Hamnet Shakespeare
William Shakespeare's only son
Hamnet Shakespeare
Hamnet Shakespeare was the only son of William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway, and the fraternal twin of Judith Shakespeare. He died at age 11. There are several theories on the relationship, if any, between Hamnet and his father's later play Hamlet. Other theories postulate connections between Hamnet's death and the writing of King John, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, and Twelfth Night, among others.
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  • 1596
    Age 11
    He was buried in Stratford on 11 August 1596.
    More Details Hide Details At that time in England about a third of all children died before age 10. Scholars have long speculated about the influence – if any – of Hamnet's death upon William Shakespeare's writing. Unlike his contemporary Ben Jonson, who wrote a lengthy piece on the death of his own son, Shakespeare, if he wrote anything in response, did so more subtly. At the time his son died, Shakespeare was writing primarily comedies, and that writing continued until a few years after Hamnet's death, when his major tragedies were written. It is possible that his tragedies gained depth from his experience. Biographical readings, in which critics would try to connect passages in the plays and sonnets to specific events in Shakespeare's life, are at least as old as the Romantic Period. Many famous writers, scholars, and critics from the 18th to the early 20th century pondered the connection between Hamnet's death and Shakespeare's plays. These scholars and critics included Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Edward Dowden, and Dover Wilson, among others. In 1931, C. J. Sisson stated that such interpretations had "gone too far". In 1934, Shakespeare scholar R. W. Chambers agreed, saying that Shakespeare's most cheerful work was written after his son's death, making a connection doubtful. In the mid-to-late 20th century, it became increasingly unpopular for critics to connect events in authors' lives with their work, not just for Shakespeare, but for all writing.
  • 1585
    Age 0
    Little is known about Hamnet. Hamnet and his twin sister Judith were born in Stratford-upon-Avon and baptised on 2 February 1585 in Holy Trinity Church by Richard Barton of Coventry.
    More Details Hide Details The twins were probably named for Hamnet Sadler, a baker, who witnessed Shakespeare's will, and his wife, Judith. According to the record of his baptism on 23 March 1560 in the Register of Solihull he was christened 'Hamlette Sadler', and Shakespeare himself spelled Sadler's first name as "Hamlett" in his will. He was probably raised principally by his mother Anne in the Henley Street house belonging to his grandfather. By the time Hamnet was four, his father was already a London playwright, and as his popularity grew, he was probably not regularly at home in Stratford with his family. Honan believes that Hamnet may have completed Lower School, which would have been normal, before his death at the age of eleven (possibly from the Bubonic Plague).
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