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Four Shakespearean Period Pieces$
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Margreta de Grazia

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780226785196

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2022

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226785363.001.0001

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Shakespeare in Chronological Order

Shakespeare in Chronological Order

(p.60) 2 Shakespeare in Chronological Order
Four Shakespearean Period Pieces

Margreta de Grazia

University of Chicago Press

Chronology has been the bedrock of Shakespeare Studies. Yet the succession in which Shakespeare wrote the plays was late to be devised and, even with today’s digitalized tests and statistics, remains conjectural. Genre was the First Folio’s organizing principle, as its title made clear: Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories & Tragedies. Subsequent editions—the seventeenth-century folios and the eighteenth-century multivolume octavos and quartos—retained the generic schema, sometimes with adjustments and refinements. Not until the late eighteenth century was a chronology for the plays attempted, and not until the middle of the twentieth did that order become standard in editions of his Collected Works, providing the basis for how we interrelate the plays and contextualize them. And yet this chronology has become increasingly untenable, and not only because the dates of the plays’ composition, unlike those of their performance or of their publication, remain conjectural. It is because chronology, the schema that attributes each play to one hand at one point in time, cannot accommodate the complexities (coauthorship, revision, and adaptation) that are now seen to constitute the canon.

Keywords:   conjectural dates, genre, First Folio, editions, chronological order, attribution, coauthorship, canon formation, revision, adaptation

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