-- Three asterisks (***) indicate references I have yet to verify, complete,
or check for consistency.
= E. K. Chambers, William Shakespeare: A Study of the Facts and Problems,
2 volumes (Clarendon Press, Oxford: 1930)
[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.]
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)
[1564 April 26 Shakspere's baptismal record listed under
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.,
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
[1585 Feb 2 Children Hamnet & Judeth's baptismal
records listed under 1600]
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 "
Johannes Shackespere et Maria vxor eius, simulcum Willielmo Shackespere
(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.
Extended Excerpt and Commentary
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
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
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.