A Playwright for the Ages

William Shakespeare lived for 52 years. In that time, he produced approximately 40 plays that we know of, as well as his famous Sonnets and other poems, which together form the greatest, most compelling body of work in the English language. Shakespeare’s works have been translated into every major language, and his plays continue to be performed around the world.

Born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, he married at the age of 18 and had three children, one of whom died in 1596. Between 1583 and 1592, Shakespeare dropped out of sight, and speculation about his activities during this time is rife as people seek to explain the background to his genius.

In 1594, Shakespeare appears in the records of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, working as an actor and author of plays at the Rose and the Curtain Theatre. In 1599, the company moved to the newly built Globe. By 1603, they had acquired royal patronage and became the King’s Men on the accession of King James I. Shakespeare is believed to have produced much of his work between the late 1580s and 1613, when he retired to Stratford, where he lived until his death in 1616. The precise chronology of his plays is unknown, although there is an accepted order and approximate timescale.

Of his life, very little is known. His legacy is his enthralling stories, memorable characters, and beautiful, evocative language. As Samuel Johnson wrote: “His works may be considered a Map of Life.”

Chronology of the Plays

Late 1580s

The Two Gentleman of Verona
The Comedy of Errors

Early 1590s

King John
Henry VI, part i
Titus Andronicus
Henry VI, part ii
Henry VI, part iii
The Taming of the Shrew
Richard III

Mid 1590s

Love’s Labour’s Lost
Romeo and Juliet
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Richard II
The Merchant of Venice
Henry IV, part i

Late 1590s

The Merry Wives of Windsor
Henry IV, part ii
Much Ado About Nothing
Henry V
As You Like It
Julius Caesar

Early 1600s

Troilus and Cressida
Twelfth Night
All’s Well That Ends Well
Measure for Measure

Mid 1600s

Timon of Athens
King Lear

Late 1600s

Antony and Cleopatra
The Winter’s Tale

After 1610

The Tempest
Two Noble Kinsmen
Henry VIII

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