William's Brothers, Sisters, Son, Daughters, and Grandchildren
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Introduction Children of John and Mary Shakespeare Children of William Shakespeare
By Michael J. Cummings...© 2003, 2008
In the town of Stratford,
England, eight children were born to John and
Mary Shakespeare—the parents of William
Shakespeare—between 1558 and 1580. The
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.
Joan 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.
A second 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.
William 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:
.......Birth of Galileo Galilei, the
great Italian scientist and mathematician
(February 15, 1564)
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.
Gilbert 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.
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5...Joan (Named After the Sister Who Died in 1558)
Joan 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.
Anne 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.
Richard was baptized on March 11, 1574. Like Gilbert, he never married. Richard was buried on February 4, 1613.
Edmund 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.
Susanna 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 Susanna's gravestone:
2 and 3...Hamnet and Judith, Twins
Hamnet 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:
Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Judith 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.