Where Was Writer William Shakespeare Born?

The bard's birthplace remains an attraction today

Shakespeare's Birthplace
Shakespeare's Birthplace. Getty Images

It's no secret that William Shakespeare was from England, but many of his fans would be hard pressed to name exactly where in the country the writer was born. With this overview, discover where and when the bard was born, and why his birthplace remains a tourist attraction today.

Where Was Shakespeare Born?

Shakespeare was born in 1564 into a prosperous family in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, England. The town is about 100 miles northwest of London. Although there is no record of his birth, it is presumed that he was born on April 23 because he was entered into the baptism register of Holy Trinity Church shortly after. Shakespeare's father, John, owned a large family house in the town center that is thought to be the bard's birthplace. The public can still visit the very room in which it is believed Shakespeare was born.

The house sits on Henley Street - the main road that runs through the middle of this small market town. It is well preserved and is open to the public via the visitor center. Inside, you can see how small the living space was for the young Shakespeare and how the family would have lived, cooked and slept.

One room would have been John Shakespeare's workroom, where he would have tailored gloves to sell. Shakespeare was expected to take over his father's business one day himself. 

Shakespeare Pilgrimage

For centuries, Shakespeare’s birthplace has been a place of pilgrimage for the literary-minded. The tradition started in 1769 when David Garrick, a famous Shakespearean actor, organized the first Shakespeare festival in Stratford-upon-Avon. Since then, the house has been visited by scores of famous writers including:

They used diamond rings to scratch their names into the glass window of the birth room. The window has since been replaced, but the original glass panes are still on display.

Thousands of people every year continue to follow this tradition and visit Shakespeare’s birthplace, so the house remains one of Stratford-upon-Avon’s busiest attractions.

Indeed, the house marks the starting point of the annual parade walked by local officials, celebrities, and community groups each year as part of the Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations. This symbolic walk starts in Henley Street and ends at Holy Trinity Church, his burial place. There is no specific recorded date of his death, but the date of the burial indicates he died April 23. Yes, Shakespeare was born and died on the same day of the year!

Participants of the parade pin a sprig of the herb rosemary to their outfits to commemorate his life. This is a reference to Ophelia's line in Hamlet: "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance."

Preserving the Birthplace as a National Memorial

When the birthplace’s last private occupant died, money was raised by committee to buy the house at auction and preserve it as a national memorial. The campaign gained momentum when a rumor spread that P. T. Barnum, the American circus owner wanted to buy the house and ship it to New York!

The money was raised successfully and the house is in the hands of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. The trust subsequently bought other Shakespeare-related properties in and around Stratford-upon-Avon, including his mother's farm house, his daughter's town house and his wife's family home in nearby Shottery. They also own the land where Shakespeare's final home in the town once stood.

Today, the Shakespeare Birthplace House has been preserved and converted into a museum as part of a larger visitor center complex. It is open to the public all year.

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Jamieson, Lee. "Where Was Writer William Shakespeare Born?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/where-was-shakespeare-born-2985100. Jamieson, Lee. (2020, August 26). Where Was Writer William Shakespeare Born? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/where-was-shakespeare-born-2985100 Jamieson, Lee. "Where Was Writer William Shakespeare Born?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/where-was-shakespeare-born-2985100 (accessed June 6, 2023).