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Shakespeare's Learning and Plays

With Perry Mills

Do the plays reflect the education that boys in the Stratford grammar school received?


Mills: Of course! Lessons at the “Kynges New Scole” provided all the Latin (and “less Greek”) he needed to know. He was not just taught to read Latin but to write and speak it. A popular exercise was ethopoeia, or Impersonation – where the student was expected to express himself in the style and voice of someone else, often a woman such as Ariadne or Hecuba; a useful skill for the trainee playwright, no doubt.

And Shakespeare’s men habitually remember Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Heroides, two central texts on the Elizabethan set-book list, along with the standard textbook Lily’s Latin Grammar.

Perhaps the pupils did not always show the “consistent application” demanded by us teachers. Witness the scene in Merry Wives when young Will (nota bene!) is instructed in basic vocabulary by the Welsh pedagogue and windbag Sir Hugh Evans - or should that be Thomas Jenkins, Master from 1575-1579?

Perry Mills

Perry Mills

Perry Mills is Assistant Headmaster and Director of Specialism at King Edward VI Grammar School, Stratford-upon-Avon.

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