Susanna and John Hall

Posted on Updated on

Susanna Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s eldest daughter, Susanna, married  John Hall on 5 June 1607.

After the death of her grandfather, John Shakespeare in 1635, Susanna, John, their daughter Elizabeth, and Anne Shakespeare lived in New Place together. Upon his demise, William Shakespeare left Susanna his papers, and so it is assumed that she had some involvement with the compilation of the First Folio.

Susanna’s epitaph gives us some indication about her wit, wisdom and vivacity. Click here to listen to the epitaph.





Posted on

Shakespeare's Siblings
                The Shakespeare siblings

Joan  first born died in first few weeks

Margaret second born who died aged 1

William b1564

Gilbert (about b 1566 – d1612) Probably Stratford based for most of his life, belief he may have been a haberdasher, appears in the records acting for WS (1602 Combe land sale document). May have been in London some of the time – record of haberdasher with same name in St Bride’s London standing surety for a clock maker from SOA.. Was Gilbert carrying on his cloth trasde from NP?

Joan (married William Hart in the late1590s) b 1569 – d1646 William was a hatter.

After their marriage they lived in the west part of Henley Street house, stayed on after John S death, possibly with Mary A (perhaps in only 3 rooms though). WS leased out the eastern part to Lewis Hiccox. WS left her his clothes, life tenancy in the west part of the Henley Street House and £20 – he may have left them to his brothers if any were still alive. Pass on some personal/identity. However she may well have sold them. 4 children, one of whom died. Hart died just before WS. He was left out of WS will – a snub as WS could not have predicted Hart would die first? WS did provide for Hart nephews. One of the  Hart’s (Joan’s grandson) who inherited the BP in the end after EBarnard died. George Hart, WS great nephew christened his son Shakespeare Hart in 1666.

Richard (b1574 – d1613) – no further info

Anne b? d 1579 aged 7. Evidence of JS paying for ‘Bell and Pall’ for Anne.

– married late and had 4 children in her 30s, 2 of whom died.

Edmund  (christened 1580, d 1607) Became an actor in London (described as a player in the burial register). Buried in Southwark. William may have paid the 20s to have him buried in Church and for the bell.  You could be apprenticed and be an actor. Big age gap – did William help him in London.

Reputations belonged to families, families were closer and often relied on/helped each other.

John Shakespeare

Posted on

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

Mary Shakespeare

Posted on

Mary Arden was the mother of William Shakespeare. She was the youngest of eight daughters and lived in a farmhouse that was built in 1514. Mary’s father, Robert Arden, was a member of the Guild of the Holy Cross, an important communal Stratford institution. Upon his death, Robert left Mary a significant amount of land in Wilmcote together with a sum of £6 13s 4d (equivalent to £30,000 in current value).


A year after her father’s death, Mary married John Shakespeare and moved to Henley Street. Mary’s date of birth is unknown; she was likely to have been born between the years 1536-8. This means that she was between 19-21 when she got married and left her father’s home. There was no mention of their engagement before Robert’s death so he was likely her choice.  He was an upcoming businessman with a house in Stratford at that time.


Documents in the collection feature her seal, a tiny horse, and what is possibly a signature


Mary may have lived with William and his family at New Place when John died, later in her life.  However, she may have stayed with her daughter, Joan Hart, in Henley Street.

Anne Shakespeare

Posted on Updated on

Anne Hathaway
Imagined Portrait of Anne Hathaway

At the age of 18, William Shakespeare married a woman called Anne Hathaway. Anne and her family were the tenants of a one-storey farmhouse on a 90-acre farm. The house is less than one and a half miles away from the home in which Shakespeare was born and grew up.




Anne’s father was a yeoman farmer, and consequently a well-respected member of the Shottery community. Upon his death he left Anne, who was also known as Agnes, a small sum of money with which she could marry. The house was then purchased by Anne’s brother, Bartholomew, who also acquired the freehold on the farm.




Bartholomew added a second floor to the farmhouse and made many extensions to the property. The Hathaway descendants kept the ever-expanding cottage in the family for 13 generations until it was purchased by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1892, when it was turned into a museum.




To hear more about Anne click here .

Jewellery in Shakespeare

Posted on

Shakespeare uses this convention of wooing with jewellery to great comic effect in his early play Love’s Labour’s Lost. In this play, four young aristocratic men (one of whom is the King of Navarre) seek to woo four noble ladies (one of whom is the Princess of France). Together with their love letters, the men send jewels as tokens of affection: necklaces, a pearl brooch and a pair of gloves. When the gifts arrive, the women enjoy mocking their suitors’ poorly written and over-long letters as well as their infantile artwork. One lady even wishes that her necklace were long and her letter short:
Sweet hearts, we shall be rich ere we depart,
If fairings come thus plentifully in:
A lady walled about with diamonds!
Look you what I have from the loving king.
Madame, came nothing else along with that?
Nothing but this. Yes, as much love in rhyme
As would be crammed up in a sheet of paper,
Writ on both sides the leaf, margin and all,
That he was fain to seal on Cupid’s name.
But Rosaline, you have a favour too,
Who sent it? and what is it?
I would you knew,
An if my face were but as fair as yours,
My favour were as great; be witness this.
Nay, I have verses too, I thank Biron:
The numbers true; and, were the numbering too,
I were the fairest goddess on the ground.
I am compared to twenty thousand fairs.
O, he hath drawn my picture in his letter!
Any thing like?
Much in the letters. Nothing in the praise.
But, Katharine, what was sent to you from fair Dumain?
Madam, this glove.
Did he not send you twain?
Yes, madam, and moreover
Some thousand verses of a faithful lover,
A huge translation of hypocrisy,
Vilely compiled, profound simplicity.
This and these pearls to me sent Longaville:
The letter is too long by half a mile.
I think no less. Dost thou not wish in heart
The chain were longer and the letter short?
Ay, or I would these hands might never part.
We are wise girls to mock our lovers so.
(Love’s Labour’s Lost, 5.2)
Fascinated by courtship in Shakespeare’s plays? Why not learn more with this article: Shakespeare and the Art of Wooing.

