William Shakespeare Timeline at AbsoluteShakespeare.com

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Shakespeare Timeline describes the many chapters
in Shakespeare’s colorful life. From humble beginnings
in Stratford to his marriage to the older Anne Hathaway
and popular acclaim for his works, Shakespeare Timeline
follows the life of literature’s most famous playwright.

1564. William Shakespeare is born in Stratford
upon Avon to local tanner John and Mary Shakespeare.
His actual birthday is unknown but assumed and celebrated
today on April the 23rd, just three days before his
baptism was recorded in the Parish register of the Holy
Trinity Church on April the 26th.

1571. Shakespeare is likely to have begun his
formal education. By local tradition, children in the
Stratford area, entered the local grammar school at
age seven.

1575. Queen Elizabeth pays a visit to Kenilworth
Castle, just a short journey from Stratford. Legend
has it that an impressionable eleven year old William
saw the Queen’s procession, and recreated it several
times later in his historical and dramatic plays.

1582. Shakespeare is in love… At age 18,
he marries the considerably older Anne Hathaway (26
years old) from Shottery on November the 27th at Temple
Grafton, a village just five short miles (8 km) from

1583. Susanna, William and Anne Shakespeare’s
first child who lives a full 66 years, is born just
five months after Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway’s
wedding (May 26th). Illegitimacy was not uncommon in
the 1500s.

1585-1592. Shakespeare is believed to have left
his family in Stratford to join a company of actors
as both playwright and performer, starting his career
in theatre.

1585. Shakespeare’s twins, Judith and
Hamnet are born, (February 2)Hamnet living only eleven
years whilst Judith lived 77.

1589-1590. Shakespeare is believed by most
academics to have written his very first play, Henry
VI, Part One
in this year.

1590-91. Shakespeare is again believed to have
written Henry VI, Part Two and Henry VI, Part

1592. Shakespeare begins to be noticed as a
force within London theatre; Robert Greene’s
Groatworth of Wit
famously calls Shakespeare an
“upstart crow”. He attacks Shakespeare
as lacking originality since he borrows ideas from other
for his own plays. Academics see this criticism as proof
that Shakespeare was in London at this time.

Theatres in London close because of the plague.

1592-93. Shakespeare is thought to have written
the poem Venus and Adonis and the plays Richard
and The Two Gentlemen of Verona.

1592-94. The Comedy of Errors written
in this time.

1593. Shakespeare begins to compose the first
of what will amount to a 154 sonnet collection. His
narrative poem Venus and Adonis is his first
ever published.

1593-94. The Rape of Lucrece, Titus Andronicus
and The Taming of the Shrew are thought to have
been penned by Shakespeare at this time.

1594. The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, a theatre
troupe including distinguished actor Richard Burbage
and comic Will Kemp performs with Shakespeare in their

1594-1595. Shakespeare pen’s Love Labour’s

1594-1596. King John is assumed to have
been written.

1595. A busy year for Shakespeare as he is thought
to have composed Richard II performed that very
same year, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, thought
to be composed for a wedding and the greatest love story
of all time, Romeo and Juliet.

1596. The Merry Wives of Windsor is
thought to have been written. The Lord Chamberlain’s
Men lose their original patron, Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon
and Lord Chamberlain to be replaced by his brother George
Carey, Second Lord Hunsdon, who succeeds his late brother.

1596-1597. The Merchant of Venice and
Henry IV, Part One are thought to have been written.

1597. Shakespeare buys the New Place, one of
Stratford’s most preeminent homes. This fuels speculation
today by some academics that William was really a successful
businessman and not literature’s celebrated playwright.

1598. William is thought to have written the
play Henry IV, Part Two and Shakespeare’s
reputation as an actor is confirmed his performance
in Ben Jonson’s Every Man in his Humor which
clearly lists his name as a principal actor in the London

1598-99. William writes the play Much Ado
About Nothing
in this year.

1599. The Major shareholders of the Lord Chamberlain’s
Men lease land from Nicholas Brend, The Globe theatre
opening later that same year. Julius Caesar is
performed at the Globe Theatre for the first known time
on September the 21st according to German tourist Thomas
Platter’s diary. John Weever praises Shakespeare’s
Romeo and Juliet, The Rape of Lucrece and
Venus Adonis
in the poem Ad Guglielmum Shakespeare.

1600-1601. Shakespeare is thought to have composed
arguably his greatest play, Hamlet at this time.

1601. The narrative poem, The Phoenix and
the Turtle
is thought to have been written.

1601-1602. Twelfth Night or What You Will,
All Well That Ends Well and Troilus and Cressida
are probably composed.

1603. A Midsummer’s Night is performed
at Hampton Court before Queen Elizabeth who dies later
that year. James I originally James VI of Scotland proves
to be an enthusiastic patron of the arts granting The
Chamberlain’s Men
a patent to perform. In return
the Company renames itself The King’s Men
to honour James I and they quickly become a favorite
with the new king.

As You Like It is performed by the newly named
King’s Men before King James at Wilton. Acting-wise,
Shakespeare is recorded as performing in Ben Jonson’s
Sejanus, Shakespeare’s last recorded acting

1604. Measure for Measure is believed
to have been written in this year. It is later performed
at King James I Court. Othello is also penned, being
performed on November the 1st at Whitehall.

1605. The Merchant of Venice is performed
twice at King James’ Court earning a commendation
from the King. King Lear is believed to have been composed
in this year and as is Macbeth, the play’s Scottish
background and kind portrayal of ancestor Malcolm being
intended as a celebration and honoring of King James
Scottish ancestry.

1606. Antony And Cleopatra is believed to have
been composed.

1607. Hamlet and Richard III
are performed aboard the British ship Dragon
off the west coast of Africa at Sierra Leone.

1607-1608. Timon of Athens, Pericles
and Coriolanus are composed .

1608. The King’s Men take on a twenty-one
year lease of London’s first permanently enclosed
theatre, the Blackfriars Theatre in this year. Notes
on stage directions, suggest The Tempest was
penned with a performance at this theatre in mind.

The return of the plague forces a closure of all playhouses
and theatres from the spring of 1608 through to early

1609-1610. Cymbeline is thought to have been

1610. Othello is performed at Oxford College
by the King’s Men during a summer tour.

1610-1611. The Winter’s Tale is written.

1611. The Tempest was written.

1612-1613. The King’s men perform Othello
and Julius Caesar amongst others in this year. Shakespeare
is thought to have written Cardenio, his only lost play
during this period and with John Fletcher as a likely
contributor, composes Henry VIII.

1613. The Globe Theatre burns to the ground.
The Two Noble Kinsmen is penned. A 1634 entry within
the Stationer’s Registry confirms that both William
Shakespeare and John Fletcher composed this play.

1614. The Globe Theatre reopens.

1616. William dies on April 23rd, his burial
being recorded in the Stratford Holy Church Register
two days later.

1619. Hamlet is performed as part of Christmas
celebrations at court.

1623. Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway
dies, the same year, and fellow actors John Hemminges
and Henry Condell gather together and publish for the
first time, 36 of Shakespeare’s 37 plays in a collection
known as The First Folio.


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