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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, and there are many who disagree with the order of plays listed below.

First PerformedPlaysFirst Printed
1590-91Henry VI, Part II1594?
1590-91Henry VI, Part III1594?
1591-92Henry VI, Part I1623
1592-93Richard III1597
1592-93Comedy of Errors1623
1593-94Titus Andronicus1594
1593-94Taming of the Shrew1623
1594-95Two Gentlemen of Verona1623
1594-95Love’s Labour’s Lost1598?
1594-95Romeo and Juliet1597
1595-96Richard II1597
1595-96A Midsummer Night’s Dream1600
1596-97King John1623
1596-97The Merchant of Venice1600
1597-98Henry IV, Part I1598
1597-98Henry IV, Part II1600
1598-99Much Ado About Nothing1600
1598-99Henry V1600
1599-1600Julius Caesar1623
1599-1600As You Like It1623
1599-1600Twelfth Night1623
1600-01Hamlet1603
1600-01The Merry Wives of Windsor1602
1601-02Troilus and Cressida1609
1602-03All’s Well That Ends Well1623
1604-05Measure for Measure1623
1604-05Othello1622
1605-06King Lear1608
1605-06Macbeth1623
1606-07Antony and Cleopatra1623
1607-08Coriolanus1623
1607-08Timon of Athens1623
1608-09Pericles1609
1609-10Cymbeline1623
1610-11The Winter’s Tale1623
1611-12The Tempest1623
1612-13Henry VIII1623
1612-13The Two Noble Kinsmen*1634

*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).

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