A Shakespeare Who Couldn’t Read

William Shakespeare is regarded as the greatest writer in the English language.

Four hundred years after Shakespeare’s death, every school student still studies his life and works.

However, when Shakespeare’s daughter, Judith, married, she signed her license with a mark—the equivalence of an “X.” Scholars believe that neither she nor her sister, Susanna, could read or write. (Paleographer E. Maunde Thompson describes this “mark” as a “painfully formed signature, which was probably the most that she was capable of doing with the pen.”)

How is it possible that the greatest writer in the English language allowed his daughters to be illiterate? You would think that to such a man, reading would have meant everything, and he would have taken the time to teach his daughters to read. The stark reality is—he didn’t.

As unimaginable as this is, how much more unimaginable is it that Christian parents would not pass on their knowledge of God to their children?

In the days of the judges, a generation of God’s children grew up without knowing the Lord or the works He had done for them (Judges 2:10). I’m afraid many parents allow this to happen today.

What are we to think of parents who do not teach the Bible to their children at home? In many cases, not only do they fail to teach their own children, they also neglect to bring them to Bible class so others can teach them. It’s puzzling!

We wonder why Shakespeare allowed his children to remain illiterate. A better question is: How can we allow our children to grow up biblically illiterate?  

“Teach them diligently” (Deuteronomy 6:7).

Steven Higginbotham