Stratford 1: Shakespeare, Glove Maker

How did the son of a small-town glove maker come to write the greatest plays in the world? Join actor and producer Ben Crystal as he explores Shakespeare's early years in Stratford-upon-Avon.


This is Stratford-upon-Avon, a town that gets millions of visitors every year, thousands per day, and they all come for one reason … William Shakespeare.

I’m Ben Crystal, an actor and stage producer of Shakespeare’s plays. I’m here to find out why this small town in the centre of England produced one of the country’s best-ever playwrights, and why people are still visiting Stratford-upon-Avon 400 years after Shakespeare’s death.

Actor and actress: When shall we three meet again
In thunder, lightning or in rain?
When the hurly burly’s done,
When the battle’s lost and won.

Jana Kukla: I just love Shakespeare, always have, as a little kid too.

Yichun Chao: Romeo and Juliet – it was a love story and it was very romantic.

Rose Hackl: He has the ability to show into the heart, into the soul of the human beings.

Rand and Geraldine: They are kind of cross-cultural, you know. Everyone … and everywhere you go, people put on Shakespearian shows. There is a timelessness to it.

I’m starting my journey at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, where in 1564 Shakespeare was baptised, and then, 52 years later, buried.

The words you can see in black and white are actually written on his grave. They’re a curse warning us never to move his bones.

This statue was created soon after Shakespeare’s death. We think he looked very similar to this when he was alive.

The next part of my journey takes me to Shakespeare’s family home.

Lisa: This is the house where Shakespeare was born in April 1564, just upstairs in one of the bedrooms.

Ben: They seem to be in a big, nice house. They seem to be doing well. What did his father do?

Lisa: Shakespeare’s father was actually a glove maker. And he did not only live in this house, he also worked in here.

Ben: He worked here?

Lisa: Yes, so it’s not just a family home, it’s also his workplace.

His father was a craftsman, and William Shakespeare probably helped his father in the glove workshop, so he would have learned the trade of a glove maker himself. And he also managed to get quite a lot of references into his plays about gloves and leather making.

Ben: Romeo and Juliet – ‘Oh that I were a glove upon that hand’.

We’re pretty sure Shakespeare came to school here – at King Edward’s, just around the corner from the family home. William was able to attend this school for free because his father was a town councillor.

Dr Jonathan Milton: What do you think of that?

Ben: Oh my goodness!

Ben: What type of education would he have received here?

JM: They would have taught you how to write here, how to read, but as you got later up into the school, then the teaching was all about Latin and Greek, translating Latin and Greek into English, and writing speeches, writing stories.

Ben: Would you say that the education he received here shows in his plays, in his poetry?

JM: Absolutely, undoubtedly. The plays are full of all those classical references, and all those great stories from Latin and Greek classical literature.

Most successful playwrights of the time went to university, but Shakespeare didn’t. He left King Edward’s at 15, around the same time his father began to have financial difficulties.

Ben: Did it harm Shakespeare’s career as a playwright that he didn’t go to university?

JM: Well, we think perhaps the opposite. At university you were taught how to write plays, so his style when he came into writing plays was completely new. The text had that lovely lyrical style; it’s beautiful poetry. And all the stories that he’d learnt here at the school were put into his plays. He certainly broke through this whole formal way of making plays, and suddenly a new way of looking at theatre is opened up for everybody to come and see.

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Language level

Submitted by irene_catalano on Sun, 24/02/2019 - 16:43

Yes, I have seen a play of W.Shakespeare many years ago, Its title was The tamig of the Shrew. The actors were very good and I really enjoyed that play. I have seen Hamlet, Othello and Romeo and Juliet too, but as a movie in the cinema. I think that theather is more fascinating than cinema, as far as famous plays are concerned. Unfortunately I have never visited the birthplace of William Shakespeare, and I'd love to. I wish to go and visit it as soon as possible. I am a teacher and my job is what I aimed to do, even if I thougt it was different from reality.

Submitted by Nubes on Sat, 15/12/2018 - 22:44

Sadly,I haven't seen any of his plays, however, I have read most of them. We can consider --or I consider-- Shakespeare as the writer of writers. When I read him, it seems that every gesture of literature is contained in his words. It will be interesting to visit his town, to feel the shakesperian spirit in the space, as we do with words, verses, etc .

Submitted by Angelo on Thu, 30/08/2018 - 04:37

how i çan download the excises

Hi Angelo,

I'm afraid the digital exercises are not available for download, but you can download the Support pack in PDF format and do them there if you'd like.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Néstor Serrano on Wed, 11/07/2018 - 17:55

I think that this is an interesting history that I should to know more, specially by the aspect that Shakespeare didn't go to the university. He really was a great artist.

Submitted by AlexandraTinyakova on Tue, 07/11/2017 - 02:14

I'd like to be more familiar with Shakespear's plays. But I think they are not so easy to understand for not-native English speakers

Submitted by bornasevil on Fri, 20/10/2017 - 15:40

I haven't see Shakespeare's play but I knew some of them from book (not the script, only a reference). I wish I can see one of them someday. Well I don't know because I'am still studying. No, I haven't.

Submitted by Rgothardi on Thu, 24/08/2017 - 20:04

Being honest, I have never watched any Shakespeare work, but I recognise that he was a very good writter. About my job, I did an IT technician course, but I graduated later in engeneering, so now I am trying to find a job out of my current area.

