William Shakespeare



William Shakespeare is born in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, to local tanner John Shakespeare and his wife Mary. He was baptized on April 26rd.


Shakespeare marries Anne Hathaway at Temple Grafton.


The Two Gentlemen of Verona is the first play by William Shakespeare to be officially recorded recorded (in Francis Meres’ Palladis Tamia). Among his early works are The Taming of the Shrew, King HenryVI, Richard III, Titus Andronicus and Edward III.


Shakespeare’s plays are exclusively performed by Lord Chamberlain’s Men, an actors company that included Shakespeare. Among their productions are Shakespeare’s comedies The Comedy of Errors, Love's Labour’s Lost, Love’s Labour's Won, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Much Ado About Nothing ,A Midsummer Night's Dream and As You Like it, Measure for Measure, All's Well That Ends Well,), but also tragedies (Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, possibly Troilus and Cressida, Othello, King Lear, Timon of Athens, Antony and Cleopatra, Macbeth, , Coriolanus), history plays (Richard II, King John, Henry IV, Henry V, Julius Caesar) and a group of late plays called romances (The Winter’s Tale, The Tempest, Cymbeline, and Pericles, Prince of Tyre).


The Globe Theatre (“the Wooden O”) is built in the suburb of Southwark on the south bank of the Thames.


Hamlet and Twelfth Night are performed in London.


Having been awarded a royal patent by King James I (the successor of Queen Elizabeth I.), Shakespeare’s company changed its name to the King’s Men.


As the last of Shakespeare’s non-dramatic works to be printed, the Sonnets are published. His other poems include A Lover's Complaint, The Phoenix and the Turtle, The Rape of Lucrece, The Passionate Pilgrim and Venus and Adonis.


The Globe Theatre in London is consumed by a fire, caused by a cannon shot during a performance of Henry VIII.


As recorded in the Stratford Holy Church Register, Shakespeare dies on April 23rd. --- A collection of Shakespeare’s works is published by his fellow playwright Ben Jonson.


The First Folio edition of Shakespeare’s works, Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies, is published and becomes one of the most influential books in the English language.


The Puritans close down all theatres for religious reasons, including the Globe.


Peter Scheemakers creates a statue of Shakespeare for Poets’s Corner in Westminster Abbey, London.


Garrick’s Temple to Shakespeare, a garden folly erected on the north bank of the River Thames at Hampton in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, is erected by actor David Garrick.


On October 14th, on occasion of Frankfurt’s Shakespeare Day, German classicist poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe gives his speech Zum Schäkespears Tag (Upon Shakespeare’s Day).


Engraver and publisher John Boydell starts the Boydell Shakespeare Gallery to foster a school of British history painting.


German critic and poet August Wilhelm Schlegel publishes the first volume of his influential German translation of seventeen works of Shakespeare (completed in 1810). 


In The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakspere Unfolded by Delia Bacon, the author presents the first theory concerning the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays, attributing them to a committee headed by Francis Bacon. The Shakespeare authorship question is still hotly debated. Poets identified as authors of Shakespeare’s plays include Edmund Spenser, Christopher Marlowe, Walter Raleigh, Ben Jonson, Miguel de Cervantes and a host of other notable figures of the time.


John Quincy Adams Ward’s statue of Shakespeare in New York’s Central Park is unveiled. Other statues of Shakespeare in the USA can be found in Chicago (Lincoln Park) and Washington (Library of Congress).


Giovanni Fontana’s statue of William Shakespeare is erected in the center of Leicester Square Gardens in London.


The Shakespeare Memorial Theatre is opened in Stratford-upon-Avon.


William Kennedy Dickson and Walter Pfeffer Dando’s silent film King John becomes the earliest known film adaption of one of Shakespeare’s plays. Today, more than 1,300 screen adaptions exist. --- Edward Dowden publishes the first volume of the Arden Shakespeare, an edition of Hamlet.


George Bernard Shaw criticizes Shakespeare in the preface to his collection Three Plays for Puritans for not engaging with social problems, coining the term “bardolatry” for unjustified adoration of Shakespeare.


The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, or OSF, is founded in Ashland, Oregon.


Kolkata’s central business street, Theatre Road, is renamed Shakespeare Sarani.


The Shakespeare Association of America (SAA) is founded, a non-profit organization for the advanced academic study of William Shakespeare's plays and poems and their cultural and theatrical contexts.


The BBC releases the BBC Television Shakespeare, a complete series of Shakespeare’s works on television.


The first three volumes of the Oxford Shakespeare series are published, followed in 1986 by a Complete Works edition by John Jowett, William Montgomery, Gary Taylor and Stanley Wells. ---The Shakespeare Bulletin is founded, an academic journal focused on performance studies and scholarly treatment of Shakespearean and early modern drama on stage and screen. --- The Shakespeare Center is established in New York City as home of the Riverside Shakespeare Company.


An asteroid from the outer region of the asteroid belt is named after Shakespeare, 2985 Shakespeare. Other objects named after the poet include a bacterium isolated from a cooling tower in Stratford-upon-Avon, Legionella shakespearei, and a crater in the Shakespeare quadrangle of Mercury.


The American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Virginia, is founded.


A modern reconstruction of the theatre, named “Shakespeare’s Globe”, is opened within walking distance from the original site. Other modern reconstructions can be found in Toronto, New York City, Wellington, and Neuss (Germany).


