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The Reign of King Edward III is a play attributed to William Shakespeare. First printed in 1596, it had long been listed as being anonymously written. In 1760 noted Shakespearean editor Edward Capell included it in his Prolusions; or, Select Pieces of Ancient Poetry, Compil'd with great Care from their several Originals, and Offer'd to the Publicke as Specimens of the Integrity that should be Found in the Editions of worthy Authors, and concluded that it had been written by Shakespeare, but Capell's conclusion was not embraced by scholars.
Three main problems prevented the play from being attributed to Shakespeare from the beginning:
- It was not mentioned in Francis Meres' book Palladis Tamia, a work which listed Shakespeare's early plays.
- John Heminge and Henry Condell did not include the play in the First Folio of 1623.
- Many critics view the play as not worthy of Shakespeare's writing ability.
The plot of the play centers around the Countess of Salisbury (the wife of the Earl of Salisbury), beset by rampaging Scots, who is "rescued" by King Edward III, who vows to get her into his bed. The play makes many gibes at Scotland and the Scots, a view which has led some critics to believe that it is this work which caused George Nicolson, Queen Elizabeth's agent in Edinburgh, to write in 1598 to William Cecil, Lord Burghley, protesting the way Scots were being portrayed on the London stage.