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Confirming Title to Shakespeare's House



Known as the “Final Concord” of 1602, this is one of two documents held at the Folger that seem likely to have passed through Shakespeare's own hands. The Final Concord confirms Shakespeare's title to the second-largest house in Stratford-upon-Avon, known as New Place. A seemingly routine legal record, the document actually marked the conclusion to some horrific events.

 

In purchasing New Place, a brick-and-timber house with ten fireplaces and extensive gardens, Shakespeare celebrated his improved social standing, resulting in part from his professional success in London. Just two months after he purchased the property from William Underhill in 1597, Underhill was poisoned by his oldest son and heir, Fulke. Fulke was then hanged in 1599, leaving behind a younger brother, Hercules. Once Hercules came of age, Shakespeare prudently protected his title to New Place by paying Hercules to reconfirm the purchase, resulting in this document.

 

According to the custom of the time, the confirmation document consisted of three identical copies on a single piece of vellum, which were then cut apart on wavy lines and distributed to the parties involved. These two pieces, belonging to Underhill and Shakespeare, were brought together by a collector in the early 1700s; the third portion, written at right angles to the two, was the court's own copy and remains at the British Public Record Office.


England and Wales. Court of Common Pleas. Final Concord between Shakespeare and Hercules Underhill. Manuscript, 1602


 
 
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