1453: Fall of Constantinople.
1475: First book in English printed.
1485: Richard III dies at the Battle of Bosworth field. Henry Tudor takes the throne as Henry VII, and unites the Houses of Lancaster and York by marrying Elizabeth of York, beginning the Tudor dynasty and ending the Wars of the Roses.
1509: Henry VIII comes to the throne.
1516: Erasmus publishes a new Latin translation of the NT based on Greek manuscripts, correcting many errors in the Vulgate translation of Jerome; publishes a book that includes the new translation along with an edition of the Greek NT.
1517: Martin Luther posts his 95 theses to the door of a Wittenberg church, sparking the Reformation.
1525: William Tyndale translates the Bible into English.
1531-2: Machiavelli’s The Prince and Discourses on Livy published posthumously.
1534: Act of Royal Supremacy passes, making Henry VIII head of the Church of England. Seizure of Church properties begins.
1535: Sir Thomas More executed.
1547: Henry VIII dies; Edward VI comes to the throne.
1553: Mary I comes to the throne.
1557: First record of a play performed at Boar’s Head Inn, Whitechapel.
1558: Elizabeth comes to the throne.
1559: Licensing of plays enacted. Creation of the Earl of Worcester’s Men; The Earl of Warwick’s Men; Lord Strange’s Men.
1564: Shakespeare born in Stratford-upon-Avon. Marlowe born in the same year.
1564-1579: Corpus Christi “mystery” plays banned in Norwich, York, Chester, Wakefield, and Coventry.
1565: First English blank-verse tragedy, Gorboduc, published.
1567: Red Lion playhouse opened in London.
1570: Pius V excommunicates Elizabeth, declaring that “there is no salvation outside the Church.”
1574: Royal patent brings James Burbage’s playing company under the patronage of the Earl of Leicester, forming Leicester’s Men
1576: James Burbage opens The Theatre playhouse in London. Other playhouses follow, including the rival Curtain theater in 1577.
1580: First edition of Montaigne’s Essays.
1581: Master of the Revels, Edmund Tilney, licensed to censor plays.
1583: The Queen’s Men formed.
1585: The Lord Admiral’s Men formed.
1586-87: Mary, Queen of Scots tried and executed for treason.
1587: The Rose playhouse opens and becomes the theater of the Lord Admiral’s Men and the Lord Strange’s Men in 1592. Shakespeare’s early plays, such as the Henry VI histories and Titus Andronicus would be performed there. Thomas Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy initiates a vogue for revenge drama, and Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine Part 1 performed.
1587-90: Shakespeare begins career as actor and playwright.
1588: Spanish Armada; Spain’s failed invasion of England.
1589: Religious and political controversy nominally banned from stage.
1590: first installment of Spenser’s Faerie Queene published. Marlowe’s Jew of Malta written (ca.). Tamburlaine Parts 1 and 2 entered together into the Stationer’s Register.
1592: Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. Arden of Faversham (anonymous) is the first great domestic tragedy.
1593: Christopher Marlowe killed in a tavern brawl. His Edward II recorded in the Stationer’s Register, just weeks after his death.
1594: Lord Chamberlain’s Men created, Shakespeare as founding member. Admiral’s Men move to The Rose. Privy Council begins licensing playhouses, while the Lord Mayor of London bans plays from being put on in Inns.
1595: A Midsummer Night’s Dream? The Swan theater opens.
1596: Plays banned within city limits. Burbage converts Blackfriar’s into a theater.
1597: The Isle of Dogs (now lost) written by Thomas Nashe and Ben Jonson, and performed at the Swan. The play caused an uproar, to which the Privy Council responded by banning the play from the stage and indeed closing the playhouses for months. Warrants of arrest issued for Nashe and Jonson. Romeo and Juliet.
1598: Ben Jonson’s Every Man in His Humour, performed by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, launches his career. Shakespeare’s 1 Henry IV marks the height of the history genre.
1599: Julius Caesar acted. The Globe theater opens under the management of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, of which Shakespeare was a sharer. It is built from the timbers of the dismantled Theatre. Thomas Dekker’s The Shoemaker’s Holiday performed at court. Shakespeare’s As You Like It likely written.
1600-1: Shakespeare’s Hamlet composed and acted, marking the beginning of Shakespeare’s “tragic period”.
1602: John Marston’s Antonio’s Revenge.
1603: Elizabeth dies. Accession of James VI of Scotland / James I of England. James takes over patronage of the Lord Chamberlain’s men and they become the King’s Men—a strong indicator that Shakespeare’s company was the leading company of London. Thomas Heywood’s A Woman Killed with Kindness, one of the greatest domestic tragedies, performed by Worcester’s Men. Marston’s Malcontent.
1604: Othello. George Chapman, The Tragedy of Bussy d’Ambois (ca.)
1605: The Gunpowder Plot. King Lear? George Chapman, Ben Jonson, and John Marston, Eastward Ho! performed, provoking censure for its satirical portrait of Scots.
1606: Macbeth. Ben Jonson, Volpone (1605-6).
1607: Francis Beaumont’s farcical and Monty Pythonesque Knight of the Burning Pestle performed, to perplexed audiences. Thomas Middleton’s The Revenger’s Tragedy.
1608: King’s Men take a lease at Blackfriars Theatre, London’s first enclosed theatre.
1609: The Cockpit built on Drury Lane.
1610-11: Shakespeare’s romances: The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest. The year of great city comedy: Ben Jonson, The Alchemist and Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker’s The Roaring Girl.
1613: Fire at the Globe. Elizabeth Cary’s closet tragedy, Mariam, Fair Queen of Jewry.
1614: John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi.
1616: Shakespeare dies. The collected plays of Ben Jonson is published in folio, signaling that drama has attained the status of “major literature.”
1619-21: John Fletcher’s The Island Princess.
1621: Thomas Middleton’s Women Beware Women (ca.).
1622: Thomas Middleton and William Rowley, The Changeling.
1623: Shakespeare’s collected plays published as the so-called First Folio by fellow actors John Heminges and Henry Condell.
1625: Charles I succeeds his father James Stuart.
1630: John Ford, ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore (ca.)
1642: The theaters are shut down in London during the English Civil Wars, but plays still performed covertly.
1647: Beaumont and Fletcher folio published.
1649: Charles I, the “man of blood,” executed.
1660: The Restoration. Charles II re-opens the playhouses, and following the French fashion, actresses appear on stage for the first time.