The American romantic period film Shakespeare in Love, directed by John Madden, becomes a box office hit.


World Shakespeare BibliographyOnline is created.


The British Shakespeare Association is founded.


The Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon is officially opened by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip who are presented with the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet.


The Gdański Teatr Szekspirowski (Gdańsk Shakespeare Theatre) is opened in the Polish city of Gdańsk.


The BBC celebrates the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death with a number of activities dedicated to “the Bard”, including a Shakespeare Eurovision Song Contest. 

Why study Shakespeare?

  • Shakespeare’s language is still overwhelmingly beautiful – his plays offer fascinating imagery, great stories and compelling characters!
  • No other poet has had such an impact on popular culture!
  • Knowledge of Shakespeare’s plays and biography makes you feel confident – and it wins you respect from others.
  • Shakespeare is a splendid example how images of poets are build up and deconstructed – whether Shakespeare might have been gay, whether he was Catholic or not, and even whether his works might have been written by someone else!
  • Understanding how theatre worked in Shakespeare’s days can teach you a lot about present-day theatres and their audiences!
  • You’ll learn an incredible amount of new words and phrases!
  • Shakespeare’s plays are staged all around the world.
  • There are many words and phrases coined by Shakespeare we still use!
  • Shakespeare’s plots are often imitated by other writers!
  • Reading Shakespeare offers deep insights into 17th century England.
  • Acting out Shakespeare can also make you a better speaker and improve your acting! Soliloquys from “Hamlet” or “Richard III” are often used as training texts in classes that specialize on acting and public speaking.
  • You’ll learn some Early Modern English to understand how it has evolved until the present day.
  • In his plays, Shakespeare explores the human condition and exposes basic instincts we can still feel today: grief, greed, desire, ambition...! You can learn a lot about yourself and others when you dig into his plays!


  • 400 years after his death, is Shakespeare still relevant today?
  • In a globalized world, should we still read Shakespeare – a male white English playwright?
  • Should kids really watch such gruesome plays about the dark side of the human soul – about desire for power, betrayal, avarice, murder?
  • Is Shakespeare too challenging and too dull for teenagers?
  • Is Shakespeare really exceptional or simply overrated??
  • Should you read Shakespeare in the original or is it okay to read Modern English versions of his works?
  • Some of Shakespeare’s sonnets have been seen as evidence of his love for a young man. If Shakespeare had been gay, would this have influenced his works?
  • Is it important to study Shakespeare’s biography before reading his work?


  • Act out a scene from a Shakespearean play!
  • Compare different portraits of Shakespeare and try to find what he might have looked like!
  • Place Shakespeare quotes all around your school!
  • Build a model of the Globe!
  • Mime Shakespeare quotes and have your partner guess what it could mean!
  • Read passages from various plays. Then, speculate what the whole play may be about!
  • Compare two translations of a famous soliloquy or compare it to the original text!
  • Analyze a Shakespearean sonnet! Then, write one yourself!
  • Compare an original excerpt from one of Shakespeare’s works with a modernized version. In how far has language changed from Early Modern English times to the present day?
  • Rehearse a soliloquy from one of his plays!
  • Use emoji and emoticons to replace Shakespearean text!
  • Transform famous passages from Shakespeare into concrete poems!
  • Find or create a suitable soundtrack for a play!
  • Make a song out of a sonnet!
  • Write a sick note in blank verse!
  • Create gap texts for passages from Shakespeare’s plays!
  • Make a word search for Shakespeare’s plays!
  • Do a Shakespearean insult competition!
  • Create comic versions of Shakespeare’s plays!
  • Design masks for famous characters from Shakespeare’s plays!
  • Design a Happy Families card game of various plays!
  • Watch a film adaptation of one of his plays and compare an important scene with the original drama!
  • Modernize the plot of a Shakespearean tragedy!
  • Plan a trip to all the sites where Shakespeare’s life took place!



  • Alfred Deller: Shakespeare Songs, 1967 (Deller’s album, which is one of the most celebrated recordings of the countertenor, contains a number of Elizabethan songs, including several songs from Shakespeare’s plays set to music by contemporary composers).
  • Akala: Shakespeare , 2006 (Camden-born rapper Akala compares his work as a hip hop artist with Shakespeare in his time)
  • Taylor Swift: Love Story, 2008 (Swift’s love song with lots of references to Romeo and Juliet deals with an unhappy love affair from the perspective of Juliet; the video alludes to the theatre tradition of the play, mixing it with the typical setting of Jane Austen movies).


  • Shakespeare in Love, 1998, directed by John Madden, USA (American romantic period comedy-drama film, full of references to Shakespeare’s life and plays).

Institutions and Websites

  • The Folger Shakespeare Library: https://www.folger.edu/ (8/16/2018), a research library on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. (USA) with the world’s largest collection of the printed works of William Shakespeare; it was established in 1932 by Henry Clay Folger.
  • The German Shakespeare Society: http://shakespeare-gesellschaft.de/en.html (8/17/2018), founded in 1864 and one of the oldest literary societies worldwide, the German Shakespeare society is dedicated to scholarly research on Shakespeare and his time.
  • Shakespeare Institute: https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/heroes/shakespeare.aspx (8/17/2018). The Shakespeare Institute, part of the University of Birmingham, focuses on Shakespeare’s works and afterlife, aiming to preserve the legacy of Shakespeare in the 21st century.