Bard Bits: A Man of Means
With all the information not known about Shakespeare, it is known that Shakespeare joined The Lord Chamberlin’s Men in 1594 and for the next ten years the company of players becomes London’s foremost acting troupe. During this time Shakespeare is shown to be fully invested in the company as both an actor and the playwright. There are documents, tax assessments, court records and land titles that indicate Shakespeare wanted to establish himself as a gentleman.
John Shakespeare, William’s father, received a coat-of-arms in 1596 which granted him the symbol of respectability, designating him as a gentleman. In Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-Upon-Avon there were around 45 “gentlemen between 1570 and 1630. While 28 had been born into the title; the other 17 were tradesmen who, like Shakespeare, had applied and purchased their status. Owning a coat-of-arms meant the Shakespeare family could display it at home, such as above the doorway, or setting it into the windows, or carve it into their furniture.
When John Shakespeare passed away in 1601, William continued to use the coat-of-arms and it is placed above his monument. The motto states ‘Non Sans Droict’ which is old French and translates to ‘Not without right.’
Considering Shakespeare started out as the son of a glovemaker whose reputation became tarnished, he became known as a respected citizen and well-known member of a prominent acting troupe.