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Parish Register of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
April 26,
1564

DR243/1: Baptismal register, folio 5 recto

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DR243/1: Baptismal register, folio 5 recto
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Reproduced by permission of Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

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The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust hase graciously contributed images to Shakespeare Documented under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 4.0 International license. Visitors may download, link to and cite the images for personal research only. Any further use, including, but not limited to, unauthorized downloading or distribution of the images, commerical or third party use, is strictly prohibited. Visitors must contact the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to request additional use, at: images.scla@shakespeare.org.uk.

Document-specific information
Creator: Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Title: Parish Register of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Date: 1558-1776
Repository: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: DR243/1: Baptismal register, fol. 5r

Item Creator
Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Title
Parish Register of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Date
1558-1776, entry for April 26, 1564
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
DR243/1 : Baptismal register, fol. 5r

DR243/1: Baptismal register, folio 5 recto, entry detail

View Image Assets
DR243/1: Baptismal register, folio 5 recto, entry detail
Click image to enlarge

Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

Reproduced by permission of Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Terms of use
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust hase graciously contributed images to Shakespeare Documented under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 4.0 International license. Visitors may download, link to and cite the images for personal research only. Any further use, including, but not limited to, unauthorized downloading or distribution of the images, commerical or third party use, is strictly prohibited. Visitors must contact the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to request additional use, at: images.scla@shakespeare.org.uk.

Document-specific information
Creator: Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Title: Parish Register of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Date: 1558-1776
Repository: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: DR243/1: Baptismal register, fol. 5r

Item Creator
Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Title
Parish Register of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Item Date
1558-1776, entry for April 26, 1564
Repository
Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call Number
DR243/1 : Baptismal register, fol. 5r

Institution Rights and Document Citation

 

Reproduced by permission of Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Terms of use
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust hase graciously contributed images to Shakespeare Documented under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 4.0 International license. Visitors may download, link to and cite the images for personal research only. Any further use, including, but not limited to, unauthorized downloading or distribution of the images, commerical or third party use, is strictly prohibited. Visitors must contact the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to request additional use, at: images.scla@shakespeare.org.uk.

Document-specific information
Creator: Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Title: Parish Register of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon
Date: 1558-1776
Repository: Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
Call number and opening: DR243/1: Baptismal register, fol. 5r

The earliest reference to William Shakespeare appears in the parish register for Holy Trinity Church in an entry for his baptism on April 26, 1564. The entry reads "Guilielmus filius Johannes Shakspere," or, in English, "William, son of John Shakespeare." Next to the entry, three "X"s added by a later hand highlight its significance. Although dated 1564, the entry, and all other entries before September 16, 1600, are in the hand of a professional copyist who transferred them from an earlier register that no longer survives, in compliance with a 1598 regulation that parish authorities should acquire new parchment registers and copy all existing entries into it. The copyist either miscopied "Johannis" as "Johannes" or copied a mistake made by the original scribe.

We may never know the exact day of Shakespeare’s birth. According to The Book of Common Prayer (1559), it was recommended that infants should be baptized on the next Sunday or holy day following their birth, to allow the greatest number of people to witness the sacrament. In “times of necessity,” it was also permissible for infants to be baptized at home. This advice does not seem to have been much heeded in Stratford. Many baptisms, including Shakespeare's on Wednesday, April 26, did not take place on a Sunday or on a recognized holy day. 

Some evidence concerning Shakespeare’s birthday can be deduced from the inscription on his funeral monument, which states that he died on April 23, 1616, in the 53rd year of his age—“obiit anno domini 1616 Aetatis 53 die 23 Aprilis”—that is, he was 52, having entered his 53rd year. If he had been born after April 23, he would therefore still have been in his 52nd year at the time of his death. However, to have been in his 53rd year, he must have been born no later than April 23. He could, of course, have been born prior to April 23, and some scholars suggest April 21 or 22.

Taking the parish register and funeral monument evidence into account, Shakespeare’s birthday is traditionally celebrated on April 23, three days prior to his baptism. William Oldys, an 18th-century antiquary, first proposed the date, and George Steevens adopted it in his 1773 edition of Shakespeare's works, The plays of William Shakespeare (FSL PR2752 1773b copy 1 Sh.Col).

Shakespeare was born just three months before a plague outbreak. “Hic incepit pestis,” or “Here began the plague” is written in the register next to the entry for the Oliver Gunne’s burial on June 11, 1564. More than 200 inhabitants of Stratford-upon-Avon, one seventh of the town’s population, were buried in the second half of 1564. Of course, not all recorded deaths were due to plague, but of nearly 250 burials by the end of the year, the majority (over 130) were of children or young people, the most vulnerable to plague. Of the remainder, there were around ten more women than men. Shakespeare’s parents had lost their two first children already. With plague rampant throughout the town, it must have been an unnerving time for them.

A small square fragment at the bottom right corner of the page was removed at some point before 1897, when Richard Savage noted it missing in the introduction to volume 1 of The Registers of Stratford-on Avon, in the county of Warwick (FSL DA690.S92 S95 S91).
 

