William Shakspere of Stratford

  1564-4-26: Baptismal record. An entry in the Stratford Parish baptismal register reads, "Guliemus filius Johannes Shakspere"; that is, "William son of John Shakspere" (Stratford Parish Register of Holy Trinity Church, f. 5).
Shakspere Baptismal record entry

  1582-11-27: Marriage license record. An entry in the Bishop of Worcester's Register recorded the grant of a marriage license to "wm Shaxpere et Anna whateley" (Bishop of Worcester's Register, Worcestershire Record Office).
wm Shaxpere license

  1582-11-28: Marriage license bond. The bond is for the marriage of "willm Shagspere ... and Anne hathwey," under the special condition of a single asking of the banns (Bishop of Worcester's Register, Worcestershire Record Office).
willm Shagspere bond

  1595-3-15: Royal record. An entry in the accounts of the Treasurer of the Chamber reads: "To William Kempe, William Shakespeare and Richard Burbage, servaunts to the Lord Chamberleyne, upon the Councille's warrant dated at Whitehall XVth Marcij 1594, for two severall comedies or enterludes shewed by them before her majestie in Christmas tyme laste part viz St. Stephen's daye and Innocents daye..." (Public Record Office, Pipe Office, Declared Accounts No. 542, f. 207b).

1596-10-20: Heraldic documents. Below is the shield and crest drawing from the first of two rough drafts of a Coat of Arms grant to Shakspere (College of Arms, MS. Vincent. 157, art. 23; art. 24). The phrase "Non Sanz Droict" ("Not Without Right") is written on both documents and appears to be a motto (cf. Sogliardo's "Not Without Mustard").

Shakspere Coat of Arms, 1st rough draft

  1596-Michaelmas: Court record. William Wayte "swore before the Judge of Queen's Bench that he stood in danger of death, or bodily hurt," from "William Shakspere" and three others. "The magistrate then commanded the sheriff of the appropriate county to produce the accused ... who had to post bond to keep the peace, on pain of forfeiting the security" (@ Schoenbaum 146).
    The entry reads (translated from Latin): "England. Be it known that William Shakspere, Francis Langley, Dorothy Soer wife of John Soer, and Anne Lee, for fear of death [ob metum mortis] and so forth. Writ of Attachment issued and directed to the Sheriff of Surrey, returnable the eighteenth of St. Martin" (Public Record Office, Court of King's Bench, Controlment Roll, Michaelmas Term 1496, K.B. 29/234).
William Shakspere...for fear of death

  1597-5-4: Property documents. Shakspere bought New Place, paying a £60 fine which "may well seem absurdly low; but in fines of this period the consideration mentioned is customarily a legal fiction. We do not know how much Shakespeare actually laid out." The house was the second largest in Stratford: "No fewer than ten fireplaces warmed New Place in winter, and there were probably more rooms than fireplaces, the latter being a taxable luxury" (@ Schoenbaum 173). The property included two barns, two gardens, and two orchards (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust MS., item 1, case 8, in New Place Museum, Nash House; Public Record Office, Court of Common Pleas, CP. 24(1)/15; C.P. 25(2)/237).

1597-11-15: Tax record. Shakspere is named in the King's Remembrancer Subsidy Roll as a tax defaulter in Bishopgate ward who failed to pay an assessed 5s (E. 179/146/354).

1598: List of Actors. In the initial presentation of Ben Jonson's Euery Man In His Hvmovr, "Will Shakespeare" was a "principall Comoedian" (@ Workes 72).

Jonson's Every Man 
actor list

  1598-1-12: Bill of sale. Wyllyn Wyatt Chamberlin "Pd to Mr. Shakespere for one load of stone xd" (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Records Office, Corp. Rec., Chamberlain's Accounts, 1585-1619, p. 44).

1598-1-24: Letter. Abraham Sturley wrote to his brother-in-law that "our countriman mr Shaksper is willing to disburse some monei upon some od yardeland or other Shottrei or neare about us..." (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Records Office, Misc. Doc. I, 135).

1598-2-4: List of Hoarders. Shakspere is named as having illegally held 10 quarters (80 bushels) of malt or corn during a shortage (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Records Office, Misc. Doc. I, 106).

Shacksper x quaerts

  1598-10-1: Tax record. In the King's Remembrancer Subsidy Roll, Shakspere is listed as a tax defaulter who failed to pay an assessed 13s.4d (E. 179/146/369).

1598-10-25: Letter. Richard Quiney wrote an undelivered letter asking Shakspere for a £30 loan. It is written "To my Loveinge good ffrend & contreymann mr wm Shackespre" who "shall ffrende me muche in helpeing me out of all the debettes I owe in London I thancke god & muche quiet my mynde which wolde nott be indebeted" (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Records Office, MS. ER 27/4). This letter is the only one ever found addressed to William Shakspere.

