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Full text of "William Shakspere, a biography;"

*RARY 

'ERSITY Of 
LIFORNIA 






IL 








WILLIAM SHAKSPERE, 



A BIOGRAPHY. 



FORMING A COMPANION VOLUME 



TO THE 



NATIONAL EDITION OF THE PICTORIAL SHAKSPERE. 



BY CHARLES KNIGHT. 



LONDON: 

CHARLES KNIGHT, FLEET STREET. 

1851. 



LONDON : 
WILLIAM WILCOCKSON, 

ROLLS PRINTING OFFICK. 



Ur/ 




ADVERTISEMENT. 



THIS is a re-publication, with many alterations of arrangement, and some modifi- 
cations of opinion grounded upon new information, of a volume published in 1843. 
That book has befcn long out of print ; and it is a gratification to me to re-produce 
it in a cheap form. 

In the original advertisement I said, " Every Life of Shakspere must, to a certain 
extent, be conjectural; and all the Lives that have been written are conjectural. 
This ' Biography ' is only so far more conjectural than any other, as regards the form 
which it assumes, by which it has been endeavoured to associate Shakspere with the 
circumstances around him, in a manner which may fix them in the mind of the 
reader by exciting his interest." I quoted the opinion of Steevens " All that is 
known with any degree of certainty concerning Shakspere is, that he was born at 
Stratford-upon-Avon married, and had children there went to London, where he 
commenced actor and wrote poems and plays returned to Stratford, made his will, 
died, and was buried." I pointed out that this was exaggeration, but I somewhat 
hastily termed it " slight exaggeration." I fully agree with Mr. Hunter, with regard 
to the want of information on the life of Shakspere, that he is, in this respect, 
in the state in which most of his contemporary poets are Spenser for instance but 
with this difference, that we do know more concerning Shakspere than we know of 
most of his contemporaries of the same class. Admitting this sound reasoning, I 
still believe that the attempt which I ventured to make, for the first time in English 
Literature, to write a Biography which, in the absence of Diaries and Letters, 
should surround the known facts with the local and temporary circumstances, and 
with the social relations amidst which one of so defined a position must have moved, 
was not a freak of fancy a " Burlesque" as one critic has been pleased to call it, but 
an approximation to the truth, which could not have been reached by a mere 
documentary narrative. I venture to think that I have made the course of Shakspere 
clear and consistent, without any extravagant theories, and with some successful 
resistance to long received prejudices. If there were faults of taste in the original 
attempt, I have endeavoured to correct them, in this edition, to the best of my 
judgment. 

CHARLES KNIGHT. 

MARCH 1, 1850. 



CONTENTS AND ILLUSTRATIONS 

TO 

THE BIOGRAPHY. 



BOOK I. 

PAGE 

1. Half-Title to Book I. Infant Shakspere, after Romney 1 

CHAPTER I. ANCESTRY. 

2. Arms of John Shakspere . .314. Church of Aston Cantlow . . 8 

3. Village of Wilmecote . . 6 | 

CHAPTER II. STRATFORD. 
5. Clopton's Bridge . . . .9(6. Snitterfield, 15 

CHAPTER III. THE REGISTER. 



7. Ancient Font, formerly in Stratford 

Church 10 

8. Fac-simile of baptismal register of 

W. Shakspere . . . .17 

9. The Church Avenue 18 



10. Stratford Church . . . .19 

11. John Shakspere's House in Henley 

Street 21 

12. Room in the House in Henley Street 23 



CHAPTER IV. THE SCHOOL. 

13. Inner Court of the Grammar School 24 I 15. Chapel of the Guild, and Grammar 

14. Interior of the Grammar School . 30 | School : Street Front . . .31 

CHAPTER V. THE SCHOOLBOY'S WORLD. 
16. Village of Aston Cantlow . . 33 | 17. The Fair 38 

CHAPTER VI. HOLIDAYS. 

18. The Boundary Elm, Stratford . 40 I 20. Bidford Bridge . . . .46 

19. Shottery 45 | 21. Clopton House .... 50 

CHAPTER VII. KENILWORTH 



22. Chimney-piece in Gatehouse, at 

Kenil worth . . . .51 

23. Queen Elizabeth . . . .52 



24. Entrance to the Hall, Kenilworth . 53 

25. Earl of Leicester . . . .56 



CONTENTS AND ILLUSTRATIONS. 



CHAPTER VIII. PAGEANTS. 

PAGE 

26. Coventry Cross . . . . 57 | 27. St. Mary's Hall, Coventry : Street 

Front 63 

CHAPTER IX. THE FIEESIDE. 

28. Fireside in the House in Henley | 29. The Fireside. . . . .68 

Street . 64 



BOOK II. 

30. Half-Title to Book II. 69 

CHAPTER I. A CALLING. 

31. Stratford Church and Mill. From an original Drawing at the beginning of the last 

Century 71 

CHAPTER II. THE PLAYERS AT STRATFORD. 

32. The Bailiff's Play . . . . 78 | 33. Thomas Sackville .... 83 

CHAPTER III. LIVING IN THE PAST. 



34. Guy's Cliff in the 17th Century . 84 

35. Tomb of King John, Worcester . 87 



37. Ancient Statue of Guy at Guy's Cliff 90 

38. St. Mary's Hall: Court Front . . 92 



36. Bridge at Evesham 

CHAPTER IV. YORK AND LANCASTER. 

39. St. Mary's Hall : Interior . . 94 I 41. Leicester Abbey . . . .103 

40. Entrance to Warwick Castle . 98 | 

CHAPTER V. RUINS, NOT or TIME. 



42. Evesham : the Bell Tower . . 104 

43. Chapter-House, Gateway . . 106 

44. Old House : Evesham . . .107 



45. Bengeworth Church, 'seen through 

the Arch of the Bell Tower . Ill 



CHAPTER VI. THE WAKE. 

46. Welford: the Wake 112 

CHAPTER VII. CHARLCOTE. 

47. Charlcote Church .... 117 I 49. Charlcote House : from Avenue . 121 

48. Deer Barn : Fulbrooke . . . 120 | 50. Charlcote House : from the Avon . 122 

CHAPTER VIII. SPORTS. 



51. Daisy Hill 125 

52. Ingon Hill 128 



54. The Crab Tree . . . .132 

55. Bidford Grange . . . .134 



53. Marl Cliffs : near Bidford . 128 bis* 

* By an error of the Printer, 127 and 128 have been numbered twice. 



CONTENTS AND ILLUSTRATIONS. 



CHAPTER IX. SOLITARY HOUES. 

PAGE 



56. Hampton Lucy : from Road near 

Alveston . . . . 137 

57. Meadows near Welford . . .140 

58. Near Alveston 144 



59. Old Church of Hampton Lucy . 145 

60. A Peep at Charlcote . . . 146 

61. Below Charlcote .... 147 

62. Near Alveston 149 



CHAPTER X. THE TROTHPLIGHT AND THE WEDDING. 

63. Hampton Lucy : Old Church . 150 | 65. House in Charlcote Village . . 159 

64. Shottery Cottage . . . .152 



BOOK III. 

66. Half-Title to Book III 163 

CHAPTER I. LEAVING HOME. 

67. Clifford Church 165 

Note . 174 

CHAPTER II, A NEW PLAY. 

68. A Play at the Blackfriars 175 

CHAPTER III. THE ONLY SHAKE- SCENE. 

69. Old London 184 

CHAPTER IV. THE MIGHTY HEART. 

70. Funeral of Sydney . . . 199 | 71. Camp at Tilbury . . . .201 

CHAPTER V. LEISURE. 



72. Richmond 210 

73. St. James's 211 

74. Somerset House .... 213 



75. Merry Wives of Windsor, performed 

before Elizabeth at Windsor . 220 

76. Windsor . 221 



CHAPTER VI. THE GLOBE. 



77. The Globe Theatre . . .222 

78. Entry in Parish Register of Strat- 

ford of the Burial of Hamnet 
Shakspere . . . .227 



79. Seal and Autograph of Susanna 

Hall 227 

80. Autograph of Judith Shakspere . 228 

81. Lord Southampton . . .231 



CHAPTER VII. EVIL DAYS. 

82. Essex House . . . . 232 I 84. Fac- simile pf the Register of the 

83. Earl of Essex . . . . 238 | Burial of John Shakspere . . 240 

CHAPTER VIII. DID SHAKSPERE VISIT SCOTLAND. 

85. Edinburgh in the 17th Century . 241 I 87. James the Sixth of Scotland and 

86. Dunsinane 244 First of England . . .249 



CONTENTS AND ILLUSTEATIONS. 



BOOK IV. 

Half-Title to Book IV 251 

CHAPTER I. GLIMPSES OF SOCIETY. 

PAGE 

Jonson . . . . . 253 | 90. Thomas Dekker .... 267 
CHAPTER II. LABOURS AND REWARDS. 



91. Hall of the Middle Temple . . 268 

92. Interior of the Temple Church . 270 

93. Harefield 272 

94. Tenement at Stratford . . 273 

95. Funeral of Queen Elizabeth . 274 



96. William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke 276 

97. Philip Herbert, Earl of Mont- 

gomery 277 

98. Wolsey's Hall, Hampton Court . 278 

99. Banqueting-House, Whitehall . 279 



CHAPTER III. REST. 



100. The Garden of New Place . . 281 

101. Monument of Sir Thomas Lucy . '289 

102. The CoUege . . . .291 

103. Ancient Hall in the CoUege . 292 

104. Fac-simile of entry hi Parish 

Register of the Marriage of John 



105. Signature of Dr. Hall . . .295 

106. House in the High Street, Strat- 

ford 296 

107. Bishopton Chapel . . . 297 

108. Foot-bridge above the Mill . . 298 

109. Stratford Church . . 299 



Hall and Susanna Shakspere . 295 

CHAPTER IV. VISITS TO LONDON. 
110. The Bear Garden 300 

CHAPTER V. THE LAST BIRTHDAY. 



111. Chancel of Stratford Church . 308 

112. Monument of John Combe . . 310 

113. Weston Church . . . .312 

114. Signature of Thomas Quiney . 312 



115. Fac-simile of entry in Parish 
Register of the Burial of Wil- 
liam Shakspere . . .316 



APPENDIX. 

I. SHAKSPERE'S WILL. 
116. Monument at Stratford 3J9 

II. SOME POINTS OF SHAKSPERE'S WILL. 



117. Fac-simile of Register of the Burial 

of Mrs. Shakspere . . .323 



118. Ditto of Susanna Hall . . .323 

III. THE AUTOGRAPHS OF SHAKSPERE. 
121. Fac-simile of Autographs, as Frontispiece. 

IV. STRATFORD REGISTERS. 
V. THE PORTRAITS OF SHAKSPERE. 



119. Ditto of Judith Quiney . . 324 

120. Signature of Eliza Barnard . 324 




I Infant Shaksp*re.) 





==g 



I Arras of John Shakspere.l 
CHAPTER I. 

ANCESTRY 



ON the 22nd of August, 1485, there was a battle fought for the crown of England, 
a short battle ending in a decisive victory. In that field a crowned king, " manfully 
fighting in the middle of his enemies, was slain and brought to his death;" and a 
politic adventurer put on the crown, which the immediate descendants of his house 
wore for nearly a century and a quarter. The battle-field was Bosworth. Two 
months afterwards the Earl of Richmond was more solemnly crowned and anointed 
at Westminster by the name of King Henry VII. ; arid " after this," continues the 
chronicler, " he began to remember his especial friends and fautors, of whom some 
he advanced to honour and dignity, and some he enriched with possessions and 
goods, every man according to his desert and merit." * Was there hi that victo- 
rious army of the Earl of Richmond, which Richard denounced as a " company of 
traitors, thieves, outlaws, and runagates," an Englishman bearing the name of 
Chacksper, or Shakespeyre, or Schakespere, or Schakespeire, or Shakespeyre, or 
Schakspere, or Shakespere, or Shakspere,t a martial name, however spelt ? 
" Breakspear, Shakespear, and the like, have been surnames imposed upon the first 
bearers of them for valour and feats of arms." J Of the warlike achievements of 

* Hall's Chronicle. 

t A list of the brethren and sisters of the Guild of Knowle, near Rowington, in Warwickshire, 
exhibits a great number of the name of Shakspere in that fraternity, from about 1460 to 1527 ; and 
the names are spelt with the diversity here given, Shakspere being the latest. 

t Verstegan's " Restitution," &c. 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK I. 



this Shakspcre there is no record : his name or his deeds would have no interest 
for us unless there had been born, eighty years after this battle-day, a direct de- 
scendant from him 

ention, 



" Whose muse, full of high thought's inventi 
Doth like himself heroically sound ; " * 



a Shakspcre, of whom it is also said 

'* He seems to shake a lance 
As brandish'd at the eyes of ignorance." f 

A public document, bearing the date of 1599, affirms, upon "credible report," of 
" John Shakspere, now of Stratford-upon-Avon, in the county of Warwick, gentle- 
man," that his " parent, great-grandfather, and late antccessor, for his faithful and 
approved service to the late most prudent prince King Henry VII. of famous 
memory, was advanced and rewarded with lands and tenements, given to him in 
those parts of Warwickshire, where they have continued by some descents in good 
reputation and credit." Such is the recital of a grant of arms to John Shakspere, 
the father of William Shakspere, which document refers to "his ancient coat of 
arms, heretofore assigned to him, whilst he was her Majesty's officer and bailiff of 
Stratford." In those parts of Warwickshire, then, lived and died, we may assume, 
the faithful and approved servant of the " unknown Welshman," as Richard called 
him, who won for himself the more equivocal name of " the most prudent prince." 
He was probably advanced in years when Henry ascended the throne ; for in the 
first year of Queen Elizabeth, 1558, his great-grandson, John Shakspere, was a 
burgess of the corporation of Stratford, and was in all probability born about 1530. 
The family had continued in those parts, we are assured, " by some descents ; " but 
how they were occupied in the business of life, what was their station in society, 
how they branched out into other lines of Shaksperes, we have no distinct record. 
The name may be traced by legal documents in many parishes of Warwickshire ; but 
we learn from a deed of trust executed in 1 550, by Robert Arden, the maternal grand- 
father of William Shakspere, that Richard Shakspere was the occupier of land in 
Snitterfield, the property of Robert Arden. At this parish of Snitterfield lived a 
Henry Shakspere, who as we learn from a declaration in the Court of Record at Strat- 
ford, was the brother of John Shakspere.IjI It is conjectured, and very reasonably, 
that Richard Shakspere, of Snitterfield, was the paternal grandfather of William 
Shakspere. Snitterfield is only three miles distant from Stratford. They probably 
were cultivators of the soil, unambitious small proprietors. 

Harrison, a painter of manners who comes near the time of John Shakspere, has 
described the probable condition of his immediate ancestors : " Yeomen are those 

which by our law are called legates homines, free men born English 

The truth is, that the word is derived from the Saxon term zeoman, or geoman, 

which signifieth (as I have read) a settled or staid man This sort of 

people have a certain pre-eminence and more estimation than labourers and the 
common sort of artificers." 

