Stratford 2: The Lost Years

What inspired Shakespeare to write? Ben Crystal continues his visit to Stratford-upon-Avon, learning about Shakespeare's education, marriage and the 'lost years' before he moved to London.


Stratford in Shakespeare’s time was a busy place. It was a market town, people would have travelled far and wide to be here, bringing their life stories with them. If Shakespeare heard them they would have fired his imagination and been great ground for play writing.

At 18 William married a local woman, Anne Hathaway, who was eight years older than him.

Dr Anjna Chouhan: Anne was three months pregnant on their wedding day, so six months later she gave birth to their first child, a daughter, Susanna. And two years after Susanna, twins were born, Hamnet and Judith, a boy and a girl. So he’s twenty-two, and he’s got three children and a wife. It’s a lot of pressure on him. And between having his three children and turning up in London a few years later in the 1590s, Shakespeare goes missing. There is no record of him. So those years in between are called the lost years and there are lots of strange ideas about what Shakespeare did during those lost years.

Ben: What are some of your favourite ideas about where he went, what happened to him over these years?

AC: I think that William was inspired by travelling groups of actors who came to visit Stratford-upon-Avon when he was living here, and I think that he saw some of their plays when they set up in the streets and in the taverns, and he thought that’s for me and travelled to London with them.

Ben: Did Stratford have a great influence on his writing?

AC: Stratford had a really important influence on Shakespeare’s writing. He was inspired by the tradespeople he saw here, the schoolmasters, and especially the countryside. He writes a lot about trees and forests and flowers and herbs in all of his plays, so he is inspired by all of the things that are happening around him.

There are so many questions we have about Shakespeare that we’ll never get answers to, but coming here to Stratford, seeing where he grew up, where he went to school, where he was buried, it brings the man that most of us were introduced to in a book on a page back to life.

Actors: Where the place?  Upon the heath.
There to meet with Macbeth.


Task 1

Task 2

Task 3

Task 4


Language level

Average: 5 (1 vote)
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Submitted by Néstor Serrano on Thu, 12/07/2018 - 15:18

This is an interesting theme that can create a cause to make some studies about the great question : What is that Shakespeare was doing during the lost years? Immediatly we can formulate some other questions about the salary, the emotional situation, the sickness, maybe there was some other troubles that we don't have today. This theme let me a flavor in the mouth to know more about it, there's no doubt.
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Submitted by Haaadi on Fri, 22/06/2018 - 19:33

i read many of comments. i think a few people known the molana, he is called rumi if anyone had known about this great man , he can know everythings rumi one of the greatest in the world who can change mind you, many of scientis never understand his books. he writed about life after dead, quantom phisics and something strang. search that on google and read it from wikipedia
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Submitted by Haaadi on Fri, 22/06/2018 - 19:16

very bad conversation, i cant understand many of words. because voices is not clear

Hello H444DI,

I think the conversations are quite clear. Remember that language is used in natural settings and not always a studio environment. It is important to be able to understand language in such settings. You can use the transcript to help you to follow the text, of course.

If you find this recording too challenging then you might try some other recordings instead. Our Elementary Podcasts, for example, might be a better level for you.

The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Khaled v on Tue, 20/02/2018 - 09:05

I think that the main inspiration for any writer is the suffering Most of successful writers had a hard life and they were able to change that suffering into letters , we are reading them now So , my question that if Shakespeare was a rich and happy man during his life without any challenges , would he give us the same novels with the same sense ?

Hello Khaled,

Great question! I'm afraid I'm not familiar enough with Shakespeare's life to be of much help other than to suggest reading about him a bit more. A good place to start might be the Wikipedia entry on his life.

The other possibility is that your hypothesis about writers isn't completely accurate. What I mean is that, while I'm sure what you say is true for many writers, it might not be true of all writers. Or another way to think about it is that all human beings are bound to suffer.

I wish you luck in investigating this more!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team