Shakespeare Comedies

All's Well That Ends Well

1602 - The year in which Shakespeare's Comedy All's Well That Ends Well was first performed on the stage. It is has been suggested, however, that the first performance may not have occurred for a further 3 years.

1623 - first 'official' publication of the play.

1580 - The year of Thomas Middleton's birth, the reputed co-author of All's Well...

18th - The century in which 'All's Well that End's Well' developed an 'unlucky' reputation similar to that of Macbeth, after one run of the performance was plagued by illness and a death.

Did You Know?

After a short lived resurgence in popularity during the 1800s, the Victorians took issue with the leading female character Helena claiming she was both 'predatory' and 'immodest', and was accused of 'hunt[ing] men down in the most undignified way'. She was also described as 'really despicable', and a 'doormat'.

1896 - Frederick S. Boas coins the phrase "problem play" to include this unpopular work, grouping it together with works like Troilus and Cressida and Measure for Measure.

As You Like It

1600 - The year in which Shakespeare's comedy 'As You Like It' was entered into the Register of Stationers Company as a work 'to be stayed' (on 4th August). This meant that it could not be published until the authorship was proven to be undisputed.

Did You Know?

There are no recorded publications of this play during Shakespeare's lifetime, which was unusual during the Elizabethan Era. If a play was popular the script was often printed and sold, without the authors consent, to eager audience members. In 1600, however, the fact that a song from the play was available in print would suggest otherwise.

£30 - The amount paid to the King's Men to perform 'As You Like It' at Wilton House, Salisbury, on the 2nd December 1603. This was the temporary residence of James I and his court, who had retired to Wiltshire in order to escape an epidemic of the bubonic plague which raged in London.

2 - The Act in which Shakespeare's famous quote “All the world's a stage” appears. (Act II, Scene VII).

55% - The extent to which Shakespeare used prose for this play. The remainder, 45%, was composed in verse.

4 - The number of silent film versions of this play made between 1908 and 1915. These were all very short, either focusing on a short sequence of the play, or condensed version of the plot.

Did You Know?

It is thought that Shakespeare played Orland's servant Adam in this play.

The Comedy of Errors

1594 - The year William Warner's translation of Menaechm' was entered into the Register of the Stationers Company on the 10th June. It is thought that Shakespeare's Comedy of Errors drew its inspiration from this play.

2 - The number of recorded performances of this play, the first of which was at Gray's Inn Hall on the 28th December 1594. The second took place exactly ten years later, on 28th December 1604, a date otherwise known as 'Innocents' Day' (so named to commemorate 'The Massacre of the Innocents' by Herod the Great).

3 - The number of 'classical unities' (or 'Aristotelian unities') that some plays observed - rules for drama that were derived from a section of Aristotle's Poetics. These are the unity of action, which states a play should have one main 'action' with either no or few sub-plots, the unity of place, which states that a play should not attempt to compress geography by ensuring that the stage itself represents a single geographical location, and thirdly the unity of time, which states that the 'story' of the play should take place over no more than 24 hours.

2 - The number of plays written by Shakespeare to observe these 'classical unities', of which the Comedy of Errors is one example.

Love's Labour's Lost

1598 - The year of Love's Labour's Lost first publication, a play which is thought to have been written between 1595 and 1596.

18 - The number of characters to be found in Love's Labour's Lost.

1597 - The first recorded performance of the play at the court of Queen Elizabeth I as part of the Christmas festivities.

Did You Know?

Love's Labour's Lost relies on sophisticated wordplay, puns and literary allusions, and is assumed to have been written for performance at the Inns of Court. It is believed that this is why it has never been amongst Shakespeare's most popular plays as the pedantic humour would have made it particularly inaccessible to contemporary theatregoers.

1920s - The era in which - after some 250 years of unpopularity - Love's Labour's Lost became popular with the average theatre goer once more. Before this, there are few recorded productions of this play after the mid-seventeenth century.

Measure for Measure

1603 – 1604 - The years attributed to the writing of Measure for Measure, which was first published in 1623.

26 - The date, in December 1604, the play was first performed under the title "Mesur for Mesur" by "Shaxberd" for the entertainment of King James I and his court on 'Saint Stephen's Night'.

Did You Know?

This is often considered one of Shakespeare's 'problem plays' as it shifts from straight-forward comedy to dark and ambiguous moral choices.

1937 - The year in which the BBC made Measure for Measure the first Shakespeare play to be broadcast in full, on the 25th October. This was not to be repeated by the BBC for over forty years when, in 1979, Desmond Davis' production was televised as part of the Shakespeare Cycle series.

The Merry Wives of Windsor

1597 - The year of the Merry Wives of Windsor' composition.

1602 - The first known publication of the play.

1 - The number of characters to appear in the Merry Wives of Windsor who had previously been listed amongst the characters of another Shakespeare play, namely Henry IV. This was the comic character Sir John Falstaff.

Did You Know?

One of the most prominent themes of the play is the idea of the cuckold, or adulterous wife, which to an Elizabethan audience was absolutely hilarious. A cuckolded husband was said to 'wear horns' like the 'buck basket' Sir John Falstaff, and any reference to horns or a horned animal would have been hugely comical to an Elizabethan audience.

1604 - The earliest confirmed performance of the play which took place on 4th November at Whitehall Palace. However it is thought this play may have been performed earlier for Queen Elizabeth I at the Garter Feast on 23rd April 1597, and earlier still in January 1593 at Windsor castle, again for Elizabeth I and her court.

1619 - The year that The Merry Wives of Windsor appeared in the so-called 'false folio' published by William Jaggard, which preceded the official 'first folio' by 4 years.

