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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

December 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.
September 9, 1608
Mary Shakespeare, William Shakespeare’s mother, was buried on September 9, 1608, according to the Holy Trinity Church parish register. Next to the entry, an “X” added by a later hand highlights its significance.
August 17, 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.
ca. July 1605 - January 1608
On January 16, 1598 the Corporation entered a survey of its property into the “Bridge Book” (Minutes and Accounts, v, pp. 124-31).
February 21, 1608
Elizabeth, John and Susanna Shakespeare Hall’s first (and only) child and William and Anne Shakespeare’s granddaughter, was baptized on February 21, 1608, according to the Holy Trinity Church parish register.
ca. 1609
A messy note, included on the back of a 1572 lease, informs us of the extent of Shakespeare’s property at New Place. Shakespeare purchased New Place in 1597, which stood on the corner of Chapel Street and Chapel Lane.
September 9, 1609
Thomas Greene, a Middle Temple lawyer, was appointed Stratford’s steward in August 1603. He clearly settled in the town at that point, but until September 1609 there is no record of where he lived.
July 20, 1609
John Shakespeare’s property in Henley Street, inherited by his son William in 1601, and now known as the Birthplace, had a frontage of about 90 feet. When an urban property changed hands, its boundaries were often defined by reference to neighboring properties.
February 15, 1609
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.
March 1609
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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