[Quiney letter address]

  1598-10/11: Letter. Adrian Quiney wrote to Richard Quiney: "yff yow bargen with Wm Sha or recover money therefor, brynge youre money homme" (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Records Office, Misc. Doc. I, 135).

1598-11-4: Letter. Abraham Sturley wrote Richard Quiney that "our countriman mr Wm Shak. would procure us monei which I will like of as I shall heare when wheare & howe: and I prai let not go that occasion if it mai sort to ani indifferent condicions" (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Records Office, Misc. Doc. I, 136).

1598/9: Tax record. In the Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer Accounts of Subsidies, Shakspere is listed among those in Bishopgate ward who have moved out of the district (E. 359/56).

1599: Heraldic document. John Shakspere sought to add his wife's family arms to the recently acquired Shakspere arms (College of Arms, MS. R. 21). He was apparently dissatisfied with the Herald's decision to allow only the coat of the Wilcote Ardens (considered "less illustrious" [(@ Schoenbaum 171)]) and not the Beauchamps (Earls of Warwick), since he did not make the change.

1599-2-21: Property document (described). A tripartite lease for the Globe Theater consisted of an agreement between Sir Nicholas Brend (grounds owner), the Burbage brothers, and five members of the Lord Chamberlain's company, which included Shakspere. It was described by John Heminges and Henry Condell in their testimony during the 1619 Court of Requests action Witter v. Heminges and Condell.

1599: Inventory of Sir Thomas Brend. Shakspere and others (unnamed) are said to be occupying the Globe Theater (@ McMichael 14).

1599-10-6: Tax record. Shakspere is among those listed in the Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer Residuum London accounts as delinquents owing back-taxes (E. 372/444). "The marginal note Surrey, and the reference to 'Residuum Sussex', added later, signify that Shakespeare had migrated across the river to the Surrey Bankside" (@ Schoenbaum 163).

1600: Court record. "Willelmus Shackspere" brought suit against John Clayton for a £7 debt. Not all scholars agree that "Willelmus" was Shakspere the Actor, since the debt had been acknowledged in Cheapside in 1592 (@ McMichael 15).

1600-10-6: Tax record. Shakspere is listed in the Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer Residuum Sussex accounts (E. 372/445) and a "tax bill of 13s.4d. is still outstanding. The notation Episcopo Wintonensi in the left-hand margin indicates that the Court of Exchequer had referred the dramatist's arrears to the Bishop of Winchester, whose liberty of the Clink in Surrey lay outside the sheriff's jurisdiction. The natural inference is that Shakespeare now lived in the Clink, although it is a curious fact that his name has not been traced in any of the annual lists of residents of the Clink parish (St. Saviour's) compiled by the officers who made the rounds to collect tokens purchased by churchgoers for Easter Communion, which was compulsory" (@ Schoenbaum 163).

1601-3-25: Will of Thomas Whittington. "Item I geve and bequeth unto the poore people of Stratford 40s that is in the hand of Anne Shaxspere, wyf unto Mr. Wyllyam Shaxspere, and is due debt unto me..." (Worcestershire Record Office).

1602: Heraldic documents. Peter Brooke (York Herald) accused Sir William Dethick (Garter King-of-Arms) and his associate Camden (Clarenceux King-of-Arms) of "elevating base persons, and assigning devices already in use." Brooke's 23 case complaint (Folger Shakespeare Library, MS. V.a.156) included the first drawing shown below, with its "appellation player ... no doubt pejoratively intended" (@ Schoenbaum 172). Dethick and Camden replied in defense to Brooke's complaint and the charges were dismissed. Their reply included the second drawing shown below (Bodleian Library, MS. Ashmole 846, f. 50).

Brooke's drawing of Shakspere Coat of Arms College of 
Arms' drawing of Shakspere Coat of Arms

  1602-Michaelmas: Property document. New Place was reconveyed to Shakspere, who paid a fee equal to one fourth of the property's yearly value (Public Records Office, Court of Common Pleas, Feet of Fines, C.P. 25(2)/237).

1602-3-13: Diary entry. John Manningham wrote: "Vpon a tyme when Burbidge played Rich. 3. there was a citizen greue soe farr in liking with him, that before shee went from the play shee appointed him to come that night vnto hir by the name of Ri: the 3. Shakespeare overhearing their conclusion went before, was intertained, and at his game ere Burbidge came. Then message being brought that Rich. the 3.d was at the dore, Shakespeare caused returne to be made that William the Conquerour was before Rich. the 3. Shakespeare's name William. (Mr. Curle.)" (British Library, MS. Harley 5353, f. 29).

