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Shakespeare Timeline

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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 Stratford.

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 III.

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 III 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 group.

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

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 play.

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 performance.

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 1610.

1609-1610. Cymbeline is thought to have been composed.

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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