This article presents lists of the literary events and publications in 1596.
- February – James Burbage buys the disused Blackfriars Theatre from Sir William More for £600, but is prevented from using it for theatre by the opposition of wealthy influential neighbors.
- June 22 – Lord Hunsdon dies; his place as Lord Chamberlain will be taken by William Brooke, 10th Baron Cobham, who is sympathetic to the Puritans and hostile to the English Renaissance theatre. With Cobham's allowance, Thomas Skinner, Lord Mayor of the City of London bans players from the City and tears down the inn-theatres, the Bel Savage Inn, the Cross Keys Inn, and others. Fortunately for English literature, Cobham dies the next year, 1597.
- The first complete edition of The Faerie Queene is published in six books.
- The novel Jin Ping Mei (金瓶梅, The Plum in the Golden Vase) by "Lanling Xiaoxiao Sheng" circulates in manuscript in China.
- Thomas Harriot – Brief and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia
- Richard Johnson – The Famous Historie of the Seaven Champions of Christendom
- February 17 – Friedrich Sylburg, German classical scholar (born 1536)
- February 19 – Blaise de Vigenère, French cryptographer, diplomat, scientist, and author (born 1523)
- August – Hamnet Shakespeare, son of William (born 1585)
- October 3 – Florent Chrestien, French writer (born 1541)
- November – George Peele, dramatist (born 1556)
- November 1 – Pierre Pithou, French lawyer and scholar (born 1539)
- Unknown date – Jean Bodin, French political philosopher (born 1530)
- Probable year of death – Henry Willobie, English poet (born 1575)