Shakspere Society of Philadelphia
Maybe not the first, but the oldest Shakespeare club in America or possibly even the world, has kept minutes for over a hundred fifty years.
The Last Will and Testament of William Shakspere
"During the winter of 1616, Shakespeare summoned his lawyer Francis Collins, who a decade earlier had drawn up the indentures for the Stratford tithes transaction, to execute his last will and testament. Apparently, this event took place in January, for when Collins was called upon to revise the document some weeks later, he (or his clerk) inadvertently wrote January instead of March, copying the word from the earlier draft. Revisions were necessitated by the marriage of [his daughter], Judith... The lawyer came on 25 March. A new first page was required, and numerous substitutions and additions in the second and third pages, although it is impossible to say how many changes were made in March and how many currently came in January. Collins never got round to having a fair copy of the will made, probably because of haste occasioned by the seriousness of the testator's condition, though this attorney had a way of allowing much-corrected draft wills to stand" (@ Schoenbaum 242-6).
Words which were lined-out in the original but which are still legible are indicated by [brackets]. Words which were added interlinearly are indicated by italic text. The word "Item" is given in the bold text to aid reading and is not so written in the document.
From the first line of Shakspere's will
In the name of God Amen I William Shakespeare, of Stratford upon Avon in the country of Warr., gent., in perfect health and memory, God be praised, do make and ordain this my last will and testament in manner and form following, that is to say, first, I commend my soul into the hands of God my Creator, hoping and assuredly believing, through the only merits, of Jesus Christ my Saviour, to be made partaker of life everlasting, and my body to the earth whereof it is made. Item, I give and bequeath unto my [son and] daughter Judith one hundred and fifty pounds of lawful English money, to be paid unto her in the manner and form following, that is to say, one hundred pounds in discharge of her marriage portion within one year after my decease, with consideration after the rate of two shillings in the pound for so long time as the same shall be unpaid unto her after my decease, and the fifty pounds residue thereof upon her surrendering of, or giving of such sufficient security as the overseers of this my will shall like of, to surrender or grant all her estate and right that shall descend or come unto her after my decease, or that she now hath, of, in, or to, one copyhold tenement, with appurtenances, lying and being in Stratford upon Avon aforesaid in the said country of Warr., being parcel or holder of the manor of Rowington, unto my daughter Susanna Hall and her heirs forever. Item, I give and bequeath unto my saied daughter Judith one hundred and fyftie poundes more, if shee or anie issue of her bodie by lyvinge att thend of three yeares next ensueing the daie of the date of this my will, during which tyme my executours are to paie her consideracion from my deceas according to the rate aforesaied; and if she dyes within the said term without issue of her body, then my will us, and I doe give and bequeath one hundred poundes thereof to my niece Elizabeth Hall, and the fifty poundes to be set fourth by my executours during the life of my sister Johane Harte, and the use and profit thereof coming shall be paid to my said sister Jone, and after her decease the saied l.li.12 shall remain amongst the children of my said sister, equally to be divided amongst them; but if my said daughter Judith be living at the end of the said three years, or any use of her body, then my will is, and so I devise and bequeath the said hundred and fifty poundes to be set our by my executors and overseers for the best benefit of her and her issue, and the stock not to be paid unto her so long as she shall be married and covert baron [by my executours and overseers]; but my will is, that she shall have the consideracion yearly paied unto her during her life, and, after her decease the said stock and consideracion to be paid to her children, if she has any, and if not, to her executours or assignes, she living the said term after my decease. Provided that if such husband as she shall at the end of the said three years be married unto, or at any after, do sufficiently assure unto her and tissue of her body lands answerable to the portion by this my will given unto her, and to be adjudged so by my executors and overseers, then my will is, that the said cl.li.13 shall be paid to such husband as shall make such assurance, to his own use. Item, I give and bequeath unto my said sister Jone xx.li. and all my wearing apparel, to be paid and delivered within one year after my decease; and I doe will and devise unto her the house with appurtenances in Stratford, wherein she dwelleth, for her natural life, under the yearly rent of xij.d. Item, I give and bequeath Shakspere's 1st signature
