Theatre at the Guildhall

Groups of professional actors toured the kingdom performing plays between about 1570 and 1600. These 'players' were the superstar actors of their time. The most famous were Leicester's Men, who were sponsored by their powerful patron, the Earl of Leicester.

Travelling players performed at the Guildhall several times while Shakespeare was at school. Nowadays it's hard for us to understand just how exciting these performances were for the people of Stratford. But it would be like a professional film crew turning up at your school to shoot the latest Star Wars today.

William Shakespeare's father John Shakespeare attended many of these performances. As an alderman he had to preview the plays to check they weren't subversive, and then grant the players a license to perform in public.

It's very likely that young William accompanied his father and watched some of these performances. We can only imagine how inspired William must have been by watching these superstars at work. He may even have taken part in some of the plays as an 'extra'. Perhaps this is how his lifelong passion for the theatre began.

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