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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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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.
1605
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
1604- 1605
The Revels Book of 1604–5 shows William Shakespeare at or near the height of his success as a playwright, with seven plays and eight performances at court. Merchant of Venice was so admired by the king that he commanded a repeat performance.
1605
Augustine Phillips was a long-time member of the same playing company as William Shakespeare – the Lord Chamberlain’s and later the King’s Men. Phillips’s will, dated May 4, 1605, provides insight into two important aspects of the company’s operations.
1606
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
1606
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
1606
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
ca. 1606
In several scenes, the Cambridge University play Progress to Parnassus mocks the literary tastes and talents of the London commercial stage, depicting Shakespeare as a popular but unsophisticated playwright and poet.
1606
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
1607
George Eld printed The Puritan; or, the Widow of Watling Street in 1607 with an attribution to “W.S.” The title page’s further information that the play was performed by the Children of Paul’s is the strongest evidence against the Shakespeare attribution as Shakes

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