MENU

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

All Documents

February 4, 1596
In 1596, the actor and theater builder James Burbage bought some property in Blackfriars, a London neighorhood on the site of a former monastery. His purchase included “seven great upper rooms as they are now divided” as well as some lower rooms and adjoining staircases and yards.
1596
Edward III was published anonymously in 1596, and was one of three plays attributed to Shakespeare in the catalogue of books appended to Thomas Goffe’s The Careless Shepherdess in 1656.
November 1596
This undated petition to the Privy Council signed by neighbors of a prospective playhouse in Blackfriars is one of three related documents, all in the same hand, among the State Papers in The National Archives:
January 1596
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
1597
Richard III was first printed in 1597, and the title page enumerates the various exploits to be found within, including Richard’s “treacherous Plots,” the “pittiefull murther of his innocent nephews,” his “tyrannicall vsurpation,” and of course h
1597
Shakespeare’s Richard II made its debut in print in 1597, approximately two years after the play’s original performance on stage.
August 29, 1597
Richard II was entered into Liber C of the Stationers' Company on August 29, 1597. The title as entered reads "The Tragedye of Richard the Second".
October 20, 1597
Richard III was entered into Liber C of the Stationers' Company on October 20, 1597.
1597
Romeo and Juliet was one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays from the moment it was first performed and printed.
ca. August 27, 1597
This document, part of the Rye Chamberlain’s Accounts, includes an August 1597 entry for a payment of 20 shillings to Shakespeare’s company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

Pages