Shakespeare’s life and inspiration

Learn about Shakespeare's childhood, family, and where he got the ideas for his plays.

Shakespeare's timeline

  • 1558 Elizabeth I becomes queen at 25 years of age.
  • 1564 Shakespeare is born.
  • 1580s Shakespeare comes to London sometime at the end of this decade.
  • 1590 Shakespeare writes his first play – Henry VI Part 1.
  • 1594 There are records of Shakespeare and his company performing plays for the queen from now on. This is the year Romeo and Juliet was first performed.
  • 1603 Queen Elizabeth dies. Her cousin, James VI of Scotland becomes James I of England. This is a big upheaval because Elizabeth had ruled for 45 years. James also liked theatre and continued to commission plays from Shakespeare.
  • 1605 The Gunpowder Plot intended to blow up the Houses of Parliament to kill the King.
  • 1606 Macbeth is performed for the first time.
  • 1606-16 Shakespeare keeps writing, but starts to live at home in Stratford-upon-Avon more.
  • 1616 Shakespeare dies on 23 April, which coincidentally is St George’s Day which remembers the English patron saint.
  • 1623 The First Folio, a collection of Shakespeare’s plays, is published.