The Chronology of Shakespeare's Plays
Establishing the chronology of Shakespeare's plays is a most frustrating and difficult task. It is impossible to know the exact order of succession because there is no record of the first production date of any of Shakespeare's works. However, scholars have decided upon a specific play chronology, based upon the following sources of information: 1) several historical events and allusions to those events in the plays; 2) the records of performances of the plays -- taken from such places as Henslowe's diary and the diaries of other Shakespeare contemporaries like John Manningham (a student at the Inns of Court), and Thomas Platter (a Swiss businessman); 3) the publication dates of sources; 4) the dates that the plays appear in print (remembering that the production of a play immediately followed the completion of that play in the Elizabethan age).
Despite the fact that we have an accepted play chronology, we must keep in mind that the dating is conjectural.
Please click on each play to find extensive study resources and fascinating details. Please see The Historical Settings of Shakespeare's Plays (by Date) for a chronology of the content of the plays.
*The Two Noble Kinsmen is listed as one of Shakespeare's plays although it must be noted that all but a few scholars believe it not to be an original work by Shakespeare. The majority of the play was probably written by John Fletcher, who was a prominent actor and Shakespeare's close friend. Fletcher succeeded Shakespeare as foremost dramatist for the King's Men (the successor to the Chamberlain's Men).
How to cite this article:
Mabillard, Amanda. The Chronology of Shakespeare's Plays. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2000. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/keydates/playchron.html >.
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