MENU

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

April 23, 1613
In March 1613 William Shakespeare and three associates agreed to purchase the Gatehouse of the former Dominican priory in London known as “Blackfriars” from Henry Walker for the sum of £140. The indenture of bargain and sale is dated March 10.
March 10, 1613
In March 1613 William Shakespeare and three associates agreed to purchase the Gatehouse of the former Dominican priory in London known as “Blackfriars” from Henry Walker for the sum of £140. The indenture of bargain and sale is dated March 10.
March 10, 1613
In March 1613 William Shakespeare and three associates agreed to purchase the Gatehouse of the former Dominican priory in London known as “Blackfriars” from Henry Walker for the sum of £140. The indenture of bargain and sale is dated March 10.
February 4, 1613
Richard, William Shakespeare’s brother, was buried on February 4, 1613, according to the Holy Trinity Church parish register. Next to the entry, an “X” added by a later hand highlights its significance. He was nearly 39 years old.
January 28, 1613
John Combe of Stratford-upon-Avon was a contemporary of William Shakespeare. Though Combe was from a far wealthier and more established family, by the second decade of the seventeenth century Shakespeare’s accumulated wealth placed the two men on an essentially equal footing.
1613- 1614
In March 1613 William Shakespeare and three associates agreed to purchase the Gatehouse of the former Dominican priory in London known as “Blackfriars” from Henry Walker for the sum of £140. The indenture of bargain and sale is dated March 10.
1613- 1614
In March 1613 William Shakespeare and three associates agreed to purchase the Gatehouse of the former Dominican priory in London known as “Blackfriars” from Henry Walker for the sum of £140. The indenture of bargain and sale is dated March 10.
Summer of 1614
Stratford’s Corporation chamberlains presented their annual accounts, covering payments from the previous twelve months, in January each year. Although individual payments are usually undated, it can be assumed they were entered broadly in chronological order.
October 28, 1614
Within two months of it becoming common knowledge that plans were afoot to enclose some of the open fields at Welcombe to the north-east of Stratford, Shakespeare took steps to ensure that his income as a leaseholder of half the tithes of Old Stratford, Bishopton and Welco
September 5, 1614
In late August/early September 1614, it became generally known that plans were afoot to enclose some of the open fields at Welcombe, to the northeast of Stratford.

Pages