You are here:
Photo shows Shakepeare's birthplace bedchamber.
William Shakespeare was born to John and Mary Shakespeare around 23 April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon. His father bought their family home in 1556, a large house in Henley Street, where William was born. Shakespeare was the third of eight children and the eldest of the five who survived into adulthood.
Photograph by permission of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
Shakespeare would have attended the local 'petty' or small school at the age of four or five. He would have learned to read, write, and do simple arithmetic. He would also have had lessons in religion and behaviour. This print illustrates how a lesson was taught in Elizabethan times.
Image shows a petty school from Roxburghe Ballads (Hertford, 1874), II, 573By permission of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
Shakespeare would have learned his alphabet from a hornbook, a sheet mounted on wood, bone or leather and protected by a cover of transparent horn.
Photo shows a hornbook, from The History of the Hornbook by A.W. Tuer (London, 1897).By permission of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
Photo shows Holy Trinitiy Church, Stratford-upon-Avon. This is the church where Shakespeare was baptised and is also buried.
None of Shakespeare's play manuscripts survives. About half the plays were printed in 'quarto' or pamphlet form, often by unscrupulous publishers. Having sold his plays to the acting company to which he belonged, Shakespeare made no effort to preserve them for posterity.
Thankfully, a consortium led by actors John Hemmings and Henry Condell of The King's Men published the First Folio in 1623. These men worked from the original play manuscripts so compared to the other quartos, the First Folio contains more faithful versions of the plays.
Image shows the First Folio dedication and title page - this document was published in 1623. By permission of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.
This print illustrates the dress actors would of worn to perform Shakespeare's plays. Costumes were usually contemporary dress, often very lavish, with little attempt at historical accuracy.
Image shows 'Courtship' from Roxburghe Ballads (Hereford, 1864), II , 509By permission of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
The Swan Theatre is based on Elizabethan theatre design - Shakespeare's plays would have been performed in a space quite similar to this stage.
The theatres in Shakespeare's time were round or polygonal, they usually had three galleried levels for seated audiences and a thrust stage extending into an open courtyard.
The playgoers with cheaper tickets stood in the 'pit' surrounding the stage. The area at the back of the thrust stage provided important playing areas: two or three doors flanking a curtained recess, a balcony for scenes like Romeo's visit to Juliet and probably a third level where musicians and special effects could be accommodated.
Photo by Stewart Hemley shows the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 2010 © RSC
0844 800 1110
Sign up to email updates for the latest RSC news:
Already an RSC Member or Supporter? Sign in here.
The RSC is a registered charity ( no 212481 )
© 2015 Royal Shakespeare Company