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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

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.
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).
May 15, 1612
Shown here is the first of three orders given by the Court of Requests, dated May 15, 1612, in Bellott v. Mountjoy.
June 15, 1612
Shown here is the second of three orders given by the Court of Requests, dated June 15, 1612, in Bellott v. Mountjoy.
1612
Shown here is the Witness Book, from Trinity term 1612, for the second round of depositions given in Bellott v. Mountjoy.
1612
Shown here is the Witness Book, from Trinity term 1612, for the third round of depositions given in Bellott v. Mountjoy.
May 7, 1612
Shown here is a Compulsory Summons, dated May 7, 1612, following the last of four pleadings in Bellott v. Mountjoy.
February 3, 1612
Gilbert, William Shakespeare’s brother, was buried on February 3, 1612, according to the Holy Trinity Church parish register. Next to the entry, an “X” added by a later hand highlights its significance. He was 45 years old.
June 30, 1612
Shown here is the third of three orders given by the Court of Requests in Bellott v. Mountjoy.
June 19, 1612
Shown here is the second round of depositions, dated June 19, 1612, given in Bellott v. Mountjoy.

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