6 - The date in December 1660 that the Merry Wives of Windsor became the first play to be performed on the stage following the re-opening of the theatres after their closure during the Interrengum. Amongst the audience was the notable Samuel Pepys, the famous seventeenth century diarist and member of Parliament.

Did You Know?

In England during World War I many German names and titles were changed for more English version. This included the royal family, who went from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor. Kaiser Wilhelm responded to this by jokingly saying he was off to see 'The Merry Wives of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha'.

The Merchant of Venice

1598 - Written Between 1596 and 1598, the Merchant of Venice was entered into the Register of Stationers Company on the 22nd July that year.

5 - The number of editions published over a period of 37 years. These years were 1600, 1619, 1623, 1632 and 1637.

1605 - The earliest recorded performance at the court of King James I, with a second performance just days later.

3000 - The amount, in ducats, loaned by Shylock to Antonio (the Venetian merchant) for a period of three months; an amount he then gives to Bassanio so the latter might woo the beautiful Portia.

1lb - The weight demanded by Shylock, the Jewish money lender (or 'usurer'), should Antonio default on his loan. Rather gruesomely this was to be a pound of Antonio's flesh - to be taken from his chest - a ploy to fulfil Shylock's desire for revenge.

Did You Know?

The Merchant of Venice has been condemned for its anti-Semitic portrayal of the Jewish money-lender Shylock. Jewish people would have been rare in Elizabethan England; they had been expelled from England during the reign of Edward I in 1290 and were not permitted to return until the rule of Oliver Cromwell in 1656. On the Elizabethan stage they were often portrayed as hideous caricatures, with crooked noses with red hair, and were usually depicted as greedy, evil and deceitful.

A Midsummer Night's Dream

1607 - The year that A Midsummer Night's Dream is thought to have been performed for the first time.

17 - The number of years to elapse between the writing and the production of the play in 1607. It has, however, also been suggested that this play may have been written six years later in 1596, and not 1590.

1642/1660 - The period in which the theatres were closed. Despite this, the comical subplot of bottom and his compatriots was nevertheless performed as a 'droll'. A droll was a comical 'playlet' that could be attached to performances by jugglers and acrobats which did not fall under the ban against drama.

16 - The number of times the word 'dream' actually appears in the text.

Much Ado About Nothing

1599 - The year Much Ado About Nothing was penned, although this has also been dated to the preceding year.

Did You Know?

It has been suggested that the word 'nothing' in the play's title was used on purpose. In Shakespearian England the word 'nothing' could also be pronounced much like 'noting', which not only meant to take note of something, but also to overhear or intentionally eavesdrop.

1612/1613 - While an early text claims that Much Ado About Nothing was "sundry times publicly acted" before 1600, the earliest recorded performance wasn't until the winter of 1612/13. This performance took place at Court during the celebrations of the upcoming wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Frederick V.

Did You Know?

Like the Merry Wives of Windsor, one of the main themes of this play is cuckoldry. The main female character is accused of being unfaithful, her father and would be husband believe the accusations despite there being almost no evidence. This is a reflection of the fear Elizabethan men had of being seen as weak and unable to control their wives and family.

4 - The total number of 'lovers' found in Much Ado About Nothing (divided into 2 couples). Their names are Hero and Claudio, Benedick and Beatrice.

The Taming of the Shrew

1594 - The first year that the Taming of the Shrew is thought to have been performed.

1590/1591 - The years attributed to the writing of the play.

Did You Know?

A play that explores the social question of the relationship between the sexes in marriage with Petruchio's attempt to 'tame' Katherine and assert his authority in their marriage and overcome her resistance to playing her role as his wife, it was common practice during this period that children marry in order of their birth, hence why Katherine must marry in this play and why her father offers such a large dowry once she is 'tamed' by her husband.

1908 - The first film adaptation of the Taming of the Shrew. This silent film was just 11 minutes in length, which equates to just 47.14 seconds for each of the 5 Act plays 14 scenes.

Twelfth Night or What You Will

Did You Know?

'Twelfth Night' is an allusion to the twelfth night after Christmas Day, known as the Eve of the Feast of Epiphany. This day marks the end of the merry making of Christmas, and most importantly, commemorated the magi. The festivals of Twelfth night would be lead by the 'Lord of Misrule' who, temporarily leaving their position of authority, would call for entertainment, songs and mummery (folk plays). This play has been regarded as preserving these festive traditions of licensed disorder.

1599 - The earliest 'date' attributed to the writing of Twelfth Night, more likely is the writing of the play around 1601/02.

2 - The date, in February 1602, that the play was performed on Candlemas – the formal end of Christmastide. This took place at the Middle Temple, one of London's four law schools known collectively as the Inns of Court.

Did You Know?

It is suggested that Shakespeare was simply going to call this play What You Will, but another play write John Marston premiered a play also entitled What You Will. As such, Shakespeare changed the name to Twelfth Night or What You Will. This title prepares the audience for the jovial festive feel of this play, filled with drink, dancing and general self-indulgence.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona

1590/1591 - The period attributed to the writing of Two Gentlemen of Verona.

Did You Know?

This is thought to have been Shakespeare's first play, and contains many themes he has become known for, as elements he would explore more fully with later plays. These include cross dressing, infidelity, love, friendship, the conflicts love and friendship cause and the foolish things love can make you do.

1762 - Although the suggested date for the plays first performance is around 1594-1595, this was the first year that Two Gentlemen of Verona was recorded as having been performed. This was at the famous Royal Theatre on Drury Lane, over 150 years after it was written.

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