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Shakespeare was involved in many aspects of London’s professional theatrical world. He was an actor, a playwright, and a shareholder in an acting company known as the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, which became the King’s Men when James I became king in 1603. His plays were performed on professional stages owned by his company--first the Theatre, and then, after 1599, the Globe. (After a property dispute, the Theatre was disassembled and the timbers used to build the Globe). In 1609, his company began using its own indoor theater at Blackfriars. His plays were performed in many other spaces, including the royal court, the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and the Inns of Court, public buildings and outdoor spaces in the provinces, and private households.

The total number of Shakespeare’s plays varies somewhat, depending on who is counting them, and how. The total shifts between 38 and 40 plays as scholars reassess references to his two lost plays--Love’s Labor’s Won and Cardenio--and analyze how large a hand he had in some collaboratively-written plays.

This category includes all publications of his plays, up to and including the First Folio in 1623; all entries for his plays in the Stationers' Register; administrative documents from the National Archives and elsewhere that make reference to his theaters and theater companies; and printed and handwritten references to seeing and/or reading his plays. Read Alan H. Nelson's thematic essay to learn more about lawsuits in Shakespeare's England.

Visit the British Library's Shakespeare in Quarto, to learn even more about actorsplayhouses and theater companies in Shakespeare's time, and to view completely digitized copies of Shakespeare's plays.

Our Featured Documents

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ca. 1603- 1604
Sir Thomas More is a collaboratively written play that survives only in a single manuscript.
August 9-27, 1604
From August 9 to 26, 1604, twelve fellows of Shakespeare’s company, the King’s Men, attended upon the Spanish Ambassador at Somerset House, London. For about the same time, eleven fellows of the Queen’s Men attended upon other noblemen at Durham House, London: 
May 15, 1604
The paper notebook shown here names William Shakespeare as a recipient of 4 1/2 yards of red cloth in anticipation of King James’s coronation progress, granting Shakespeare substantially the same recognition as the rest of the twenty-eight players named in the Lord Chamberlain’s accou
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.
1605
The London Prodigal was published in 1605 attributed to William Shakespeare, as performed by the King’s Men.
1605
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
May 13, 1605
Augustine Phillips was a long-time member of the same playing company as William Shakespeare – the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, later the King’s Men. Phillips’s will, dated May 4, 1605, provides insight into two important aspects of the company’s operations.
1605
This is the fourth edition of Richard III, printed in 1605. On June 25, 1603, Andrew Wise, who published the first three editions, transferred the rights to Matthew Law.
October 10, 1605
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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