1564-92 | 1593-96 | 1597-1600 | 1601-04 | 1605-08 | 1609-12 | 1613-16 | After 1616
References — Three asterisks (***) indicate references I have yet to verify, complete, or check for for consistency.
EKC = E. K. Chambers, William Shakespeare: A Study of the Facts and Problems, 2 volumes (Clarendon Press, Oxford: 1930)
HP = J. O. Halliwell-Phillips, Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare, 7th edition, 2 volumes (Longmans, Green, and Co., London: 1887)
SS = Samuel Schoenbaum, William Shakespeare: A Documentary Life (Oxford University Press, New York:1975)
Wraight = A. D. Wraight, Christopher Marlowe and Edward Alleyn (International Specialized Book Service, Chichester: 1993)
[Forms of the name “William Shakspere” or “William Shakespeare” always appear in bold. Only authorship-related items are numbered. Items in brackets refer the reader to the date the document was actually created. Documents that refer back to earlier documents no longer extant give the earlier date in parentheses. When the date is uncertain but spans a number of years, the item is listed under the earliest date. Dating issues are discussed with each item. In many cases, purely legal Latin texts and mundane business transactions are not quoted in full.]
[1564 April 26 Shakspere’s baptismal record listed under 1600]
1. 1582 Nov 27 Marriage license from Bishop of Worcester’s Register.
Item eodem die similis emanavit licencia inter wm Shaxpere et Annam Whateley de Temple Grafton.
(handwritten in Latin) (EKC II, 41; SS 70, with facs.)
2. 1582 Nov 28 Marriage bond from the Bishop of Worcester’s Register.
Noverint vniversi per presentes nos Fulconem Sandells de Stratford in comitatu Warwicensi agricolam et Johannem Rychardson ibidem agricolam teneri et firmiter obligari Ricardo Cosin generoso et Roberto Warmstry notario publico in quadraginta libris bone et legalis monete Anglie Soluendis eisdem Ricardo et Roberto, heredibus executoribus vel assignatis suis, ad quam quidem solucionem bene et fideliter faciendam obligamus nos et vtrumque nostrum per se pro toto et in solidum, heredes executores et administratores nostros, firmiter per presentes sigillis nostris sigillatas. Datum 28 die novembris Anno Regni Domine nostre Elizabethe Dei gratia Anglie Francie et Hibernie Regine fidei defensoris etc., 25o .
The condicion of this obligacion ys suche that if herafter there shall not appere any Lawfull Lett or impediment by reason of any precontract consanguinitie affinitie or by any other lawfull meanes whatsoeuer but that William Shagspere on thone partie, and Anne Hathwey of Stratford in the Dioces of Worcester maiden may lawfully solennize matrimony together and in the same afterwardes remaine and continew like man and wiffe according vnto the lawes in that behalf prouided, and moreouer if there be not at this present time any action sute quarrell or demaund moved or depending before any iudge ecclesiasticall or temporall for and concerning any such lawfull lett or impediment, And moreouer if the said William Shagspere do not proceed to solennizacion of mariadg with the said Anne Hathwey without the consent of hir frindes, And also if the said William do vpon his owne proper costes and expenses defend & save harmles the right Reverend father in god Lord John bushop of Worcester and his offycers for Licencing them the said William and Anne to be maried togither with once asking of the bannes of matrimony betwene them and for all other causes which may ensue by reason or occasion therof, That then the said obligacion to be voyd and of none effect or els to stand & abide in full force and vertue.
(handwritten) (EKC II, 41-42; SS 63, with facs.
[1583 May 26 Daughter Susanna’s baptismal record listed under 1600]
[1585 Feb 2 Children Hamnet & Judeth’s baptismal records listed under 1600]
3. 1588 Michaelmas Term Bill of complainant in Queen’s Bench case of Shackespere v. Lambert. Johannes Shackspere, Will’s father, is the named litigant regarding a mortagaged property, a loan that was not repaid. Will is named twice as his son.
