We have six examples of William Shakspere’s handwriting. All six are signatures on legal documents where some sort of mark had to be made to make the document legal. Here are the six signatures:
a) From the 1612 Mountjoy suit deposition: Willm Shackper
b) From the 1612 Blackfriars Gatehouse deed: (William) Shakspear
c) From the 1612 Blackfriars mortgage: Wm Shakspea
d) From the 1615 will, page 1: William Shackspere
e) From the will, page 2: Wllm. Shakspere
f) From the will, page 3: (by me William) Shakspear
The spellings on all six differ. On a) and c) he didn’t complete the word, as though perhaps, he couldn’t recall how it ended. Note that in b) the clerk has written the “William,” and that in the final signature on page 3 of his will, the first three words, “By me William,” were also written by the clerk. Also note that despite spelling his own name six different ways, not once does he spell it as it was spelled on play titles and elsewhere in London, the way we spell it today.
On similar documents William’s father showed that he was illiterate by using his “mark,” a drawing of a glover’s tool, instead of a signature. William’s daughter also used a mark, showing that she too was illiterate.