Wood, In Search of Shakespeare, "The Lost Years" (pp. 105-119) and "London Fame" (pp 120-151).

Study Guide

Read these notes to get caught up on Shakespeare's life as a teenager.

"The Lost Years" (pp. 105-119)

1. What are the only records we have of Shakespeare's existence between his marriage in 1582 (at age 18) and the first mention of him in London in1592 (at age 28)?

2. What is the 17th century 'myth' about the reason why Shakespeare left Stratford?

3. Why had economic hard times beset Warwickshire during the 1580's? Why had John Shakespeare's fortunes also sunk?

4. Describe about the 1587 episode involving the murder of William Knell which, according to Wood's theory, led to Shakespeare joining the Queen's acting company?

5. Who had organized this theatre company? What was its political purpose?

6. Who was the great star of the Queen's Men and for what style of theatre was he famous? What sort of verse line was used in these early plays?

7. Which of the Queen Men's plays would Shakespeare later adapt in his own versions?

8. How did Shakespeare, according to Wood, get connected with the Burbage family? (James Burbage owned The Theatre in London's Shoreditch District, and Richard Burbage, his son, would become Shakespeare's leading actor and business partner.)

9. Why, according to Wood, did Shakespeare move permanently to London in the late 1590's?

"London Fame" (pp 120-151)

1. What was the population of London when Shakespeare arrived in the late 1580's?

2. What was the distribution of rich and poor in the city?

3. How was the rise of professional theatre connected to the Puritan suppression of the mystery plays? When were the first theatres built in London?

4. In what different types of venues were plays put on in London during the first decades of professional theatre?

5. Can you think of an modern analogy to the rapid rise to huge popularity of this new form of entertainment?

6. In what kinds of neighborhoods were the new theatres located, thanks to the opposition of the city's Puritan leaders?

7. Describe the character of the first star playwright of the English theatre, Christopher Marlowe. What made his 'mighty line' so effective and popular?

8. How many different plays would an Elizabethan acting company perform in a single week? Why?

9. Describe what Bishopsgate, Shakespeare's first neighborhood in London, was like in the 1590's. (Think about how you might use this information in your conception of Ephesus in The Comedy of Errors.)

10. Describe the entertainment values of Shakespeare's earliest tragedy, Titus Andronicus (1591).

11. Who had the star roles in early comedies like The Two Gentlemen of Verona?

12. Explain the reasons why Shakespeare's cycle of history plays about the War of the Roses were such a hit in London in the early 1590's.

13. What reaction did contemporary playwrights like Robert Greene have to young Shakespeare's rapid rise to fame?