Timeline of Events Pertaining to English Theatrical History

This page represents some events of particular importance to this course. Please see here and here for more thorough collections of timelines.

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.

1558: Elizabeth comes to the throne.

1564: Shakespeare born in Stratford-upon-Avon.

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, the first “purpose-built” playhouse in early modern London. It’s however unclear how long it may have been open. In time its builder, John Brayne, a grocer, would once again enter into the theater business with his brother-in-law James Burbage to build The Theatre.

1570: Pius V excommunicates Elizabeth, declaring that “there is no salvation outside the Church.

1572: Statute against Vagabonds: unlicensed players declared “Rogues, vagabonds and sturdy beggars”.

1574: Royal patent brings James Burbage’s playing company under the patronage of the Earl of Leicester. Leicester’s Men are born.
Act of the Court of Common Council bans plays from occurring on sites unlicensed by the City. This Act may have spurred the building of independent theaters.

1576: James Burbage opens The Theatre playhouse in London with John Brayne.
           Newington Butts playhouse built? 

1577: The Curtain playhouse first appears in the historical record in this year. It may be an older structure than the Theater.

1580: Montaigne’s Essais.

1581: Master of the Revels, Edmund Tilney, licensed to censor plays.

1583: The Queen’s Men, a touring company of players organized by Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth’s chief spymaster, formed. Shakespeare would later adapt some of the play’s in the Queen’s Men’s repertoire, notably The Famous Victories of Henry V and King Leir.

1586-87: Mary, Queen of Scots tried and executed for treason.

1587: The Rose playhouse is built by Philip Henslowe. Shakespeare’s early plays, such as the Henry VI histories and Titus Andronicus would be performed there.

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.

1592 (ca.): Shakespeare joins the Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

1593: Christopher Marlowe killed in a tavern brawl.

1594: 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.

1598: 1 Henry IV?

1599: Julius Caesar acted. The Globe theater opens under the management of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, of which Shakespeare was a sharer.

1600-1: Hamlet composed and acted?

1603: John Florio publishes his translation of Montaigne’s Essays. 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.

1604: Measure for Measure?

1605: King Lear?

1608: King’s Men take a lease at Blackfriars Theatre, London’s first enclosed theatre.

1610-11: The Winter’s Tale written.

1616: Shakespeare dies. The collected plays of Ben Jonson is published in folio, signaling that drama has attained the status of “major literature.”

1623: Shakespeare’s collected plays published as the so-called First Folio by fellow actors John Hemminges and Henry Condell.

1642: Puritans shut down the theaters in London during the English Civil Wars.

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