Solved: John Shakespeare’s “reversal of fortune” (2006)

The meeting of the Stratford Corporation, 23 January 1577, marks the beginning of John Shakespeare’s withdrawal from public life. His dramatic rise from Snitterfield farm boy to Stratford-on-Avon bailiff is well known and documented. It is also well known that he suffered some sort of embarrassment which caused him to suddenly drop out of public life in which he had been intimately engaged for twenty-three years. It was likely his turn for another bailiwick. John Shakespeare was one of the most respected men in the town. Even after his seclusion he was called upon for advice at crucial times. Most scholars believe that his withdrawal was precipitated by a financial misfortune. No one has been able to determine the cause. The mystery is now solved.

The idea that John Shakespeare was a wool-dealer dates back to Nicholas Rowe (1674-1718), the dramatist’s first biographer. In his Life in Works of Shakespeare (1709), Rowe reported a tradition passed to him by the Restoration actor Thomas Betterton that John was “a considerable dealer in wool.” In 1818, long after John’s Henley St. house had been converted to an inn, the inn’s landlord assured another Shakespearean fact-finder, Sir Richard Phillips, that “when he relaid the floors of the parlour the remains of wool and the refuse of wool-combing were found under the old flooring imbedded with the earth of the foundation.” This additional information evidently impressed Halliwell-Phillipps, for he designated the eastern house in Henley Street the “Woolshop,” an identity it has had ever since.

But it was not until 1949 that the first documentary evidence of John Shakespeare’s wool-dealing appeared. Leslie Hotson published a lawsuit he discovered in the Court of Common Pleas in which John sued a Marlborough clothier, John Walford, for £21 for 21 tods of wool.[1] In 1984 that suit was supplemented by David Thomas and Norman Evans of the Public Record Office,[2] London, who brought additional litigation to light. In these cases John Shakespeare was revealed to be a wool-dealer on a very large scale, as well as a usurer.[3]

In the usury cases, Hilary term 1570, John was accused of lending John Musshem (or Mussum) £80 and £100, both loans at £20 interest, between October 26 1568 and 21 October 1569. Though much in use loans at interest were illegal at the time. Musshem “was probably a sheep farmer who died in 1588….possessed of a personal estate worth £114 8s 4d, including 117 sheep, at his death.”[4] Payment on the first loan was due 30 November 1568, the second on 1 November 1569. Musshem certainly repaid the loans for he and John Shakespeare were business partners. Together they were sued for £30 each by Henry Higford, the former Stratford steward, in 1573. Named also in that suit was John Wheeler, John Shakespeare’s longtime associate, who was held liable for eighty shillings.[5]

It is interesting in this case that John Shakespeare is described as a whittawyer, a man whose trade it was to whiten skins. Prior to this, John Shakespeare was known as a glover. But glovers were in the same gild with the whittawyers, and collar-makers, so it may be that an individual’s trade description, if you belonged to this particular gild,[6] was somewhat arbitrary.

On the other hand, John undoubtedly dabbled in selling skins, and it is possible that it was in this capacity that Higford sued him, thus the designation whittawyer.  Higford was raising sheep at his farm in Solihul, 16 miles north of Stratford, and advanced skins to Shakespeare, Musshem, and Wheeler who did not pay up in a timely manner. Wheeler, described as a yeoman like Musshem, also raised sheep. Fripp refers to his shepherd, Thomas Alee.[7]

In regard to the usury cases, it is a little difficult to understand Musshem’s need for such large loans. It may be that Musshem used the money to buy wool from a number of small farmers like himself. John Shakespeare then bought the whole lot for resale to clothiers such as John Walford. If John was selling at £1 per tod,[8] as in the Walford transaction, he paid Musshem 14 shillings per tod, the wholesale price. After all, John was going to make a profit for himself. He also made £20 on the loan. A profit on both ends of the deal! A shrewd customer that John Shakespeare. All of this gives rise to the idea that the usury and wool-dealing cases are related.

Although Musshem could gather a considerable supply of wool, he lacked John’s manufacturing connections. This was a partnership made in heaven. How did John get these connections? He got them through the glove trade. Some glovers dealt with sheepskins often selling them to other glovers and whittawyers. Inevitably, customers would ask about wool. A business starts then a reputation develops. There were numerous Walfords[9] living at Stratford and one or more may have been related to the Marlborough Walford, hence that particular connection.

