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Shakespeare's Time

Chronology of Plays

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Chronology of Shakespeare's Time

(See also "A Shakespearean Chronicle" in Norton, 3365-3392)

1509-1547. Reign of Henry VIII. He presides over the English Reformation, severing England from the Church of Rome, and declaring himself Supreme Head of the Church in England. (See J. J. Scarisbrick, 1968 &1984; A. G. Dickens, 1964)

1525 William Tyndale publishes the New Testament of the Bible in English and smuggles copies into England. He is later executed as a heretic.

1547-1553 Reign of Henry's son, Edward VI. The Book of Common Prayer (1549 and 1552) establishes an English liturgy in the Church of England.

1553-1558 Reign of Henry's elder daughter, Mary I (Bloody Mary). A Roman Catholic, she restores England to the Roman (Papal) obedience. Wyatt's rebellion (1554) attempts to win the throne for Elizabeth, but is crushed. Another plot in favor of Elizabeth is crushed in 1556.

1558 Accession of Henry's younger daughter, Elizabeth I. In the first years of her reign the protestant (Anglican) Church is re-established and Elizabeth assumes the title of "Supreme Governour of the Church in England" by the Act of Supremacy (1559). The Act of Uniformity outlaws non-attendance at parish churches. The Book of Common Prayer and the Geneva translation of the Bible are republished and royally promulgated. Queen Elizabeth rejects Phillip II of Spain. (See R. L. Greaves, 1974; J. E. Neale, 1953; Elizabeth I, 1964)

1560 The treaty of Edinburgh. The French withdraw from Scotland and a Presbyterian church is established in Scotland.

1561 O'Neill rebellion in Ireland

1562 Civil war in France. Le Havre occupied by English forces. John Hawkins begins trading in slaves.

1563 Penal bills against Catholics and witches passed by Parliament. Church of England adopts the Thirty-nine Articles of religion as its platform of orthodoxy. John Foxe, Actes and Monuments (Foxe's "Book of Martyrs"), a Protestant hagiography. Plague in London

1564 The Peace of Troyes (with France): Elizabeth gives up claims to Calais for a cash settlement. Persecution of puritans intensifies. Birth of William Shakespeare at Stratford-upon-Avon, son to glover John Shakespeare and Mary Arden Shakespeare. (See S. Schoenbaum, 1977, 1981; Norton Shakespeare, 42)

1566 Tobacco introduced from the New World.

1568 Mary Queen of Scots, having misruled Scotland since 1561 and having been forced to abdicate in favor of her infant son, James VI, flees to England. Kept in confinement, she conspires with various Catholics in England and abroad to take the crown from her cousin Elizabeth. The "Bishop's Bible" published and appointed to be read in churches for divine service. Jesuits found an English College at Douai to train English Jesuits abroad. (See A. Plowden, 1984; J. Wormald, 1988; A. Fraser, 1969)

1570-71 Elizabeth I formally excommunicated and "deposed" by Pope Pius V. The Ridolfi plot (in favor of Mary Queen of Scots) is exposed. Treasons bill passes Parliament. St. Bartholomew's Day massacre of protestants in France.

1572 John Donne and Ben Jonson born. Vagrancy act passed in Parliament. Thomas Duke of Norfolk beheaded on Tower Hill.

1576 The Theatre, the first permanent playhouse building in England, built by James Burbage on the northern outskirts of London. Over the next 40 years, some seven other large playhouses are built, mostly on the northern outskirts or on the south bank of the Thames, although no more than four were in operation at any given time. (See S. Schoenbaum, 1979; P. W. Thompson, 1983; J. Orrell, 1983; C. W. Hodges, 1953; J. C. Adams, 1961; Symposium, 1981; S. Mullaney, 1988)

1577 Francis Drake begins his voyage around the world (returns in 1580). First edition of Holinshed's Chronicles.

1579 Sir Thomas North publishes a translation of Plutarch's Lives, the major source for the plots of Shakespeare's Roman plays. Stephen Gosson in School of Abuse and Thomas Lodge in Defence of Stage Plays inaugurate several generations of lively printed controversiy over the immorality of the stage. Protestants in Holland unite under the treaty of Utrecht.

1580 Jesuit mission established in England.

1582 Shakespeare marries Anne Hathaway. She is 26; he is 18 (See Norton 44-45). Duke of Alencon, suitor to the Queen, leaves England. Plague in London. Pope Gregory XIII reforms the calendar; Protestant countries retain old calendar.

1583 Shakespeare's daughter, Susanna, is born, six months after his marriage (See Norton 44-45). Arden and Throgmorton plots against Elizabeth in favor of Mary Queen of Scots. Galileo's pendulum. Queen Elizabeth's Men (players' company) established by royal order.

