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Susanna Hall

Who was William Shakespeare's eldest daughter?

Susanna Shakespeare was baptised on 26th May 1583, six months after her parents, William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway, were married. Susanna married John Hall, a physician, at Holy Trinity Church on 5 June 1607. Their only child, Elizabeth, was born on 21 February 1608. It is believed that the family moved into their Stratford home Hall’s Croft as soon as it was built in 1613. 

Scholars assume that Susanna was educated and literate, as she could at least write her name and is thought to have composed the memorial epitaph to her mother. 

William Shakespeare seems to have been on good terms with his son-in-law and as such he made John and Susanna the executors of his will and left them the bulk of his estate including “the Newe Place wherein I nowe dwell”. After her father’s death Susanna and her husband moved in to New Place. William Shakespeare probably also left Susanna his papers, and so it is assumed that she had some involvement with the compilation of the First Folio of Shakespeare's works.

In 1643 Susanna received two notable visitors. One was the surgeon James Cooke who bought Hall’s casebooks, which he later edited and published in 1657 as Hall’s Select Observations on English Bodies. These contained treatments for John himself, Susanna, Elizabeth, and the poet Michael Drayton. The other visitor was Queen Henrietta Maria, wife to King Charles I, who stayed in Stratford for three days bringing with her a thousand horses and a hundred wagons. She was a guest at New Place. As the Queen was a keen theatre enthusiast it is possible she could have had an interest in learning about Shakespeare.

Susanna died on 11 July 1649 aged 66 and was buried beside her husband in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon. Her epitaph reads;

“Witty above her sex, but that’s not all,
Wise to salvation was good Mistris Hall,
Something in Shakespeare was in that, but this
Wholy of him with whom she’s now in bliss. 

Then, Passenger, hast nere a teare,
To weepe with her that wept with all
That wept, yet set her self to chere
Them up with comforts cordiall.
Her love shall live, her mercy spread
When thou has’t ner’e a teare to shed.”

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