From 1582 when he
reached the age 18, the story of William
Shakespeare, one of Britain's most celebrated
playwrights, enters a confused period. The
details of his life during the eight years up
until 1590 remains sketchy, but local legend has
it that he spent these years of his life in the
town of Dursley, in Gloucestershire.
According to WT Share, in "Shakespeare’s self"
(1920), "Shakespeare, as a young man spent some
time in a remote corner of Gloucestershire". He
quotes Maddon, who said Shakespeare "was beyond
doubt a sportsman, with rare skill in the
mysteries of woodcraft".
In Richard II act II scene 3 there is reference
to "the wolds of Gloucestershire",and when
Bolingbrook asks how far it is to Berkeley as
"these wild hills and rough uneven ways draw out
for miles", the reply given is "there stands the
castle beyond that tuft of trees"
Dr Maddon in "the diary of master William
Silence" (1887) got very excited about this, and
aside from devoting a whole section to
Shakespeare’s Dursley links climbed Stinchcombe
hill, and claimed Shakespeare was describing the
view from the top, a piece of local knowledge he
would only have if he had lived there.
He asked a groom to point out the castle to him,
and the reply was "you can see the tower of the
castle. It lays along a clump of trees", very
similar to the answer received by Bolingbrook.
In Titus Andronicus, apparently Shakespeare has
Marcus say "it would rouse the proudest
panther", apparently panther is a southern
Cotswold word for a poet.
The most plausible claim comes from Henry IV act
5 scene 1, Davy says "I beseech you, sir, to
countenance William Visor of Wincott against
Clement Perkes on the hill"
To which shallow replies "there may be
complaints, Davy, against that visor: that visor
is an arrant knave, to my knowledge"
Apparently, Woodmancote was known as Woncot or
Womcot or Wincott, and Stinchcombe hill as "the
hill" locally many years ago and the house on
Stincombe hill belonged to a Purchas or Perkis
family. The Vizard or Visor family lived in
Woodmancote and one of them was bailiff of
A Shakespeare family also lived in the right
era, around Woodmancote; a James Shakespeare was
buried in Bisley in 1570, and Thomas Shakespeare
married Joan Turner in Dursley in 1577 or 1578.
In the woods between Woodmancote and Stinchcombe
hill there is a path which was known as
"Shakespeare’s walk" up until relatively
In addition to this, a branch of the Hathaway
family, Shakespeare’s wife's family, lived in
Gloucestershire. In "the antiquary" Philmore
that Shakespeare’s "marriage in 1582 with Anne
Hathaway, who was so much his senior may have
offended his Stratford friends, and compelled
him to take refuge with his, and his wife's
kindred in Gloucestershire".
Interestingly, according to Chamber's "William
Shakespeare" (1930) "the documents concerning
the marriage involve a puzzle. It took place
towards the end of 1582, not in the parish
church of Stratford, nor in any of the numerous
likely churches whose registers have been
searched". It was in 1582 that Shakespeare’s 8
year hiatus began.
According to Madden "when Shakespeare writes of
(the river) Severn, he affords local knowledge
absent from references to Thames or Wye"
"Gentle Severn's sedgy bank" (1, hen vi, i, 3,
"Swift Severn's flood" (ib.103)
"Sandy bottomed severn" (ib. iii. 1. 66)
Madden has 3 sections devoted to
Shakespeare’s Dursley connections (p6, 82-86,
A legend of Shakespeare being whipped for
poaching deer from the Lucy family of Charlecote
originates with a Reverend Davis of Sapperton…
and rumour has it that he was a school teacher
during his hiatus, and that's how he became
educated, as he lacked a university education…