1585 Hamnet and Judith, Shakespeare's twin son and daughter, are born.

mid 1580s The Elizabethan drama begins to be a major commercial and literary activity with the plays of Marlowe, Lyly, Greene, Peele, and Kyd. (See S. Mullaney, 1988; C. Davidson et. al., 1986; M.D. Bristol, 1985; W. Cohen, 1985; A. J. Cook, 1981; D. M. Bevington, 1968; A. Gurr, 1987)

1585-1586 Parry plot (to assassinate Elizabeth) exposed. Babington Plot against Elizabeth in favor of Mary Queen of Scots.

1587 The Rose Theatre built by Philip Henslowe. Mary Queen of Scots beheaded for complicity in plots against Elizabeth. Second edition of Holinshed's Chronicles, the principal source for Shakespeare's history plays, and for Lear, Macbeth, and Cymbeline, published. (See P. Saccio, Shakespeare's English Kings ; S. Booth, 1968)

1588 The Spanish Armada, sent against England by Philip II of Spain and backed by Pope Sixtus V, defeated by English ships and by the weather. The Martin Marprelate tracts (against episcopacy) begin.

1589 The Master of the Revels (an official of the Queen's court) given authority to license and censor all plays performed in London. (See R. Strong, 1973; E. M. Albright, 1927; E. K. Chambers, 1906)

1590 Edmund Spenser publishes the first three books of The Faerie Queene.

1591 Publication of Astrophil and Stella by Sir Philip Sidney (died 1586) establishes the English vogue for sonnets. (See A. D. Ferry, 1983; S. Booth, 1969; W. Shakespeare, 1977; G. F. Waller, 1986)

1592 Earliest surviving reference to Shakespeare as an actor/ playwright (a sneering allusion in a pamphlet by Thomas Greene, including a line parodied from 3 Henry VI). Plague in London.

1593-1594 Christopher Marlowe killed in a tavern brawl. A severe outbreak of plague leads to the closing of the London theatres. Acting companies try to survive by touring the provinces. Shakespeare publishes his two long narrative poems, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece , both dedicated to the Earl of Southampton (see H. Dubrow, 1987). When London theatres re-open, the Lord Chamberlain's Men is formed, a new company with Richard Burbage as leading man, Will Kempe as chief comic actor, and William Shakespeare as actor and leading playwright. The Warboys Witch trials; three "witches" executed. Henry of Navarre becomes Catholic. Crowned Henry IV of France in 1594.

1595 Sir Walter Raleigh sails to Guiana. Apprentices riot in London; five are hanged. Robert Southwell, Jesuit poet, executed.

1596 Shakespeare secures the grant of a coat of arms for his father, giving him (and eventually Shakespeare himself) the right to sign himself a "Gentleman," a member of the "gentry" class. Hamnet Shakespeare dies, aged 11 years. Ben Jonson's career as playwright begins. Spenser publishes books 4-6 of The Faerie Queene. "League of Amity" between England and France.

1597 Shakespeare buys New Place, the largest house in Stratford. First edition of Francis Bacon's Essays . The Theatre torn down. Lord Chamberlain's Men playing at the Curtain.

1598 Death of William Cecil, Lord Burleigh, Elizabeth's principal adviser since the start of her reign. George Chapman begins publishing his translation of Homer's Iliad. Edict of Nantes ends French civil war and grants toleration to Protestants.

1599 The Earl of Essex unsuccessful in combating revolt in Ireland. Using timbers salvaged from the Theatre, the Lord Chamberlain's Men build the Globe on the south bank of the Thames. They play there until 1642. "Offensive" books burned by ecclesiastical order and Nashe and Harvey forbidden to publish. (See E. K. Chambers, 1923)

1600 Fortune Theatre built (see Norton 30-31). James VI's second son, Charles, is born. East India Company founded.

1601 Essex attempts rebellion, is executed. New poor laws establish local parishes as responsible for relief. Death of Shakespeare's father.

1603 Death of Elizabeth I; accession of James I (James VI of Scotland). (See D. M. Bergeron, 1985; J. Goldberg, 1983; King James I, 1921; D. A. Mathew, 1967; A. P. Fraser, 1974) In the subsequent reshuffling of court patronage, the Lord Chamberlain's Men become the King's Men, by which name they are known for the rest of their career (see Norton 53-54). Florio's translation of Montaigne's Essays (died 1592) published. High O'Neil surrenders in Ireland.

1604 Peace with Spain. A tougher statute against witches passes Parliament. tax on tobacco.

1605 Gunpowder plot (Guy Fawkes) against James I. Bacon publishes his The Advancement of Learning.

1606 Beaumont and Fletcher's career as playwrights begins. Tougher acts against recusancy (non-attendance at churches) adopted. Oath of Allegiance imposed.

1607 Settlement of Jamestown, Virginia. Susanna Shakespeare marries John Hall, a Stratford physician.

1608 Death of Shakespeare's mother. Birth of Shakespeare's granddaughter, Elizabeth Hall (died 1670, Shakespeare's last surviving descendant). The King's Men lease the Blackfriar's Theatre, a small indoor theatre (once a monastery) to use along with the Globe. Several other small roofed theatres open in subsequent years, eventually becoming more important as a theatre venue than the big amphitheatres.

