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John de Stratford

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John de Stratford
Archbishop of Canterbury
Appointed3 November 1333
Term ended23 August 1348
PredecessorSimon Mepeham
SuccessorJohn de Ufford
Other postsBishop of Winchester, Treasurer, Chancellor of England
Personal details
Stratford-on-Avon, Warwickshire
Died23 August 1348
Mayfield, Sussex
BuriedCanterbury Cathedral
ParentsRobert Stratford, Isabel Stratford

John de Stratford (c.1275 – 1348) was Archbishop of Canterbury, Bishop of Winchester, Treasurer and Chancellor of England.

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  • ✪ Straight Outta Stratford-Upon-Avon - Shakespeare's Early Days: Crash Course Theater #14
  • ✪ Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford Commencement Address (with intro by President John Hennessy)
  • ✪ UIL 2013 - Stratford March
  • ✪ The Stratford Heist
  • ✪ Steve Jobs' 2005 Stanford Commencement Address


Hey there, I’m Mike Rugnetta, this is Crash Course Theater and remember that guy we said we weren’t going to talk about in the last episode? Well, we’re gonna talk about him for a while now. I mean, of course, Yorick’s pal Shakespeare. And yes, Shakespeare actually wrote all of Shakespeare’s plays, though sometimes he had help. But hey, you don’t become the presiding genius of English theatre without some assistance Today, we’ll cover Shakespeare’s biography, look at playwriting in Elizabethan England, and take on a genre our boy Bill helped invent: the history play. So once more into the breach! Who’s with me? Typical! INTRO So, who is this Shakespeare guy, anyway? We first hear of him on April 26th… or 23rd… or even a little earlier… in 1564, when he’s baptized in the sleepy market town of Stratford-upon-Avon. His father, John, was a glover, and did ok for himself. John held a number of civic positions including ale-taster of the borough, and eventually mayor… an unorthodox political ascendancy, but hey whatever works! John’s wife, Mary, was the daughter of reasonably wealthy landowners. And Shakespeare had four younger siblings who lived to adulthood including one, Edmund, who was an actor but died at 27. At the age of six or seven, William starts attending the Stratford Grammar School, where much of the instruction was in Latin. He almost certainly read Plautus’s comedies and Seneca’s tragedies. Some scholars think he leaves school at 13, some think at 15. Maybe he works as a butcher; maybe he works for his father. In 1582, he marries Anne Hathaway–NO THE OTHER ANNE HATHAWAY–who is 8 years older than him, and 6 months pregnant. She gives birth to Susanna in 1583, and the twins Judith and Hamnet a year and a half later. Hamnet! At some point after the birth of the twins, Shakespeare moves to London. And no one knows why! There’s one story about how he had to go to London because he poached a deer? There are also rumors that he joins up with traveling players. But we don’t really know anything more until 1592, when he’s a popular actor and the author of several plays—and people are making fun of him by calling him “Shake-scene.” Harsh. Around this time, one of the twins, Hamnet, dies at the age of 11. Hamnet! And when the theaters closed due to the plague, Shakespeare writes some long poems. When theaters reopen, he joins the Lord Chamberlain’s Men as an actor, a playwright, and a shareholder. By 1597, Shakespeare has made enough money to buy the second fanciest place in Stratford-upon-Avon, In 1611, he retires to Stratford proper; and again, no one knows why. And in 1616, at the age of 52, he dies. His anti-grave robbing epitaph reads: Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbear, To dig the dust enclosed here. Blest be the man that spares these stones, And cursed be he that moves my bones. So, how did Shakespeare become a playwright? It’s hard to say for sure, but traveling players performed frequently in Stratford when he was a kid. If he really did join a traveling company during his lost years, it would have exposed him to all sorts of plays, and the three or four production techniques that English theater had at the time. Playwriting wasn’t a prestigious occupation in Elizabethan England. A lot of plays were written in these decades as there was a hunger for novelty. Established theaters were still a new thing, and these companies had no repertory of classics to fall back on. So each company required new plays every couple of weeks. Writing plays was often a group effort, and works from the beginning and end of Shakespeare’s career were written this way... more collaboratively. Though it had the potential to make a lot of money, many playwrights often depended on side jobs or patronage. Shakespeare made his money not so much as a writer, but as a shareholder in the company. He definitely didn’t make his cash in royalties. Most plays weren’t even published, and most of the ones that were appeared in cheap quartos—a name for booklets made up of pieces of paper printed on eight sides and folded up to become four double-sided pages. Many of these quarto publications were based on pirated copies and bad memories and are full of error or variation, though some are accurate. Occasionally, several different versions of a play would get published, like an early quarto of “Hamlet” that reads: “To be, or not to be,/ There’s the point.” I know, Yorick. These quartos were usually published anonymously, and even if an author’s name did appear, he didn’t receive any money from them. Copyright