The incontrovertible facts of Shakespeare’s pre-London existence are minimal.

The exact date of his birth cannot even be determined. Tradition has assigned his

nativity to 23 April 1564, St. George’s day, but this tradition is motivated by happy

coincidence rather than documentary evidence. He was christened on 26 April, so

could not have been but a few days old at that point; beyond this, nothing can be

said with any certainty about his birth.1 He was the third child born to John and

Mary Shakespeare, but the first to make it past the age of two; Joan, christened

15 September 1558, seems to have died soon thereafter, and Margaret too passed

away shortly after her christening on 2 December 1562. The family continued to

grow after William’s birth: Gilbert was christened on 13 October 1566, a second

Joan on 15 April 1569, Anne on 28 September 1571, Richard on 11 March 1574,

and Edmund, who, like his eldest brother, would become a player, on 3 May 1580,

just over a year after the death of his sister Anne (Schoenbaum, Compact 23-8;

Loomis 6-13).