The Correct Dating of Shakespeare’s Plays

Having supposedly contracted the plague, Edward de Vere died in July 2nd 1604 leaving a number of plays and poems which are in need of re-assessment in terms of their original date of completion, publishing and first performance. The general consensus among Stratfordians is that William Shakespeare began writing plays in 1597 beginning with Henry VIth Part One, followed by Henry VIth Parts Two and Henry VIth Part Three (1587-92) then Richard III (1592-3). These early history plays were followed by the Comedy of Errors (1591-2). As a result, we now have a pyramid of errors which is far from amusing yet in the final analysis extremely comic. Whenever these conventional dates are challenged by academics who align themselves to the Stratfordian view they tend to reject the Earl of Oxford’s authorship on three grounds namely; that he was dead by 1604 and that numerous plays were still being released for performance and publication. The second objection is that his early attempts at literary excellence do not compare admirably to those attributed to William Shakespeare’s (eg: Venus & Adonis, the Rape of Lucrece, The Passionate Pilgrim, Phoenix & the Turtle, etc). The third objection is that the Earl’s character and status does not reflect or comply with the assumed character profile drawn and elucidated by those academics of the Bard of Avon. Admittedly, the Earl’s early attempts at poetry were composed when he was in his early twenties, some perhaps even earlier probably when he was in his experimental teens. That does not pre-empt the assertion that either his style of execution or the quality of his verse did not improve with age and experience, for example when he was in his thirties and forties. The same argument could in actual fact be applied to the supposition that William Shagspere had been dead and buried before at least seven of his plays had been first performed, that is according to the available records of the time. Therefore,  William Shagspere’s authorship of the 1623 Folio could easily be rejected on the same grounds. Firstly, we should bear in mind that the theatrical records as well as those from the Stationer’s Office were for a short period (1570-1587) interrupted or totally absent. On examination theatrical records from 1579-1621 kept by Sir Edmund Tilney and Sir George Buc have been lost or destroyed. Records at Gray’s Inn were unreliable if not concocted when the Countess of Southampton, whose son was Shakespeare’s patron, was managing the accounts and entries for her husband Sir Thomas Heneage; it seems these fabrications of payments were used to offset a long-standing debt to the Crown.  That means there are few irrefutable records on which to build an accurate chronology of completion, first performance and publication of plays. In this regard chroniclers are faced with the awesome task of reassembling a 10,000 piece jig-saw with 90% of the pieces missing. Academics that have relied on theatrical or other records could not have authenticated the precise date of composition, performance or publication. Those assertions are fraught with numerable errors so great or anomalous as to render them useless in any serious study or accurate chronology of Shakespeare’s work. It was not until the 1590’s that lists and records resume some normality that we can base any degree of accuracy towards the chronology of plays or poetry in Elizabethan England. Furthermore, records were scarce primarily because performance of plays in the mansions, Inn Yards and provincial halls and theatres were not readily recorded until they became obvious to the Office of the Revels or the Stationer’s Office which was based in London and they dealt largely with court plays, Inner Temple or major theatres such as the Curtain, the Rose, the Globe, or Blackfriars etc. The difficulty of relying on the record of first performance is that the majority of these plays had already been circulating either privately or in the provinces for several years before they were finally performed in London. On top of which the text and manuscripts of Elizabethan plays were regularly revised and changed to suit a particular audience while others were altered or redacted in part to suit the political or religious climate circulating in different regions and counties of England. Among those identified by Stratfordian academics are 11 Shakespeare plays that were released after the death of the Earl of Oxford which are as follows:

1. Othello (1604), 2. King Lear (1605), 3. Macbeth (1606), 4. Anthony & Cleopatra (1606-7), 5. Timon of Athens (1607), 6. Coriolanus (1607-8), 7. Pericles, Prince of Tyre (1607-8), 8. Cymbeline (1609-10), 9. A Winter’s Tale (1609-10), 9. The Tempest (1611-12), 10. Henry VIIIth (1612-13), 11. Two Noble Kinsmen (1612-13). (See also Shakespeare’s Literary Sources)

The links to my publications “Shakespeare’s Qaballah”, a Companion to Shakespeare Studies and my anthology of poetry, “Pathenogenesis” are as follows:


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