…et quod dictus Johannes Shackespere et Maria vxor eius, simulcum Willielmo Shackespere filio suo…” and “…idem Johannes Shackespere et Maria vxor eius, simulcum Willielmo Shackespere filio suo…
(handwritten in Latin) (EKC II, 35)
[1591-1594 Spenser’s stanza on Aetion from Colin Clouts come home againe listed under 1595]
4. 1592 Sept 20 (registered) Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit: bought with a Million of Repentance purportedly by Robert Greene, published by Henry Chettle, who was most likely the author. This is from the 1592 edition).
Yes trust them not: for there is an vpstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and beeing an absolute Iohannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey.
5. 1592 Dec 8 (registered) Kind-Harts Dreame by Henry Chettle, which includes a preface that responds to accusations that Chettle wrote Greene’s Groatsworth of Wit.
To the Gentleman Readers
About three moneths since died M. Robert Greene, leauing many papers in sundry Booke sellers hands, among other his Groatsworth of wit, in which a letter written to diuers play-makers, is offensively by one or two of them taken, and because on the dead they cannot be auenged, they wilfully forge in their concietes a liuing Author: and after tossing it two and fro, no remedy, but it must light on me. How I haue all the time of my conuersing in printing hindred the bitter inueying against schollers, it hath been very well knowne, and how in that I dealt I can sufficiently prooue. With neither of them that take offence was I acquainted, and with one of them I care not if I neuer be: The other, whome at that time I did not so much spare, as since I wish I had, for that as I haue moderated the heate of liuing writers, and might haue vsde my owne discretion, (especially in such a case) the Author beeing dead, that I did not, I am as very, as if the originall fault had beene my fault, because my selfe haue scene his demeanor no lesse ciuill than he exclent in the qualitie he professes: Besides, diuers of worship haue reported, his vprightnes of dealing, which argues his honesty, and his facetious grace in writting, that aprooues his Art. For the first, whose learning I reuerence, and at the perusing of Greenes Booke stroke out what then in conscience I thought he in some displeasure writ; or had it beene true, yet to publish it, was intollerable: him I would wish to vse me no worse than I deserue. I had onely in the copy this share, it was il written, as sometime Greenes hand was none of the best, licensd it must be, ere it could bee printed which could neuer be if it might not be read. To be breife I writ it ouer, and as neare as I could, followed the copy, onely in that letter I put something out, but in the whole booke not a worde in, for I protest it was all Greenes, not mine nor Master Nashes, as some unjustly haue affirmed.
Direct Shakspere documents (3). Interpretive (2).
Shakspere’s name appears in only three documents from 1564 to 1592, his first 28 years. (There are copies, created in 1600, of baptism documents from this time period. They are discussed in the appropriate place in the chronology.) The scarcity of direct evidence regarding Shakspere’s youth is rarely acknowledged in orthodox biographies. In fact, with books such as Fraser’s Young Shakespeare and Rolfe’s Shakespeare The Boy, the trusting student would believe that Shakspere’s first 28 years were well-documented.
But a close examination of these youthful biographies reveals that they focus primarily on the town and people of Stratford, and on suppositions on his possible education and experience as gleaned from the plays themselves. The documentary evidence is mundane. The Greene and Chettle evidence is definitely argumentative and open to interpretation.
The lack of evidence up to this point does not necessarily work against Shakspere being the poet-playwright Shakespeare. But it does reveal the extent to which orthodox biographers will manufacture and fantasize a youth without any solid documentary support.
Admittedly, documents from the Elizabethan era are scarce. Many literary figures have few or no surviving documents. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that when orthodox biographers say that the life of the literary Shakespeare is well-documented, what they mean is that there are many mundane business or legal documents that have no bearing on the authorship question. When the documents are sorted with the authorship in mind, only a handful actually have relevance.
Up to this point, both the Greene and Chettle documents have definite relevance.
The only certain documentary biography up to this point in the chronology:
William Shakspere lived in Stratford, his father’s name was John, and he was married to Anne Hathway.
How the Name Appears To Date
Shakspere (Stratford) Shakespeare (Author) Shakespeare (Actor) 1582 1. Shaxpere
1588 3. Shackespere
1564-92 | 1593-96 | 1597-1600 | 1601-04 | 1605-08 | 1609-12 | 1613-16 | After 1616
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