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An abundance of administrative documents provide important details of Shakespeare's economic and social status. Shakespeare divided his time between his theatrical career in London, and business and personal matters in Stratford-upon-Avon, the town where he was born, grew up, and raised three children with his wife Anne: Hamnet (who died when he was 11), Judith, and Susanna. Documents from Stratford-upon-Avon's corporate archives illustrate his Stratfordian connections and the constant balancing of debt and credit among its more prominent citizens. The parish register of Holy Trinity Church records the baptisms, marriages, and burials of members of his family. Paperwork created by various courts provide details relating to real estate transactions, taxes, legal cases, and his social network at the time of his death. Records preserved by the College of Arms chronicle his father's application for a coat of arms in 1596 and the subsequent debate over its validity. Various other legal and financial records which mention Shakespeare or his family reflect the work flows of a wide range of highly organized administrative bodies in early modern England. 

Shakespeare's personal papers do not survive, which is frustrating but not surprising. In general, personal papers only survive if they are absorbed into institutional archives or if they suffered from benign neglect in the muniment rooms of noble houses. Shakespeare's last direct descendant died in 1670, at which point his house, New Place, and its belongings, was sold. It wasn't until the 18th century that people began to value and romanticize the manuscripts of famous authors.

All Documents

1597- 1599
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
October 6, 1599
Lay subsidies were a type of tax based on personal wealth. In London, the collection of subsidies was managed at the local level of ward and parish.
ca. 1595- 1600
In 1602, the herald Ralph Brooke challenged 23 coats of arms granted by William Dethick, including the arms originally granted to Shakespeare’s father, John Shakespeare, and now belonging to William Shakespeare.
October 6, 1600
Lay subsidies were a type of tax based on personal wealth. In London, the collection of subsidies was managed at the local level of ward and parish.
September 8, 1601
John Shakespeare was buried on September 8, 1601, according to the Holy Trinity Church parish register. Next to the entry, an “X” added by a later hand highlights its significance.
March 25, 1601
Thomas Whittington, a shepherd living in Shottery, made his will on March 25, 1601, signing by mark. He was buried on April 19, 1601 and his will was proved ten days later.
September 28, 1602
Shortly after his purchase of land from the Combes, a major investment, Shakespeare acquired a cottage and a quarter acre of land in Chapel Lane, to be held by a form of tenure known as copyhold.
1602
In 1602, Ralph Brooke, York Herald, contested 23 coats of arms granted by William Dethick, Garter King of Arms, including the arms originally granted to Shakespeare’s father, John Shakespeare, and now belonging to William Shakespeare.
1602
In 1602, Ralph Brooke, York Herald, contested 23 coats of arms granted by William Dethick, Garter King of Arms, including the arms originally granted to Shakespeare’s father, John Shakespeare, and now belonging to William Shakespeare.
1602
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!

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