Michael J. Cummings
the town of Stratford, England, eight children were born to John and Mary
Shakespeare–the parents of William Shakespeare– between 1558 and 1580.
first two children died in infancy. The third, William, survived childhood
to become one of the greatest writers in
the English language. He died at age 52. The other five Shakespeare children
also survived childhood. They doubtless profoundly affected William Shakespeare’s
thinking and writing through their generally close relationship with him.
All except one lived relatively short lives.
and his wife, Anne Hathaway Shakespeare, had three children: Susanna and
twins Judith and Hamnet. Hamnet, a boy, died young. Susanna had one child,
and Judith had three children.
are brief profiles of the children of John and Mary Shakespeare, William
Shakespeare, and his daughters. The information is based on historical
Children of John and Mary Arden Shakespeare
was baptized on September 15, 1558, during the last days England's first
female monarch, Mary I. John and his wife were financially well equipped
to care for and rear their daughter, for John was a prominent merchant
and civic leader while Mary was heir to lands in Warwickshire. However,
money and position could do nothing to save their daughter from the ravages
of England's most feared destroyer of families, plague, and Joan died of
the disease two months after her birth–at the very time that the country
was joyfully heralding the accession of Elizabeth I to the throne of England
after Mary, her half-sister, died on November 17.
girl, Margaret, was born four years later, in 1562, and baptized on December
2 of that year. She died six months later and was buried on April 30, 1563.
was believed to have been born on Sunday, April 23, 1564, although he could
have been born as early as April 21. He was baptized a Roman Catholic (as
were Joan and Margaret). The baptism took place on Wednesday, April
26, in the Stratford parish church. Baptismal records refer to him and
his father in Latin: Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakspeare (William,
son of John Shakspeare). The latter spelling of the family name–Shakspeare,
with no e after the k– was used often as a spelling for Shakespeare.
Other spellings of the family name were also used. However, records exist
indicating that William's father previously used Shakespeare with
an e after the k. The name appears to suggest that earlier
members of the family served in the military as "shakers of spears." Besides
being associated with the birth of William Shakespeare, the year 1564 is
also associated with the following events:
of Galileo Galilei, the great Italian scientist and mathematician (February
of Christopher Marlowe, the brilliant English dramatist and poet and acquaintance
of Shakespeare (February 26, 1564)
of the great Italian sculptor and painter Michelangelo Buonarroti (February
of John Calvin (Jean Calvin, in his native French), a prominent
leader in the Protestant Revolt (May 27 1564)
of Andreas Vesalius (Andries Van Wesel, in his native Flemish),
a pioneer in biololgy and anatomy (June 1564)
of Fort Caroline in Florida, a tropical region in the New World, by the
William went to London in
the late 1580's or early 1590's, where he established himself as a poet,
playwright, and actor while his family remained in Stratford. From time
to time, he returned home to see his family and manage his business affairs.
was baptized on October 13, 1566, two-and-a-half years after the baptism
of William. Because he grew up with William in Stratford, it seems likely
that he and his brother played games together, told stories to each other
at bedtime, and explored the countryside together. In adulthood, Gilbert
became a seller of men's clothing, such as hats, shirts, and gloves. Like
William, he lodged in London from time to time but returned frequently
to Stratford. Gilbert never married. He died in 1612 at age 45 and was
buried on February 3 of that year.
(Named After the Sister Who Died in 1558)
was baptized on April 15, 1569, and became the longest-living member of
the family, dying at age 77 in 1646. She married William Hart–who has been
identified as a hatter (one who makes, sells and cleans men's hats)–and
bore four children. The firstborn child, William (baptized on August 28,
1600), became an actor, achieving recognition on the London stage. One
can imagine that his famous uncle, William Shakespeare, helped kindle his
interest in the theatre. Although the younger William Hart never married,
it is believed that he fathered an illegitimate child. That child, Charles
Hart, became one of the leading actors in London during the Restoration,
performing in plays by his reputed grandfather, William Shakespeare, and
by Ben Jonson, John Dryden, and the team of Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher.
Charles Hart died in 1683. Joan Shakespeare would not have had an opportunity
to see her reputed grandson perform, for her death in 1646 occurred when
he was still very young. Joan and her husband–who was buried in Stratford
just eight days before William Shakespeare–started a line of descendants
who continued into modern times.
was baptized on September 28, 1571, and died in 1579. Her death must have
deeply affected William, who was 15 at the time. Her death marked the first
time he had to confront the loss of a member of his immediate family.
was baptized on March 11, 1574. Like Gilbert, he never married. Richard
was buried on February 4, 1613.
was baptized on May 3, 1580. Evidence suggests that he became an actor.
After he died in 1607, an elaborate funeral was held for him in St. Saviour's
Church in London's Southwark section, where he was buried on December 11.
Children of William and Anne Hathaway Shakespeare
was baptized on May 26, 1583, and lived to age 66. In 1607 she married
a physician, John Hall, who had moved to Stratford about 1600, carried
on a thriving medical practice, and became a good friend of William. Mr.
and Mrs. Hall lived in Stratford at Hall's Croft and had one child, Elizabeth,
who was baptized on February 21, 1608. Thus, William Shakespeare became
a grandfather two months before his 44th birthday. Elizabeth married twice–to
Thomas Nash in 1626 and John Bernard in 1649–but had no children. Shakespeare
bequeathed his Stratford and London properties to Susanna, an executor
of his will. For a full accounting of the bequest, see
Shakespeare's Will, on this site. The following epitaph appears on
above her sexe, but that's not all,
to salvation was good Mistris Hall.
of Shakespeare was in that, but this
of him with whom she's now in blisse.
Passenger, hast nere a teare,
weepe with her that wept with all;
wept, yet set her self to chere
up with comforts cordiall.
love shall live, her mercy spread,
thou hast ner'e a teare to shed.
and Judith, Twins
and Judith Shakespeare were baptized on February 2, 1585. Hamnet died of
plague in 1596, when he was only 11, and buried on August 11. It is possible
that Hamnet's death inspired a famous passage in Shakespeare's play King
John, which was probably completed in 1596 or 1597. This passage, which
occurs in Scene IV of Act III, is spoken by Constance, the mother of Arthur,
Duke of Bretagne. Constance maintains that Arthur, the son of King Richard
I, is the rightful king of England, not King John. The passage follows:
fills the room up of my absent child,
in his bed, walks up and down with me,
on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
me of all his gracious parts,
out his vacant garments with his form
married Thomas Quiney, a local wine dealer and tavern owner, on February
10, 1616, two months before William Shakespeare's death. Shakespeare altered
his will–written in January 1616–in late March of 1616 in reaction to disturbing
news about Quiney: He had had an affair with a local woman, Margaret Wheeler,
while he was courting Judith, and Miss Wheeler bore his illegitimate child
in the month following the marriage of Judith and Thomas. Miss Wheeler
and the child died during childbirth. In addition, Judith and Thomas were
excommunicated from the church because Thomas had failed to obtain a special
marriage license required of couples to be married in lent. Shakespeare's
revised will left all of his property to Susanna, his first daughter. Judith
received only £150. She was to get another £150 if she bore
a healthy child. However, to receive the additional sum, Quiney had to
yield to her property of equal value. Judith bore three children. The first,
Shakespeare Quiney, baptized on November 23 of 1616, died in 1617. The
other two–Richard, baptized on February 9, 1618, and Thomas, baptized on
January 23, 1620–both died in 1639. Neither had married.
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