William Shakespeare The Lost Years

William Shakespeare

The Biography of William Shakespeare - The Lost Years

  • What are the William Shakespeare 'Lost Years'?
  • What documented evidence is available?
  • What did he do after he left school? His occupation?
  • Scandal! Was he a thief? Why did he leave Stratford?
  • Interesting information about the family, life and times of William Shakespeare


  • There were no documented facts about the life of William Shakespeare between leaving school in 1578 and marrying Anne Hathaway in 1582! This time is therefore referred to as the First Lost Years
  • The Second Lost Years - Between 1582 and 1592 there were only four documented facts about William Shakespeare
    • 2 Entries for the Baptism of his children in 1583 and 1585
    • In 1589 a court documents name William Shakespeare and his parents in a land dispute
    • In 1592 he is referred to in a very famous pamphlet called the 'Groatsworth of Wit' ( a Groat was a coin worth a small amount of money)
  • With such little documented evidence of the life of William Shakespeare the period between 1578 and 1592 is therefore called the LOST YEARS


William Shakespeare Index


William Shakespeare Lost Years (1578 - 1592)

THE FIRST LOST YEARS (1578 - 1582)

  • This is the period between William Shakespeare leaving school and marrying Anne Hathaway
  • We know quite a lot about William's father - John Shakespeare and can piece together the events surrounding the Shakespeare family and how these events affected the life of William during the First Lost Years
    • In 1578 John Shakespeare's fortune was in decline and he became behind with his taxes. William had to leave school to help his father and the family
  • We do not know what occupation was undertaken by William! But it is probably safe to assume that at some time he helped with the family business - trading in malt, corn, wool and leather. His occupation would have been a Glover and Whittawer (the maker of saddles, harnesses and fine leather gloves)
  • His father was also a money lender ( a very dubious occupation ) - William Shakespeare was known to operate as a money lender when he moved from Stratford to London so we can assume that William would have learnt about this area of his father's business!
  • Now the real guesswork has to start! The plays of William Shakespeare required a significant knowledge of Astronomy and the Law, Seamanship and Military matters, not to mention of Italy where many of his plays are based. Because of this scholars have debated that experience of these matters must have been obtained during the Lost Years. We therefore have a collection of different opinions of the occupations that William Shakespeare might have followed during his Lost Years:
    • A Sailor or Soldier
    • A Law clerk
    • A Teacher
  • We do know that in 1582 he married to Anne Hathaway as there is documented proof of this

  • We now reach the second part of William Shakespeare's Lost Years
  • What do we have proof of?
    • In 1582 William married Anne Hathaway
    • On May 26th 1583 William's first child, Susanna, was baptised - six months after her parent's marriage - must have caused a real scandal in the family!
    • On February 2 1585 William Shakespeare's twins, Hamnet and Judith, were baptised
    • In 1589 William Shakespeare was named, with his parents, in a legal action against a neighbour called John Lambert over a dispute over some land in Wilmcote (a village near Stratford-upon-Avon)
    • In 1592 he is referred to in a very famous pamphlet, written by an author called Robert Greene, which was called the 'Groatsworth of Wit' in which Robert Greene attacks the actor William Shakespeare as an "upstart crow"!
    • We also know that on March 3 1592 , the London Acting troupe called Lord Strange's Men produced Henry VI Part 1 at the Rose Theatre. It is therefore assumed that William Shakespeare probably wrote this famous play together with Parts 2 and 3 between 1590 and 1592
  • Not a lot of documented evidence and information! But we definitely know that he was in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1589 and that he had to moved to London by 1592!


  • There is speculation that William might have offended Sir Richard Lucy by poaching a deer on his grounds and had to leave Stratford to avoid prosecution ( No documented evidence supports this theory).
  • But it is reasonable to assume that there must have been a strong reason to leave his wife, children and family to follow the life of an actor in London ( In Elizabethan times actors were classed as low-lives )
  • There are many mysteries which surround the life of William Shakespeare - the Lost Years are the first of many!

William Shakespeare - The Lost Years' (1578 - 1592)

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