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An abundance of administrative documents provide important details of Shakespeare's economic and social status. Shakespeare divided his time between his theatrical career in London, and business and personal matters in Stratford-upon-Avon, the town where he was born, grew up, and raised three children with his wife Anne: Hamnet (who died when he was 11), Judith, and Susanna. Documents from Stratford-upon-Avon's corporate archives illustrate his Stratfordian connections and the constant balancing of debt and credit among its more prominent citizens. The parish register of Holy Trinity Church records the baptisms, marriages, and burials of members of his family. Paperwork created by various courts provide details relating to real estate transactions, taxes, legal cases, and his social network at the time of his death. Records preserved by the College of Arms chronicle his father's application for a coat of arms in 1596 and the subsequent debate over its validity. Various other legal and financial records which mention Shakespeare or his family reflect the work flows of a wide range of highly organized administrative bodies in early modern England. 

Shakespeare's personal papers do not survive, which is frustrating but not surprising. In general, personal papers only survive if they are absorbed into institutional archives or if they suffered from benign neglect in the muniment rooms of noble houses. Shakespeare's last direct descendant died in 1670, at which point his house, New Place, and its belongings, was sold. It wasn't until the 18th century that people began to value and romanticize the manuscripts of famous authors.

All Documents

November 27, 1582
Two documents record the marriage of William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway but the evidence is flawed.
November 28, 1582
This marriage bond, dated November 28, 1582 states that there was nothing to prevent William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway’s marriage from taking place, and that the bishop of Worcester, who issued the marriage license would be safeguarded from any future possible objections.
July 9, 1582
SHAKESPEARE DOCUMENTED IS STILL GROWING! Descriptive content and transcriptions will continue to be added, updated and expanded. Check back for regular updates!
May 26, 1583
Susanna, William and Anne Shakespeare’s first child, was baptized on May 26, 1583, according to the Holy Trinity Church parish register. Next to the entry, a “X” added by a later hand highlights its significance.
February 2, 1585
Hamnet and Judith, William and Anne Shakespeare’s second and third children, were baptized on the same day, February 2, 1585, according to the Holy Trinity Church parish register.
September 6, 1586
John Shakespeare may have appeared at a meeting of the Corporation held on December 5, 1576 (Minutes and Accounts, ii, p. 111). However, there is no record of his attendance thereafter until his eventual expulsion at the meeting held on September 6, 1586, shown here.
October 8, 1587
Richard, Richard and Elizabeth Quiney’s fourth child, was baptized on October 8, 1587, according to the Holy Trinity Church parish register. He is remembered for his letter to his father composed in Latin at the age of about eleven, asking for two paper books.
January 18, 1587
This is part of a sequence of nine loose papers and entries in the Stratford court of record register, documenting the progress of an action brought by Nicholas Lane, a prosperous Alveston husbandman, against John Shakespeare for the recovery of a debt of £22.
February 1, 1587
This is part of a sequence of nine loose papers and entries in the Stratford court of record register, documenting the progress of an action brought by Nicholas Lane, a prosperous Alveston husbandman, against John Shakespeare for the recovery of a debt of £22.
March 1, 1587
This is part of a sequence of nine loose papers and entries in the Stratford court of record register, documenting the progress of an action brought by Nicholas Lane, a prosperous Alveston husbandman, against John Shakespeare for the recovery of a debt of £22.

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