Shakespeare in Stratford-Upon-Avon
William Shakespeare was the third child of John and Mary Shakespeare of Stratford-Upon-Avon, a Warwickshire market town 91 miles north-west of London. We don't know the exact date of William's birth - for the christening was considered the more important event - and he was christened in Holy Trinity Church on April 26th 1564.
Shakespeare was born into a fairly prosperous and comfortable middle class Elizabethan family. His father, John, was a glover - a trade he pursued from the family home in Henley St and which enabled him to provide a stable upbringing for his son, which would haveincluded a reasonable education at the local grammar school.
His school-days over, William may either have worked for a time at his father's trade or, it has been suggested, was apprenticed to a local butcher. Whichever, there is ample evidence to suggest that the young man had entered his third age - that of the lover "sighing like furnace” with vengeance.
Anne Hathaway was several years William's senior, when the two of them became involved. She hailed from the nearby village of Shottery, and, at 26 years old - a full 8 years older than William - had long since passed the normal marrying age for an Elizabethan woman. She was soon pregnant and Shakespeare found himself forced into what may well have been a shotgun wedding.
Thanks to an unfortunate slip of a clerk's quill, it is the aptly mis-spelt "William SHAGspeare" whose name appears on the wedding licence as the groom to Anne Hathaway. She, no doubt, was relieved to have found a husband. He? Well we can only guess at his feelings, for with marriage came unwanted responsibility.
The young couple probably set up home in Henley St with William's parents. Unfortunately, John Shakespeare's fortunes had taken a turn for the worse and he had found himself in considerable debt. No doubt the actions of their wayward son placed additional burden on the family's purse-strings when, in less than two years, Anne gave birth to twins, Hamnet and Judith.
For young Shakespeare, life in Stratford had become a life of drudgery. He was a poet, he wanted to write, romance may have beaten within his breast, but the marital bed, since the birth of the twins, had doubtless become a virtual prison cell. And so it was that at some time in the mid 1580's Shakespeare left Stratford, abandoned his wife and children, and hit the road for London.