From The Facts About Shakespeare. William Allan Neilson and Ashley Horace Thorndike.
While it is probable that the sale of Shakespeare's poems brought him in some financial return, he is not
likely to have profited from the publication of his plays. The playwright at that time sold his product to
the manager or company, and thereby gave up all rights. To the end of the sixteenth century managers usually
paid from £5 to £11 for a new play, adding a bonus in the case of success, and sometimes a share of the proceeds of the second performance. During the first decade of Shakespeare's activity as a dramatist, then, we
may calculate that he obtained for about twenty-one plays an average of about £10 each.... [The relative value of £10 is £2,120 in 2014. -- Shk Online.] During his second decade the prices for plays had so risen that he may be estimated to have received about twice as much from this source as in the early half of his career.
More profitable than playwriting was acting. Lee estimates Shakespeare's salary as an actor before 1599
at £100 a year at least, exclusive of special rewards for court performances, and we know that by 1635 an
actor-shareholder, such as Shakespeare latterly was, had a salary of £180. Besides this, he became about
1599 a sharer, with Heming, Condell, Philips, and others, in the receipts of the Globe Theater, erected
in 1597-8 by Richard and Cuthbert Burbage. The annual income from a single share was over £200,
and Shakespeare may have had more than one. In 1610 he became a sharer also in the smaller Blackfriars
Theater, after it had been acquired by the Burbages.
The evidence thus accumulated of Shakespeare's having acquired a substantial fortune is corroborated
by what we know of the earnings of other members of his profession, and it leaves no mystery about the source
of the capital which he invested in real property in Stratford and London.
How to cite this article:
Neilson, William Allan, and Ashley Horace Thorndike. The facts about Shakespeare. New York: The Macmillan company, 1913. Shakespeare Online. 20 Jan. 2014. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/biography/shkworth.html >.
Did You Know? ... Renaissance records of Shakespeare's plays in performance are exceedingly scarce. However, those few contemporary accounts that have survived provide brief yet invaluable information about a handful of Shakespeare's dramas. They give us a sense of what the play-going experience was like while Shakespeare was alive and involved in his own productions, and, in some cases, they help us determine the composition dates of the plays. Of all the records of performance handed down to us, none is more significant than the exhaustive diary of a doctor named Simon Forman. Read on...