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Chapter 1

Hamlet Q&A

Hamlet Timeline

Hamlet Links

About the Author

Hamlet the Student? Royals and Nobles at University

In Chapter One I state that royals and nobles of Shakespeare’s day didn't go to school at age thirty, and cite Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton and Shakespeare's patron, as an example. Here are some others.

Robert Devereux, second Earl of Essex, attended Trinity College, Cambridge from age thirteen to fifteen (1579-81).

Edward deVere, seventeenth Earl of Oxford, took his Cambridge M.A. (St. John’s) at fourteen (1564), and added an Oxford M.A. at sixteen. He doesn’t seem to have spent any time at university, however; these degrees were honorary, given with many others during the Queen’s royal progresses.

Roger Manners, fifth Earl of Rutland (and a playgoing companion of Southampton’s), attended Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, from age fourteen to about eighteen (1590-93).

Francis Manners, sixth Earl of Rutland (younger brother of Roger), attended Christ's College, Cambridge, from age seventeen to nineteen (1595-7).

William Herbert, third Earl of Pembroke, attended New College, Oxford, from age thirteen to fifteen (1593-5).

Phillip Herbert, Earl of Montgomery and fourth Earl of Pembroke on the death of his brother William, spent a few months with his brother at New College, Oxford, at age nine (1593).

N.B.: Shakespeare’s First Folio (1623) was dedicated to the two Pembroke brothers.

James I (crowned 1603), who was something of scholar, ended his formal education (private tutors, not university) around age fourteen.

One correspondent has suggested that it was normal for English to attend Wittenberg at age thirty, citing William Tyndale, the famous translator of the New Testament. Tyndale entered Oxford at about age 15, earned his B.A. at about 17, and his MA (Magdalen) at about 20. He was then an instructor at Cambridge until about 25. He then acquired patronage, moved to Germany, and finished his New Testament translation by about age 30. So he wasn't really a “student” at that point, though he certainly had university associations. (And Hamlet does call Horatio his “fellow-student.”)

And Tyndale (like Kit Marlowe, discussed in Chapter One) was of a middle-class family. As demonstrated above, noblemen and royalty went to university at a far younger age.

Thomas Nashe and Robert Greene (“University Wits” with notable connections to Shakespeare) are also good examples of the more delayed education of the middle-class--though still young by modern standards.

Nashe attended St. John's College, Cambridge, from age fifteen, receiving his B.A. at nineteen (1586).

Green also attended St. John’s, from age seventeen to twenty (1575-8). After some dissolute living in Italy and Spain, he returned to Clare Hall, Cambridge, and took his M. A. at twenty-five.