John Shakespeare

Picture of John Shakespeare's house in Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon

John Shakespeare - the father of the Great Bard!

  • John Shakespeare was the father of William
  • What was his background? Was he well educated?
  • Was he rich? Was he powerful?
  • What was his occupation?
  • Interesting information about the family, life and times of William Shakespeare

John Shakespeare - The Father of William Shakespeare


  • John Shakespeare was the father of William
  • He lived between 1531 - 1601
  • John's father, Richard Shakespeare, was a tenant farmer of Robert Arden of Wilmecote
  • John was illiterate - he used glovers compasses as his signature!
  • He moved to Stratford-upon-Avon in 1551 to set up business trading in animals, wool, malt and corn
  • His father Richard produced the goods and John sold them!
  • He bought a house in Henley Street, Stratford , which was conveniently near the market
  • John Shakespeare used the skins of animals to set up trade as as a Glover and Whittawer (making saddles, harnesses and fine leather gloves)
  • He sold goods to the wealthy and made the right connections in Stratford - an ambitious man!
  • John was also involved in the dubious business of money lending!
  • He made enough money to purchase another house in Greenhill Street, Stratford in 1552


  • He married Mary Arden in 1557 - great marriage as she was the daughter of the wealthy Robert Arden
  • John and Mary married at the ages of 26 and 17 respectively (a year after her father had died)
  • In 1557 John Shakespeare was obtained Public Office when he was elected as ale-taster of the Borough of Stratford (an important role as people drank ale which was safer to drink than water!)
  • John and Mary had eight children between 1558 - 1580
  • John became important and was elected Chamberlain of Stratford in 1561, Alderman in 1565 and Mayor in 1568


  • In 1570 John Shakespeare was accused of Usury for lending money at the rate of 20% and 25% Interest
  • In 1570 his application to bear a Coat-of-Arms and for the title of Gentleman fails
  • Why? No one knows for sure but it is possibly to do with the Shakespeare's Catholic religion
  • In 1570 the Queen, Elizabeth I, was excommunicated by the Catholic Church and feared that her crown would be taken by Catholic plots involving Mary Queen of Scots
  • Catholics were viewed with suspicion. Some of the Catholic relatives of the family were sent to the Tower of London!
  • In 1578 John became behind with his taxes
  • In 1579 He was forced to mortgage Mary's estate, Asbies
  • In 1583 Edward Arden, the head of the Catholic Arden Family was executed for his beliefs and for plotting against the life of the Queen. Edward Arden's son-in-law, John Somerville, was also arrested, tortured on the rack and died in the Tower of London for being supporters of the Catholic Mary, Queen of Scots
  • In 1586 John Shakespeare was removed from the Board of Aldermen
  • By 1590 John Shakespeare's only possession was the house on Henley Street
  • In 1592 he was fined for not attending church
  • By 1592 John's son, William Shakespeare, was mixing with nobles and courtiers
  • In 1594 William Shakespeare would play before Queen Elizabeth. The name of Shakespeare was again accepted
  • John's fortunes rose with those of his son and on October 20, 1596 he was granted permission to display a Coat-of-Arms
  • In 1599 John Shakespeare was reinstated on the Town Council at Stratford-upon-Avon
  • In 1601 Shakespeare's father, John Shakespeare dies
  • 1608 Shakespeare's mother Mary Shakespeare nee Arden dies

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