Shakespeare's Parents

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					                       William Shakespeare
                         Shakespeare's Parents
Shakespeare's father, John, came to Stratford from Snitterfield
before 1532 as an apprentice glover and tanner of leathers. John
Shakespeare prospered and began to deal in farm products and
wool. It is recorded that he bought a house in 1552 (the date that he
first appears in the town records), and bought more property in
1556. Because John Shakespeare owned one house on Greenhill
Street and two houses on Henley Street, the exact location of
William's birth cannot be known for certain.

Sometime between 1556 and 1558 John Shakespeare married
Mary Arden, the daughter of the wealthy Robert Arden of
Wilmecote and owner of the sixty-acre farm called Asbies. The
wedding would have most likely taken place in Mary Arden's parish
church at Aston Cantlow, the burial place of Robert Arden, and,
although there is no evidence of strong piety on either side of the
family, it would have been a Catholic service, since Queen Mary I
was the reigning monarch.

We assume neither John nor Mary could write -- John used a pair of
glovers' compasses as his signature while Mary used a running
                         horse -- but it did not prevent them from
                         becoming important members of the
                         community. John Shakespeare was elected
                         to a multitude of civic positions, including ale-
                         taster of the borough(Stratford had a long-
                         reaching reputation for its brewing) in 1557,
                         chamberlain of the borough in 1561,
                         alderman in 1565, (a position which came
                         with free education for his children at
                         the Stratford Grammar School), high bailiff, or
mayor, in 1568, and chief alderman in 1571. Due to his important
civic duties, he rightfully sought the title of gentleman and applied
for his coat-of-arms in 1570 (see picture on left). However, for
unspecific reasons the application was abruptly withdrawn, and
within the next few years, for reasons just as mystifying, John
Shakespeare would go from wealthy business owner and dedicated
civil servant to debtor and absentee council member.
By 1578 he was behind in his taxes and stopped paying the
statutory aldermanic subscription for poor relief. In 1579, he had to
mortgage Mary Shakespeare's estate, Asbies, to pay his creditors.
In 1580 he was fined 40 pounds for missing a court date and in
1586 the town removed him from the board of aldermen due to lack
of attendance. By 1590, John Shakespeare owned only his house
on Henley Street and, in 1592 he was fined for not attending
church.

However, near the very end of John Shakespeare's life, it seems
that his social and economic standing was again beginning to
flourish. He once again applied to the College of Heralds for a coat-
of-arms in 1596, and, due likely to the success of William in
London, this time his wish was granted. On October 20 of that year,
by permission of the Garter King of Arms (the Queen's aid in such
matters) "the said John Shakespeare, Gentlemen, and...his
children, issue and posterity" were lawfully entitled to display the
gold coat-of-arms, with a black banner bearing a silver spear (a
visual representation of the family name "Shakespeare"). The coat-
of-arms could then be displayed on their door and all their personal
items. The motto was Non sanz droict or not without right. The
reason cited for granting the coat-of-arms was John Shakespeare's
grandfather's faithful service to Henry VII, but no specifics were
given as to what service he actually performed. The coat-of-arms
appears on Shakespeare's tomb in Stratford.

In 1599 John Shakespeare was reinstated on the town council, but
died a short time later, in 1601. He was probably near seventy
years old and he had been married for forty-four years. Mary
Shakespeare died in 1608 and was buried on September 9.

				
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Description: About Shakespeare's Parents (biography)