William Shakespeare's Family

Who made up Shakespeare's family?

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We know that William Shakespeare was born in 1564, but what else? Who was Shakespeare’s family? Did he have children? Are there direct descendants around today? Here's what we know about Shakespeare's family history.

Shakespeare’s Parents

  • Father: John Shakespeare
  • Mother: Mary Arden

There is no exact record of when John and Mary married, but it is estimated to have been in about 1557. It is widely recognized that John was a glove maker and "whittawer" (leather worker) in Stratford-upon-Avon, England.

John was very active in Stratford-upon-Avon’s civic duties, and in 1568 he became mayor of the town (or High Bailiff, as he would have been called then).

Shakespeare’s Siblings

  • Sister: Joan Shakespeare (born in 1558)
  • Sister: Margaret Shakespeare (born in 1562)
  • Brother: Gilbert Shakespeare (born in 1566)
  • Sister: Joan Shakespeare (born in 1569)
  • Sister: Anne Shakespeare (born in 1571)
  • Brother: Richard Shakespeare (born in 1574)
  • Brother: Edmund Shakespeare (born in 1580)

John and Mary had a total of eight children, but infant mortality was common in Elizabethan England, and the first two children passed away within a year of being born. William, therefore, was the eldest of those who survived infancy. The other siblings all lived until they were adults, with the exception of Anne who died at the age of 8.

Shakespeare’s Wife

  • Wife: Anne Hathaway

When he was just 18 years old, William married 26-year-old Anne Hathaway. Anne was the daughter of a farming family in the nearby village of Shottery. She became pregnant with their first child out of wedlock and the couple applied to the Bishop's Court in Worcester to speed up their marriage proceedings, possibly to avoid scandal. There is no surviving wedding certificate.

Shakespeare’s Children

  • Daughter: Susanna Shakespeare (born in 1583)
  • Daughter: Judith Shakespeare (twin, born in 1585)
  • Son: Hamnet Shakespeare (twin, born in 1585)

The child conceived out of wedlock to William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway was a daughter named Susanna. A few years later, the couple had twins, Judith and Hamnet. Sadly, in the summer of 1596, Hamnet died at age 11. It is thought that William's grief over his only son's early death can be read in his characterization of Hamlet in the play written not long after.

As for the other children, Susanna married a man named John Hall in 1607, and Judith married Thoman Quiney in 1616.

Shakespeare's Grandchildren

  • Granddaughter: Elizabeth Hall (born in 1608)
  • Grandson: Shakespeare Quiney (born in 1616)
  • Grandson: Richard Quiney (born in 1617)
  • Grandson: Thomas Quiney (born in 1619)

William had only one grandchild from his eldest daughter Susanna. Elizabeth Hall married Thomas Nash in 1626 and, after his death, she remarried John Barnard in 1649. From William’s youngest daughter Judith there were three grandsons. The eldest was named Shakespeare because the family name had been lost when Judith married, but he died in infancy.

Shakespeare’s Grandparents

  • Grandfather (paternal): Richard Shakespeare
  • Grandmother (maternal): Abigail (Webb) Shakespeare
  • Grandfather (maternal): Robert Arden

Above William’s parents in the family tree, information becomes a little sparse, especially for some of the women. We know that the Shakespeares were farmers—there is even a story of William's grandfather getting in trouble for grazing too many cattle on common land. The Ardens, meanwhile, were a wealthy, noble family that owned some of the land Richard would have worked on.

Shakespeare’s Living Descendants

Wouldn’t it be great to discover that you are a descendant of the Bard? Technically, it is possible.

The direct bloodline ends with William’s grandchildren who either did not marry or did not have children to continue the line. You have to look further up the family tree to William’s sister Joan, who married William Hart and had four children. This line continued and there are many of Joan’s descendants alive today.

Could you be related to William Shakespeare?