The story of the English theatre between 1558 and 1642 is one of glorious artistic achievement.

Shortly after Queen Elizabeth came to the throne in 1558, she declared that the content of plays performed in public could no longer be religious. This edict, together with the risk-taking spirit of the English Renaissance, produced theatre practices very different from those of the Middle Ages.

Within 20 years of Elizabeth's accession, the first permanent English theatres were built, new forms of drama were emerging and professional London theatre companies were established.

When Shakespeare arrived in London around 1588, public theatre was flourishing. By the time he retired to Stratford-upon-Avon 20 years later, he had left the world of public theatre immeasurably richer.

Here in brief is the story of the London stage in Shakespeare's time.

Shakespeare's Theatre (PDF 287KB) »

Further reading

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
This website offers detailed information about Shakespeare's theatre, illustrated by some images from their extensive archives:

Folger Shakespeare Library
This facility in the USA holds a wide range of Shakespeare archives and resources, with plenty information about Shakespeare's theatre - London theatres, the buildings, staging his plays:

The Willow Cabin
This site was created by an American actor/academic and offers information about Shakespeare's theatre illustrated with some large images:

Cambridge University Press
This page details Elizabethan theatre-going, in the context of learning about Shakespeare:
This page offers a detailed description of Elizabethan playhouses, actors and audiences:


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Teaching Shakespeare