4
TO GRAMMAR SCHOOL

Sweet smoke of rhetoric! ( Don Armado, Love's Labour's Lost)


A classroom

John Shakespeare knew his advantages well enough to take large risks in the early 1570s, and he won local notoriety as an entrepreneur. Once he was accused of illegally sharing in a joint purchase of 200 tods (5,600 lb.) of wool. Even before applying for a coat of arms, he must have looked with immense hope to his son and heir. As a deputy bailiff, he was unlikely to have sent William to any school but the borough one, the only grammar school for miles around. This was the King's New School on Church Street -- scriveners refer to it as the 'free scole' or 'Kynges ffree Schoole'. Its registers are missing, but Nicholas Rowe writes in 1709 that 'Mr. John Shakespear' was a 'considerable Dealer in Wool' who bred William 'for some time at a Free- School' -- and, though he was not always reliable, we have no reason to discredit Rowe's words in this instance. 1 Much more direct, certain evidence that William was in grammar school comes from his plays. The Latin authors he recalls are mainly those he would have studied in class -- the 'grammar gods' -- and since the school was open to sons of burgesses, he would have been enrolled in 1571, when he was 7.

Stratford classes before William's time, and down to the present day, have met in what borough records call 'the chapel!' -- that is within the chapel precincts, either inside or close to the Gild hall. That hall was the seat of the town government, and William was schooled within a few yards of the annexe in which his father met with other aldermen. Formerly pupils had convened in 'Scholehows' (or

-43-

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Shakespeare: A Life
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Illustrations vii
  • Introduction ix
  • A Note on Conventions Used in the Text xvi
  • I - A Stratford Youth 1
  • 1 - Birth 3
  • 2 - Mother, of the Child 11
  • 3 - John Shakespeares Fortunes 25
  • 4 - To Grammar School 43
  • 5 - Opportunity and Need 60
  • 6 - Love and Early Marriage 72
  • II - Actor and Poet of the London Stage 93
  • 7 - To London-- and the Amphitheatre Players 95
  • 8 - Attitudes 120
  • 9 - The City in September 145
  • 10 - A Patron, Poems, and Company Work 169
  • 11 - A Servant of the Lord Chamberlain 196
  • 12 - New Place and the Country 225
  • III - The Maturity of Genius 249
  • 13 - South of Julius Caesar's Tower 251
  • 14 - Hamlet's Questions 274
  • 15 - The King's Servants 295
  • 16 - The Tragic Sublime 318
  • IV - The Last Phase 351
  • 17 - Tales and Tempests 353
  • 18 - A Gentleman's Choices 382
  • The Arden and Shakespeare Families 412
  • A Note on the Shakespeare Biographical Tradition and Sources for His Life 415
  • Notes 425
  • Index 451
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