Shakespeare was baptised in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon on 26 April 1564. He was the eldest son of John Shakespeare, a glover, and Mary Arden, the daughter of a local farmer. John and Mary Shakespeare had 8 children, of whom 5 survived into adulthood - William, Gilbert (1566-1612), Joan (1569-1646), Richard (1574-1613), and Edmund (1580-1612). Shakespeare was probably educated at the King's New School, Stratford-upon-Avon, where he would have learned such subjects as Latin, Greek, rhetoric, and logic. He is next recorded in the licence to allow him to marry Anne Hathaway issued on 27 November 1582. Their first child Susanna was baptised in Stratford on 26 May 1583, followed by twins, Judith and Hamnet, on 2 February 1585. Shakespeare is known to have been in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1587, when he was mentioned in connection with a lawsuit.
Between 1587 and 1592 Shakespeare disappears from all the known surviving records. This period is often referred to as the 'lost years', and has been the subject of much speculation. It has been suggested that he worked as a schoolmaster during this time, or that he became a player when the Queen's Men and other companies visited Stratford-upon-Avon in 1586-1587. By 1592, he was in London as an actor and a dramatist.
During his years in London, Shakespeare maintained his links with Stratford-upon-Avon. His wife and children continued to live there, although his son Hamnet died in 1596. In May 1597, Shakespeare bought the second largest house in the town, New Place, and was listed as a resident there in 1598. During the early 1600s, he bought further property in and around Stratford. His father was buried in Stratford in 1601, followed in 1608 by his mother. On 5 June 1607, Shakespeare's eldest daughter Susanna married Dr John Hall, a distinguished physician, there. Their daughter Elizabeth was baptised on 21 February 1608. His other daughter Judith married Thomas Quiney, a vintner, in Stratford on 10 February 1616.
By 1613, Shakespeare had apparently returned to live in Stratford-upon-Avon. On 25 March 1616, he signed his
will. He was already a sick man, and on 25 April 1616 he was buried in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford, where he had been baptised just fifty-two years earlier. His will included bequests to his sister Joan and her children, his daughter Judith, his granddaughter Elizabeth, and the poor of Stratford-upon-Avon, as well as money for his fellow-actors Richard
Heminge, and Henry
Condell to buy memorial rings. The remainder of his estate, including New Place, went to his daughter Susanna and her husband. His wife Anne, to whom he left only 'my second-best bed', outlived him by seven years. She was buried on 8 August 1623.
Deed of Mortgage by William Shakespeare, of Stratford-upon-Avon, gentleman, and others, to Henry Walker of London, vintner, of a dwelling-house in Blackfriars. British Library, Eg. MS. 1787. Larger image
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