1594 - 1611: William Shakespeare's Life In London, part 3

William Shakespeare - Further success

As a share-holder in the Globe, Shakespeare had an incentive to ensure its popularity. He went on producing very successful plays for many years, giving him a substantial income. 

Probably written in 1598-9 were:

  • As You Like It, Julius Caesar, Much Ado About Nothing, Henry V,

Written between 1599 and 1600 were:

  • Hamlet, Twelfth Night, All’s Well That Ends Well.

William Shakespeare - Dangerous times

In 1601, Shakespeare’s father died. The same year, his patron, the Earl of Southampton, was arrested in connection with a rebellion against Elizabeth led by her former favourite, the Earl of Essex. Both men were sentenced to death; Essex was executed, though Southampton was reprieved.

In 1603, Queen Elizabeth died, and the new king, James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England, became patron of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, henceforward known as The King’s Men. Shakespeare’s company changed their name to the King’s Men and, as Grooms of the Chamber for James I, they performed regularly at court and attended ceremonial functions.

William Shakespeare - Changing style

Shakespeare moved on from comedies to tragedies, after Hamlet producing:

  • Othello, King Lear, Macbeth

More on Macbeth: Macbeth includes various topical references, especially to:

  • the attempt to assassinate the King, known as the Gunpowder Plot
  • James’s belief in witchcraft
  • his descent from Banquo 

Shakespeare then wrote a series known by literary critics as ‘Romance Plays’, such as:

  • The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest.

These focus on repentance, grace and reconciliation brought about by providence.

After 1608, the company were performing not only at The Globe, which was open to the sky (see The Theatre: Design of theatres) but also at Blackfriars Theatre, which was an indoor playhouse, enabling them to introduce effects which were more difficult on the open-air stage.