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after the year 1550, we find him settled as a tradesman in Stratford upon Avon. Concerning the nature of his vocation biographers disagree. The memoranda of Aubrey declare that he was a butcher; according to Rowe, he was a considerable dealer in wool ;” and Malone has adduced a contemporary document, which renders it probable that he followed the profession of a glover.
Stratford,) who was tenant of a house and land belonging to Robert Arden. Collier, p. Ixii., Halliwell, p. 8. The earliest notice of the Shakespeare family at Stratford is of the date April 29, 1552.)
8 : William Shakespeare's father was a butcher, and I have been told heretofore by some of the neighbours, that when he was a boy, he exercised his father's trade; but when he killed a calfe, he would do it in a high style, and make a speech!" M. S. Aubrey, Mus. Ashmol. Oxon.
Rowe tells us, that he received from Betterton, the actor, the chief part of the materials for our poet's Life; "his veneration for the memory of Shakespeare having engaged him to make a journey into Warwickshire, on purpose to gather up what remains he could of a name for which he had so great a veneration."
Malone, at one time, thought the assertions of Aubrey and Rowe by no means inconsistent: “Dr. Farmer," says he, “has illustrated a passage in Hamlet from information derived from a person who was at once a woolman and butcher, and, I believe, few occupations can be named which are more naturally connected with each other.” Shak., by Reed, iii. 214. ed. 1813. But he afterwards discovered the following entry in a very old manuscript, containing an account of the proceedings in the bailiff's court, which he considered deci. sive as to the occupation of our poet's father:
[Stretford, ss. Cur. Philippi et Mariæ, Dei gratia regis et
That he was a person of estimable character, may be concluded, as well from his having attained the highest municipal dignities of the town,4 as from his having formed a matrimonial connection with a woman whose rank in life was much superior to his own. About 1557, he married Mary, the youngest daughter of Robert Arden, of Wilmecote, her portion being a small estate in land called Asbies, and the sum of six pounds, thirteen shillings, and fourpence. The family of Arden was of great antiquity in Warwickshire, and several of its members had held situations of honour, both in their native county, and at the court of their sovereign.
reginæ Angliæ, Hispaniarum, &c., secundo et tercio, ibidem tent. die Marcurii, videlicet xvijo die Junii, anno prædicto, [June 17, 1556,] coram Johanne Burbage ballivo, &c. Thomas Siche de Arscotte in com. Wigorn. queritur versus Johannem Shakyspere de Stretford in com. Warwici glover in placito quod reddat ci octo libras, &c.)
4 On April 30, 1556, and September 3), 1558, he was one of the jury of the court leet. On August 12, 1556, he was summoned on a jury in a civil action. In June 1557, he was one of the ale-tasters. On October 6, 1559, and again in May, 1561, he was made an affeeror. Either on Michaelmas day 1557, or early in 1558, he was chosen burgess. In 1558, and the next year, he served as constable. In September, 1561, he was elected one of the chamberlains, and filled the office for the two succeeding years. On July 4, 1565, he was chosen alderman. From Michaelmas, 1568, to Michaelmas, 1569, he served as high-bailiff, and on September 5, 1571, he was elected chief alderman for the ensuing year.
5 From a comparison of the wills of her parents, it appears that she was the youngest of at least four daughters. (She was the youngest of at least seven. Collier, p. Ixiii.]
In 1569,* or 1570, John Shakespeare obtained from the Herald's Office a grant of arms; in 1596, he received another grant; and in 1599, a confirmation of arms, the chief object of which seems to have been, to enable him to impale with his own bearings those of Arden.?
There is reason to believe, that during the earlier part of his career, his circumstances were easy, though far from affluent. At a court leet
6 Rob. Arden de Bromwich, was in the list of Warwick. shire gentry, returned by the commissioners in 1433. In 1562, and 1568, Sim. Arden and Edw. Arden were sheriffs of the county. Sir John Arden, the elder brother of our Robert's grandfather, was squire of the body to Henry the Seventh. Robert Arden, the father of our Robert, was groom or page of the bedchamber to the same king, by whom he was constituted keeper of the royal park called Aldercar, and bailiff of the lordship of Codnore: he also obtained from the crown a valuable lease of the extensive manor of Yoxsall in Staffordshire.
