John Shakespeare
Historical Figure
Nationality: England
Date of Birth: 1530
Date of Death: 1601
Cause of Death: Natural causes
Religion: Officially converted from Catholicism to Anglicanism, ambiguity abounds
Occupation: Glover (glovemaker) and leatherdresser
Children: William Shakespeare and seven others
Fictional Appearances:
"We Haven't Got There Yet"
Set in OTL (?)
Type of Appearance: Posthumous reference
Ruled Britannia
POD: July-August, 1588
Type of Appearance: Contemporary(?) reference

John Shakespeare (1530 - 7 September 1601) was a glover (glovemaker) and leatherdresser in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, in the 16th century. He was the father of William Shakespeare.

It has been suggested that John Shakespeare was a Catholic. On one occasion he was fined by Queen Elizabeth's government for refusing to attend Protestant services; this could indicate recusancy, or one of several other reasons for resisting the state's sponsorship of Anglicanism. Shakespeare's signature appeared on an oath prepared by the English Jesuits Robert Parsons and Edmund Campion, who secretly visited Stratford-Upon-Avon and other towns in Northern England to minister to its Catholics in the early 1580s. The oath swore that the signer would "remain a Catholic in his heart." The signing of this oath would automatically attain for the signatory the grace of Extreme Unction upon his death, in the event that a priest was unavailable to give Last Rites, an event which the Elizabethan persecution of priests made likely. A minority of scholars claim that Shakespeare's signature on the oath was a forgery. As the signed document was not discovered until the 18th century, it is difficult to judge their claims one way or the other.

John Shakespeare in "We Haven't Got There Yet"[]

John Shakespeare remained a Catholic in the face of the House of Tudor's sponsorship of Anglicanism and attempted to teach the faith to his son William, with limited success. The younger Shakespeare did not fully consider himself Catholic, but he did retain "some leanings in that direction," even long after his father's death. For instance, when he was severely surprised his instinct was to make the Sign of the Cross, though he attempted to suppress this instinct in public lest he draw suspicion for the crime of recusancy.

John Shakespeare in Ruled Britannia[]

John Shakespeare's faith took pride of place once again when the Spanish Armada conquered England and restored Catholicism as the official state religion in 1588. His nostalgia for the celebration of the Catholic Mass left his son William receptive to the grandeur and glory of Catholic sacraments.[1]

John Shakespeare had been a man who wanted to see his son as less than John was, not greater, a fact that William was well aware of into adulthood.[2]

Literary comment[]

While John Shakespeare is referred to in the novel only in the past tense, he was alive at the POD, and no specific reference is made to him having died.

There is a curious question regarding John Shakespeare's past encounter with Cardinal Parsons, see Inconsistencies (Ruled Britannia).


  1. Ruled Britannia, pg. 204.
  2. Ibid. pg., 203.