But the grant of arms in 1599, opens another branch of inquiry into Shakspere's 
ancestry. It says, " for that the said John Shakespere having married the daughter 
and one of the heirs of Robert Arden of Wellingcote, [Wilmecote] and also produced 
this his ancient coat of arms, we [the heralds] have likewise upon one other 
escutcheon impaled the same with the ancient arms of the said Arden of Welling- 

* Spenser. f Ben Jonson. 

J See Halliwell's "Life of Shakspere," p. 8, and Collier's " Life," p. 62. 



CHAP. I.] ANCESTRY. 



cote." They add that John Shakspere, and his children, issue, and posterity, may 
bear and use the same shield of arms, single or impaled. 

The family of Arden was one of the highest antiquity in Warwickshire. Dugdale 
traces its pedigree uninterruptedly up to the time of Edward the Confessor. Under 
the head of Curd worth, a parish in the hundred of Hemlingford, he says " In this 
place I have made choice to speak historically of that most ancient and worthy 
family, whose surname was first assumed from their residence in this part of the 
country, then and yet called Arden, by reason of its woodiness, the old Britons and 
Gauls using the word in that sense." At the time of the Norman invasion there 
resided at Warwick, Turchil, " a man of especial note and power " and of " great 
possessions." In the Domesday Book his father, Alwyne, is styled vice comes. 
Turchil, as well as his father, received favour at the hands of the Conqueror. He 
retained the possession of vast lands in the shire, and he occupied Warwick Castle 
as a military governor. He was thence called Turchil de Warwick by the Normans. 
But Dugdale goes oil to say " He was one of the first here in England that, in 
imitation of the Normans, assumed a surname, for so it appears that he did, and 
wrote himself Turchittus de Eardene, in the days of King William Rufus." The 
history of the De Ardens, as collected with wonderful industry by Dugdale, spreads 
over six centuries. Such records seldom present much variety of incident, however 
great and wealthy be the family to which they are linked. In this instance a 
shrievalty or an attainder varies the register of birth and marriage, but generation 
after generation passes away without leaving any enduring traces of its sojourn on 
the earth. Fuller has not the name of a single De Arden amongst his " Worthies" 
men illustrious for something more than birth or riches, with the exception of 
those who swell the lists of sheriffs for the county. The pedigree which Dugdale 
gives of the Arden family brings us no nearer in the direct line to the mother of 
Shakspere than to Robert Arden, her great-grandfather : he was the third son of 
Walter Ardeu, who married Eleanor, the daughter of John Hampden, of Buck- 
inghamshire ; and he was brother to Sir John Arden, squire for the body to Henry 
VII. Malone, with laudable industry, has continued the pedigree in the younger 
branch. Robert's son, also called Robert, was groom of the chamber to Henry VII. 
He appears to have been a favourite ; for he had a valuable lease granted him by 
the king of the manor of Yoxsall, in Staffordshire, and was also made keeper of the 
royal park of Aldercar. Robert Arden, the groom of the chamber, probably left the 
court upon the death of his master. He married, and he had a son, also Robert, 
who had a family of seven daughters. The youngest was Mary, the mother of 
William Shakspere. 

From the connection of these immediate ancestors of Shakspere's mother with 
the court of Henry VII., Malone has assumed that they were the " antecessors "* 
of John Shakspere declared to have been advanced and rewarded by the conqueror 
of Bosworth Field. Because Robert Arden had a lease of the royal manor of Yoxsall, 
in Staffordshire, Malone also contends that the reward of lands and tenements stated 
in the grant of arms to have been bestowed upon the ancestor of John Shakspere 
really means the beneficial lease to Robert Arden. He holds that popularly the 
grandfather of Mary Arden would have been called the grandfather of John Shak- 
spere, and that John Shakspere himself would have so called him. The answer is 
very direct. The grant of arms recites that the greatgrandfather of John Shakspere 
had been advanced and rewarded by Henry VII., and then goes on to say that John 

* In a draft of the grant of arms, dated 1596, there are several variations from that of 1599. 
Amongst others we have, " whose parents and late antecessors were for this valiant and faithful 
service " instead of " parent, great-grandfather, and late antecesaor, for his faithful and approved 
sen-ice," &c. 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK i. 



Shakspere had married the daughter of Eobert Arden of Wellingcote : He has an 
ancieiit coat-of-arms of his own derived from his ancestor, and the arms of his wife 
are to be impaled with these his own arms. Can the interpretation of this docu- 
ment then be that Mary Arden's grandfather is the person pointed out as John 
Shakspere's grraz-grandfather ; and that, having an ancient coat-of-arms himself, his 
ancestry is really that of his wife, whose arms are totally different 1 

Mary Ardeii ! The name breathes of poetry. It seems the personification of 
some Dryad of 

" Many a huge-grown wood, and many a shady grove/' 

called by that generic name of Arden, a forest with many towns, 

*' Whose footsteps yet are found, 
In her rough woodlands more than any other ground, 
That mighty Arden held even in her height of pride, 
Her one hand touching Trent, the other Severn's side." * 

High as was her descent, wealthy and powerful as were the numerous branches of 
her family, Mary Arden, we doubt not, led a life of usefulness as well as innocence, 
within her native forest hamlet. Her father died in December, 1556. His will is 
dated the 24th of November in the same year, and the testator styles himself 
" Kobert Arden, of Wyhncote, in the paryche of Aston Cauntlow." 




[Village of Wilmecote,] 



The face of the country must have been greatly changed in three centuries. A 
canal, with lock rising upon lock, now crosses the hill upon which the village stands ; 
but traffic has not robbed the place of its green pastures and its shady nooks, though 
nothing is left of the ancient magnificence of the great forest. There is very slight 

Drayton. " Polyolb'on," 13th Song. 



CHAP. I.] ANCESTRY. 



appearance of antiquity about the present village, and certainly not a house in which 
we can conceive that Robert Arden resided. 

It was in the reign of Philip and Mary that Robert Arden died ; and we cannot 
therefore be sure that the wording of his will is any absolute proof of his religious 
opinions : " First, I bequeath my soul to Almighty God and to our blessed Lady 
Saint Mary, and to all the holy company of heaven, and my body to be buried in 
the churchyard of Saint John the Baptist in Aston aforesaid." Mary, his youngest 
daughter, occupies the most prominent position in the will : " I give and bequeath 
to my youngest daughter Mary all my land in "Wilmecote, called Asbies, and the 
crop upon the ground, sown and tilled as it is, and six pounds thirteen shillings and 
fourpence of money to be paid over ere my goods be divided," To his daughter 
Alice he bequeaths the third part of all his goods, moveable and unmoveable, in 
field and town : to his wife Agnes (the step-mother of his children) six pounds 
thirteen shillings and fourpence, under the condition that she should allow his 
daughter Alice to occupy half of a copyhold at Wilmecote, the widow having her 
"jointure in Snitterfield." The remainder of his goods is divided amongst his other 
children. Alice and Mary are made the "full executors" to his will. We thus see 
that the youngest daughter has an undivided estate and a sum of money ; and the 
crop was also bequeathed to her. The estate consisted of fifty-six acres of arable 
and pasture, and a house. But she also possessed some property in Snitterfield, 
which had probably been secured to her upon her father's second marriage. It was 
in Snitterfield that Richard Shakspere occupied part of the Arden property. 

Some twenty years after the death of Robert Ardeii, Harrison described the 
growth of domestic luxury in England, saying, " There are old men yet dwelling in 
the village where I remain, which have noted three things to be marvellously 
altered in England within their sound remembrance." One of these enormities is 
the multitude of chimneys lately erected, whereas formerly each one made his fire 
against a reredosse in the hall, where he dined and dressed his meat : the second 
thing is the great amendment of lodging the pillows, the beds, the sheets, instead 
of the straw pallet, the rough mat, the good round log or the sack of chaff under 
the head : the third thing is the exchange of vessels, as of treen platters into pewter, 
and wooden spoons into silver or tin. He then describes the altered splendour 
of the substantial farmer : " A fair garnish of pewter on his cupboard, with so much 
more in odd vessels going about the house ; three or four feather-beds ; so many 
coverlids and carpets of tapestry ; a silver salt, a bowl for wine, and a dozen of spoons 
to furnish up the suit." Robert Arden had certainly not a mansion filled with many 
needless articles for use or ornament. In the inventory of his goods taken after his 
death we find table-boards, forms, cushions, benches, and one cupboard in his hall ; 
there are painted cloths [pictures] in the hall and in the chamber ; seven pair of 
sheets, five board-cloths, and three towels ; there is one feather-bed and two mat- 
tresses, with sundry coverlets, and articles called canvasses, three bolsters, and one 
pillow. The kitchen boasts four pans, four pots, four candlesticks, a basin, a 
chafing-dish, two cauldrons, a frying-pan, and a gridiron. And yet this is the 
grandson of a groom of a king's bedchamber, an office filled by the noble and the 
rich, and who, in the somewhat elevated station of a gentleman of worship, would 
probably possess as many conveniences and comforts as a rude state of society 
could command. There was plenty outdoors oxen, bullocks, kine, weaning calves, 
swine, bees, poultry, wheat in the barns, barley, oats, hay, peas, wood in the yard, 
horses, colts, carts, ploughs. Robert Arden had lived through unquiet times, when 
there was little accumulation, and men thought rather of safety than of indulgence : 
the days of security were at hand. Then came the luxuries that Harrison looked 
upon with much astonishment and some little heartburning. 



8 



WILLIAM SHAKSFERE t A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK i 



And so iu the winter of 1556 was Mary Ardcn left without the guidance of a 
father. We learn from a proceeding in chancery some forty years later, that with 
the land of Asbies there went a messuage. Mary Arden had therefore a roof-tree of 
her own. Her sister Alice was to occupy another property in Wilmecote with 
the widow. Mary Arden lived in a peaceful hamlet ; but there were some strange 
things around her, incomprehensible things to a very young woman. When she 
went to the church of Aston Cantlow, she now heard the mass sung, and saw the 
beads bidden ; whereas a few years before there was another form of worship within 
those walls. She learnt, perhaps, of mutual persecutions and intolerance, of neigh- 
bour warring against neighbour, of child opposed to father, of wife to husband. She 
might have beheld these evils. The rich religious houses of her county and vicinity 
had been suppressed, their property scattered, their chapels and fair chambers 
desecrated, their very walls demolished. The new power was trying to restore them, 
but, even if it could have brought back the old riches, the old reverence had passed 
away. In that solitude she probably mused upon many things with an anxious heart. 
The wealthier Ardens of Kingsbury and Hampton, of Kotley and Rodburne and 
Park Hall, were her good cousins ; but bad roads and bad times perhaps kept them 
separate. And so she lived a somewhat lonely life, till a young yeoman of Stratford, 
whose family were her father's tenants, came to sit oftener and oftener upon the 
wooden benches in the old hall a substantial yeoman, a burgess of the corporation 
in 1557 or 1558 ; and then in due season, perhaps in the very year when Romanism 
was lighting its last fires in England, and a queen was dying with "Calais" written 
on her heart, Mary Arden and John Shakspere were, in all likelihood, standing 
before the altar of the parish church of Aston Cantlow, and the house and lands of 
Asbies became administered by one who took possession " by the right of the said 
Mary," who thenceforward abided for half a century in the good town of Stratford. 
There is no register of the marriage discovered : but the date must have been about 
a year after the father's death ; for " Joan Shakspere, daughter to John Shakspere," 
was, according to the Stratford register, baptized on the 15th September, 1558. 




"^ 



'*>k* J 

[Church of Aston Cantlow.] 



CHAP, n.] 



STRATFORD. 




- 



' 
[Clopton's Bridge.] 



CHAPTER II. 

STRATFORD. 



A PLEASANT place is this quiet town of Stratford a place of ancient traffic, " the 
name having been originally occasioned from the ford or passage over the water 
upon the great street or road leading from Henley in Arden towards London."* 
England was not always a country of bridges : rivers asserted their own natural 
rights, and were not bestrid by domineering man. If the people of Henley in Arden 
would travel towards London, the Avon might invite or oppose their passage at his 
own good will ; and, indeed, the river so often swelled into a rapid and dangerous 
stream, that the honest folk of the one bank might be content to hold somewhat 
less intercourse with their neighbours on the other than Englishmen now hold with 
the antipodes. But the days of improvement were sure to arrive. There were 
charters for markets, and charters for fairs, obtained from King Richard and King 
John ; and in process of time Stratford could shew in a wooden bridge, though with- 
out a causey, and exposed to constant damage by flood. And then an alderman of 
London, in days when the very rich were not slow to do magnificent things for 
public benefit, and did less for their own vain pride and luxury, built a stone 
bridge over the Avon, which has borne the name of Clopton's Bridge, even from the 
days of Henry VII. until this day. Ecclesiastical foundations were numerous at 
Stratford ; and such were, in every case, the centres of civilization and prosperity. 
The parish church was a collegiate one, with a chantry of five priests ; and there 
was an ancient guild and chapel of the Holy Cross, partly a religious and partly a 
civil institution. A grammar-school was connected with the guild ; and the muni- 

* Dugdale. 



10 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK I. 



cipal government of the town was settled in a corporation by charter of Edward VI., 
and the grammar-school especially maintained. Here then was a liberal accumula- 
tion, such as belongs only to an old country, to make a succession of thriving 
communities at Stratford ; and they did thrive, according to the notion of thrift in 
those days. But we are not to infer that when John Shakspere removed the 
daughter and heiress of Arden from the old hall of Wilmecote he placed her in some 
substantial mansion in his corporate town, ornamental as well as solid in its archi- 
tecture, spacious, convenient, fitted up with taste, if not with splendour. Stratford 
had, in all likelihood, no such houses to offer ; it was a town of wooden houses, a 
scattered town, no doubt with gardens separating the low and irregular tenements, 
sleeping ditches intersecting the properties, and stagnant pools exhaling in the road. 
A zealous antiquarian has discovered that John Shakspere inhabited a house in 
Henley Street as early as 1552 ; and that he, as well as two other neighbours, was 
fined for making a dung-heap s in the street.* In 1553, the jurors of Stratford 
present certain inhabitants as violators of the municipal laws : from which present- 
ment we learn that ban-dogs were not to go about unmuzzled ; nor sheep pastured 
in the ban-croft for more than an hour each day ; nor swine to feed on the common 
land uuringed.t It is evident that Stratford was a rural town, surrounded with 
common fields, and containing a mixed population of agriculturists and craftsmen. 
The same character was retained as late as 1618, when the privy council represented 
to the corporation of Stratford that great and lamentable loss had " happened to 
that town by casualty of fire, which, of late years, hath been very frequently occa- 
sioned by means of thatched cottages, stacks of straw, furzes, and such-like combus- 
tible stuff, which are suffered to be erected and made confusedly in most of the 
principal parts of the town without restraint."! 

