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Raphael Holinshed

Raphael Holinshed

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Raphael Holinshed was an English chronicle
Generally a chronicle is a historical account of facts and events ranged in chronological order, as in a time line. Typically, equal weight is given for historically important events and local events, the purpose being the recording of events that occurred, seen from the perspective of the...

r, whose work, commonly known as Holinshed's Chronicles
Holinshed's Chronicles
Holinshed's Chronicles, also known as Holinsheds Chronicles of England, Scotland, and Ireland, is a collaborative work published in several volumes and two editions, the first in 1577, and the second in 1587....

, was one of the major sources used by William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 for a number of his plays
Shakespeare's plays
William Shakespeare's plays have the reputation of being among the greatest in the English language and in Western literature. Traditionally, the 37 plays are divided into the genres of tragedy, history, and comedy; they have been translated into every major living language, in addition to being...


He is thought to have come from Cheshire
Cheshire is a ceremonial county in North West England. Cheshire's county town is the city of Chester, although its largest town is Warrington. Other major towns include Widnes, Congleton, Crewe, Ellesmere Port, Runcorn, Macclesfield, Winsford, Northwich, and Wilmslow...

, but lived in London, where he worked as a translator
Translation is the communication of the meaning of a source-language text by means of an equivalent target-language text. Whereas interpreting undoubtedly antedates writing, translation began only after the appearance of written literature; there exist partial translations of the Sumerian Epic of...

 for the printer Reginald Wolfe
Reginald Wolfe
Reginald Wolfe was a Dutch-born English Protestant printer and one of the original members of the Royal Stationers' Company....

. Wolfe gave him the project of compiling a world history from the Flood to the reign of Queen Elizabeth
Elizabeth I of England
Elizabeth I was queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death. Sometimes called The Virgin Queen, Gloriana, or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the fifth and last monarch of the Tudor dynasty...

. This ambitious project was never finished, but one portion was published in 1577 as The Chronicles of England
Kingdom of England
The Kingdom of England was, from 927 to 1707, a sovereign state to the northwest of continental Europe. At its height, the Kingdom of England spanned the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain and several smaller outlying islands; what today comprises the legal jurisdiction of England...

, Scotland
Kingdom of Scotland
The Kingdom of Scotland was a Sovereign state in North-West Europe that existed from 843 until 1707. It occupied the northern third of the island of Great Britain and shared a land border to the south with the Kingdom of England...

, and Ireland
Kingdom of Ireland
The Kingdom of Ireland refers to the country of Ireland in the period between the proclamation of Henry VIII as King of Ireland by the Crown of Ireland Act 1542 and the Act of Union in 1800. It replaced the Lordship of Ireland, which had been created in 1171...

. Holinshed was only one contributor to this work; others involved in its production included William Harrison
William Harrison (clergyman)
William Harrison was an English clergyman, whose Description of England was produced as part of the publishing venture of a group of London stationers who produced Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles...

, Richard Stanyhurst
Richard Stanyhurst
Richard Stanyhurst was an Irish alchemist, translator, poet and historian, born in Dublin.His father, James Stanyhurst, was recorder of the city, and Speaker of the Irish House of Commons in 1557, 1560 and 1568. Richard was sent in 1563 to University College, Oxford, and took his degree five years...

, and John Hooker
John Hooker (English constitutionalist)
John Hooker, John Hoker or John Vowell was an English writer, solicitor, antiquary, civic administrator and advocate of republican government. He wrote an eye-witness account of the siege of Exeter that took place during the Prayer Book Rebellion in 1549...


Shakespeare used the revised second edition of the Chronicles (published in 1587) as the source for most of his history plays
Shakespearean history
In the First Folio, the plays of William Shakespeare were grouped into three categories: comedies, histories, and tragedies. This categorisation has become established, although some critics have argued for other categories such as romances and problem plays. The histories were those plays based on...

, the plot of Macbeth
The Tragedy of Macbeth is a play by William Shakespeare about a regicide and its aftermath. It is Shakespeare's shortest tragedy and is believed to have been written sometime between 1603 and 1607...

, and for portions of King Lear
King Lear
King Lear is a tragedy by William Shakespeare. The title character descends into madness after foolishly disposing of his estate between two of his three daughters based on their flattery, bringing tragic consequences for all. The play is based on the legend of Leir of Britain, a mythological...

and Cymbeline
Cymbeline , also known as Cymbeline, King of Britain or The Tragedy of Cymbeline, is a play by William Shakespeare, based on legends concerning the early Celtic British King Cunobelinus. Although listed as a tragedy in the First Folio, modern critics often classify Cymbeline as a romance...



Little is known about Holinshed's life. There is no source which states his date of birth, for instance. He became known only by the Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, and all the information we have about him is related to this work. Although Vernon Snow remarks that Holinshed was an experienced Cambridge-educated translator, no other works by Holinshed are available. A few months after the Chronicle had been licensed, Holinshed retired to the countryside near Warwick. He died around 1580 and his will was proven on 24 April 1582. Nothing is known about Holinshed’s civil duties, other scholarly achievements or work for the Church.

Holinshed's Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland

In 1548 Reginald Wolfe, a London printer, conceived the idea of creating a "Universal Cosmography of the whole world, and there with also certain particular histories of every known nation." He wanted the work to be printed in English and he wanted maps and illustrations in the book as well. Wolfe acquired many of John Leland's works and with these he constructed chronologies and drew maps that were up to date. When Wolfe realised he could not complete this project on his own, he hired Raphael Holinshed and William Harrison to assist him.

Wolfe died with the work still uncompleted in 1573, and the project, changed to a work about just the British Isles, was run by a consortium of three members of the London stationers
Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers
The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers is one of the Livery Companies of the City of London. The Stationers' Company was founded in 1403; it received a Royal Charter in 1557...

. They kept Raphael Holinshed who employed William Harrison
William Harrison
William Harrison may refer to:* William Harrison , author of "Roller Ball Murder" and the screenplay for Rollerball* William Harrison , saddlemaker, historian and reeve of Richmond Hill, Ontario...

, Richard Stanyhurst
Richard Stanyhurst
Richard Stanyhurst was an Irish alchemist, translator, poet and historian, born in Dublin.His father, James Stanyhurst, was recorder of the city, and Speaker of the Irish House of Commons in 1557, 1560 and 1568. Richard was sent in 1563 to University College, Oxford, and took his degree five years...

, Edmund Campion
Edmund Campion
Saint Edmund Campion, S.J. was an English Roman Catholic martyr and Jesuit priest. While conducting an underground ministry in officially Protestant England, Campion was arrested by priest hunters. Convicted of high treason by a kangaroo court, he was hanged, drawn and quartered at Tyburn...

  and John Hooker
John Hooker
John Hooker may refer to:*John Hooker English writer, solicitor, antiquary, civic administrator and advocate of republican government*John Lee Hooker, , American blues singer-songwriter and guitarist...

. In 1577 the work was published in two volumes after some censorship by the Privy Council
Privy council
A privy council is a body that advises the head of state of a nation, typically, but not always, in the context of a monarchic government. The word "privy" means "private" or "secret"; thus, a privy council was originally a committee of the monarch's closest advisors to give confidential advice on...

 of some of Stanyhurst's contribution on Ireland.

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