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William Shakespeare's life and times | Royal Shakespeare Company

SHAKESPEARE'S LIFE

Very little is known for certain about William Shakespeare. What we do know about his life comes from registrar records, court records, wills, marriage certificates and his tombstone in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon.

William Shakespeare was baptised on 26 April 1564 at Holy Trinity in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Traditionally his birthday is celebrated three days earlier, on 23 April, St George's Day.

SHAKESPEARE'S BIRTHPLACE

John Shakespeare married Mary Arden, the daughter of Robert Arden, a farmer from the nearby village of Wilmcote. In 1556 John bought the main part of the house in Henley Street which is now known as the 'Birthplace' and their family, including William, grew up there (see photo). John's principal business was that of a glover, but he also traded as a wool and corn merchant, and he is recorded in 1570 as being involved in money-lending.

SHAKESPEARE'S PARENTS

William's father, John Shakespeare, was an affluent glove maker, tanner and wool dealer who owned property in Stratford. For a number of years he played a prominent role in the municipal life of the town. He served on the town council and was elected bailiff (mayor). However, around 1576 John Shakespeare was beset by severe financial difficulties and he was forced to mortgage his wife's inheritance.

William's mother, Mary Arden, was the daughter of a prosperous farmer, Robert Arden, who had left her some land in Wilmcote, near Stratford. John and Mary Shakespeare had eight children: four daughters, of whom only one (Joan) survived childhood. William was the eldest of the four boys.

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