Study Guide

William Shakespeare Timeline

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Apr 23, 1564

The Bard Is Born

William Shakespeare is born in Stratford-upon-Avon to John and Mary Arden Shakespeare. The fourth of the Shakespeares' eight children shares a birthday with St. George, the patron saint of England. (Note: Though April 23 is commonly accepted as Shakespeare's birthday, it's impossible to know the exact date he was born. It was 450 years ago, people. Just go with it.)

Apr 26, 1564

The Bard Is Baptized

William Shakespeare is christened at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford.

Dec 19, 1569

Shakespeare Goes to School

Shakespeare enters King's New School, an excellent grammar school in Stratford attended by the sons of civil servants like his father. Boys typically enter the school around the age of five, but since no official records survive its impossible to know exactly when Shakespeare starts his education. Other than the dates of his marriage and children's births, little is known about Shakespeare's life before 1592—a period known as the "Lost Years."

Nov 28, 1582

Shakespeare Marries

The Bishop of Worcester issues a marriage license to "William Shagspere" and "Ann Hathwey," formalizing the marriage of 18-year-old William Shakespeare and 26-year-old Anne Hathaway.

May 26, 1583

First Child Born

Six months after their marriage, the Shakespeare's first child, Susanna, is born and baptized.

Dec 19, 1585

Twins Born

Anne Hathaway gives birth to twins, son Hamnet and daughter Judith. The babies are named after Shakespeare's close friends, Hamnet and Judith Sadler.

Dec 19, 1590

First Play

Around this time, Shakespeare writes Henry VI, Part One—his very first play. Like all of Shakespeare's plays, the precise year of its authorship is now unclear. Also around the same time, Shakespeare leaves Stratford to begin work as a playwright and actor in London.

Dec 19, 1592

Greene Attacks Shakespeare

Playwright Robert Greene pens a scathing critique of Shakespeare, calling him an "upstart crow" who doesn't belong with Greene's university-educated dramatist crowd. Thanks to this diatribe, we now know that Shakespeare has become successful enough as a playwright by 1592 to make his peers jealous.

Jan 1, 1593

Plague Closes Theaters

London theaters are closed due to an outbreak of bubonic plague that eventually kills about five percent of the city's residents. Shakespeare uses the break to write poetry.

Apr 1, 1593

"Venus and Adonis"

Shakespeare publishes "Venus and Adonis," his first long published poem. It is dedicated to his patron Henry Wriothesley, the Earl of Southampton.

Dec 19, 1594

Theaters Reopen

In the spring of 1594, the London theaters reopen to the public. Over the next five years Shakespeare's troupe, the Chamberlain's Men, becomes one of the most popular acting groups in London. They accept frequent invitations to perform in the royal court of Queen Elizabeth I.

May 1, 1594

"The Rape of Lucrece"

Shakespeare publishes "The Rape of Lucrece," also dedicated to the Earl of Southampton. Shakespeare purchases shares in the Chamberlain's Men.

Aug 11, 1596

Death of Hamnet

William and Anne bury their only son, Hamnet, who dies at the age of 11 of unknown causes.

May 1, 1597

New Home

Wealthy thanks to his theater work and shrewd investments, Shakespeare buys New Place, the second-largest house in Stratford.

Dec 19, 1598

Shakespeare Praised

Writer Francis Meres publishes a glowing review of Shakespeare's work. Thanks to Meres' review, we know that by this time Shakespeare has become a noted playwright with at least a dozen plays under his belt, including Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Love's Labors Lost, Richard II and Titus Andronicus.

Dec 19, 1599

Globe Theater Built

The Chamberlain's Men build the Globe, a wooden theater in London. Many of Shakespeare's most famous plays are performed for the first time here, including a href="" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Hamlet, Othello, and King Lear. Plays Shakespeare is believed to have written in this amazingly productive year include Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It, Julius Caesar, and The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Dec 19, 2019


Shakespeare's father dies and his patron Earl Southampton is sentenced to death (later reprieved) for his role in the Essex rebellion. It is believed that his father's death motivates Shakespeare to write Hamlet around this time. Shakespeare's plays over the next few years take a dark, brooding tone.

Mar 24, 1603

Elizabeth Dies, Jacobean Age Begins

Upon the death of Queen Elizabeth I, King James ascends the throne. The Chamberlain's Men change their name to the King's Men, and perform before King James eleven times between 1 November 1604 and 31 October 1605.

Dec 19, 2019

Blackfriars Theater

The King's Men begin performing at Blackfriars, an indoor theater in London. In contrast to the somber mood of the last seven years, Shakespeare's work takes on a lighter tone in plays like Cymbeline, The Winter's Tale, and The Tempest.

Dec 19, 2019

Sonnets Published

Publisher Thomas Thorpe prints a collection of 154 of Shakespeare's sonnets.

Dec 19, 2019

Return to Stratford

Shakespeare leaves London and moves back to Stratford, where his wife and married daughters live. (The exact date of this move remains in some dispute, with historians placing it anywhere between 1610 and 1613.)

Dec 19, 2019

Final Plays

Shakespeare composes his final plays— Henry VIII, Two Noble Kinsmen (possibly written in 1614), and the now-lost Cardenio—in collaboration with John Fletcher, replacement playwright for the King's Men. The Globe catches fire during a performance of Henry VIII and burns to the ground.

Mar 25, 1616

Last Will

An ailing Shakespeare calls his lawyer to revise his will, making some odd changes that include leaving his "second-best bed" to his wife and £10 to the poor.

Apr 23, 1616

Shakespeare Dies

Sufferning from an unknown illness, William Shakespeare dies on his 52nd birthday.

Apr 25, 1616


Shakespeare is buried in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford, the same church where he was baptized. His marker orders a curse on anyone who disturbs his grave.

Dec 19, 2019

First Folio Published

John Heminge and Henry Condell, Shakespeare's former colleagues in the King's Men, collect 36 of their late friend's plays and publish them together in a volume now known as the First Folio.

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