wouldn’t be invented for about another hundred years, by the way. And yeah, any playwright of this era is definitely a “he”. In 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death, two fellow actors in the King’s Men, John Heminges and Henry Condell, decided to collect and publish Shakespeare’s works in an authoritative edition, to honor their friend. Their luxury volume, known as the First Folio, included 36 plays organized as Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. It left out Two Noble Kinsmen and Pericles, which are common now, as well as Cardenio, the one Shakespeare play that’s definitely lost. We’ll start with the histories because they were some of the earliest plays Shakespeare wrote: King John, Richard II, the two Henry IVs, Henry V, the three Henry VIs and Richard III. Henry VIII was written a lot later. With the exception of King John and Edward III, the rest of these plays describe the rise of the Tudors, the royal house of Elizabeth I, queen during the early years of Shakespeare’s career. Why are these “history plays,” but not Julius Caesar or Macbeth or Cymbeline? Well, these distinctions are fuzzy. They were created by the editors of the First Folio, not Shakespeare himself. But as scholar Lily Campbell puts it: “Tragedy is concerned with the doings of men which in philosophy are discussed under ethics; history with the doings of men which in philosophy are discussed under politics.” So Richard II is a history because it’s about Richard’s eventual defeat by Bolingbroke, but Macbeth is a tragedy because it’s about Macbeth’s personal conflicts. By the way, this isn’t really a theater. So I’m perfectly comfortable saying Macbeth. I’m no longer perfectly comfortable saying Macbeth. What was the point of history plays? Well, a straightforward history play is a patriotic exercise that celebrates past greatness and commiserates over past suffering, without stopping to question God’s providence. History plays were designed to keep people in line: Thomas Heywood wrote in the 1612 “An Apology for Actors,” that these plays “are writ with this ayme… to teach their subjects obedience to their king, to shew the people the untimely ends of such as have moved tumults, commotions, and insurrections, to present them with the flourishing estate of such as live in obedience, exhorting them to allegiance.” basically, when it comes to tumults and insurrections, don’t start none, won’t be none. But Shakespeare isn’t that straightforward. A couple of his plays are about men who usurp the throne from kings and then become kings themselves, so his works are hardly a wholesale condemnation of tumult, or a rubber stamp on the divine right of kings. Early critics claimed that he upheld the Tudor myth, but later ones have argued that he’s up to something more subversive. For an example, let’s look at one of his best-known history plays, “Richard III.” in the Thoughtbubble: Edward IV is back on the throne after putting down a rebellion. His little brother Richard, aka, “that foul bunchback’d toad,” isn’t psyched about it. Richard contrives to have his other brother, Clarence, sent to the Tower of London and then seduces Lady Anne, even though he murdered her father and her brother… and she knows it. Richard has Clarence drowned in a large cask of wine, which helps push Edward IV into an early grave. Edward’s sons will succeed him, though, so Richard has more murdering to do! After arranging to have a bunch of people executed, Richard has the two princes held in the Tower. He tries to convince the people that the princes are illegitimate and he is the rightful heir to the throne. The other lords more or less go for it, but just to be sure, Richard has the princes murdered anyway. Now that he’s king, Richard poisons his wife so he can make a more dynastically savvy marriage. But all this villainy starts to catch up with him, and rebellions break out. One of them is led by Richmond who—spoiler alert—will become Henry VII. On the battlefield, Richard is haunted by his victims, famously offers his kingdom for a horse, and then dies, with Richmond announcing: “Now civil wounds are stopped; peace lives again. / That she may long live here, God say ‘Amen.’” Thanks, Thoughtbubble. So a happy ending! Unless you’re Richard. Or one of the many people that he murdered. It’s easy enough to read this play as rah-rah Tudor propaganda. Boo Richard! Yay Richmond! But while the play shows Richard as a tyrant and a usurper, it isn’t a wholly negative portrayal. Shakespeare’s Richard is a genius and a charmer… and a villain and a killer. So while the historians were busy confirming his wickedness, Shakespeare also shows him as attractive and theatrical. He’s the character you can’t stop watching and the one that great actors want to play. Also, quick aside, people used to accuse Shakespeare of making up the fact that Richard had a hunchback just to make him seem extra evil, but a few years ago they found Richard’s bones in a parking lot—and it turns out while he may not have been a full on hunchback, he did have scoliosis. While we don’t know all the circumstances of where and when and how Shakespeare became a writer, his early work shows him taking the straightforward form of the chronicle play and molding it into something more exciting and ambitious. He added breathtaking poetry, penetrating insight and fun scenes of people being killed. In wine. Next time we’ll look at how those scenes were probably acted, and we’ll discuss Shakespeare’s tragedies. But until then… curtain!


