In Search of Shakespeare by Michael Wood (2003)

Study Guide:

Prologue: "The Revolution of the Times" (pp. 9-14)

1. Why does Wood consider the whitewashed interior of the Stratford Guild Chapel to be an apt metaphor for Shakespeare's art as a whole?

2. In addition to the suppression of Catholicism, what other aspects of Old English culture were the Protestants seeking to wipe away?

3. Make notes to this outline of the the development of the English Reformation from Henry VIII break with the church in the 1520's  through to the accession of Queen Elizabeth to the throne in 1556:

 A) 1530: Henry VIII's divorce of Katherine of Aragon: (Why?)

B) 1533: Henry VIII's seizure of Monasteries and church lands: (Significance?)

C) 1534: Act of Supremacy: (Significance?)

D) 1547: Death of Henry VIII and Accession of Edward VI: (How were Edward's policies different from his father's?)

E) 1553: Death of Edward VI and Accession of Mary: (How did the Catholic Mary earn her nickname 'Bloody Mary'?

F) 1556: Death of Mary and Accession of Elizabeth: (What middle road between the extremists did Elizabeth try to follow?)

4. What impact did these national events have on the politics in townships like Stratford?

5. How can it be argued that Shakespeare was born at the perfect moment in English history?


Chapter 2 "Roots"  (15-33)

1. Describe the township of Stratford in the mid-16th century:

A) Location, Geography, Population:

B) Economy:

C) Trade with London:

2. How close was Shakespeare's immediate family to the hard scrabble existence of the peasant?

3. How did the scenes, characters and dialects of Shakespeare's rural upbringing find their way into his plays?

4. What was the origin of the name 'Shakespeare'?

5. What was the origin of the his mother's maiden name 'Arden'?

6. To which religious and social traditions did the Ardens maintain loyalty?

7.  How did John Shakespeare leave behind the yeoman traditions of his family and achieve middle class status, becoming a man worthy of Mary Arden's hand?

8. What major national event coincided with John and Mary's marriage?