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1598The Chamberlain's Men, the acting troupe of which William Shakespeare is an important member, takes up residence in the Globe Theatre in London.
King Philip II dies in Spain. During the reigns of his successors, Philip III (r. 1598–1621) and Philip IV (r. 1621–1665), a Golden Age of literature and theater will develop in the country.
1600Pedro Calderón de la Barca, who will become one of Spain's greatest playwrights, is born in Spain.
1603Queen Elizabeth I dies in England and is succeeded by King James of Scotland, who will continue to defend the theater against Puritan detractors who claim it is immoral.
The London acting troupe, the Chamberlain's Men, is taken under royal patronage and becomes the "King's Men."
1605Ben Jonson and Inigo Jones stage the first of their many masques for the Stuart court, The Masque of Blackness. It is widely admired for the ingenuity of its costumes and stage design.
1606Pierre Corneille, one of France's greatest playwrights, is born at Rouen.
Ben Jonson is brought before the London Consistory, a religious court of the Church of England, and forced to defend himself against charges that he is irreligious.
1611William Shakespeare's The Tempest, the last of the great playwright's dramas, is first performed in London.
1616William Shakespeare dies at his home in Stratford-upon-Avon.
1618The Thirty Years' War breaks out in Central Europe. This conflict's devastation will have a dampening effect on the theater and other forms of cultural life in the region during much of the seventeenth century.
1622The great comic dramatist Jean-Baptiste Molière is born at Paris.
1623The first folio edition of Shakespeare's collected plays is published in London.
1635Lope de Vega, author of some 1,800 plays and one of the greatest of all Spanish playwrights, dies at Madrid.
1637Corneille's Le Cid is performed in Paris and causes controversy for its suggestion that romantic passion might be a human emotion as important as familial duty. Over the coming years, the popularity of this playwright's tragedies will establish inflexible canons for the genre in France and inspire a great age of tragic drama.
Ben Jonson, who was the greatest Jacobean playwright after Shakespeare, dies in London.
1639Jean Racine, perhaps France's greatest seventeenth-century dramatist, is born.
1640Aphra Behn, the first English woman to earn a living by writing for the stage, is born.
1642London's theaters are closed as civil war breaks out in England between Puritans and Royalists.
1643Jean-Baptiste Molière becomes a member of the Illustre-Théâtre, a dramatic troupe in Paris.
1647The English Parliament reiterates its decrees against the theater, now promising swift punishment to anyone who performs or watches a drama.
1648The Peace of Westphalia concludes the Thirty Years' War. In the second half of the seventeenth century, theater and the other arts will begin to revive in Central Europe.
The Puritan government in England repeats its ban on all theatrical performances. Despite these prohibitions an "underground" theater continues to flourish. Performances of itinerant "drolls," or comics, as well as dramas staged in the homes of England's nobles become particularly popular.
1658Molière's play The Amorous Doctor is performed before King Louis XIV to great success. The author's star will soon rise at court, and in his later years, Molière will produce a number of successful comedies for the king.
1660The Stuart monarchy is restored to power in England; a great age of theater will soon begin in the period known as the Restoration (1660–1688). For the first time in the country's history, women will be allowed to perform in theatrical productions.
1662Molière's play School for Wives is performed for the first time in Paris and causes a scandal because of the author's amorality and willingness to satirize any and all situations.
1663The Drury Lane Theatre opens in London under a royal charter from Charles II.
1664Molière's play Tartuffe is performed for the first time, and engenders the wrath of France's clergy because of its attacks on clerical hypocrisy. The play is suppressed and thus begins a long period in which Molière is persecuted by the clergy.
1666Nell Gwyn, the daughter of a madam, reigns as the greatest actress on the London stage. She will rise to become King Charles II's mistress.
The Great Fire destroys the vast majority of London's houses, commercial buildings, and public theaters.
1671Aphra Behn's first play, The Forced Marriage, is staged in London.
1677John Dryden's All For Love is staged in London. The work is a tragedy, a form not generally favored in the comedyloving period of the Restoration.
