The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1589–1591)
Extract from Francis Meres' Palladis Tamia (1598), which makes reference to twelve of Shakespeare's plays.
- First official record: in Francis Meres' Palladis Tamia (1598), referred to as "Gētlemē of Verona."
- First published: First Folio (1623).
- First recorded performance: an adaptation by Benjamin Victor was performed at Drury Lane in 1762. The earliest known performance of the straight Shakespearean text was at Covent Garden on 15 April 1784, although because of the reference to the play in Palladis Tamia, we know it was definitely performed in Shakespeare's lifetime.
- Evidence: Stanley Wells argues that the play's "dramatic structure is comparatively unambitious, and while some of its scenes are expertly constructed, those involving more than, at the most, four characters betray an uncertainty of technique suggestive of inexperience." The play is therefore considered one of the first Shakespeare composed after his arrival in London c.1590, at which point he would have lacked theatrical experience. Furthermore, the discussion between Launce and Speed regarding the vices and virtues of Launce's mistress (3.1.276-359) seems to borrow from John Lyly's Midas, which was written in late 1588 and/or early 1589, thus fixing a terminus post quem for the play. This situates the date of composition as somewhere between 1589 and 1591, by which time it is known Shakespeare was working on the Henry VI plays. In his 2008 edition of the play for the Oxford Shakespeare, Roger Warren, following E.A.J. Honigmann, suggests Shakespeare may have written the play prior to his arrival in London, possibly as early as 1587, although he acknowledges this theory is purely speculative.