Shakespeare's Life

Essay by sophia_lispectator March 2006

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Shakespeare was born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, a town in central England, an important river-crossing and market center. He was one of many children of John Shakespeare and Mary Arden, the daughter of a farmer who had distant relatives who were nobility. John was trained as a glove-maker, but he also traded in wool and was a money lender. He was a respectable member of the community and in 1568 he became the town Bailiff i.e. the Mayor.

Being the son of a prominent person, Shakespeare must have attended the 'petty' school before going to the Grammar School. The Grammar School's curriculum consisted of incessant drills in Latin, both written and spoken, and we can assume that Shakespeare was familiar with Latin although Jonson claimed that he had in him "little Latin and lesse Greek". More importantly, in the Grammar School Shakespeare got in touch with the works of Ovid, Plautus and Terence, and with the Roman history, and all this was to serve as inspiration for many of his works.

For example, there are many similarities in the plot of Plautus's Menaechmi and Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors. Burgess assumes that he started his playwriting career by attempting to translate Menaechmi and then taking a lot of poetic liberty and ending up with a play of his own.

Shakespeare supposedly left Grammar School at the age of 14 and got married at the age of 18 to Anne Hathaway, a girl eight years older than him. There is proof of this in the Bishop's register that two Warwickshire farmers stood surety to the legality of marriage between one William Shagspere and one Anne Hathwey. The misspelling of their names is not surprising given the fact that this kind of orthographical "creativity" was common at the time, though the wordplay...