1680Louis XIV combines several theatrical companies to form the Comédie-Française in Paris. This venerable institution will become a Parisian dramatic landmark during the coming century.
1687The actress and courtesan Nell Gwyn dies in London, and is buried at the Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.
1688The Glorious Revolution sends the Stuart King James II into exile, and brings King William of Holland and Queen Mary, James's daughter, to power. The great age of Restoration drama soon draws to a close under the less supportive atmosphere of these rulers.
1689The female playwright Aphra Behn dies in London.
1698Jeremy Collier publishes A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage, a work that criticizes the conventions of the Restoration theater that had flourished in the reigns of the later Stuart kings.
1700John Dryden, the greatest poet and playwright of the Restoration era, dies.
1711Georg Frideric Handel's first English opera, Rinaldo, is performed at the King's Theatre in Haymarket, London.
c. 1716The first playhouse is established in British North America at Williamsburg.
1726François-Marie Arouet, better known to history as Voltaire, is forced to spend more than two years in exile in London after having challenged a high-ranking noble to a duel. While there, he comes to admire the dramas of Shakespeare and of English playwrights in general.
1728John Gay's The Beggar's Opera is first performed in London. The work uses spoken drama and musical ballads to communicate its action, and is the precursor to many modern British and American musicals.
1729Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, a great German playwright and poet, is born in Saxony. Lessing's lively and realistic plays will help to develop the German theater, weaning it away from its long service to French and Italian models.
1730The North American colonies' second playhouse is established at Charleston, South Carolina. In the coming years several theaters will also be established in New York.
1731In London, George Lillo's The London Merchant deals with middle-class life, reflecting the mid-eighteenth century taste for bourgeois dramas.
1732Voltaire completes his Zaïre and the play is performed in Paris. An heir to the tradition of French seventeenth-century classicism, Voltaire will expand the boundaries of traditional French genres by dealing with moralistic themes and exotic historical events that have not typically been treated by playwrights to this time.
1733The great actor Charles Macklin makes his debut at the Drury Lane Theatre in London in the play The Recruiting Officer.
1737The Licensing Act, an order of Parliament, is passed. The act is intended to establish more effective censorship over the London stage and to discourage the establishment of new theaters.
1743Fernando Galli Bibiena, a noted Italian stage designer whose complex and imaginative stagings of productions influenced the Baroque theater throughout Europe, dies in Italy.
1746Carlo Galli Bibiena, son of the great Fernando Galli Bibiena, moves to Germany. Over the next four decades he will travel throughout much of Europe, helping to popularize Italian stage design and settings throughout the continent.
1747After approaching bankruptcy, the Drury Lane Theatre reopens under the capable direction of David Garrick.
1751The publication of the Encylopédie begins in Paris under the editorship of Denis Diderot and Jean D'Alembert. The work will exercise a powerful influence on taste in drama and the arts in the second half of the eighteenth century, not only in Paris, but also throughout Europe.
1755Lessing's play Miss Sarah Sampson is first performed in Germany. In this work Lessing tries to develop a uniquely German kind of tragedy that is not influenced by French examples.
1757Denis Diderot's play The Natural Son is produced at Paris. In this work Diderot attempts to put into practice his theory of dramatic realism.
1769Jacques-Ange Gabriel designs and supervises the building of a court theater for King Louis XV at Versailles.
David Garrick stages a jubilee celebration of the works of William Shakespeare in the dramatist's hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon.
1773Oliver Goldsmith's brilliant comedy She Stoops to Conquer is first performed in London. The work is one of the only English plays from the eighteenth century still performed in modern times.
1776The famous Teatro alla Scala is erected in Milan, Italy. The theater can accommodate 2,000 people and crowds flock to the site to see La Scala's operas, then the most popular kind of theatrical production in Italy.
1782The great English actress Sarah Siddons scores her first major London success in a production of The Fatal Marriage at the Drury Lane Theatre.
1789The great actor Charles Macklin retires from the stage in England.
1791The city of Paris, once a theatrical backwater, now has more than 30 playhouses.

Important Events in Theater

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