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A life in writing

A life in writing

Shakespeare left behind an imaginative legacy that continues to inspire and delight today. But his personal papers do not survive, leaving us to construct his biography from the traces left in official records.

By me William Shakespeare uses some of these surviving records to tell Shakespeare’s story. You can explore them below.

Politics

Examination of Sir Gelly Meyrick, 1601

On 8 February 1601 the Earl of Essex staged an uprising against the Queen in London.

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Examination of Augustine Phillips, 1601

On 8 February 1601 the Earl of Essex staged an uprising against the Queen in London.

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Servant

Account of Edmund Tilney, Master of the Revels listing plays performed at court 1604-1605

During the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I and VI, acting companies regularly performed at court.

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Account of Sir George Buc, Master of the Revels listing plays performed at court 1611-12

During the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I and VI, acting companies regularly performed at court.

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Account of the Master of the Great Wardrobe, with grant of red cloth to Shakespeare and the King’s Men, 1604

When James I inherited the English throne in 1603 he made theatrical patronage a privilege of the royal family.

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Theatre

Complaint of Giles Allen against Cuthbert and Richard Burbage, 1601

In December 1598 one of London’s first purpose-built playhouses, the Theatre in Shoreditch, was dismantled by a group of 15 ‘armed’ men.

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Witness

Deposition of William Shakespeare in the case of Stephen Belott against Christopher Mountjoy, 1612

This transcript is the sole surviving example of Shakespeare’s speech recorded in his lifetime.

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By me William Shakespeare © Crown copyright and King's College London. Images reproduced courtesy of The National Archives.
Shakespeare400 is a consortium of leading cultural, creative and educational organisations, coordinated by King’s College London, which will mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016.
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