Kitchenware in Shakespeare

Posted on

Kitchenware features in Shakespeare’s most famous romantic tragedy, Romeo and Juliet. The night before Juliet’s intended marriage to Paris, her father orders a grand feast to be prepared. The servants are busy fetching items for the cooks:
Hold, take these keys, and fetch more spices, Nurse.
They call for dates and quinces in the pastry.
[Enter three or four Servingmen, with spits, logs, and baskets]
Now, fellow, what is there?
Things for the cook, sir, but I know not what.
Make haste, make haste.

(Romeo and Juliet, 4.4)

A skillet would be one of the pieces of kitchen equipment needed to make the date and quince filling for the pastry. The servant is rather comically carrying plenty of kitchenware, reminding audiences of how much effort, time and equipment was required to prepare meals for large parties.
Even in normal households, kitchens would have been extremely busy places. With all the boiling, baking, butter-making, spit roasting and general cooking, kitchens were sticky, hot rooms.
Shakespeare often associates housewives with their kitchens and, in particular, he characterises these women as greasy.

Take a look at this extract from his early play The Comedy of Errors. Here, a servant called Dromio of Syracuse attempts to evade the romantic advances of Nell the kitchen maid. He claims that she is so greasy he could turn her into a lamp. Home-made candles, or lamps, were made from melted cooking or animal fat:
[…] she’s the kitchen wench and all grease; and I know not what use to put her to but to make a lamp of her, and run from her by her own light. I warrant, her rags and the tallow in them will burn a Poland winter. If she lives till doomsday, she’ll burn a week longer than the whole world (The Comedy of Errors, 3.2)
Joking aside, with all the effort that went into cooking throughout the 16th century, it is no wonder that a simple piece of equipment like this skillet would have been invaluable to any housewife.

Use of metal kitchenware

Posted on

Metal pans could withstand more heat than earthenware pottery, so they were used for preparing dishes that required more time over a fire, for example boiling suet for puddings. This particular dish would have been used over a smaller rather than large, open fire: perhaps over a shelf or separate stand. It is clearly an object belonging to a well-off household.
A quality set of kitchen equipment was essential for setting up a household, and would have been the first things acquired by newly married couples.

Variations of rings during the 16th-17th centuries

Posted on Updated on

As expected, rings varied in size and value. Ornamental rings were mostly worn by middle and upper classes, sometimes on all fingers as well as thumbs. Since all jewellery was handmade, each piece was unique, making them easier to identify if one had been stolen or lost. Interestingly, the wedding ring was not considered necessary, although some wealthy people did indeed wear wedding bands.



The most obvious kind of ring, especially for men and wealthy women, was the seal ring which was used to impress an image or motto into wax. These rings were especially useful to make servants or messengers appear official.

Rings in Shakespeare

Posted on

In Shakespeare’s plays, rings are often given as tokens of love,  as in Romeo and Juliet and Cymbeline, or most often as a way of identifying an individual. In the comedy, now considered a problem play, All’s Well That Ends Well, the King of France is troubled by the sight of a ring that once belonged to him. He gave the ring as a gift to a young woman called Helena, whom he believes to be dead, and when he sees the ring on the finger of her husband Bertram, he begins to worry that she has been murdered:
Plutus himself,
That knows the tinct and multiplying medicine,
Hath not in nature’s mystery more science
Than I have in this ring: ’twas mine, ’twas Helen’s,
Whoever gave it you. Then, if you know
That you are well acquainted with yourself,
Confess ’twas hers, and by what rough enforcement
You got it from her: she call’d the saints to surety
That she would never put it from her finger,
Unless she gave it to yourself in bed,
Where you have never come, or sent it us
Upon her great disaster.
(All’s Well That Ends Well, 5.3, 2791-802)
Plutus = The god of wealth
Tinct and multiplying medicine = alchemy or the turning of base metal into gold
You have never come = Everyone believes that Bertram and Helena have not consummated their marriage

Shakespeare’s characters also use rings as a way of bargaining. In The Comedy of Errors, a courtesan gives a friend a ring in exchange for a necklace. For various reasons, involving two sets of twins and mistaken identity, the person she believes to be Antipholus of Ephesus is actually Antipholus of Syracuse, and he denies all knowledge of a ring. She decides that she is going to pursue the matter with Antipholus’ wife:
Now, out of doubt Antipholus is mad,
Else would he never so demean himself.
A ring he hath of mine worth forty ducats,
And for the same he promised me a chain:
Both one and other he denies me now.
The reason that I gather he is mad,
Besides this present instance of his rage,
Is a mad tale he told to-day at dinner,
Of his own doors being shut against his entrance.
Belike his wife, acquainted with his fits,
On purpose shut the doors against his way.
My way is now to hie home to his house,
And tell his wife that, being lunatic,
He rush’d into my house and took perforce
My ring away. This course I fittest choose;
For forty ducats is too much to lose.
(The Comedy of Errors, 4.3., 1231-46)
Ducats = European coins made of gold and silver
A chain = Necklace