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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

May 1606- June 1608
Sometime between May 1606 and July 1608, the Venetian ambassador to England saw a performance of Pericles, and invited the ambassador of France, the ambassador’s wife, and the Florentine resident in England, to join him.
1605- 1609
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
1609
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
1609
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.
ca. 1609
Scipio Squire (alias Le Squyer alias Squyre) (1579-1659), who owned the edition of Pericles shown here, was a minor legal officer who rose to become deputy chamberlain and then chamberlain of the Exchequer, or royal treasury.
1609- 1610
The poet and courtier Sir John Harington left behind tantalizing lists of plays written by Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, Thomas Middleton, Thomas Heywood, and others. Around 1609 he compiled two lists of play quartos almost certainly in his personal collection.
April 30, 1610
During a diplomatic visit to England in 1610, the Protestant German prince Louis Frederick Würtemberg attended a performance of Othello--“l’histoire du More de Venise”--at the Globe.
September 1610
In September 1610, Henry Jackson (1586-1662) of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, wrote a letter in Latin to his friend “G.P.” in which he described a recent visit by Shakespeare’s company, the King’s Men.
1611
In the last year of his life, the astrologer Simon Forman (1552-1611) recorded his impressions of the plots and lessons of four plays he saw at the Globe, three of which were by Shakespeare: Macbeth on April 20, 1611 (he mistakenly writes 1610), a production of Richard II by an
undated, possibly 1611?
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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