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Robert Arden, it will easily and naturally explain the manner in which John Shakespeare became introduced to the family of the Ardens, inasmuch as Richard Shakespeare, the father of John, and the grandfather of William Shakespeare, was one of the tenants of Robert Arden.
Malone, not having before him the information we now possess, was of opinion that Robert Arden, who married Agnes Webbe, and died in 1556, had only four daughters, but the fact undoubtedly is that he had at least seven. On the 7th and 17th July, 1550, he executed two deeds, by which he made over to Adam Palmer and Hugh Porter, in trust for some of his daughters, certain lands and tenements in Snitterfield'. In these deeds he mentions six daughters by name, four of them married and two single;—viz. Agnes Stringer (who had been twice married, first to John Hewyns), Joan Lambert, Katherine Etkins, Margaret Webbe, Jocose Arden, and Alicia Arden. Mary, his youngest daughter, was not included, and it is possible that he had either made some other provision for her, or that, by a separate and subsequent deed of trust, he gave to her an equivalent in Snitterfield for what he had made over to her sisters. It is quite certain, as will be seen hereafter, that Mary Arden brought property in Snitterfield, as part of her fortune, to her husband John Shakespeare.
Although the Ardens were an ancient and considerable family in Warwickshire, which derived its name from the forest of Arden, or Ardern, in or near which they had possessions, Robert Arden, in the two deeds above referred to, which were of course prepared at his instance, is only called “husbandman :"_" Robertus Ardern de Wilmecote, in parochia de Aston Cantlowe, in comitatu Warwici, husbandman.” Nevertheless, it is evident from his will (dated 24th November, and proved on the 17th December, 1556) that he was a man of good landed estate. He mentions his wife's “jointure in Snitterfield,” payable, no doubt, out of some other property than that which, a few years before, he had conveyed to trustees for the benefit of six of his daughters ; and his freehold and copyhold estates in the parish of Aston Cantlowe could not have been inconsiderable. Sir John Arden, the brother of his grandfather, had been esquire of the body to Henry VII., and his nephew had been page of the bedchamber to the same monarch, who had bountifully rewarded their services and fidelity. Sir John Arden died in 1526, and it was his nephew, Robert Arden, who purchased of Rushby and his wife the estate in Snitterfield in 1520. He was the father of the Robert Arden who died in 1556, and to whose seventh daughter, Mary, John Shakespeare was married.
christened one of his children (born in 1573) Richard. Malone found that a Richard Shakespeare was living at Rowington in 1574.
? They are thus described : “ Totum illud messuagium meum, et tres quartronas terræ, cum pratis eisdem pertinentibus, cum suis pertinentiis, in Snytterfylde, quæ nunc sunt in tenura cujusdam Ricardi Henley, ac totum illud cottagium meum, cum gardino et pomario adjacentibus, cum suis pertinentiis, in Snytterfyld, quæ nunc sunt in tenura Hugonis Porter.” Adam Palmer, the other trustee, does not seem to have occupied any part of the property.
No registration of that marriage has been discovered, but we need hardly hesitate in deciding that the ceremony took place in 1557. Mary Arden and her sister Alicia were certainly unmarried, when they were appointed “ executores” under their father's will, dated 24th Nov. 1556, and the probability seems to be that they were on that account chosen for the office, in preference to their five married sisters. Joan, the first child of John Shakespeare and his wife Mary, was baptized in the church of Stratford-upon-Avon on the 15th Sept. 1558 °, so that we may not unreasonably fix their union towards the close of 1557, about a year after the death of Robert Arden.
What were the circumstances of John Shakespeare at the time of his marriage we can only conjecture. It has been shown that two years before that event a claim of 81. was made upon him in the borough court of Stratford, and we must conclude, either that the money was not due and the demand unjust, or that he was unable to pay the debt, and was therefore proceeded against. The issue of the suit is not known; but in the next year he seems to have been established in business as a glover, a branch of trade much carried on in that part of the kingdom; and, as already mentioned, he certainly served upon the jury of a court-leet in 1556. Therefore, we are, perhaps, justified in thinking that his affairs were sufficiently prosperous to warrant his union with the youngest of seven co-heiresses, who brought him some independent property.
