John Shakespeare

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John Shakespeare (c. 1530 – 1601)

Business and litigation (typical of that of a successful merchant) spans five decades.  – Passed on his business savvy.

Son of one Richard Shakespeare, one of Robert Arden’s tenants, a farming family – he was not the eldest son.

Moved to Stratford and became an apprentice glover then bought a house in town in 1556.

Wool dealer (they often sold the wool left on fleeces they were working BUT wool dealers should all have been licensed), money lender (fraught with legal issues). Did William assist with wool trade as his father’s representative in London?

Possibly could not write – mark on documents not signature BUT this is unproven. Most likely could read

In court a lot wrangling over debts etc.

Was involved in defacing (white washed?) Guild Chapel murals in 1563 when Mary was pregnant with William

He became an Alderman and Bailiff. The corporation (town) council comprised 14 Alderman (senior councillors) and 14 burgesses (junior councillors, Bailiff – like mayor).

Rising to this level typically involved climbing up through various civic posts. In 1561,having been juror, taster and constable. He became Chamberlain (all Borough funded activity came under management of the Chamberlains

1565 – became Master Shakespeare in recognition of of his service – an alderman

1568 elected Bailiff. Bailiffs also served as justice of the peace at the Court of Record. 1571 he became deputy Bailiff to Adrian Quiney as Bailiff. At this time the two men represented the Borough in London

Voluntarily withdrew from public life in 1576??, though the town still listed him as alderman.

By 1590 owned two houses on Henley Street

Did his business earnings fund William’s purchases, rather than theatrical earnings.

1596 – College of Heralds awarded John a coat of arms and he became a gentleman

1596 grandson dies


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