The population of the corporate town of Stratford, containing within itself rich 
endowments and all the framework of civil superiority, would appear insignificant 
in a modern census. The average annual number of baptisms in 1564 was fifty- 
five ; of burials in the same year forty-two : these numbers, upon received principles 
of calculation, would give us a total population of about one thousand four hundred. 
In a certificate of charities, &c., in the thirty-seventh year of Henry VIII., the 
number of "houselyng people" in Stratford is stated to be fifteen hundred. This 
population was furnished with all the machinery by which Englishmen, even in very 
early times, managed their own local affairs, and thus obtained that aptitude for 
practical good government which equally rejects the tyranny of the one or of the 
many. The corporation in the time of John Shakspere consisted of fourteen alder- 
men and fourteen burgesses, one of the aldermen being annually elected to the office 
of bailiff. The bailiff held a court of record every fortnight, for the trial of all 
causes within the jurisdiction of the borough in which the debt and damages did 
not amount to thirty pounds. There was a court-leet also, which appointed its ale- 
tasters, who presided over the just measure and wholesome quality of beer, that 
necessary of life in ancient times ; and which court-leet chose also, annually, four 
affeerors, who had the power in their hands of summary punishment for offences 
for which no penalty was prescribed by statute. The constable was the great police 
officer, and he was a man of importance, for the burgesses of the corporation inva- 
riably served the office. John Shakspere appears from the records of Stratford to 
have gone through the whole regular course of municipal duty. In 1556 he was on 
the jury of the court-leet ; in 1557, an ale-taster ; in 1558, a burgess ; in 1559, a 

* Hunter : "New Illustrations," vol. i. p. 18. 

f The proceedings of the court are given in Mr. Halliwell's "Life of Shakespeare/' a book which 
may be fairly held to contain all the documentary evidence of this life which has been discovered. 
| Chalmers's "Apology," p. 618. 



CHAP. II.] STRATFORD. 11 

constable ; in 1560, an affeeror ; in 1561, a chamberlain ; in 1565, an alderman ; 
and in 1568, high bailiff of the borough, the chief magistrate. 

There have been endless theories, old and new, as to the worldly calling of John 
Shakspere. There are ancient registers in Stratford, minutes of the Common Hall, 
proceedings of the Court-leet, pleas of the Court of Record, writs, which have been 
hunted over with unwearied diligence, and yet they tell us little of John Shak- 
spere ; and what they tell us is too often obscure. When he was elected an 
alderman in 1565, we can trace out the occupations of his brother aldermen, and 
readily come to the conclusion that the municipal authority of Stratford was vested, 
as we may naturally suppose it to have been, in the hands of substantial tradesmen, 
brewers, bakers, butchers, grocers, victuallers, mercers, woollen-drapers.* Prying 
into the secrets of time, we are enabled to form some notion of the literary acquire- 
ments of this worshipful body. On rare, very rare occasions, the aldermen and 
burgesses constituting the town council affixed their signatures, for greater solemnity, 
to some order of the court ; and on the 29th of September, in the seventh of Eliza- 
beth, upon an order that John Wheler should take the office of bailiff, we have 
nineteen names subscribed, aldermen and burgesses. There is something in this 
document which suggests a motive higher than mere curiosity for calling up these 
dignitaries from their happy oblivion, saying to each, " Dost thou use to write thy 
name ? or hast thou a mark to thyself like an honest, plain-dealing man ? " Out 
of the nineteen six only can answer, " I thank God I have been so well brought up 
that I can write my name." We were reluctant to yield our assent to Malone's 
assertion that Shakspere's father had a mark to himself. The marks are not 
distinctly affixed to each name, in this document. But subsequent discoveries 
establish the fact that he used two marks one, something like an open pair 
of compasses the other, the common cross. Even half a century later, to 
write was not held indispensable by persons of some pretension. In Decker's 
" Wonder of a Kingdom," the following dialogue takes place between Gentili and 
Buzardo : 

" Gen. Wh.it qualities arc you furnished withl 

Buz. My education has been like a gentleman. 
Gen. Have you any skill in song or instrument ? 

Buz. As a gentleman should have ; I know all but play on none : I am no barber. 
Gen. Barber ! no, sir. I think it. Are you a linguist'? 

Buz. As a gentleman ought to be ; one tongue serves one head; I am no pedlar, 
to travel countries. 

Gen. What skill ha' you in horsemanship '{ 

Buz. As other gentlemen have ; I ha' rid some beasts in my time. 

Gen. Can you write and read then ? 

Buz. As most of your gentlemen do ; my bond has been taken with my mark at it.' 

We must not infer that one who gave his bond with his mark at it, was necessarily 
ignorant of all literature. It was very common for an individual to adopt, in the 
language of Jack Cade, " a mark to himself," possessing distinctness of character, 
and almost heraldically alluding to his name or occupation. Many of these are like 
ancient merchants' marks ; and on some old deeds the mark of a landowner alien- 
ating property corresponds with the mark described in the conveyance as cut in the 
turf, or upon boundary stones, of unenclosed fields. 

One of the aldermen of Stratford in 1565, John Wheler, is described in the town 
records as a yeoman. He must have been dwelling in Stratford, for we have seen 
that he was ordered to take the office of high bailiff, an office demanding a near and 
constant residence. We can imagine a moderate landed proprietor cultivating his 

* See Malone's " Life of Shakspeare," Boswell's Malone, vol. ii., p. 77. 



1 2 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK I. 



own soil, renting perhaps other land, seated in a house in the town of Stratford, 
such as it was in the middle of the sixteenth century, as conveniently as in a soli- 
tary grange several miles away from it. Such a proprietor, cultivator, yeoman, we 
consider John Shakspere to have been. In 1556, the year that Robert, the father 
of Mary Arden, died, John Shakspere was admitted at the court-leet to two copyhold 
estates in Stratford. The jurors of the leet present that George Tumor had alienated 
to John Shakspere and his heirs one tenement, with a garden and croft, and other 
premises in Grenehyll Street, held of the lord at an annual quit-rent ; and John 
Shakspere, who is present in court and does fealty, is admitted to the same. The 
same jurors present that Edward West has alienated to John Shakspere one tene- 
ment and a garden adjacent in Henley Street, who is in the same way admitted, 
upon fealty done to the lord. Here then is John Shakspere, before his marriage, 
the purchaser of two copyholds in Stratford, both with gardens, and one with a 
croft, or small enclosed field.* 

In 1570 John Shakspere is holding, as tenant under William Clopton, a meadow 
of fourteen acres, with its appurtenances, called Ingon, at the annual rent of eight 
pounds. When he married, the estate of Asbies, within a short ride of Stratford, 
came also into his possession ; and so did some landed property at Snitterfield. 
With these facts before us, scanty as they are, can we reasonably doubt that John 
Shakspere was living upon his own land, renting the land of others, actively engaged 
in the business of cultivation, in an age when men of substance very often thought 
it better to take the profits direct than to share them with the tenant ? In " A 
Briefe Conceipte touching the Commonweale of this Realme of Englande," pub- 
lished in 1581, a Dialogue once attributed to William Shakspere, the knight 
says, speaking of his class, " many of us are enforced either to keep pieces of our 
own lands when they fall in our own possession, or to purchase some farm of other 
men's lands, and to store it with sheep or some other cattle, to help make up the 
decay in our revenues, and to maintain our old estate withal, and yet all is little 
enough." 

The belief that the father of Shakspere was a small landed proprietor and culti- 
vator, employing his labour and capital in various modes which grew out of the 
occupation of land, offers a better, because a more natural, explanation of the cir- 
cumstances connected with the early life of the great poet than those stories which 
would make him of obscure birth and servile employments. Take old Aubrey's 
story, the shrewd learned gossip and antiquary, who survived Shakspere some 
eighty years : " Mr. William Shakespear was born at Stratford-upon-Avon, in the 
county of Warwick. His father was a butcher, and I have been told heretofore by 
some of the neighbours that when he was a boy he exercised his father's trade ; but 
when he killed a calf he would do it in high style, and make a speech. There was 
at that time another butcher's son in this town that was held not at all inferior to 
him for a natural wit, his acquaintance and coetanean, but died young." With an 
undoubting confidence in Aubrey, Dr. Farmer averred that, when he that killed the 
calf wrote 

" There's a divinity that shapes OUT ends, 
Rough hew them how we will,"f 

the poet-butcher was thinking of skewers ? Malone also held that he who, when a 

* Malone, with the documents before him, treats this purchase as if it had been the mere assign- 
ment of a lease ; and, Malone having printed the documents, no one who wrote about Shakspere 
previous to the publication of our "Biography," in 1843, deduced from them that Shakspere's father 
was necessarily a person of some substance before his marriage, a purchaser of property. 

f " Hamlet," Act v. Sc. n. 



CHAP. II.] STRATFORD. 13 



boy, exercised his father's trade, has described the process of calf-killing with an 
accuracy which nothing but profound experience could give 

" And as the butcher takes away the calf, 
And binds the wretch, and beats it when it strays, 
Bearing it to the bloody slaughter-house ; 
Even so, remorseless, have they borne him hence. 
And as the dam runs lowing up and down, 
Looking the way her harmless young one went, 
And can do nought but wail her darling's loss, 
Even so," &c.* 

The story, however, has a variation. There was at Stratford, in the year 1693, a 
clerk of the parish church, eighty years old, that is, he was three years old when 
William Shakspere died, and he, pointing to the monument of the poet, with the 
pithy remark that he was the " best of his family," proclaimed to a member of one 
of the Inns of Court that " this Shakespeare was formerly in this town bound ap- 
prentice to a butcher, but that he ran from his master to London." t His father 
was a butcher, says Aubrey ; he was apprentice to a butcher, says the parish clerk. 
Aubrey was picking up his gossip for his friend Anthony-a-Wood in 1680, and it is 
not very difficult to imagine that the identical parish clerk was his authority. That 
honest chronicler, old as he was, had forty years of tradition to deal with in this 
matter of the butcher's son and the butcher's apprentice ; and the result of such 
glimpses into the thick night of the past is sensibly enough stated by Aubrey him- 
self : " What uncertainty do we find in printed histories ! They either treading 
too near on the heels of truth, that they dare not speak plain ; or else for want of 
intelligence (things being antiquated) become too obscure and dark." 

Akin to the butcher's trade is that of the dealer in wool. .It is upon the autho- 
rity of Betterton, the actor, who, in the beginning of the last century, made a journey 
into Warwickshire to collect anecdotes relating to Shakspere, that Rowe tells us 
that John Shakspere was a dealer in wool : " His family, as appears by the register 
and the public writings relating to that town, were of good figure and fashion there, 
and are mentioned as gentlemen. His father, who was a considerable dealer in wool, 
had so large a family, ten children in all, that, though he was his eldest son, he could 
give him no better education than his own employment." We are now peeping 
" through the blanket of the dark." But daylight is not as yet. Malone was a 
believer in Howe's account ; and he was confirmed in his belief by possessing a piece 
of stained glass, bearing the arms of the merchants of the staple, which had been 
removed from a window of John Shakspere's house in Henley Street. But, unfor- 
tunately for the credibility of Howe, as then held, Malone made a discovery, as it is 
usual to term such glimpses of the past : " I began to despair of ever being able to 
obtain any certain intelligence concerning his trade ; when, at length, I met with 
the following entry, in a very ancient manuscript, containing an account of the pro- 
ceedings in the bailiff's court, which furnished me with the long sought-for infor- 
mation, and ascertains that the trade of our great poet's father was that of a glover ;" 
" Thomas Siche de Arscotte in com. Wigorn. querif versus Johm Shakyspere de 
Stretford, in com. Warwic. Glover, in plac. quod reddat ei oct. libras, &c." This 
Malone held to be decisive. 

We give this record above as Malone printed it, not very correctly ; and having 
seen the original, we maintained that the word was not O lover. Mr. Collier and 
Mr. Halliwell affirm that the word Glo, with the second syllable contracted, is glover ; 
and we accept their interpretation. But we still hold to our original belief that 
he was, in 1556, a landed proprietor and an occupier of land ; one who, although 

* "Henry VL," Part II. Act in. Sc. i. f "Traditionary Anecdotes of Shakespere." 



14 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK I. 



sued as a glover on the 1 7th June of that year, was a suitor in the same court on 
the 19th November, in a plea against a neighbour for unjustly detaining eighteen 
quarters of barley. We still refuse to believe that John Shakspere, when he is 
described as a yeoman in after years, " had relinquished his retail trade," as Mr. 
Halliwell judges ; or that his mark, according to the same authority, was emblema- 
tical of the glove-sticks used for stretching the cheveril for fair fingers. We have 
no confidence that he had stores in Henley Street of the treasures of Autolycus, 

" Gloves as sweet as damask roses." 

We think, that butcher, dealer in wool, glover, may all be reconciled with our 
position, that he was a landed proprietor, occupying land. Our proofs are not purely 
hypothetical. 

Harrison, who mingles laments at the increasing luxury of the farmer, with some- 
what contradictory denouncements of the oppression of the tenant by the landlord, 
holds that the landlord is monopolizing the tenant's profits. His complaints are 
the natural commentary upon the social condition of England, described in "A 
Briefe Conceipte touching the Commonweale :" " Most sorrowful of all to under- 
stand, that men of great port and countenance are so far from suffering their farmers 
to have any gain at all, that they themselves become GRAZIERS, BUTCHERS, TANNERS, 
SHEEPMASTERS, WOODMEN, and denique quid non, thereby to enrich themselves, and 
bring all the wealth of the country into their own hands, leaving the commonalty 
weak, or as an idol with broken or feeble arms, which may in time of peace have a 
plausible show, but, when necessity shall enforce, have an heavy and bitter sequel." 
Has not Harrison solved the mystery of the butcher ; explained the tradition of the 
wool-merchant ; shewn how John Shakspere, the woodman, naturally sold a piece of 
timber to the corporation, which we find recorded ; and, what is most difficult of 
credence, indicated how the glover is reconcilable with all these employments? We 
open an authentic record of this very period, and the solution of the difficulty is 
palpable : In John Strype's " Memorials Ecclesiastical under Queen Mary I," under 
the date of 1558, we find this passage: "It is certain that one Edward Home 
suffered at Newent, where this Deighton had been, and spake with one or two of the 
same parish that did see him there burnt, and did testify that they knew the two 
persons that made the fire to burn him ; they were two glovers or FELLMONGERS."* A 
fellmonger and a glover appear from this passage to have been one and the same. The 
fellmonger is he who prepares skins for the use of the leather-dresser, by separating 
the wool from the hide the natural coadjutor of the sheep-master and the wool- 
man. Shakspere himself implies that the glover was a manufacturer of skins : Dame 
Quickly asks of Slender's man, " Does he not wear a great round beard like a glover's 
paring knife?" The peltry is shaved upon a circular board, with a great round 
knife, to this day. The fellmonger's trade, as it now exists, and the trade in un- 
tanned leather, the glover's trade, would be so slightly different, that the generic 
term, glover, might be applied to each. There are few examples of the word " fell- 
monger" in any early writers. " Glover" is so common that it has become one of the 
universal English names derived from occupation, far more common than if it 
merely applied to him who made coverings for the hands. At Coventry, in the 
middle of the sixteenth century, (the period of which we are writing) the Glovers 
and Whittawers formed one craft. A whittawer is one who prepares tawed leather 
untanned leather leather chiefly dressed -from sheep skins and lamb skins by a 
simple process of soaking, and scraping, and liming, and softening _by alum and salt. 
Of such were the large and coarse gloves in use in a rural district, even amongst 

* Vol. y., p. 277 edit. 1816. 



CHAP. II.] 



STRATFORD. 



