For nearly thirty years, John Shakespeare - the Poet’s father - served as a prominent member of Stratford’s town council. King Edward VI had established this council in 1553.
 

Town council's role

The council inherited the buildings and civic responsibilities of the former Guild of the Holy Cross, including the running of the town’s school. It was in the half-timbered buildings that members of the council held their monthly meetings where they made by-laws covering the quality of local food and ale, monitored the cleanliness of the town's streets and dispensed local justice.

The guildhall, where travelling actors performed in front of John Shakespeare and the town council in 1568.


The headquarters of the town council, which was established by King Edward VI in 1553

 

" ... the council held its monthly meetings in the half-timbered buildings ... "


" ... travelling actors visited Stratford in 1568 ... "

Travelling actors performed in Stratford the year John Shakespeare was mayor

John Shakespeare

John Shakespeare was elected one of the town's two tasters of bread and ale in 1556. He later became one of the chamberlains, responsible for the council's property and the collection of revenues and payment of debts. It was during his period of office that payments were made for defacing and whitewashing the mural paintings in the chapel. An interest was also taken in the school, shown by the entry for repairs to the schoolroom recorded in his accounts.


Travelling actors

In 1568, travelling actors visited Stratford and before being permitted to entertain around the town performed in the guildhall in front of the council and the mayor - who in that year was John Shakespeare. A sum of nine shillings was paid to the Queen's Players on this occasion.

If the four year-old William was not brought by his father to this particular performance, there were other opportunities to experience a visit by actors to the guildhall in Stratford during his childhood.

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Web links

Searching for Shakespeare: the documents at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Although travelling actors were welcome in Stratford in William's day, by the early seventeenth-century tastes had changed and they were no longer wanted. In this fascinating video Mairi Macdonald, former Head of Local Collections at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, shows from the council's accounts of 1621/2 how the King's Players were ingeniously prevented from performing in the town. It is preceded by a look at the title deeds to William's final home New Place - adjacent to the school - and other documents relating to life in the Shakespeares' Stratford.

The Elizabethan theatre
Professor Hilda D. Spear's illustrated lecture concentrates on theatre in London. Includes sections on performances, venues and the actors.

Shakespeare's stage
An examination of the development of theatres and stages from medieval drama to Shakespeare's time. Part of the Internet Shakespeare Editions Shakespeare's Life and Times site.

'Playing day at Stratford'
In 1964, as part of the 400th anniversary celebrations of Shakespeare's birth, the School recreated a visit of travelling players to the guildhall in the specially devised entertainment 'Playing day at Stratford'. In this page from the KES Archive section of this website the headmaster of the time and the two principal players evoke the special atmosphere that was recreated around these buildings that summer.

King Edward VI
A brief biography of the young king which also includes his portrait, from the British Monarchy site.

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