Shakespeare Week: Life back then – A day with William Shakespeare in Stratford Upon Avon – Time-travelling child reporter goes back to 1599 to meet the famous playwright

Recently I boarded the time travel machine to meet the greatest playwright of all time, William Shakespeare, in Stratford Upon Avon where he was born in 1564 and where he now (in 1599) lives in his New House residence.

Mr Shakespeare gave me a tour of his father’s house to give me an idea of how it was like living in Elizabethan England

He was one of eight children but only four survived the childhood years.

His father John was a self-made man and from his home he run his glove making business.

The gloves were very expensive and cost like the equivalent price of an iPad these days. Only wealthy people could afford these items.

They were made with leather and filled with soft animal fur from squirrel and rabbit. Shakespeare showed me these in the workshop at his house and even made me touch the soft fur.

He confessed me that when his father failed in the glove business he did not have enough moment to send his son to Oxford University as many of his classmates (and playwright Christopher Marlowe) did. But William put a lot of effort in his education and learnt by himself.

In Elizabethan England, there were many apprentices and tutors, and Mr Shakespeare was clever enough to become an actor. He told me that he observed his father a lot while he was negotiating with rich and poor people, in cities and countryside. This was an early source of inspiration for his plays.
Mr Shakespeare also told me that he married early, for practical reasons. His wife Anne Hathaway was rich.

They had three children. Susanna was the oldest. Twins, Judith and Hamnet, were two years younger. Hamnet died at 11, inspiring Shakespeare to write Hamlet, one of his most famous works.

While we visited the house where he was born, he told me that in Tudor times people took a bath once a year and it was a big event when that happened and the whole family washed.

Water was heated in a cauldron then poured in a bath. As in the Elizabethan age there was a Patriarchal society, the first to wash was the father then, in order of importance, the first male son, then the wife and at the end the daughters.

They used the same dirty water and the women were considered less important than the men.

In 1592, Mr Shakespeare started working as an actor. Since then he began spending a lot of time in London and began writing about the diverse cultures and personalities that he encountered there.

Shakespeare’s London was one of the great cities of Europe and a leading centre of culture as well as commerce.

Its dramatists and poets were among the most important artists of the day.

London’s population grew 400% during the 1500s, reaching nearly 200,000 people when Mr Shakespeare arrived there as an immigrant from Stratford.

The first thing he witnessed when he arrived in the big capital as a young man was the skull of a distant cousin, killed for being a Catholic, impaled on a bridge. This clearly made an impression on him, because he wrote about this act of violence in his stories which were often filled with violent young men and angry mobs. There was a lot of violence but during the reign of Elizabeth I (1558-1603) England flourished.

This is the reason why her reign is also referred to as the Golden Age of Elizabeth. This was an important time in the development of art, English poetry and literature, because there was political stability.

In Elizabethan times, poetry, music, theatre and literature dominated daily life in England, while explorers such as Francis Drake brought exotic news back home.

When Shakespeare left London, he was rich and successful and decided to retire in his quiet hometown, Stratford Upon Avon.

He told me that when his father died he did not want to move back to his childhood home so he rented it to a local business man who transformed it into a bed and breakfast and pub and called it The Swan and the Maidenhead.

At the top of the stairs leading to the beer cellar Mr Shakespeare showed me some drawings carved in the wooden pillars which were signs to protect the beer from witchcraft.

In those days people were very superstitious and believed in the supernatural.

For an inn beer was the most important asset so they thought they could simply protect it with anti-witchcraft symbols carved in the wood which were thought to be protective charms against witchcraft.

A symbol similar to this was carved on Shakespeare’s inn’s cellar door.

At the end of the tour, I told Mr Shakespeare a few things that happened in the future and he said he could not imagine that his inn would be very popular for the following 200 years. He would also not imagine that his work would survive forever not just on stage but in books, films and musicals. I was impressed with him. For such an important personality, I thought Mr Shakespeare was very modest.

William Shakespeare is the best British writer of all time. His plays are about life, love, death, revenge, grief, jealousy, murder, magic and mystery.

He was like the JK Rowling of his day with ‘blockbuster’ plays including Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Hamlet. Shakespeare wrote 37 plays which are all well-known now but also during his lifetime.

We know that his work was popular at the time because he earned enough money to live in a smart area of London and to buy a few properties in his hometown.

It has been almost 400 years since he died, but people still celebrate his work all around the world. Shakespeare is considered so important because he has had an incredible influence on the English language and invented over 1700 words and expressions that we still use today.

Credits: All pictures of myself in Stratford upon Avon were taken by William Shakespeare in person who was keen to try out my 21st century camera in his birthplace house.

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I submitted this newspaper article to my teacher for Shakespeare Week in a realistic format and had lots of fun compiling it. 

Read my full interview with the Bard here

Interview with William Shakespeare by time travelling child reporter Diego

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For more fun facts for Shakespeare Week watch my interview with the Horrible Histories cast who also star on Bill, a fantastic half fictional film about William Shakespeare’s lost years

 

About Diego

I am 9 years old and I love being a child reporter for London Mums Magazine. I am a crazy Lego engineer and a big fan of Shaun the Sheep, Wallace & Gromit and all the other Aardman movies. I also love airplanes.

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