Talk of the (Stratford) Town

Crowds outside Shakespeare's birthplace.
Warwickshire County Record Office reference PH352/172/211

It’s 1616. Shakespeare has died – and he’s coming home to be mourned. Now, as ever, you can’t take Stratford out of the man. For amongst neighbours, who is Shakespeare if not the boy next door?

The word on the street is noted in this weblog – a format geared to today’s neighbourhood news. But it’s more than just small talk – you can also view some of the documents that leave us a fragmented but vivid picture of his life as a local.

1564 New arrival

A new baby bounced into Henley Street today. My neighbours John and Mary Shakespeare are celebrating the arrival of a new son. Despite the tactful suggestions of local drinkers they are calling it William.

1564 Having a bawl…

Screaming wailing William Shakespeare was baptised today at Holy Trinity Church – and what a racket! They wrote his name in the register: ‘Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakspere.’ Perhaps, like most of us Elizabethans, you never learned Latin – but still you get the idea. It just means: ‘William, son of John Shakespeare.’

1569 Who’s going to lead the council?

1569 marks John Shakespeare’s last meeting as High Bailiff of Stratford – an official post he took last year. His name appears at the top of the Corporation minutes. But they’re having trouble finding a successor…

1579 Snitterfield snip!

People say the Shakespeares are hard up. John Shakespeare and his wife Mary Arden have just sold a share of land in Snitterfield to Mary’s nephew Robert Webbe for £4. Apparently, Mary’s sisters all own a part of their father’s old house and land, and Webbe is trying to put the jigsaw back together.

1582 Bill Shakespeare turns 18

William Shakespeare has turned 18 this year, and he’s marrying local girl Ann Hathaway.

1585 Siblings: two for the price of one!

William and Ann have produced two children this year . They join sister Susanna, born back in 1583.

1586 Why have they expelled John?

John Shakespeare has been expelled from the Stratford Corporation – but then, he never did turn up for meetings. Some say his business is going bad. But others smell rotten religion. And Mary Queen of Scots has been tried for treason.

1588 Armada ahoy!

Word has reached Stratford of Francis Drake’s success in seeing off the Spanish Armada.

1589 What is William up to?

You might be wondering what William Shakespeare has been up to. Nobody really is sure – but that isn’t to say he’s not busy! In any case, he is spending a lot of time in London now.

1596 Shakespeare’s son dies

Hamnet Shakespeare has died, aged just 11…

1603 The Queen is dead

Queen Elizabeth has died after 45 years on the throne – Our new king, James VI and I is a Scot, and now England and Scotland are joined. But business goes on as it did before.

1616 Shakespeare dies

William Shakespeare has died and he’ll be buried in Stratford. Despite a quiet last few years, Shakespeare is the talk of the town, and he’s made himself the toast of the London stage. Spare a thought for his daughter Judith, who married Thomas Quiney this year…

Originally published on Windows on Warwickshire.


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