Sources

Sources2017-11-02T11:07:00+00:00
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Shakespeare’s Sources

Tragedies

Antony and Cleopatra

Coriolanus

Hamlet

Julius Caesar

King Lear

Macbeth

Othello

Romeo and Juliet Timon of Athens

Titus Andronicus

Histories

Henry IV, Part I

Henry IV, Part II

Henry V

Henry VI, Part I

Henry VI, Part II

Henry VI, Part III

Henry VIII

King John

Richard II

Richard III

Comedies

All’s Well That Ends Well

As You Like It

The Comedy of Errors

Cymbeline

Love’s Labours Lost

Measure for Measure

The Merry Wives of Windsor

The Merchant of Venice

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Much Ado About Nothing

Pericles, Prince of Tyre

The Taming of the Shrew

The Tempest

Troilus and Cressida

Twelfth Night

Two Gentlemen of Verona The Winter’s Tale

SR- Stationer’s Register Q-a Quarto version F-a Folio version O-an Octavo version

As you can see from the table below, Love’s Labour’s LostA Midsummer Night’s DreamThe Merry Wives of Windsor, and The Tempest are Shakespeare’s original plots.

datepublication and SRSource, influences
Edward III 1st Quarto Edition1590 (1589-95 )SR(1.Dec.1595) 1596(Q1) 1599(Q2)
  • Froissart, Jean (c.1337-1410). Chroniques (c.1495) (John Bourchier’s English translation in 1523-5)
  • Painter, William (1540-94). The Palace of Pleasure (1566-7)
  • Holinshed, Raphael (c. 1528-c. 1580). The Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland. (2nd ed., 1587)
Two Gentlemen of Verona1590 1594-5 (1589-94)1623(F1)
  • Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-75). Decameron10th day, the story of “Titus and Gisippus”
  • Elyot, Thomas (c.1490-1546). The Boke named the Governour(1531)
  • Montemayor, Jorge de (c.1521-61). Diana Enamorada (1542, English translation in 1582. publication in 1598) the story of “Felix and Felismena”
  • Anonymous. The History of Felix and Philiomena (the record of the performance in 1585)
  • Brooke, Arthur (?-1563). The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet (English translation in 1562)
  • Lyly, John (c.1554-1606). Euphues (1578)
The Taming of the Shrew1593 (1589-94)1623(F1)
  • Anonymous ballad. A Merry Jest of a Shrewede and Curste Wyfe (printed 1550)
  • Gascoigne, George (1542-77). Supposes (performed 1566, published 1573, 1587. Translation of Italian drama , I suppositi (1509)
  • Anonymous. The Taming of a Shrew (1594) SR(2.May.1594)
  • the influence of Commedia dell’arte
2 Henry VI1590-1SR(12.Mar.1594) 1594(Q1) 1600(Q2) 1619(Q3) 1623(F1)
  • Hall, Edward (1498-1547). The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancaster and York (3rd. ed., 1550)
  • Fabyan, Robert (?-1513). New Chronicles of England and France (1516)
  • Holinshed, Raphael (c. 1528-c. 1580). The Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland. (2nd ed., 1587)
  • Grafton, Richard (c.1512-c.1572). A Chronicle at Large of History of the Affayres of England (1516)
  • Hardyng, John (1378-c.1465). The Chrocicle of John Hardyng (1543)
  • Foxe, John (1516-87). The Book of Martyrs (4th ed., 1583)
3 Henry VI1590-1SR(19.Apr.1602) 1595(O)* 1600(Q2) 1619 (Q3) 1623(F1)
  • Hall, Edward (1498-1547). The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancaster and York (3rd. ed., 1550)
  • Holinshed, Raphael (c. 1528-c. 1580). The Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland. (2nd ed., 1587)
  • William Baldwin ed. The Mirror for Magistrates (1559 ed.)
  • Edmund Spenser (c.1552-99). The Faerie Queene (1590) – descriptions of the sun at 2.1.
  • Brooke, Arthur (?-1563). The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet (English translation in 1562) – Queen Margaret’s speech at 5.4.
  • Kyd, Thomas (1558-94) The Spanish Tragedy (1588-9) and Soliman and Perseda (1590)

*For convenience sake, it is sometimes called Q1.

