A play with the title Love’s Labour’s Won is thought to be one of the lost plays of Shakespeare. We know that a play with this title existed during Shakespeare’s lifetime, but unfortunately there are no records of the play in performance and no script of the play that has survived. A manuscript dated 19 August 1603 included Love’s Labour’s Won in a list of plays attributed to Shakespeare, among other ‘interludes and tragedies’ such as The Merchant of Venice, The Taming of the Shrew and Love’s Labours Lost. Francis Meres’ Pallidas Tamia also contains a mention of Love’s Labour’s Won among other plays by Shakespeare in 1598.
Perhaps the play with the title Love’s Labours Won was not lost, but survived under a different title. Some people think that Much Ado About Nothing, for example, could have been first performed with the title Love’s Labours Won.
Other plays have been attributed to Shakespeare along with the mysterious Love’s Labours Lost. The History of Cardenio was attributed to Shakespeare, in collaboration with John Fletcher, in an entry in the Stationers’ Register in 1653. Cardenio was performed by the King’s Men at Greenwich in June 1613 and at court over the Christmas season in 1612. More plays were listed in the second and third folio versions of Shakespeare’s collected works. These plays include The London Prodigal, Thomas Lord Cromwell, Sir John Oldcastle, The Puritan Widow, A Yorkshire Tragedy and Double Falsehood. These plays have, at various times, been attributed to Shakespeare and are known as Shakespeare’s lost plays or the ‘Shakespeare Apocrypha’. Over five hundred of the plays performed in playhouses during Shakespeare’s lifetime exist today, but it is estimated that a similar number of other plays were performed but have since been lost. All that exists of these ‘lost plays’ are titles or brief descriptions in records kept by the Stationers’ Company and the Revels Office. Records of other lost plays are also found in private documents such as Philip Henslowe’s record of activities at the Rose playhouse between 1592 and 1609.
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