Home > drama, literature, Shakespeare, summaries > The Life and Times of William Shakespeare (Biography) (Part 3)

The Life and Times of William Shakespeare (Biography) (Part 3)

July 25th, 2010


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The banns were asked only once in church instead of the traditional three times, because the bride was some three months pregnant. In the year of his marriage, Shakespeare worked in Stratford with an income of some kind. William’s and Anne’s first daughter, Susanna was born on May 23, 1583. Later on February 2, 1585, Richard Barton of Coventry christened Hamnet and Judith, the couple’s twins, whose birth date is uncertain.

From the birth of the twins until his first appearance in London as a troubadour, there is no record of what William Shakespeare was doing or where he was. During these years, stretching from the mid-1850s to the early 1590s, speculation runs rampant, and these years are romantically termed “lost”. It is very important to emphasize the emotional closeness and stamina of his family link, because numerous biographers have over-stressed the significance of Shakespeare’s lost years. Many imagine that Shakespeare completely deserted his wife and three children in search of an unclear aspiration, yet there is no indication that he even left home. The view of love that he constantly displayed indicated his fondness of his family, and it would seem odd for him to abandon his new wife and three young children at this point in his life.

There is no evidence of Shakespeare’s professional career after he left grammar school and married Anne Hathaway. It is relatively certain that William Shakespeare never proceeded to university schooling. If he had continued his education onto the university level, his Greek allusions would have been broader and manifested differently. Although he did not attend higher level schooling, William probably learned a great deal from the forests and farms surrounding his residence, for his plays suggest he had an extensive knowledge of hunting, hawking, and “the appetite of worms in a rural cemetery. ” (Gay)

Many scholars believe that Shakespeare was a page-boy or a lawyer’s clerk upon leaving grammar school during his “lost” years. If William Shakespeare had been a page-boy, it is supposed that he would have been granted permission to visit nobles and after gaining their support, traveling with them to London. Another reason why many believe Shakespeare was a page-boy is that his father, John Shakespeare, was running very quickly out of money and wanted to use his son’s connection with the household of which he was employed to get back his previous stature. Shakespeare could have conceivably been a lawyer’s clerk, but there is only circumstantial evidence which can be used to draw a conclusion about this theory. Throughout his younger years, William became well acquainted with local Stratford lawyers through his father. John Shakespeare’s professional proceedings in both money-making and local business would have provided young William an excellent opportunity to meet many lawyers. Also William Shakespeare had always been very involved with the purchasing, selling, and leasing of land. Thirdly his most famous plays often contained legal phrases and lawyers, demonstrating an expansive knowledge of the legal system.

The discussion continued as experts proceeded to contemplate Shakespeare’s profession after leaving school. John Aubrey, the author of Brief Lives written during the seventeenth century, states that “He understood Latine pretty well: for he had in his younger yeares a School-master in the Countrey. ” (Evans 20) Perhaps, like many of his contemporaries, he taught school before setting out to write on his own. Aubrey tells another story, “ I have been told heretofore by some of the neighbours, that when he was a boy he exercised his father’s Trade, but when he kill’d a Calfe, he would doe it in a high style, & make a Speech. ” (Evans 21) Many boys of that time period began their occupation as apprentices of their fathers. Another career path that Shakespeare may have taken was to become a soldier of fortune. He seems to be quite knowledgeable in his plays about the soldiering and weaponry used in

military campaigning. Although he could have started his professional life in this way, it is unlikely because he would have left his wife and children in England while going to a foreign country.

For whatever reason, by 1592 Shakespeare had made a place for himself in the theatrical world of London as a playwright and actor, leaving his family behind in Stratford. Perhaps drawn to London by the glamorous reputation of the theatre, many believed that Shakespeare’s first job in London was at the Globe Theatre tending the horses of patrons. Although this cannot possibly be true because the Globe Theatre was not built until 1599, at least ten years after Shakespeare arrived in London, it illustrates his desperation to get near dramaturgy. There can be no doubt that he was in London at this time placing quill against paper. Proof of his presence in London appeared in a 1592 pamphlet written, Groats-worth of Witte by Robert Greene on his deathbed. In this most famous literary snarl, Robert wrote: “for there is an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and beeing an absolute Johannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrey.

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