The Fifth Annual Shakespeare Institute Play-Reading Marathon: Before Shakespeare, 1581-91

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 ( 


Monday 12 June 2017

  • 10.30: Robert Wilson, The Three Ladies of London
  • 14.30: Love and Fortune

Tuesday 13 June 2017

  • 14.30: John Lyly, Campaspe
  • 19.00: Anthony Munday, Fedele and Fortunio, and George Peele, The Arraignment of Paris

Wednesday 14 June 2017

  • 10.30: John Lyly, Sappho and Phao
  • 14.30: John Lyly, Galatea, and The Famous Victories of Henry V

Thursday 15 June 2017

  • 14.30: Thomas Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy
  • 19.00: Christopher Marlowe, Tamburlaine

Friday 16 June 2017

  • 10.30: Robert Greene, Alphonsus, King of Aragon
  • 14.30: Christopher Marlowe, 2 Tamburlaine

Saturday 17 June 2017

  • 10.30: John Lyly, Endymion, the Man in the Moon
  • 14.30: Suleiman and Perseda

Monday 19 June 2017

  • 10.30: Thomas Lodge, The Wounds of Civil War
  • 14.30: Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus(A-text), andGeorge Peele, The Battle of Alcazar

Tuesday 20 June 2017

  • 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

Wednesday 21 June 2017

  • 10.30: Robert Wilson, The Three Lords and Three Ladies of London
  • 14.30: Robert Greene, Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay

Thursday 22 June 2017

  • 14.30: George Peele (?), The Troublesome Reign of John, King of England
  • 19.00: John Lyly, Mother Bombie

Friday 23 June 2017

  • 10.30: Christopher Marlowe, The Jew of Malta
  • 14.30: Robert Greene and Thomas Lodge, A Looking-Glass for London and England

Saturday 24 June 2017

  • 10.30: John Lyly, Midas
  • 14.30: King Lear and his Three Daughters

Monday 26 June 2017

  • 10.30: The True Tragedy of Richard III
  • 14.30: John Lyly, Love’s Metamorphosis, and Fair Em

Tuesday 27 June 2017

  • 14.30: Robert Greene, James IV
  • 19.00: Arden of Faversham

Wednesday 28 June 2017

  • 10.30: Jack Straw, and Anthony Munday, John a Kent and John a Cumber
  • 14.30: George Peele, David and Bathsheba

Thursday 29 June 2017

  • 14.30: Robert Greene, Orlando Furioso, and Mucedorus
  • 19.00: George Peele, Edward I

Friday 30 June 2017

  • 10.30: Locrine
  • 14.30: William Shakespeare, The First Part of the Contention between York and Lancaster