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.
Legislation against Catholics – Parliament passes strict legislation against Roman Catholics, including large fines for hearing mass.
Queen’s Men Formed – In late March, The Queen’s Men are formed under the direction of Sir Francis Walsingham and the Earl of Leicester, composed of the finest actors from existing companies. Founder members include: John Adams, John Bentley, Lionel Cooke, John Dutton, John Garland, William Knell (poss. joined in 1585), John Lanham, Tobias Mills (or Myles), John Singer, Richard Tarlton, John Towne, and Robert Wilson
The Affray at Norwich – June 15, An affray involving members of the Queen’s Men and a recalcitrant, unpaying audience member breaks out at The Red Lion in Norwich during a performance, leaving the audience member dead. Two members of the company, John Singer and John Bentley, are involved in the subsequent court case which seems to have been resolved without a trial and without recorded punishment for Singer or Bentley. For a detailed account of this moment in Queen’s Men history, see Jennifer Roberts-Smith, “The Red Lion and the White Horse: Inns Used by Patronized Performers in Norwich, 1583-1624,” Early Theatre 10:1 (2007) 110-111.
Clyomon and Clamydes – Likely date for the composition of Clyomon and Clamydes, though some argue that it was written as early as 1570.
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.
John Bentley dies. – The register at St. Peter’s Cornhill gives his age as 32.
July: Tobias Mills dies – Buried at St. Olave’s, Southwark in 1585.
Catholic Plot Uncovered – Sir Francis Walsingham, who was responsible for the formation of the Queen’s Men, discovers the Babington Plot, a plan to assassinate Elizabeth I and set the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots on the throne.
William Knell marries
Execution of Mary, Queen of Scots
Richard Tarlton made Master of Fence
Famous Victories – The latest possible date for The Famous Victories of Henry V. Tarlton’s Jests includes a story about Tarlton and Knell performing a scene from Famous Victories, and Knell died in June of this year.
William Knell killed in Duel – A coroner’s inquest reports that on 13 June, 1587, between 9 and 10 pm, Knell entered a close called White Hound in Thame, Oxfordshire and assaulted John Towne, his fellow actor. Towne, fearing for his life, took to the high ground of a nearby “mound” and put his sword through Knell’s neck in self-defence. Knell was dead within the half-hour. The Queen pardoned Towne on 15 August after it was determined he acted in self-defense (Shakespeare in Warwickshire, 82-83, 157-158).
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
Selimus – The earliest possible date for a performance of Selimus because Selimus is clearly a response to Marlowe’s Tamburlaine. It was first published, without being entered in the Stationers’ Register, in 1594 by Thomas Creede.
Richard Tarlton dies. September 3, Richard Tarlton dies. He was buried in St. Leonard’s Shoreditch.
Spanish Armada – May 28, the Spanish Armada leaves port for England
Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay – Probably first performed before Tarlton’s death on September 3; the part of Miles was likely written for him.
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.
August 8, Elizabeth I delivers her Speech to the Troops at Tilbury.
Lawrence Dutton has joined the company – John Dutton’s brother Lawrence Dutton reported as a member of the Queen’s Men.
Three Lords and Ladies of London – Wilson composes Three Lords and Ladies of London. The play refers explicitly to The Spanish Armada and to the death of Tarlton, and it was first entered in the Stationers’ Register in 1590 before being published by Richard Jones.
Queen’s Men Tour Ireland – July, A branch of the Queen’s Men, in their most ambitious tour, visits Ireland.
Queen’s Men perform in Edinburgh – October, The Queen’s Men travel to Edinburgh to perform at the wedding of James VI to Anna of Denmark; the wedding is postponed when Anna is trapped by adverse winds at Oslo.
Three Lords and Ladies of London – The play is entered in the Stationers’ Register, and is published in the same year, by Richard Jones.
The Spanish Tragedy – First recorded performance of Thomas Kyd’s famous play; it was written as early as 1587.
The Troublesome Reign of King John Published– The Troublesome Reign of King John was published by Sampson Clarke without prior entry in the Stationers’ Register.
Old Wives Tale – Earliest possible date for the composition of Old Wives’ Tale. In Old Wives Tale, Peele continues a public squabble with Gabriel Harvey that probably began in 1591.
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 Shrew. The Two Gentlemen of Verona was likely written earlier.
Last Queens’ Men Appearance at Court? January 6, The Queen’s Men make their final recorded appearance at court. The company continues to tour the provinces.
Titus Andronicus – January 24, Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus is entered in Henslowe’s diary, though it may have been written as early as 1589.
Queen’s Men at the Rose – April 1-8, The Queen’s Men appear with Sussex’s Men at the Rose; this is their final recorded performance in London or the suburbs.
Queen’s Men Plays published – May 14, The Famous Victories of Henry V entered in the Stationers’ Register for Thomas Creede. King Leir and Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay are registered for Adam Islip, though Islip’s name is struck through and replaced with Edward White’s name.
True Tragedy of Richard III – June 19, The True Tragedy of Richard III is entered in the Stationers’ Register for Thomas Creede, and is published by Creede in the same year.
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.
Selimus– published by Thomas Creede without an entry in the Stationers’ Register.
Comedy of Errors – December 28, First recorded performance of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, which may have been written as early as 1592.
Old Wives Tale Published – April 16, The Old Wives Tale is entered in the Stationers’ Register for Ralph Hancock. The play was printed in the same year by John Danter to be sold by Hancock and John Hardie.
Actor John Garland granted annuity – Company player John Garland was granted an annuity of 2 shillings a day by the Queen.
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.
Famous Victories Published– The Famous Victories of Henry V published by Thomas Creede. We believe it was performed before 1587 because Edward Knell is reported to have played Henry V and he died that year.
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).
Clyomon and Clamydes – The play is published by Thomas Creede, but it is believed to have been part of the Queen’s Men repertoire for many years.
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.
Essex Rebellion – The Earl of Essex mounts an unsuccessful rebellion against Elizabeth.
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.
Final Recorded Performance by the Queen’s Men – The Queen’s Men perform their final show of which there is a record in Congleton, some time between Christmas 1602 and Elizabeth I’s death.
Measure for Measure and Othello – The earliest plausible date for Shakespeare’s completion of Measure for Measure and Othello.
The Queen Dies – 24 March, Elizabeth I dies.