3 The register of this event is in the following form, under the head “Baptismes, Anno. Dom. 1558.”
“ Septēber 15. Jone Shakspere daughter to John Shakspere.” The child may have been named after her aunt, Joan, married to Edward Lambert of Barton on the Heath ; but we are also to bear in mind that the wife of the Richard Shakespeare of Rowington, who died in 1591, was also named Joan.
Under her father's will she inherited 61. 138. 4d. in money, and a small estate in fee, in the parish of Aston Cantlowe, called Asbyes, consisting of a messuage, fifty acres of arable land, six acres of meadow and pasture, and a right of common for all kinds of cattle + Malone knew nothing of Mary Arden's property in Snitterfield, to which we have already referred, and, without it, he estimated that her fortune was equal to 1101. 13s. 4d., which seems to us rather an under calculation of its actual value . He also speculated, that at the time of their marriage John Shakespeare was twentyseven years old, and Mary Arden eighteen, but the truth is that we have not a particle of direct evidence upon the point. Had she been so young, it seems very unlikely that her father would have appointed her one of his executors in the preceding year, and we are inclined to think that she must have been of full age in Nov. 1556.
It was probably in contemplation of his marriage that, on 2nd October, 1556, John Shakespeare became the owner of two copyhold houses in Stratford, the one in Greenhill-street, and the other in Henley-street, which were alienated to him by George Turnor and Edward West, respectively : the house in Greenhill-street had a garden and croft attached to it, and the house in Henley-street only a garden ; and for the first he was to pay to the lord of the manor an annual rent of thirteen pence, and for the last an annual rent of sixpence?. In 1557 he was again sworn as a juryman upon
the courtleet, and in the spring of the following year he was amerced in the sum of fourpence for not keeping clean the gutter in front of his dwelling; Francis Burbadge, the then bailiff, Adrian Quiney, “Mr. Hall, and Mr. Clopton” (so these two names stand in the instrument) were each of them at the same time fined a similar sum for the same neglect ®.
4 Malone's Shakspeare, by Boswell, Vol. ii. p. 25.
5 The terms of Robert Arden's bequest to his daughter Mary are these :-"Also I geve and bequeth to my youngste daughter, Marye, all my lande in Willmecote, called Asbyes, and the crop upon the ground, sowne and tyllede as hit is : and vjli. xiijs. iiijd. of money, to be payde over ere my goodes be devydede.” Hence we are not to understand that he had no more land in Wilmecote than Asbyes, but that he gave his daughter Mary all his land in Wilmecote, which was known by the name of Asbyes.
6 Malone's Shakspeare, by Boswell, Vol. ii. p. 39.
7 We copy the following descriptions from the original borough-record, only avoiding the abbreviations, which render it less intelligible :
Item, quod Georgius Turnor alienavit Johanni Shakespere, &c. unum tenementum, cum gardin et croft, cum pertinentibus, in Grenehyll strete, &c.
Et quod Edwardus West alienavit predicto Johanni Shakespere unum tene. mentum, cum gardin adjacente, in Henley strete.
It is a point of little importance, but it is highly probable that John Shakespeare was first admitted a member of the corporation of Stratford in 1557, when he was made one of the aletasters of the town; and in Sept. 1558, he was appointed one of the four constables, his name following those of Humphrey Plymley, Roger Sadler, and John Taylor'. He continued constable in 1559, his associates then being John Taylor, William Tyler, and William Smith, and he was besides one of four persons, called affeerors, whose duty it was to impose fines upon their fellow-townsmen (such as he had himself paid in 1558) for offences against the by-laws of the borough.
