William Shakespeare
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William Shakespeare’s Parents and Siblings

Known throughout the world, the works of William Shakespeare have been performed in countless hamlets, villages, cities and metropolises for more than 400 years. And yet, the personal history of William Shakespeare is somewhat a mystery.

There are two primary sources that provide historians with a basic outline of his life. One source is his work–the plays, poems and sonnets–and the other is official documentation such as church and court records.

William Shakespeare Parents and Siblings
William Shakespeare Parents and Siblings

However, these only provide brief sketches of specific events in his life and provide little on the person who experienced those events. Shakespeare’s father, John, came to Stratford from Snitterfield before 1532 as an apprentice glover and tanner of leathers. 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.

Richard Shakespeare


Mary Arden lived between 1540 – 1608 while John Shakespeare lived between 1531 – 1601. John’s father, Richard Shakespeare, was a tenant farmer of Robert Arden of Wilmecote and Mary Arden was the youngest and favourite of the eight daughters of Robert Arden who was a member of the noble Catholic family of the Ardens of Park Hall whose family forebears had been given land by William the Conqueror.

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. William Shakespeare was indeed lucky to survive to adulthood in sixteenth-century England.

Waves of the plague swept across the countryside, and pestilence ravaged Stratford during the hot summer months.

John Shakespeare

John was William Shakespeare’s father. He was a glovemaker and businessman. John Shakespeare also had a political career. He served in several municipal offices as an alderman. He was promoted to the position of the chief magistrate of the town council and also became the mayor of Stratford.

Where was Shakespeare born?

Shakespeare was born in Stratford upon Avon in England in 1564. The exact date of his birth is disputed but it is widely celebrated on 23 April all around the world.

Shakespeare family tree
Shakespeare family tree

Who were Shakespeare’s parents?

Mary and John Shakespeare became parents for the first time in September of 1558, when their daughter Joan was born. Nothing is known of Joan Shakespeare except for the fact that she was baptized in Stratford on September 15, and succumbed to the plague shortly after.

Was Shakespeare’s family poor?

Shakespeare was not born in poor conditions. His father, John Shakespeare was a trader and politician by career. He had also served as the mayor of Stratford. However, he lost his career for unknown reasons and the family became poor later.

As a result, Shakespeare had to leave school at a young age and go in search of work.

How many siblings did Shakespeare have?

Joan died at a tender age. Their second child, Margaret, was born in 1562 and was baptized on December 2. She died one year later. The Shakespeares’ fourth child, Gilbert, was baptized on October 13, 1566, at Holy Trinity.

It is likely that John Shakespeare named his second son after his friend and neighbour on Henley Street, Gilbert Bradley, a glover and the burgess of Stratford for a time. William Shakespeare thus had five siblings excluding the two elder sisters who were dead before he was born.

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare

Did William Shakespeare have a brother?

William Shakespeare had three brothers Gilbert, Richard and Edmund Shakespeare.

How many brothers and sisters did Shakespeare have?

William Shakespeare had three brothers and four sisters including Joan Shakespeare who died even before William was born and Margaret who died a year after William was born.

William Shakespeare’s Siblings

What happened to Shakespeare’s sibling?

Records show that Gilbert Shakespeare survived the plague and reached adulthood, becoming a haberdasher, working in London as of 1597, and spending much of his time back in Stratford. In 1569, John and Mary Shakespeare gave birth to another girl and named her after her firstborn sister, Joan.

Edmund Shakespeare was the eighth and the youngest child of John and Mary Shakespeare. He followed William to the London stage and became a professional actor, although, nothing much is known about his career as an actor. Edmund died at the age of twenty-seven in 1607.

Joan Shakespeare accomplished the wondrous feat of living to be seventy-seven years old — outliving William and all her other siblings by decades.

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