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The Lost Years

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare Biography - The Lost Years 1578 - 1582 

THE FIRST ' LOST YEARS'  1578 - 1582
There are two periods in the life of William Shakespeare referred to as the Lost Years where there are very few known facts about his activities. The first of these ' Lost Years '  are between 1578 when he leaves school at the age of 14 and 1582 when he marries Anne Hathaway at the age of 18.

Let' s look first at what facts are available during this period - the First Lost Years.

1578 John Shakespeare became behind with his taxes
1578 to 1582 The first of Shakespeare's ' Lost Years '  This period covers the time between
         the Bard leaving school and his marriage to Anne Hathaway. 
1578 Lord Strange's men play Stratford
1578 Essex' s men play Stratford
1579 John Shakespeare was forced to mortgage Mary' s estate, Asbies
1579 Anne Shakespeare died, sister to William,
1580 Fined 40 for missing a court date
1580 Edmund Shakespeare was born
1580 May 3, Edmund, brother of Shake-speare was baptised
1580 Berkeley's men play Stratford
1581 Worcester's men play Stratford
1582 November 27, A marriage licence was issued by the Episcopal register at Worcester to Wm
         Shaxpere and Anne Whateley of Temple Grafton, Warwickshire.
1582 November 28, A Marriage Bond on the Episcopal register records issue to William Shagspeare and
         Anne Hathwey of Shottery, Stratford
1582 Berkeley's men play Stratford
1578 to 1582 The first of Shakespeare's ' Lost Years '  This period covers the time between
         the Bard leaving school and his marriage to Anne Hathaway. 

The Shakespeare Family' s downfall
There is no doubt that William Shakespeare's father, John Shake-speare was going through a particularly bad patch during the first lost years. He had been incredibly successful in Stratford both in his own businesses and his civic career. In 1568 he had been appointed the Mayor of Stratford and in 1570 he had been appointed to the even higher rank of Chief Alderman of Stratford. By 1578 things had started to go seriously wrong for the Shakespeare's. William and his brother were removed from school in order to help with the finances as John was behind with the taxes. Another tragedy struck the family in 1579 when eight year old Anne Shakespeare died. This must have been a terrible time for the Shakespeare family but despite their mounting financial problems their young daughter Anne was provided with an expensive funeral. Things went from bad to worse and in the same year as Anne's premature death William's father was forced to mortgage his wife's estate, Asbies. Despite the mortgaging of property their money problems continued and in 1580 John was fined 40 for missing a court date. There is no real evidence of the events which lead to John's downfall and how he descended from being a pillar of the community, and wealthy businessman, to a debtor whose only possession was a house on Henley Street. The events surrounding his father were, however, of major importance to William and the first lost years.

The Effect of his father's downfall on William Shakespeare and the First Lost Years
The major effect on William was that he was forced to end his education. Boys of William's age and with his family's social standing would normally leave school at the age of 14 and then go on to further their education at University. Due to his father's poor financial state this was not an option for William. He had to leave school and it seem logical to assume that he would have to help support his family. Thus we enter the period of the First Lost Years.

William Shakespeare - What work did he take up during the First Lost Years?
At this point the conjecture has to start. We have no documented evidence to link William with any specific job or trade. There are several options and views:

  • He helped his father in the family business (leathers and grains)
  • He took a job as a law clerk
  • He worked as a schoolmaster
  • He worked work as a scrivener
  • He travelled to Italy
  • He served as a soldier or sailor for an England threatened by Spain

The reason for this diverse selection of opinions was that the content of his plays required a significant knowledge of the law, astronomy, the sea and of Italy. Scholars have rationalised that some of this experience might have been acquired during his first ' lost years' . 

William Shakespeare - Links to Acting
It is possible that William Shakespeare first became involved with acting during his schooldays and during the First Lost Years. Entertainment in Stratford during the Elizabethan era was somewhat limited. But we do know that various acting troupes visited Stratford during this period and that William Shakepeare would have been acquainted with them. Acting Troupes required venue licenses to put on their plays and, in  Stratford,  these were obtained from Stratford Guild Hall via the Bailiff would have been responsible for this task. In 1568 William Shakespeare' s father, John, was elected Bailiff or Mayor of Stratford! So William Shakespeare's father would most certainly have met the actors in the various troupes which visited Stratford. And William would have come into close contact with the acting fraternity from a very young age continuing in to the first lost years. 

William Shakespeare - The end of the ' First Lost Years ' 1585 - 1592
The period of uncertainty regarding the life of Shakespeare' s and the First Lost Years end with the documented records of his hasty marriage to Anne Hathaway. The section relating to the marriage of Anne Hathaway includes a comprehensive biography based on documented evidence and life in Elizabethan England. This logically leads on to the Children of William Shakespeare.

William Shakespeare Biography - The Lost Years 1578 - 1582

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