Dating the play

Rebecca Brown explains how we know when Shakespeare wrote Antony and Cleopatra:

It is impossible to be precise about an exact date for Antony and Cleopatra but obviously it must be before the play was entered into the Stationers' Register on 20 May 1608. At this time, only members of the Stationers' Company were permitted to publish material for sale: any member wishing to print a book had to enter the title in advance in the Register. Some of the titles were never actually printed and remained only entries but the Register has proved an invaluable fund of information for later students of literature.

The text of Antony and Cleopatra was not printed until the Folio edition of Shakespeare's plays was published in 1623. Another play on the subject, Samuel Daniel's The Tragedy of Cleopatra, had been first published in 1594 and was reprinted, 'newly altered', in 1607. Daniel's revisions are clearly influenced by Shakespeare's play, which Daniel would have seen on the stage or perhaps in manuscript form. It seems likey that 1606 was the year of composition. This is around the same time that King Lear and Macbeth were written.

Written by Rebecca Brown © RSC

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Teaching Shakespeare