Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbearTo dig the dust enclosed here.Blest be the man that spares these stones,And curst be he that moves my bones.
EARLY POSTHUMOUS DOCUMENTATION
Shakespeare's family or friends, however, were not content with a simple gravestone, and, within a few years, a monument was erected on the chancel wall. It seems to have existed by 1623. Its epitaph, written in Latin and inscribed immediately below the bust, attributes to Shakespeare the worldly wisdom of Nestor, the genius of Socrates, and the poetic art of Virgil. This apparently was how his contemporaries in Stratford-upon-Avon wished their fellow citizen to be remembered.
CHRONOLOGY OF SHAKESPEARE'S PLAYS
Despite much scholarly argument, it is often impossible to date a given play precisely. But there is a general consensus, especially for plays written 1585-1601, 1605-07, and 1609 onward. The following list of first performances is based on external and internal evidence, on general stylistic and thematic considerations, and on the observation that an output of no more than two plays a year seems to have been established in those periods when dating is rather clearer than others.
1589-92 Henry VI, Part 1; Henry VI, Part 2;Henry VI, Part 3
1592-93 Richard III, The Comedy of Errors
1593-94 Titus Andronicus, The Taming of the Shrew
1594-95 The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Love's Labour's Lost, Romeo and Juliet
1595-96 Richard II, A Midsummer Night's Dream
1596-97 King John, The Merchant of Venice
1597-98 Henry IV, Part 1; Henry IV, Part 2
1598-99 Much Ado About Nothing
c. 1599 Henry V
1599-1600 Julius Caesar, As You Like It
1600-01 Hamlet, The Merry Wives of Windsor
1601-02 Twelfth Night, Troilus and Cressida
1602-03 All's Well That Ends Well
1604-05 Measure For Measure, Othello
1605-06 King Lear, Macbeth
1606-07 Antony and Cleopatra
1607-08 Coriolanus, Timon of Athens
1610-11 The Winter's Tale
c. 1611 The Tempest
1612-13 Henry VIII, The Two Noble Kinsmen
Shakespeare's two narrative poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, can be dated with certainty to the years when the Plague stopped dramatic performances in London, in 1592 and 1593-94, respectively, just before their publication. But the sonnets offer many and various problems; they cannot have been written all at one time, and most scholars set them within the period 1593-1600. "The Phoenix and the Turtle" can be dated 1600-01.
During Shakespeare's early career, dramatists invariably sold their plays to an actor's company, who then took charge of them, prepared working promptbooks, and did their best to prevent another company or a publisher from getting copies; in this way they could exploit the plays themselves for as long as they drew an audience. But some plays did get published, usually in small books called quartos. Occasionally plays were "pirated," the text being dictated by one or two disaffected actors from the company that had performed it or else made up from shorthand notes taken surreptitiously during performance and subsequently corrected during other performances; parts 2 and 3 of the Henry VI (1594 and 1595) and Hamlet (1603) quartos are examples of pirated, or "bad," texts. Sometimes an author's "foul papers" (his first complete draft) or his "fair" copy--or a transcript of either of these--got into a publisher's hands, and "good quartos" were printed from them, such as those of Titus Andronicus (1594), Love's Labour's Lost (1598), and Richard II (1597). After the publication of "bad" quartos of Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet (1597), the Chamberlain's Men probably arranged for the release of the "foul papers" so that second--"good"--quartos could supersede the garbled versions already on the market. This company had powerful friends at court, and in 1600 a special order was entered in the Stationers' Register to "stay" the publication of As You Like It, Much Ado About Nothing, and Henry V, possibly in order to assure that good texts were available. Subsequently Henry V (1600) was pirated, and Much Ado About Nothing was printed from "foul papers"; As You Like It did not appear in print until it was included in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories & Tragedies, published in folio (the reference is to the size of page) by a syndicate in 1623 (later editions appearing in 1632 and 1663).
The only precedent for such a collected edition of public theatre plays in a handsome folio volume was Ben Jonson's collected plays of 1616. Shakespeare's folio included 36 plays, 22 of them appearing for the first time in a good text. (For the Third Folio reissue of 1664, Pericles was added from a quarto text of 1609, together with six apocryphal plays.) The First Folio texts were prepared by John Heminge and Henry Condell (two of Shakespeare's fellow sharers in the Chamberlain's, now the King's, Men), who made every effort to present the volume worthily. Only about 230 copies of the First Folio are known to have survived.
The following list gives details of plays first published individually and indicates the authority for each substantive edition. Q stands for Quarto: Q2, Q3, Q4, etc., stand for reprints of an original quarto. F stands for the First Folio edition of 1623.
Henry VI, Part 2 Q 1594: a reported text. F from revised fair copies, edited with reference to Q.
Titus Andronicus Q 1594: from foul papers. F from a copy of Q, with additions from a manuscript that had been used as a promptbook.
Henry VI, Part 3 Q 1595: a reported text. F as for Henry VI, Part 2.
Richard III Q 1597: a reconstructed text prepared for use as a promptbook. F from reprints of Q, edited withreference to foul papers andcontaining some 200 additional lines.
Love's Labour'sLost Q is lost. Q2 1598: from foul papers, and badly printed. F from Q2.
Romeo and Juliet Q 1597: a reported text. Q2 from foul papers, with some reference to Q. F from a reprint of Q2.
Richard II Q 1597: from foul papers and missing the abdication scene. Q4 1608, with reported version of missing scene. F from reprints of Q, but the abdication scene from an authoritative manuscript, probably the promptbook (of which traces appear elsewhere in F).
Henry IV, Part 1 Q 1598: from foul papers. F from Q5, with some literary editing.
A MidsummerNight's Dream Q 1600: from the author's fair copy. F from Q2, with some reference to a promptbook.
The Merchantof Venice Q 1600: from foul papers. F from Q, with some reference to a promptbook.
Henry IV, Part 2 Q 1600: from foul papers. F from Q, with reference to a promptbook.
Much Ado AboutNothing Q 1600: from the author's fair papers. F from Q, with reference to a promptbook.
Henry V Q 1600: a reported text. F from foul papers (possibly of a second version of the play).
The Merry Wivesof Windsor Q 1602: a reported (and abbreviated) text. F from a transcript, by Ralph Crane (scrivener of the King's Men), of a revised promptbook.
Hamlet Q 1603: a reported text, with reference to an earlier play. Q2 from foul papers, with reference to Q. F from Q2, with reference to a promptbook, with theatrical and authorial additions.
King Lear Q 1608: from an inadequate transcript of foul papers, with use made of a reported version. F from Q, collated with a promptbook of a shortened version.
Troilus andCressida Q 1609: from a fair copy, possibly the author's. F from Q, with reference to foul papers, adding 45 lines and the Prologue.
Pericles Q 1609: a poor text, badly printed with both auditory and graphic errors.
Othello Q 1622: from a transcript of foul papers. F from Q, with corrections from another authorial version of the play.
The plays published for the first time in the First Folio of 1623 are:
All's Well That Ends Well From the author's fair papers, or a transcript of them.
Antony andCleopatra From an authorial fair copy.
Henry VI, Part 1
As You Like It From a promptbook, or a transcript of it.
The Comedy ofErrors From foul papers.
Coriolanus From an authorial fair copy, edited for the printer.
Cymbeline From an authorial copy, or a transcript of such, imperfectly prepared as a promptbook.
Henry VIII From a transcript of a fair copy, made by the author, prepared for reading.
Julius Caesar From a transcript of a promptbook.
King John From an authorial fair copy.
Macbeth From a promptbook of a version prepared for court performance.