Death of John Shakespeare's eldest child, Joan. Two John Shakespeares in
Stratford. Amercements of members of the corporation. Birth and death of John Shakespeare's second child, Margaret. Birth of William Shakespeare : his birth-day, and the house in which he was born. The plague in Stratford. Contributions to the sick and poor by John Shakespeare and others. John Shakespeare elected alderman, and subsequently bailiff. Gilbert Shakespeare born. Another daughter, baptized Joan, born. Proofs that John Shakespeare could not write.
It was while John Shakespeare executed the duties of constable in 1558, that his eldest child, Joan, was born, having been baptized, as already stated, on the 15th September, of that year: she died in her infancy, and as her burial does not appear in the register of Stratford, she was, perhaps, interred at Snitterfield, where Richard Shakespeare,
8 The original memorandum runs thus:-
“ Francis Berbage, Master Baly that now ys, Adreane Quyny, Mr. Hall, Mr. Clopton, for the gutter alonge the Chappell in Chappell Lane, John Shakspeyr, for not kepynge of their gutters cleane, they stand amerced.”
The sum which they were so amerced, 4d., is placed above the names of each of the parties.
9 The following are the terms used :
"Item, ther trysty and welbelovyd Humfrey Plymley, Roger Sadler, John Taylor, and John Shakspeyr, constabulles."
probably the father of John Shakespeare, then resided', as tenant to Agnes Arden, widow of Robert Arden, and mother of Mary Shakespeare. In respect to the registers of marriages, baptisms, and deaths at Stratford, some confusion has been produced by the indisputable fact, that two persons of the name of John Shakespeare were living in the town at the same time, and it is not always easy to distinguish between the entries which relate to the one, or to the other : for instance, it was formerly thought that John Shakespeare, the father of the poet, had lost his first wife, Mary Arden, and had taken a second, in consequence of a memorandum in the register, showing that on the 25th Nov. 1584, John Shakespeare had married Margery Roberts : Malone, however, took great pains to prove, and may be said to have succeeded in establishing, that this entry and others, of the births of Philip, Ursula, and Humphrey Shakespeare, relate to John Shakespeare, a shoemaker’, and not to John Shakespeare the glover.
John Shakespeare was again chosen one of the four affeerors of Stratford in 1561, and the Shakespeare Society is in possession of the original presentation made by these officers on the 4th of May in that year, the name of the father of our great dramatist coming last, after those of Henry Bydyll, Lewis ap William, and William Mynske. The most remarkable circumstance connected with it is the number of persons who were amerced in sums varying from 6s. 8d. to 2d.
1 This fact appears from a lease, before noticed, granted on 21st May, 1560, by Mary Arden to Alexander Webbe, of two messuages, with a cottage, one of which is stated then to be in the occupation of Richard Shakespeare. We quote the terms of the original deed, formerly placed at the disposal of the Shakespeare Society by Mr. Thomas Rodd, and subsequently returned to him :-"Wytnesseth, that the said Agnes Arderne, for dyverse and sundry consyderations, hath demysed, graunted, &c. to the said Alexander Webbe, and to his assignes, all those her two messuages, with a cottage, with all and singular their appurtenances in Snytter. feild, and a yarde and a halfe of ayrable lande thereunto belonging, &c., being in the towne and fyldes of Snytterfeild afforsaid : all which now are in the occupation of Richarde Sbakspere, John Henley, and John Hargreve.” Of course this property formed part of the jointure of Agnes Arden, mentioned in the will of her husband.
2. John Shakespeare, the shoemaker, seems not to have belonged to the corporation, at all events, till many years afterwards, so that the confusion to which we have referred does not extend itself to any of the records of that body. After John Shakespeare, the father of our poet, had been bailiff, he is always called Mr. or Magister John Shakespeare; while the shoemaker, who married Margery Roberts, and was the father of Philip, Ursula, and Humphrey, is invariably styled only John Shakespeare. There is no trace of any relationship between the two.