Will’s father, the glover of Henley Street, may not have been an educated man. He could probably read, but couldn’t write much more than his accounts (though his wife signed documents with an elaborate mark that demonstrates she had some facility with a quill pen).
BUT HE EXHIBITED THE CHARACTERISTIC CIVIC AMBITION OF THE RISING MIDDLE-CLASS ENGLISH TRADESMAN.I SERVED ON THE BOROUGH COUNCIL, BECAME MAYOR (OR HIGH BAILIFF) AND SAT AS A JUSTICE OF THE PEACE.
But in 1570, as Will was about to start at school, his respectable father was fined for breaking money-lending laws, and the family fortunes began to decline. Two years later, he was accused of “wool bragging”: illegally dealing in fleeces. His eldest son was certainly privy to these goings-on - he remembered the details for the rest of his life.
Let me see. Every ’leven wether tods, every tod yields pound and odd shilling; fifteen hundred shorn, what comes the wool to?
This reference occurs in Shakespeare’s play
The Winter’s Tale, Act IV, scene iii, lines 32-4.
In modern English:
Every eleven rams yield a tod of 28lbs, worth 21 shillings = £143.