According to tax returns from 1596, Shakespeare (https://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/Library/SLT/reference/chronology/years1595-1596.html) was residing in Bishopsgate at the time. He was a founding member of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, an acting company established under the patronage of Henry Carey in 1594. However, by 1996, London’s authorities had banned the public presentation of plays in London and his company consequently moved to Swan Theatre on Bankside. Shakespeare wrote the majority of his 37 plays between 1594 and 1613, having released the First Quarto Editions of King Richard II, King Richard III, and Romeo and Juliet in 1597, and King Henry IV Part 1 a year later. A quarto was one of the primary publishing formats of Shakespearean works, where 8 pages are printed on a single sheet, folded twice to form 4 sections. Because he was an actor as part of his company, he was given the parts of Kings and old men in plays.
[Caption] Shakespeare’s birthplace http://www.aboutbritain.com/ShakespearesBirthplace.htm
England in 1596 was ruled by Queen Elizabeth I of the Tudor dynasty. The Elizabethan Era is often regarded by historians as a “golden age” in English history as it nurtured a revival of the classical arts including poetry, music, literature and theatre.
[Caption] Elizabeth I https://www.britannica.com/biography/Elizabeth-I
Health and hygiene was generally poor in the Tudor municipalities. In the towns and cities there were no drainages or sewers and rubbish was typically abandoned on the street. This created an urban environment that allowed the rat population to flourish. Several outbreaks of the Black Death occurred in this period due to a large number of infected rats.
Child mortality was at about 15% and the average life expectancy was 35 years old.
There was a great expansion of education in the Tudor period for boys in most socioeconomic classes. Most notably, endowments were granted by localities to poorer children to alleviate the financial burden of education, which meant education was made accessible to the lower classes. There were two types of schools for boys: the petty schools and the grammar schools. The petty school taught basic literary skills like reading and writing, and had shorter hours to facilitate poorer working class boys who needed time to work for money. The grammar schools taught English, Latin, Greek, catechism and arithmetic.
[Caption] ‘Hornbooks’ were used in the classroom to teach students language. These were affordable alternatives to textbooks.
Young girls did not go to school but were instead either kept at home and trained to become housewives or sent out to earn money for the family, although occasionally girls from very rich families were able to go to school.
Food and agriculture
90% of households lived in small villages and earned their living through agriculture (https://www.shakespeare.org.uk/explore-shakespeare/blogs/ten-facts-about-tudor-farming/). Many of them kept cows to produce dairy which was then sold on the market. The diet of the poor consisted of bread, milk, cheese and beer, with small portions of meat, fish and vegetables.
[Caption] Wheat harvest in Tudor villages http://history.parkfieldprimary.com/tudors/farming-in-tudor-times
The 16th century was a key period in which imported goods became widely adopted among the British population. Potatoes were imported from South America and became a staple subsistence crop. The wealthy or elite developed a craze for tea which was introduced from East Asia. (http://www.sixwives.info/food-tudor-times.htm) The burgeoning popularity of tea could be attributed to its reputation as a medicinal drink which could cure various ailments, as well as its association with reputable coffeehouses where elite men congregated.
While the Tudor dynasty, like most of the middle ages, saw a society structured around patriarchal archetypes, the role of women during the Elizabethan era was relatively unconstrained. During this era England had more well-educated upper-class women than anywhere else in Europe. The symbol that the Queen posed as a woman ruler influenced a subtle movement of proto-feminism, inspiring a proud trend of virginity among aristocratic women. (https://semanticscholar.org/paper/0f46debd0b5b6709a156e1ed2660758992382141) Queen Elizabeth’s figurative motherhood towards her nation and its people shaped and legitimated her unconventional role as a divinely appointed matriarch.