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William Shakespeare’s Family

Meet the Shakespeare family

Who was Shakespeare's Family?

William Shakespeare was the eldest son of John and Mary Shakespeare. John Shakespeare was a glove-maker, who married Mary Arden, the daughter of a farmer from the nearby village of Wilmcote. When William was born, John and Mary were living on Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, in the house now known as Shakespeare’s Birthplace. They had eight children in total.

'Is he thy kin? They friend?'

— Cymbeline, Act 5, Scene 5

Shakespeare's Parents and Siblings

John Shakespeare was a prominent citizen who served on the town council for many years. He even became a high bailiff in 1568 (the equivalent of Mayor). Aside from his craft as a glover, he traded as a wool dealer and was also involved in money-lending. He was granted a Coat of Arms in 1596, elevating him and his heirs to the official status of gentlemen.

When William was born in 1564, his parents had already lost two infant daughters. Joan died within the first few weeks of her life, and Margaret died a year after she was born. William's younger siblings were Gilbert (1566-1612), Joan (1569-1646), Anne (1571-1579), Richard (1574-1613) and Edmund (1580-1607).

Gilbert was probably based in Stratford for most of his life. There are records that suggest he may have been a haberdasher. He may have spent some time in London as there is a record of a haberdasher with the name in St Bride’s London. 

Joan was the only surviving daughter of John and Mary Shakespeare and the only one of Shakespeare’s siblings to outlive him. She married hatter William Hart in the late 1590's. From 1601 the Harts lived in a cottage within the west part of the Shakespeare house on Henley Street. 

It's likely that Richard was named after his paternal grandfather. Anne unfortunately died at the age of eight.

Edmund was the youngest of Shakespeare’s siblings, born when William was 16 years old. Edmund became an actor in London, as his brother William did. He died in 1607 and is buried in Southwark Cathedral in London. It is thought that William Shakespeare paid for his brother’s burial inside the church and for the great bell to be rung in his memory.

Shakespeare Family Life 

At the age of eighteen, William married Anne Hathaway, a young woman from the village of Shottery, just outside Stratford-upon-Avon. 

William and Anne Shakespeare had three children. Susanna was born six months after their marriage, followed by twins Judith and Hamnet in 1585. Hamnet died at age 11. 

Shakespeare's four grandchildren all died without heirs, so there are no direct descendants of his line today. Susanna and John Hall’s only daughter, Elizabeth, married twice but both marriages remained childless. His daughter Judith and her husband Thomas Quiney’s three sons all died at an early age, either in infancy or as young adults before having children.

It is possible to claim a relationship to Shakespeare through his sister, Joan. There are many descendants of Joan and William Hart alive today, in both the male and female lines.

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