English Renaissance Timeline: Some Historical and Cultural Dates

1558 – Queen Elizabeth I is crowned, and Thomas Kyd is born

1563 – Martin Luther’s Thirty-Nine Articles are published

1564 – William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe are born

1569 – Northern England rebels on behalf of Mary Queen of Scots

1570 – The Catholic Church excommunicates Queen Elizabeth I

1572 – Thomas Dekker and Ben Jonson are born

1574 – The St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre takes place in England, on which Marlowe based his play The Massacre at Paris

1576 – The Curtain theatre is built

1577 – Raphael Holinshed publishes his Holinsheds Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, the primary source text for most of Shakespeare’s history plays

1578 – James VI becomes King of Scotland

1580 – Francis Drake completes his circumnavigation of the globe

1580 – Thomas Middleton and John Webster are born

1584 – Sir Walter Raleigh establishes the first English colony in the New World

1585-1604 – England is at war with Spain

1586 – The Babington Plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I and place Mary Queen of Scots on the throne is discovered

1587 – Mary Queen of Scots is executed at the Tower of London

1587 – Theatre impresario Phillip Henslowe builds The Rose theatre

1588 – The Spanish Armada is destroyed by England’s fleet

1592 – Christopher Marlowe is arrested at Flushing in the Netherlands for coining

1592 – Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy is published

1592 – Anti-alien riots break out in London

1593 – The theatres are closed due to plague

1593 – Christopher Marlowe is murdered, Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis is published

1594 – The theatres re-open, Thomas Kyd dies, and the first recorded performances of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus and The Taming of the Shrew take place

1597-1601 – Ireland rebels against England

1597 – The performance of Ben Jonson and Thomas Nashe’s The Isle of Dogs results in Jonson’s arrest; he is released a few months later

1599 – The Earl of Essex is arrested, The Globe theatre is built, Shakespeare’s Henry V, Julius Caesar, As You Like It, Hamlet, and Much Ado About Nothing open, and Dekker’s The Shoemaker’s Holiday opens

1599-1602 – Ben Jonson battles John Marston and Thomas Dekker with wits and words in the War of Theatres, or Poetomachia

1600 – Queen Elizabeth I grants the East India Company its charter

1601 – The Earl of Essex is executed

1602 – Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night opens

1603 – Queen Elizabeth I dies, and James VI of Scotland becomes King James I of England

1605 – The Gunpowder Plot is foiled and Guy Fawkes apprehended, Ben Jon’s Volpone opens, and Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker’s The Roaring Girl is performed at The Fortune theatre

1606 – The first recorded performances of Shakespeare’s King Lear and Middleton’s The Revenger’s Tragedy take place

1608 – John Milton is born

1610 – Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist opens

1612-1618 – Thomas Dekker is in debtor’s prison

1612 – John Webster’s The White Devil opens

1613 – The Globe theatre burns down during a performance of Shakespeare’s Henry VIII

1614 – Plans begin for the Spanish Match between Prince Charles of England and Princess Anna Maria of Spain, John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi opens, and The Globe is rebuilt

1616 – William Shakespeare dies, King James I publishes his complete works, and Ben Jonson’s First Folio is published

1617 – Ben Jonson is named England’s first Poet Laureate

1623 – Shakespeare’s First Folio is published, and negotiations for the Spanish Match collapse

1624-1630 – England wars with Spain

1624 – Middleton’s A Game at Chess open

1625 – King James I dies and is succeeded by King Charles I

1627-1629 – England wars with France

1627 – Thomas Middleton dies

1632 – Thomas Dekker dies

1634 – John Webster dies

1637 – Ben Jonson dies

1642 – The English Civil War commences, and the Puritan parliament bans the theatre and closes the playhouses


For more information about the world of Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre in England, check out the Renaissance Theatre section at writersinspire.org.

For more historical background, take a look at Charlotte Barrett’s Victorian Poetry and Fiction: Some Historical and Cultural Dates.


About Kate O'Connor

Kate O'Connor works as Publicity & Outreach Director for Post5 Theatre, Literary Assistant and Office Manager for the Original Practice Shakespeare Festival, and Dramaturgy Intern for the Profile Theatre. She earned her M.St. in English Literature 1550-1700 at Lincoln College, University of Oxford and a BA in English from Stanford University. As an undergraduate she worked as the research assistant to Prof. David Riggs and as Literary Intern for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
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