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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 18, 1617
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
February 10, 1618
On February 10, 1618, five years after William Shakespeare and his associates William Johnson, John Jackson, and John Heminges agreed to purchase the Blackfriars Gatehouse in 1613, Shakespeare’s trustees transferred the title of the Gatehouse to two new trustees.
August 8, 1623
Anne, William Shakespeare’s wife, was buried on August 8, 1623, according to the Holy Trinity Church parish register. Next to the entry, an “X” added by a later hand highlights its significance.
April 24, 1633
The grant shown here needs to be read in the context of a fierce dispute between the zealous Puritan vicar of Holy Trinity Church, Thomas Wilson, and the more moderate majority of the Stratford Corporation.
November 26, 1635
John Hall, Susanna Hall’s husband, was buried on November 26, 1635, according to the Holy Trinity Church parish register. Next to the entry, an “X” added by a later hand highlights its significance.
November 29, 1635
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
February 14, 1636
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
November 29, 1636
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
May 16, 1636-7
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!

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