Shakespeare’s Gloucestershire Connections: Shakespeare or Shakeshafte and Guillim


Carol Curt Enos’s fascination with the historical context and religion of Shakespeare was kindled while teaching English at Lawrence (KS) High School and during residence in Oxford, England, leading to an M.S. thesis at University of Kansas, published as Shakespeare and the Catholic Religion (Dorrance, 2000). She has since published many papers and books on the subject and other related topics. She, her husband Paul, and their four children lived abroad for many years and traveled the world in relation to his work as a geologist.

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Shakespeares — and Guillims — in Gloucestershire? That is the question. This search for Shakespeare connections with Gloucestershire grew out of the 1581 will of Alexander Houghton of Houghton Tower, Lancashire, that named two men, Fulke Guillim and William Shakeshafte, who were probably members of Houghton’s private acting group. It seemed probable that identifying Fulke Guillim could help determine if William Shakeshafte was actually William Shakespeare, as proposed by E.A.J. Honigmann and many subsequent authors.

Might Guillim be related to John Guillim, the herald, of Minsterworth, Gloucestershire, author of The Display of Heraldry of 1610? Upon learning that John Guillim was descended from a Hathaway family in Minsterworth, the question became more compelling. The search eventually uncovered numerous ties between William Shakespeare and Gloucestershire through his mother’s Arden relatives, through neighbors in Stratford such as the Lucys and the Grevilles, and through Shakespeare’s friends, such as Thomas Russell, overseer of Shakespeare’s will, all of whom had extensive and long-standing family histories in Gloucestershire. In addition, branches of the Shakespeare family were established in Gloucestershire, particularly in Dursley, and Tewkesbury before, during, and after Shakespeare’s time. Dursley is about twelve miles from Minsterworth, and Tewkesbury is about twenty-eight miles south of Stratford and about fifteen miles north of Minsterworth, so the Gloucestershire Shakespeares very possibly knew the Guillim family.

While this search did not reveal any relationship between Shakespeare and John Guillim, the herald, it did uncover important connections many families had with Gloucestershire and with Shakespeare, ties that often lead to the Guillims: Hathaway, Throckmorton, Catesby, Russell, Denys, Wriothesley, Greville, Lucy, Winter, Berkeley, and others.


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