In the first of the 1572 wool dealing cases, John was charged with the illegal purchase of 200 tods. In this instance he had a different partner, John Lockeley. Lockeley is unknown to fame, but there was a Stratford glover named John Locke.[10] Given the loose nomenclature and spelling of the time (Marlowe is also Marley and Marlin—regional dialects likely being the cause), these men may be one and the same. It is reasonable to suppose, moreover, that John Shakespeare would partner with a fellow gild member, someone he knew and trusted. In the second case, John purchased 100 tods on his own. So in the first case, John and Lockeley each invested upwards of £100.

If John was capable of investing that kind of money, a great sum for the time, the question becomes how could a glover with a wife and five children come by such an amount of discretionary capital? To answer that question it is necessary to revisit some of the facts and conjectures of John’s early career.

Master glover Thomas Dixon, with whom John likely apprenticed, owned the Swan Inn, what today would be designated a four-star hotel. The likes of Sir Thomas Lucy, Fulke Greville, and the Earl of Warwick lodged there when they had business in Stratford. The high-rolling clientele, together with the inn’s contents (enumerated in an inventory[11]), suggest that Dixon was quite well to do. He had also been a Stratford alderman and bailiff. When he died his son took over the inn’s management.

According to Fripp, Dixon gave up the glover’s trade to give full attention to his inn. (If you were a very successful hotelier would you be making gloves in your spare time?) No other Dixon family member is known to have continued in the glove trade. It is possible Dixon turned over his business, in a tremendous stroke of good fortune, to John Shakespeare. Dixon recognized that his apprentice was special—that he had the ability and ambition to make something of himself.

Taking over Dixon’s business would explain John Shakespeare’s early wealth, a condition that no one has previously accounted for. Glove-making was as competitive as every other business. There were eight other glovers in town. John did not have a monopoly on the trade. Yet, in 1557, after a scant five years in business, he began his climb up the ladder of local politics, and purchased copyholds in Henley and Greenhill Streets. Many local tradesmen rented their entire lives.[12]

Indeed, John seems to have led a charmed life, even in years of adversity. His family escaped a virulent outbreak of the plague in 1564, the year of his famous son’s birth. His house was spared in the disastrous fires of 1594 and 1595, one consuming nearly the whole of Henley Street. Life was good to John Shakespeare. His father left £38 and movable property in 1560. We do not know what portion of the estate, if any, went to John’s brother Henry.

The lawsuits of 1571 make it clear that John had an investment bankroll of at least £100, perhaps £150, for he was also making loans to various townsmen as the Court of Record registers show. In 1575 he bought two more houses in Stratford for £40. Making gloves did not make him this prosperous. Surely, John came by the bulk of his wealth in the wool trade, making large transactions and raking in significant profits.

Such transactions in wool can only mean one thing: John Shakespeare’s true occupation was that of brogger. “Brogger” was the trade name for a broker in wool, a middleman who bought wool for resale. The conjectural Musshem and Walford deals are perfect examples of how the business worked. It was common for a man in a small town to practice more than one trade. The Welshman Lewis ap Williams, an alderman and former Stratford bailiff, was an ironmonger, fishmonger, and victualler. Presumably, John initially sold wool as a sideline. He could do this because he grew up on a farm in Snitterfield, and knew farmers such as John Townsend and John Musshem who knew everyone raising sheep in the area.

At some point brogging became John’s sole occupation. Halliwell-Phillipps was convinced John had given up glove making in order to focus on other activities between 1565 and 1579. As evidence, he notes that in 1579 John is described in a deed as a “yeoman,” not a glover, and now signs his name with a cross instead of the glover’s compass.[13]

In his introduction to English Miracle Plays, Moralities and Interludes (1890), A. W. Pollard subjoins a translation of Ordo Paginarum, that is, the order of the pageant wagons employed in the York cycle of 1415. The list begins with “1. Tanners,” who provided the scene of “God the Father Almighty creating and forming the heavens, angels and archangels, Lucifer and the angels that fell with him to hell.” Next came “2. Plasterers,” etc., “3. Cardmakers,” etc., until we come to “40. Broggours and Woolpackers,” who together presented “Jesus, Luke and Cleophas in the guise of pilgrims.”[14] Altogether there were 48 wagons in this pageant, the Rose Parade of Renaissance York.[15] It is obvious that brogging was a centuries old and respected occupation.

The problem for John Shakespeare and other middlemen like him was that while brogging may have been a respected occupation, it was not legal. It was tolerated by the Crown, but only to the extent that it did not interfere with the economy of the country. Broggers did not learn the trade through an apprenticeship. There was no brogging gild. Broggers made their living on the edge and the reason is clear.