15 



labourers ; and such process might be readily earned on by one engaged in agricul- 
tural operations, especially when we bear in mind that the white leather was the 
especial leather of " husbandly furniture," as described by old Tusser. 

We may reasonably persist, therefore, even in accord with "flesh and fell" 
tradition, in drawing the portrait of Shakspere's father, at the time of his marriage, 
in the free air, on his horse, with his team, at market, at fair and yet a dealer in 
carcases, or wood, or wool, or skins, his own produce. He was a proprietor of land, 
and an agriculturist, li ving in a peculiar state of society, as we shall see hereafter, in 
which the division of employments was imperfectly established, and the small rural 
capitalists strove to turn their own products to the greatest advantage. 




[Snitterfield.] 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK I. 




[Ancient Font, formerly in Stratford Church.] 
CHAPTER III. 

THE REGISTER. 



TJS the eleventh century the Norman Conqueror commanded a Register to be com- 
pleted of the lands of England, with the names of their possessors, and the number 
of their free tenants, their villains, and their slaves. In the sixteenth century 
Thomas Cromwell, as the vicegerent of Henry VIII. for ecclesiastical jurisdiction, 
issued Injunctions to the Clergy, ordaining, amongst other matters, that every offi- 
ciating minister shall, for every Church, keep a Book, wherein he shall register every 
Marriage, Christening, or Burial. In the different character of these two Registers 
we read what five centuries of civilization had effected for England. Instead of 
being recorded in the gross as cotarii or servi, the meanest labourer, his wife, and 
his children, had become children of their country and their country's religion, as 
much as the highest lord and his family. Their names were to be inscribed in a 
book and carefully preserved. But the people doubted the intent of this wise and 
liberal injunction. A friend of Cromwell writes to him, " There is much secret and 
several communications between the King's subjects ; and [some] of them, in sundry 
places within the shires of Cornwall and Devonshire, be in great fear and mistrust 
what the King's Highness and his Council should mean, to give in commandment 
to the parsons and vicars of every parish that they should make a book, and surely 
to be kept, wherein to be specified the names of as many as be wedded, and the 
names of them that be buried, and of all those that be christened." * They dreaded 
new " charges ; " and well they might dread. But Thomas Cromwell had not regal 

* Cromwell's Correspondence, in the Chapter-House, Quoted in Rickman's Preface to Population 
Returns, 1831. 



CHAP. III.] THE REGISTER. 17 



exactions in his mind. The Registers were at first imperfectly kept ; but the regu- 
lation of 1538 was strictly enforced in the first year of Elizabeth; and then the 
Register of the Parish of Stratford-upon-Avon commences, that is, in 1558. 

Every such record of human life is a solemn document. Birth, Marriage, Death ! 
this is the whole history of the sojourn upon earth of nearly every name inscribed 
in these time-preserved pages. And after a few years what is the interest, even to 
their own descendants, of these brief annals ? The last entry is too frequently the 
most interesting ; for the question is, Did they leave property ? Is some legal 
verification of their possession of property necessary '? 

" No further seek their merits to disclose." 

But there are entries in this Register-book of Stratford that are interesting to us to 
all Englishmen to universal mankind. We have all received a precious legacy from 
one whose progress from the cradle to the grave is here recorded a bequest large 
enough for us all, and for all who will come after us. Pause we on the one entry of 
that book which most concerns the human race : 




William, the son of John Shakspere, baptized on the 26th April, 1564.* And when 
born ? The want of such information is a defect in all parish-registers. Baptism so 
immediately followed birth in those times, when infancy was surrounded with greater 
dangers than in our own days of improved medical science, that we may believe that 
William Shakspere first saw the light only a day or two previous to this legal record 
of his existence. There is no direct evidence that he was born on the 23rd of April 
according to the common belief. But there was probably a tradition to that effect, 
for some years ago the Rev. Joseph Greene, a master of the grammar-school at Strat- 
ford, in an extract which he made from the Register of Shakspere's baptism, wrote 
in the margin, " Born on the 23rd." We turn back to the first year of the registry, 
1558, and we find the baptism of Joan, daughter to John Shakspere, on the 15th of 
September. Again, in 1562, on the 2nd of December, Margaret, daughter to John 
Shakspere, is baptized. In the entry of burials in 1563 we find, under date of April 
30, that Margaret closed a short life in five months. The elder daughter Joan also 
died young. We look forward, and in 1566 find the birth of a son, after William, 
registered : Gilbert, son of John Shakspere, was baptized on the 1 3th of October of 
that year. In 1569 there is the registry of the baptism of Joan, daughter of John 
Shakspere, on the 15th of April. Thus, the registry of a second Joan leaves no 
reasonable doubt that the first died, and that a favourite name was preserved in the 
family. In 1571 Anne is baptized ; she died in 1579. In 1573-4 another son 
was baptized, Richard, son of Master (Magister) John Shakspere, on the 1 1th of 

* The date of the year, and the word April, occur three lines above the entry the baptism being 
the fourth registered in that month. The register of Stratford is a tall narrow book, of considerable 
thickness, the leaves formed of very fine vellum. But this book is only a transcript, attested by the 
vicar and four churchwardens, on every page of the registers from 1558 to 1600. The above is there- 
fore not a fac-simile of the original entry. 



18 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK I. 



March. The last entry, which determines the extent of John Shakspcre's family, is 
that of Edmund, son of Master John Shakspere, baptized on the 3rd of May, 1580. 
Here, then, we find that two sisters of William were removed by death, probably 
before his birth. In two years and a half another son, Gilbert, came to be his play- 
mate ; and when he was five years old that most precious gift to a loving boy was 
granted, a sister, who grew up with him, and survived him. Another sister was 
born when he had reached seven years ; and as he was growing into youthful 
strength, a boy of fifteen, his last sister died ; and then his youngest brother was 
born. William, Gilbert, Joan, Richard, Edmund, constituted the whole of the 
family who survived the period of infancy. Howe, we have already seen, mentions 
the large family of John Shakspere, " ten children in all." Malone has established 
very satisfactorily the origin of this error into which Howe has fallen. In later years 
there was another John Shakspere in Stratford. In the books of the coq^oration 
the name of John Shakspere, shoemaker, can be traced in 1580 ; in the register in 
1584 we find him married to Margery Roberts, who died in 1587 ; he is, without 
doubt, married a second time, for in 1589, 1590, and 1591, Ursula, Humphrey, and 
Philip, are born. It is unquestionable that these are not the children of the father 
of William Shakspere, for they are entered in the register as the daughter, or sons, of 
John Shakspere, without the style which our John Shakspere always bore after 1569 
-" Magister." There can be no doubt that the mother of all the children of Master 
John Shakspere was Mary Arden ; for in proceedings in Chancery in 1597, which 
we shall notice hereafter, it is set forth that John Shakspere and his wife Mary, in 
the 20th Elizabeth, 1577, mortgaged her inheritance of Asbies. Nor can there be 
a doubt that the children born before 1569, when he is styled John Shakspere, with- 
out the honourable addition of Master, were also her children. The history of the 
family up to the period of William Shakspere's manhood is as clear as can reason- 
ably be expected. 

William Shakspere has been carried to the baptismal font in that fine old church 
of Stratford. The "thick-pleached alley" that leads through the churchyard to 




[The Church Avenue.] 



CHAP. III.] 



THE REGISTER. 



the porch is putting forth its buds and leaves.* The chestnut hangs its white 
blossoms over the grassy mounds of that resting-place. All is joyous in the 
spring sunshine. Kind neighbours arc smiling upon the happy father ; maidens 
and matrons snatch a kiss of the sleeping boy. There is "a spirit of life in 
everything" on this 26th of April, 1564. Summer comes, but it brings not joy 
to Stratford. There is wailing in her streets and woe in her houses. The death- 
register tells a fearful history. From the 30th June to the 31st December, 
two hundred and thirty-eight inhabitants, a sixth of the population, are carried 
to the grave. * The plague is in the fated town ; the doors are marked with 
the red cross, and the terrible inscription, " Lord, have mercy upon us." It is the 
same epidemic which ravaged Europe in that year ; which in the previous year 
had desolated London, and still continued there ; of which sad time Stow 
pithily says " The poor citizens of London were this year plagued with a three- 
fold plague, pestilence, scarcity of money, and dearth of victuals ; the misery 
whereof were too long here to write : no doubt the poor remember it ; the rich by 
flight into the countries made shift for themselves." Scarcity of money and dearth 
of victuals arc the harbingers and the ministers of pestilence. Despair gathers up 
itself to die. Labour goes not forth to its accustomed duties. Shops are closed. 
The market-cross hears no hum of trade. The harvest lies almost ungathered in 
the fields. At last the destroying angel has gone on his way. The labourers ace 
thinned ; there is more demand for labour ; "victuals" arc not more abundant, but 
there are fewer left to share the earth's bounty. Then the adult rush into marriage. 
A year of pestilence is followed by a year of weddings;* and such a "strange 
eventful history" does the Stratford register tell. The Charnel-house a melan- 
choly-looking appendage to the chancel of Stratford Church, (now removed,) had 




[Stratford Church.] 

* It is supposed that such a green avenue was an okl appendage to the church, the present trees 
having taken the place of more ancient ones. 

f See " Malthus on Population," book ii., chap. 12. 

c 2 



20 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK I. 



then its heaps of unhonoured bones fearfully disturbed : but soon the old tower 
heard again the wedding-peal. The red cross was probably not on the door of John 
Shakspere's dwelling. " Fortunately for mankind," says Malone, " it did not reach 
the house where the infant Shakspere lay ; for not one of that name appears on the 
dead list. A poetical enthusiast will find no difficulty in believing that, like Horace, 
he reposed secure and fearless in the midst of contagion and death, protected by the 
Muses to whom his future life was to be devoted : 

'sacra 

Lauroque, collataque myrto, 
Non sine diis animosus infans.' " 

There were more real dangers around Shakspere than could be averted by the sacred 
laurel and the myrtle something more fearful than the serpent and the bear of the 
Koman poet.* He, by whom 

" Spirits are not finely touch'd 
But to fine issues," 

may be said, without offence, to have guarded this unconscious child. William 
Shakspere was to be an instrument, and a great one, in the intellectual advancement 
of mankind. The guards that He placed around that threshold of Stratford, as 
secondary ministers, were cleanliness, abundance, free air, parental watchfulness. 
The " non sine diis" the " protected by the Muses," rightly considered, must 
mean the same guardianship. Each is a recognition of something higher than acci- 
dent and mere physical laws. 

The parish of Stratford, then, was unquestionably the birth-place of William 
Shakspere. But in what part of Stratford dwelt his parents in the year 1564 ? It 
was ten years after this that his father became the purchaser of two freehold houses 
in Henley Street houses which still exist houses which the people of England 
have agreed to preserve as a precious relic of their greatest brother. William 
Shakspere, then, might have been born at either of his father's copyhold houses, in 
Greenhill Street, or in Henley Street ; he might have been born at Ingon ; or his 
father might have occupied one of the two freehold houses in Henley Street at the 
time of the birth of his eldest son. Tradition says, that William Shakspere ivas 
born in one of these houses ; tradition points out the very room in which he was 
born. 

Whether Shakspere were born here, or not, there can be little doubt that this 
property was the home of his boyhood. It was purchased by John Shakspere, from 
Edmund Hall and Emma his wife, for forty pounds. In a copy of the chirograph of 
the fine levied on this occasion (which is now in the possession of Mr. Wheler, of 
Stratford) the property is described as two messuages, two gardens, and two orchards, 
with their appurtenances. This document does not define the situation of the 
property, beyond its being in Stratford-upon-Avon ; but in the deed of sale of 
another property in 1591, that property is described as situate between the houses 
of Robert Johnson and John Shakspere ; and in 1597 John Shakspere himself sells 
a " toft, or parcel of land," in Henley Street, to the purchaser of the property in 
1591. The properties can be traced, and leave no doubt of this house in Henley 
Street being the residence of John Shakspere. He retained the property during his 
life ; and it descended, as his heir-at-law, to his son William. In the last testament 
of the poet is this bequest to his " sister Joan : " " I do will arid devise unto her 
the house, with the appurtenances, in Stratford, wherein she dwelleth, for her natural 
life, under the yearly rent of twelve-pence." His sister Joan, whose name by mar- 

* Hor. lib. iii., car. iv. 



22 WILLIAM BHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK. I. 



riagc was Hart, was residing there in 1639, and she probably continued to reside 
there till her death in 1646. The one house in which Mrs. Hart resided was 
doubtless the half of the building now forming the butcher's shop and the tenement 
adjoining; for the other house was known as the Maidenhead Inn, in 1642. In 
another part of Shakspcre's will he bequeaths, amongst the bulk of his property, to 
his eldest daughter, Susanna Hall, with remainder to her male issue, " two messuages 
or tenements, with the appurtenances, situate, lying, and being in Henley Street, 
within the borough of Stratford." There are existing settlements of this very 
property in the family of Shakspere's eldest daughter and grand-daughter ; and this 
grand-daughter, Elizabeth Nash, who was married a second time to Sir John Barnard, 
left both houses, namely, " the inn, called the Maidenhead, and the adjoining house 
and barn," to her kinsmen Thomas and George Hart, the grandsons of her grand- 
father's " sister Joan." These persons left descendants, with whom this property 
remained until the beginning of the present century. But it was gradually dimi- 
nished. The orchards and gardens were originally extensive : a century ago tene- 
ments had been built upon them, and they were alienated by the Hart then in 
possession. The Maidenhead Iim became the Swan Inn, and is now the Swan and 
Maidenhead. The White Lion, on the other side of the property, was extended, so 
as to include the remaining orchards and gardens. The house in which Mrs. Hart 
had lived so long became divided into two tenements ; and at the end of the last 
century the lower part of one was a butcher's shop. 

The engraving (page 21) exhibits John Shakspere's houses in Henley Street under 
three different aspects. No. 1 (the top) is from an original drawing made by 
Colonel Delamotte in 1788. The houses, it will be observed, then presented one 
uniform front ; and there were dormer windows connected with rooms in the roof. 
We have a plan before us, accompanying Mr. Wheler's account of these premises, 
which shows that they occupied a frontage of thirty-one feet. No. 2 is from an 
original drawing made by Mr. Pyne, after a sketch by Mr. Edridge in 1807. We 
now see that the dormer windows are removed, as also the gable at the east end of 
the front. The house has been shorn of much of its external importance. No. 3 
is from a lithograph engraving in Mr. Wheler's account, published in 1824. The 
premises, we now see, have been pretty equally divided. The Swan and Maidenhead 
half has had its windows modernized, and the continuation of the timber-frame has 
been obliterated by a brick casing. In 1807, we observe that the western half had 
been divided into two tenements ; the fourth of the whole premises, that is the 
butcher's shop, the kitchen behind, and the two rooms over, being the portion 
commonly shown as Shakspere's House. Some years ago, upon a frontage in con- 
tinuation of the tenement at the west, three small cottages were built. The whole 
of this portion of the property has been purchased for the nation, as well as the two 
tenements. 