Early life

Stratford was born into the landed Stratford family of Stratford-on-Avon around 1275. His father was Robert de Stratford (not to be confused with John's brother, Robert Stratford) and his mother was named Isabel. Robert senior has been identified as ‘Master’ Robert, co-founder and first master of the hospital of St Cross within the town, but in view of the title magister and the celibate status required, this appears unlikely. The family was related to the Hattons, important men in the town, Ralph Hatton ‘of Stratford’, the future bishop of London, being John's nephew. He was a relative of Andrew De Stratford[1] and of Thomas de Stratford and Henry de Stratford[2] (whom he inducted as the rector of a vacant church in North Berkhamstead (Lincoln) on 16 February 1325).[3] Nothing definite is known of Stratford's schooling. He studied at Oxford (not at Merton College, as claimed by the 17th Century antiquarian Anthony Wood, but probably Baliol, whom he remembered in his will),[4] and by 1312 he was entitled doctor of civil law. He entered the service of Worcester Priory, but initially his beneficial progress was slow. However, by 1317 he was rector of Holy Trinity, Stratford, and acting as official of Bishop John Dalderby of Lincoln (d. 1320), whose executor he became. From Lincoln he migrated to Canterbury, and the service of Archbishop Walter Reynolds (d. 1327). He was dean of the court of arches in the early 1320s, by which time he held a useful portfolio of benefices, including canonries at Lichfield, Lincoln, and York, as well as the archdeaconry of Lincoln.[5]


Coats of arms attributed to John de Stratford [6]
Coats of arms attributed to John de Stratford [6]

Stratford served as archdeacon of Lincoln, canon of York and dean of the court of arches before 20 June 1323, when he became Bishop of Winchester,[7] an appointment which was made during his visit to Pope John XXII at Avignon and which was very much disliked by Edward II. In 1327 the bishop joined Queen Isabella's partisans; he drew up the six articles against Edward II, and was one of those who visited the captive king at Kenilworth to urge him to abdicate in favour of his son.[8][9] On 26 November 1326 he was appointed Lord Treasurer of England, a post he held until 28 January 1327.[10]

Under Edward III Stratford became a member of the royal council, but his high political importance dates from the autumn of 1330, the time when Roger Mortimer lost his power. In November of that year Stratford became chancellor, and for the next ten years he was actively engaged in public business, being the king's most prominent adviser and being politically, says Stubbs, the "head of the Lancastrian or constitutional party."[8]

In 1329 and 1332 he was involved in the case of Christina Carpenter who was an achoress in a cell in Shere in Kent. She escaped from her cell and asked to be readmitted so she could die as a recluse.[11]

On 3 November 1333 Stratford was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury[12] and he resigned the chancellorship in the following year; however, he held this office again from 1335 to 1337 and for about two months in 1340.[13] In November 1340 Edward III, humiliated, impecunious and angry, returned suddenly to England from Flanders and vented his wrath upon the archbishop's brother, the chancellor, Robert de Stratford, as well as briefly imprisoning Henry de Stratford.[2] Fearing arrest the archbishop fled to Canterbury, and entered upon a violent war of words with the king, and by his firm conduct led to the establishment of the principle that peers were only to be tried in full parliament before their own order (en pleyn parlement et devant les piers). But good relations were soon restored between the two, and the archbishop acted as president of the council during Edward's absence from England in 1345 and 1346, although he never regained his former position of influence.[8][14]

Later life and death

Though Stratford's political career was by now largely over, between 1342 and his death he continued to exert influence as an elder statesman, even being dubbed dux regis by Dene. In June 1348 he fell ill at Maidstone. He died on 23 August at his manor of Mayfield, Sussex, according to ‘Birchington’ in an aura of sanctity, and was buried in his cathedral on 9 September where his alabaster effigy, somewhat damaged, lies on a fine canopied tomb, in a prominent position on the south side of the choir next to Prior Eastry's screen, as he had requested in his will.[12]


Tomb of Stratford in Canterbury Cathedral
Tomb of Stratford in Canterbury Cathedral

Stratford's Canterbury register has not survived, but a large number of his acta can be gleaned from other sources. He was a notable legislator, drawing up detailed ordinances for the conduct of the court of Canterbury in 1342, while three sets of provincial constitutions, issued between 1341 and 1343, are attributed to him. The first set was clearly a draft, the second is particularly concerned with ecclesiastical administration and discipline, while the third was designed to preserve church liberties and deals with areas of friction between laymen and ecclesiastics. He was a notable benefactor to the hospital of St Thomas the Martyr at Canterbury, known as Eastbridge Hospital, but his efforts were principally directed towards his native Stratford, where he founded a chantry college with the same dedication. The initial foundation (1331) was for a warden, sub-warden, and three priests, but in 1336 an augmentation allowed for a further eight priests, though whether the full complement was ever achieved is uncertain. He secured the appropriation of the parish church to the foundation and a papal bull of confirmation was issued in 1345.

