Shakespeare’s family was not large by standards of the time. Shakespeare’s sister, Joan, was his only sibling to survive him. She was five years younger than him and much loved by him. He died a rich man and he left her well provided for in his will with both property and money. He also made sure that her sons would be comfortable.
Born in 1569, she was named after John and Mary Shakespeare’s first born child, Joan, born in 1558 but dying, sadly, after only two months. The second Joan lived to be seventy-seven, dying in 1646, thirty years after her famous brother. For those times it was a very long life. Her descendents, with the surname, Hart, lived in Stratford until 1806. The Bard and his sister were very close and one of her sons, William Hart, followed in his uncle’s footsteps, went to London and became an actor with the renowned King’s Men acting company.
There was a third sister, also unknown to Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s sister, Margaret, was born in 1562. she lived for one year, probably dying of the Black Death.
The fourth of Shakespeare’s sisters was Anne, who was born in 1571 when the Bard was seven years old. What a sorrow it must have been for the teenaged William when she died from the Black Death aged eight. We know that in spite of the family’s sever financial problems at that time she was given a very expensive funeral.
Families at that time were large. It was important to have as many children as possible because the child mortality rate was high. The Shakespeare boys all survived. Richard died in 1613, aged 38, and Gilbert in 1612, aged 46, and William in 1616 aged 52.
Joan lived on to see her brother become even more famous than he had been in his lifetime.
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