Shakespeare as a Businessman

In 1597, a year after his son's death, Shakespeare bought New Place, a “grete” house, one of the finest homes in Stratford. It stood on an acre of ground next to the Guild Chapel, not far from the schoolhouse Shakespeare attended as a youth. It was an imposing building built of brick and timber with three floors and five gables. He purchased it for £60 (a princely sum at the time) to house his wife and two daughters. It was a home in which he could learn to forget the shadowy presence of his son, Hamnet. These new rooms would not be filled with the absent child.

New Place stayed in the Shakespeare family for more than 100 years. His wife, Anne, lived in the house for twenty-four years, near her granddaughter, Elizabeth.

Realizing the value of land in Stratford, Shakespeare bought 125 acres in 1602, and in 1605 purchased a share in the Stratford tithe farm (for £440), from which he could collect tithes of grain and hay for himself or his heirs for thirty-one years. Where did these sums of money come from? After all, he was without any funds when he arrived in London, yet twenty-five years later he was a wealthy man. Other than the money he made as an actor and playwright, he was part owner of the Globe Theatre and the Blackfriars Theatre in London. He also earned money from his poetry. It is said that his patron, the Earl of Southampton, to whom he dedicated his long poems, paid him £1,000 for his sonnets, Venus and Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, an enormous sum in Elizabethan times.

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