Troilus and Cressida (1600–1602)
1609 Qb edition of Troilus and Cressida
- First official record: entered into the Stationers' Register by James Roberts on 7 February 1603 as "the booke of Troilus and Cresseda."
- First published: two different versions of the play were published in quarto in 1609. Qa was published under the title The Historie of Troylus and Cresseida. Qb was published under the title The Famous Historie of Troylus and Cresseid. Excellently expressing the beginning of their loves, with the conceited wooing of Pandarus, Prince of Licia. Both Qb and Qb were printed by George Eld for Richard Bonian and Henry Walley. Both versions of the play are identical apart from a different title page, and a note to the reader added to Qb. The Folio text appears under the title The Tragedie of Troylus and Cressida.
- Additional information (publication): Troilus and Cressida has attained a degree of infamy amongst Shakespearean scholars due to the range of unanswered questions it raises. For example, it is unknown if the play was ever performed in Shakespeare's day. Qa claims it had been acted by the King's Men at the Globe, but Qb omits the reference to the King's Men and instead includes a note headed "A neuer writer, to an euer reader. Newes," which claims the play has never been staged. Apparently when Qa was at press, the printers were informed that the play had not been performed and they therefore prepared a cancel title-page and the note to the reader, which claims it is a sign of the quality of the play that it has never been publicly staged ("never staled with the stage, never clapper-clewed with the palms of the vulgar"). It is unknown however, which text is correct – Qa or Qb. E.A.J. Honigmann has suggested that the play was written early in 1601, but never acted because of fears it may have been seen as a political allegory sympathetic to Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex.
- First recorded performance: Troilus and Cressida has never been popular on stage, apparently even in Shakespeare's day. The earliest known performance is an adaptation by John Dryden, called Troilus and Cressida, Or Truth Found Too Late, which was staged at the Duke's Theatre in 1679. Although there is a record of a performance at Smock Alley in Dublin some time prior to 1700, it is unknown if this production was of Shakespeare's original text, or Dryden's adaptation, which was being revived as late as 1734. The earliest known production of the Shakespearean text was a heavily edited German language all-male production on 23 April 1898, at the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz in Munich. The first known production of the play in the United Kingdom was on 1 June 1907 at the Great Queen Street Theatre, directed by Charles Fry, using a mixture of amateur and professional actors in modern dress.
- Evidence: just as its early performance history is far from clear, so too is the date of the play's composition. 1598 can be fixed as a terminus post quem, as Shakespeare definitely used George Chapman's Seven Books of the Illiad of Homer as a source, which was entered into the Stationers' Register in April 1598. Some scholars have attempted to link the play to the War of the Theatres, particularly the reference to the "Prologue armed" (l.23), which may be an allusion to the prologue in Jonson's The Poetaster (1601), in which an obviously infuriated Jonson lashes out at his detractors. However, the prologue in Troilus was not included in either Qa or Qb, making it difficult to directly connect it to the squabbles between the playwrights. Stylistic evidence is also inconclusive. A rare word test places it closest to Hamlet. Ants Oras' pause test places it after Henry IV and before Othello, but is unable to determine exactly where the play lies between the two. A colloquialism-in-verse test places it after Hamlet and before Twelfth Night. Metrical analysis places it after Hamlet and Twelfth Night but before Measure for Measure and Othello. This all suggests a date of composition of somewhere between 1600 and 1602, but the exact order in which Hamlet, Twelfth Night and Troilus and Cressida were written seems impossible to determine.