John Shakespeare, the town council and the actors
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 responsibilities
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 concerning the quality of local food and ale, monitored the cleanliness of the town's streets and dispensed
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.
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, during his childhood there were several
other opportunities to experience a visit by actors to the guildhall in Stratford.
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