1564: William Shakespeare is born in Stratford-upon-Avon. His notice of baptism is entered in the parish register at Holy Trinity Church on April 26th. While the actual date of his birth is not known, it is traditionally celebrated on April 23rd.
1571: Shakespeare probably enters grammar school, seven years being the usual age for admission.
1575: Queen Elizabeth visits Kenilworth Castle, near Stratford. Popular legend holds that the eleven-year-old William Shakespeare witnessed the pageantry attendant on the royal progress and later recreated it in his dramatic works.
1582: Shakespeare marries Anne Hathaway of Shottery. The eighteen-year-old Shakespeare and twenty-six-year-old Hathaway are married on November 27th at Temple Grafton, a village about five miles from Stratford.
1583: Susanna, the first child of William and Anne Shakespeare, is born. Susanna's birth occurs five months after Shakespeare and Hathaway wed. Susanna dies in 1649.
1585(?): Shakespeare leaves Stratford sometime between 1585 and 1592, and joins a company of actors as a performer and playwright.
1585: Twins Hamnet and Judith Shakespeare born. Hamnet dies in 1596. Judith dies in 1662.
1589-90: Shakespeare probably writes Henry VI, Part One. The dates given for the composition of Shakespeare's plays, though based in scholarship, are somewhat conjectural.
1590-91: Shakespeare probably writes Henry VI, Part Two and Henry VI, Part Three.
1592: Shakespeare was known in London as an actor and playwright by this time as evidenced by his being mentioned in Robert Greene's pamphlet A Groats-worth of Wit. In this pamphlet (published this year), Greene chides Shakespeare as an "upstart crow" on the theater scene. Greene charges that Shakespeare is an unschooled player and writer who "borrows" material from his well-educated betters for his own productions.
London theaters are closed due to plague.
1592-93: Shakespeare probably writes Venus and Adonis, Richard III, and The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
1592-94: Shakespeare probably writes The Comedy of Errors.
1593: Shakespeare probably begins composing his sonnets. He will eventually write 154 sonnets.
Shakespeare's narrative poem Venus and Adonis is published.
1593-94: Shakespeare probably writes The Rape of Lucrece, Titus Andronicus, and The Taming of the Shrew.
1594: Shakespeare performs with the theater troupe the Lord Chamberlain's Men. The group includes leading actor Richard Burbage and noted comic performer Will Kempe.
1594-95: Shakespeare probably writes Love's Labour's Lost.
1594-96: Shakespeare probably writes King John.
1595: Shakespeare probably writes Richard II. The play is first performed the same year.
Shakespeare probably writes A Midsummer Night's Dream. The play is probably composed for performance at a wedding.
Shakespeare probably writes Romeo and Juliet.
1596: Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon, Lord Chamberlain, and patron of the Lord Chamberlain's Men, dies.
Shakespeare's company comes under the patronage of George Carey, second Lord Hunsdon.
Shakespeare probably writes The Merry Wives of Windsor. The play was performed before the Queen during the Christmas revels.
1596-97: Shakespeare probably writes The Merchant of Venice, and Henry IV, Part One.
1597: Shakespeare purchases New Place and the grounds surrounding the spacious Stratford home.
1598: Shakespeare appears in a performance of Ben Jonson's Every Man in His Humour, and is listed as a principal actor in the London performance.
Shakespeare probably writes Henry IV, Part Two.
1598-99: Shakespeare probably writes Much Ado About Nothing.
1599: Shakespeare probably writes Julius Caesar, Henry V, and As You Like It.
The Lord Chamberlain's Men lease land for the Globe Theatre. Nicholas Brend leases the land to leading shareholders in the Lord Chamberlain's Men, including Shakespeare. Later this year, the Globe Theatre opens.
Earliest known performance of Julius Caesar. Thomas Platter, a German traveler, mentions the production at the Globe Theatre on September 21st in his diary.
