Shakespeare’s Teacher: Anonymous, But Not Unimportant

willliam shakespeare

We know remarkably little about William Shakespeare, so we can't know much about his teacher at King's New School, in Stratford. We do know that, by law, the instructor could not accept payment from any of the boys he taught (girls were not allowed) nor from their parents, and that he was given free housing and an annual stipend of twenty pounds sterling -- at the high end, historians tell us, of teaching salaries at the time.

According to Stephen Greenblatt, author of Will in the World, "The curriculum made few concessions to the range of human interests: no English history or literature; no biology, chemistry, or physics; no economics or sociology; only a smattering of arithmetic." Latin and articles of the Christian faith were the subjects drilled into students, "all backed up," writes Greenblatt, "with the threat of violence." The boy who would be Bard probably learned more from acting, and the plays of Christopher Marlowe, but let's honor his teacher for not blunting at least one student's omnivorous curiosity.

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Owen Edwards is a contributing editor for Edutopia and Smithsonian magazines.

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