The Unaccounted for Period of William Shakespeare's Life
William Shakespeare was born on April 26th 1564 in Stratford on-Avon to parents John and Mary. Growing up, he received a good education for a country boy of that period. He attended the village elementary school, was tutored by his mother and others, and learned a great deal by himself. At the age of 18 he married Anne Hathaway, had his first child, Susanna in 1583 followed by twins Judith and Hamnet in 1585. Documentation ends here. From the years 1586 to 1592, there is little to no information about his activities and whereabouts. During this unaccounted for period of time, Shakespeare had to get from Stratford to London, where his presence was first reported by Robert Green in 1592 as an “upstart crow” in the theatre industry.
Biographers and historians have done extensive research trying to find some information about these missing years. There are dozens of theories regarding his whereabouts but three main explanations are widely accepted in the historical community. Each of these is backed up by writings from around that time or from later in history but all are circumstantial. The theories include Shakespeare fleeing Stratford after being caught poaching game on Sir Thomas Lucy’s property, his employment as a law clerk while remaining in Stratford, and his service as a schoolmaster in faraway Lancashire. Because of the mystery surrounding these years in the life of this genius, historians have now applied to this period the title The Lost Years.
The first of these theories is referred to most often. It states that Shakespeare had been poaching game on the property of Sir Thomas Lucy and was caught. He was whipped, put in prison, and then finally forced to flee Stratford altogether to escape further punishment. This theory looks as if it originated in the writings of a Gloucestershire clergyman by the name of Richard Davies. In some of his writings around 1616 he explains his theory:
“Shakespeare was much given to all unluckiness in stealing venison and rabbits, particularly from Sir Lucy who oft had him whipped and sometimes imprisoned and at last mad [sic] him fly his native country to his great advancement.”
In 1709, a historical writer by the name of Rowe continues this story showing more evidence in poetry, possibly early work of Shakespeare himself, that has many anti-Lucy statements. Rowe’s writings add details that have Shakespeare not robbing the game independently but rather have him running around with a bad group who had a habit of doing this. It gives Shakespeare a little more credibility than saying it was solely he who stole the game.
“He had, by a Misfortune common enough to young Fellows, fallen into ill Company; and amongst them, some that mad a frequent practice of Deer-stealing, engag’d him with them more than once in robbing a Park that belong’d to Sir Thomas Lucy of Cherlecot,...