Every June, members of The Shakespeare Institute read aloud, in chronological order, a three-week run of early English plays, usually the complete dramatic canon of a sixteenth or early seventeenth-century playwright.

The exercise enables us to observe, in concentrated form, the development of a single dramatist’s imagination and technique, and to experience a large number of neglected plays by a significant talent of the Shakespearian era.  In previous years we have read the plays of John Fletcher, Thomas Heywood, James Shirley, and Thomas Dekker. 

This year we shall take a different approach and read the complete corpus of surviving commercial drama written during the ten years leading up to the debut of William Shakespeare, including plays by Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Kyd, Robert Greene, George Peele, and almost the entire dramatic canon of John Lyly.  What we shall see unfold is the emergence of Elizabethan drama as we know it today, in all its different genres, culminating with the reading of the earliest surviving form of Shakespeare’s first play, The First Part of the Contention between York and Lancaster.

The Marathon will take place in the Reading Room at The Shakespeare Institute, Stratford-upon-Avon. Live-tweeting will be displayed on screen.  The readings will be recorded for archival purposes.

All are welcome to attend for some or all of the readings, but if you are not already known to the Institute, please make arrangements in advance by contacting the organiser, Dr Martin Wiggins (m.j.wiggins@bham.ac.uk). 

  • 10.30: Robert Wilson, The Three Ladies of London
  • 14.30: Love and Fortune
  • 14.30: John Lyly, Campaspe
  • 19.00: Anthony Munday, Fedele and Fortunio, and George Peele, The Arraignment of Paris
  • 10.30: John Lyly, Sappho and Phao
  • 14.30: John Lyly, Galatea, and The Famous Victories of Henry V
  • 14.30: Thomas Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy
  • 19.00: Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine
  • 10.30: Robert Greene, Alphonsus, King of Aragon
  • 14.30: Christopher Marlowe, 2 Tamburlaine
  • 10.30: John Lyly, Endymion, the Man in the Moon
  • 14.30: Suleiman and Perseda
  • 10.30: Thomas Lodge, The Wounds of Civil War
  • 14.30: Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus(A-text), andGeorge Peele, The Battle of Alcazar
  • 14.30: The Wars of Cyrus, King of Persia, and John Lyly, The Woman in the Moon
  • 19.00: Christopher Marlowe, Dido, Queen of Carthage
  • 10.30: Robert Wilson, The Three Lords and Three Ladies of London
  • 14.30: Robert Greene, Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay
  • 14.30: George Peele (?), The Troublesome Reign of John, King of England
  • 19.00: John Lyly, Mother Bombie
  • 10.30: Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta
  • 14.30: Robert Greene and Thomas Lodge, A Looking-Glass for London and England
  • 10.30: John Lyly, Midas
  • 14.30: King Lear and his Three Daughters
  • 10.30: The True Tragedy of Richard III
  • 14.30: John Lyly, Love’s Metamorphosis, and Fair Em
  • 14.30: Robert Greene, James IV
  • 19.00: Arden of Faversham
  • 10.30: Jack Straw, and Anthony Munday, John a Kent and John a Cumber
  • 14.30: George Peele, David and Bathsheba
  • 14.30: Robert Greene, Orlando Furioso, and Mucedorus
  • 19.00: George Peele, Edward I
  • 10.30: Locrine
  • 14.30: William Shakespeare, The First Part of the Contention between York and Lancaster