Study Guide

William Shakespeare Childhood

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William Shakespeare was born 23 April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, an small English market town located about 100 miles northwest of London along the banks of the River Avon. William's father, John Shakespeare, was a prominent local citizen who served as an alderman and bailiff (important roles in local government). His mother was Mary Arden Shakespeare, after whom Shakespeare named the Forest of Arden in the play As You Like It. William was the fourth of the Shakespeares' eight children, only five of whom survived to adulthood.

Though some ill-informed biographers have depicted Shakespeare as poor and uneducated (more on that later), that wasn't really the case. By the age of four or five, young William Shakespeare was enrolled at the King's New School in Stratford, a grammar school run for the benefit of the sons (tough luck, daughters) of civil servants like John Shakespeare. By today's standards, the education that boys like Will Shakespeare received at these grammar schools was incredibly rigorous. Classes started at dawn and were held six days a week. Boys studied the alphabet, moved on to the Book of Common Prayer, and by the ripe old age of seven began instruction in Latin. "They began with what was considered the relatively easy Latin of Aesop's Fables (translated from Greek), then Caesar, and then moved on to Cicero, Virgil, Ovid (the author that seems to have been Shakespeare's favorite), Horace, Suetonius, Livy, and, notably for a dramatist, Seneca, Terence and (perhaps) Plautus,"blank">Homer.

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