This week I am attending a Fulbright conference hosted by the University of Birmingham. I am enjoying the advantages of traveling with Fulbrighters. The University has shared private tours of their museums including an opportunity to handle books like a first print of Shakespeare’s plays, four pages of the Qur’an dating back to when Mohammad was alive, and hand-painted illuminated manuscripts.
Today we toured Stratford-upon-Avon including a lecture at the Shakespeare Institute. We visited Shakespeare’s burial location in the beautiful Trinity Church.
The home in which he was born.
Most interesting was his school where there was one teacher who was both a priest and a scholar of either Oxford or Cambridge in charge of about 40 boys ranging in age from 6-14. The style of learning involved the boys sitting on benches in rows by age groups. The older boys taught the younger boys the previous year’s lessons to pass on the knowledge and ensure they understood the material well enough to teach it. There was a lot of learning through play. Latin took up a majority of the learning. Students did not have paper to write on, but beeswax on a board to scratch into. Corporal punishment was only instilled on Fridays if students did not master what they were instructed to know. They attended school six days a week for approximately 9 hours a day. Theater was a regular part of their educational experience. Acting companies who came through the town had to perform first in front of the town council to be sure there wasn’t anything slanderous toward the Queen and the council building was shared with the school, so the boys often watched these plays as they were first performed. Hence the strong influence of theater in Shakespeare’s education.
I’ve attached more images of the beautiful town.
Images of Birmingham and the University.
Fun fact, JRR Tolkien attended school in Birmingham and it’s said that the Eye of Sauron was inspired by the University clock tower.