The Untold Stories of John Shakespeare

The Untold Stories of John Shakespeare

Published: 14th Nov 2018

Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall in Stratford-upon-Avon is hosting an event with historian Professor Glyn Parry, who has recently been making headlines around the world following the discovery he made of documents revealing previously unknown stories about the life of John Shakespeare, father of William Shakespeare.

The public event will be held on Monday 26 November in the very setting where many of these stories took place, with Professor Parry, Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Roehampton, discussing the contents of manuscripts he recently discovered in the National Archives. This is an ongoing project, and to date Professor Parry has discovered 23 documents dating back to the 16th century.

It has long been known that John Shakespeare was accused of illegal money lending and wool dealing by professional informers. Until now it has been assumed that he settled those cases out of court by about 1573, when William was less than ten years old. The newly-discovered manuscripts reveal that some of the cases in fact continued until 1583, when William Shakespeare was nineteen years old. The cases brought by informers eventually resulted in John Shakespeare owing large fines to the Queen, which damaged his business career and forced his retirement from Stratford town council. Because they continued for another decade, these cases can now be seen as the backdrop to William Shakespeare’s education in the Stratford-upon-Avon Schoolroom during the 1570s. There he studied the Latin literature of the late Roman Republic and early Empire, including authors who attacked the corrupt informers who flourished under Roman monarchy. What William Shakespeare studied at his school, he found confirmed at home.

Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall is the building in which the lives of John and William intertwined; John appeared as plaintiff, defendant and, when bailiff (mayor) of Stratford-upon-Avon, as judge in the Guildhall court, and William was educated in the upstairs Schoolroom, where he also first saw professional theatre.

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