Love's Labour's Won (1595–1596)
Christopher Hunt's list of plays; the bottom entry reads "Loves labor won."
- First official record: Francis Meres' Palladis Tamia (1598), referred to as "Love labours wonne."
- First published: prior to 1603; format and exact date unknown.
- First recorded performance: there are no recorded performances of the play, but the fact that it is mentioned in Palladis Tamia strongly suggests it was performed.
- Additional information (existence): there are only two known references to this play. One is in Meres' Palladis Tamia, the other is a fragment of Christopher Hunt's inventory, listing sixteen "ludes and tragedyes" sold from 9 to 17 August 1603. The list includes four Shakespearean plays; The Merchant of Venice, The Taming of a Shrew, Love's Labour's Lost, and Love's Labour's Won. Up until 1953, only Meres' reference was known, until Hunt's two pages of handwriting were discovered in the backing of a copy of Thomas Gataker's Certaine Sermones. The discovery was handed over to T.W. Baldwin, who published his findings in 1957 in Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Won. Baldwin argues that the title of the play suggests it was a sequel to Love's Labour's Lost, which is partially supported by the unusually open-ended nature of that play (the main characters all vow to meet again in a year's time). However, whether the play ever existed has been debated, with some critics speculating that it is simply another name for one of Shakespeare's known plays, a situation similar to Henry VIII, which was originally performed with the title All is True. As Meres refers to The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Comedy of Errors and The Merchant of Venice, prior to the discovery of the Hunt reference, a common suggestion was The Taming of the Shrew, but as Hunt mentions this play, it could not be Love's Labour's Won. Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It, Troilus and Cressida and All's Well That Ends Well have also been cited as possibilities, with All's Well the most favoured. However, these plays all tend to be dated later than 1598 (although the argument is that Love's Labour's Won is an early draft). As there are no other pre-1598 Shakespearean comedies with which to equate it, it seems certain that the play did exist, that it was performed and published, but that it has since been lost.
- Evidence: the play's position in the chronology is based purely on the speculation that it was a sequel to Love's Labour's Lost.