Plays of the Period

There are around sixty surviving plays for the second half of our period, though we have no plays with firm links to the playhouses from the first fifteen years from 1565. The earliest play is The Three Ladies of London, published in 1584 (though likely performed earlier) and probably a Leicester’s Men play and later a Queen’s Men play (see McMillin and MacLean, The Queen’s Men and their Plays 84 and the project The Three Ladies of London).

Beneath is a working corpus of plays associated with commercial theatres and the Before Shakespeare project. The dates of these plays are based on Martin Wiggins’s best guess within the date range he establishes for each play (not necessarily of publication but of performance) in the British Drama catalogue:



The Three Ladies of London


STC 25784, taken from Roderick McKeown’s post on the Three Ladies website


Love and Fortune




Fedele and Fortunio 


The Arraignment of Paris


The Palace of Whitehall, where the Arraignment was performed, from British-History.

Sapho and Phao



The Famous Victories of Henry V


The Spanish Tragedy


Printed woodcut of a scene from Spanish Tragedy, from Luminarium

1 Tamburlaine

2 Tamburlaine

Alphonsus, King of Aragon



Suleiman and Perseda

The Wounds of Civil War

Doctor Faustus

The Battle of Alcazar

The Wars of Cyrus

The Woman in the Moon

Dido, Queen of Carthage

The Three Lords and Three Ladies of London


Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay

The Troublesome Reign of John, King of England

Mother Bombie

The Jew of Malta

A Looking-Glass for London and England


King Leir

The True Tragedy of Richard III


Love’s Metamorphosis

Arden of Faversham


“Here lived Thomas Arden (mayor 1548, Comptroller of the port of Sandwich and Customer of Faversham) and herein on 15th February, 1551 he was murdered at the instigation of his wife. This house is immortalised in the Elizabethan Drama ‘Arden of Feversham’.”

Fair Em

James IV

John a Kent and John a Cumber

The Love of King David and Fair Bathsheba


The Dead Man’s Fortune (plot)

Orlando (plus part)

Edward I



The First Part of the Contention


Richard, Duke of York


Friar Bacon and John of Bordeaux


The Old Wives’ Tale

The Taming of the Shrew

Harry VI

The Cobbler’s Prophecy

Edward II

Titus Andronicus

A Knack to Know a Knave

The Jig of Averted Adultery


A Comedy of Errors

The Massacre at Paris

Richard III

Edward III


The Taming of a Shrew

A Knack to Know an Honest Man

The Two Gentlemen of Verona 


Romeo and Juliet

Richard II

Singing Simpkin

A Midsummer Night’s Dream


Plays dated as probably after ’95 by Wiggins, but with the potential to precede that date:

Love’s Labour’s Lost

King John

Edmund Ironside

2 The Seven Deadly Sins

A Warning for Fair Women


Plays with a possible but uncertain connection to the London playhouses:

Appius and Virginia

The Trial of Treasure

John Pickering’s Vice

The Bugbears

The Marriage of Wit and Science

Sir Clyomon and Clamydes

The Life and Death of Jack Straw

Summer’s Last Will and Testament

Two Lamentable Tragedies


Plays surviving in fragments/ variants:

The Hunting of Cupid

Orlando Furioso

The Dead Man’s Fortune

John a Kent and John a Cumber

The Battle of Alcazar

Cf. the Folio versions of Shakespeare’s early histories

1 & 2 Tamar Cham