Ian W. Archer

in The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199566105
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature


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In common with most early modern people of his class, Shakespeare would have understood ‘economy’ primarily in terms of ‘oeconomy’, or as household management. His father's loss of social standing seems to have made a lasting impression on Shakespeare. Nevertheless, a recovery of status was signalled in 1596 when John was granted a coat of arms, achieving gentry status. This article argues that the key to Shakespeare's wealth lay in his position as a player shareholder. He was one of the eight shareholders in the Lord Chamberlain's company formed as part of the reorganization of theatrical companies in 1594. From a rather unpromising start, Shakespeare had prospered, lifting up his family's social status. He had done so by a mix of canny investments, participating both in the commercializing entertainment industry in London, and investing in landed property, the value of which was steadily increasing.

Keywords: oeconomy; household management; William Shakespeare; John Shakespeare; Shakespeare's wealth; Shakespeare's investments

Article.  9146 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Shakespeare Studies and Criticism

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