[There is not sufficient authority for this statement. He is called yeoman (not gentleman, or glover,) in 1579 and in 1597. It seems quite probable, that the grant of arms was not really obtained until 1599.]
7 The later applications were doubtless made at the sug gestion of his son, who was then rising into consequence. When in these grants to John Shakespeare, mention is made of his ancestors having been advanced and rewarded by Henry the Seventh, &c., it is certain that the expressions relate not to the ancestors of John Shakespeare, but to those of his wife.—See Malone's Life of Shakespeare, p. 28, et seg. (Shak. by Boswell, ii.)
held in October, 1556, the lease of a house in Greenhill street and that of another in Henley street, were assigned to him. In 1564, his charities place him in the second class of the inhabitants of Stratford. In 1570, he rented a field of about fourteen acres, known by the name of “ Ingon, alias Ington meadow;" and in [1575,] he purchased a small property, consisting of two houses in Henley street, with gardens and orchards annexed to them.
Before 1578, however, his affairs had become greatly embarrassed; in that year he mortgaged for forty pounds the little estate of Asbies, derived from his wife; was required to pay only half the sum for which the other aldermen were assessed; and was altogether excused from contributing his share of a petty weekly tax for the relief of the poor ;-see below, where will be
8 When it was agreed in January, 1578, that every alderman should pay towards the furniture of three pikemen, two billmen, and one archer, vis viiid, John Shakespeare, in consideration of his embarrassments, was required to pay only iiis and ivd ; in November next, when it was ordained that every alderman should contribute iiiid a week for the relief of the poor, it was determined that he should “not be taxed to pay any thing.” From the will of a baker, named Sadler, who died towards the end of 1578, we find that John Shakespeare owed him five pounds, for the payment of which two persons had entered into securities. In an account of money levied on the inhabitants of Stratford in 1579, for the purchase of armour and defensive weapons, his name occurs among the defaulters. What follows is from the register of
found a variety of notices, drawn from the records of the borough of Stratford, &c., which sufficiently indicate the decline of his fortunes. In 1586, in consequence of his having neglected the business of his office, another alderman was appointed in his stead."
In a bill of complaint against John Lambert, which he exhibited in Chancery in 1597, he describes himself as a “man of very small wealth ;
the Bailiff's Court, in 1585–86, (the words being written without contraction.-Jan. 19, 28 Eliz.; Ad hunc diem servientes ad clavam burgi prædicti retornant processum de distringas eis directum versus Johannem Shackspere ad sectam Johannis Browne, quod prædictus Johannes Shackspere nihil habet unde distringi potest. Ideo fiat capias versus eundem Johannem Shackspere ad sectam prædicti Johannis Browne, si petatur.—It may be added that in 1579 John Shakespeare parted with his wife's interest in two tenements in Snitterfield for the small sum of 41.]
In a report to the Privy Council, dated Sept. 25, 1592, a return is made of "such recusants as have been heretofore presented for not coming weekly to the church according to her Majesty's laws." John Shakespeare appears on a list with eight others, of whom “it is said that these last come not to church for fear of process for debt.”
9 "At the hall, holden on the 6th day of September, in the twenty-eighth year of our Sovereign lady, Queen Elizabeth.
“At this hall, William Smith and Richard Courte are chosen to be aldermen, in the places of John Wheler and John Shakspeare, for that Mr. Wheler doth desire to be put out of the company, and Mr. Shakspere doth not come to the halls, when they be warned, nor hath not done of long time.”
10 At the bottom of the grant of arms to John Shakespeare, made in 1596, is a note, “ That he hath lands and tenements