Share this page

The following is an imagined account from the life of Thomas Greene, who refers to William Shakespeare as his cousin throughout his own notes. This may reflect a distant kinship, but also reflects their business partnership. He and his family may have lodged with Shakespeare's family at New Place.


One branch of my family hails from nearby Warwick, and I was brought up being told about my distant cousins, the Shakespeares, in Stratford-upon-Avon. I was just finishing my law studies at the Middle Temple when I happened to meet my cousin Shakespeare there. Our gossipy friend, John Manningham, introduced us. Shakespeare had come with the Lord Chamberlain’s Men to perform Twelfth Night. I remember joking with my lawyer friends: 'You may as well call it what you will, Will'. So he rather adopted that as a subtitle –Twelfth Night, or What You Will. I heard through my cousin that Stratford-upon-Avon was on the look out for a good legal mind to serve on the Town Council as clerk. So, that’s where I went, and lodged at New Place from the summer of 1603. My wife, Lettice, was with me, and there was plenty of space for all of us. We had our own set of rooms – a bit like a college really, with that nice square of green in the middle. Will used to pop over with a new scene sometimes, and we’d try it out together. He used to say he liked the way I read aloud, he’d say, 'Not bad – for a lawyer'. And two of my three children were born in New Place. We named our girl Anne and our lad William. Afterwards, when we’d moved around the corner to the great house St Mary’s, opposite the church, we had our Elizabeth; we named her after Elizabeth Hall. I liked to consult with my cousin William about almost everything – especially the financial side of things.

He was always good with the pounds, shillings, and pence, and encouraged me to buy the other half of the shares in the tithes as soon as they came up for sale, which I did in 1609, which we dubbed and celebrated as the year of the Tithes - and Shakespeare’s Sonnets! The Stratford Corporation certainly kept me busy but I was pleased to serve them as I did – popping across the road from New Place to the Guildhall. There was all that nastiness about those threatened enclosures upon on Welcombe, but we stood firm, and the Combes did not get their own way on that occasion. I came to sell St Mary’s in the end, which I let the Corporation buy for far less than it was worth. Will would be turning in his grave now, and I know he would have made me drive a harder bargain. But I wanted to move on. My family and I left the town about a year after Shakespeare died, but I can look back on those years in Stratford-upon-Avon and New Place as among my happiest. And I still go back to visit Anne and the rest of the family. Susanna and Judith like to call me Uncle Tom.

Cast: Paul Edmondson, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Help keep Shakespeare's story alive

Donate Online

More like this

Shakespedia Index

Go behind the scenes

Read our blogs
Where Shakespeare's story started Relive Shakespeare's love story Walk in Shakespeare's footsteps