Shakespeare’s Last Will and Testament (1616)
It appears that in or shortly before January 1616, Shakespeare set out to finalize his last will and testament with the help of his lawyer, Francis Collins of Warwick. Collins, who served as Shakespeare’s attorney for at least eleven years, was likely also a close friend of his client. For some reason, however, Shakespeare found it necessary to make corrections and additions to the will and the official version was not signed by the five witnesses until March 1616. The original copy of Shakespeare’s will consists of three large sheets of paper bound together by a narrow strip of parchment at the top margins, and contains three signatures of the poet, one on each page.
For convenience I have modernized the spelling (where needed) and added punctuation where necessary. Words that are struck out in the original text are presented here in red and interlineations in blue.
Vicesimo Quinto die Januarij Marti Anno Regni Domini nostri Jacobi nunc Regis Anglie &c decimo quarto & Scotie xlix Annoque domini 1616.
“On the 25th day in the year of the reign of our lord James, King of England, etc., the 14th, and of Scotland the 49th, in the year of our Lord, 1616“.
T[estamentum] of William Shackspeare
In the name of God, Amen. I, William Shackspeare of Stratford-upon-Avon in the county of Warwick, 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.
Judith gets her ‘lawful English money’
Item, I give and bequeath unto my sonne in L 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 the appurtenances, lying and being in Stratford-upon-Avon aforesaid in the said county of Warwick, being parcel or holden of the manor of Rowington, unto my daughter Susanna Hall and her heirs for ever.
Item, I give and bequeath unto my said daughter Judith one hundred and fifty pounds more, if she or any issue of her body by living at the end of three years next ensuing the day of the date of this my will, during which time my executors are to pay her consideration from my decease according to the rate aforesaid; and if she die within the said term without issue of her body, then my will is, and I do give and bequeath one hundred pounds thereof to my niece, Elizabeth Hall, and the fifty pounds to be set forth by my executors during the life of my sister, Joan Hart, and the use and profit thereof coming shall be paid to my said sister Joan, and after her decease the said fifty pounds 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 issue of her body, then my will is, and so I devise and bequeath the said hundred and fifty pounds to be set out 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 executors and overseers; but my will is that she shall have the consideration yearly paid unto her during her life, and, after her decease the said stock and consideration to be paid to her children, if she have any, and not to her executors or assigns, 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 attain after do sufficiently assure unto her and the issue 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 150 pounds shall be paid to such husband as shall make such assurance, to his own use.