Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 17 Jul 2016.
In April, I blogged about my dear cousin Will, aka, William Shakespeare. A new study has just been released and you can read the New York Times article by Jennifer Schuessler (30 Jun 2016, p. C1) for details.
Written by historians hungry for any tidbit of evidence about Will’s life the document found by Heather Wolfe of the Folger Shakespeare Library regarding Will and his father’s attempt to obtain a coat of arms unveils much more than the supposition that the Shakespeare men were social climbers. Way more!
I interpret the direct evidence that Will followed up on his father’s request in 1596 and confirming that Will was the son of John and that the two were close. If Will had been estranged from his father he would not have taken up the fight to have the arms granted to the family. Although being a social climber may have something to do with it, I again point to the ancestors of the family who had been socially important back in the day. Historians are neglecting at looking at Will in the context of his family’s past. Seeking the arms may have been the family’s way of regaining what had once been lost.
Clearly family was important to the Shakespeare’s as noted that Will’s last surviving descendant, a granddaughter named Elizabeth, used the seal on her will. Using it would in no way aid her status in society. Instead, it was the final mark that affirmed her position in the family.