Published online by Cambridge University Press: 29 August 2010
This play does not seem to have been printed before it appeared in the Folio of 1623, nor indeed to have been entered on the Stationers' Register before that date. It is mentioned by Meres in Palladis Tamia (1598). I cannot agree with some of the critics in placing this comedy as the earliest of Shakespeare's original productions—that is to say, of pieces not immediately adapted from previously existing dramas. It seems, decidedly, to be later than Love's Labour's Lost and The Comedy of Errors. However, it is, undoubtedly, one of his early works. The source, to which he was indebted for some of the incidents, is most certainly the “Diana” of George de Montemayor (a Portuguese poet and romance writer, born 1520, died 1562). Of this work Bartholomew Yong published a translation in 1598; but Farmer mentions another translation by Thomas Wilson, which he says was published two or three years before: and Yong, in his preface, observes that the translation had been lying by him finished some sixteen years: it had probably, like many other MSS. of this time, been privately circulated amongst friends. Yong also mentions that “Edward Paston, Esquire, ” had translated some parts of “ Diana.” It appears, from the “ Revels’ Accounts, ” that there was a play, acted by Her Majesty's Servants at Greenwich “ on the Sondaie next after newe yeares daie at night” in 1584–5, entitled “The History of Felix and Philiomena,” which was most probably founded on the same story, as Don Felix is the name of the faithless lover of Felismena, a shepherdess who figures in the “Diana” of Montemayor.