Shakespeare’s Siblings: A Closer Look at the Bard’s Family

Shakespeare’s Siblings: A Closer Look at the Bard’s Family

Did you know that Shakespeare had seven siblings, but only four of them survived to adulthood?

You might be familiar with the works of William Shakespeare, the most famous playwright and poet in history, but what about his family?

How many siblings did Shakespeare have, and what were their lives like?

In this article, we will explore the fascinating facts and stories about Shakespeare’s siblings and how they influenced his life and legacy.

An image illustration of Shakespeare
Read this engaging article to the end to learn more about Shakespeare’s siblings (Source: Getty Images). 

The Shakespeare Family

Shakespeare was born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, a small town in England.

His parents were John Shakespeare and Mary Arden, who came from respectable families.

John was a successful glover, leather worker, and municipal official, while Mary inherited a large estate from her father.

They had eight children, but two of them died in infancy: Joan (1558) and Margaret (1562).

Shakespeare’s Surviving Siblings

Shakespeare had six surviving siblings, who were:

  • Joan (1569–1646): She was the second Joan in the family and the youngest sister of Shakespeare. She married William Hart, a hatter, and had four children. She lived in Stratford-upon-Avon and was the only sibling to outlive Shakespeare. She inherited some of his property and possessions after his death.
  • Gilbert (1566-1612): He was the second oldest brother of Shakespeare and a haberdasher. He moved to London and may have been involved in his brother’s theatrical career. He never married and died at the age of 46.
  • Anne (1571–1579): She was the second-youngest sister of Shakespeare and died at the age of eight. She was buried in the same grave as her sister, Margaret.
  • Richard (1574–1613): He was the youngest brother of Shakespeare and a farmer. He stayed in Stratford-upon-Avon and inherited some land from his father. He died at the age of 39, a year after his brother Gilbert.
  • Edmund (1580-1607): He was the youngest sibling of Shakespeare and an actor. He followed his brother to London and joined the King’s Men, the same company that Shakespeare worked for. He died at the age of 27 and was buried in the same church as his brother William.
Some interesting facts and anecdotes about Shakespeare’s siblings are:
  • Shakespeare named some of his characters after his siblings, such as Joan (in Henry VI), Gilbert (in As You Like It), and Edmund (in King Lear).
  • Shakespeare’s brother Edmund may have played some minor roles in his plays, such as the Fool in King Lear or the Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor.
  • Shakespeare’s sister Joan was the closest to him, and he visited her often when he returned to Stratford-upon-Avon. He also left her a generous amount of money in his will and referred to her as his “loving sister.”

Focus on Joan Hart

Joan Hart was the only surviving sister of Shakespeare and the longest-lived of his siblings.

She was born in 1569 and married William Hart, a hatter, in 1589.

They had four children: William, Mary, Thomas, and Michael.

Joan lived in a house next to Shakespeare’s birthplace and was involved in the care of his daughter Susanna and granddaughter Elizabeth.

Joan was also the ancestor of the only known descendants of Shakespeare, through her son William Hart.

William had a son named Shakespeare Hart, who had a daughter named Judith Hart.

Judith married Thomas Nash and had a daughter named Elizabeth Barnard.

Elizabeth was the last direct descendant of Shakespeare and died in 1670 without any children.

Joan died in 1646, at the age of 77.

She was buried in the same church as her brother William, and her epitaph read: “Here lyeth the body of Joan, wife of William Hart, and daughter of John Shakespeare, who died the 4th day of November, Anno 1646, aged 77 years.”


Shakespeare’s siblings were an important part of his life and legacy.

They shared his joys and sorrows, his successes and failures, and his dreams and realities.

They also provided him with inspiration, support, and companionship.

By learning more about Shakespeare’s siblings, we can gain a deeper understanding of his family context and appreciate his works even more.

Thank you for reading.

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