A chronological list of Shakespeare's plays by decade.

We don't know exactly when Shakespeare started writing plays, but they were probably being performed in London by 1592. It is believed that he wrote around 38 plays, including collaborations with other writers. Shakespeare is likely to have written his final plays just a couple of years before his death in 1616.

Timeline of Shakespeare's plays

  • 1580 - 1590

    • The Taming of the Shrew Considered to be one of Shakespeare's earliest works, the play is generally believed to have been written before 1592
  • 1590 - 1600

    • Henry VI Part II Believed to have been written in 1591 and Shakespeare's first play based on English history
    • Henry VI Part III Written immediately after Part II, a short version of the play was published in Octavo form in 1595
    • The Two Gentlemen of Verona Known to be written around the 1590s as it was mentioned by Francis Meres in his list of Shakespeare's plays in 1598, no firm evidence for a particular year
    • Titus Andronicus Written in 1591/92, with its first performance possibly in January 1594
    • Henry VI Part I Generally assumed to be the 'harey the vi' performed at the Rose Theatre in 1592
    • Richard III Could have been written in 1592, shortly before the plague struck, or in 1594 when the theatres reopened post-plague
    • The Comedy of Errors Was possibly written for Gray's Inn Christmas festivities for the legal profession in December 1594
    • Love's Labour's Lost An edition of the play in 1598 refers to it being 'presented before her Highness [Queen Elizabeth] this last Christmas', and most scholars date it to 1595-96
    • A Midsummer Night's Dream Often dated to 1595-96. Reference in Act 1 Scene 2 to courtiers being afraid of a strage lion may allude to an incident in Scotland in 1594
    • Romeo and Juliet Astrological allusions and earthquake reference may suggest composition in 1595-96
    • Richard II Typically dated 1595-96. Described in 1601 as 'old and long out of use'
    • King John Written between 1595 and 1597; an anonymous two-part King John was published in 1591 but Shakespeare's version is stylistically close to later histories
    • The Merchant of Venice Registered for publication in 1598, reference to a ship Andrew suggests late 1596 or early 1597 as a Spanish ship of the name was captured around that time
    • Henry IV Part I Probably written and first performed 1596-97, registered for publication in 1598
    • Henry IV Part II Written around 1597-98 and registered for publication in 1600, both parts are based on Holinshed's Chronicles
    • Much Ado About Nothing Late 1598, not mentioned in Francis Meres's 1598 list of Shakespeare's plays but included the role Dogberry for Will Kemp, a comic actor who left the company in early 1599
    • Henry V Written in 1599, mentions a 'general... from Ireland coming', could be referring to the Earl of Essex's Irish expedition in 1599
    • As You Like It Typically dated late 1599. Not mentioned in Francis Meres's 1598 list of Shakespeare's plays, unless orignally called Love's Labours Won
    • Julius Caesar 1599. Not mentioned in Meres's 1598 list of plays, seen at the Globe by Swiss visitor Thomas Platter in 1599
  • 1600 - 1610

    • Hamlet Dated around 1600, registered for publication in summer 1602. There are allusions to Julius Caesar, which was writtein in 1599
    • The Merry Wives of Windsor Estimated 1597 - 1601, though an allusion to the Order of the Garter might indicate that it was performed at the Garter Feast in 1597
    • Twelfth Night 1601. Not mentioned in Meres's 1598 list of plays and alludes to a map first published in 1599
    • Troilus and Cressida Dated 1601-02, registered for publication early 1603 and alludes to the play Thomas Lord Cromwell, which was registered for publication in 1602
    • Othello Dated 1604 though some argue for a slightly earlier date. It is recorded to have been performed in court in November 1604
    • Measure for Measure Performed at court for Christmas 1604, probably written earlier the same year
    • All's Well That Ends Well No strong evidence for date written or first performed, but it is usually dated 1603-06 on stylistic grounds
    • Timon of Athens Estimated 1604-06 based on stylistic similarity to King Lear
    • King Lear Dated 1605-06. Performed at court December 1606 and seems to refer to eclipses of September and October 1605
    • Macbeth 1606. Certainly more Jacobean than Elizabethan based on the play's severe compliments to King James
    • Antony and Cleopatra Dated 1606-07, registered for publication in 1608 and perhaps performed at court in 1606 or 1607
    • Coriolanus Perhaps written in 1608. Allusion to 'coal of fire upon ice' in Act 1 could refer to the great frost of winter in 1607/08
    • Pericles 1608. Registered for publication in 1608; Wilkin's novel The Painful Adventures of Pericles, cashing in on the success of the play, was published in 1608
    • Cymbeline 1610. A performance in 1611 is recorded. Theatres were reopened in spring 1610 after a long closure due to the plague
  • After 1610

    • The Winter's Tale 1611. Performed at the Globe May 1611; dance of satyrs apparently borrows from a court entertainment of January 1611
    • The Tempest 1611. Performed at court in November 1611; uses source material not available before autumn 1610
    • Henry VIII 1613. The first Globe theatre burnt down in a fire that started during a performance of the play on 29 June 1613
    • The Two Noble Kinsmen 1613-14; 'our loss' in the Prologue probably refers to the Globe fire of 1613

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