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Method in the Madness

John Hall

John Hall was born in 1575 to the physician William Hall of Carlton, Bedfordshire. He attended Queen’s College Cambridge in 1589, completing his BA in 1593/4 and receiving his MA in 1597. The next 10 years of his life are a mystery. It has been suggested that Hall journeyed to the continent, perhaps to Montpellier in France, to continue his medical training. It is likely he was working to gain medical experience but whether he ever received a formal medical qualification is unclear.

What is clear is that John Hall appeared in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1607 when he married Susanna Shakespeare, William Shakespeare’s eldest daughter. Their only child, Elizabeth, was later baptised on 21 February 1608. John Hall seems to have maintained a good relationship with his father-in-law. William Shakespeare made him executor of his will and it was Hall who took the will for the grant of probate, following Shakespeare’s death.

John Hall was a known Puritan, which led to disputes with the local authorities. He turned down the role of Burgess twice, owing to the demands of his practice and when he finally accepted he was fined for missing sessions.

Nonetheless, Hall seems to have been an important local figure of great repute. He died in 1635 and the entry in the Parish Register referred to him as “medicus peritissimus(a most skilful physician). When Susanna died in 1649 she was buried beside her husband in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon.

John Hall's signature

Signature of John Hall, here written ‘Jo. Hall’ and his fellow churchwarden ‘Antonie Smith’, c. 1623-1633