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Mary Arden was the mother of William Shakespeare. Mary’s date of birth is unknown; she was likely to have been born between the years 1536-8. 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). 

Probably about a year after her father’s death in late 1556, Mary married John Shakespeare and moved to live with him in a house on Henley Street. She was between 19-21 years old when she got married and left her father’s home. There was no mention of their engagement before Robert’s death, so the marriage was likely her choice. John was an upcoming businessman with a house in Stratford at that time.

Mary and John had eight children together, although three of their children died young. William was the oldest surviving child of John and Mary Shakespeare, who lost two infant daughters before William was born. William's younger siblings were Gilbert (born in 1566), Joan (1569), Anne (1571), Richard (1574) and Edmund (1580). Ann died at the age of eight, but the others lived into their adulthood.

There is evidence to suggest that Mary would have been a literate woman, as she is mentioned as the executor of her father’s will. She would have benefited from a degree of education when carrying out her duties as the daughter of a farmer. This is all certainly knowledge that could have been used in the raising of a young William Shakespeare.

Later in life, after her husband’s death in 1601, Mary may have lived with William and his family at New Place. However, it is also possible that she may have stayed with her daughter, Joan Hart, in Henley Street.

Mary Shakespeare died in 1608.

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