In his own lifetime, Shakespeare saw only about half of his plays enter print. Some individual plays were published in quarto, a small, cheap format. In 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death, his fellow actors John Heminges and Henry Condell put together a collection of his complete plays. Heminges and Condell were in a position to compile Shakespeare’s complete plays, because they, like Shakespeare, worked for the King’s Men, the London theatre company that produced all of Shakespeare’s plays (in Elizabethan England, plays belonged to the company that performed them, not the dramatist who had written them).
It ought to be simple, therefore, to say what Shakespeare wrote, and what he did not: the plays that were included in the First Folio must be by Shakespeare, and those that were excluded must be by someone else. After all, Heminges and Condell were in a better position to know what Shakespeare wrote than subsequent scholars or secondhand sources.
However, there are a number of complications that have created the concept of the Shakespeare Apocrypha. The Apocrypha can be categorized under the following headings.