unto her three sonnes, William Harte, ---- Hart, and Michaell Harte, five pounds apiece, to be paid within one year after my decease [to be sett out for her within one year after my decease by my executors, with advice and direction of my overseers, for her best profit, until her marriage, and then the same with the increase thereof to be paid unto her]. Item, I give and bequeath unto [her] the said Elizabeth Hall, all my plate, except my broad silver and gilt bole, that I now have at the date of this my will. Item, I give and bequeath unto the poor of Stratford aforesaid ten pounds; to Mr. Thomas Combe my sword; to Thomas Russell esquire five pounds; and to Frauncis Collins, of the borough of War. in the county of Warr. gentleman, thirteen pounds, six shillings, and eight pence, to be paid within one year after my decease. Item, I give and bequeath to [Mr. Richard Tyler thelder] Hamlett Sadler xxvj.8. viij.d. to buy him a ring; to William Raynoldes gent., xxvj.8. viij.d. to buy him a ring; to my dogs on William Walker xx8. in gold; to Anthony Nashe gent. xxvj.8. viij.d. [in gold]; and to my fellows John Hemynges, Richard Burbage, and Henry Cundell, xxvj.8. viij.d. a piece to buy them rings, Item, I give, will, bequeath, and devise, unto my daughter Susanna Hall, for better enabling of her to perform this my will, and towards the performance thereof, all that capital messuage or tenement with appurtenances, in Stratford aforesaid, called the New Place, wherein I now dwell, and two messuages or tenements with appurtenances, situate, lying, and being in Henley street, within the borough of Stratford aforesaid; and all my barns, stables, orchards, gardens, lands, tenements, and hereditaments, whatsoever, situated, lying, and being, or to be had, received, perceived, or taken, within the towns, hamlets, villages, fields, and grounds, of Stratford upon Avon, Old Stratford, Bishopton, and Welcome, or in any of them in the said counties of Warr. And also all that messuage or tenemente with appurtenaunces, wherein one John Robinson dwelleth, situate, lying and being, in the Balckfriers in London, nere the Wardrobe; and all my other lands, tenementes, and hereditamentes whatsoever, To have and to hold all and singuler the said premisses, with their appurtenaunces, unto the said Susanna Hall, for and during the term of her natural life, and after her decease, to the first son of her body lawfully issueing, and to the heires males of the body of the said first son lawfully issueing; and for defalt of such issue, to the second son of her body, lawfully issueing, and to the heires males of the body of the said second son lawfully issueing; and for default of such heires, to the third son of the body of the saied Susanna lawfullie yssueing, and of the heires males of the bodie of the said third son lawfully issueing; and for defalt of such issue, the same to be and remaine to the fourth [son], ffyfth, sixte, and seaventh sonnes of her bodie lawfullie issueing, one after another, and to the heires Shakspere's 2nd signature
males of the bodies of the said fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh sonnes lawfully issuing, in such manner as it is before limited to be and remain to the first, second, and third sons of her body, and to their heirs males; and for default of such issue, the said premises to be and remain to my said niece Hall, and the heir males of her body lawfully issuing; and for default of such issue, to my daughter Judith, and the heirs males of her body lawfully issuing; and for default of such issue, to the right heirs of me the said William Shakespeare forever. Item, I give unto my wife my second best bed with the furniture, Item, I give and bequeath to my said daughter Judith my broad silver gilt bole. All the rest of my goods, chattels, leases, plate, jewels, and household stuff whatsoever, after my debts and legacies paid, and my funeral expenses discharged, I give, devise, and bequeath to my son in law, John Hall gent., and my daughter Susanna, his wife, whom I ordain and make executors of this my last will and testament. And I do entreat and appoint the said Thomas Russell Esquire and Frauncis Collins gent. to be overseers hereof, and do revoke all former wills, and publish this to be my last will and testament. In witness whereof I have hereunto put my [seale] hand, the date and year first above written.
Witnes to the publishing hereof Fra: Collyns Julius Shawe John Robinson Hamnet Sadler Robert Whattcott
Shakspere's final signature, 'By me ...'