Shakespeare's last appearance on the stage was in late 1603. Please see my article Shakespeare the Actor for more information.
We will never know for sure exactly how many roles Shakespeare played, although we do have some general information. We know that Shakespeare began his career on the stage by 1592, because there is a surviving document - a scathing deathbed attack on Shakespeare by Robert Greene.
Scholars believe Shakespeare might have played the title role in Edward I (a play by Edward Peele) in 1593. It is also assumed that Shakespeare played many roles in a variety of his own plays, including Macbeth (King Duncan), As You Like It (Adam), Henry IV (King Henry), and Hamlet (the Ghost of Hamlet's father). Nicholas Rowe, Shakespeare's first biographer, mentioned that Shakespeare's role as "the Ghost in his own Hamlet" was "the top of his performance."
How to cite this article:
Mabillard, Amanda. Shakespeare's Retirement. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2000. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/faq/shakepeareretire.html >.