Wool was the staple of England. That being the case, the Crown kept a watchful eye on the trade since wool exports meant tax revenue. By 1500 England was in transition from a wool- to cloth-exporting nation. At the time of John Shakespeare’s birth (around 1530), it is estimated that half the population of England was directly or indirectly dependent on trade with the Netherlands. Spinning and weaving were taking place everywhere.[16] In addition to the large manufacturers in the cities, cloth production was a national cottage industry. Stratford was no exception. Five looms are noted in the inventory of Henry Field’s goods,[17] eight in that of Alexander Webbe.[18]

It is no wonder that Stratford Bailiff William Parsons and burgesses petitioned Lord Burghley for relief as late as 1590. “The said town is now fallen into much decay for want of such trade as heretofore they had by clothing and making yarn…”[19] It has often been stated that malt making was Stratford’s chief industry. But while much malt making was undoubtedly taking place, that cannot be true. Bailiff Parsons was not worried about malt making. He was in the middle of a wool horror.

The free-spending Henry VIII, always fighting fruitless wars, emptied his father’s considerable treasury. At the same time, foreign cloth competition, especially the fine wool from Spain, was having a negative impact on English exports. To remedy his personal financial problems, as well as effect a balance of trade exchanges, Henry debased the coinage. Domestically, this measure had the opposite effect desired. At the time of Henry’s death inflation was rising ominously. His son and successor, Edward VI, through Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset and Protector, poured gasoline on the fire.[20]

First, in 1548, came the Subsidy Act, a tax on sheep that put more stress on an already ailing rural economy. In 1549 Somerset called down the coinage again with disastrous results. Trade exchanges took another downward turn. In 1550 the broadcloth industry reached its zenith with 132,000 shortcloths exported. In the following year shortcloths dropped to 112,000 signaling the collapse of England’s foreign market. London warehouses were full. Looms across the country fell silent. England was plunged into depression. Interest on loans reached 20%. Cash was in short supply and bonds were frequent.[21]

In 1552, only about a year after John Shakespeare gained his freedom and set up his glove business, Parliament, at the instigation of the Merchants of the Staple (a combine holding a virtual monopoly on wool and cloth exports), determined that the cost of producing cloth could be reduced by eliminating middlemen. The resulting legislation provided a penalty for brogging at twice the value of wool.[22] But the legislation did little to deter the middlemen since local justices were not apt to enforce it. Local justices had a trade like everyone else. They sat on town councils with broggers. They were business associates and friends. You are not going to rat on your friends.

Now, in some counties wool sorting was becoming an important function of the middleman. He was, in fact, becoming indispensable as the need for sorting increased. Wool, of course, differed in quality, depending upon the vegetation on which the sheep grazed.[23] A sheep might yield a pound of wool if it was fine, two pounds if it was coarse. Coarse wool, woven into a variety of draperies collectively known as worsteds, was just then becoming popular in the foreign market. Warwickshire became a worsted-producing center, the local wool being coarse.[24]

John Shakespeare, a glover just 22 years old, with knowledge of the local wool trade, seized the opportunity to specialize in coarse wool for resale to clothiers making worsteds. John Walford must have been making worsteds if he was buying wool at Stratford. John Shakespeare found a silver lining in the black cloud of depression. And that is why he continued to prosper for the next 25 years.

But because of an economic malaise that refused to abate, the Crown kept up the pressure on middlemen. On 10 August 1562 Queen Elizabeth issued Proclamation No. 570 at Greenwich: “No grower, breeder, brogger, or gatherer of wool to sell to any uncertificated person.”[25] Like the previous legislation, the proclamation had little if any effect.

By 1567 cash was still tight and clothiers were forced to take wool on credit.[26] And that explains why John Shakespeare needed to sue Walford. Walford bought the wool on credit and never paid up.[27] Though the suit was not initiated until years later, the actual sale took place in 1568.

In 1572 John was charged in the brogging cases. He received a slap on the wrist paying a small fine in one case, and in the other he likely settled. In the same year he sued John Luther, a Banbury glover, and was awarded a judgment of £50. Evidently, John sold Luther sheepskins on credit and, failing payment, needed to sue. Banbury is 20 miles southeast of Stratford. John cast his net wider than that, certainly as far as Marlborough. For the next five years he continued to broker wool, reap large profits, attend Corporation meetings, and live his life the way he saw fit.

