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Shakespeare’s Careers

18 April 2016

This month sees the 400 anniversary celebrations of the English language’s greatest writer, William Shakespeare. During his lifetime he wrote more than 38 plays, 154 sonnets and introduced 1,700 words into the English language. Poet, playwright and actor, Shakespeare understood that to get on in your career you need to constantly update your skills and look for the next opportunity.

Prospects, the education, employment, training and care group, have looked at Shakespeare’s characters and their careers and found many of the jobs around in Shakespeare’s time still exist today. Jenny Cryer, Prospects Regional Director said: “There is a lot of talk about future careers and the skills young people and adults need to get on in today’s workplace. It is true, there are jobs available no one had dreamed of 20 years ago, but there are also a lot of jobs that have been around for hundreds of years, and many of the skills required today remain the same. Turn up on time and everyday, work well in a team, be polite and complete the tasks set.”

The careers found in Shakespeare’s plays reflect his world and shine a light into Elizabethan England. Shakespeare’s characters often led very ordinary lives and had very ordinary jobs. Corin and Phebe are shepherds in As You Like It, still a role required on many farms. Stefano in The Tempest is a butler, a role that can offer an international career working for wealthy individuals, embassies, luxury hotels and other organisations. Robin Starveling in A Midsummer Night's Dream is a tailor, and today’s top tailors have become famous brand names including Paul Smith, Ben Sherman and Hardy Amies. These are all careers that people can consider today, alongside new careers such as social media manager, database analyst and vlogger.

However, many of the careers Shakespeare wrote about have evolved for the 21st Century. Viola in Twelfth Night is a page, but today would be a personal assistant. Shakespeare’s Nurse, in Romeo & Juliet and Juliet’s sounding board and ally would today be working as a nanny caring for children.

Bottom, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a weaver, a traditional artisan skilled trade, today this could be a textile operative. Both work with fibres but in today’s technological world the textile operative would work in an automated production process turning raw fibres into natural and synthetic materials going into everyday products, such as clothing, carpets and furnishings.

In The Winter’s Tale courtier, Leontes, advises the King, today Leontes might be a political adviser providing advice and support to ministers developing policy. The two positions offer access to power and require networking, problem solving and good organization. But courtiers, like knights, seem a long way from today’s career recommendations, however, the knight has evolved from chivalric horseman to an officer in the armed forces commanding troops across the world.

The internet shopping age sees the role of merchant, Antonio in The Merchant of Venice, now taken by the giants, Amazon, Ebay, Alibaba and Google. And today’s messengers, Lord Berkeley in Richard II or Travers in Henry IV, Part 2 are couriers collecting packages, documents and messages, and delivering them to customers.

Some of Shakespeare’s most famous characters are his fools or clowns. From Puck to Falstaff his fools commentate on society. The highlight important issues and speak directly to the audience, much as satirists and comedians do today on television talk shows, quiz programmes and across the web.

However, not all jobs in Shakespeare have survived, the bottler, the man in charge of the bottlery where wines and other expensive provisions were stored and dispensed, the bowyer and fletcher, who manufactured bows, arrows and crossbows, the candlemaker and ewerer, who brought and heated water for nobles are gone. Few of these careers would provide a living wage today, and some like Abhorson, the executioner in Measure for Measure, have gone from Britain for the better.

Jenny Cryer said: "To find out more about jobs and careers you can visit the National Careers Service website at At Prospects we advise and support more than 500,000 young people and adults every year, helping them make choices about their careers, improve their lives and develop their potential."

If you are aged 16 to 19 years old and would like help contact us at Bradford Connexions Centre at Culture Fusion on Thornton Road, between 10am and 5pm, Monday to Thursday, and until 4.30pm on a Friday. You can also get an appointment to see an adviser on a Saturday by calling 01274 377800. In Keighley you can find the Keighley Connexions Centre at the Town Hall in Bow Street, telephone 01535 618100. If you would rather get in touch online email or visit

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Notes to Editor

About Prospects
The Prospects Group provides tailored education, employment, training and care products and services for people at all stages of life. Each year Prospects inspires more than 500,000 people to develop their potential and transform their lives. More than 1,400 professional and skilled colleagues provide practical support to the local communities they are based in across the UK and internationally. Prospects is one of the largest employee owned companies in the UK. It is also a Leader in Diversity and ranked in the top 100 index by the National Centre for Diversity.

Media contact:

Alona de Havilland
PR Manager
07790 803882 or 01823 362804

Jayne Runacres
Senior Communications Manager
020 8315 1023 or 07901 922211

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