« PreviousContinue »
had a house and land leased to him by Robert Arden, husbandman, who owned and occupied a house, with a farm of about fifty acres, at Wilmcote, in the parish of Aston Cantlowe. That Robert Arden, who owned in Snitterfield, and let on lease, two houses and farms of about a hundred acres in all, was the poet's grandfather upon the mother's side.
Richard Shakespeare had two sons, Henry and John. The poet's uncle Henry remained at Snitterfield, and was a farmer there until his death. He was buried on the twentyninth of December, 1596. His wife Margaret followed him to the grave six weeks later. Other Shakespeares at Snitterfield, whose relationship to the poet's family cannot be defined, were Thomas, who had a son baptized John in March, 1581; Anthony, whose name occurs in a list of billmen for the year 1569; and Joan, buried in January, 1596. John Shakespeare, the poet's father, left Snitterfield. In April of the year 1552 a fine of twelvepence levied on John Shakespeare for having set up a private filth-heap by his door, though there was a public one near by, shows that he was then living in Henley Street, at Stratford-on-Avon. Henley Street was so called because it was the beginning of the road from Stratford to Henley-in-Arden, eight miles off.
Shakespeare was not an uncommon English name. There is record of a John Shakespeare as early as 1279. Some used to be named, said Camden, “from that which they commonly carried-as Palmer, that is pilgrime, for that they carried palme when they returned from Hierusalem ; Long-sword, Broad-speare, Fortescu, that is Strong-shield, and in some such respect, Break-speare, Shake-speare, Shot-bolt, Wag-staffe.” In the sixteenth century there were Shakespeares in many parts of England, but most in Warwickshire, and they were no more one family than the Smiths. In 1556 John Shakespeare, of Stratford-on-Avon, being sued for eight pounds in the bailiff's court, was officially described as a glover. This process opened a defended suit that was decided after about two months in John Shakespeare's favour, with costs. In October of the same year John Shakespeare bought two small freeholds at Stratford ; one was of a house in Greenhill Street; the other, of a house in Henley Street.
In the next year, 1557, John Shakespeare was married to Mary Arden, youngest of eight daughters of the Robert Arden from whom John Shakespeare's father leased his farm. Mary's elder sisters, the poet's seven aunts on the mother's side, were in order of age these that follow :Agnes, married first to John Hewyns, of Bearley, and next, in 1550, to Thomas Stringer, of Stockton, in Shropshire; this aunt, who was in a legal document called " wife” of her second husband, several weeks before their marriage was solemnised in the church, was dead in October, 1576. Joan, married to Edmund Lambert, of Barton-on-the-Heath; aunt Joan Lambert was a widow during the last six years of her life, from 1587 to 1593. The third aunt was Katherine, wife of Thomas Etkyns, of Wilmcote. Then came Joyce and Alice, who seem to have been unmarried. The sixth was Margaret, first married to Alexander Webbe, of Bearley, who died in 1573, and who was succeeded by a second husband, Edward Cornell, of Snitterfield. The youngest aunt was Elizabeth, who died in 1588, the wife of a John Scarlett.
Robert Arden, the poet's grandfather-son of a Thomas Arden of Wilmcote, who was living in 1546—took in second marriage Agnes Hill, widow of a farmer at Bearley, and he died late in 1556, not long before the marriage of his daughter Mary. His will was made on the twenty-fourth of November, and after death the inventory of his goods was made on the ninth of December. Mary Arden inherited from her father a small property at Wilmcote, called Asbies, of
some fifty acres, with two houses; interest also in other land at Wilmcote; and £6 135. 4d. cash, which money may be multiplied by ten to represent its present buying power. By a previous settlement there had also been secured to her-after death of her stepmother, to whom a life interest in it had been given--the reversion of a share in the two houses and farms at Snitterfield, one of which had been rented by Richard Shakespeare.
