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Shakespeare's family in nine objects

School desk

Family focus

Hamnet Shakespeare – Shakespeare’s son

About the Item

This is a medieval/Tudor oak and elm standing desk from King Edward Sixth Grammar School where boys from the town including William Shakespeare would have gone to school. The standing desk has a hinged lid and is of the type used by a schoolmaster.

About Hamnet Shakespeare

Hamnet and his twin sister Judith were born in 1585. He was William’s only son and heir. Sadly, little is known about him as he died in 1586 aged 11. There is no record of cause of death.

Young boys attended “Petty School” from the ages of 5 to 7, where they learned the alphabet, numbers, the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer. These were often written on small pieces of parchment and made into hornbooks. At the age of 7, Hamnet would likely have attended the grammar school where he would have been taught Latin, Greek and the Classics like his father.

The school day lasted from 6am to 5pm, six days a week. In winter poor light meant a shorter day starting at 7am.

Was Hamnet a keen scholar or did he go ‘unwillingly to school’ as referenced in Shakespeare’s seven ages of man speech?

Read about Hamnet Shakespeare

Find out more about Hamnet Shakespeare in this fact file about members of Shakespeare's family. 

Click on the link to find out more information about Hamnet Shakespeare

Watch this!

Watch this video which imagines what life may have been like for a young Will Shakespeare going to school. Filmed at King Edward VI Grammar School in Stratford-upon-Avon – the school that William and later, Hamnet Shakespeare would very likely have attended.

Try this!

Find out about what it might have been like for William (and Hamnet) Shakespeare at school. You can also use this resource to make your own pretend hornbook.

This is what a hornbook looked like.


CC-BY-NC-ND Image Courtesy of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust