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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

April 26 and May 5, 1615
In 1613 William Shakespeare, with the assistance of three trustees, purchased the gatehouse in the Blackfriars neighborhood of London, evidently as an investment.
May 22, 1615
In 1613 William Shakespeare, with the assistance of three trustees, purchased the gatehouse in the Blackfriars neighborhood of London, evidently as an investment.
November 17, 1614 - September 1615
Thomas Greene, the Corporation’s steward, recorded in some detail the events associated with the contentious proposals to enclose some of the open fields at Welcombe.
April 25, 1616
According to the inscription on the wall monument erected in his memory, Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616 and was buried, as would be normal practice at that time, two days later.
June 22, 1616
The original copy of Shakespeare’s last will and testament was probated on June 22, 1616, and an entry in the parchment register, shown here, was made recording the date of probate.
March 26, 1616
Not two months after his marriage to Judith Shakespeare, Thomas Quiney faced a charge of incontinence with Margaret Wheeler, brought against him in the Stratford Peculiar Court, the church court.
February 10, 1616
Judith, William and Anne Shakespeare’s younger daughter, married Thomas Quiney on February 10, 1616, according to the Holy Trinity Church parish register. Next to the entry, an “X” added by a later hand highlights its significance.
after June 22, 1616
The registered copy of Shakespeare’s last will and testament is shown here. The original will was probated on June 22, 1616, and entered in the register shortly thereafter.
Spring 1616
In the months after Thomas Quiney’s marriage to Judith Shakespeare, both he and probably his new wife were excommunicated for their failure to respond to the charge that they had not sought a license to marry during Lent, the church season before Easter.
March 25, 1616
William Shakespeare’s last will and testament provides one of the richest surviving accounts for understanding his familial and professional networks.

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