Shakespeare & London

Shakespeare's Court

Shakespeare's bio

Born in 1564, William Shakespeare grew up in Stratford-upon-Avon. His mother was the daughter of a landowner; his father was a glove-maker and held public office. William attended grammar school from about 7 to 13, when he was forced to leave because of family issues. This basic education was the only schooling William ever received. His name would not appear on record again until he was 18 and married Anne Hathaway.

 

Little is known of Shakespeare’s early years, leaving us to speculate what his “court” was like and how it influenced his plays.

Shakespeare in London

Shakespeare's London was just as chaotic as the forest in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was a noisy, crowded melting pot of cultures. The center of English trade, Elizabethan London saw many travelers—and diseases. The bubonic plague swept through town once a decade from 1563 to 1603. But disease wasn’t the only way to bite the bullet in London. It was a violent place to live, and blood sport was a popular form of entertainment.

 

More violence would be seen in the 1590s when flooding led to a series of crop shortages. As famine spread, many people were left to scavenge the dirty streets for food. This led to an increase in violent crime around the country. Titania references the chaos of the 1590s in the second act of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Violent times

Britain before anger management