By 1576 John Shakespeare was sitting on top of the world. He had accomplished all that he could accomplish in public office and had realized significant wealth as a brogger. Fripp estimated John’s net worth at £250-£300. But Fripp did not know about John’s investment capital. It now appears that John’s net worth was more like £400.[28]

This upwardly mobile Elizabethan was now ready to apply for a coat of arms. Adrian Quiney had one and so did other former bailiffs. Laying aside thoughts about his wife’s Arden pedigree, and ideas about his family’s alleged service to Henry VII, John was entitled to the coat-armour. According to Sir John Ferne (The Glory of Generosity, 1586), “If any person be advanced into an office or dignity of publique administration, be it eyther Ecclesiasticall, Martial or Civill…the Heralde must not refuse to devise to such a publique person.”[29] Since John had been bailiff of Stratford, he qualified for the arms under this condition.

But there was another qualification committed to paper by Holinshed twenty-five years earlier in his Chronicles: “Whosoever…can live without manual labor, and thereto is able and will beare the port, charge, and countenance of a gentleman, he shall for monie have a cote of armes bestowed upon him by heralds.”[30]

The implication is that John Shakespeare lived without manual labor. By this time, surely long before, he had abandoned glove making in favor of full-time brogging. Brogging was much more lucrative, and required none of the tedious (and toxic) manual labor demanded by making gloves.[31] Mr. John Shakespeare could “bear the port, charge and countenance of a gentleman.”

Accordingly, he applied for the coat of arms. The herald, Clarencieux Cooke, was satisfied with the application, granted him the arms, and suggested a ‘pattern’ with a sketch. John likely let it be known about the town that he would be receiving a coat of arms. “But a strange thing happened. John Shakespeare did not proceed with the application. At the eleventh hour, for some reason, when the coat-armour was practically his, he declined it.”[32]

John was present, as always, at the Corporation meeting of 5 October 1576. On 28 November, Queen Elizabeth, from Hampton Court, issued Proclamation No. 712 stating, “The Clothiers complain that the greed of the Licensees in selling wool out of the kingdom has raised the price and diminished the supply. No such licensee is to buy any wool before All Saint’s next [1 November 1577]. All licenses to be returned into the Exchequer for revision within two months.”[33] The Crown had spoken. The buying of wool was forbidden to licensees for a period of eleven months. Needless to say, the proclamation applied to non-licensees as well. Only Merchants of the Staple and certain privileged lords could obtain licenses.

John attended the next council meeting held on December 5. Only a week had passed since Elizabeth’s proclamation, and it would appear that he had not yet heard the bad news. But it would not take long for the Crown to get word to the local justices, in this instance John’s close friend John Wheeler. It was Wheeler’s unenviable task to communicate the content of the proclamation to his longtime associate. In another time and place Wheeler might have had his tongue cut out. At the meeting on January 23 John Shakespeare was marked absent.[34] With two exceptions, to vote for friends nominated for bailiff, he never returned to the council chamber.

John had heard the proclamation. It was the chimes at midnight. He was out of business for at least eleven months. He would have no income for almost a year. Storm clouds were looming over his head. Would he be forced to return to making gloves? Fortune no longer smiled on him. He might have to work with his hands. He had a wife and five children to support and did not want to see his wealth deteriorate. The proud man could no longer stand tall. He was humiliated and could not show his face in the council chamber. He became a recluse. Now, what need for coat-armour, the ultimate symbol of success?

But wait. Perhaps this set back, serious as it was, might only be temporary. Knowing well the dynamics of the wool trade, John might be brogging again within a year. He probably did not decline his coat-of-arms, just held off on it. He possibly held off on glove making too, eating up savings in the meantime. It did not help that the Shakespeares were used to a certain lifestyle.

As a chief alderman and man of conscience, as well as former bailiff and Justice of the Peace who had always held to the letter of the law, John would abide by the proclamation. But a favorable wind was not about to blow his way. In fact, the worst was yet to come. The Staplers kept hammering away at the middlemen and their accusations became more specific. They cited glovers and whittawyers as chiefly responsible for the scarcity of wool.[35] The sword of Damocles was about to fall.

According to authority Peter Bowden, “The sheep-shearing season was close at hand when, on the last day of May 1577, the Lords of the Privy council were moved by the agitation against middlemen to make a more determined attempt than hitherto to stamp out unauthorized buying and selling of wool. To achieve this end the Council decided that the proclamation of November 1576, should be rigorously enforced, and that bonds of £100 should be taken from all broggers as security against their dealing in wool.”[36] There would be no slap on the wrist this time. The bond meant that John would be permanently out of the wool trade. He was not about to test his luck and risk a fourth of his net worth by forfeiting £100. John Shakespeare, a man of great pride, Snitterfield farm boy advanced to bailiff, successful brogger and a man of wealth, was defeated and deflated. For sure there would be no need for a coat-of-arms.

