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Shakespeare's family in nine objects

The 1639 and 1647 settlements

Family focus

Susanna Shakespeare (Hall) – Shakespeare’s eldest daughter

About the Item

During her lifetime, Susanna Hall, with the help of four men who acted as Trustees, had two legal documents drawn up. These were written to ensure the land and property that William Shakespeare had left her in his will would pass on to Susanna’s daughter Elizabeth after her death. Without these, everything would have passed out of her family and on to the next surviving male heir.

On the earlier 1639 settlement, Susanna’s signature and a wax impression of her seal can clearly be seen (below).

About Susanna Hall

Susanna was the eldest of Shakespeare’s children and baptised in 1583, six months after her parents’ marriage. When she was born her grandfather was struggling with debt so her early childhood may have been a poor one. It is likely she either learned to read and write at ‘petty school’ or was taught by a tutor or family member as later documents show she could sign her name clearly.

She was 13 when her younger brother Hamnet died but she would have had an extended family in the town. One of her father’s brothers was only three years older than Susanna.

In 1607 Susanna married John Hall who became the town’s only physician (doctor). They continued to live with her parents at New Place and her daughter, Elizabeth was born there. It is possible she helped her husband with his patients and practice in some way.

More than once in her lifetime Susanna was forced to enter legal proceedings to defend her family’s property rights. In 1639 Susanna had a settlement drawn up to ensure the land and property she had inherited from her father William would pass on to her daughter. A second settlement had to be drawn up in 1647 to re-confirm Elizabeth would inherit everything.

Susanna died aged 66 in 1649. After her death the 1647 settlement ensured Shakespeare’s estate passed on to his grand-daughter Elizabeth as Susanna had wished.

Read about Susanna Shakespeare (Hall)

Find out more about Susanna Shakespeare in this fact file about members of Shakespeare's family.

Click on the link to find out more about Susanna Hall

Watch this!

Meet the experts – Ailsa Grant Ferguson and Roz Sklar talk about their research and their role as historians and tell us a little of Susanna Hall’s story. Filmed at Hall’s Croft in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Find out more!

Susanna Hall’s husband, the physician John Hall was a herbalist and would have used herbs and plants to treat some of his patients. Hall’s Croft, where we believe that Susanna and John lived for three years, had a larger than average garden which would have contained the many herbs that he used in his medicine. Click on the link to read more about Hall's Croft

During Shakespeare’s times it was not unusual for the women of the home to be the ones to create and administer herbal remedies for ailments. You can find out a little bit more in this resource.


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