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William Shakespeare- A Chronology

By John Good

1558 Accession of Queen Elizabeth I.

1564 William Shakespeare christened on 26 April, probably born on 23 April. He was one of five surviving children of John Shakespeare and Mary Arden. Birth of Christopher Marlowe.

1566 James VI of Scotland born in Edinburgh.

1570 The Lord Mayor of London forbade performances by actors within the city walls; the first theatres built in the capital were situated outside the city.

1572 Birth of Ben Jonson.

1575/6 John Shakespeare, who is believed to have been a glover, became an alderman of Stratford. Ten years later he lost this position, probably because he was in debt and dared not go out to perform his public duties for fear of arrest.

1576 Actor James Burbage built the first theatre in London.

1577 Sir Francis Drake's voyage around the world.

1582 A marriage licence was issued for William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway. Shakespeare was, at 18, eight years younger than Anne.

1583 The christening of Susanna, William's daughter.

1585 Christening of twins Hamnet and Judith Shakespeare.

1585-91 The 'lost years' for which there are no records relating to Shakespeare. He may have worked for his father or have become a teacher at Stratford Grammar School. It is also possible that he spent part of his time in Italy. He certainly left Stratford to re-emerge in London. One legend has it that he began his theatrical career by minding the horses of wealthy theatregoers.

1587 Mary Queen of Scots executed.

1588 Drake's defeat of the Spanish Armada.

1590/1 Henry VI parts 1, 2 and 3

1592 Venus and Adonis

Shakespeare was established as an actor and writer. He enlisted as an actor with the Lord Chamberlain's Men. Burbage and Kempe were also members of this company.

1592 The production of Shakespeare's first known play Henry VI part 1. It was highly successful, making record takings of 1,840 pence.

1592/3 Richard III

There were two outbreaks of plague in London. The theatres were held responsible by the Puritans and closed for two years.

1593 The Rape of Lucrece

Death of Christopher Marlowe. First performance of Marlowe's Dr Faustus.

1593/4 Titus Andronicus

The Taming of the Shrew

The Comedy of Errors

Love's Labour's Lost

1594/5 Romeo and Juliet

A Midsummer Night's Dream

1595/6 Richard II

Shakespeare ceased to be a paid actor with the Lord Chamberlain's Men, since he and the three Burbages were shareholders in what had become a very profitable theatre company at their own theatre.

1595/1600 The sonnets were probably written over this period.

1596 Henry IV part 1

A coat of arms was granted to John Shakespeare.

1596/7 King John

The Merchant of Venice

Henry IV part 2

1597 The Merry Wives of Windsor

William Shakespeare, obviously enriched by his earnings as one of London's most successful playwrights, bought New Place, one of the finest houses in Stratford, for £60; although there is no indication that he spent very much time in Stratford at this period.

1598/9 Much Ado About Nothing

1599 Henry V

Julius Caesar

The lease on Burbage's The Theatre expired. After a long legal wrangle the entire structure was dismantled and moved to form The Globe, the most famous of all Elizabethan playhouses, in which Shakespeare was a sharer (ie part owner). It became the home of the Lord Chamberlain's Men and bore the Latin motto, "All the world's a stage".

1599/1600 As You Like It

1600 Hamlet: Shakespeare probably sold this play outright, like the others, for about £12.

1601 Twelfth Night

1601/2 Troilus and Cressida

1602/3 All's Well That Ends Well

1603 Death of Queen Elizabeth. On the accession of James I, the Lord Chamberlain's Men, Shakespeare's company, became the 'King's Majesty's Players'.

1603/4 Othello

1604 Measure for Measure

Timon of Athens

1606 Macbeth

Antony and Cleopatra

1607 The marriage of Shakespeare's daughter Susanna to Dr John Hall.

1607/8 Pericles

1608 King Lear


Death of Shakespeare's mother Mary. Birth of his granddaughter, Elizabeth Hall.

1609 The Blackfriars Theatre became the winter home of the King's Men, while in the summer they remained at the Globe which, being open roofed, was exposed to the weather. Shakespeare paid £100 for his share in Blackfriars.

1609/10 The Winter's Tale

1610 Shakespeare retired to his house in Stratford.

Ben Jonson's play The Alchemist first performed at the Globe Theatre by the King's Men.

1610/11 Cymbeline

The Tempest

1612 The Who's Who of Shakespeare's day describes him as 'of Stratford-on-Avon, gentleman'.

1613 The Two Noble Kinsmen

Henry VIII: the Globe Theatre burned down during its first performance due to an accident with a cannon.

1616 Shakespeare's daughter Judith married Thomas Quinney.

23 April, Shakespeare died aged 52. He is buried at the Church of Holy Trinity in Stratford-on-Avon. Most of his estate was left to Susanna. His epitaph reads: 'Good friend, for Jesus' sake, forbeare/To digg the dust enclosed here!/Bleste be the man that spares the stones/And curste be he that moves my bones!'

1623 Shakespeare's widow, Anne, died. Shakespeare's fellow actors, Hemminge and Condell, published the first folio of his plays.

1642 The Playhouse closed by the Puritans. The Theatre remained suppressed until the restoration of Charles II