From the Accession of Elizabeth I to the Opening of the Globe Theatre:
November 17, 1558
Accession of Queen Elizabeth
The daughter of King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth succeeded her Catholic sister Mary I and re-established the Protestant Anglican Church.
April 26, 1564
William Shakespeare’s Baptism
The baptism of ‘Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakspere’ is recorded in the register of the Holy Trinity Parish Church, in Stratford-upon-Avon. Although the exact date of Shakespeare’s birth cannot be confirmed, the consensus is that Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564.
September 4, 1568
Election of John Shakespeare as Bailiff
Shakespeare’s father, John, was elected to many civic positions including chamberlain of the borough in 1561, alderman in 1565, and high bailiff in 1568. John was also Stratford’s official ale taster.
November 27, 1582
Shakespeare’s Marriage Licence Issued
The marriage licence was issued to William Shakespeare and Anne Whateley (Hathaway) of Temple Grafton, Warwickshire.
May 26, 1583
The Baptism of Susanna Shakespeare
Susanna was the Shakespeares’ first child, born a mere six months after the wedding of her parents. Shakespeare left Susanna most of his property upon his death in 1616.
February 2, 1585
The Baptism of Hamnet and Judith Shakespeare
The twins were named after two very close friends of William: a baker named Hamnet Sadler and his wife, Judith. Tragically, Hamnet Shakespeare died in 1596 at the age of eleven.
Shakespeare Writes Parts 1, 2, and 3 of Henry VI.
Although we do not know the precise dates of composition, it is generally assumed that the Henry VI trilogy was composed by Shakespeare between 1590 and the summer of 1592.
March 3, 1592
First Production of 1 Henry VI
Theatre owner Philip Henslowe listed 1 Henry VI as having been performed by Strange’s Men at the Rose on March 3rd, 1592.
September 3, 1592
Death of Robert Greene
Greene is best remembered for his attack on Shakespeare in his autobiographical Groatsworth of Wit (1592): “for there is an up-start Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and beeing an absolute Johannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey.” Click here for an explanation of this passage and how it might have affected Shakespeare’s career.
April 18, 1593
Registration of Venus and Adonis
Venus and Adonis, Shakespeare’s narrative poem in six-line stanzas, was published by Richard Field (1561 – 1624). The poem was dedicated to Shakespeare’s patron, Henry Wriothesley, Third Earl of Southampton.
May 30, 1593
Death of Christopher Marlowe
Christopher Marlowe, the great Elizabethan poet and dramatist, was murdered in a tavern brawl. It is argued that Shakespeare alludes to Marlowe’s death in As You Like It (3.3.11-12): “it strikes a man more dead than a great reckoning in a little room.”
First Quarto Edition of Titus Andronicus
Three quarto Editions of Titus Andronicus appeared before it was published in the First Folio (1623).
May 9, 1594
Registration of The Rape of Lucrece
Shakespeare wrote this long narrative poem in rhyme royal (seven-line stanzas in iambic pentameter). It appeared in several subsequent quarto editions.
December 28, 1594
Confirmed Performance of The Comedy of Errors
The Comedy of Errors was performed at the Gray’s Inn, London, as part of the Christmas celebrations of 1594.
August 11, 1596
Burial of Hamnet Shakespeare
As mentioned above, Hamnet Shakespeare died at the tender age of eleven. No information on the cause of his death or on his burial is known.
October 20, 1596
John Shakespeare Granted Coat of Arms
By permission of the Garter King of Arms, John Shakespeare and his children were granted permission to display the gold coat-of-arms, with a black banner bearing a silver spear. The motto was “Non sanz droict” or “not without right.”
First Quarto Editions of Richard III, Richard II, and Romeo and Juliet
The first edition of Richard III was followed by seven more Quarto versions printed over the next forty years. Q1 of Richard II spawned two more editions in 1598. The 1597 quarto edition of Romeo and Juliet is considered corrupt and four more subsequent editions were produced.
May 4, 1597
Shakespeare Buys New Place in Stratford
Shakespeare bought the second-largest house in his home town for a sum of £60. The house was over 100 years old when Shakespeare moved in and it came with ten fireplaces and two barns. The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust acquired what was left of the once-magnificent property in 1892.
First Quarto Editions of Love’s Labour’s Lost and 1 Henry IV
Love’s Labour’s Lost was first published in the 1598 quarto edition. (There is evidence, however, to suggest that the play was printed at an unknown earlier date). Two quarto editions of 1 Henry IV were produced in 1598.
Opening of the Globe Theatre
The Globe was built in 1599, but the thatch roof caught fire in 1613 owing to the discharge of a cannon during a production of Henry VIII and the theatre was consumed. It was rebuilt in 1614 and finally demolished in 1644. Shakespeare acted and staged many of his plays at the Globe, and he was also one of the shareholders.
A Shakespeare Timeline: Part 2 (1600-1604):
First Production of Julius Caesar
The diary of Thomas Platter documents the first recorded performance of Shakespeare’s Roman tragedy. Platter, a Swiss tourist on vacation in London, wrote that he saw “in the straw-thatched house the tragedy of the first emperor, Julius Caesar, quite excellently acted by about fifteen persons.”
August 4, 1600
Registration of As You Like It
The Chamberlain’s Men, Shakespeare’s acting troupe, registered As You Like It with the Stationer’s Company, instructing that the play was not to be published, in order to prevent unauthorized copies of the text.
February 7, 1601
First Recorded Production of Richard II
Shakespeare’s acting troupe, the Chamberlain’s Men, were commissioned by the Earl of Essex to stage Richard II at the Globe. Essex’s rebellion against Queen Elizabeth occurred on the following day, and it was believed that Essex tried to use Shakespeare’s play to encourage the people to revolt. Elizabeth herself said, “I am Richard II, know ye not that”? Essex was executed on February 25.
