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Shakespeare's family in nine objects

‘I have choice for my kitchen’

Family focus

Mary Shakespeare (Arden) – Shakespeare’s mother

About the Item

As well as other animals, this oil painting shows a woman plucking the feathers from a goose in preparation to cook it. Because of the painting’s size it is possible it was once used as a shop decoration. How many different animals can you see?

Mary Arden grew up on her family’s farm and would likely have learned to prepare and cook meals from her mother using the produce and animals her family kept on the farm.

About Mary Shakespeare

William Shakespeare’s grandfather Robert Arden was a farmer with land near Stratford-upon-Avon.  The inventory in his will suggests the family were well-off. In addition to the contents of his house, Robert owned numerous cows, oxen, sheep, pigs, chickens and horses. On his death he left his land in Wilmcote and a good sum of money to Mary, the youngest of his daughters.

Mary was Shakespeare’s mother. She married John Shakespeare around 1557 and moved into his house in Henley Street, Stratford upon Avon, where the Birthplace stands today. 

Mary’s early married life would have been fairly comfortable as the wife of a prominent townsman. She would have been kept busy raising her children, of which she had eight. As well as looking after the family and the house, Mary may also have been involved in helping with her husband’s glove-making business. 

By the late 1570s the Shakespeare family were in financial difficulties. John was selling off land and property to pay his debts including the land left to Mary by her father which she must have hoped to pass on to her children. 

Mary outlived her husband and some of her children. She lived to see her grandchildren and great-grandchildren born, before dying in 1608 at around seventy years of age.

Read more about Mary Shakespeare (Arden)

Find out more about Mary Shakespeare (Arden) in this fact file about members of Shakespeare's family.

You can read more information about Mary Arden and Mary Arden's Farm on the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust website by clicking on the links. Primary school teachers and home educators can bring groups of children to Mary Arden's farm today. Click on this link to find out more about primary school visits. 

Watch this!

Meet Mary Arden – watch this video that shows what life may have been like for Mary Arden. Filmed at Mary Arden’s Farm in Wilmcote.


CC-BY-NC-ND Image Courtesy of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust