and judge for yourself.

Cardenio is thought to be a play by Shakespeare and Fletcher performed by the King's Men. A play recorded in the King's Treasurer's accounts as Cardenna or Cardenno was performed at Court by Shakespeare's company in 1613. Unfortunately we do not have a text, as Heminges and Condell didn't include it in the First Folio (perhaps they didn't have a text!) and there is no known quarto edition from Shakespeare's time. In 1727 a play called Double Falsehood was performed at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in London. It was said to have been 'Written Originally by W.SHAKESPEARE' and further adapted by Lewis Theobald. The plot is a version of a section of Cervantes' Don Quixote as translated into English by Thomas Shelton in 1612. We don't know how Theobald obtained the original called The History of Cardenio, and we also don't know what parts are his work and what Shakespeare's (if any!). You may read the text of Double Falsehood and extensive notes and analysis of its history in an Arden Shakespeare edition published in 2010 in the US and UK .

In 2011 Gregory Doran Chief Associate Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company 're-imagined' Cardenio by re-adapting Double Falsehood and adding scenes he felt were missing by dramatizing scenes from the 1612 Thomas Shelton translation. The production opened the refurbished Swan Theatre at Stratford in 2011 and I very much enjoyed it. You can buy the text of the play from Amazon.co.uk

Complete Works

There are several standard editions of Shakespeare's complete works. The first one I owned was bought for me by my Uncle Mike in 1961, but nowadays The Arden Shakespeare Complete Works is well respected and liked. My stalwart for many years has been The Complete Oxford Shakespeare edited by Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor.  In 2007 the RSC (Royal Shakespeare Company) published RSC Shakespeare: The Complete Works edited by Jonathan Bate and Eric Rasmussen. Recent collections of the plays and verse have made decisions about whether to take the Folio version of a passage in a play or replace it with the quarto version which in some case is different. The RSC volume sticks with the First Folio text, modernising spellings and only including the quarto version if the Folio version of the passage doesn't make sense due to typesetting errors for instance. Plays not included in the Folio and all the verse pieces appear in an appendix to the volume with any quarto alternative passages. This collection includes a verse which the editors believe was perhaps performed by Shakespeare himself as the epilogue to a performance of Twelfth Night on Shrove Tuesday 20th February 1599 at Richmond Palace before Queen Elizabeth.  I haven't bought this volume yet but I'm tempted.

Shakespeare's Plays

Ordered by probable date

Play Date Comments
The Two Gentlemen of Verona 1589  
Henry VI part 2 1590  
Henry VI part 3 1591  
Henry VI part 1 1592  
The Comedy of Errors 1592  
Richard III 1593  
Titus Andronicus 1593  
The Taming of the Shrew 1593  
Love's Labour's Lost 1594  
Romeo and Juliet 1594  
Richard II 1595  
A Midsummer Night's Dream 1595  
Edward III 1595 Not certainly all or in part by WS.
King John 1596  
The Merchant of Venice 1596  
Henry IV part 1 1597  
Henry IV part 2 1597  
Much Ado About Nothing 1598  
Henry V 1598  
Julius Caesar 1599  
As You Like It 1599  
Twelfth Night 1599  
Hamlet 1600  
The Merry Wives of Windsor 1600  
Troilus and Cressida 1601  
All's Well That Ends Well 1602  
Measure for Measure 1604  
Othello 1604  
King Lear 1605  
Macbeth 1605  
Antony and Cleopatra 1606  
Coriolanus 1607  
Timon of Athens 1607 Perhaps co-written with Thomas Middleton
Pericles 1608 Not included in the First Folio
Cymbeline 1609  
Winter's Tale 1610  
The Tempest 1611  
Two Noble Kinsmen 1612 Probably co-written with John Fletcher
Cardenio 1612 Lost play probably co-written with John Fletcher
All is True (Henry VIII) 1613 Probably co-written with John Fletcher



Brief Biography
  An outline of the life of Shakespeare
Shakespeare Family Tree
  Shakespeare was part of a large family in Stratford and fathered three children. Click here to see his family tree.
Who wrote Shakespeare?
I have no problem reconciling the image of the man we know as Will Shakespeare, and the works that bear his name, but some people do, and the authorship debate continues. The movie "Anonymous" has opened up the argument to a wider audience.
Shakespeare's Plays
  A list of all the plays, including the doubtful ones, in probable order of first performance.
The Globe Playhouse
  Drawings and information about the playhouse where Shakespeare's plays were produced in his lifetime, and information and pictures of the new reconstructed Shakespeare's Globe on London's Bankside


MIT Shakespeare Site
  A collection of the play texts plus FAQ, discussion area and more
The Shakespeare Site
  Now under new management. Lots of information, but most pages incomplete, encouraging the reader to pay for a subscription to get all the facts.
Shakespeare's Birthplace Site
  Stratford-upon-Avon's own site on the Bard
Home Page