William Shakespeare Timeline

Before Birth

DateEvent
1248Earliest known English reference to the Shakespeare name, relating to William Sakspear from the nearby village of Clopton
1520sJohn Shakespeare born in the village of Snitterfield, near Stratford-upon-Avon
c 1555Anne Hathaway, William's future wife, is born
c 1557John Shakespeare marries Mary Arden, a farmer's daughter
1558John and Mary's first child Joan is born
c 1560Joan Shakespeare dies in infancy
1562John and Mary's second child Margaret is born
1563Margaret Shakespeare dies in infancy

Shakespeare's Early Years

DateEventAge
Apr 1564William Shakespeare is born in Stratford-upon-Avon (the third child born to John and Mary and then their only child, following the infant deaths of Joan and Margaret) -
26 Apr 1564Shakespeare baptised in Holy Trinity Church-
The precise date of Shakespeare's birth is unknown, but is commonly believed to be either 21, 22 or 23 April, with the latter date - St George's Day - being the most popular date to celebrate.
11 Jul 1564Stratford Parish Register records the arrival of the plague in Stratford ("Hic incipit pestis" - Here begins the plague)3 mths
1566William's brother Gilbert is born2
1569William's sister Joan is born (it was not uncommon to give later children the same name as a sibling who died in infancy)5
1571Shakespeare begins his education at the King's Free Grammar School (his place was made eligible due to his father's position as an alderman of Stratford-upon-Avon)7
1571William's sister Anne is born7
1574William's brother Richard is born10
c 1575John Shakespeare begins to suffer financial and personal hardship, losing or remortgaging property. William's schooling was very likely curtailed.13
1579William's sister Anne dies, aged just 815
1580William's brother Edmund is born16

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Adult Life In Stratford

DateEventAge
27 Nov 1582Shakespeare marries Anne Hathaway (26 years old) at Temple Grafton18
26 May 1583William and Anne's first child Susanna is born (meaning Anne would have been 3-4 months pregnant at the time of her marriage)19
1585William's twins Hamnet and Judith are born (it is likely that the twins were named after Shakespeare's friends Hamnet and Judith Sadler, who may also have been godparents)21
1590Shakespeare's writing career begins26
c 1590-6Writes 'King Richard III'26
1591-3Writes 'King Henry V'27
1592John Shakespeare is listed as a 'recusant', having failed to attend church (out of fear of prosecution for debt)28

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Shakespeare In London

DateEventAge
1592The earliest known record of Shakespeare's residency in London; in a critical piece included in a posthumous collection of the writings of Robert Greene, Groat's-worth of Wit, there is an allusion to Shakespeare's theatrical and literary career28
c 1592-4Likely involvement in the authorship of 'King Edward III'28
1593London's theatres are closed down for a period of around 2 years, due to plague29
1594The Chamberlain's Men (later the King's Men) - the first Shakespeare company - is formed to perform at The Theatre in Shoreditch (built 1576)30
c 1594Writes 'The Comedy Of Errors'30
c 1594-5Writes 'Love's Labours Lost'30
28 Dec 1594First recorded performance of 'The Comedy Of Errors', at Gray's Inn Hall30
c 1595Writes 'King Richard II'31
1595The Swan Theatre is built in Paris Garden on Bankside31
1596Shakespeare is recorded living in Southwark, a disreputable area of brothels, ale houses, bear baiting houses and theatres32
1596William's only son Hamnet dies, aged 1132
1596William succeeds in his request for the creation of a Shakespeare family coat of arms. John Shakespeare is once again listed as being a wealthy landowner.32
1596-7Writes 'King Henry IV, Part I'32
1597The Chamberlain's Men come to the end of their lease at The Theatre in Shoreditch and begin touring33
1597Shakespeare purchases New Place on Church Street in Stratford-upon-Avon33
1597-8Writes 'King Henry IV, Part 2'33
Dec 1597First recorded performance of 'Love's Labours Lost', a private performance for Queen Elizabeth33
1598Shakespeare's name begins to appear on the title pages of quartos of his plays34
1599Writes 'King Henry V'35
1599The Globe Theatre is built35
1599The Chamberlain's Men take up residence at the Globe35
1599Shakespeare purchases a share in a large London property35
1599Likely first performance of 'King Henry V', the first play performed at the newly-opened Globe35
1599Writes 'Julius Caesar'35
21 Sep 1599 First recorded performance of 'Julius Caesar', a private performance recorded by a visitor from Switzerland, Thomas Platter35
c 1599-1600Writes 'As You Like It'35
1600First recorded performance of 'King Henry IV, Part I'; a private performance attended by the Flemish ambassador36
c 1600Writes 'Hamlet'36
07 Feb 1601First recorded performance of 'King Richard II', a revival performed at the Globe and commissioned by supporters of the Earl Of Essex36
1601William's father John Shakespeare dies37
c 1602-5Writes 'All's Well That Ends Well'c 38
19 May 1603Following the accession to the throne of James I, the company's new patron, the Chamberlain's Men become known as the King's Men39
02 Dec 1603First recorded performance of 'As You Like It', by the King's Men at Wilton House in Wiltshire, to a private audience including James I39
c 1604Writes 'Measure For Measure'40
1604-6Writes 'King Lear'40
26 Dec 1604First recorded performance of 'Measure For Measure', at Whitehall40
c 1606Writes 'Antony and Cleopatra'42
c 1606Writes 'Macbeth'42
1606 The future playwright and poet laureate William Davenant is born, believed by some to be an illegitimate child of Shakespeare himself (whilst traveling between Stratford and Oxford, Shakespeare was known to stay at the Crown Inn, owned by the Davenants) 42
26 Dec 1606First recorded performance of 'King Lear', a private performance for James I at Whitehall40
31 Sep 1607First recorded performance of 'Hamlet', aboard the East India Company ship Red Dragon, moored off the coast of Sierra Leone43
1607William's brother Edmund dies, aged 2743

