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Timeline of William Shakespeare

Kashmira Lad Mar 12, 2020
The works of William Shakespeare have wowed readers all over the world for years. Here's a look at his timeline, which makes a mention of some important events in his life.
"To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
No more; and by a sleep, to say we end...
...The Heart-ache, and the thousand Natural shocks
That Flesh is heir to? 'Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wished. To die to sleep,
To sleep, perchance to Dream; Aye, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil"
The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (Act 3 Scene 1 - also known as the Nunnery Scene)
A very talented English poet and playwright, William Shakespeare is known the world over as one of the greatest writers in the English Language. With several plays, poems and sonnets to his credit, he has been highly regarded as the finest writers by lovers of this classic literature all across the globe.
His works - The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark and Macbeth are considered to be the finest written by him. Here, we shall take a look at some main events from his personal and professional life.
1564: William Shakespeare was baptized on the 26th of April, 1564. Born to John Shakespeare and Mary Arden, he was the third of the eight children born to this couple. His real date of birth is unknown and is considered to be 23rd April.
The Stratford Parish Register of Holy Trinity Church Baptismal record shows the entry "Guliemus filius Johannes Shakspere" which basically translates to "William son of John Shakspere".
1571: This was the year which is rumored to be the period when he began his formal education. Many biographers have recorded him being educated at the King's New School in Stratford.
1582: At the age of just 18 years, Shakespeare fell in love with Anne Hathaway, who was 26 years old, miles older than him. They married on 28th November at a small village named Temple Grafton, a few miles away from Stratford. The Bishop of Worcester's Register, Worcestershire Record Office granted the holy matrimony of "willm Shagspere and Anne hathwey,"
1583: Anne Hathaway gave birth to Susanna; Sussana was baptized on 26th May, 1583.
1585: The couple had twins, Hamnet and Judith and they were baptized on 11th August. This period (1585-1592) is the time that is speculated to be Shakespeare's Lost Years. Many scholars have been unable to trace accurate events that happened during this period. Some are of the opinion that he joined a band of actors to work as an actor and a playwright in these eight years.
1590: Scholars have referred to this year as the one where he began to write Henry VI, Part 2 and Henry VI, Part 3.
1592: His first brush with London theatre happened in this year. He was even mentioned in print by playwright Robert Greene who criticized his works.
1593: This was the time when he published two poems titled Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece both were based on erotic themes.
1594: The period from 1589 - 1594 was considered to be the time when he wrote his famous work - The Comedy of Errors. He penned Love's Labour's Lost and The Sonnets in circa 1594.
1595: Speculations about The Merry Wives of Windsor mention that this was probably written in 1595, which was ultimately published in 1602.
1596: He pens The Merchant of Venice and Henry IV, Part 1. On 11th August, Shakespeare loses his son Hamnet (11) to possibly bubonic plague and on 20th October in the same year his father, John Shakespeare is granted a coat of arms.
1598: It is believed that he wrote Henry IV - Part 2, this year. His name ("Will Shakespeare") was also listed as an actor ("principall Comoedian") in Ben Jonson's play titled Every Man in His Humor (or Euery Man In His Hvmovr).
1599: It is believed that he began his work on The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (or The tragicall historie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke) this year. This is Shaekespeare's longest play and is considered to one of his greatest plays of all time! A Midsummer Night's Dream was written during the 1590s.
Most importantly, the famous Globe Theatre, which was built on Bankside mainly due to the efforts of Shakespeare and his fellow actors, opened in the later half of the year. 21st September saw the staging of Julius Caesar at this very platform that went on to become eternally associated with the playwright's name.
1600 - 1608: Scholars believed he mainly wrote about tragedies during this period; hence the period is marked as his Tragic Period. It is theorised that the death of John Shakespeare in 1601 pushed the bard over to writing primarily dark and depressing tragedies. In fact, this darkness of mood may have seeped into Hamlet and made it dismaler.
He began writing the allegorical poem The Phoenix and The Turtle in 1601. He also wrote Twelfth Night; or, What You Will around 1601 - 1602. It is also rumoured that he wrote All's Well That Ends Well which he completed in 1608.
1602: Scholars believe he wrote the tragedy Troilus and Cressida around this time.
1603: A "Will. Shake-speare" is recorded to have played the "principall Tragoedian" (tragedian) in Ben Jonson's tragic play Sejanus his Fall (or Seianvs His Fall). A Midsummer Night's Dream is staged before Queen Elizabeth at Hampton Court.
Post the demise of Queen Elizabeth, the First on 24th March, James, the Sixth of Scotland ascends the throne and becomes James, the First, thus resuming the Jacobean Period. The new monarch assumes the role of an ardent patron of the arts. Shakespeare's troupe thus change their name from "The Chamberlain's Men" to "The King's Men".
1604: It is rumored that his play Measure for Measure was written around 1604 along with The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice. The latter was also staged on 1st November at Whitehall in the City of Westminster.
1605: This year marked two performances of the tragicomedy The Merchant of Venice. This performance was held at the royal court of King James.
1606: It's believed he composed the tragedy Antony and Cleopatra around this year.
1607: The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark and The Tragedy of Richard the Third are performed off the west coast of Africa at Sierra Leone, on board the British vessel "Dragon".
1609: A collection of 154 of the bard's sonnets is published by Thomas Thorpe.
1610: This year The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice was performed at the Globe Theatre in April and at Oxford in the month of September.
1610 - 1611: He wrote The Winter's Tale. He also penned a play called The Tempest.
