Shakespeare's Brothers and Sisters

Shakespeare's Birthplace
Shakespeare's Birthplace. Photo © Peter Scholey / Getty Images

William Shakespeare came from a large family and had three brothers and four sisters ... although not all of them lived long enough to meet their most famous sibling!

William Shakespeare's brothers and sisters were:

  • Joan Shakespeare
  • Margaret Shakespeare
  • Gilbert Shakespeare
  • Joan Shakespeare
  • Anne Shakespeare
  • Richard Shakespeare
  • Edmund Shakespeare

Much is known of Shakespeare’s mother Mary Arden whose house in Wilmcote near Stratford-upon-Avon remains a tourist attraction and functions as a working farm.

His father John Shakespeare, also came from farming stock and became a Glover. Mary and John lived in Henley Street Stratford upon Avon, John worked from his house. This is where William and his siblings were brought up and this house is also a tourist attraction and it is possible to see exactly how Shakespeare and his family would have lived.

John and Mary had two children before William Shakespeare was born. It is not possible to give the exact dates as birth certificates were not produced in those times. However, due to high mortality rates, it was customary to have the child baptised as soon as three days after the birth so the dates given in this article are based on that assumption.

Sisters: Joan and Margaret Shakespeare

Joan Shakespeare was baptised in September 1558 but sadly died two months later, her sister Margaret was baptised on December 2nd 1562 she died aged one. Both were thought to have caught the prolific and deadly bubonic plague.

Happily William, John and Mary’s first born son was born in 1564. As we know he lived a very successful life until he was 52 and died in April 1616 on his own birthday.

Brother: Gilbert Shakespeare

In 1566 Gilbert Shakespeare was born. It is thought that he was named after Gilbert Bradley who was a burgess of Stratford and was a Glover like John Shakespeare.

It is believed that Gilbert would have attended school with William, being two years younger than him. Gilbert became a haberdasher and followed his brother to London. However, Gilbert often returned to Stratford and was involved in a lawsuit in the town. Gilbert never married and died a bachelor aged 46 in 1612.

Sister: Joan Shakespeare

Joan Shakespeare was born in 1569 (It was customary in Elizabethan England for children to be named after their dead siblings). She married a hatter called William Hart. She had four children but only two survived, they were called William and Michael. William, who was born in 1600, became an actor like his uncle. He never married but it is thought he had an illegitimate child called Charles Hart who became a famous actor of the time. William Shakespeare gave permission for Joan to live in the western  house on Henley street (There were two houses) until her death at the ripe age of 77.

Sister: Anne Shakespeare 

Anne Shakespeare was born in 1571 she was the sixth child of John and Mary but sadly she only survived until she was eight years old. It is thought that she also died of the bubonic plague. She was given and expensive funeral despite the family experiencing financial problems at the time.

She was buried on April 4th 1579.

Brother: Richard Shakespeare

Richard Shakespeare was baptised on March 11th 1574. Little is known about his life but the families fortunes were in decline and as a result it is very likely that Richard did not receive an education like his brothers and he would have stayed home to help with the family business. Richard was buried on February 4th 1613. He died aged 39.

Brother: Edmund Shakespeare

Edmund Shakespeare was baptized in 1581, he was sixteen years William’s junior. By this time the Shakespeare’s fortunes had recovered. Edmund followed in his brother’s footsteps and moved to London to become an actor. He died aged 27 and his death is also attributed to the bubonic plague which had already claimed 3 of his sibling’s lives. William paid for Edmund’s funeral which was held in Southwark London 1607 and was attended by many famous actors from the Globe.

After having eight children Mary, Shakespeare’s mother lived to the grand age of 71 and died in 1608. John Shakespeare, William’s father also lived a long life, dying in 1601 aged 70. Only their daughter Joan lived a longer life than them dying at 77.

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Jamieson, Lee. "Shakespeare's Brothers and Sisters." ThoughtCo, Mar. 1, 2016, thoughtco.com/shakespeares-brothers-and-sisters-3960062. Jamieson, Lee. (2016, March 1). Shakespeare's Brothers and Sisters. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/shakespeares-brothers-and-sisters-3960062 Jamieson, Lee. "Shakespeare's Brothers and Sisters." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/shakespeares-brothers-and-sisters-3960062 (accessed November 23, 2017).