Romeo and Juliet – Single Mind of William Shakespeare

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William Shakespeare, a brilliant individual, possessed a small yet well-educated mind. He also had a deep appreciation for the Bible and an endless imagination. As an adult, he crafted extraordinary plays like Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet. It is important to note that these plays were written by Shakespeare in his later years, disproving any incorrect claims about his earlier life.

Despite the limited information about Shakespeare’s childhood and absence of an autobiography, the lack of emphasis on this aspect did not diminish admiration for his works. However, it is crucial to acknowledge the importance of comprehending one’s own upbringing, as highlighted by the saying “you can’t understand your future till you understand your past”. This concept applies to both renowned individuals and ordinary people.

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William Shakespeare, born in 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, England to John and Mary (Arden) Shakespeare, came into a world plagued by tragedy. Stratford was a thriving market town with a significant population. However, when William was only three months old, the devastating plague struck the town, claiming the lives of many residents – about one out of every seven.

The Shakespeare family was fortunate enough to avoid the plague. According to records, none of them were affected by this terrible disease. They had to be a close-knit family during those times.

William Shakespeare’s immediate family included his father John, mother Mary, three brothers (Gilbert, Edmund, Richard), four sisters (Joan, Ann, another Joan, and Margaret), as well as his grandparents.

Despite evading the plague, they could not escape the common tragedy of infant mortality during that era (Lee 10).

Mary, the mother of William Shakespeare, was born to Robert Arden and Had. She had eight children with John Shakespeare (Gray 3). Their first daughter, Joan, passed away at birth in 1558. The couple’s second child, Margaret, was born in 1562 and died a year later in 1563. Finally, in 1564, John and Mary had their third child, William Shakespeare, who lived into adulthood (Fido 11).

Shakespeare was baptized in April 1564, but his exact birth date is unknown. However, as he died near his birthday on April 23rd, which coincides with St. George’s birthday, this date is widely recognized as his official birth date (Loxton 10). Another member of the Shakespeare family was William’s brother Gilbert, who also lived into adulthood. He was born in 1566 and died in 1612, which was relatively short considering the time period (Kay 17).

The second Joan in the Shakespeare family was born in 1566 and lived until 1612 as an adult. Unfortunately, Anne, the sixth born child, passed away at the age of 8 while William was only 15. The death of his sister likely brought great pain to William and the entire family, as is common with most deaths. It was yet another loss to endure during that time. Anne was born in 1571 and died later in 1579. Richard Shakespeare, named after his grandfather, was the seventh born and also lived into adulthood, though not for a long period of time. He lived until 1613 and was born in 1574.

Edmund, the last child, was named after his uncle Edmund on his mother’s side, just like Richard. Unfortunately, both Edmund and Richard had short adult lives, with Edmund only living for 28 years. Richard lived from 1580 until 1608. Being part of William Shakespeare’s immediate family undoubtedly had a significant influence on his life, as all families do (Lee 18-19). John Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s father, was undoubtedly the most important figure in his childhood life.

In 1551, John Shakespeare left his birthplace of Snitterfield to find work in nearby Stratford-Upon-Avon (Lee 4). At one stage, he bought 500 pounds of wool to launch his new business selling wool and gloves, which he then brought to the Stratford markets every Thursday (Lee, 6-7). By this time, he had already married Mary, who grew up in the small farming village of Wilmcole (Wright 13), and they were moving up in society and financially.

He later served as the town’s tester, responsible for assessing the freshness of Ale and Bread (Fido 12). He then progressed to the role of alderman, steadily advancing towards his ultimate appointment as town bailiff (essentially mayor) in 1568 (Kay 7). Along Henley Street in Stratford, he purchased two houses which remain standing to this day. Additionally, several houses in Stratford have retained their medieval charm, featuring projecting second stories and small windows, much like they did during Shakespeare’s era (Wright 11). Undoubtedly, this was the birthplace of William, with many speculating that he was conceived in the upstairs bedroom (Wright 12).

