Shakespeares Childhood

Shakespeares Childhood

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Life as a Child in the Renaissance
     There have been many classic rag-to-riches stories, and while they may seem
almost cliché, there are so few that are overlooked. For example, many musicians in the
rock era who we know today grew up in lesser homes, and they struggled to earn a dime.
Elton John, as well known and wealthy as he is today, spent the greater part of 10 years
fighting diligently to fill small clubs to make a living off of his wonderful musical talent.
While it may be hard for many people to believe, not all quintessential icons in our day
were bathed from golden faucets in oversized mansions; quite the contrary, rather. The
famous William Shakespeare is a thriving example of this theory; however, there is a
main difference between Shakespeare’s fame from the normal rag-to-riches story, and his
eminence is most comparable to Van Gogh. During the time when he was alive, his
literature was not taken seriously. It was merely viewed as a form of writing not meant to
be explored, and much less, praised. Aside from this, he came from an extremely
poverty-stricken family, where most of them died from diseases. Also, the quality of
education in those days was determined by how much money families could lay down to
have their children accepted into pristine schools, which was not possible for the great
William Shakespeare. In Shakespeares’ days of inadequate education, he must have had
a very strong ambition to become a world-reknown writer and poet.
     As mentioned, Shakespeare’s family was plagued with much sickness, and it
spread like wildfire since they were such a large family crammed into a small, musty
English cottage. Third-born William was accompanied by his 6 siblings, Joan, Margaret,
Gilbert, Amney, Richard, and Edmund. According to “In the Days of Shakespeare’s
Childhood,” most of his siblings lived only into their teen years due to diseases such as
yellow fever and malaria. Because of so many child deaths, the exact number of children
is debatable, because many died before coming out of infanthood. In fact, when William
was born to his parents, John and Mary, he was the first surviving infant. To give an idea
of just how many people were affected by various diseases of the time, as stated by John
F. Andrews, in 1592, there were 15,000 deaths. This number was significant enough to
have the globe theater close down! The home they grew up on was in
Stratford-Upon-Avon on Henley Street, a small village that now houses his home as a

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museum and it features much of his praised work. At this time, children of the
renaissance were considered to be young adults, and they were expected to exude the
utmost of proper manners. Shakespeare’s work, along with all drama literature, was not
taken seriously at this time. “Drama litereature was severely underpraised at this time,”
as agreed in “Shakespeare’s life” . Also, the first attempts at learning Shakespeare’s
childhood were made 50 years after his death, which is why there are so many conflicting
pieces of information on his life. Shakespeare’s home-life qualifies him perfectly for a
rag-to-riches story.
     In addition to his mediocre family and upbringing, Shakespeare’s schools were
not of very high quality unless families had enough money to pay for a higher tuition;
thus, a better education. At this time, there were two main schools: grammar schools and
petty schools, grammar schools being far more advanced than lesser petty schools. Top
leve schools catered to the sons of elite businessmen, while the lower level schools had
one grammar master and a few pupils. As web.uvic.ca points out, “If the modern primary
school is a complex organic being, centrally controlled and elaborately articulated, the
petty school of Shakespeare’s day was a primitive, unstable creation,” which shows the
variation in schooling quality, as emphasized by Shakespeare-online.com:
     the grammar schools varied almost as much as the petty schools in size, wealth,
     and composition. At the top the great midevial colleges like Winchester (1387)
     and Eton (1440) possessed buildings, endowments, and facilities comparable to
     Oxford and Cambridge.
The schools accessible to Shakespeare were clearly not as simpatico as Oxford or
Cambridge. Also, pupils, at this time, were taught by usually a man in a classroom filled
with both boys and girls. In Shakespeare’s school, many teachers were fired because of
drinking problems which caused the students to fall behind. Even further so when a
replacement came in, this new teacher had no way of knowing where the previous teacher
left off, and this caused holes to be left in many chidren’s education. Shakespeare finally
started school around the age of 6 going on 7 at the Stratford-Upon-Avon Grammar
School, which is a step above a petty school, but was still on the poorer side of the
education spectrum. The Stratford-Upon-Avon Grammar School still stands today, and is
also a museum of Shakespeare’s. Judging by John Shakespeare’s income (William’s
father), it is assumed that the school was not of a very high quality. William also studied
much Latin; mainly the famous Latin writers of the past, such as Seneca, Cicero, Ovia,
Virgil, and Horace. Many of William’s adored childhood writers name’s were made
famous again in his plays, as one can easily note. Unfortunately, at the age of 13, John
Shakespeare fell into financial debt, and William’s education ceased.
     William Shakespeare was not simply handed a life full of riches and a large
cushion which he could fall upon, should he make wrong decisions in his life. For
William to become world-reknown in a time when his style of writing was merely viewed
as taboo, and coming from such a battered upbringing, it is obvious that William had a
very strong internal drive to become so prominent.
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