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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

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.
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.
1610
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
March 5, 1610
On March 5, 1610 Gilbert Shakespeare, one of William Shakespeare’s younger brothers, witnessed the deed shown here as a Stratford resident. His signature, in a neat hand, indicates a sound education probably provided at the town’s grammar school.
April 1, 1610
The Hathaway family of Shottery can be traced back to the late fifteenth century. The extent of their land holdings is first documented in a survey of 1556 which records that John Hathaway held them of the lord of the manor by copy of court roll, dated April 20, 1543, for an annual rent of 33s.
December 4, 1611
On December 4, 1611, by the deed shown here, the wealthy widow, Elizabeth Quiney, and her eldest son, Adrian Quiney, sold a sizeable house in Wood Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, to William Mountford. The deed has three tags with seals attached (shown here in the first image).
October 5, 1611
Following John Shakespeare’s death in 1601, and perhaps for a year or two earlier, the Shakespeare family’s property in Henley Street (now known was the Birthplace) was let out to tenants.
September 11, 1611
On September 11, 1611, the Stratford Corporation drafted a list of seventy-two burgesses who could be approached to subscribe “towardes the Charge of prosecutyng the Bill in the parliament for the better Repayre of the highe Waies and amendinge divers defectes in the Statutes alredy made.&r
February 1611
Late in 1610 Richard Lane, William Shakespeare and Thomas Greene had filed a complaint in Chancery seeking to ensure that all those with interests in property (principally the Stratford tithes) formerly belonging to the Stratford College should be required to contribute to
ca. late 1610 - early 1611
This document is a draft of a bill of complaint to be submitted to the Court of Chancery regarding annuity payments on property relating to the 1544 lease of the Stratford tithes.

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