...making decisions on the basis of what seems best instead of following some single doctrine or style.
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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Life and Times of William Shakespeare pt. 1...

To co-inside with our Historical Fiction Bloggers Round Table event for Robin Maxwell's soon to be released O Juliet I have chosen to do my creative post(s) on William Shakespeare the English poet and playwright who made the story of Romeo and Juliet famous.

This summer I had the privilege of visiting Stratford-upon Avon where Shakespeare was born and raised. It is a lovely village, and of course a main tourist attraction. We visited the home on Henley st. that he was born and raised in. It was really quite overwhelming to stand in the very room of his birth. His father was a glover, he made gloves. His shop was attached to the home. I guess you could say he worked out of his home. He apparently was very good at his trade, because he was considered one of the more wealthy citizens of Staford.

Will was born in April of 1564, the third child of eight and the eldest surviving son. Not much is known about Will's education or early years, but you can be sure that he was well educated. His father being an important man in the community and having the means, would have wanted his children to have the best education available.

Staford is close to the Cotswold's which has to be some of the most beautiful country in the world and a major sheep-producing area. The town was built on the banks of the River Avon which is interesting in itself. Avon is the Welsh word for river. When the Romans invaded they kept asking the Welsh guides what the name of this and that river was and they kept responding with Avon :-).

Will was 18 when he married 26 year old Anne Hathaway. Her home was just a couple of miles walking distance over the fields from his. Nothing is much known about their courtship, except that 6 months after the couple were married, Anne delivered a healthy baby daughter, Susanna in 1583. Two years later Anne gave birth to twins Hamnet and Judith in 1585.

After the birth of the twins Shakespeare historical references seem to disappear until he shows up on the scene in London in 1592. There has been speculations that he was a school master. However, there are no records to substantiate this information. There is also a legend that the family had to flee to London because he was being prosecuted for deer poaching. Because of these "urban legends" with no fact behind them the time period between 1585 and 1592 are known as Shakespeare's "Lost Years".

My daughter and I were also able to visit Anne's home this summer as well. What a beautifully situated home. It was rather large for the period and well furnished. We were able to sit on the narrow high back bench that Will and Anne sat on while he was visiting. The gardens are breathtaking! It was easy to see how two young people could fall in love in such surroundings. Anne and Will were very much of the same social status, their father's were both well off men in trade.

I will pick up on Thursday with Will in London beginning his career. Hope you will join me. Be sure to visit HFBRT for a schedule of events on our other member blogs.


  1. This was really interesting. My bachelors is in English Lit with a concentration in Brit Lit. I took quite a few Shakespeare classes myself.

  2. Those pictures are beautiful! I love hearing about your trip. I love that piece of trivia about the word AVON.

  3. Susie, that is so cool that you were able to go visit Stratford-upon-Avon and see his home as well as Anne Shakespeare's house...this is a wonderful series on WS's life and I can't wait to read what you have in store next with parts II and III. Oh, and I totally giggled at the tidbit about how Avon got its name!

  4. Wow, Susie! Terrific post on the Bard's early life. I, too, am eager to read parts II and III. I never studied his life that closely, but one rather interesting tidbit that I read in a newspaper was that when Shakespeare's garden was recently dug up, a little wooden box was found with a smoking pipe and some marijuana in it! Could our man have been high when he wrote his masterpieces?

  5. Robin that is a crack up. That must have happened after my daughter and I were there because the guide would certainly have told us about it! It wouldn't surprise me in the least to find out he was "enhancing" his imagination with a little weed. What a guy. I love him.

  6. Looks like you had a great time!! I love those thatched cottages!!!

  7. This is such an interesting and delightful post! I can't imagine visiting his home-how special! I love that you took these lovely photos and had the perfect post for our O, Juliet event. Everything about Shakespeare is fascinating, I can't wait for your follow-up post. Thanks- absolutley lovely!

  8. This is very interesting! I've been reading about Shakespeare on and off for months... a YA novel on Anne Hathaway and a biography called Shakespeare by Another Name, which assumes that Edward de Vere used his name to publish the famous plays, but that the real Shakespeare (the glover's son) was but an actor. There are some pretty strong arguments and I am reading more! I still have about 3 novels to read on him as well.

  9. Wonderful post Susie.. it is so fun to see these original posts from you and your trip. Looking forward to more!

  10. Love it! That is so cool that you were able to go and visit and see it with your own eyes. I love the pictures.

    Robin you are too funny that does not surprise me.

  11. You are so lucky to have had the opportunity to visit his home! I hope someday I will be able to go. I have always loved Shakespeare not only for his plays, but just loved finding out anything historical I could about him. I'll be reading your second one in a few minutes (a little behind on my HFBRT reading)!

  12. Oh wow, this post was super awesome! I am so jealous of your trip - I can't believe you sat where he sat once upon a time...too cool for school!

    I'm adding Stratford-upon Avon to my travel wishlist.

    Thank you for this fantastic post Susie - I can't wait to read more!


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