Was William Shakspere, then, born in the house in Henley Street which has been 
purchased by the nation 1 - For ourselves, we frankly confess that the want of 
absolute certainty that Shakspere was there born, produces a state of mind that is 
something higher and pleasanter than the conviction that depends upon positive 
evidence. We are content to follow the popular faith undoubtingly. The traditionary 
belief is sanctified by long usage and universal acceptation. The merely curious 
look in reverent silence upon that mean room, with its massive joists and plastered 
walls, firm with ribs of oak, where they are told the poet of the human race was 
born. Eyes now closed on the world, but who have left that behind which the 
world " will not willingly let die," have glistened under this humble roof, and there 
have been thoughts unutterable solemn, confiding, grateful, humble clustering 
round their hearts in that hour. The autographs of Byron and Scott are amongst 



CHAP, m.] 



THE REGISTER. 



23 



hundreds of perishable inscriptions. Disturb not the belief that William Shakspere 
first saw the light in this venerated room. 

" The victor Time has stood on Avon's side 
To doom the fall of many a home of pride ; 
Eapine o'er Evesham's gilded fane has strode, 
And gorgeous Kenilworth has paved the road : 
But Time has gently laid his withering hands 
On one frail House the House of Shakspere stands ; 
Centuries are gone fallen ' the cloud-capp'd tow'rs ; ' 
But Shakspere *8 home, his boyhood's home, is ours ! " 

Prologue for the Shakspere Night, Dec. 7, 1847, by C. Knight. 




[Room in the House in Henley Street.] 



24 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK i. 




[Inner Court of the Grammar School.] 
CHAPTER IV. 

THE SCHOOL. 



THE poet in his well-known " Seven Ages" has necessarily presented to us only the 
great boundary-marks of a human life : the progress from one stage to another he 
has left to be imagined : 

" At first the infant 
Muling and puking in the nurse's arms." 

Perhaps the most influential, though the least observed part of man's existence, that 
in which he learns most of good or of evil, lies in the progress between this first act 
and the second : 

" And then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel, 
And shining morning face, creeping like snail 
Unwillingly to school." 

Between the "nurse's arms" and the "school" there is an important interval, filled 
up by a mother's education. 

There is a passage in one of Shakspere's Sonnets, the 89th, which has induced a 



CHAP. IV.] THE SCHOOL. 25 



belief that he had the misfortune of a physical defect, which would render him 
peculiarly the object of maternal solicitude: 

"Say that thou didst forsake me for some fault, 
And I will comment upon that offence : 
Speak of my lameness, and I straight will halt ; 
Against thy reasons making no defence." 

Again, in the 37th Sonnet: 

"Asa decrepit father takes delight 
To see his active child do deeds of youth, 
So I, made lame by fortune's dearest spite, 
Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth." 

These lines have been interpreted to mean that William Shakspere was literally lame, 
and that his lameness was such as to limit him, when he became an actor, to the 
representation of the parts of old men. Mr. Harness has truly observed that " many 
an infirmity of the kind may be skilfully concealed, or only become visible in the 
moments of hurried movement ;" and he adds, "either Sir Walter Scott or Lord 
Byron might, without any impropriety, have written the verses in question." We 
should have no doubt whatever that the verses we have quoted may be most fitly 
received in a metaphorical sense, were there not some subsequent lines in the 37th 
Sonnet which really appear to have a literal meaning ; and thus to render the pre- 
vious lame and lameness expressive of something more than the general self-abasement 
which they would otherwise appear to imply. In the following line's lame means 
something distinct from poor and despised : 

"For whether beauty, birth, or wealth, or wit, 
Or any of these all, of all, or more. 
Entitled in thy parts do crowncc. sit, 
I make my love engrafted to this store : 
So then I am not lime, poor, nor despis'd, 
Whilst that tliis shadow doth such substance give." 

Of one thing, however, we may be quite sure that, if Shakspere were lame, his 
infirmity was not such as to disqualify him for active bodily exertion. The same series 
of verses that have suggested this belief that he was lame also show r that he was a 
horseman.* His entire works exhibit that familiarity with external nature, with rural 
occupations, with athletic sports, which is incompatible with an inactive boyhood. 
It is not impossible that some natural defect, or some accidental injury, may have 
modified the energy of such a child ; and have cherished in him that love of books, 
and traditionary lore, and silent contemplation, without which his intellect could not 
have been nourished into its wondrous strength. But we cannot imagine William 
Shaksperc a petted child, chained to home, not breathing the free air upon his native 
hills, denied the boy's privilege to explore every nook of his own river. We would 
imagine him communing from the first with Nature, as Gray has painted him 

" The dauntless child 
Strctch'd forth his little arms and smil'd." 

The only qualifications necessary for the admission of a boy into the Free Grammar 
School of Stratford \vere, that he should be a resident in the town, of seven years of 
age, and able to read. The Grammar School was essentially connected with the 
Corporation of Stratford ; and it is impossible to imagine that, when the son of John 
Shakspere became qualified by age for admission to a school where the best education 
of the time was given, literally for nothing, his father, in that year, being chief alder- 

* See Sonnets 50 and 51. 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK I. 



man, should not have sent him to the school. We assume, without any hesitation, 
that William Shakspere did receive in every just sense of the word the education 
of a scholar ; and as such education was to be had at his own door, we also assume 
that he was brought up at the Free Grammar School of his own town. His earlier 
instruction would therefore be a preparation for this school. 

In the first year of Edward VI. was published by authority " The ABC, with the 
Pater-noster, Ave, Crede, and Ten Commandementtes in Englysshe, newly translated 
and set forth at the kynges most gracious commandement." But the ABC soon 
became more immediately connected with systematic instruction in religious belief. 
The alphabet and a few short lessons were followed by the catechism, so that the 
book containing the catechism came to be called an A B C book, or Absey-book. 
Towards the end of Edward's reign was put forth by authority " A Short Cate- 
chisme, or playne instruction, conteynynge the sume of Christian learninge," which 
all schoolmasters were called upon to teach after the "little catechism" previously 
set forth. Such books were undoubtedly suppressed in the reign of Mary, but upon 
the accession of Elizabeth they were again circulated. A question then arises, Did 
William Shakspere receive his elementary instruction in Christianity from the books 
sanctioned by the Eeformed Church 1 It has been maintained that his father be- 
longed to the Koman Catholic persuasion. This belief rests upon the following 
foundation. In the year 1770, Thomas Hart, who then inhabited one of the tene- 
ments in Henley Street which had been bequeathed to his family by William 
Shakspere's grand-daughter, employed a bricklayer to new tile the house ; and this 
bricklayer, by name Mosely, found hidden between the rafters and the tiling a 
manuscript consisting of six leaves stitched together, which he gave to Mr. Peyton, 
an alderman of Stratford, who sent it to Mr. Malone, through the Rev. Mr. Devon- 
port, vicar of Stratford. This paper, which was first published by Malone in 1790, 
is printed also in Reed's Shakspeare and in Drake's " Shakspeare and his Times." 
It consists of fourteen articles, purporting to be a confession of faith of " John 
Shakspear, an unworthy member of the holy Catholic religion." We have no hesi- 
tation whatever in believing this document to be altogether a fabrication. Chalmers 
says, " It was the performance of a clerk, the undoubted work of the family priest."* 
Malone, when he first published the paper in his edition of Shakspeare, said " I 
have taken some pains to ascertain the authenticity of this manuscript, and, after a 
very careful inquiry, am perfectly satisfied that it is genuine." In 1796, however, 
in his work on the Ireland forgeries, he asserts " I have since obtained documents 
that clearly prove it could not have been the composition of any one of our poet's 
family." We not only do not believe that it was " the composition of any one of 
our poet's family," nor " the undoubted work of the family priest," but we do not 
believe that it is the work of a Roman Catholic at all. It professes to be the writer's 
"last spiritual will, testament, confession, protestation, and confession of faith." 
Now, if the writer had been a Roman Catholic, or if it had been drawn up for his 
approval and signature by his priest, it would necessarily, professing such fulness 
and completeness, have contained something of belief touching the then material 
points of spiritual difference between the Roman and the Reformed Church. Nothing, 
however, can be more vague than all this tedious protestation and confession ; with 
the exception that phrases, and indeed long passages, are introduced for the purpose 
of marking the supposed writer's opinions in the way that should be most offensive 
to those of a contrary opinion, as if by way of bravado or seeking of persecution. 
In this his last confession, spiritual will, and testament, he calls upon all his kins- 
folks to assist and succour him after his death " with the holy sacrifice of the mass," 
with a promise that he " will not be ungrateful unto them for so great a benefit," 
* "Apology for the Believers," page 199. 



CHAP. IV.] THE SCHOOL. 27 



well knowing that by the Act of 1581 the saying of mass was punishable by a year's 
imprisonment and a fine of 200 marks, and the hearing of it by a similar imprison- 
ment and fine of 100 marks. The fabrication appears to us as gross as can well be 
imagined. 

That John Shakspere was what we popularly call a Protestant in the year 1568, 
when his son William was four years old, may be shown by the clearest of proofs. 
He was in that year the chief magistrate of Stratford ; he could not have become 
so without taking the Oath of Supremacy, according to the statute of the 1st of 
Elizabeth, 1558-9. To refuse this oath was made punishable with forfeiture and 
imprisonment, with the pains of prsemunire and high treason. " The conjecture," 
says Chalmers (speaking in support of the authenticity of this confession of faith), 
" that Shakspeare's family were Roman Catholics, is strengthened by the fact that 
his father declined to attend the corporation meetings, and was at last removed from 
the corporate body." He was removed from the corporate body in 1586, with a 
distinct statement of the reason for this removal his non-attendance when sum- 
moned to the halls. But a subsequent discovery of a document in the State Paper 
Office, communicated by Mr. Lemon to Mr. Collier, shews that in 1592, Mr. John 
Shakspere, with fourteen of his neighbours, were returned by certain Commissioners 
as " such recusants as have been heretofore presented for not coming monthly to the 
church according to her Majesty's laws, and yet are thought to forbear the church 
for debt and for fear of process, or for some other worse faults, or for age, sickness, 
or impotency of body." John Shakspere is classed amongst nine who " came not to 
church for fear of process for debt." We shall have to notice this assigned reason 
for the recusancy in a future Chapter. But the religious part of the question is 
capable of another solution, than that the father of Shakspere had become reconciled 
to the Romish religion. At that period the puritan section of the English church 
were acquiring great strength in Stratford and the neighbourhood; and in 1596, 
Richard Bifield, one of the most zealous of the puritan ministers, became its Vicar.* 
John Shakspere and his neighbours might not have been Popish recusants, and yet 
have avoided the church. It must be borne in mind that the parents of William 
Shakspere passed through the great changes of religious opinion, as the greater 
portion of the people passed, without any violent corresponding change in their 
habits derived from their forefathers. In the time of Henry VIII. the great contest 
of opinion was confined to the supremacy of the Pope ; the great practical state 
measure was the suppression of the religious houses. Under Edward VI. there was 
a very careful compromise of all those opinions and practices in which the laity were 
participant. In the short reign of Mary the persecution of the Reformers must have 
been offensive even to those who clung fastest to the ancient institutions and modes 
of belief ; and even when the Reformation was fully established under Elizabeth, the 
habits of the people were still very slightly interfered with. The astounding majority 
of the conforming clergy is a convincing proof how little the opinions of the laity 
must have been disturbed. They would naturally go along with their old teachers. 
We have to imagine, then, that the father of William Shakspere, and his mother, 
were, at the time of his birth, of the religion established by law. His father, by 
holding a high municipal office after the accession of Elizabeth, had solemnly de- 
clared his adherence to the great principle of Protestantism the acknowledgment 
of the civil sovereign as the head of the church. The speculative opinions in which 
the child was brought up would naturally shape themselves to the creed which his 
father must have professed in his capacity of magistrate ; but, according to some 
opinions, this profession was a disguise on the part of his father. The young Shak- 
spere was brought up in the Roman persuasion, according to these notions, because 
* Hunter: "New Illustrations," Vol. I., p. 106. 



28 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK I. 



he intimates an acquaintance with the practices of the Roman church, and mentions 
purgatory, shrift, confession, in his dramas.* Surely the poet might exhibit this 
familiarity with the ancient language of all Christendom, without thus speaking 
"from the overflow of Roman Catholic zeal."t Was it "Roman Catholic zeal" 
which induced him to write those strong lines in King John against the " Italian 
priest," and against those who 

" Purchase corrupted pardon of a man 1 " 

Was it " Roman Catholic zeal" which made him introduce these words into the 
famous prophecy of the glory and happiness of the reign of Elizabeth 

" God shall be truly known ?" 

He was brought up, without doubt, in the opinions which his father publicly pro- 
fessed, in holding office subject to his most solemn affirmation of those opinions. 
The distinctions between the Protestant and the Popish recusant were then not so 
numerous or speculative as they afterwards became. But, such as they were, we 
may be sure that William Shakspere learnt his catechism in all sincerity ; that he 
frequented the church in which he and his brothers and sisters were baptized ; that 
he was prepared for the discipline of the school in which religious instruction by a 
minister of the church was regularly afforded as the end of the other knowledge there 
taught. He became tolerant, according to the manifestation of his after-writings, 
through nature and the habits and friendships of his early life. But that tolerance 
does not presume insincerity in himself or his family. The " Confession of Faith," 
found in the roof of his father's house two hundred years after he was born, would 
argue the extreme of religious zeal, even to the defiance of all law and authority, on 
the part of a man who had by the acceptance of office professed his adherence to 
the established national faith. If that paper were to be believed, we must be driven 
to the conclusion that John Shakspere was an unconscientious hypocrite for one part 
of his life, and a furious bigot for the other part. It is much easier to believe that the 
Reformation fell lightly upon John Shakspere, as it did upon the bulk of the laity ; 
and that he and his wife, without any offence to their consciences, saw the Common 
Prayer take the place of the Mass-book, and acknowledged the temporal sovereign to 
be head of the church : that in the education of their children they dispensed with 
auricular confession and penance ; but that they, in common with their neighbours, 
tolerated, and perhaps delighted in, many of the festivals and imaginative forms of 
the old religion, and even looked up for heavenly aid through intercession, without 
fancying that they were yielding to an idolatrous superstition, such as Puritanism 
came subsequently to denounce. The transition from the old worship to the new 
was not an ungentle one for the laity. The early reformers were too wise to attempt 
to root up habits those deep-sunk foundations of the past which break the plough- 
shares of legislation when it strives to work an inch below the earth's surface. 

To the grammar-school, then, with some preparation, we hold that William 
Shakspere goes, about the year 1571. His father is at this time, as we have said, 
chief alderman of his town ; he is a gentleman, now, of repute and authority, he 
is Master John Shakspere ; and assuredly the worthy curate of the neighbouring 
village of Luddington, Thomas Hunt, who was also the school-master, would have 
received his new scholar with some kindness. As his " shining morning face " 
first passed out of the main street into that old court through which the upper 
room of learning was to be reached, a new life would be opening upon him. 
The humble minister of religion who was his first instructor has left no memorials 

* See Chalmers's " Apology," p. 200. 
f Chalmers. See also Drake, who adopts, in great measure, Chalmers's argument. 



