Dating the play

Rebecca Brown explains how we know when Shakespeare wrote A Midsummer Night's Dream.


A Midsummer Night's Dream was first published in 1600. According to the title page, it had 'been sundry times publickely acted by the Right Honourable the Lord Chamberlain his Servants'. The play is among those praised by Francis Meres in his Palladis Tamia so it must have been written before that book's publication in 1598.

The likeliest date of composition is 1595-6 since the play shares the poetic style of Love's Labours Lost, Richard II, Romeo and Juliet, and The Merchant of Venice, all of which were written in the mid-1590s.

Scholars have often tried to pinpoint the play's date by arguing that it was written to be performed at the celebration of a particular aristocratic wedding but there is no conclusive evidence to confirm this theory.


Written by Rebecca Brown © RSC

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Teaching Shakespeare