Titus Andronicus1589 1592 (1588-1594)SR(6.Feb.1594) 1594(Q1) 1600(Q2) 1611(Q3) 1623(F1)
  • a chapbook of “Titus Andronicus” sold by chapmen.
  • Ovid (43 BC- AD18). Metamorphoses (Arthur Golding’s English translation in 1567)
  • Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4. BC-AD65). Thyestes (English translation in 1560)
1 Henry VI1589-921623(F1)
  • Hall, Edward (1498-1547). The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancaster and York (3rd. ed., 1550)
  • Holinshed, Raphael (c. 1528-c. 1580). The Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland. (2nd ed., 1587)
  • Fabyan, Robert (?-1513). New Chronicles of England and France) (1516)
Richard III1592 (1591-93)SR(20.Oct.1597) 1597(Q1) 1598(Q2) 1602(Q3) 1605(Q4) 1612(Q5) 1622(Q6) 1623(F1) 1629 (Q7) 1634 (Q8)
  • Holinshed, Raphael (c. 1528-c. 1580). The Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland. (2nd ed., 1587)
  • Hall, Edward (1498-1547). The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancaster and York (1587 edition)
  • More, Thomas. History of King Richard the Thirde. (1543)
  • William Baldwin ed. The Mirror for Magistrates (1559 ed.)
Venus and Adonis1593 (1592-1594)SR(18.Apr.1593) 1593(Q1) 1594(Q2) 1595? (O1) 1596(O2) 1599(O3) 1599(O4) 1602?(O5) 1602(O6-O8) 1617(O9)
  • Ovid (43 BC- AD18). Metamorphoses (Arthur Golding’s English translation in 1567) Book 10.
The Rape of Lucrece1594SR(9.May.1594) 1594 (Q) 1598 (O1) 1600(O2) 1600(O3) 1607(O4) 1616(O5)
  • Ovid (43 BC- AD18). Fasti Book 2. (Latian version)
  • Titus Livius (59BC-AD17). Ab urbe condita libri Book 1. (Latin)
  • Painter, William (1540-94). The Palace of Pleasure (1566-7)
  • Geoffrey Chaucer (c.1340-1400). The Legend of Good Women (c. 1386)
The Comedy of Errors1591 1594 (1590-94)1623(F1)
  • Plautus (c.254-184 BC). Menaechmi (perfromed 1592 with English translation by William Warner, printed 1595)
  • Plautus (c.254-184 BC). Amphitryon (Latin)
  • George Gascoigne (1542-77). Supposes (performed 1566, published 1573, 1587. Translation of Italian drama , I suppositi (1509)
  • the influence of Commedia dell’arte
Love’s Labour’s Lost1590 1594-95SR(22.Jan.1607) 1598 (Q1) 1623(F1)No written source for the plot has been found.

  • the influence of Commedia dell’arte
A Midsummer Night’s Dream1595SR(8.Oct.1600) 1600(Q1) 1619 (Q2) 1623(F1)No written source for the plot has been found and it seems that the plot is Shakespeare’s original. However, there are influences from followings.

    Theseus and Hippolyta

  • Plutarch (c.46-120). Lives (Thomas North’s translation in 1579)
  • Chaucer, Geoffrey (c.1340-1400). The Canterbury Tales “The Knight’s Tale” (1400)The story of “Pyramus and Thisbe” and the name of Titania.
  • Ovid (43 BC- AD18). Metamorphoses (Arthur Golding’s English translation in 1567)Oberon
  • Huon of Bordeau, a 13th-century French adventure tale translated by Lord Berners (1534)
The Sonnets1593-1603 (1593-1609)SR(20.May.1609) 1609(Q)There are no particular source, however, Shakespeare might have been influenced by followings.

