Folger V.a.350. Used by permission of the Folger Shakespeare Library under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
In 1596 John Shakespeare and his son William were granted a coat of arms by the College of Arms, elevating them to the rank of gentlemen. In 1602 Ralph Brooke, the York Herald from the College of Arms, included it in a list of coats of arms that should not have been granted, because the recipients were unworthy or because the arms were too similar to ones already established. In this manuscript copy of Brooke’s complaint, made around 1700, the Shakespeare arms are annotated ‘the player’ – it may have been William’s lowly profession to which Brooke objected.