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1584

The poaching myth

Charlecote Park deer
An ancestor of the Charlecote deer
that may or may not have been
poached by a hungry William
Shakespeare
Though the tale is widely discredited today, three seventeenth-century accounts claim that Shakespeare was once beaten and imprisoned for poaching.

The alleged crime took place on land belonging to Sir Thomas Lucy - one of Walsingham's and Elizabeth's chief enforcers - who Shakespeare is later rumored to have vigorously insulted in a satirical ballad that he stuck on the wealthy landowner's gate.

This period of William's life until his re-emergence almost a decade later on the London stage is shrouded in mystery. Did he flee the Stratford area, afraid for his life? Was his relocation simply a matter of economic necessity as he tried to find the work with which he could clothe and feed his wife and young children? Was he at an early stage carried away as a minor member of a traveling theatrical group? Was he seeking sanctuary in safer corners of the country, or the companionship of others of his faith?

How and why in this time of meticulous public records does William present such a low profile? Was it a matter of self-protection? Was he avoiding paying tax? Was it a small act of rebellion against a State that had remorselessly persecuted his kinfolk? Was he simply more pre-occupied with other things?

Whatever the causes and the reasons, the events in these "lost years" would be the crucible in which his talent was first formed and then honed. The legend begins here.

Players

Sir Francis Walsingham portraitSir Francis Walsingham

Sir Thomas Lucy's bustSir Thomas Lucy

Locations

exterior of Charlecote HouseCharlecote Park, Warwickshire

The River Thames, LondonShakespeare's London

Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-AvonStratford upon Avon, Warwickshire

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