  • Daniel, Samuel (c.1562-1619). Delia (1592) distructive “Time”
  • Sidney, Philip (1554-86). Astrophel and Stella (1591)
  • indirectly but the inference of Francesco Petrarca (1304-74)
Romeo and Juliet1595 (1594-96)SR(22.Jan.1607) 1623(F1)
  • Brooke, Arthur (?-1563). The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet (English translation in 1562)
Richard II1595SR(29.Aug.1597) 1597 (Q1) 1598 (Q2) 1598 (Q3) 1608 (Q4) 1615 (Q5) 1623(F1)
  • Hall, Edward (1498-1547). The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancaster and York (3rd. ed., 1550)
  • Holinshed, Raphael (c. 1528-c. 1580). The Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland. (2nd ed., 1587)
  • Anonymous. Thomas of Woodstock (c. 1592)
  • Froissart, Jean(c.1337-1410). Chroniques (1495?)(John Bourchier’s English translation in 1523-5)
  • William Baldwin ed. The Mirror for Magistrates (1559 ed.)
  • Daniel, Samuel (c.1562-1619). The Civil Wars between the Two Houses of Lancaster and York (1595-1609)
King John1590-1 1596-71623(F1)
  • Anonymous. The Troublesome Raigne of John King of England2 Vol. (1591)(?)
  • Holinshed, Raphael (c. 1528-c. 1580). The Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland. (2nd ed., 1587)
  • Foxe, John (1516-87). The Book of Martyrs (4th ed., 1583)
The Merchant of Venice1596-7SR(22.Jul.1598) 1600(Q1) 1619(Q2) 1623(F1)
  • Fiorentino, Ser Giovanni Il Pecorone (The Simpleton) (1558)
  • Gesta Romanorum (1340, translation by Richard Robinson, 1595 ed)
  • a Lost English play The Jew
  • Marlowe, Christopher (1564-93). The Jew of Malta (c. 1589)
  • Munday, Anthony, Zelauto (1580)
1 Henry IV1596-97SR(25.Feb.1598) ?(Q0) 1598(Q1) 1599(Q2) 1604(Q3) 1608(Q4) 1613(Q5) 1622(Q6) 1623(F1)
  • Holinshed, Raphael (c. 1528-c. 1580). The Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland. (2nd ed., 1587)
  • Daniel, Samuel (c.1562-1619). The Civil Wars between the Two Houses of Lancaster and York (1595-1609)
  • Anonymous. The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth (c. 1586)
  • William Baldwin ed. The Mirror for Magistrates (1559 ed.)
  • Stow, John (1525-c.1605) The Chronicles of England (1580)
The Merry Wives of Windsor1597 (1597-8)SR(18.Jan.1602) 1623(F1)There are no particular source for the plot, however, Shakespeare might get inspirations and be influenced by followings.

  • Fiorentino, Ser Giovanni Il Pecorone (The Simpleton) (1558)
  • Ovid (43 BC- AD18). Metamorphoses (Arthur Golding’s English translation in 1567)
  • Lyly, John (c.1554-1606). Endimion (1588)
2 Henry IV1597-8SR(23.Aug.1600) 1600(Q) 1623(F1)
  • Holinshed, Raphael (c. 1528-c. 1580). The Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland. (2nd ed., 1587)
  • Anonymous. The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth (c. 1586)
  • Hall, Edward (1498-1547). The Union of the Two Noble and Illustre Families of Lancaster and York (3rd. ed., 1550)
  • Daniel, Samuel (c.1562-1619). The Civil Wars between the Two Houses of Lancaster and York (1595-1609)
  • William Baldwin ed. The Mirror for Magistrates (1559 ed.)
Much Ado About Nothing1598 (1598-99)SR(4.Aug.1600) 1623(F1)
  • Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533). Orlando Furioso (1516)(The English translation by John Harington in 1591)
  • Bandello, Matteo (1485-1561) Novelle (1554-73) 22th story.
  • Edmund Spenser (c.1552-99). The Faerie Queene (1590)
  • Francois de Belleforest (1530-83). Histories Tragiques (1568) Book 3
  • Whetstone, George The Roke of Regard (1576) -Clauido’s rejuction of Hero at her own wedding
  • Castiglione, Baldassare (1478-1529)The Book of the Courtier (1528)
Henry V1599 (1598-99)SR(4.Aug.1600) 1600(Q1) 1602(Q2) 1619(Q3) 1623(F1)
  • Holinshed, Raphael (c. 1528-c. 1580). The Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland. (2nd ed., 1587)
  • Anonymous. The Famous Victories of Henry the Fifth (c. 1586)
  • Robert Fabyan (?-1513). New Chronicles of England and France) (1516)
  • Samuel Daniel (c.1562-1619). The Civil Wars between the Two Houses of Lancaster and York (1595-1609)
The Passionate Pilgrim15991599(O1) ?(O2) 1612(O3)
Julius Caesar15991623(F1)
  • Plutarch (c.46-120). Lives (Thomas North’s English translation in 1579)
  • Appian [Appianos] (2nd century). Civil Wars (English translation in 1578)
  • Anonymous.The Tragedy of Caesar and Pompey, or Caesar’s Revenge (c. 1595)
As You Like It1599 (1599-00)SR(4.Aug.1600) 1623(F1)
  • Thomas Lodge (c.1557-1625). Rosalynde (1590)
Hamlet1600-01SR(26.Jul.1602) 1603 (Q1) 1604 (Q2) 1611(Q3) 1623(F1)
  • Thomas Kyd (1558-94). Ur-Hamlet (c. 1589)
  • Francois de Belleforest (1530-83). Histories Tragiques Book 5 (1570)
Twelfth Night1601 (1601-02)1623(F1)
  • Barnabe Riche (c.1540-1617). Farewell to Militarie Profession (1581) the story of “Apolonius and Silla”
  • Bandello, Matteo (1485-1561) Novelle (1554-73)
The Phoenix and the Turtle16011601(Q1) 1611(Q2)There are no particular source, however, Shakespeare might have been influenced by followings.

