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How did Shakespeare make his money?


Sokolova: Shakespeare was an actor, playwright and poet with lots of opportunities to earn an income in the new theatre business. As a young actor, he would have been paid a weekly wage. As a playwright he could sell his plays to a company at £6-£8 a piece. (For comparison, the annual income of a goldsmith was about £8.) 

As a resident playwright for about twenty years, he would have had a salary, plus a benefit for each performed new play. Unlike other playwrights, he was also a shareholder in a most successful London theatre company, which ended up owning two theatres, the Globe and Blackfriars. This is likely to have brought him around £150 a year. Performances at Court were another good source of money, as was patronage. Among his patrons were Lord Strange, the Earl of Southampton (to whom he dedicated Venus and Adonis), and King James. In addition, Shakespeare prudently invested in land and other business ventures.


Boika Sokolova

Boika Sokolova teaches Shakespeare and the drama of his contemporaries at the University of Notre Dame and the London British American Drama Academy. Her latest book is a study of The Merchant of Venice.

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