Timeline: Theatre History

1575 1576 1577 1581 1583
1584 1585 1586 1587 1588
1589 1590 1591 1592 1593
1594 1595 1597 1598 1599
1600 1601 1602 1603  

  • St. Paul’s Private Theatre - A small private theatre, is established within St. Paul’s Cathedral for performances Paul’s choir boys by Sebastian Westcott, the long-term master of The Children of St. Paul’s. 
  • First Recorded Purpose-Built Public Theatre in London- The Theatre, at Shoreditch, London, is built by James Burbage and John Brayne, and used by Leicester’s Men, Admiral’s Men, and Chamberlain’s Men, among others. 
  • Holinshed’s Chronicles - Holinshed publishes his Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland.
  • New Theatres Built - The Curtain is built in Curtain Close, Finsbury Fields, Shoreditch, by Henry Lanman.  An early purpose-built theatre in the amphitheatre style is built a mile south of Bankside at Newington Butts.
  • Richard Tarlton, Vintner – Tarlton became “free” of the company of Vintners. In addition to his acting career, Tarlton owned the Saba tavern at Gracechurch Street and an ordinary in Paternoster Row.
  • Riots in London- May 9, Riots break out in London and the privy council orders the destruction of all playhouses; the order is never enforced. 
  • The Rose Theatre is built - The Rose was built in Bankside, Southwark, by owner/theatre-manager Philip Henslowe. 
  • Tamburlaine - Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great is first performed at The Rose
  • First Anti-Theatrical Tracts Appear - October, The first of the radical Protestant, anti-theatrical Marprelate tracts appears, indicting members of the Queen’s Men including Tarlton and Robert Wilson.
  • The Spanish Tragedy – First recorded performance of Thomas Kyd’s famous; it was written as early as 1587. 
  • Shakespeare on the Stage - March 3, Henslowe’s diary records a performance of 1 Henry VI ; 3 Henry VI was playing at the same time, and it is presumed that 2 Henry VI was also being performed.  All plays were certainly written prior to 1592, though, as was Richard III which was probably written in 1591.
  • Marlowe’s Death - Christopher Marlowe is killed by Ingram Frizer at the home-based tavern of Eleanor Bull in Deptford.
  • Taming of the Shrew - The earliest possible date for Shakespeare’s completion of The Taming of the ShrewThe Two Gentlemen of Verona was likely written earlier. 
  • The New Rival Companies take root in London - The Admiral’s Men are established at the Rose, and the Chamberlain’s Men are established at the Theatre.
  • Comedy of Errors - December 28, First recorded performance of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, which may have been written as early as 1592.
  • Another New Theatre in London - The Swan is built by Francis Langley, Bankside, Southwark.  The Swan was thought an ideal playing space and was subsequently imitated by the Globe. 
  • More Shakespeare Plays - Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Richard II are probably first performed.  The earliest possible date for Shakespeare’s completion of Romeo and Juliet, though it may be based on an earlier version of the play, written as early as 1591.
  • The Theatre dismantled - James Burbage’s lease for the property on which The Theatre was built expires upon his death.  Owing to exorbitant fees for a new lease, Burbage’s sons had The Theatre dismantled; its timbers were moved Bankside, Southwark, for the construction of the Globe. 
  • 1Henry IV - Shakespeare’s 1 Henry IV is in production. 
  • Three More Shakespeare Plays - Shakespeare’s Love’s Labours Lost is published by W. W. for Cuthbert Burby.  It was likely written in 1595 or 1596. July 22, Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice is entered in the Stationer’s Register for James Roberts; it was likely written between 1596 and 1598.  Likely possible date for the composition of Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor
  • The Globe is built – The new theatre to house the Chamberlain’s Men was built at Bankside, Southwark, by carpenter Peter Smith and Burbage’s sons, Cuthbert and Richard, specifically for Chamberlain’s Men.  Shakespeare probably completes Julius Caesar, As You Like It,and Henry V, the first play performed at the Globe. Also a possible date for Much Ado About Nothing (which may have been written in 1598).  
  • The Fortune - At Golding Lane in Finsbury, a new theatre was built by Philip Henslowe and Edward Alleyn when The Rose, built near the increasingly popular Globe, began to lose money due to the Globe's competition.  Henslowe hired the Globe's builders to imitate some of the Globe's features.  
  • Troilus and Cressida - Shakespeare writes Troilus and Cressida.
  • Twelfth Night - 2 February, the first recorded performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, which was probably comleted in 1600 or 1601.
  • Hamlet - June, The earliest recorded performance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor– The play is entered in the Stationer’s Register for Thomas Creed, publishing it for Andrew Wise. 
  • Measure for Measure and Othello - The earliest plausible date for Shakespeare’s completion of Measure for Measure and Othello