Opinion is divided as to Stratford's character, intentions, and stature. He has been compared unfavourably with his predecessors John Pecham (d. 1292) and Robert Winchelsey (d. 1313), but it was partly due to his moderation and legal training that the change of monarch was accomplished so smoothly in 1326–7. He certainly had a concern for what have been called ‘Lancastrian’ principles, in particular the importance of parliament. During the regime of Isabella and Mortimer he hazarded his career, perhaps his life, to maintain them. Without question he was a staunch defender of the liberties of the English church. The fourth of the statutes of 1340, conceded by Edward III under constraint of circumstances, he circulated triumphantly as a ‘charter of liberties’. His clerical petitions of May 1341 were incorporated in modified form into statutes of that date, which were summarily revoked by the king a few months later as contrary to English law and his own prerogative. That he was ambitious is self-evident, but it would be indefensible to argue that he had no underlying convictions. Although he had laboured long in the cause of peace, by 1337 he was forced to accept the inevitability of war with France, though not at the price of oppression at home. Even then he was not prepared to organize opposition to Edward III, doubtless because he had no desire to renew the civil strife of the previous reign. He may have been guilty of pride (superbia), as the frustrated king alleged, but he was not a foolish man. His reasoned defence in 1340–41 taught Edward a lesson he had the good sense never to forget.[5]


  1. ^ Blomefield and Parkin An essay towards a topographical history of the county of Norfolk pp. 390
  2. ^ a b David Charles Douglas, Alec Reginald Myers "English historical documents. 4. [Late medieval]. 1327 – 1485" p. 69
  3. ^ Roy Martin Haines "The Register of John de Stratford, Bishop of Winchester, 1323–1333: Volume 1" pp. 298–299
  4. ^ Roy Martin Haines "The Register of John de Stratford, Bishop of Winchester, 1323–1333: Volume 1" Introduction pp. xvii–xviii
  5. ^ a b Roy Martin Haines, ‘Stratford, John (c.1275–1348)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Oct 2006 accessed 28 May 2014
  6. ^
    • a) Gules, a fess humette between three trestles, argent
    • b) Gules, a fess humette or between two trestles, argent
    • c) Or, a fess gules, between three torteaux
    • d) Argent, a fess gules, between three bezants
    • e) Per fess gules and sable, three plates
    Bedford, WK Riland. "The Blazon of Episcopacy" 1858
  7. ^ Fryde. et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 277
  8. ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Stratford, John de" . Encyclopædia Britannica. 25 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 997.
  9. ^ Haines, Roy Martin (1986). Archbishop John Stratford, Political Revolutionary and Champion of the Liberties of the English Church, ca.1275/80-1348. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies. ISBN 0888440766.
  10. ^ Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 105
  11. ^ Wyndham Thomas (2012). Robert Saxton: Caritas. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. pp. 16–20. ISBN 978-0-7546-6601-1.
  12. ^ a b Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 233
  13. ^ Fryde, et al. Handbook of British Chronology p. 86
  14. ^ Powell and Wallis House of Lords in the Middle Ages pp. 335–43


  • Fryde, E. B.; Greenway, D. E.; Porter, S.; Roy, I. (1996). Handbook of British Chronology (Third revised ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-56350-X.
  • Powell, J. Enoch; Wallis, Keith (1968). The House of Lords in the Middle Ages: A History of the English House of Lords to 1540. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. OCLC 463626.

Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by
William Melton
Lord High Treasurer
Succeeded by
Adam Orleton
Preceded by
Henry Burghersh
Lord Chancellor
Succeeded by
Richard Bury
Preceded by
Richard Bury
Lord Chancellor
Succeeded by
Robert de Stratford
Preceded by
Richard Bintworth
Lord Chancellor
Succeeded by
Robert Bourchier
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Rigaud of Assier
Bishop of Winchester
Succeeded by
Adam Orleton
Preceded by
Simon Mepeham
Archbishop of Canterbury
Succeeded by
John de Ufford

This page was last edited on 30 June 2019, at 04:15
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