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Henry Shakespeare was fined for flouting one of the Elizabethan sumptuary laws in 1583. In 1571, a law was passed that required all men and boys over six years of age (excluding royalty and nobility) to wear woollen hats on Sundays and holidays. It was an attempt to bolster the English wool trade as well […]Continue reading

In October 1608, Shakespeare stood as godfather to William Walker, the son of one of the bailiffs in Stratford-upon-Avon. Earlier that year, Henry Walker had presided over a court case in which Shakespeare sued John Addenbrooke for the sum of £6. Shakespeare became his son’s godfather during a ceremony at Holy Trinity Church a few […]Continue reading

John Aubrey, an antiquary and biographer, wrote a series of short biographies between 1669 and 1696. They were published with the title Brief Lives and are a mixture of speculation, gossipy anecdotes and interesting observations. One of his biographies was based on what gossip he could find out about Shakespeare: I have heard Sir William […]Continue reading

Lord Burghley, Secretary of State under Elizabeth I, wrote a short manual for his son as he set off on his youthful travels to France. It was titled Memorial for Thomas Cecil (1561) and was full of detailed advice regarding his spiritual welfare, his clothing and his behaviour: If you offend in forgetting of God […]Continue reading

A range of stage properties and special effects were used to add spectacle to performances in early modern playhouses. Gunpowder was often used for special effects, most memorably on the day the Globe burned down. Wadding had been used along with the gunpowder in the small canon which was fired. Although no cannon balls were […]Continue reading

Eighteen of Shakespeare’s plays were printed during his lifetime in cheap versions known as ‘quartos’. A quarto was a book made from printed sheets which had been folded into four sections. When the large sheet of paper was folded in half, and then in half again, it resulted in four double-sided leaves. The smaller size […]Continue reading