Select Shakespeare Miscellany

Here are some Shakespeare stories and accounts over the years:

Shakespeare's Spelling

The name Shakespeare has been spelt in an astonishing variety of ways - including Shakspere, Shakespere, Shakkespere, Shaxpere, Shakstaff, Sakspere, Shagspere, Shakeshafte and even Chacsper.  The name of John Shakespeare occurred 166 times in the Council Book of the Stratford corporation and it appeared to take sixteen different forms.

Shakespeare himself, in credited examples of his signature, always wrote “Shakspere.”  However, in many formal documents and the printed signatures to the dedications of his poems and plays that bear his name, it generally appeared as Shakespeare.

Shakespeares in Wroxall

The earliest mention of a Shakespeare in Wroxall occurred in 1417 when the Manor Court seized property formerly held by one Elizabeth Shakespeare, who had disposed of this contrary to the customs of the Manor.  Its new occupier subsequently disposed of part of the property, again without recourse to the manorial court, this, and the neglect of the property, led to its seizure by the manorial court. 

In the next century there is a succession of records of Shakespeares in Wroxall, beginning with Isabella Shakespeare who was Prioress until about 1507.   Later, Richard Shakespeare was the Bailiff of Wroxall and his sister Joan the Sub-Prioress there.  Other members of the family settled in Rowington nearby.  J. W. Ryland in his Records of Wroxall Abbey and Manor noted that the Shakespeares in both places used identical seals, indicating their relationship.

The Shakespeares and the Ardens

Ardens of Park Hall were local gentry in Warwickshire, a long-established Catholic family who (it was said) had been given their land by William the Conqueror.  Richard Shakespeare, grandfather to William Shakespeare, was a tenant farmer of the Ardens, at the time of Robert Arden and his wife Agnes.  They had eight daughters, of which Mary Arden was the youngest. 

Mary Arden was sixteen in 1556 when her father died.  He left her some money and some land in Wilmecote. This Mary married John Shakespeare and they became the parents of William Shakespeare.

Shakespeare's Descendants

There are no direct descendants of William Shakespeare living today.  Shakespeare and his wife Anne had three children: Susanna, who was born in 1583, and the twins Judith and Hamnet, who were born in 1585. Hamnet, a boy, died in 1596 at 11 years of age.  

Susanna married John Hall in 1607 and had one child, Elizabeth, in 1608.  Although Elizabeth was married twice (in 1626 to Thomas Nash and in 1649 to John Bernard), she never had any children.  Judith married Thomas Quiney in 1616 and had three sons, one of whom died in infancy.  The other two sons both died unmarried in 1639.

Shakespeare in the 1881 Census


The largest numbers recorded were in Dudley (98) and Birmingham (62) in Warwickshire and in Kingswinford (69) in Staffordshire.

Captain William Shakespear in the Arabian Desert

From 1909 until his death in 1915, Captain William Shakespear was the British Political Agent in Kuwait. During that time he became an experienced desert traveller, getting to know the bedu and joining them in hunting with his own salukis and falcon Shalwa.  He gradually extended his travelling and made seven separate expeditions into the Arabian interior. 

He became a close friend of Ibn Saud, then the Emir of the Nejd at that time.  It was Shakespear who arranged for Ibn Saud to be photographed for the first time.  Ibn Saud had never seen a camera before.
Captain Shakespear was in fact a keen photographer and would record his desert explorations.  These photographs are amongst the best known early images of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, part of an important collection of images from a bygone era.

In March 1914, Shakespear began a 2,900-kilometer journey from Kuwait to Riyadh and on to Aqaba via the Nafud Desert, which he mapped and studied in great detail, the first European to do so.

Later in 1914, the British Government asked him to secure Ibn Saud's support for the British-Indian Mesopotamian Expeditionary Force which had just taken Basra.  The next year
Ibn Saud's army went into battle against the army of Ibn Rashid.  Shakespear, despite Ibn Saud's protests, stayed as an observer and tragically met his death, hit from a distance by one of the enemy’s shots, at the Battle of Jarab. 

Ibn Saud was deeply saddened by the loss of his friend's life.  When asked later in life if he could name the greatest European he had ever met, he replied without hesitation 'Captain Shakespear.

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