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.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Since there are so few historical documents pertaining to Shakespeare ’s life, biographers are forced to be speculative biographers—that is, assumptions must be made based on general knowledge of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...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Since there are so few historical documents pertaining to Shakespeare’s life, biographers are forced to be speculative biographers—that is, assumptions must be made based on general knowledge of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.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team