held good fortune in surviving till,m since at that time the English countryside
was repeatedly ravaged by the plague. Pestilence ravaged Stratford during
the hot summer months.
Mary and John Shakespeare became parents for the first
time in September of 1558, when their daughter Joan was born. Nothing
is known of Joan Shakespeare except for the fact that she was baptized
in Stratford on September 15, and succumbed to the plague shortly after.
Their second child, Margaret, was born in 1562 and was baptized on December
2. She died one year later. The Shakespeare's' fourth child, Gilbert,
was baptized on October 13, 1566, at Holy Trinity.
It is considered that may have John Shakespeare named
his second son after his friend and neighbour on Henley Street, Gilbert
Bradley, a Glover and the burgess of Stratford for a time. Records show
that Gilbert Shakespeare survived the plague and reached adulthood, becoming
a haberdasher, working in London as of 1597, and spending much of his
time back in Stratford. In 1609 he appeared in Stratford court in connection
with a lawsuit, but we know no details regarding the matter. Gilbert Shakespeare
seems to have had a long and successful career as a tradesman, and he
died a bachelor in Stratford on February 3, 1612.
In 1569, John and Mary Shakespeare gave birth to another
girl, and named her after her first born sister, Joan. Joan Shakespeare
lived to be seventy-seven years old -- outliving William and all her other
siblings by a number of decades. Joan married William Hart the hatter
and had four children unfortunatly two of them died in childhood. Her
son William Hart (1600-1639) followed in his famous uncle's footsteps
and became an actor, performing with the King's Men in the mid-1630s.
His most noted role was that of Falstaff. William Hart never married,
but the leading actor of the restoration period, Charles Hart, is believed
to have been William Hart's illegitimate son and grandnephew to Shakespeare.
Due to the fact that Shakespeare's children and his other
siblings did not carry on the line past the seventeenth century, the descendants
of Joan Shakespeare Hart possess the only genetic link to the great playwright.
Joan Shakespeare lost her husband William a week before she lost her brother
William in 1616, and she lived the rest of her life in Shakespeare's birthplace.
Joan died in 1646, but her descendants stayed in Stratford until 1806.
Shakespeare's' fourth daughter, Anne, was born in 1571,
when William was seven years old. Unfortunately, tragedy befell the family
yet again when Anne died at the age of eight. The sorrow felt by the Shakespeare's'
over the loss of Anne was profound, and even though they were burdened
by numerous debts at the time of her death, they arranged an unusually
elaborate funeral for their cherished daughter. Anne Shakespeare was buried
on April 4, 1579.
In 1574, Mary and John Shakespeare had another boy and
they named him Richard, probably after his paternal grandfather. Richard
was baptized on March 11 of that year, and nothing else is known about
him, except for the fact that he died, unmarried, and was buried on February
4, 1613 -- a year and a day after the death of Gilbert Shakespeare.
Mary gave birth to one more child in 1580. They christened
him on May 3 and named him Edmund, probably in honour of his uncle Edmund
Lambert. Edmund was eager to follow William into the acting profession,
and when he was old enough he joined William in London to embark on a
career as a "player". Edmund did not make a great reputation
for himself as an actor, but, in all fairness, cruel fate, and not his
poor acting abilities, was likely the reason. Edmund died in 1607 -- not
yet thirty years old. He was buried in St. Saviour's Church, in Southwark,
on December 31 of that year. His funeral was costly and magnificent, with
tolling bells heard across the Thames. It is most likely that William
planned the funeral for his younger brother because William would have
been the only Shakespeare wealthy enough to afford such an expensive tribute
to Edmund. In addition, records show that the funeral was held in the
morning, and as Dennis Kay points out, funerals were usually held in the
afternoon. It is probable that the morning funeral was arranged so that
Shakespeare's fellow actors could attend the burial of Edmund.