Henry VI, Part 3 (1591)
Title page of Robert Green's Groatsworth of Wit, which helps fix a date for 3 Henry VI.
- First official record: version of the play published in octavo in 1595. 3 Henry VI was never entered into the Stationers' Register.
- First published: version of the play published in octavo in 1595 as The True Tragedie of Richard Duke of Yorke, and the death of good King Henrie the Sixt, with the Whole Contention betweene the two Houses Lancaster and Yorke (printed by Peter Short for Thomas Millington). This text was republished in quarto in 1600 (by William White for Millington) and in 1619. The 1619 text was printed with the 1594 quarto of 2 Henry VI under the title The Whole Contention betweene the two Famous Houses, Lancaster and Yorke. With the Tragicall ends of the good Duke Humfrey, Richard Duke of Yorke, and King Henrie the sixt, as part of William Jaggard's "False Folio" (printed by Thomas Pavier). The 1623 Folio text of 3 Henry VI appears under the title The third Part of Henry the Sixt, with the death of the Duke of Yorke.
- Additional information (publication): scholars are undecided as to the exact nature of the relationship between the 1595 True Tragedy and the 1623 3 Henry VI. There are four main theories: True Tragedy is a "bad octavo", a reported text constructed from memory based upon a performance of 3 Henry VI; True Tragedy is an early draft of 3 Henry VI; True Tragedy is both a bad quarto and an early draft (i.e. a reported text based upon a staging of an early draft of the play); True Tragedy is an anonymous source for 3 Henry VI. Originally, the bad quarto theory was generally accepted by scholars. First suggested by Samuel Johnson in the original edition of The Plays of William Shakespeare (1765), it remained the predominant theory until challenged by Edmond Malone in The Plays and Poems of William Shakespeare (1790), favouring the early draft theory. In 1929, Peter Alexander and Madeleine Doran re-established the dominance of the bad quarto theory. Scholars have continued to debate the issue since then, with no real consensus reached. The source theory, originated by Georg Gottfried Gervinus in 1849 has fallen out of favour in the twentieth and twentieth-first centuries.
- First recorded performance: although it is known that the play was definitely performed in Shakespeare's day, adaptations dominated the stage throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The earliest known such adaptation was in 1681, with John Crowne's two-part play, Henry the Sixth, The First Part and The Misery of Civil War. In 1699, 3 Henry VI was also partly incorporated into Colley Cibber's The Tragical History of King Richard the Third. In 1723, Theophilus Cibber's King Henry VI: A Tragedy also adapted scenes from 3 Henry VI. Another adaptation followed in 1817, J.H. Merivale's Richard Duke of York; or the Contention of York and Lancaster, which used material from all three Henry VI plays, but removed everything not directly related to York. The earliest known production of the Shakespearean 3 Henry VI was on 4 May 1906 at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, directed by F.R. Benson.
- Evidence: in Groatsworth of Wit, Robert Greene writes about "an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his 'tiger's heart wrapped in a player's hide', supposes that he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you, and being an absolute Johannes fac totum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country." Obviously directed at Shakespeare, this is a reference to a line in 3 Henry VI, when York refers to Margaret as a "tiger's heart wrapped in woman's hide" (1.4.137). As Groatsworth was registered in the Stationers' Register on 20 September 1592, this means that True Tragedy must have been on stage prior to 23 June 1592, as that was when the government shut the London theatres due to an outbreak of plague. To have been on stage by June 1592, the play was most likely written sometime in 1591.