William was raised with admiration for his father and the bible, which held significant importance during that period of time. John, William’s father, who was considered wealthy back then, exposed his son to fairs and plays, which greatly influenced William’s interest in plays and poetry (Wright 15). These plays typically featured six or seven actors who traveled from town to town to promote their performances (Wright 14). The plays showcased in provincial England focused heavily on moral teachings and righteousness (Wright 19). Even if the children didn’t fully comprehend the messages or morals, they still found entertainment in them. The provincial theater encouraged imagination among its audience, and the physical action of these plays often captivated children (Wright 19).

One instance of physical action in sixteenth century plays involved violence, which was considered necessary (Wright 19). It was used to effectively communicate messages to children, and to make the moral lessons more convincing and lifelike. Occasionally, an actor would carry a hidden pouch of animal blood, ready to be sprayed during a crucial moment of axing or stabbing (Wright 19).

William undoubtedly had the best seat for these events because his father held the most important position in town at that time. The violence and action portrayed in these plays likely shaped the mind of the young playwright. Another point of interaction between father and son was their shared wool business. William would assist his father, as was customary for most men and boys who spent their time outside working (Levi 5).

William studied at Kings new Grammar school in Stratford, where he acquired skills and received acknowledgment from his father. Similar to other schools in England during that era, the emphasis was placed on comprehensive language education for young children. From the age of approximately 4 to 7, the students were immersed in learning Latin and rarely communicated in English at school. As a result, Shakespeare had to compose letters using Latin text.

Shakespeare acquired the ability to speak and write in old English, the language he employed in numerous plays, during his time at school. Additionally, he studied Latin and read Aesop’s fables. His education involved various instructors who adhered to the teaching approaches of renowned educators like Sir Thomas Elyot, Roger Ascham, Juan Luis Vives, Richard Mulcaster, John Brinsle, Edward Coote, and James Cleland. These influential educators greatly influenced the educational system that Shakespeare was exposed to during his formative years.

The material Shakespeare was expected to learn was diverse but mainly consisted of English and Bible-related studies. He was required to learn the English alphabet, the Catechism, the Book of Prayer, the New Testament, the Queen’s Grammar, Latin, Aesop’s Fables in Latin and Greek, as well as a wide range of books and history (Plimpton 3-45). Additionally, he was supposed to learn various physical activities including swimming, tennis, skills in throwing spheres and bars, hunting, wrestling, and riding (Plimpton 5).

Amazingly, at the age of 13, William Shakespeare had to quit school (Gray 9). A school friend, Ben Johnson, recalled that Shakespeare only learned “Greek and Latin” (Fido 11). The reason for this was the financial difficulties faced by the Shakespeare family. In 1586, William’s father, John, was expelled from the Stratford council for his absence from meetings. Furthermore, he received a reprimand for not attending church, possibly to avoid repaying his debt to the church (Gray 2).

William’s father, for unknown reasons, retreated from public life. Despite being a prosperous merchant, he now relied on selling, leasing, and mortgaging much of his wives’ property to sustain their livelihood (Wright 22). The family did not become destitute; however, they lost respect, most of their money, and social status. Consequently, William had to leave school and presumably take on the responsibility of providing for his family through work. There is limited information about William’s activities during this period. Some biographers speculate that Shakespeare was arrested for poaching and selling deer while others suggest he was an apprentice to a butcher (Wright 22). Still, others believe he assisted his father in the glovemaking business.

After a period of darkness and mystery, William emerged as a married man and started composing highly admired poems and plays. These literary works have continued to be cherished and passed down through generations. It is commonly believed that one’s childhood significantly shapes their future life and adult personality.

Childhood experiences can differ significantly. Take, for instance, Albert Einstein who initially faced academic difficulties and left school early but went on to become one of the world’s most famous scientists. On the other hand, Tiger Woods had an exceptional childhood as a golf prodigy and lived up to the high expectations set for him since his early years.

The period of childhood is usually marked by exploration, creativity, and awe. When studying the upbringing of a well-known person, there are frequently various assumptions made. The early experiences an individual undergoes can have a significant impact on their adult life. Shakespeare’s crucial years in Stratford were pivotal to his later life. Without his childhood, Shakespeare would not have grown into the influential figure he ultimately became. Hence, the significance of Shakespeare’s childhood equals that of his adulthood.

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Romeo and Juliet – Single Mind of William Shakespeare. (2018, Oct 09). Retrieved from

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