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The Historical Settings of Shakespeare's Plays by Date

The following is a chronology of the time of action in Shakespeare's plays. Please click on the plays to find extensive study resources and interesting facts. For a list of Shakespeare's works by composition date, please see The Chronology of Shakespeare's Plays. If you need information on the physical settings of the plays, please see Shakespeare's Settings.

Play Historical Time of Action
Troilus and Cressida 1194–1184 BC (Trojan War)
King Lear 800 BC
Coriolanus 494-490 BC
Timon of Athens 431-404 BC (Peloponnesian War)
Julius Caesar 44-42 BC
Antony and Cleopatra 40-30 BC
Cymbeline AD 16
Titus Andronicus AD 250–450 (Late Roman period)
Hamlet roughly 9th century
Macbeth AD 1039-1057
King John AD 1199-1216
Romeo and Juliet AD 1303 (lasting a few days)
Richard II AD 1398-1400
All's Well That Ends Well 14th century
Henry IV, Part I AD 1402-1403
Henry IV, Part II AD 1403-1413
Henry V AD 1414-1420
Henry VI, Part I AD 1422-1444
Henry VI, Part II AD 1445-1455
Henry VI, Part III AD 1455-1471
Richard III AD 1477-1485
Measure for Measure roughly AD 1485
Henry VIII AD 1521-1533
Othello AD 1570 (when Cyprus was invaded by the Turks)
The Merry Wives of Windsor time of Shakespeare
The Merchant of Venice time of Shakespeare
The Taming of the Shrew time of Shakespeare
Twelfth Night time of Shakespeare

Plays with an unspecified time of action:

As You Like It

The Comedy of Errors

Love's Labour's Lost

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Much Ado About Nothing


The Two Gentlemen of Verona

The Tempest (Noting the contemporary reference to the shipwreck off the Bermuda coast.)

The Winter's Tale


How to cite this article:
Mabillard, Amanda. The Historical Settings of Shakespeare's Plays by Date. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2011. < >.

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Troilus and Cressida. From Rolfe's Edition, 1882.