CHAP. IV.] THE SCHOOL. 29 



of his talents or his acquirements ; and in a few years another master came after him, 
Thomas Jenkins, also unknown to fame. All praise and honour be to them ; for it 
is impossible to imagine that the teachers of William Shakspere were evil instruc- 
tors giving the boy husks instead of wholesome aliment. They could not have 
been harsh and perverse instructors, for such spoil the gentlest natures, and his was 
always gentle : " My gentle Shakspere" is he called by a rough but noble spirit 
one in whom was all honesty and genial friendship under a rude exterior. His 
wondrous abilities could not be spoiled even by ignorant instructors. 

In the seventh year of the reign of Edward VI. a royal charter was granted to 
Stratford for the incorporation of the inhabitants. That charter recites "That 
the borough of Stratford-upon-Avon was an ancient borough, in which a certain 
guild was theretofore founded, and endowed with divers lands, tenements, and posses- 
sions, out of the rents, revenues, and profits whereof a certain free grammar-school 
for the education of boys there was made and supported."* The charter further 
recites the other public objects to which the property of the guild had been 
applied ; that it was dissolved ; and that its possessions had come into the hands 
of the king. The charter of incorporation then grants to the bailiff and burgesses 
certain properties which were parcel of the possessions of the guild, for the general 
charges of the borough, for the maintenance of an ancient almshouse, " and that 
the free grammar-school for the instruction and education of boys and youth there 
should be thereafter kept up and maintained as theretofore it used to be." It may 
be doubted whether Stratford was benefited by the dissolution of ita guild. We 
sec that its grammar-school was an ancient establishment : it was not a creation of 
the charter of Edward VI., although it is popularly called one of the grammar- 
schools of that king, and was the last school established by him.t The people of 
Stratford had possessed the advantage of a school for instruction in Greek and 
Latin, which is the distinct object of a grammar-school, from the time of Edward IV., 
when Thomas Jolyffe, in 1482, "granted to the guild of the Holy Cross of Strat- 
ford-upon-Avon all his lands and tenements in Stratford and Dodwell, in the county 
of Warwick, upon condition that the master, aldermen, and proctors of the said 
guild should find a priest, fit and able in knowledge, to teach grammar freely to all 
scholars coming to the school in the said town to him, taking nothing of the scholars 
for their teaching."! Dugdale describes the origin of guilds, speaking of this of 
Stratford : " Such meetings were at first used by a mutual agreement of friends 
and neighbours, and particular licenses granted to them for conferring lands or rents 
to defray their public charges in respect that, by the statute of mortmain, such gifts 
would otherwise have been forfeited." 

In the surveys of Henry VIII., previous to the dissolution of religious houses, 
there were four salaried priests belonging to the guild of Stratford, with a clerk, who 
was also schoolmaster, at a salary of ten pounds per annum. They were a hospit- 
able body these guild-folk, for there was an annual feast, to which all the fraternity 
resorted, with their tenants and farmers ; and an inventory of their goods in the 
15th of Edward IV. shows that they were rich in plate for the service of the table, 
as well as of the chapel. That chapel was partly rebuilt by the great benefactor of 
Stratford, Sir Hugh Clopton ; and after the dissolution of the guild and the esta- 
blishment of the grammar-school by the charter of Edward VI., the school was in 
all probability kept within it. There is an entry in the Corporation books, of 
February 18, 1594-5 "At this hall it was agreed by the bailiff and the greater 
number of the company now present that there shall be no school kept in the chapel 
from this time following." In associating, therefore, the schoolboy days of William 

* " Report of the Commissioners for inquiring concerning Charities." f See Strype's " Memorials." 
!J! " Report of Commissioners," &c. Dugdale. 



30 



WILLIAM 8HA.K8PBBE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK I. 



Shakspcre with the Free Grammar-School of Stratford, we cannot with any certainty 
imagine him engaged in his daily tasks in the ancient room which is now the school- 




[ Interior of the Grammar School.] 

room. And yet the use of the chapel as a school, discontinued in 1595, might only 
have been a temporary u3e. A little space may be occupied in a notice of each 
building. 

The grammar-school is now an ancient room over the old town-hall of Stratford ; 
both, no doubt, offices of the ancient guild. We enter from the street into a 
court, of which one side is formed by the chapel of the Holy Cross. Opposite 
the chapel is a staircase, ascending which we are in a plain room, with a ceiling. 
But it is evident that this work of plaster is modern, and that above it we have 
the oak roof of the sixteenth century. In this room are a few forms and a rude 
antique desk. 

The Chapel of the Guild is in great part a very perfect specimen of the plainer 
ecclesiastical architecture of the reign of Henry VII. : a building of just propor- 
tions and some ornament, but not running into elaborate decoration. The interior 
now presents nothing very remarkable. But upon a general repair of the chapel in 
1804, beneath the whitewash of successive generations, was discovered a series of 
most remarkable paintings, some in that portion of the building erected by Sir Hugh 
Clopton, and others in the far more ancient chancel. A very elaborate series of 
coloured engravings has been published from these paintings, from drawings made 
at the time of their discovery by Mr. Thomas Fisher. There can be little doubt, 
from the defacement of some of the paintings, that they were partially destroyed 
by violence, and all attempted to be obliterated in the progress of the Reformation. 
But that outbreak of zeal did not belong to the first periods of religious change ; 
and it is most probable that these paintings were existing in the early years of 



CHAP. IV.] 



THE SCHOOL. 



31 







[Chapel of the Guild, and Grammar School: Streit Front.] 

Elizabeth's reign. When the five priests of the guild were driven from their 
home and their means of maintenance, the chapel no doubt ceased to be a place of 
worship ; and it probably became the school-room, after the foundation of the 
grammar-school, distinct from the guild, under the charter of Edward VI. If it 
was the school-room of William Shakspere, those rude paintings must have pro- 
duced a powerful effect upon his imagination. Many of them in the ancient chancel 
constituted a pictorial romance the history of the Holy Cross, from its origin as a 
tree at the Creation of the World to its rescue from the pagan Cosdroy, King of 
Persia, by the Christian King, Heraclius ; and its final Exaltation at Jerusalem, 
the anniversary of which event was celebrated at Stratford at its annual fair, held on 
the 1 4th of September. There were other pictures of Saints, and Martyrdoms ; 
and one, especially, of the murder of Thomas h, Becket, which exhibits great force, 
without that grotesqueness which generally belongs to our early paintings. There 
were fearful pictures, too, of the last Judgment ; with the Seven Deadly Sins visibly 
portrayed, the punishments of the evil, the rewards of the just. Surrounded as 
he was with the memorials of the old religion with great changes on every side, 
but still very recent changes how impossible was it that Shakspere should not 
have been thoroughly imbued with a knowledge of all that pertained to the faith of 
his ancestors ! One of the most philosophical writers of our day has said that 
Catholicism gave us Shakspere.* Not so, entirely. Shakspere belonged to the tran- 
* Carlvle : " French Revolution." 



32 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK I. 



sition period, or he could not have been quite what he was. His intellect was not 
the dwarfish and precocious growth of the hot-bed of change, and still less of con- 
vulsion. His whole soul was permeated with the ancient vitalities the things 
which the changes of institutions could not touch ; but it could bourgeon under the 
new influences, and blend the past and the present, as the "giant oak" of five 
hundred winters is covered with the foliage of one spring. But there was one 
blessing which Catholicism would have withheld from him. When in the year 1537 
the Bible in English was first printed by authority, Eichard Grafton, the printer, 
sent six copies to Cranmer, beseeching the archbishop to accept them as his simple 
gift, adding, " For your lordship, moving our most gracious prince to the allowance 
and licensing of such a work, hath wrought such an act worthy of praise as never 
was mentioned in any chronicle in this realm." From that time, with the excep- 
tion of the short interval of the reign of Mary, the presses of London were for the 
most part employed in printing Bibles. That book, to whose wonderful heart- 
stirring narratives the child listens with awe arid love, was now and ever after to be 
the solace of the English home. With "the Great Bible" open before her, the 
mother would read aloud to her little ones that beautiful story of Joseph sold into 
slavery, and then advanced to honour and how his brethren knew him not when, 
suppressing his tears, he said, " Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake f ' 
or, how, when the child Samuel was laid down to sleep, the Lord called to him 
three times, and he grew, and God was with him ; or, how the three holy men 
who would not worship the golden image walked about in the midst of the burning 
fiery furnace ; or how the prophet that was unjustly cast into the den of lions was 
found unhurt, because the true God had sent his angels and shut the lions' mouths. 
These were the solemn and affecting narratives, wonderfully preserved for our 
instruction from a long antiquity, that in the middle of the sixteenth century 
became unclosed to the people of England. But more especially was that other 
Testament opened which most imported them to know ; and thus, when the child 
repeated in lisping accents the Christian's prayer to his Father in heaven, the 
mother could expound to him that, when the Divine Author of that prayer first 
gave it to us, He taught us that the poor in spirit, the meek, the merciful, the 
pure in heart, the peacemakers, were the happy and the beloved of God ; and 
laid down that comprehesive law of justice, " All things whatsoever ye would that 
men should do to you, do ye even so to them." We believe that the education 
of William Shakspere was grounded upon this Book ; and that, if this Book had 
been sealed to his childhood, he might have been the poet of nature, of passion, 
his humour might have been as rich as we find it, and his wit as pointed, but 
that he would not have been the poet of the most profound as well as the most 
tolerant philosophy ; his insight into the nature of man, his meanness and his 
grandeur, his weakness and his strength, would not have been what it is. 



CHAP. V.] 



THE SCHOOLBOY'S WORLD. 



33 







^T^-eces^-^ , ^ s 

[Village of Aston Cantlow.] 

CHAPTER V. 

THE SCHOOLBOY'S WORLD. 



LET us pass over for a time the young Shakspere at his school-desk, inquiring not 
when he went from "The Short Dictionary" forward to the use of " Cooper's Lexi- 
con," or whether he was most drilled in the " Eclogues" of Virgil, or those of the 
" good old Mantuan." Of one thing we may be well assured, that the instruction 
of the grammar-school was the right instruction for the most vivacious mind, as for 
him of slower capacity. To spend a considerable portion of the years of boyhood 
in the acquirement of Latin and Greek was not to waste them, as modern illumi- 
nation would instruct us. Something was to be acquired, accurately and completely, 
that was of universal application, and within the boy's power of acquirement. The 
particular knowledge that would fit him for a chosen course of life would be an after 
acquirement ; and, having attained the habit of patient study, and established in his 
own mind a standard to apply to all branches of knowledge by knowing one branch 
well, he would enter upon the race of life without being over-weighted with the 
elements of many arts and sciences, which it belongs only to the mature intellect to 
bear easily and gracefully, and to employ to lasting profit. Our grammar-schools 
were wise institutions. They opened the road to usefulness and honour to the 
humblest in the land ; they bestowed upon the son of the peasant the same advan- 
tages of education as the son of the noble could receive from the most accomplished 
teacher in his father's halls. Long may they be preserved amongst us in their 
integrity ; not converted by the meddlings of innovation into lecture-rooms for 
cramming children with the nomenclature of every science ; presenting little idea 



34 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK I. 



even of the physical world beyond that of its being a vast aggregation of objects 
that may be classified and catalogued ; and leaving the spiritual world utterly 
uncared for, as a region whose products cannot be readily estimated by a money 
value. 

Every schoolboy's dwelling-place is a microcosm ; but the little world lying 
around William Shakspere was something larger than that in which boys of our 
own time for the most part live. The division of employments had riot so com- 
pletely separated a town life from a country life as with us ; and even the town 
occupations, the town amusements, and the town wonders, had more variety in them 
than our own days of systematic arrangement can present. Much of the education 
of Shakspere was unquestionably in the fields. A thousand incidental allusions 
manifest his familiarity with all the external aspects of nature. He is very rarely 
a descriptive poet, distinctively so called ; but images of mead and grove, of dale 
and upland, of forest depths, of quiet walks by gentle rivers, reflections of his own 
native scenery, spread themselves without an effort over all his writings. All the 
occupations of a rural life are glanced at or embodied in his characters. The sports, 
the festivals, of the lone farm or the secluded hamlet are presented by him with all 
the charms of an Arcadian age, but with a truthfulness that is not found in Arcadia. 
The nicest peculiarities in the habits of the lower creation are given at a touch : we 
see the rook wing his evening flight to the wood ; we hear the drowsy hum of the 
sharded beetle. He wreathes all the flowers of the field in his delicate chaplets ; 
and even the nicest mysteries of the gardener's art can be expounded by him. All 
this he appears to do as if from an instinctive power. His poetry in this, as in all 
other great essentials, is like the operations of nature itself ; we see not its workings. 
But we may be assured, from the very circumstance of its appearing so accidental, 
so spontaneous in its relations to all external nature and to the country life, that it 
had its foundation in very early and very accurate observation. Stratford was 
especially fitted to have been the " green lap " in which the boy-poet was " laid." 
The whole face of creation here wore an aspect of quiet loveliness. Looking on its 
placid stream, its gently swelling hills, its rich pastures, its sleeping woodlands, the 
external world would to him be full of images of repose : it was in the heart of 
man that he was to seek for the sublime. Nature has thus ever with him something 
genial and exhilarating. There are storms in his great dramas, but they are the 
accompaniments of the more terrible storms of human passions : they are raised by 
the poet's art to make the agony of Lear more intense, and the murder of Duncan 
more awful. But his love of a smiling creation seems ever present. We must 
image Stratford as it was, to see how the young Shakspere walked " in glory and in 
joy" amongst his native fields. Upon the bank of the Avon, having a very slight 
rise, is placed a scattered town ; a town whose dwellings have orchards and gardens, 
with lofty trees growing in its pathways. Its splendid collegiate church, in the time 
of Henry VIII., was described to lie half a mile from the town. Its eastern window 
is reflected in the river which flows beneath ; its gray tower is embowered amidst 
lofty elm-rows. At the opposite end of the town is a fine old bridge, with a cause- 
way whose "wearisome but needful length" tells of inundations in the low pastures 
that lie all around it. We look upon Dugdale's Map of Barichway Hundred, in which 
Stratford is situated, published in 1656, and we see four roads issuing from the 
town. The one to Henley in Arden, which lies through the street in which Shak- 
spere may be supposed to have passed his boyhood, continues over a valley of some 
breadth and extent, unenclosed fields undoubtedly in the sixteenth century, with the 
hamlets of Shottery and Bishopton amidst them. The road leads into the then 
woody district of Arden. At a short distance from it is the hamlet of Wilmecote, 
where Mary Arden dwelt ; and some two miles aside, more in the heart of the 



CHAP. V.] 



THE SCHOOLBOY'S WORLD. 