1602-5-1: Property document. For £320, Shakspere bought 107 acres of land and 20 acres of pasture in Old Stratford from William and John Combe (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Records Office, MS. ER 27/1).

1602-9-28: Property document. Shakspere acquired a quarter-acre of land with "Chapel Lane Cottage" and a garden (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Records Office, MS. ER 28/1).

1603: List of Actors. In the initial presentation of Ben Jonson's Seianvs his Fall, "Will. Shake-speare" was a "principall Tragoedian" (@ Workes 438).

Jonson's Sejanus actor list

  1603-5-17/18: Royal documents. Two identically worded warrants were written for letters patent authorizing "William Shakespeare...and the rest of theire Assosiates freely to use and exercise the Arte and faculty of playinge Comedies Tragedies histories Enterludes moralls pastoralls Stageplaies and suche others like as theie have alreadie studied or hereafter shall use or studie aswell for the recreation of our lovinge Subjectes as for our Solace and pleasure when wee shall thincke good to see them duringe our pleasure..." (Public Record Office, Privy Seal Office, Warrants for the Privy Seal, P.S.O. 2/22; Chancery, Warrants for the Great Seal, C. 82/1690).

1603-5-19: Royal document. A Royal Patent "instructs all justices, mayors, other officers, and loving subjects 'to allowe them such former Curtesies as hath bene given to men of theire place and quallitie and alsoe what further favour you shall shewe to theeise our Servauntes for our sake', for such favour 'wee shall take kindlie at your handes'" (@ Schoenbaum 196). After the document was issued, the Lord Chamberlain's Men acting company became known as The King's Men (Public Record Office, Chancery, Patent Rolls, C. 66/1608, m. 4).

1604: Court record. Shakspere sued the apothecary Philip Rogers for 35s.10d plus 10s damages, seeking to recover the unpaid balance on a sale of twenty bushels of malt and a small loan (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Records Office, MS. ER 27/5).

1604-3-15: Royal record. In the Master of the Wardrobe record, Shakspere is listed among "Players" who were given scarlet cloth to be worn for the King's Royal Procession through London (Public Record Office, Lord Chamberlain's Department, Special Events, L.C. 2/4(5), f. 78).

Players cloth grant list

  1604-10-24: Land survey. A survey of Rowington manor reported that "William Shakespere Lykewise holdeth there one cottage and one garden by estimation a quarter of one acre and payeth rent yearly ijs vjd" (Public Record Office, Exchequer, Special Commission, E. 178/4661).
Public Records: Shakespere land owner entry

  1605-5-4: Will of Augustine Phillips. "Item I geve and bequeathe to my ffellowe william Shakespeare a Thirty shillings peece in gould" (Public Record Office, Prob. 10/232).

1605-7-24: Property documents. Shakspere purchased from Ralph Hubaud (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Records Office, MS. ER 27/2; Misc. Doc. II, 3) "a half-interest in a lease of 'Tythes of Corne grayne blade & heye' in three nearby hamlets ... along with the small tithes of the whole of Stratford parish, with certain exceptions honouring former rights" (@ Schoenbaum 192-3).

1606: Inventory for Ralph Hubaud. After his death, an inventory of Hubaud's land and goods included the notation that "There was Owinge by Mr. Shakspre xxli" (@ Beckett 10).

1608-8-17 to 1609-6-7: Court records. Shakspere brought suit against John Addenbrooke for £6, plus 24s. damages. Shakspere won and an order was issued for Addenbrooke's arrest. Addenbrooke failed to appear in court and an attempt was made to force Addenbrooke's surety, the blacksmith Thomas Horneby, to pay the full amount (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Records Office, Misc. Doc. V, 116; Misc Doc V, 139; Misc Doc V, 127a; Misc Doc V, 127b; Misc Doc V, 115; MS. ER 27/6; MS. ER 27/7).

1610: Property documents. A Court of Common Pleas fine served to confirm Shakspere's title to 107 acres of land and 20 acres of pasture purchased in 1602 from William Combe (Public Record Office, Feet of Fines, C.P. 25(2)/365; C.P. 24(2)/7).

1611: Court records. In a Stratford Court of Chancery Bill of Complaint (Richard Lane et al. versus Doninus Carewe et al., Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Records Office, Misc. Doc. II, 11), the "complainants, of whom Shakespeare was one, asked that the other tenants pay their portion of the mean rent of £26.13s.4d. reserved for John Barker, who held the original lease on the tithes" (@ Schoenbaum 193). William Combe answered the complaint, agreed to pay more than twice what he had been, and asked that the other tenants pay their share (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Records Office, Misc. Doc. X, 9).

