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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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January 18, 1602
The Merry Wives of Windsor was entered twice into Liber C of the Stationers' Company on January 18, 1602, shown above. John Busby, who made the first entry for that day, printed no known copies, and had never registered the title previously.
April 19, 1602
Henry VI Part 1 and Part 2 and Titus Andronicus  were entered into Liber C of the Stationers' Company on April 19, 1602.
July 26, 1602
Hamlet was entered into Liber C of the Stationers' Company on July 26, 1602.
1602
Following the expiration of the lease on the site of the Theatre in Shoreditch in 1597, Richard and Cuthbert Burbage, James Burbage’s sons, found themselves embroiled in a series of lawsuits with Giles Allen, who owned the land that their father had leased for his playhouse.
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.
1602
The first edition of the rollicking middle-class comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor was published in 1602, after being entered into the Stationers’ Register for John Busby on January 18, 1602 and then immediately transferred by Busby to Arthur Johnson on the
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.
May 18, 1603
Although James VI of Scotland was proclaimed king of England on March 24, 1603, it took him over a month to arrive in London.
ca. 1603
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
1603
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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