Modernized/Translated transcriptions

[fol. 5r]

Baptismes

[Octo]ber
26 Francisca daughter of John Greenwich of Aldermerston illegitimate

28 Elizabeth daughter of T. Rogers

[Novem]ber  
5 Agnes daughter of Stephan Burman
11 Thomas son of William Smith
11 Agnes daughter Thomas Hickes
17 Johanna daughter of Richard Roberts
27  Richard son of Roger Banister

[Decem]ber
4 Richard son of John Hemming

[5] William son of William Hearing
[7]  Henry son of Henry Field
[1]4 Rudolph son of Richard Castell
[1]5 Antony son of filius William Brafford
[2]2 John son of Thomas Baylyes
[2]4 Alicia Roger Parepoynte

Jan[uary]
5 Robert son of Richard Mardyn

5 Richard son of Humfred Pinder
9 Francisca daughter of John Stanley
[1]3 Nicholaus son of Richard Barbar of Drayton
13 Helena daughter of Nicholas Cope
14 Johanna daughter of Robert Archer
[2]3 Elizabeth daughter of Thomas Hunt
[2]8 Richard son of John Pyrry
[3]0 Alicia daughter of David Gately
[3]0 Anna daughter of Henry Wagstaffe

[Febr]uary
12 Alicia daughter of William Brace

[1]4 William son Roger Bold
[23] Alicia daughter of Rudolph Cawdrey
[2]3 Catarina daughter of Richard Prewe
[1]7 Alicia daughter of Richard Greenway
[2]6 Agnes daughter Thomas Horne of Bushopton
[2]8  W son of Richard Herbache

[15]64______________________________________________________                                                            

[Apr]il
3 Edward son of Thomas Sheffeld

6 Benedicta daughter of Thomas Flemming
22 Johannes son of William Brooke
26 William son of John Shakespeare x x x

[Ma]y
3 Humfrey son of William Such
4 Alicia daughter of John Rogers of Bushopton
12 John son of John Holford
21 Richard son of William Ball of Bushopton

                            Richard Bifield minister

                           Francis Smythe                      John Sheffill

                                                               guard

                             James Elletes                            Robert Munmurth

 

Semi-diplomatic transcription

 

[fol. 5r]

Baptismes

[Octo]ber  26   ffrancisca filia Iohannis Greenwich de aldermerston notha

              28     Elizabeth filia T. Rogers

[Novem]ber  5     Agnes filia Stephani Burman

             11          Thomas filius Gulielmi Smith

             11          Agnes filia Thomæ Hickes

             17          Iohanna filia Richardi Roberts

             27          Richardus filius Rogeri Banister

[Decem]ber 4      Richardus filius Iohannis Hemming

         [5]          Gulielmus filius Gulielmi Hearing

         [7]          Henricus filius Henrici ffeild

         [1]4        Rodolphus filius Richardi Castell

         [1]5        Antonius filius Gulielmi Brafford

         [2]2        Iohannes filius Thomæ Baylyes

         [2]4        Alicia Rogeri Parepoynte ;

Ian[uari] 5       Robertus filius Richardi Mardyn

              5       Richardus filius Humfredy Pinder

              9       ffrancisca filia Iohannis Stanley

          [1]3       Nicholaus filius Richardi Barbar de drayton

             13      Helena filia Nicholai Cope

             14      Iohanna filia Roberti Archar

           [2]3      Elizabeth filia Thomæ Hunte

           [2]8      Richardus filius Iohannis Pyrry

           [3]0      Alicia filia Davidis Gately

           [3]0      Anna filia Henrici Wagstaffe

[Febr]uary  12    Alicia filia Gulielmy Brace

        [1]4            Gulielmus filius Rogeri Bold

        [23]            Alicia filia Rodolphi Cawdrey

        [2]3            Catarina filia Ricardi Prewe

        [1]7            Alicia filia Richardi Greenway

        [2]6            Agnes filia Thomæ Horne de Bushopton

        [2]8            W filius Richardi Herbache

[15]64______________________________________________________                                                            

[Apr]il  3             Edwardus filius Thomæ Sheffeld

        6               Benedicta filia Thomæ fflemming

        22             Iohannes filius William Brooke

        26             Gulielmus filius Iohannes Shakspere x x x

[Ma]y   3            Humfredus filius william suche     

           4            Alicia filia Iohannis Rogers de bushopton

         12            Iohannes filius Iohannis Holford

         21           Richardus filius Gulielmi Ball de Byshopton

                             Ric. Bifield minister

                             ffraunzys Smythe                      Iohn Sheffill

                                                               guard

                             Iames Elletes                            Robert Munmurth

 

Co-written by Folger Shakespeare Library staff and Robert Bearman

Sources
Samuel Schoenbaum, William Shakespeare: A Documentary Life (New York: Oxford University Press, 1975)

Bearman, Shakespeare in the Stratford Records

Jacqueline Simpson and Steve Roud, A Dictionary of English Folklore (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), s.v. "St. Mark's Eve."

Last updated January 26, 2017