When John Shakespeare, a husbandman's son, married the young Mary Arden, a husbandman's daughter, he was not himself in difficulties. The marriage added to his means, though he was now claiming and now claimed of, in suits for debt entered upon the proceedings of the Court of Record. Six pounds were claimed of him in 1551 and five in 1559 by Adrian Quiney and Thomas Knight. But there was a growth of civic dignity. He was elected to be an ale-taster in 1557. He was elected for a year, in 1558, by the jury of the Court Leet to be one of the four petty constables. In October, 1559, he was re-elected petty constable for another year. At the same time he was appointed to be one of the affeerors who determined the amount of fines not fixed by statute. He was re-elected also to this office. He held office for two years after 1561 as one of the chamberlains of the borough, delivering his second account at the beginning of the year in which his son William was born.
The first child of the marriage, baptized on the fifteenth of September, 1558, died in its infancy. This was a girl, named after its mother's sister Joan. The second child, also a girl, named after its mother's sister Margaret, was baptized on the second of December, 1562, and lived only five months. Margaret was buried on the thirtieth of April, 1563. The home was childless when the son was born who was named William and lived, and lives.
Just after the time of William Shakespeare's birth, the
plague raged in Stratford. On the thirtieth of August, 1564,
the Town Council of Stratford held a Hall—and
held it in their garden for less danger of infecwas a Child. tion—when John Shakespeare, as one of the
burgesses present, was one of five who subscribed twelve pence each to the relief of the poor. The largest of the subscriptions offered was four shillings, given by William Botte, then owner of New Place ; the bailiff gave 35. 4d. ; the chief alderman gave 25. 8d. ; ten others gave, some 2s. 6d., some 2s.; and six gave less than twelve pence. At a Hall held a few weeks later, on the sixth of September, for relief of the plague-stricken, John Shakespeare was again present, and of fourteen donors he was one of five who subscribed sixpence, when the highest subscription was one and sixpence. Six burgesses gave twelvepence each, and only two gave less than sixpence-one giving fourpence and the other twopence. Thus, in his personal accounts of debtor and creditor, we may assume that in the year of the birth of his son William, John Shakespeare was sufficiently, although not wholly, at ease. When balancing accounts for the Corporation, he followed the old use of counters, and, as he could not write, signed with his mark. His mark was sometimes a mere cross, sometimes perhaps a figure meant to represent a pair of compasses. Many a man of business in those days who could not write his name tried to give to his mark the individuality of a real signature, and Shakespeare's mother, who, like John Shakespeare, was unable to write, designed in that respect, on a deed of 1579, a much more elegant mark than her husband's.
In May, 1565, Alderman Botte, of New Place, was expelled from the Town Council, and in his stead John Shakespeare was elected alderman on the fourth of the next following July. The year's accounts of the two chamberlains, William Tylor and William Smythe, were made out and delivered to the Town Council at Michaelmas of the
same year, leaving the Chamber, on this account, in debt to John Shakespeare seven shillings and threepence.
It is worthy of note that in September, 1566, John Shakespeare was bail for a friend named Richard Hathaway, against whom there were two suits, one for eight pounds and another for eleven pounds, in the Court of Record. There is no proof, but some ground for supposing, that this Hathaway to whom John Shakespeare's father was so close a friend soon after his son William's birth, was the father of Anne Hathaway whom afterwards the poet married. Soon afterwards, in 1566, there was born to John and Mary Shakespeare a second son, who was baptized on the thirteenth of October and named Gilbert.
In 1568, on the fourth of September, three persons having been nominated for the office of High Bailiff, John Shakespeare was the one of the three chosen. He presided as High Bailiff at a council held on Home in the first of October, as well as at two October shine. meetings of the Court of Record, and he joined to the title of Bailiff of the Borough that of Justice of the Peace.
In 1569 another child was born to John and Mary Shakespeare, a daughter, who was baptized on the fifteenth of April and named Joan. This Joan outlived her brother William. There were many Shakespeares in Warwickshire, and the John Shakespeare who is found in 1570 to be occupying a fourteen-acre farm called Ingon or Ington Meadow, in the parish of Hampton Lucy, about two miles from Stratford, was not the poet's father. The register of Hampton Lucy records the burial of this John Shakespeare on the twentyfifth of September, 1589. The burial of Shakespeare's father was at Stratford on the eighth of September, 1601.
In 1571 John Shakespeare was elected Chief Alderman from September to September following, and on the twentyeighth of September, 1571, another daughter was baptized