35 



woodland district, and hard by the river Alne, is the village of Aston Cantlow. 
Another road indicated on this old map is that to Warwick. The wooded hills of 
Welcombe overhang it, and a little aside, some mile and a half from Stratford, is the 
meadow of Ingon which John Shakspere rented in 1570. Very beautiful, even now, 
is this part of the neighbourhood, with its rapid undulations, little dells which shut 
in the scattered sheep, and sudden hills opening upon a wide landscape. Ancient 
crab-trees and hawthorns tell of uncultivated downs which have rung to the call of 
the falconer or the horn of the huntsman ; and then, having crossed the ridge, we 
are amongst rich corn-lands, with farm-houses of no modern date scattered about ; 
and deep in the hollow, so as to be hidden till we are upon it, the old village of 
Snitterficld, with its ancient church and its yew-tree as ancient. Here the poet's 
mother had property ; and here, it is reasonably conjectured, his father's family 
lived On the opposite side of Stratford, the third road runs in the direction of 
the Avon to the village of Bidford, with a nearer pathway along the river-bank. 
We cross the ancient bridge by the fourth road (which also diverges to Shipston), 
and we are on our way to the celebrated house and estate of Charlcote, the 
ancient seat of the Lucys, the Shaksperian locality with which most persons are 
familiar through traditions of deer-stealing. A pleasant ramble indeed is this to 
Charlcote and Hampton Lucy, even with glimpses of the Avon from a turnpike-road. 
But let the road run through meadows without hedgerows, with pathways following 
the river's bank, now diverging when the mill is close upon the stream, now crossing 
a leafy elevation, and then suddenly dropping under a precipitous wooded rock, and 
we have a walk such as poet might covet, and such as Shakspere did enjoy in his 
early rambles. 

Through these pleasant places would the boy William Shakspere walk hand in 
hand with his father, or wander at his own free will with his school companions. 
All the simple processes of farming life would be familiar to him. The profitable 
mysteries of modern agriculture would not embarrass his youthful experience. He 
would witness none of that anxious diligence which compels the earth to yield 
double crops, and places little reliance upon the unassisted operations of nature. 
The seed-time and the harvest in the corn-fields, the gathering-in of the thin grass 
on the uplands and of the ranker produce of the flooded meadows, the folding of 
the flocks on the hills, the sheep-shearing, would seem to him like the humble and 
patient waiting of man upon a bounteous Providence. There would-be no systematic 
rotation of crops to make him marvel at the skill of the cultivator. Implements 
most skilfully adapted for the saving of animal labour would be unknown to him. 
The rude plough of his Saxon ancestors would be dragged along by a powerful team 
of sturdy oxen ; the sound of the flail alone would be heard in the barn. Around 
him would, however, be the glad indications of plenty. The farmer would have 
abundant stacks, and beeves, and kine, though the supply would fail in precarious 
seasons, when price did not regulate consumption ; he would brew his beer and bake 
his rye-bread ; his swine would be fattening on the beech-mast and the acorns of the 
tree wood ; his skcps of bees would be numerous in his garden ; the colewort would 
sprout from spring to winter for his homely meal, and in the fruitful season the 
strawberry would present its much coveted luxury. The old orchard would be rich 
with the choicest apples, grafts from the curious monastic varieties ; the rarer fruits 
from southern climates would be almost wholly unknown. There would be no 
niggard economy defeating itself ; the stock, such as it was would be of the best, 
although no Bakewell had arisen to preside over its improvement : 

" Let careen and barren be shifted away, 
For best is the best, whatsoever ye pay." * 

* Tusser, chapter xvi. 



36 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK I. 



William Shakspere would go out with his father on a Michaelmas morning, and the 
fields would be busy with the sowing of rye and white wheat and barley. The apples 
and the walnuts would be then gathered ; honey and wax taken from the hives ; 
timber would be felled, sawn, and stacked for seasoning. In the solitary fields, then, 
would stand the birdkeeper with his bow. As winter approached would come what 
Tusser calls " the slaughter-time," the killing of sheep and bullocks for home con- 
sumption ; the thresher would be busy now and then for the farmer's family, but 
the wheat for the baker would lie in sheaf. No hurrying then to market for fear of 
a fall in price ; there is abundance around, and the time of stint is far off. The 
simple routine was this : 

" In spring-time we rear, we do sow, and we plant ; 
In summer get victuals, lest after we want. 
In harvest we carry in corn, and the fruit, 
In winter to spend, as we need of each suit." * 

The joyous hospitality of Christmas had little fears that the stock would bo prema- 
turely spent ; and whilst the mighty wood-fire blazed in the hall to the mirth of 
song and carol, neighbours went from house to house to partake of the abundance, 
and the poor were fed at the same board with the opulent. As the frost breaks, the 
labourer is again in the fields ; hedging and ditching are somewhat understood, but 
the whole system of drainage is very rude. With such agriculture man seems to 
have his winter sleep as well as the earth. But nature is again alive ; spring corn 
is to be sown ; the ewes and lambs are to be carefully tended ; the sheep, now 
again in the fields, are to be watched, for there are hungry " mastiffs and mongrels" 
about ; the crow and pie are to be destroyed in their nests ere they are yet feathered ; 
trees are to be barked before timber is fallen. Then comes the active business of 
the dairy, and, what to us would be a strange sight, the lambs have been taken from 
their mothers, and the ewes are milked in the, folds. May demands the labour of 
the weed-hook ; no horse-hoeing in those simple days. There are the flax and hemp 
too to be sown to supply the ceaseless labour of the spinner's wheel ; bees arc to be 
swarmed ; and herbs are to be stored for the housewife's still. June brings its 
sheep-washing and shearing ; with its haymaking, where the farmer is captain in the 
field, presiding over the bottles and the wallets, from the hour when the dew is dry 
to set of sun. Bustle is there now to get " grist to the mill," for the streams are 
drying, and if the meal be wanting how shall the household be fed ? The harvest- 
time comes ; the reapers cry " largess " for their gloves ; the tithe is set out for 
" Sir Parson ; " and then, after the poor have gleaned, and the cattle have been 
turned in "to mouth up" what is left, 

" In harvest-time, harvest folk, servants and all, 
Should make, all together, good cheer in the hall ; 
And fill out the black bowl of blythe to their song, 
And let them be merry all harvest-time long."f 

Such was the ancient farmer's year, which Tusser has described with wonderful 
spirit even to the minutest detail ; and such were the operations of husbandry that 
the boy Shakspere would have beheld with interest amidst his native corn-fields and 
pastures. When the boy became deep-thoughted he would perceive that many things 
were ill undertood, and most operations indifferently carried through. He would 
hear of dearth and sickness, and he would seek to know the causes. But that time 
was not as yet. 

The poet who has delineated human life and character under every variety of 
passion and humour, must have had some early experience of mankind. The 

* Tusser, chapter xxiv. f Ibid, chapter xlvii. 



CHAP, v.] THE SCHOOLBOY'S WORLD. 37 



loftiest imagination must work upon the humblest materials. In his father's home, 
amongst his father's neighbours, he would observe those striking differences in the 
tempers and habits of mankind which are obvious even to a child. Cupidity would 
be contrasted with generosity, parsimony with extravagance. He would hear of 
injustice and of ingratitude, of uprightness and of fidelity. Curiosity would lead 
him to the bailiff's court ; and there he would learn of bitter quarrels and obsti- 
nate enmities, of friends parted " on a dissension of a doit," of foes who " interjoin 
their issues" to worry some wretched offender. Small ambition and empty pride 
would grow bloated upon the pettiest distinctions ; and " the insolence of office " 
would thrust humility off the causeway. There would be loud talk of loyalty and 
religion, while the peaceful and the pious would be suspected ; and the sycophant 
who wore the great man's livery would strive to crush the independent in spirit. 
Much of this the observing boy would see, but much also would be concealed in 
the general hollowness that belongs to a period of inquietude and change. The time 
would come when he would penetrate into the depths of these things ; but mean- 
while what was upon the surface would be food for thought. At the weekly 
market there would be the familiar congregation of buyers and sellers. The house- 
wife from her little farm would ride in gallantly between her panniers laden with 
butter, eggs, chickens, and capons. The farmer would stand by his pitched corn, 
and, as Harrison complains, if the poor man handled the sample with the intent to 
purchase his humble bushel, the man of many sacks would declare that it was sold. 
The engrosser, according to the same authority, would be there with his understand- 
ing nod, successfully evading every statute that could be made against forestalling, 
because no statutes could prevail against the power of the best price. There, before 
shops were many, and their stocks extensive, would come the dealers from Birming- 
ham and Coventry, with wares for use and wares for show, horse-gear and women- 
gear, Sheffield whittles, and rings with posies. At the joyous Fair-season it would 
seem that the wealth of a world was emptied into Stratford ; not only the sub- 
stantial things, the wine, the wax, the wheat, the wool, the malt, the cheese, the 
clothes, the uapery, such as even great lords sent their stewards to the fairs to buy,* 
but every possible variety of such trumpery as fill the pedlar's pack, ribbons, 
inkles, caddises, coifs, stomachers, pomanders, brooches, tapes, shoe-ties. Great 
dealings were there on these occasions in beeves and horses, tedious chafferings, 
stout affirmations, saints profanely invoked to ratify a bargain. A mighty man rides 
into the fair who scatters consternation around. It is the Queen's Purveyor. The 
best horses are taken up for her Majesty's use, at her Majesty's price ; and they 
probably find their way to the Earl of Leicester's or the Earl of Warwick's stables 
at a considerable profit to Master Purveyor. The country buyers and sellers look 
blank ; but there is no remedy. There is solace, however, if there is not redress. 
The ivy-bush is at many a door, and the sounds of merriment are within, as the ale 
and the sack are quaffed to friendly greetings. In the streets there are morris- 
dancers, the juggler with his ape, and the minstrel with his ballads. We can 
imagine the foremost in a group of boys listening to the " small popular music sung 
by these cantabcuiqui upon benches and barrels' heads," or more earnestly to some 
one of the " blind harpers, or such-like tavern minstrels, that give a fit of mirth 
for a groat ; their matters being for the most part stories of old time, as ' The Tale 
of Sir Topas,' < Bevis of Southampton,' ' Guy of Warwick,' 'Adam BeU and Clyrnme 
of the dough,' and such other old romances or historical rhymes, made purposely 
for the recreation of the common people."t A bold fellow, who is full of queer 
stories and cant phrases, strikes a few notes upon his gittern, and the lads and 

* See the " Northumberland Household Book." 
f Puttenham's "Art of Poetry/' 1689. 



38 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK i. 



lasses are around him ready to dance their country measures. He is thus described 
in the year 1564, in a tract by William Bulleyn : "Sir, there is one lately come into 
this hall, in a green Kendal coat, with yellow hose, a beard of the same colour, only 
upon the upper lip ; a russet hat, with a great plume of strange feathers, and a 
brave scarf about his neck, in cut buskins. He is playing at the trey-trip with our 
host's son : he playeth trick upon the gittern, and dances ' Trenchmore ' and ' Heie 
de Gie,' and telleth news from Terra Florida." Upon this strange sort of indigenous 
troubadour would the schoolboy gaze, for he would seem to belong to a more know- 
ing race than dwelt on Avon's side. His " news from Terra Florida " tells us of an 
age of newstongues, before newspapers were. Doubtless such as he had many a 
story of home wonders ; he had seen London perhaps ; he could tell of Queens and 
Parliaments ; might have seen a noble beheaded, or a heretic burnt ; he could speak, 
we may fancy, of the wonders of the sea ; of ships laden with rich merchandize, 
unloading in havens far from this inland region ; of other ships wrecked on inhos- 







[The Fair.] 

pitable coasts, and poor men made rich by the ocean's spoils. At the fair, too, 
would be the poor old minstrel, with his gown of Kendal green, not tattered though 
somewhat tarnished. The harp laid by his side upon the bench tells his profession. 
There was a time when he was welcomed at every hall, and he might fitly wear 
starched ruffs, and a chain of pewter as bright as silver, and have the rest of his 
harp jauntily suspended by a green lace. Those times are past. He scarcely now 
dares to enter worshipful men's houses ; and at the fairs a short song of love or 
good fellowship, or a dp rice to the gittern, are preferred by most to his tedious 



CHAP, v.] THE SCHOOLBOY'S WORLD. 39 



legends. For many a long "fitte" had he, which told of doughty deeds of Arthur 
and his chivalry, Sir Bevis, Sir Gawain, Sir Launfal, and Sir Isenbras ; and, after he 
had preluded with his harp, the minstrel would begin each in stately wise with 
" Listen, lordings, and hold you still," or " Listen to me a little stond." He might 
maunder on, neglected by most, though one youth might treasure up his words. 
There are many traces in the works of Shakspere of his familiarity with old 
romances and old ballads ; but like all his other acquirements, there is no repro- 
duction of the same thing under a new form. Howe fancied that Shakspere's 
knowledge of the learned languages was but small, because " it is without con- 
troversy that in his works we scarce find any traces of anything that looks like an 
imitation of the ancients." It is for inferior men to imitate. It was for Shakspere 
to subject his knowledge to his original power of thought, so that his knowledge and 
his invention should become "one entire and perfect chrysolite;" and thus the minute 
critic, who desires to find the classical jewels set in the English gold, proclaims that 
they are not there, because they were unknown and unappreciated by the uneducated 
poet. So of the traditionary lore with which Shakspere must have been familiar from 
his very boyhood. That lore is not in his writings in any very palpable shape, but its 
spirit is there. The simplicity, the vigour, the pathos, the essential dramatic power, 
of the ballad poetry stood out in Shakspere's boyhood in remarkable contrast to the 
drawling pedantry of the moral plays of the early stage. The ballads kept the love 
and the knowledge of real poetry in the hearts of the people. There was something 
high, and generous, and tolerant, in those which were most popular ; something 
which demonstratively told they belonged to a nation which admired courage, which 
loved truth, which respected misfortune. Percy, speaking of the more ancient 
ballad of " Chevy Chase," says " One may also observe a generous impartiality in 
the old original bard, when in the conclusion of his tale he represents both nations 
as quitting the field without any reproachful reflection on either ; though he gives to 
his own countrymen the credit of being the smaller number." The author of that 
ballad was an Englishman ; and we may believe this " impartiality" to have been an 
ingredient of the old English patriotism. At any rate it entered into the patriotism 
of Shakspere. 






40 



WILLIAM 8HAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



BOOK I. 




[The Boundary Elm, Stratford.] 
CHAPTER VI. 

HOLIDAYS. 



IT is the twenty-third of April, and the birthday of William Shakspere is a general 
holiday at Stratford. It is St. George's day. There is high feasting at Westminster 
or at Windsor. The green rushes are strewn in the outward courts of the Palace ; 
the choristers lift up the solemn chants of the Litany as a procession advances from 
the Queen's Hall to her Chapel ; the Heralds move on gorgeously in their coat- 
armour ; the Knights of the Garter and the Sovereign glitter in their velvet robes ; 
the Yeomen of the Guard close round in their richest liveries.* At Stratford there 
is humbler pageantry. Upon the walls of the Chapel of the Holy Cross there was a 
wondrous painting of a terrible dragon pierced through the neck with a spear ; but 
he has snapped the weapon in two with his fearful talons, and a gallant knight in 
complete armour is uplifting his sword, whilst the bold horse which he bestrides 
rushes upon the monster with his pointed champfrein :t in the background is a 
crowned lady with a lamb ; and on distant towers a king and queen watching the 
combat. This story of Saint George and the delivery of the Princess of Silcne from 
the power of the dragon was, on the twenty-third of April, wont to be dramatized 
at Stratford. From the altar of Saint George was annually taken down an ancient 

* See Nichols's " Progresses of Elizabeth," vol. i., p. 88. 

f The armour for the horse's head, with a long projecting spike, so as to make the horse resemble 
an unicorn. 



