Number of Shakespeare plays by presumed year 1589-1613

As Shakespeare's work was written at the turn of the seventeenth century, and its historical and cultural significance would not be known for years to come, much of chronological evidence for when he wrote his plays has not been preserved. Therefore, scholars have had to use a variety of other sources to piece this timeline together, and there is still much debate about the dates when Shakespeare's works were written and first performed. While none of the major timelines takes real precedent over the others, and new evidence continues to emerge, one of the most widely accepted chronologies is that of The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works.

All written within 24 years

This study claims that Shakespeare's 37 plays were all written in less than quarter of a century, between 1589 and 1613. The period where the most plays were written was between 1595 and 1601, at 17 plays. Roughly two thirds of Shakespeare's plays were written over a twelve-year period, between 1589 and 1601, with the other third coming over the following twelve years. The years where the most plays were written were in 1595 and 1606, with four plays per year being created during this time.

Tragic endings

Although Shakespeare wrote double the amount of plays in the first half of his career, he focused more on tragedies in the second half, which tend to be longer and are considered to deal with more complex issues. Shakespeare retired from the theater in 1611, and it is presumed (based on his burial records) that he died on April 23, 1616 (which is also presumed to have been his 52nd birthday). Although much of his work has been lost and we do not know everything about his life, William Shakespeare continues to be a figure of fascination to this day, and more than four centuries after his death, his works are still some of the most studied, performed, replicated and enjoyed artistic pieces worldwide.

Number of William Shakespeare plays believed to have been written in each year from 1589 to 1613*

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Release date

October 2019


United Kingdom

Survey time period

1589 to 1613

Supplementary notes

* For plays that are believed to have been written over two or more years, the mid-point in the estimate has been used.

1589-1591 - The Two Gentlemen of Verona
1590-1591 - The Taming of the Shrew
1591 - Henry VI: Part 2, Henry VI: Part 3
1591-1592 - Henry VI: Part 1, Titus Andronicus
1592-1593 - Richard III
1594 - The Comedy of Errors
1594-1595 - Love's Labour's Lost
1595 - A Midsummer Night's Dream, Richard II, Romeo and Juliet
1596 - King John
1596-1597 - Henry IV: Part 1, The Merchant of Venice
1597 - The Merry Wives of Windsor
1597-1598 - Henry IV: Part 2
1598-1599 - Much Ado About Nothing
1599 - Henry V, Julius Caesar
1599-1600 - As You Like It
1599-1601 - Hamlet
1601 - Twelfth Night
1600-1602 - Troilus and Cressida 1603-1604 - Measure for Measure, Othello
1604-1605 - All's Well That Ends Well
1605-1606 - King Lear, Timon of Athens
1606 - Antony and Cleopatra, Macbeth
1607-1608 - Pericles, Prince of Tyre
1608 - Coriolanus
1609-1611 - The Winter's Tale
1610 - Cymbeline
1610-1611 - The Tempest
1612-1613 - Henry VIII

The Two Noble Kinsmen, which is often excluded from Shakespeare's canon of work (but is considered by many to be his final play), was written between 1613 and 1614

Release date is date of extraction.

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