Shakespeare Tragedies

Titus Andronicus

11 - The number of tragedies written by Shakespeare, of which Titus Andronicus was the first.

Did You Know?

Titus Andronicus is the only Shakespeare play that has a contemporary illustration, thought to be by Henry Peacham.

1592/94 - Bubonic plague ravages London between June 1592 and May 1594. It is against this backdrop that Titus Andronicus is thought to have been written sometime during the latter part of 1593.

Did You Know?

It is believed that while performing Titus Andronicus actors would fill vessels such as pig's bladders with blood before they went onstage. This gave them the ability to simulate a bloody and gruesome death.

1594 - The first recorded performance on 23rd January at the Rose. The Rose theatre was the fourth purpose-built public theatre in London, and the only one on Bankside until 1599, when the Globe Theatre was constructed by the Lord Chamberlain's Men.

480 - 406 BC - The period attributed to the work of Euripides, one of the suggested sources thought to have been drawn upon by Shakespeare whilst writing Titus Andronicus. Other suggested sources of inspiration include Seneca (3 BC- 65 AD), Ovid (43 BC- 17 AD), and also Thomas Kyd (1558-1594 AD).

Romeo and Juliet

1595 - The year it is thought that Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet. However, owing to some uncertainty rather more broadly the period 1591-1596 has also been suggested.

1597 - The year Romeo and Juliet is believed to have been published by John Danter. However, as a notorious pirate John Danter's version was not an 'official' version, and was produced from notes made during the plays performance.

658 - The distance, in miles, between the Curtain Theatre, the site of the first performance of Romeo and Juliet, and Verona, the Italian city in which the play is set.

Did You Know?

Shakespeare is thought to have coined many words we use every day, for example 'inauspicious', 'uncomfortable', 'ladybird' and 'bump' are all thought to appear in Romeo and Juliet for the first time.

13 - The age of Juliet when she meets and marries Romeo. Curiously, Romeo's age, on the other hand, is never mentioned.

90% - The extent to which Romeo and Juliet is written in blank verse, with only 10% having been in prose.

1662 - The first women (Mary Saunderson) to play the part of Juliet professionally on the stage. Prior to this women were not allowed to perform in public before the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1660.

Julius Caesar

1599 - Shakepeare writes Julius Caesar.

Did You Know?

This was the first of his plays to be performed at the Globe Theatre, which was built in the same year.

24 - The number of years to elapse between the writing of Julius Caesar, and its publication.

44BC - The year in which the play is set.

3 - The Act in which Julius Caesar is assassinated, and the Act in which Caesar utters the famous line 'et tu, Brute?' (You to Brutus).

1599 - Thomas Platter the Younger, a Swiss traveller in London, remarks upon having seen a production of a Shakespeare play at a Bankside theatre in his diary entry of 21 September. Owing to Platter's description, it is thought that this was Shakespeare's Julius Caesar.


1601 - The year attributed to the writing of Hamlet. Other dates range between 1599-1602.

1603 - First publication of Hamlet.

Did You Know?

The first actor to play the role of Hamlet was Richard Burbage, the lead actor of Shakespeare's troop The King's Men.

1574-1585 - The period in which it is believed that Kronborg Castle was built. This was the inspiration for Elsinore Castle, the fortified residence of the play's central character Hamlet.

5 - The number of hours it would take to perform and uncut version of Hamlet, so long is the text of the play.

Did You Know?

Shakespeare's inspiration for Hamlet is thought to come from works such as Third Book of Gesta Danorum, or Historia Danica, by Saxo Grammaticus, a story which was later retold by Francois de Belleforest in the Histories Tragiques, and possibly a play by Thomas Kid called Ur-Hamlet.

60 - So popular a play is Hamlet, it is estimated that this is the number of seconds to elapse between separate performances of the play across the globe. That equates to some 60 productions every hour – albeit in a variety of formats.

Did You Know?

It is believed that Shakespeare actually appeared in Hamlet at The Globe as the ghost.

2009 - The year that a real skull was used in the gravedigger scene by the Royal Shakespeare Company's (RSC) production of Hamlet. The skull belonged to composer André Tchaikowsky, who bequeathed it to the company after him death in 1982.

Troilus and Cressida

1602 - Troilus and Cressida was written in this year.

1604 - First performance of the play on 7th February. However, Troilus and Cressida has never been a popular play, and has rarely been performed and almost no stage performances are recorded.

1609 - The year in which it is thought that this particular Shakespeare play was first published.


1602/04 - The period in which Shakespeare is believed to have written Othello.

1 - The date, in November 1604, Othello was first performed by Shakespeare's company The King's Men at the court of King James I.

