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Shakespeare is first mentioned as a playwright in 1592, when he had already written at least five plays: The Comedy of ErrorsTitus Andronicus, and Henry VI, Parts 1, 2, and 3. By 1598, a literary critic attributes a dozen plays to him, including one that is now considered lost, Love’s Labors Won.

Shakespeare’s contemporaries gossiped about him, and read, saw, and responded to his plays. Evidence for Shakespeare’s prominence in the playwriting community appears in manuscript and print, including title pages, literary anthologies, and literary criticism by his contemporaries. Occasionally, we encounter more subtle glimpses of the theatrical network at work--for example, diary entries, or in one instance, a conversation with Shakespeare about a play’s author, recorded by Sir George Buc, Master of the Revels, who was responsible for censoring plays for performance in the early 17th century.  

Like other plays from the period, Shakespeare’s plays were meant to be read both as stories and as sources for sententiae, passages that become stand-alone proverbs when removed from the play. Beginning in 1600, a group of editors and publishers elevated English plays to a more respectable status by excerpting them in printed literary anthologies and printing “commonplace markers” (modern-day quotation marks) alongside extractable sayings in the plays themselves. These markers would indicate passages that readers could then copy into their own commonplace books, personalized collections of proverbs.  

All Documents

1598- 1601
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
February 2 and March 13, 1602
The earliest mention of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is in a notebook of gossip, observations and sermon notes kept by John Manningham while a law student at Middle Temple, one of the Inns of Court in London.
ca. 1594- 1603
Sometime in the final years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, someone copied sixty-three lines from Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1 into the final leaves of a notebook devoted primarily to his Latin notes on metaphysics and theology.
1603
John Davies of Hereford was one of the most prolific poets of his age. He was born about 1565 and died in 1618, making him William Shakespeare’s nearly exact contemporary.
1603
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
August 9-17 1603
This fragment from the account book of a stationer in southern England provides evidence of a bookseller’s stock in the early seventeenth-century, with a tally of items sold over the course of a few days in August 1603.
ca. 1603
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
ca. 1604
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
1604
In 1604, Thomas Creede printed a volume of poetry called "Daiphantus, or the Passions of Love" for publisher William Cotton. The author is identified on the title page as "An.
1604
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!

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