Thus far we have learned why John Shakespeare stopped attending Corporation meetings, and why he did not take his coat of arms. We have also learned his true occupation and some new facts regarding his financial condition. He certainly did not sustain a great financial loss, as is generally believed, but rather the loss of income. His coffers were still bulging. A net worth of at least £400 would make him one of the wealthier Stratfordians.

If John was not at Destitution’s door, how comes it that he began mortgaging property, usually the last resort of the financially strapped? There must be another factor at work in John Shakespeare’s so-called “reversal of fortune.”

Everyone knows that John was a recusant. Fortunately, to understand why he began mortgaging property, it is not necessary to resolve the question of whether he was a Catholic or Puritan recusant, though the thought today weighs on the Catholic side.

Recusants of both stripes were subject to confiscation of property. This severe penalty, almost attainder (you were allowed to keep your life), was the outcome of the Queen’s determination to enforce the Act of Uniformity. Elizabeth hated Puritanism as well as Catholicism, though in the latter case it was less a question of religion than its affiliation with Rome. The Queen’s conservative brand of Protestantism fell under the rubric Prelatism.

At the very same moment that the Crown was requiring £100 bonds from broggers, the Queen instituted the stern Prelatist, John Whitgift, as Bishop of Worcester. Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, Whitgift was “exact in executing statutes, a martinet in discipline, and a spy upon his scholars.”[37] In short, he was perfect for Elizabeth’s purposes.

Whitgift was consecrated in April 1577. During the summer he visited his diocese, which included Stratford, sniffing for recusants. He left with nothing more than a list of drunkards and poverty cases. The Puritan Sir Thomas Lucy would not even hand him a Catholic. Whitgift encountered similar problems elsewhere. He finally complained to Lord Burghley that “two kinds of men delighted in molesting and troubling him, namely the contentious Protestant [Puritan] and Papist,” and both had backing from the ‘great men’, i.e. the Earls of Leicester and Warwick.”[38]

In order to avoid Whitgift’s long arm, and confiscation of property, recusants began conveying land to kinsmen and trusted friends to be redeemed at a later date. It was for that reason that some land conveyances contained nebulous, even convoluted, provisions. This certainly explains the bizarre terms of John Shakespeare’s conveyances to Edmund Lambert and Robert Webbe.


11 April 1573, Easter Term. Higford v. Shakespeare, Mussum, & Wheeler.

Plea Roll. “Warr. scilicet.  Henricus Higford Generosus alias dictus Henricus Higford of Solyhull in propria persona sua optulit se iiiito die versus Johannem Shakysper, nuper de Stretford-super-Avon in Comitatu Warrwicensi, whyttawer; et versus Johannem Musshen, nuper de Walton Debell in Comitatu predicto, yoman, alias dictum Johannem Musshen de Walton in Comitatu pedicto, yoman; de placito quod uterque eorum reddat ei triginta libras; et versus Johannem Wheler nuper de Stretford super Avon in Comitatu predicto, yoman, de placito quod reddat ei octoginta solidos: quos ei debent et iniuste detinent &c; et ipsi non venerunt, et sicut pluribus preceptum fuit Vice comiti, quod caperet eos si &c; et salvo &c; ita quod haberet corpora eorum hic ad hunc diem, scilicet a die Paschae in quinque septimanas; et Vicecomes modo mandat quod non sunt inventi &c: ideo preceptum est Vicecomiti quod exigi faciat eos de comitatu in comitatum quoadusque &c utlagentur si non &c; et si &c tunc eos capiat; et salvo &c ita quod habeat corpora eorum hic a die Sancti Michaelis in quindecim dies et unde &c; Et sciendum est quod breve inde Justiciarii hic in curia isto eodem termino deliberaverunt Antonio Grene deputato Vicecomitis comitatus predicti in forma juris exequenda &c.”

