William Shakespeare (1564-1626) is my 11th great-grand uncle! Who knew? Family Search dropped me an email the other day to inform me of this connection. I guess writing is in my genes. However, somewhere along the way, his genius got wiped from my DNA.
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE ROOTS
Turns out there are no living descendants of William himself. The only living relatives are descended from his sister, Joan Shakespeare (1569-1646). Joan married a hatter, William Hart, and lived with Hart in a small two-room cottage adjoining her and her brother’s birthplace on Henley Street, Stratford-Upon-Avon, England. William provided for Joan in his will.
I am a direct descendent of Joan. How in the world did I end up in Texas? It’s a long story, but the move to America was made circa 1682 by Mary Hart Linville (Joan’s great granddaughter) who settled in Pennsylvania as a Quaker.
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE AND RELIGION
Quaker? Wow! While nothing is known about Joan’s religious preferences, controversy swirls around William’s. His work is centered around religion and religious conflict. And yet, it’s hard to define his beliefs through his work. He apparently attended the protestant church. Scholars have found a connection to Catholicism through his family and school teachers.
Quakerism began in the second half of the 17th century in England after the English Civil War. Its followers wanted to reshape religion, politics, and society. Its core tenant was that each individual can experience inner light, or the voice of God, without needing a priest, or the Bible.
The Shakespeare descendants in Pennsylvania eventually migrated to North Carolina and, as many Quakers, drifted towards Methodism, my official religion.
And how did I end up in Texas? My grandparents on my dad’s side moved from North Carolina to South Carolina in the early 1900s where my grandfather worked for the railroad. After serving in WWII, my dad took a job with Humble Oil Company (now Exxon) and moved to Texas. I’ve been here ever since.
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE THOUGHTS
True confession time. The only play of William’s that I have studied is The Merchant of Venice in high school. Because I studied French in high school and college, I am more schooled in Moliere’s work than Shakespeare’s. (Moliere is considered to be the French Shakespeare.)
The quality of mercy is not strained,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
(Portia, Act 4 Scene 1)
At times in my life, I’ve been tempted to read his plays; to correct the deficit of my knowledge. But sadly, it seems like lots of work. I’d rather read fiction that’s easy to comprehend. Sigh. Now that I know he is family, I’ll get with the program.
What are your thoughts on Shakespeare?