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Who was Shakespeare?
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An education gap

The education Shakespeare received would not have encompassed the themes and references visible in his work.


Shakespeare’s plays show an author well-versed in mythology, law, astronomy, music, foreign policy, the military, politics, foreign languages, the royal court, European geography and history. But there is no proof that Shaksper was educated past the age of 13.[1]

The Argument

Shakespeare's work displays a broad vocabulary and draws on a wide range of source material, some of which was only available in foreign languages. His curriculum at the local grammar school in Stratford would not have exposed him to these themes or works. There is no evidence that Shaksper traveled anywhere but between Stratford and London. The standard Elizabethan curriculum at the time would have consisted of rote learning in Latin. The school would likely have taught classes in arithmetic, logic and rhetoric, with no studies of law, history, medicine, art, military strategy, or European languages.[2] The argument is not that he couldn't have, but more, that history and the actual record do not prove that he did.

Counter arguments

There is no reason to believe that Shakspere did not travel. He may have been in the army for a period and he could have been a tutor. It is not inconceivable to believe that he did, over the course of his life, come to know enough of all of these subjects to create the material present in his plays. Also, Shakespeare was most likely educated at Stratford Grammar School. He would have been exposed to a curriculum of Greek and Latin and could have featured foreign languages. The actual Latin book that may have been used in the school’s syllabus was actually mentioned in the Taming of the Shrew.[3] Through his work with a royal acting company, Shakspere would also have likely been exposed to the workings of the aristocracy and courts, though there is no evidence for this. Also, many of the best writers of Elizabethan England did not come from noble stock. Ben Jonson was the son of a bricklayer. Edmund Spenser's father was a tailor. Christopher Marlowe was the son of a butcher. The idea that only someone with access to a noble education could produce great literary fiction is utterly ridiculous.[4]



[P1] The education Shakespeare may have received at Stratford Grammar School did not expose him to the source material and themes used in his plays. We do not even know for certain whether he was literate. [P2] Therefore, the boy from Stratford is not the author of Shakespeare's works.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P1] His education would have touched on many Latin and Greek themes visible in his plays. [Rejecting P2] Just because he didn't learn about politics, royal court, history, law and military strategy at school doesn't mean he never learned it.


This page was last edited on Saturday, 20 Jun 2020 at 01:18 UTC

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