1612: He was summoned as a witness in a court case. This was in connection with a marriage settlement of Mountjoy's daughter. It was also during the course of this year that he was believed to have penned his now lost play The History of Cardenio.
1613: Possibly based on an episode in Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote, The History of Cardenio is staged by a London theatre group called "The King's Men". This year also marks the burning down of the Globe Theatre.
It is said that the thatched roof of the theatre was inflamed when a cannon was fired during the staging of the play Henry VIII. Shakespeare also wrote The Two Noble Kinsmen in collaboration with John Fletcher in this year.
1614: The Globe Theatre, the first playhouse built by actors (for actors), reopened this year. Shakespeare also spent time in London with his son-in-law named John Hall.
1616: On 25th March, a very ill Shakespeare summons his lawyer from the Public Records Office, Principal Probate Registry, Selected Wills to make minor amends in the "Last Will and Testament of William Shakspere". He bequeathed the "second-best bed" to Anne Hathaway and about £10 to the less fortunate in the society. A large amount of his estate was left to his eldest daughter, Susanna.
He died on 23rd April which also happened to be his fifty-second birthday. He was buried in the chancel of the Holy Trinity Church two days after his death. His epitaph reads:
Good friend for Jesus sake forbear
To dig the dust enclosed here.
Blessed be the man that spares these stones
And cursed be he that moves my bones.

The bard is believed to have composed this himself and requested it to be inscribed on his grave.
1619: Jacobean Court saw the staging of The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark during the Christmas festivities.
1622: The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice was published posthumously.
1623: This year saw the demise of the playwright's wife - Anne Hathaway.
John Heminges and Henry Condell published 36 of the many plays that Shakespeare is attributed to have penned in a collection known as The First Folio. The book contained,
I. Comedies:
  • The Tempest
  • The Two Gentlemen of Verona
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor
  • Measure for Measure
  • The Comedy of Errors
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • Love's Labour's Lost
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • The Merchant of Venice
  • As You Like It
  • The Taming of the Shrew
  • All's Well That Ends Well
  • Twelfth Night; or, What You Will
  • The Winter's Tale
II. Histories:
  • King John
  • The life and death of King Richard, the Second
  • Henry IV, Part 1
  • Henry IV, Part 2
  • Henry V
  • Henry VI, Part 1
  • Henry VI, Part 2
  • Henry VI, Part 3
  • The Tragedy of Richard the Third
  • Henry VIII
III. Tragedies:
  • Troilus and Cressida
  • Coriolanus
  • The Lamentable Tragedy of Titus Andronicus
  • An Excellent Conceited Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet
  • The Life of Tymon of Athens
  • The Tragedy of Julius Caesar
  • Macbeth
  • The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
  • King Lear
  • The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice
  • Antony and Cleopatra
  • The Tragedy of Cymbeline
1634: The Two Noble Kinsmen (written in 1611) was published posthumously.
1642: The Puritans shut down the Globe Theatre, before pulling it down completely in 1644.
A little study on William Shakespeare will reveal that the man's life is shrouded in mystery when it comes to a lot of things. It is basically the records kept by churches, courts, registry offices and a few other places that have helped historians to piece together the life of this English bard.
But given the difference in the spellings of his name - willm Shagspere, William Shakespeare, William Shakspere, mr Shaksper, Mr. Wyllyam Shaxspere, Will. Shake-speare, Mr. Shakspre, Will Shakspeare - one cannot help but experience a sense of discrepancy. What if some of these characters were not the William Shakespeare we know today?
Over the ages, great minds by the likes of Sir John Gielgud, Mark Twain, Orson Welles, Sigmund Freud and Walt Whitman have repeatedly expressed their doubts about the existence of a man who was clearly a countryman, one who hadn't travelled as extensively to have mastery over such a vast range of disciplines.
The cultural diversity that one needs to be exposed to in order to have command over such a wide range of topics, could not possibly have been available to him at Stratford.
Besides, his knowledge about the other parts of the world - geographical or cultural - could not have been that accurate, given his simple means and lack of opportunity or resources to study about them profusely.
His detailed description of Italy (in The Merchant of Venice) is, therefore, slightly unnerving, for it gives the idea that the person writing about ways Venetian has travelled there to know so much.
Henry James, the 19th century literary realist wrote to an aide that he is, "haunted by the conviction that the divine William is the biggest and most successful fraud ever practised on a patient world," in 1903.
Literary theorists have debated over the matter for years now. Some say it was Christopher Marlowe who resurfaced as William Shakespeare after faking his own death on 30th May, 1593. The Marlovian Theory has been doing the rounds since 1895.
Others like the Anti-Stratfordians are of the notion that a group of people, such as Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, the 6th Earl of Derby and the 17th Earl of Oxford, used the facade called William Shakespeare in order to keep their own identities from becoming public.
Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford and supposedly the secret lover of Queen Elizabeth, the First is credited to have been the writer of these plays and poems attributed to Shakespeare. Strangely, Hamlet and All's Well that End's Well has uncanny resemblance to the Oxford's life and is often rendered autobiographical.
It is a possibility that these aristocrats used the shield that was Shakespeare so as to avoid criticism and social disgrace because back in the Tudor and Jacobean age, royals who penned plays for the masses and sought credit for them were looked down upon.
Their creations were to be staged solely in front of nobility and that too privately, as per convention. And what fans all these speculations? The absence of even a single manuscript written in Shakespeare's own handwriting.
What you as a student of Literature wish to believe is up to you. But one thing is for sure - whether William Shakespeare existed or not, the man is a legend in his own right nevertheless.