1609 Shakespeare's Sonnets piratically published. (See S. Booth, 1977). Moors are expelled from Spain.

1611 The Authorized Version (King James version) of the Bible in English published; it gradually replaces the Geneva version and the Great Bible as the standard English version of the scriptures (see H. J. C. Grierson, 1943; C. R. Thompson, 1958; Records, 1911; F. F. Bruce, 1970) Large numbers of English and Scots settle in Northern Ireland. James establishes a new order of knighthood, the baronetcy; the "honor" was sold to raise crown funds. Shakespeare retiring to Stratford; Fletcher taking over as principal playwright for the King's Men.

1612 Trial and execution of the Lancashire Witches.

1613 The Globe accidentally burnt down during a performance of Shakespeare and Fletcher's Henry VIII, immediately rebuilt.

1616 Judith Shakespeare marries Thomas Quiney, a Stratford vintner. Shakespeare dies at Stratford.

1620 Plymouth (Massachusestts) colony settled.

1623 Death of Anne Hathaway Shakespeare. Two of the King's Men, Shakespeare's fellow actors Hemings and Condell, publish Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies (the "First Folio"; in facsimile in Sanborn) containing 36 plays. Of these eighteen had previously been printed in cheap quarto editions; the other eighteen had not previously appeared in print. Two plays at least partially written by Shakespeare (Pericles, The Two Noble Kinsmen ) were omitted from the First Folio.

1625 Death of James I; accession of his son Charles I.

1642 A Puritan majority in Parliament passes an act forbidding playacting and closing the theatres. (See W. Prynne, 1633)

1649 Charles I executed after losing a civil war to parliamentary forces led by puritan Oliver Cromwell. The monarchy is abolished; England declared a Commonwealth. (See C. Hill 1964, 1970, 1972)

1660 Within two years of Cromwell's death, the monarchy is restored in the person of Charles I's son, Charles II. Episcopacy also restored. Theatre is once again permitted in England. By this time all the Elizabethan playhouses have been demolished or adapted to other purposes. Other than playscripts, the foundations of the Rose (built in 1587 and rediscovered in 1989) are the only known physical remains of the stage of Shakespeare's time.

Works Cited in Chronology of Shakespeare's Time

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Albright, Evelyn May. Dramatic Publication in England, 1580-1640; A Study of Conditions Affecting Content and Form of Drama. New York: D.C. Heath and Company; London: Oxford University Press, 1927. Baker Stacks PR/651/A6 Sanborn House PR/651/A6/cop. 2

Bergeron, David Moore. Shakespeare's Romances and the Royal Family. Lawrence, Kan.: University Press of Kansas, c1985. Baker Stacks PR/2992/K5/B47/1985

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Booth, Stephen. The Book Called Holinshed's Chronicles: An Account of its Inception, Purpose, Contributors, Contents, Publication Revision, and Influence on William Shakespeare. With a leaf from the 1587 edition. [San Francisco] Book Club of California, 1968. Baker Spec. Coll., Presses W691bo

Bristol, Michael D. Carnival and Theater: Plebeian Culture and the Structure of Authority in Renaissance England. New York: Methuen, 1985. Baker Stacks PR/658/A89/B75/1985

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Chambers, Edmund Kerchever, Sir. The Elizabethan Stage. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1923. Baker Stacks PN/2589/C4 Sanborn House PN/2589/C4/cop.2

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James I, King of England. Poems of King James I of England and VI of Scotland, Printed from Mss. in the Bodleian Library. [Oxford: Printed in the Bodleian Library, 1921] Baker Spec. Coll., Presses D221ja

Mathew, David, Abp. James I. London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1967. Baker Stacks DA/391/M32

Mullaney, Steven. The Place of the Stage: License, Play, and Power in Renaissance England. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988. Baker Stacks PN/2589/M78/1988

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Prynne, William. Histrio-Mastix. The Players Scovrge, or, Actors Tragaedie, Divided into Two Parts. Wherein it is largely evidenced, by divers Arguments, by the concurring Authorities and Resolutions of sundry texts of Scripture, of the whole Primitive Church, both under the Law and Gospell; of 55 Synodes and Councels; of 71 Fathers and Christian Writers, before the yeare of our Lord 1200 ... and of our owne English Statues, Magistrates, Vniversities, Writers, Preachers, That popular Stage-playes ... are sinfull, heathenish, lewde, ungodly Spectacles, and most pernicious Corruptions ... And that the Profession of Play-poets, of Stage players; together with the penning, acting, and frequenting of Stage-playes, are unlawfull, infamous and misbeseeming Christians . London: Printed by E.A. and W.I. for Michael Sparke, and are to be sold at the blue Bible, in Greene Arbour, in little Old Bayly. 1633. Baker Circ. (Locked) 824P956/R5 Baker Spec. Coll., Ticknor VA/P94h

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