21 documents unearthed by a professor at the University of Roehampton near Barnes shed light on William Shakespeare’s early life and political views.

The archives discovered in in the National Archives by Professor Glyn Parry reveal that two professional informers caused Shakespeare’s father John significant legal and financial trouble during his son’s childhood and teenage years.

The documents include multiple writs against the playwright’s father and record his debts to the Crown, including one for £132, the equivalent of £20,000 today.

His property was at risk of seizure by the Crown and the documents help explain the father’s retreat from Stratford civic life in 1577.

The documents also give previously unknown political context for Shakespeare’s early life.

Professional informers flourished across England in a corrupt system, which enriched the Queen and her courtiers.

His father’s victimization occupied the years William studied at Stratford-upon-Avon Grammar School.

These experiences helped inform Shakespeare’s scepticism towards power and politics, as highlighted in academic studies of Macbeth, King Lear and Cymbeline.

Previous scholars had assumed that Shakespeare’s father had settled accusations of illegal money-lending and wool-landing out of court.

Glyn Parry, professor of early modern history at the University of Roehampton, said: “Very little is known of William Shakespeare’s early life and the influences on his writing.

“These documents now confirm that legal action taken against his father by the Crown influenced his attitude to power politics.”

Dr Katy Mair, head of early modern records at The National Archives said: “Professor Parry’s discoveries are of the utmost importance to the historical and literary scholarship of Shakespeare studies, and will greatly enhance our knowledge of this period of Shakespeare’s life.

“It is often believed that there are no new documents relating to Shakespeare left to be found, but Professor Parry has shown that there are still discoveries waiting to be made here in the reading rooms at The National Archives.”

Images, transcriptions and descriptions of the documents will soon be available online on www.shakespearedocumented.org.

The website is a collection of primary-source materials documenting the life of William Shakespeare.