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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

1612
The playwright John Webster included Shakespeare in the list of dramatists he admired in his preface to The White Devil, printed in 1612 by Nicholas Okes for Thomas Archer. Webster asserts his support of his contemporaries (image 3: A2v):
August 25, 1613
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
1612- 1613
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June 30, 1613
The Globe went up in flames on June 29, 1613, a newsworthy event mentioned in numerous contemporary accounts. In his weekly letter to his former student Sir Thomas Puckering, Thomas Lorkin notes that it burned down during a performance of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII.
1614
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1614
Like the first edition of 1600, the second edition of Englands Helicon (1614), includes a sonnet from act 4, scene 3 of Love’s Labor’s Lost (1598). The poem in Englands Helicon is ascribed to “W.
1614
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ca. 1615
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1616
The Shakespeare First Folio (1623) contains a list of “The Names of the Principall Actors in all these Playes.” At the head of the list appears the name of William Shakespeare.
ca. 1616
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