John Shakespeare elected Bailiff of Stratford
Bailiffs of the Borough,
Stratford town hallBy 1568, the Shakespeares' house in Henley Street is beginning to fill up. William is now five and has recently seen the birth of his brother Gilbert, a sister, Joan, and two more brothers, Richard and Edmund (another sister, Anne, will follow in 1571).
As John Shakespeare's family grows so too does his social prestige when in 1568, he is elected bailiff of Stratford - a role comparable to mayor. Now this former peasant farmer would be addressed as Master Shakespeare, and wear the ostentatious robes of his office.
Councilors, Stratford town hallBut John would be leading a double life. While his ermine and red wool robes spoke of outward probity, John would be earning a side income as a moneylender, which was common, but also from the illegal trade in wool as a "brogger." John's illegal activities would for a time enhance the family's income, enabling them to invest in property and also inadvertently enriching the language of their son William, who would use terms and characters gleaned from accompanying his father in his nefarious activities in some of his most successful plays.