William Shakespeare Timeline
How It All Went Down
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.
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
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.
Anne Hathaway gives birth to twins, son Hamnet and daughter Judith. The babies are named after
Shakespeare's close friends, Hamnet and Judith Sadler.
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.
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
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.
"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.
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.
"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.
Wealthy thanks to his theater work and shrewd investments, Shakespeare buys New Place, the
second-largest house in Stratford.
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.
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="http://www.shmoop.com/hamlet/" 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.
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
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.
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
likeCymbeline, The Winter's Tale, and The Tempest.
Publisher Thomas Thorpe prints a collection of 154 of Shakespeare's sonnets.
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.)
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
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
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.
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.
William Shakespeare: Biography
"All the world's a stage / And all the men and women merely players."1
So wrote William Shakespeare, a.k.a. the Bard of Avon, the master of Elizabethan drama, and the
world's most famous writer. Between his birth in 1564 and his death exactly 52 years later,
Shakespeare wrote36 plays and 154 sonnets that managed to capture virtually every facet of the
human experience: its darkest perversions, its most glorious triumphs, and all the laughs, tears, and
dirty jokes in between.
So who was William Shakespeare? We don't know the man nearly as well as we know his works.
What we do know about his biography comes mainly from official records. These documents tell us
what he did but nothing about who he was, nor what inspired the magnificent quality and diverse
content of his plays. Shakespeare didn't leave behind diaries, confessional interviews, or taped
appearances on Oprah, so there's no way to understand precisely the relationship between his
personal experience and his plays. Of course, this hasn't stopped centuries' worth of crazy rumors
from popping up around his life, some of which we'll address here. To understand where his plays
come from, we're better off looking more broadly at the era in which he lived.
William Shakespeare's career is the product of a perfect match between a man's talents and his
time. Shakespeare was born during theRenaissance, the flowering of art, culture, and thought that
swept through Western Europe toward the end of the Middle Ages. It was a time of great expansion
for people's horizons and minds. The printing press made it possible for more people than ever
before to translate and read classical texts. The sun was just rising on the English empire, with
explorers discovering new lands (well, new to them, anyway; not so much to the people already
living there.) The Protestant Reformationlaunched by Martin Luther and John Calvin was shaking up
people's relationship with God and the Church. Galileo Galilei, born the same year as Shakespeare,
had finally demonstrated that the Earth revolved around the sun and not vice versa (a radical idea
first put forth by Copernicus, for which Galileo took a lot of heat from the Catholic Church). Add the
powerful figure of Queen Elizabeth I, a great supporter of the arts, and you have the perfect
conditions for a literary genius to thrive. Along comes William Shakespeare, a young man with an
unprecedented facility for language and an equally impressive understanding of the breadth of the
Yes, we've heard the rumors that Shakespeare didn't actually write his own plays, that they're too
good and too numerous for one person to have churned out in a lifetime. We don't buy it. There is
more than enough evidence to prove that William Shakespeare really did exist, and that he really did
write his plays, and that they really are still worth talking about even 400 years later. As far as we
can tell, most speculation to the contrary is (as the Bard once said in a different context) little more
than "a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing."2 But then again, according
to Shakespeare, so is everything else.
William Shakespeare Trivia
Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge
Shakespeare's surviving works add up to a staggering 884,647 words and 118,406 lines.20
Hamlet is Shakespeare's longest play, clocking in at 4,042 lines. His shortest is The Comedy of
Errors, with 1,787.21
Though commonly attributed to the Bard, Shakespeare never wrote or said "Oh what a tangled web
we weave / When first we practice to deceive." The line belongs to Sir Walter Scott, from his 1808
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Shakespeare coined more than 500 new words, many of
which are still commonly used in English speech. Popular Will-isms
include: amazement, bump, lonely, countless,useful, radiance and lackluster.23
Shakespeare has been translated into at least 80 languages, including Chinese, Bengali, Tagalog,
When the First Folio was published in 1623, you could buy a copy for £1, worth as much at the time
as several hundred dollars today. In 2006, a surviving original copy of the First Folio (one of only
about 230 in the world) sold for nearly $5 million.25
"Shakespeare" is spelled 80 different ways in documents dating from the Bard's time, including
"Shaxpere" and "Shaxberd."26
A ticket to the Globe Theatre in Shakespeare's time would have cost you a penny, or $1.66 in
today's money. At a posh indoor theater like Blackfriars, tickets started at a whopping sixpence
(about $10). If you were rolling large, you could sit on the stage for two shillings ($40) or buy a box
for half-a-crown ($50).27
The average number of actors required for a Shakespearean comedy is 18. For the tragedies, it's
27. Histories require 35.28
In his will, William Shakespeare bequeathed to his wife Anne Hathaway only his "second best bed."
(Under the law, she was also automatically entitled to one-third of his estate and lifelong occupancy
of Shakespeare's home.) There's no way of knowing whether this was a thoughtful bequest (hey,
maybe she really liked that bed), some kind of inside joke, or a rather nasty insult.29
The Klingon Language Institute, the official organization dedicated to the revival of Star Trek's
Klingon language, runs the Klingon Shakespeare Restoration Project. They've so far
translated Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing into Klingon. (For Christian Klingon speakers,
they've also translated the Bible.)30
William Shakespeare Family
Who begat whom, again?
Father: John Shakespeare (1530-1601)
Mother: Mary Arden Shakespeare (?-1608)
Sister: Joan Shakespeare (1558)
Sister: Margaret Shakespeare (1562-1563)
Brother: Gilbert Shakespeare (1556-1612)
Sister: Joan Shakespeare Hart (1569-1646)
Sister: Anne Shakespeare (1571-1579)
Brother: Richard Shakespeare (1574-1613)
Brother: Edmund Shakespeare (1580-1607)
Wife: Anne Hathaway (1556-1623)
Daughter: Susanna Shakespeare Hall (1583-1649)
Son: Hamnet Shakespeare (1585-1596)
Daughter: Judith Shakespeare Quiney (1585-1662)