  • Chester, Robert Love’s Martyr where The Phoenix and the Turtle appears
  • Ovid (43 BC- AD18). Amores Book 2 6th poem.
  • Matthew Roydon’s elegy in The Phoenix Nest
  • Chaucer, Geoffrey (c.1340-1400). The Pralement of Foules
Troilus and Cressida1602 (1601-03)SR(7.Feb.1603) 1609(Q) 1623(F1)
  • Homer (c. 900.BC). Iliad (English translation in 1598 by George Chapman)
  • Chaucer, Geoffrey (c.1340-1400). Troilus and Criseyde (c. 1385)
  • Caxton, William (c.1421-91). Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye) (1475, 5th ed. 1596)
  • Lydgate, John (c.1370-1449). The Troy Book (1412-20, 1555 ed)
A Lover’s Complaint1603-04 (1600-04)SR(20.May.1609) 1609(Q)
  • Samuel Daniel (c.1562-1619). The Complaint of Rosamond (1592)
  • Edmund Spenser (c.1552-99). Complaints (1591)
Measure for Measure1604 (1603-04)1623(F1)
  • Geroge Whetstone (c.1544-87). Promos and Cassandra (1578)
  • Cinthio, Giovanni Battista Giraldi.1504-73). Hecatommithi (1565. No English translations have found, therefore, Shakespeare probably read it either in Italian or French.)
  • Cinthio, Giovanni Battista Giraldi.1504-73) Epitia (1583. No English translations have found, therefore, Shakespeare probably read it either in Italian or French..)
  • Barnabe Riche (c.1540-1617). The Adventures of Brusanus, prince of Hungaria (1592)–Lucio’s interactions with the disguised Duke.
Othello1603-04SR(6.Oct.1621) 1622(Q1) 1623(F1) 1630(Q2)
  • Cinthio (Giovanni Battista Giraldi.1504-73). Hecatommithi (1565. No English translations have found, therefore, Shakespeare probably read it either in Italian or French.) Book 2, 7th story of “Disdemona and the Moor”
  • Pliny, the Elder (23-79). Naturalia Historia (Philemon Holland’s translation in 1601)
  • Africanus, Leo. A Geographical History of Africa (English translation by John Pory, 1600)
All’s Well That Ends Well1605 (1602-05)1623(F1)
  • Painter, William (1540-94). The Palace of Pleasure (1566-7)
Timon of Athens1605 (1604-08)1623(F1)
  • Plutarch (c.46-120). Lives (Thomas North’s English translation in 1579)
  • Lucian (c. 120-180). Timon, the Misanthrope (No English translation which Shakespeare could use is found.)
  • John Lyly (c.1554-1606). Campaspe (c. 1584)
  • Anonymous. Timon. (c. 1602)
King Lear1605 (1605-06)SR(26.Nov.1607) 1608(Q1) 1619(Q2) 1623(F1)
  • Anonymous. The True Chronicle History of King Leir (c. 1590)
  • Holinshed, Raphael (c. 1528-c. 1580). The Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland. (2nd ed., 1587)
  • Sidney, Philip (1554-86). The Arcadia (1590)
  • Spenser, Edmund (c.1552-99). The Faerie Queene (1590)
Macbeth16061623(F1)
  • Holinshed, Raphael (c. 1528-c. 1580). The Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland. (2nd ed., 1587)
  • Buchanan, George (1506-82) (1582)
  • Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4BC. – AD 65). Hercules Furens and Agamemnon (English translation in 1565)
Antony and Cleopatra1607 (1606-07)SR(20 May.1608) 1623(F1)
  • Plutarch (c.46-120). Lives (Thomas North’s translation in 1579)
  • Appian [Appianos] (2nd century). Civil Wars (English translation in 1578)
  • Daniel, Samuel (c.1562-1619). The Tragedy of Cleopatra (c. 1594)
Pericles1607-08SR(20.May.1608) 1609(Q1) 1609(Q2) 1611(Q3) 1619(Q4) 1630(Q5) 1635(Q6) 1664(F3)
  • Gower, John (c. 1330-1408) Confessio Amantis. (1554 ed) which was from the medieval collection of Latin tales, Gesta Romanorum (c. 1340)
  • Twine, Lurence (active 1564-1576) The patterne of Painefull Adventures (1594, 1607)
  • Sidney, Philip (1554-86). The Arcadia (1590)
Coriolanus1608 (1607-08)1623(F1)
  • Plutarch (c.46-120). Lives (Thomas North’s English translation in 1579)
  • Livius, Titus or Livy (59BC-AD17). Ab Urbe Condita Libri (Philemon Holland’s English translation as The Romane Historie in 1600.)
  • Camden, William (1551-1623). Remaines of Greater Worke Concerning Britain (1605)
  • Averell, William A Marvaillous Combat of Contrarieties
The Winter’s Tale1609 (1609-11)1623(F1)
  • Robert Greene (c.1558-92). Pandosto (1588)
  • Ovid (43 BC- AD18). Metamorphoses (Arthur Golding’s English translation in 1567)
Cymbeline1609 (1609-10)1623(F1)
  • Holinshed, Raphael (c. 1528-c. 1580). The Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland. (2nd ed., 1587)
  • William Baldwin ed). The Mirror for Magistrates (1559 ed.)
  • Anonymous. Frederyke of Jennen 3rd ed., (1560)
  • Anonymous. The Rare Triumphs of Love and Fortune (performed 158, printed 1589)
  • Boccaccio, Giovanni (1313-75). Decameron 2nd Day, 9th story
The Tempest1611 (1610-11)1623(F1)There are no particular source for the plot, however, Shakespeare might get inspirations and be influenced by the event. In June 1609, the Sea Adventure was wrecked at Bermuda. A survivor William Strachey described his experience in a letter and his letter was circulate din manuscript.

