William Shakespeare’s name first appears on 26 April 1564, in the baptismal record of the parish church of Stratford-upon-Avon, Holy Trinity. Holy Trinity is a grand medieval church for a small south Midlands market town of 2000-odd inhabitants. Stratford, sited at a crossing of the River Avon, which flows westward to meet the River Severn, is a day’s ride from Oxford; and Oxford to London is a two-day ride along the valley of the Thames. The register entry reads: ‘Guglielmus filius Johannes Shakspere’. He must have attended Stratford school; the pupil lists are lost. The details of when he left school, and where and how he lived before and after his marriage, are unknown. He next appears at 18 as ‘William Shagspere’, marrying ‘Anne Hathwey’, and then at the baptism of their daughter Susanna in 1583, and of their twins, Judith and Hamnet, in 1585. At the age of 20, Shakespeare had a wife and three children; he needed to make money. By 1592 his success as a playwright had drawn Robert Greene’s printed attack on him as an upstart, a ‘Shake-scene’, a player who presumed to write plays.
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