King Lear (1605–1606)

Not a favourite amongst Oxfordian redaters. Lear is so obviously a mature play.

So obviously a late work. So obviously a successor to Hamlet and Othello. There were actual eclipses of the sun and moon in 1605, like those referred to by Gloucester as the 'late eclipses of the sun and moon'. The first printed version, in 1608, was a bit of mess, unentangled by Oxford editors, resulting in two separate versions, The History and The Tragedy of King Lear. The History is based on the Quarto and The Tragedy is based on the First Folio, which had 300 lines removed and 100 lines added. 

KING LEAR is dated sometime between 1603 and 1606, probably in 1605 or early 1606, about a year before its first recorded performance, as noted in the Stationers’ Register. Stratfordian scholars argue that it could not have been written before 1603, when the names of Edgar’s devils appeared in Samuel Harsnett’s Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures, registered in March 1603. According to the Oxfordian historian Gwynneth Bowen, however, Harsnett said he used the “express words” from a priest’s records of exorcisms––thus even before 1603. Some Stratfordians also cite a line about “these late eclipses in the sun and moon” (1.2.103) as evidence that the play was written after 1605. The line is taken to refer to a double eclipse near London in late 1605, but there was a better known double eclipse in March of 1598 (Sky & Telescope, June 2002). Edgar’s devils and the double eclipse pre-date even 1603, so the Stratfordian dating of King Lear cannot be used to preclude authorship of Lear by Oxford.

That leaves nine.

Richard F. Whalen The Oxfordian Vol X

In Richard Whalen's Oxfordian Chronology, note how he dances all around the 1607 date in the Stationer's Register without actually stating it. And how he uses the possible existence of alternative sources, no matter how obscure, to vindicate an earlier date. He does not reflect on why a play first seen in 1606 would be referring to the last eclipse but one, rather than the eclipse of the previous year, still fresh in the memory. 

Hubristic concluding assertions, like Whalen's last three words, can be found everywhere in Oxfordian scholarship. Ironically, this essay is entitled 'Not Proven'.


First official record: version of the play entered into the Stationers' Register on 26 November 1607 as A booke called. Mr William Shakespeare his historye of Kinge Lear

First published: version of the play published in quarto in 1608 as M. William Shak-speare: His True Chronicle Historie of the life and death of King Lear and his three Daughters. With the unfortunate life of Edgar, sonne and heire to the Earle of Gloster, and his sullen and assumed humor of Tom of Bedlam

First recorded performance: according to the Stationers' Register, the play was performed at Whitehall on 26 December 1606

Evidence: the play must have been written by late 1606. Additionally, scholars generally agree that the play is indebted to Samuel Harsnett's Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures (entered into the Stationers' Register on 16 March 1603) and John Florio's 1603 translation of Montaigne's Essays, placing the date of composition as somewhere between March 1603 and December 1606. A further possible source for the play has evoked some disagreement however. Whilst many scholars feel that Shakespeare used the anonymous play The True Chronicle History of King Leir (entered into the Stationers' Register on 8 May 1605), and hence must have been written between May 1605 and December 1606, others argue that the relationship between the two plays has been inverted, and The True Chronicle History of King Leir was actually written to capitalise on the success of Shakespeare's play, which was probably written in 1603 or 1604. No real critical consensus has been reached regarding this disagreement.




Title page of A Declaration of egregious Popish Impostures(1603), a source used by Shakespeare to write King Lear



SCENE I. King Lear's palace.




I thought the king had more affected the Duke of
Albany than Cornwall.


It did always seem so to us: but now, in the
division of the kingdom, it appears not which of
the dukes he values most; for equalities are so
weighed, that curiosity in neither can make choice
of either's moiety.


Is not this your son, my lord?


Full text of play