We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Are the Origins of Shakespeare's "Edward III"?

By Alan Rankin
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The origins of Shakespeare’s Edward III are uncertain at best. It is not even clear that William Shakespeare was in fact the play’s author. This is because it was published anonymously and not included in the earliest collections of his work. Scholars of Shakespearean and Elizabethan drama have tentatively concluded that the Bard collaborated on the play with at least one other writer. Shakespeare may have later distanced himself from the play because of its disparaging portrayal of Scottish people.

The play was first published in London as The Reign of King Edward the Third in 1596. At the time, Shakespeare was already active in the theater, writing historical dramas based on the British monarchy, such as Henry V and Richard III. Modern-day scholarly studies have concluded that the play was based on the same literary source he used for most of his histories. Some of its passages are also very similar to Shakespeare’s writing style. Others are not, however, and this, combined with the anonymous publication, led to centuries of debate over the play’s authorship.

The first part of Edward III involves the king’s ill-advised wooing of a married noblewoman. In the second half, he leads England into a territorial conflict with France. While he is thus occupied in the south, Scottish rebels attack from the north. This is historically accurate, but the Scottish characters are portrayed as duplicitous and cowardly. This reflected contemporary British attitudes toward the Scots people; such portrayals, however, strained diplomatic relations with Scotland during the 1590s.

In 1598, the British envoy to Scotland complained to Lord Burghey, an adviser to Queen Elizabeth I, about the portrayal of Scottish people in a particular play. While the play’s name is not mentioned in the surviving letter, it was long suspected to be Edward III. In 1603, Queen Elizabeth died, and the British throne was occupied by her Scottish cousin, James I. It is now thought that this explains why Edward III was not included in the first complete collection of Shakespeare’s plays in 1623. This omission was the strongest argument against Shakespeare’s authorship of the play in succeeding centuries.

Modern-day scholars have noted that some lines in Edward III are identical to poems written by Shakespeare. In 2009, a researcher ran the play through a computer program designed to analyze the authorship of college theses. The program concluded that Shakespeare collaborated on the play with another noted dramatist of the time, Thomas Kyd. Research into the matter is ongoing, but in the 1990s, university presses published Shakespeare’s Edward III, attributing the play to him for the first time. It has also been performed at Shakespeare festivals as part of the “Apocrypha,” or disputed works, of the Bard.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.