  • Strachey, William (c.1567-c.1634) (dated 15.Jul.1610, printed 1625)
  • Jourdain, Sylvester (?-1650). A Discovery of the Bermudas (1610)
  • Jourdain, Sylvester (?-1650) The True Declaration of the Estate of Colonie in virginia (1610)
Henry VIII1613 (1612-13)1623(F1)
  • Holinshed, Raphael (c. 1528-c. 1580). The Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland. (2nd ed., 1587)
  • Foxe, John (1516-87). The Book of Martyrs (4th ed., 1583)
Two Noble Kinsmen  1st Quarto Edition (1634)1613 (1612-14)SR(8.Apr.163) 1634(Q)
  • Chaucer, Geoffrey (c. 1340-1400). The Canterbury Tales (c.1482)
  • Plutarch (c. 46-120). Lives (Thomas North’s English translation in 1579)–Theseus’ depiction esp.1.1.
  • Beaumont, Francis (c. 1584-1616) (the Masque of the Inner Temple and Gray’s Inn) (1613)

References: The order is followed Oxford, The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Bullough, Geoffery. Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare. 8 Vols. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1967-75. Muir, Kenneth. The Sources of Shakespeare Plays. London: Methuen, 1977. I also used introductions of the Norton Shekespeare, the New Cambridge Shakespeare, the Arden Shakespeare etc..