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Back In Stratford

DateEventAge
1608The year William returned to live in Stratford, according to the 18th century scholar Edmond Malone44
1608William's mother Mary dies44
c 1608Writes 'Coriolanus'44
1608The King's Men take on the Blackfriars theatre, an indoor theatre that played to more affluent audiences44
c 1610Writes 'Cymbeline'46
1610Writes 'The Tempest', his last sole-authored play46
Apr 1611First recorded performance of 'Cymbeline', at the Globe theatre47
20 Apr 1611First recorded performance of 'Macbeth', at the Globe theatre47
1612William's brother Gilbert dies aged 4648
1612Writes 'King Henry VIII'48
1612First recorded performance of 'King Henry IV, Part 2'; performed in celebration of the wedding of Princess Elizabeth to the Elector Palatine48
1613William's brother Richard dies, aged 3949
1613Shakespeare believed to have retired from writing49
29 Jun 1613The Globe Theatre on London's Southbank burns down after a stage cannon is misfired into the theatre's thatched roof, during a performance of Henry VIII (then titled All Is True, and the earliest recorded performance of the play)49
1613The Globe is quickly rebuilt, at a cost of £1,40049
18 Jan 1616Shakespeare draws up the first draft of his will52
25 Mar 1616Shakespeare draws up his final will52
23 Apr 1616 Shakespeare dies at home at New Place, Stratford-upon-Avon (popular belief has it that William died of alcoholism following a session of heavy drinking shared with his old friend Ben Johnson (poet and fellow playwright) and the poet Michael Drayton. Other possible causes include syphilis and typhoid.53
Apr 1616 Shakespeare is buried, his funeral attended by just family and closest friends. Shakespeare was laid to rest beneath the chancel floor and alongside the north wall, as befitted his status as lay rector and receiver of tithes. The inscription on his commemorative stone reads: 
 "Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbear
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blest be the man that spares these stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones."
 

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After Shakespeare

DateEvent
1623The First Folio of Shakespeare's work is published by John Heminges (1566-1630) and Henry Condell (1576-1627), sole surviving members of the original Chamberlain's Men/King's Men players
1623Anne Hathaway dies, aged c. 68
1642The King's Men are disbanded following Parliament's order to close all theatres, enacted on the eve of the English Civil War
1646William's sister Joan dies, aged 77
1662William's eldest daughter Judith dies, aged 77
1709Nicholas Rowe publishes Works, in which he records a number of stories from Shakespeare's life, including one regarding William getting caught poaching game from local landowner Sir Thomas Lucy, and needing to leave Stratford to avoid prosecution as a result

Read more fascinating facts about the life of Shakespeare


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