1611-9-11: List of Contributors. Shakspere's name appears on a list of those supporting "the Charge of prosecutynge [a] Bill in parliament for the better Repayre of the highe waies and amendinge divers defectes in the Statues alredy made" (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Records Office, Misc. Doc. I, 4). The Bill would have made the national government responsible for repairs previously funded by local residents.

[Shakspere's name on a Bill proposal]

  1612-5-11 to 6-19: Court records. Shakspere was called into court and asked to resolve a dispute regarding the amount offered by him as dowery when he helped negotiate a marriage in 1604 (Public Record Office, Court of Requests, Belott v. Mountjoy; etc.). "Only Shakespeare himself could resolve the question ... but what the portion was, or when it was to be paid, Shakespeare could not say.... The witness likewise professed ignorance of 'what implementes and necessaries of houshold stuff' Mountjoy gave with Mary" (@ Schoenbaum 210-3). Below is Shakspere's signature found at the bottom of his deposition, which was one of several given by those involved in the case.
Shakspere signature on deposition

  1613-1-28: Will of John Combe. He bequeathed £5 to "mr William Shackspere" (Public Record Office, Prob. 11/126).
Combe's mention of

  1613-3-10: Property documents. Henry Walker's Blackfriars Gate-house was bought by Shakspere, William Johnson, John Jackson, and John Hemming for £140. The deal involved "elaborate arrangements, calling for trustees and a mortgage [whose] practical effect would be to deprive Shakespeare's widow of her dower right to a third share for life in this part of the estate; for in a joint tenancy, Chancery would not recognize Anne's privilege unless her husband had survived the other trustees" (@ Schoenbaum 223). The first of Shakspere's signatures below is from the conveyance (MS. in the Guildhall Library), the second from the mortgage dated the 11th (British Library, MS. Egerton 1787).
Shakspere signature 
on the Gate-House Conveyance [Shakspere 
signature on the Gate-House Mortgage]

  1613-3-31: Record of payment. For work on the Earl of Rutland's impresa, payments were made "To Mr. Shakspeare in gold, about my Lordes impreso, xlivs.; To Richard Burbage for painting and making it, xlivs." The "impreso" was a symbolic design on a shield which the Earl displayed during a tilt. (Belvoir Castle, Accounts of the Steward of the Earl of Rutland, Rutland MSS. iv. 494).
    This piece of evidence is generally accepted as refering to the Actor William Shakspere. However, "it has been shown (by Mrs. Stopes, in the Athenaeum, May 16, 1908) that 'Mr. Shakspeare' was probably one John Shakspeare, a fashionable bit-maker of the time, concerning whom there are may entries in the Wardrobe Accounts of Charles I, as prince and as king. Among other things he made 'guilt bosses charged with the arms of England.' Such an artist was very likely to be employed to do the metal work of an impresa. Mr. John Shakspeare would seem to have been a cousin of the poet, which would explain the connection with Burbage" (
@ Robertson 586)

1614-9-5: List of Landowners. The Memorandum lists "Auncient ffreeholders in the ffieldes of Oldstratford and Welcombe." It was written by Town Clerk Thomas Greene, who was concerned about a scheme for land enclosure promoted by Arthur Mainwaring (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Records Office, Misc. Doc. I, 94).

1614-10-28: Property document. Shakspere made a covenant with Mainwaring's attorney William Replingham (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Records Office, MS. ER 27/3), which "undertook to compensate William Shackespeare or his heirs or assigns 'for all such losse detriment & hinderance' with respect to the annual value of his tithes, 'by reason of anie Inclosure or decaye of Tyllage there ment and intended by the said William Replingham'" (@ Schoenbaum 231).

1614-11-17 to 1615-9: Diary entries. Thomas Greene made several notes regarding his "Cosen Shakspeare", in relation to the land enclosure problem (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Records Office, Corporation Records, Misc. Doc. XIII, 26a, 27-9). Greene "had lately invested £300 in a moiety of tithe-interests. Shakespeare owned the other moiety. Hence the Town Clerk's several references to Shakespeare in his memoranda" (@ Schoenbaum 231).

1615-4-26: Court record. On a Court of Chancery bill of complaint, Shakspere is listed among those who sought to obtain Blackfriars property documents (@ McMichael 17).

1615-5: Court record. Thomasina Ostler's court plea has a list of shareholders for the Globe Theater and Blackfriars property which includes Shakspere's name (@ McMichael 17).

1616-3-25: Last Will and Testament of William Shakspere (Public Records Office, Principal Probate Registry, Selected Wills, Prob. 1/4).

1616-4-25: Burial record. The burial of "Will Shakspeare gent" is recorded in the Stratford parish register (Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Records Office, DR 243/1). An epitaph was later inscribed upon the stone slab covering Shakspere's grave.

Shakspere's burial record entry