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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

ca. 1605
The register of Stratford’s court of record, which would have begun in 1601, has not survived and the only knowledge we have of its proceedings are to be found in loose case papers.
July 24, 1605
An attorney would have initially drafted the deed conveying the lease of half the Stratford tithes to Shakespeare, before a clerk or scrivener engrossed the final copy.
July 24, 1605
It was customary for a vendor to enter into a bond on the same day that a conveyance (or similar document) was signed, in order to ensure his or her performance of any covenants that the main deed contained.
July 24, 1605
In the summer of 1605, by means of the deed shown here, Shakespeare was able to raise the very considerable sum of £440 to purchase from Ralph Hubaud a half-share in a lease of a portion of the Stratford tithes.
ca. August 1, 1606
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
May 5, 1606
Under the Elizabethan Settlement, as defined in the Act of Supremacy of 1558 and the Act of Uniformity of 1559, every man and woman was expected to receive Holy Communion three times a year. Easter had to be one of these three occasions.
June 5, 1607
Susanna Shakespeare and John Hall were married on June 5, 1607, according to the Holy Trinity Church parish register. Next to the entry, an “X” added by a later hand highlights its significance. Susanna, William and Anne Shakespeare’s daughter, was 24.
August 12, 1607
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
December 31, 1607
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
December 21, 1608
On August 17, 1608, William Shakespeare (or his family or agents acting on his behalf) began an action in the Stratford court of record to recover a debt of £6 from John Addenbrooke. The case dragged on until at least June 7, 1609.

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