In 1610, if you asked someone in London who William Shakespeare was, they would say ‘a poet’. If you asked someone in Stratford-upon-Avon the same thing, they would say ‘a property owner’.
Shakespeare made a small fortune from his time in London. He arrived from Stratford in around 1592 and retired back to Stratford in 1613.
The money he made he invested in purchasing property in both London and Stratford purchasing:
- The Blackfriars Gatehouse in London for £140 in 1613
- 4 yardlands of arable land (107 acres) in Stratford for £320 in 1602
- Lease of corn, grain, blade and hay in various hamlets in Stratford for £440 in 1602 (giving a yield of £60 a year)
- New Place in Stratford for £60 in 1597
He also inherited:
- The house he grew up in Henley Street, Stratford when his father died in 1601 which he rented out
We know little about the Globe, but other theatres paid between £5 – £8 in the 1590’s, which rose to £10 – £12 after then for a completed play. Most plays at the time only had a 3 or 4 day run, but if the play was a success, the writer would get bonuses.
Shakespeare acted all his life and took roles in his own plays – recorded as playing Adam in As You Like It and a ghost in Hamlet. This would have given him an income of £100 a year, plus extra payments for performing at court (for Queen Elizabeth I and later King James I).
In 1599, Shakespeare paid £100 for at 12.5% share in the Globe Theatre, giving an income of £40 a year. Current estimations assume that the Globe Theatre had a yearly income of around £1,200 (before costs) and the shareholders could also make more money by selling refreshments to theatre goers like apples, nuts, oysters, gingerbread, sweets and of course bottled ale.
A good comfortable income for man at the time would be £35 a year. Some costs of the time are:
- 4p-6p = to be rowed across the Thames
- 1p = to stand and a watch a play at the Globe Theatre
- 2p = to sit and watch a play at the Globe Theatre
- 2p-3p = A loaf of bread
Shakespeare’s friend and fellow playwright; Ben Johnson quit acting to concentrate on writing full time and obviously didn’t use his money well, as he died virtually penniless in 1637.
By investing in property and land, Shakespeare used the money he made very well to generate more. Also, the amount he earned from writing plays indicates that his plays were a success!