Mary Shakespeare

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Mary Shakespeare
Shakespeare's Country Home of Mary Arden Wilmcote. (NBY 440610).jpg
Postcard depicting the Arden cottage, Mary and young William
Mary Arden

c. 1536–1538[1]
Wilmcote, England
DiedSeptember 1608 (1609) (aged c. 70)
Burial placeChurch of the Holy Trinity, Stratford-upon-Avon
SpouseJohn Shakespeare (m. 1557–1601; his death)
Children8, including William, Gilbert, Joan and Edmund
  • Robert Arden (father)
Arden Coat of Arms

Mary Shakespeare (née Arden; c. 1537 — September 1608)[a] was the mother of William Shakespeare.


Mary was born about 1536 in Wilmcote, the daughter of Robert Arden, a gentleman farmer and junior descendant of the Arden family,[4][5] who were prominent in Warwickshire. She was the youngest of eight daughters, and when her father died in 1556 she inherited land at Snitterfield and Wilmcote from him as a dowry. The house was left to her stepmother Agnes Hill. Richard Shakespeare, the father of John Shakespeare, was a tenant farmer on land owned by her father in Snitterfield. As the daughter of Richard's landlord, she may have known John since childhood.[6] Mary married John Shakespeare in 1557, when she was 20 years old.[6] She bore eight children: Joan (1558), Margaret (1562–1563), William (1564–1616), Gilbert (1566–1612), Joan (1569–1646), Anne (1571–1579), Richard (1574–1613), and Edmund (1580–1607).[7] Though Mary gave birth to many children, several of them died young. Their first daughter, Joan, born 1558 died; the name being used again for their third daughter. Their second daughter, Margaret, also died in infancy.[6] Some members of the wider Arden family were of the Catholic faith.[6] John died in 1601 and Mary died in September 1608.[3]

Mary was born into a family of status and her ancestors were well connected in society, including Thomas Arden, who fought in the Second Barons' War (1264–67) on the side of Simon de Montfort; Robert Arden who fought in the Wars of the Roses, and John Arden who served on the court of Henry VII.[6]

Palmer's Farm (rear)

Mary Arden's House in Wilmcote was maintained in good condition as a working farmhouse, until it was bought by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1930 and refurnished in the Tudor period style.[8] In 2000 it was discovered that the building preserved as Mary Arden's house had belonged to a friend and neighbour, Adam Palmer, and the house was accordingly renamed Palmer's Farm. The house that had belonged to the Arden family – which was near to Palmer's Farm – had been acquired by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1968 for preservation as part of a farmyard, without knowing its true provenance.[9] The house and farm are open as a historic museum displaying 16th-century life.


  1. ^ English personal names were not spelled consistently in the Tudor period; Mary's name is recorded variously as Marye Shackspere, Mayry Shaxspere.[2][3]


  1. ^ "Mary Arden". Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
  2. ^ "Conveyance by John and Mary Shakespeare to Robert Webbe, for £4, of their share in two messuages in Snitterfield". Shakespeare Documented.
  3. ^ a b "Parish register entry recording Mary Arden Shakespeare's burial". Shakespeare Documented.
  4. ^ Burke's Landed Gentry, 18th ed., vol. 2, 1969, ed. Peter Townend, 'Arden formerly of Longcroft' pedigree
  5. ^ Shakespeare, Anthony Burgess, Vintage Books, chapter 1, 'Home'
  6. ^ a b c d e Wood, Michael. Shakespeare. New York: Basic, 2003. Print.
  7. ^ A Shakespeare Genealogy Archived March 29, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Mary Arden's House (the mother of William Shakespeare)". Online Shakespeare.
  9. ^ The Shakespeare Houses – The Official Guide, Revised 2008, ISBN 978-0-7117-2949-0