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Shakespeare's Childhood Books

With Sylvia Morris

How would Shakespeare have had access to books growing up in Stratford-upon-Avon?


Morris: Well, religious books like the prayer book and Bible would have been kept at the church he attended every week, and at Stratford’s Grammar School, he would have been taught from books including William Lily’s Latin Grammar and Ovid’s Metamorphoses

Some people owned their own books. The vicar who baptised Shakespeare left a Latin-English dictionary especially for the use of the school children. The curator in a neighbouring village left 168 books on subjects including stories and hobbies, as well as religion, and a man from Anne Hathaway’s village Shottery owned law books. Even in the unlikely setting of the isolated Cumbrian village of Troutbeck is a yeoman’s farmhouse, still containing books dating from Shakespeare’s lifetime. Nobody knows how they got there, but it’s thought they came from local markets. 

So books were also probably also bought and sold at Stratford’s fairs and markets. Books were a source of entertainment and instruction, not just for the rich.


Sylvia Morris

Sylvia Morris is an independent Shakespeare researcher, formerly Head of Shakespeare Centre Library and Archive. 

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