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#Shakespeare400 - Yesterday’s careers today

18 April 2016

Shakespeare created more than 1,200 different characters in his plays. Each of these characters had their own story, and Shakespeare gave many of them recognisable careers.

Some of these careers are still around today, but others have evolved into new jobs and roles. Here are some of our favourites.

Apothecary – in Romeo and Juliet
Today you might be a pharmacist

Pharmacists provide expert advice on the use and supply of drugs and medicines. As a pharmacist your work would include checking prescriptions, dispensing medicines and making sure that laws controlling medicines are followed.

If you are interested in science and healthcare, this career could be for you. To do this job you will need a high level of scientific understanding and ability. You will also need to be responsible and security-conscious. Before you can work as a pharmacist, you will need to complete a five-year programme of education and training.

Courtier – Leontes in The Winter's Tale; Sir Thomas Lovell in Henry VIII
Today you might be a political adviser

Political advisers provide advice and support to ministers developing policy. If you are interested in politics, British and international affairs and you are a quick thinking problem solver, this job could suit you well.

To be good at this job you will need to communicate well, and get on with people from all societies and cultures. You would need to be a good organiser and be able to work accurately. You'll also have to be patient and determined when trying to track down information that is hard to find. It’s also important to be able to develop a network of contacts across different interest groups and industry.

Fool – Costard in Love's Labour's Lost; Feste in Twelfth Night; Pompey in Measure for Measure; Trinculo in The Tempest
Today you might be an entertainer

Entertainers perform for audiences in stage, cabaret or comedy shows. If you’re a skilled performer and like entertaining people, this job could be ideal for you. To be good at this job you should have an outgoing and confident personality. You’ll need to take criticism positively and be determined to succeed. You don't need any particular qualifications to get into this type of work. The most important thing is having an act that audiences will enjoy.

The Fool often commentated on the social action within Shakespeare’s plays and today the type of entertainer they would be is stand-up comedian, poet or satirist.

Knight – Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night; Sir John Falstaff in Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 and The Merry Wives of Windsor
Today you might be an armed forces officer

As an armed forces officer you’re in charge of a team. You’ll be using your skills to direct them and get the job done. If you want a challenging job and have leadership potential, there could a career for you in the armed forces. On combat operations you’ll be using your leadership and motivational skills to guide your team and complete missions. You’ll also need to have great teamworking skills and be able to make quick decisions about what action you should take.

Merchant – Antonio in The Merchant of Venice
Today you might be a wholesaler

As a wholesaler do you would purchase products in large quantities and sell them to a network of retailers in smaller quantities. You would need to warehouse the goods, looking after the quality and storage. You may also need to transport the products to the individual retailers. You would need good knowledge of your products to advise customers on which products to buy for particular jobs or that will sell well. Excellent customer care skills help and the ability to network.

Messenger – Lord Berkeley in Richard II; Travers in Henry IV, Part 2
Today you might be a Courier

As a courier your job would be to collect packages, documents and messages, and deliver them to customers. You would usually work in and around large towns and cities. You could also work on cross-country deliveries. So if you like driving and want a job that gets you out and about, this could be just what you are looking for. To be a courier you should have good communication skills. You will need to be able to work unsupervised. You’ll also need to be reliable and honest.

Nurse, Romeo & Juliet
Today you might be a nanny

Nannies work in private homes caring for their employer’s children. They are responsible for all aspects of childcare. Duties will vary depending on the number and ages of the children being looked after. Nannies help children develop, and can create trusting relationships with them and their parents. You’ll need creative ideas to organise interesting activities. You’ll also need patience, an understanding of child development, and a sense of humour.

You may be able to start work as a nanny without any qualifications, though many employers and employment agencies will prefer you to have some training. As a nanny, you would often look after babies and very young children. You may work as a maternity nanny, helping families care for newborn babies during the first few weeks of a baby's life. Alternatively, you may work with older children or a mix of age groups.

Page – Viola, Twelfth Night
Today you might be a personal assistant

If you enjoy a varied day and want a responsible office role, this could be perfect for you. Personal assistants (PAs) usually work for one manager. They help them make best use of their time by providing secretarial support. They also deal with a range of administrative tasks.

To become a personal assistant, you will need to be well organised, and have a calm and professional manner. You will need good computer skills and also tact and discretion. A lot of the work will involve multi-tasking.

Weaver - Bottom, Midsummer Night’s Dream
Today you might be a textile operative

As a textile operative you would work in the production process that turns raw fibres into yarns and fabrics. You would also work on the colouring of textiles and apply finishing treatments.

As a textile operative, you would produce the natural and synthetic materials which go into everyday products, such as clothing, carpets and furnishings. You would need to prepare and spin fibres, produce fabrics through weaving, knitting or looping threads together, dye and print the fabric and treat the fabric.

To find out more about jobs and careers visit the National Careers Service job family pages at or call your local number (see below) to speak to an adviser about your future career.

 Regional Telephone Numbers For Customers
London 020 3714 8350
South West - Bristol
0117 403 0150
South West - Exeter
01392 409 544
 South West - Taunton  01823 429680
South West - Truro
01872 248 630
West Midlands
0121 296 5550

Prospects deliver the National Careers Service in London, the West Midlands and South West and young people services in Yorkshire, Leicestershire, Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire, Coventry & Warwickshire and London. We are the largest employer of careers advisers in the country, working with more than 500,000 young people and adults each year.

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