A Life of William Shakespeare

By Joseph Quincy Adams | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
SCHOOLING

SUCH evidence as we possess indicates that neither John Shakespeare nor Mary his wife was able to write. Yet the new age, under the influence of the Renaissance, was setting a high value on education,1 and we may be sure that the Chief Alderman of the town saw to it that his son and heir profited by the really excellent opportunity which Stratford afforded its youth of acquiring book- learning. The local free grammar school had been in existence at least as early as 1424; in 1477 its master was able to boast the university degree of Bachelor of Arts; and in 1553, under the royal patronage of Edward VI, it was reorganized as "The King's New School of Stratford- upon-Avon," with an endowment, and a special provision that its master should receive a salary of not less than £20 per annum.2 This handsome salary (it was double that paid to the Master of Eton3) enabled the citizens of Stratford to secure the best teachers, and to build up a school that compared favorably with those of Worcester,4 Coventry, and even larger towns.

The first Stratford schoolmaster under whose tuition William may have come was Walter Roche, B.A. of Oxford, and Lancashire Fellow. In 1571 Simon Hunt, also B.A. of Oxford, and Fellow, seems to have been appointed to assist him, and probably had charge of the

____________________
1
"Every one desireth to have his child learned," writes Dr. Mulcaster, headmaster of the Merchant Taylors' School.
2
That this sum was regularly paid to the schoolmasters during Shakespeare's boyhood is shown by the Stratford records.
3
The Master of St. John's College, Cambridge, asserted in 1561 that his university position had an annual value of only £12. See Bass Mullinger, Cambridge from 1535 to the Accession of Charles, i, 185.
4
The schoolmaster at Worcester received a salary of only £10.

-48-

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