Shakespeare’s Last Years

In 1609 Shakespeare’s theatre company, the King’s Men, acquired another theatre called Blackfriars Theatre. It only held 700 people (compared to The Globe’s 3000) but unlike The Globe it had a roof! Therefore the company could perform at The Globe in summer, and then move to Blackfriars Theatre in winter. The company also charged six times as much for each ticket so they earnt the same amount of money in winter as they did in summer!

Historians do not know exactly when Shakespeare retired. The nearest they can guess is between 1611 and 1613. The company hired another writer to replace Shakespeare, John Fletcher, and he and Shakespeare wrote three plays together: Henry VIII, Cardenio and Two Noble Kinsmen.

In January 1616 Shakespeare drew up his will, leaving his wife “the second best bed!” Shakespeare died on April 23rd 1616 . He was buried in the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Shakespeare wrote his own epitaph for his tombstone: “Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear to dig the dust enclosed here; Blest be the man that spares these stones and curst be he that moves my bones.”

The threat of a curse upon anyone who moves Shakespeare’s bones has worked. No one has ever shifted them.

Shakespeare in the Theatre

Shakespeare was a member of a theatre company called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. He was their chief playwright, writing about two plays per year, and he also appeared as an actor. Shakespeare was also a shareholder in the acting company.


As only men were allowed to act onstage, all theatre companies were made up of men, with a few boys aged 8 – 12 who played the female parts.


In 1597 the theatre company’s lease on the theatre they were using ran out. Their landlord wanted to pull down the theatre and use the timber for something else! So what they did was this: they gathered together in the middle of the night, dismantled the theatre piece by piece, and transported the timber across the Thames River, where they rebuilt the theatre south of the river.


The new theatre was called the Globe; it had twenty short sides so it formed a circle. It could seat 3,000 people. Shakespeare also owned a share in the new theatre.


The theatre was attended by everyone, rich and poor. It was one of the few places where everyone could meet on equal terms.