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1564

The Bard is born

a baptism at Holy Trinity Church
The baptism of a child that
may or may not be similar in
appearance to one
William Shakespeare
Somewhere around April 23rd, in Stratford-upon-Avon, John Shakespeare and his wife Mary take delivery of a son. John has an heir at last, and William must be a great comfort to them both after the death of their first two daughters, Joan and Margaret.

Both of John and Mary's daughters had been baptised according to the Catholic faith. William is christened on the 26th in Stratford parish church by John Brethchgirdle, a known Catholic sympathizer, though at this time it would be hard to find a man of the cloth in Warwickshire who wasn't. The baptism will have been conducted according to the law within five days of the birth.

William's birth comes at a prosperous time for the Shakespeares. At a time when many cautiously walk the middle ground between the Catholic faith of their past and the new Protestant faith being imposed upon them by Elizabeth I, John Shakespeare has done well for himself.

Henley Street Stratford-upon-Avon
Reconstruction of the
Shakespeare home
Since moving from the land to the city, John has become a glove maker of some skill and success. He has embraced public office and become a respected member of his community as an Alderman, constable and ale taster. As a treasurer he will be responsible for the town accounts, and as befits his station, owns a good house on Henley Street in Stratford.

And so William is born into an aspirational, middle class family, comparatively well off and respectable. It is virtually certain that the Shakespeares have simply put aside any outward show of their true religious affiliation. Both are from Catholic backgrounds, like very many of their friends and neighbors, and it is unlikely that they will have greeted the new Protestant faith being forced upon them with any enthusiasm. This may have brought them – again like many of their neighbors – to the attention of the local informers, and spies employed by the State. But neither are they counter revolutionaries. Like many people in the grip of a Police State, they see keeping a low profile as their best defense.

Evidence

William Shakespeare baptismal registerBaptismal register, Stratford parish church

The first documentary evidence of the existence of William Shakespeare

Players

portrait not availableJohn Shakespeare

Elizabeth IElizabeth I

Locations

Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-AvonStratford upon Avon, Warwickshire

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