John Weever publishes the poem "Ad Guglielmum Shakespeare," in which he praises Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis, The Rape of Lucrece, Romeo and Juliet, and other works.
1600-01: Shakespeare probably writes Hamlet.
1601: Shakespeare probably writes the narrative poem The Phoenix and Turtle.
1601-02: Shakespeare probably writes Twelfth Night; or, What You Will and Troilus and Cressida.
Shakespeare probably writes All's Well That Ends Well.
1603: A Midsummer Night's Dream is performed before the Queen at Hampton Court.
Queen Elizabeth dies. The new king, James I (James VI of Scotland), arrives in London a month later, and proves to be a generous patron of the theater and of acting troupes.
King James grants a patent, or license, to Shakespeare's acting troupe, the Lord Chamberlain's Men. The patent is required for the troupe to perform. They take the name the King's Men to honor the new king.
The King's Men enact a play, probably As You Like It, before King James at Wilton.
Shakespeare appears in a performance of Ben Jonson's Sejanus. This is the last recorded occasion of Shakespeare appearing in a theatrical production.
An epidemic of the Black Death kills at least 33,000 in London. This is the worst outbreak of disease in London until the plague recurs in 1608.
1604: Shakespeare probably writes Measure for Measure. The play is staged at court before King James.
Shakespeare probably writes Othello. The play is first performed at Whitehall on November 1st.
1605: Shakespeare probably writes King Lear.
The Merchant of Venice is performed at court. The play is performed twice and is commended by the king.
Shakespeare probably writes Macbeth. This play's Scottish background was almost certainly intended to celebrate the new king's ancestry.
1606: Shakespeare probably writes Antony and Cleopatra.
1607: Hamlet and Richard III are performed. The plays are acted aboard the British ship Dragon at Sierra Leone.
1607-1608: Shakespeare probably writes Coriolanus, Timon of Athens, and Pericles.
1608: The King's Men lease the Blackfriars Theatre. The Blackfriars was the first permanent enclosed theater in London. Shakespeare, Richard Burbage, Cuthbert Burbage, Thomas Evans, John Hemminges, Henry Condell, and William Sly lease the theatre for a period of twenty-one years. Stage directions indicate that Shakespeare wrote The Tempest with specific features of the new playhouse in mind.
London theaters are closed due to plague. This is one of the longest periods of theater closure due to plague: the playhouses are shut from spring 1608 throughout 1609.
1609: Shakespeare's sonnets are published. This publication of Shakespeare's sonnets is unauthorized.
1609-10: Shakespeare probably writes Cymbeline.
1610: The King's Men perform Othello at Oxford College during the summer touring season. An Oxford don records his impressions of the play in Latin, finding the spectacle of Desdemona's death, in particular, deeply moving.
1610-11: Shakespeare probably writes The Winter's Tale.
1611: Shakespeare probably writes The Tempest.
1612-13: Frederick V, the elector platine and future king of Bohemia, arrives in England to marry Elizabeth, King James's daughter. The King's Men perform several plays, including Othello and Julius Caesar.
Shakespeare probably writes Henry VIII, most likely collaborating with John Fletcher, another highly reputed dramatist, on this history play.
Shakespeare probably writes Cardenio, the only play of Shakespeare's that has been completely lost.
1613: Shakespeare probably writes The Two Noble Kinsmen. An entry in the Stationer's Register for 1634 indicates that this play was jointly written by Shakespeare and John Fletcher.
The Globe Theatre burns down.
1614: The Globe Theatre reopens on the opposite bank of the Thames.
1616: Shakespeare dies on April 23rd. His burial is recorded in the register of Stratford's Holy Trinity Church on April 25th.
1619: Hamlet and several other of Shakespeare's plays are performed at court as part of the Christmas festivities.
1623: Anne Hathaway Shakespeare dies.
Shakespeare's fellow actors, John Hemminges and Henry Condell, compile and publish thirty-six of the dramatist's works. This collection is known as the First Folio.