1622 - First publication.

60 - In this year the actress Margaret Hughes plays the role of Desdemona in Othello. This was a very important performance as it marked the first accepted appearance by a woman on an English stage.

1833 - In this year during his Covent Garden performance Edmund Kean, a famous 19th century actor, collapsed on stage in the arms of his son who was playing Lago. He died a few weeks later.

20 - The number of time Othello has been adapted for film.

5 - The number of T.V adaptations of the play to date.

King Lear

1604/06 - King Lear is written.

1606 - The first year a performance of King Lear is recorded. This took place on 26th December.

1608 - The year that the play is made available in print.

Did You Know?

The inspiration for this play would appear to be a folk tale written in the 12th century, which was based on stories handed down from much earlier in the middle ages.

1811/20 - A period in which King Lear became politically controversial owing to the so-called 'madness of King George III'. As a result, it was performed in either of the professional theatres of London from. But became major productions at both within months of his death.

19 - The century in which the original version of Shakespeare's King Lear began to be regarded as one of his greatest achievements, more specifically the mid 19 C.

Did You Know?

After the Restoration a revised version of the play by Nahum Tate was often performed, this revised version had a much happier ending for audiences that did not appreciate the dark, depressing tone of the original.

1892 - In this year a version of King Lear by Henry Irving offered a spectacular scene of King Lear's death beneath a cliff at Dover, his face lit by the red glow of the sun as it set. However this was achieved at the expense of cutting 46% of the plays text.

Did You Know?

King Lear contains more references to animals and the natural world than any other of his plays. Also, King Lear contains one of only two football references Shakespeare ever used. 'Thou base football player.', the other can be found in The Comedy of Errors.

23 - The age of the youngest actor to ever take the role of King Lear. This was Nonso Anozie, who played the role of King Lear in the RSCs 2002 production. In contrast, the oldest was Alvin Epstein who was 81 when he played King Lear for the Boston Actors' Theatre in 2006.


1606 - The year Shakespeare wrote Macbeth. This date has been suggested owing to the possible allusions to the Gunpowder Plot, and the subsequent trials.

1587 - The year Holinshed's Cronicles are published containing an account of the Scottish King Macbeth upon which Shakespeare is thought to have drawn. However, the tale Shakespeare tells bears no resemblance to the real events in Scottish history. The real Macbeth was considered an able monarch, and was much admired by his people.

1606/1611 - First performance of the play.

Did You Know?

It is thought this was written during the reign of King James I who had an interest in witchcraft and demonology. He was also originally King James VI of Scotland.

1623 - First publication of Shakespeare's shortest and bloodiest tragedy play.

Did You Know?

Owing to the rather superstitious belief that Shakespeare used 'real' spells by 'real' witches within the plays text, even today Macbeth is still said to be a cursed play because the angered witches placed a curse upon it. Accordingly, it is considered extremely bad luck to say its name backstage in a theatre, and doing so will doom the production to fail or for a member of the cast to suffer an injury.

Timon of Athens

1608 - Written in this particular year, Timon of Athens, and more specifically Shakespeare, was criticised at the time for its attack upon the management of state finances under James I - a risky move for a playwright living under the rule of a 'divine right' monarch.

Did You Know?

This is one of Shakespeare's most obscure plays. As such very little is known about it.

1608 - As well as having been written this year, the plays first performance takes place this year.

Antony and Cleopatra

1606 - The year attributed to the writing of Antony and Cleopatra. Like Timon of Athens, it may have first been performed the same year.

1623 - First official publication.

4 - The number of Cleopatra's children. One was a son by Julius Caesar called Caesarion, and three children by Mark Antony. Their names were Alexander Helios, Cleopatra Selene and Ptolemy Philadelphus.


1607/08 - The period in which Coriolanus is written.

1609-1610 - First performance of the play. However, there are no recorded performances prior to the Restoration in 1660, when its themes made it a natural choice of play to perform.

1682 - The first known performance was Nuhum Tate's bloody adaptation which was performed at Drury Lane in London.

1719 - An adaptation of Coriolanus by John Dennis was booed off stage after just three performances.

1754 - avid Garrick returns to Shakespeare's original version of Coriolanus in a production at Drury Lane.

1930s - In this period Coriolanus is amongst the few of Shakespeare's works to be banned. This was due to its popularity among, and adaptation by, Fascist movements.

Did You Know?

The most famous person to play the role of Coriolanus was Laurence Olivier who played the part twice. First at the Old Vic Theatre in 1937, and a second time at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, in 1959.

Read more facts about Shakespeare plays.

Back to top