When Ackroyd says Shakespeare groomed horses in his early theatre life, does it mean that he took care of the animals or is it jargon meaning he helped young actors?
I'm a non-native speaker of English and found the two variants in different books and in Ackroyd's translated biography of Shakespeare.
Since there are so few historical documents pertaining to Shakespeare’s life, biographers are forced to be speculative biographers—that is, assumptions must be made based on general knowledge of Elizabethan cultural times. One of these speculations seeks to fill in the years between Shakespeare’s leaving his hometown Stratford-on-Avon and his first public appearance in the London theatre records. A good guess from early biographers and editors is that he may have served as a watcher of horses of theatre patrons while they watched the plays (a modern equivalent might be a valet parker); what duties were associated with that task—feeding? watering? grooming?—are all possible, but the point is that he would have been exposed to theatre life, and perhaps even heard the plays being performed, and therefore was influenced to start his career. It should be remembered that many theatres then were actual inn courtyards, where, when plays weren’t performed, horses were housed. There is no substance to the claim that Shakespeare trained young actors, or that the phrase “grooming horses” was a reference to training actors.
"Since the principal actors were referred as ''Grooms", the ordinary actors were called 'Horses'. Shakespeare's first work was 'to coach' the younger players... Then he was asked 'to hold the horses', that is to say he had to direct the actors when their turn came to appear on the stage" M.J.Hecker, T.D.Volosova, 1967.