September 8, 1601
Burial of John Shakespeare
We do not know his exact age at the time of his death, but Shakespeare’s father was probably near seventy years old. He had been married to Mary Arden for forty-four years.
May 1, 1602
Shakespeare Buys Land in Stratford
For a hefty sum of £320, Shakespeare acquired 107 acres of Land in Stratford from residents William and John Combe. Six months later Shakespeare purchased a cottage across from New Place, his private residence in Stratford.
First Printing of Hamlet
The first quarto of Hamlet was published by London booksellers Nicholas Ling and John Trundell. Four more quarto versions followed, and the play was also included in the First Folio of 1623. Please click here to learn more about the Bad Quarto of Hamlet.
March 24, 1603
Queen Elizabeth Dies
Queen Elizabeth, a generous patron of drama and literature, helped Shakespeare and his contemporary writers and actors flourish.
May 19, 1603
The King’s Men
After the death of Elizabeth I, James the VI of Scotland became the new monarch, known in England as King James I. James, like Elizabeth, loved the arts, particularly the theatre. When he arrived in London, James ordered Shakespeare’s acting troupe, the Chamberlain’s Men, to come under his own patronage. The troupe was thenceforth known as the King’s Men.
Registration of Troilus and Cressida
Similar to As You Like It, Troilus and Cressida was registered with the Stationer’s Company but not scheduled for publication at that time. Registration of the play was the only way to combat unauthorized use of the text.
First Performance of Othello
The first recorded performance of Othello was before King James I and his court. Learn about the shocking history of Othello.
December 26, 1604
First Performance of Measure for Measure
Measure for Measure was staged at the court of King James I on St. Stephen’s Day. However, the play likely was performed prior to this date.
A Shakespeare Timeline: Part 3 (1605-1616):
December 26, 1606
First Recorded Performance of King Lear
Records show that King Lear was performed before James I at Whitehall Palace. Shakespeare’s friend and noted fellow actor, Richard Burbage, was the original Lear.
June 5, 1607
Marriage of Shakespeare’s Daughter Susanna to Dr. John Hall
Susanna’s marriage to the noted physician must have pleased Shakespeare tremendously, for Shakespeare appointed John and Susanna executors of his will. John Hall died in 1635 and Susanna in 1649.
May 20, 1608
Registration of Pericles
The play was entered in the Stationer’s Register in 1608, but was not published until 1609, when Henry Gosson printed two Quarto editions. For reasons unknown, Pericles was not included in the First Folio of 1623.
February 21, 1608
The Baptism of Elizabeth Hall
Susanna Hall, Shakespeare’s daughter, gave birth to a baby girl eight months after her wedding to Dr. John Hall. Shakespeare’s granddaughter, Elizabeth, was baptized at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford.
September 9, 1608
Burial of Mary Shakespeare
Shakespeare buried his mother at Holy Trinity Church, where only months before he had witnessed the baptism of his granddaughter. Mary Shakespeare was sixty-eight at the time of her death.
King’s Men buy Blackfriars Theatre
Shakespeare’s friend and fellow actor, Richard Burbage, inherited the Blackfriars upon the death of his father, James. Richard Burbage, his brother, Cuthbert, and four of the King’s Men, including Shakespeare, became part owners in the theatre. In 1609, the roofed Blackfriars became the winter home of the King’s Men.
Publication of Shakespeare’s Sonnets
Although the collected sonnets were first published in 1609 by Thomas Thorpe, commonly they are thought to date from 1595 to 1599. In 1598 Francis Meres referred to Shakespeare’s ‘sugared sonnets’ in Palladis Tamia.
First Recorded Performances of The Winter’s Tale, Macbeth and Cymbeline
Dr. Simon Forman, an English astrologer and doctor, gives detailed accounts of these early performances in his invaluable diary.
November 1, 1611
First Recorded production of The Tempest
The first known production of The Tempest took place before King James I and his court.
June 29, 1613
Fire at the Globe Theatre
The thatched roof of the Globe caught fire in 1613 owing to the discharge of a cannon during a production of Henry VIII (the first recorded performance of the play). No one was injured, but the theatre burned to the ground. It was rebuilt in 1614 and finally demolished in 1644.
February 10, 1616
Marriage of Shakespeare’s daughter Judith to Thomas Quiney
Unlike her sister’s marriage to the upstanding Dr. Hall, Judith’s marriage to the vintner Quiney caused Shakespeare no end of scandal. Quiney did not receive the special licence necessary for a wedding during lent before his marriage, and thus the couple was excommunicated a month later. Moreover, on March 26, only eleven days after the wedding, Quiney was prosecuted for ‘carnal copulation’ with a local woman named Margaret Wheeler, who had died that month along with her baby by Quiney. He confessed, and was sentenced to perform public penance. His penalty, however, was commuted to a small fine and private penance.
March 25, 1616
William Shakespeare Signs his Will
Shakespeare’s will, the last document he ever produced, was finalized on March 25, 1616, less than one month before the poet’s death.
April 23, 1616
William Shakespeare Dies
The cause of Shakespeare’s death is a mystery, but tradition tells us that “Shakespeare, Drayton, and Ben Jonson had a merry meeting and it seems drank too hard, for Shakespeare died of a fever there contracted.”
April 25, 1616
Burial of William Shakespeare
Shakespeare is buried in the chancel of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. On his tomb is the warning:
Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare,
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones,
And cursed be he that moves my bones.