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Shakespeare's School

Where was William Shakespeare educated?

William Shakespeare's education would have started at home. His mother, Mary Arden, would have told him fables and fairy tales during his early youth. Mary was certainly literate. She acted as the executor of her father’s will. The kinds of stories Shakespeare was told are referred to much later in his plays. His home education would also have included reading the bible. In addition to education at home, Petty School followed up to the age of seven. There he learnt his alphabet, numbers, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer--often written on small pieces of parchment and made into hornbooks. 

Hornbook
An example of a Tudor hornbook from our collections. 1666 -1700 STRST : SBT 2008-1

Shakespeare’s Henley Street home was just a short walk from the  grammar school, the King’s New School, on Church Street, also the site of the Guild Hall where the borough council regularly met. The school was available to all boys within the borough, free of charge. The grammar-school's demanding curriculum was geared to teaching pupils Latin, both spoken and written. The boys studied authors such as Terence, Virgil, and Horace in their original Latin. In fact, the students were even expected to speak Latin to each other in the playground or at home. We can see the influence of these Classical writers, particularly Ovid, in Shakespeare’s plays and poetry. While grammar schools focused on Latin rhetoric, drama was also included. He probably left school at fourteen to undertake an apprenticeship of seven years until his coming of age.

There is no record of Shakespeare going to University. Only a few of Shakespeare’s contemporary playwrights attended University, including Christopher Marlowe who was at Cambridge. Ben Jonson, who prided himself on his learning, did not.


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