Submitted by Khumora on Thu, 20/07/2017 - 13:54

Being honest, I have only watched Shakespeare's Romeo and Julliet and it was amazing!

Submitted by quartaroli on Wed, 19/07/2017 - 12:33

I have seen a lot of Shakespare's play, my favourite is The Tempest.

Submitted by nahian007 on Fri, 30/06/2017 - 02:16

it was really nice to know some detailed information about the greatest poet on earth , Shakespeare

Submitted by jccrispi on Wed, 21/06/2017 - 03:00

As most of the people, I also have seen movies of Romeu and Juliet. What a great writer! Of course, I enjoyed the whole movie. Regarding my job, it is quite related to my major. I have never been in the UK. However, I am planning to travel there as soon as I can.

Submitted by GoldenBoy on Mon, 19/06/2017 - 09:48

I hope one day I visit his statue and house

Submitted by mark_rivas007 on Sun, 18/06/2017 - 15:02

Me to. I've the play but in the movie.

Submitted by Marianus Yadi on Thu, 08/06/2017 - 02:26

To be honest, I haven't seen any of Shakespeare plays, however the name itself has been world-renowned across countries. No doubt that I would definitely love to see it soon. I currently work as a consultant in one of the most world-known English courses in my city. It's a gratifying job as it's my first experience in working since I graduated in November 2016.

Submitted by Yelin on Wed, 07/06/2017 - 02:57

Well, I have not seen a Shakespeare play, but I have read some books, and I really have enjoyed those a lot beacuse undoubtedly Shakespeare is able to reach the heart of the human condition, that is what I love the most about his stories, the ability to touch the heart of people. I would have wanted to be a designer, but I am a lawyer, and sometimes I think I could be that kind of person who works in something quite different from what it has studied, and of course, I think it is better not to receive a formal instruction about something artistic, it can cut the freedom.

Submitted by crovina on Mon, 05/06/2017 - 00:38

No, i haven't ever seen a Sheakespeare Play, but i would see it one day. My job is very common and is useful for all the companies, because i work with business administration. I didn't visit a birthplace of a famous writer her in Brazil, but we have good writers too, like Paulo Coelho and Monteiro Lobato.

Submitted by JuanPerdomo on Wed, 24/05/2017 - 05:22

No, I never haven't seen a Shakespeare play. No, I have a job according to my profession. Yes, I've visited the birthplace of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Salzburg, Austria.

Submitted by Wanda on Sat, 20/05/2017 - 17:19

I visited Stafford twice. I enjoed the visit. I read many plays by Sheakspear. They are really awesome. Once I saw one of his most famous plays Macbeth.I

Submitted by Sh_R on Thu, 11/05/2017 - 04:03

Unfortunately I have never seen any show of Shakespeare till now,this movie was so nice to know him and start to read his writing,thanks

Submitted by loicmoreau on Sat, 29/04/2017 - 17:17

Very interresting

Submitted by lelena on Sun, 23/04/2017 - 19:56

Yes, I've seen a Shakespeare play but it was adapted to a movie. I really enjoy it. I have a normally job, nothing different or unexpected. I never have the opportunity to visit a birthday place of a famous artist or writer.

Submitted by yinphyutheint on Wed, 19/04/2017 - 05:36

It's great.And it's very helpful to me.

Submitted by hans_goon on Fri, 07/04/2017 - 11:26

I have seen Shakespeare's Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Othello and Hamlet dramas.some of them are from my language. I'm not doing a job yet, I'm still a student. But I want to become a business women with knowing many languages. I believe it will pave the way to remark my name in the business world one day. I have visited 'Koggala' where the one of famous writers was born in our country. His name is Martin Wickramasinghe.

Submitted by Amina786 on Tue, 04/04/2017 - 17:00

No I didn't see any single play of Shakespeare . But I have read some quotes of him. He was a great writer. Let's talk bout the next topic . I'm a software engineer . When I told people that I'm a software engineer they ask me ' can you hake Facebook account ' . I don't know that what people thought about software engineers. It really annoyed me. Well I do not have a chance to visit the birthplace of someone famous writer or artist.

Submitted by KChristina on Mon, 20/03/2017 - 15:05

I`ve seen some Shakespears plays for example Romeo and Juliet ,A Midsummer Night's Dream and I`ve read many of them. I really would like to visit his birthplace as Shakespeare is my favorite author.

Submitted by Samar Ahmed on Wed, 15/03/2017 - 13:29

I have never see Shakespeare's play but i studied some of them as a story in the school. It is amazing to read a story from almost 400 years ago and you feel it expresses you and you interacts with. I think this is the reason for Shakespeare global appeal . I don't have a chance to visit the birth place of a famous writer or artist, but i visited some museums in my country and i could see various arts throughout the ages.

Submitted by Jannie on Sat, 11/03/2017 - 09:49

I have never seen Shakespeare's plays, but I read the "Hamlet", "Othello" and "Romeo and Juliet", and I was impressed. It was not in original, of course, but the translation i read was amazing. At once I have attended a quest dedicated to Shakespeare. It have been in the opera and ballet theatre where I saw a dressing room, behind the scenes and so on.

Submitted by Nguyen Thi Tuyet Mai on Fri, 20/01/2017 - 15:49

One of Shakespeare's play I have ever seen was Romeo and Juliet. It was made in film and I was impressed by nice words of the main characters as well as the dance in the film. However, I do not like the end of this story. It was sad with very young dying.