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What was Shakespeare's father's occupation?

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Quick Answer

William Shakespeare's father, John Shakespeare, had a number of occupations, including glover, tanner, business owner and civil servant. While he was born a commoner, he eventually managed to elevate himself and his family into the nobility.

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Full Answer

John was the son of Richard Shakespeare, a farmer in Snitterfield. He moved to Stratford as an apprentice glover (one who makes gloves) and leather worker sometime before 1532. He bought numerous properties in the 1550s, including several houses, and he later inherited some farming real estate. Between rent collected from these lands and the profits made from selling timber and barley from the farms, John was far wealthier than the average glover.

The prestige and prosperity that came with John's many businesses also helped him attain numerous civil service positions, including ale-taster of the borough (the person in charge of enforcing various tavern regulations), constable, affeerer (the person in charge of establishing fines for laws without specified penalties), burgess, chamberlain, alderman (a member of the town council), high bailiff (a position similar to mayor but with additional duties, such as serving as the town coroner) and, later, chief alderman. All of these successes led to John applying for his own coat of arms and a rank in the gentry in 1569.

Later in life, John fell into debt for reasons that are unknown. He stopped paying his taxes, no longer fulfilled his alderman duties and was fined for skipping church, which he likely missed to avoid being arrested for defaulting on payments. He was also charged with illict lending and charging interest on money as well as illegally trading in wool. However, his son's theatrical successes helped mend his reputation, and before he died in 1601, he was reinstated on the town council and had his request for a coat of arms approved.

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