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Shakespeare’s Purchase of New Place



ROBERT BEARMAN


This essay examines the surviving documentation for Shakespeare’s purchase of New Place in May 1597 and links its unusual nature (an exemplification of a final concord) to the circumstances of its purchase from William Underhill, a man not only under suspicion for his recusancy but also facing financial difficulties and several lawsuits (including a suit filed by the Stratford-upon-Avon Corporation for nonpayment of rent). Bearman argues that Shakespeare would have known about the state of Underhill’s affairs through regular contact with fellow Stratford citizen Richard Quiney. The unusual documentation surrounding the sale may indicate that Shakespeare felt the need to move quickly in his business dealings with a man of suspect integrity. The essay also explores whether Shakespeare had a specific reason for pushing through with the sale when he did. Particularly relevant is the issue of possible damage to properties in Henley Street, the site of the Shakespeare family homestead, during the fires of 1594/95. These fires and the subsequent damage would have made the rehousing of Shakespeare’s dependents, perhaps including siblings and parents, a priority.



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