 [Translation: “Warwickshire as follows: Henry Higford, gentleman, otherwise called Henry Higford of Solihull, in his own person appeared on the 4th day [of Easter Term], against John Shakysper, late of Stratford-upon-Avon, in the County aforesaid, whittawer, otherwise called John Shakysper of Stratford-upon-Avon in the County of Warwick, whittawer; and against John Musshen of Walton D’Eivile in the County aforesaid, yeoman, otherwise called John Musshen of Walton in the County aforesaid, yeoman; in plea that each of them pay him Thirty Pounds; and against John Wheeler, late of Stratford-upon-Avon, in the County aforesaid, yeoman, in plea that he pay him Eighty Shillings: which they owe him and unjustly detain &c. And they came not into court; and therefore a precept was issued by several to the Undersheriff to take them if &c, and safe &c. so that he have their bodies here at this day, namely from Easter Day in five weeks. And the Undersheriff now of late sends word that they have not been found &c. Therefore it is a precept to the Undersheriff that he have them sought out from county to county until that &c, they be outlawed if not &c, and if &c. there he take them and safe &c. so that he have their bodies here from the day of St. Michael in fifteen days and whence &c. And it is to be known that the Justices hence in court in that same term have dispatched a letter to Anthony Greene, the deputy of the Undersheriff of the County aforesaid in form of the law to be executed &c.”

The National Archives, CP 40/1313, m. 399. Transcript with translation: Minutes and Accounts of the Corporation of Stratford-Upon-Avon, II, 70-1.]

The record informs us that Shakespeare, Mussum and Wheeler did not appear for their scheduled hearing, so Higford obtained warrants for their arrest. We do not know the outcome, except that Higford was forced to sue again at a later date.

[1] At the wholesale price of 14 shillings per tod, John’s profit was £6.3s.

[2] Now The National Archives.

[3] Shakespeare Quarterly, 35 (1984), 315-8.

[4] David Thomas, Shakespeare in the Public Records, 2, n. 1.

[5] Higford v. Shakespeare, Mussum, & Wheeler is appended to this article for those who are not familiar with it.

[6] The Mystery, Craft or Occupation of the Glovers, Whittawyers and Collarmakers.

[7] Edgar I. Fripp, Shakespeare’s Stratford, 17.

[8] A tod weighed 28 lbs.

[9] A William Walford, about whom a good deal is known, was buried at Stratford 1 June 1581 (MA, III, 77). There was also an Edward Walford.

[10] A Robert Lock was a juror at a View of Frankpledge 30 April 1557. (MA, I, 58).

[11] Fripp, 3-7.

[12] This becomes apparent from a study of the rent rolls in Minutes and Accounts of the Corporation of Stratford-Upon-Avon.

[13] J. O. Halliwell-Phillpps, Life of Shakespeare, 65.

[14] Pollard, 31.

[15] For illustrations of pageant wagons, see Walter Hodges, The Globe Restored, 138-9.

[16] Peter J. Bowden, The Wool Trade in Tudor and Stuart England (1962).

[17] Life, 68.

[18] J. O. Halliwell-Phillipps, Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare, II, 408.

[19] Savage and Fripp, Minutes and Accounts of the Corporation of Stratford-Upon-Avon, IV, 115-6.

[20] S. J. Bindoff, Tudor England (1950).

[21] Bowden.

[22] Op. cit., 117.

[23] Contrary to what might be expected, the poorer the vegetation, the finer the wool.

[24] Bowden. 32.

[25] Tudor & Stuart Proclamations, I, 61.

[26] Bowden, 98.

[27] In September 1594 the Chamberlain’s men played at Marlborough. The Marlborough Chamberlain’s Accounts inform us, “Paid to him [the Mayor, who paid the players out of his pocket] which he gave to the Lord Chamberlain’s players 2s 8d.” (E. K. Chambers, William Shakespeare, II, 319.)” The mayor at this time was none other than John Walford. One wonders if the business-minded William took the opportunity of this visit to remind Mayor Walford that he still owed his father £21. It should be added that Walford’s gratuity to the players was paltry, 10 to 20 shillings being usual.

[28] In John’s 1599 coat of arms application his worth was estimated at £500, which, though generally thought an exaggeration, may in fact be accurate.

[29] Charlotte Carmichael Stopes, Shakespeare’s Family, 17-8, n.1.

[30] Ibid.

[31] For a full account of the complicated process, see “Notes on Gloves and Glove Making in the Sixteenth Century” at

[32]  Minutes and Accounts, II, xlv-i.

[33] Tudor & Stuart Proclamations, I, 76.

[34] Minutes and Accounts, II, 112.

[35] Bowden, 139

[36]Op. cit.,. 135.

[37] E. I. Fripp, Shakespeare Studies, 90.

[38] Ibid.