CHAP. VI.] HOLIDAYS. 41 



suit of harness, which was duly scoured and repaired ; and from some storehouse 
was produced the figure of a dragon, which had also all needful annual reparation. 
Upon the back of a sturdy labourer was the harness fitted, and another powerful 
man had to bear the dragon, into whose body he no doubt entered. Then, all the 
dignitaries of the town being duly assembled, did Saint George and the Dragon march 
along, amidst the ringing of bells and the firing of chambers, and the shout of the 
patriotic population of "Saint George for England."* Here is the simplest of 
dramatic exhibitions, presented through a series of years to the observing eyes of a 
boy in whom the dramatic power of going out of himself to portray some incident, 
or character, or passion with incomparable truth, was to be developed and matured 
in the growth of his poetical faculty. As he looked upon that rude representation 
of a familiar legend, he may first have conceived the capability of exhibiting to the 
eye a moving picture of events, and of informing it with life by appropriate dialogue. 
But in truth the essentially dramatic spirit of the ancient church had infused itself 
thoroughly into the popular mind ; and thus, long after the Reformation had swept 
away most of the ecclesiastical ceremonials that were held to belong to the supersti- 
tions of Popery, the people retained this principle of personation in their common 
festivals ; and many were the occasions in which the boy and the man, the maiden 
and the matron were called upon to enact some part, that might require bodily 
activity and mental readiness ; in which something of grace and even of dignity 
might be called forth ; in which a free but good-tempered wit might command the 
applause of uncritical listeners ; and a sweet or mellow voice, pouring forth our 
nation's songs, would receive the exhilarating homage of a jocund chorus. Let us 
follow the boy William Shakspere, now, we will suppose, some ten or eleven years 
old, through the annual course of the principal rustic holidays, in which the yeoman 
and the peasant, the tradesman and the artisan, with their wives and children, were 
equally ready to partake. We may discover in these familiar scenes not only those 
peculiar forms of a dramatic spirit in real manners which might in some degree have 
given a direction to his genius, but, what is perhaps of greater importance, that 
poetical aspect of common life which was to supply materials of thought and of 
imagery to him who was to become in the most eminent degree the poet of humanity 
in all its imaginative relations. 

The festivities of Christmas are over. The opening year calls the husbandman 
again to his labours ; and Plough Monday, with its plough dragged along to rustic 
music, and its sword-dance, proclaims that wassail must give place to work. The 
rosemary and the bays, the misletoe arid the holly, are removed from the porch and 
the hall, and the delicate leaves of the box are twined into the domestic garland/t* 
The Vigil of Saint Agnes has rewarded or disappointed the fateful charm of the 
village maiden. The husbandman has noted whether Saint Paul's day " be fair and 
clear," to guide his presages of the year's fertility. " Cupid's Kalendere" has been 
searched on the day of "Seynte Valentine," as Lydgate tells. The old English 
chorus, which Shakspere himself has preserved, has been duly sung 

" 'T is merry in hall, when beards wag all, 
And welcome merry Shrove-tide." 

Easter is come, after a season of solemnity. The ashes were no longer blessed at 
the beginning of Lent, nor the palms borne at the close ; yet there was strong 
devotion in the reformed church real penitence and serious contemplation. But 

* It appears from accounts which are given in fac-simile in Fisher's Work on the Chapel of the 
Guild that this procession repeatedly took place in the reign of Henry VIII. ; and other accounts 
show that it was continued as late as 1579. 

f Hcrrick. 



42 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE I A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK I. 



the day of gladness arrives a joy which even the great eye of the natural world was 
to make manifest. Surely there was something exquisitely beautiful in the old 
custom of going forth into the fields before the sun had risen on Easter-day, to see 
him mounting over the hills with a tremulous motion, as if it were an animate thing 
bounding in sympathy with the redeemed of mankind. The young poet might have 
joined his simple neighbours on this cheerful morning, and yet have thought with 
Sir Thomas Browne, " We shall not, I hope, disparage the Resurrection of our 
Redeemer if we say that the sun doth not dance on Easter-day." But one of the most 
glorious images of one of his early plays has given life and movement to the sun : 



"Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund day 
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain's tops. 



Saw he not the sun dance heard he not the expression of the undoubting belief 
that the sun danced as he went forth into Stratford meadows in the early twilight 
of Easter-day ? 

On the road to Henley-in-Arden, about two or three hundred yards from the 
house in Henley Street where John Shakspere once dwelt, there stood, when this 
Biography was first written, a very ancient boundary-tree an elm which is recorded 
in a Presentment of the Perambulation of the boundaries of the Borough of Strat- 
ford, on the 7th of April, 1591, as " The Elme at the Dovehouse-Close end."* The 
boundary from that elm in the Henley road continued in another direction to " the 
two elms in Evesham highway." Such are the boundaries of the borough at this 
day. At a period, then, when it was usual for the boys of Grammar Schools to 
attend the annual perambulations in Rogation-week of the clergy, the magistrates 
and public officers, and the inhabitants, of parishes and towns,t would William 
Shakspere be found, in gleeful companionship, under this old boundary elm. There 
would be assembled the parish priest and the schoolmaster, the bailiff and the church- 
wardens. Banners would wave, poles crowned with garlands would be carried by 
old and young. Under each Gospel-tree, of which this Dovehouse-Close Elm would 
be one, a passage from Scripture would be read, a collect recited, a psalm sung. 
With more pomp at the same season might the Doge of Venice espouse the Sea in 
testimony of the perpetual domination of the Republic, but not with more heartfelt 
joy than these the people of Stratford traced the boundaries of their little sway. 
The Reformation left us these parochial processions. In the 7th year of Elizabeth 
(1565) the form of devotion for the "Rogation days of Procession" was prescribed, 
" without addition of any superstitious ceremonies heretofore used;" and it was 
subsequently ordered that the curate on such occasions " shall admonish the people 
to give thanks to God in the beholding of God's benefits," and enforce the scriptural 
denouncements against those who removed their neighbours' landmarks. Beauti- 
fully has Walton described how Hooker encouraged these annual ceremonials : 
" He would by no means omit the customary time of procession, persuading all, both 
rich and poor, if they desired the preservation of love and their parish rights and 
liberties, to accompany him in his perambulation ; and most did so ; in which per- 
ambulation he would usually express more pleasant discourse than at other times, 
and would then always drop some loving and facetious observations, to be remem- 
bered against the next year, especially by the boys and young people ; still inclining 
them, and all his present parishioners, to meekness and mutual kindnesses and love, 
because love thinks not evil, but covers a multitude of infirmities." And so, per- 
haps, listening to the gentle words of some venerable Hooker of his time, would the 
young Shakspere walk the bounds of his native parish. One day would not suffice 

* The original is in the possession of R. Wheler, Esq., of Stratford. 
f See Brand's " Popular Antiquities/' by Sir H. Ellis, edit. 1841, vol. i., p. 123. 



CHAP. VI.] HOLIDAYS. 43 



;o visit its numerous Gospel-trees. Hours would be spent in reconciling differences 
amongst the cultivators of the common-fields ; in largesses to the poor ; in merry- 
making at convenient halting-places. A wide parish is this of Stratford, including 
leven villages and hamlets. A district of beautiful and varied scenery is this parish 
hill and valley, wood and water. Following the Avon upon the north bank, against 
the stream, for some two miles, the processionists would walk through low and 
fertile meadows, unenclosed pastures then in all likelihood. A little brook falls into 
,he river, coming down from the marshy uplands of Ingon, where, in spite of modern 
mprovement, the frequent bog attests the accuracy of Dugdale's description 
' Inge signifyeth in our old English a meadow or low ground." The brook is traced 
upwards into the hills of Welcombe ; and then for nearly three miles from Welcombe 
Grreenhill the boundary lies along a wooded, ridge, opening prospects of surpassing 
jeauty. There may the distant spires of Coventry be seen peeping above the 
ntermediate hills, and the nearer towers of Warwick lying cradled in their surround- 
ng woods. In another direction a cloud-like spot in the extreme distance is the 
far-famed Wrekin ; and turning to the north-west are the noble hills of Malvern, 
with their well-defined outlines. The Cotswolds lock-in the landscape on another 
side ; while in the middle distance the bold Bredon-hill looks down upon the vale 
of Evesham. All around is a country of unrivalled fertility, with now and then 
a plain of considerable extent ; but more commonly a succession of undulating hills, 
some wood-crowned, but all cultivated. At the northern extremity of this high 
land, which principally belongs to the estate of Clopton, and which was doubtless a 
park in early times, we have a panoramic view of the valley in which Stratford 
lies, with its hamlets of Bishopton, Little Wilmecote, Shottery, and Drayton. As 
the marvellous boy of the Stratford grammar-school looked upon that plain, how 
little could he have foreseen the course of his future life ! For twenty years of his 
manhood he was to have no constant dwelling-place in that his native town ; but it 
was to be the home of his affections. He would be gathering fame and opulence in 
an almost untrodden path, of which his young ambition could shape no definite 
image ; but in the prime of his life he was to bring his wealth to his own Stratford, 
and become the proprietor and the contented cultivator of some of the loved fields 
that he now saw mapped out at his feet. Then, a little while, and an early tomb 
under that gray tower a tomb so to be honoured in all ages to come, 

" That kings for such a tomb would wish to die." 

For some six miles the boundary runs from north to south, partly through land 
which was formerly barren, and still known as Drayton Bushes and Drayton Wild 
Moor. Here, 

" Far from her nest the lapwing cries away." * 

The green bank of the Avon is again reached at the western extremity of the 
boundary, and the pretty hamlet of Luddington, with its cottages and old trees 
standing high above the river sedges, is included. The Avon is crossed where the 
Stour unites with it ; and the boundary extends considerably to the south-east, 
returning to the town over Clopton's Bridge. 

Shottery, the prettiest of hamlets, is scarcely a mile from Stratford. Here, in all 
probability dwelt one who in a few years was to have an important influence upon 
the destiny of the boy-poet. A Court Roll of the 34th Henry VIII. (1543) shows 
us that John Hathaway then resided at Shottery ; and the substantial house which 
the Hathaway s possessed, now divided into several cottages, remained with their 
descendants till the very recent period of 1838. There were Hathaways, also, living 

* " Comedy of Errors." 



44 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK I. 



in the town of Stratford, contemporaries of John Shakspere. We cannot say, 
absolutely, that Anne Hathaway, the future wife of William Shakspere, was of 
Shottery ; but the prettiest of maidens (for the veracious antiquarian Oldys says 
there is a tradition that she was eminently beautiful) would have fitly dwelt in the 
pleasantcst of hamlets. Pass the back of the cottage in which the Hathaways lived, 
and enter that beautiful meadow which rises into a gentle eminence commanding the 
hamlet at several points. Throw down the hedges, and there is here the fittest of 
localities for the May-games. An impatient group is gathered under the shade of 
the old elms, for the morning sun casts his slanting beams dazzlingly across that 
green. There is the distant sound of tabor and bagpipe : 
" Hark, hark ! I hear the dancing, 

And a nimble inorris prancing ; 

The bagpipe and the morris bells, 

That they are not far hence us tells." * 

From out of the leafy Arden are they bringing in the May-pole. The oxen move 
slowly with the ponderous wain : they are garlanded, but not for the sacrifice. 
Around the spoil of the forest are the pipers and the dancers maidens in blue 
kirtles, and foresters in green tunics. Amidst the shouts of young and old, child- 
hood leaping and clapping its hands, is the May-pole raised. But there are great 
personages forthcoming not so great, however, as in more ancient times. There 
are Robin Hood and Little John, in their grass-green tunics ; but their bows and 
their sheaves of arrows are more for show than use. Maid Marian is there ; but 
she is a mockery a smooth-faced youth in a watchet-coloured tunic, with flowers 
and coronets, and a mincing gait, but not the shepherdess who 

" With garlands gay 
Was made the lady of the May." f 

There is farce amidst the pastoral. The age of unrealities has already in part 
arrived. Even amongst country-folks there is burlesque. There is personation, 
with a laugh at the things that are represented. The Hobby-horse and the Dragon, 
however, produce their shouts of merriment. But the hearty Morris-dancers soon 
spread a spirit of genial mirth amidst all the spectators. The clownish Maid Marian 
will now 

" Caper upright like a wild Morisco : " J 

Friar Tuck sneaks away from his ancient companions to join hands with some 
undisguised maiden ; the Hobby-horse gets rid of his pasteboard and his foot-cloth ; 
and the Dragon quietly deposits his neck and tail for another season. Something 
like the genial chorus of " Summer's Last Will and Testament " is rung out : 

" Trip and go, heave and ho, 
Up and down, to and fro, 
From the town to the grove, 
Two and two, let us rove, 
A Maying, a playing ; 
Love hath no gainsaying : 
So merrily trip and go." 

The early-rising moon still sees the villagers on that green of Shottery. The piper 
leans against the May-pole ; the featliest of dancers still swim to his music : 

" So have I seen 

Tom Piper stand upon our village green, 
Back'd with the May -pole, whilst a jocund crew 
In gentle motion circularly threw 
Themselves around him." 

* Weclkes's "Madrigals," 1600. f Nicholas Breton. J " Henry VI.," Part II. 

Browne's " Britannia's Pastorals," Book ii. Second Song. 



CHAP. VI.] 



HOLIDAYS. 



45 



The same beautiful writer one of the last of our golden age of poetry has 

described the parting gifts bestowed ^DOU the " merry youngsters" by 

" The lady of the May 
Set in an arbour, (on a holy-day,) 
Built by the May-pole, where the jocund swains 
Dance with the maidens to the bagpipe's strains, 
"When envious night commands them to be gone."* 




[Shottery.J 

Eight villages in the neighbourhood of Stratford have been characterized in well- 
known lines by some old resident who had the talent of rhyme. It is remarkable 
how familiar all the country-people are to this day with these lines, and how inva- 
riably they ascribe them to Shakspere : 

" Piping Pelnvorth, dancing Marston, 
Haunted Hilborough, hungry Grafton, 
Dudgingf Exhall, Papist Wicksford, 
Beggarly Broom, and drunken Bidford." 

It is maintained that the.se epithets have a real historical truth about them ; and 

* Browne's " Britannia's Pastorals," Book ii. Fourth Song. 
f Sulky, stubborn, in dudgeon. 



46 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK I. 



so we must place the scene of a Whitsun-Ale at Bidford. Aubrey has given a sen- 
sible account of such a festivity : " There were no rates for the poor in my grand- 
father's days ; but for Kingston St. Michael (no small parish) the Church- Ale of 
Whitsuntide did the business. In every parish is, or was, a church-house, to which 
belonged spits, crocks, &c., utensils for dressing provision. Here the housekeepers 
met and were merry, and gave their charity. The young people were there, too, and 
had dancing, bowling, shooting at butts, &c., the ancients sitting gravely by and 
looking on. All things were civil, and without scandal."* The puritan Stubbs took 
a more severe view of the matter than Aubrey's grandfather : " In certain towns 
where drunken Bacchus bears sway, against Christmas and Easter, Whitsuntide, or 
some other time, the churchwardens of every parish, with the consent of the whole 
parish, provide half a score or twenty quarters of malt, whereof some they buy of 
the church-stock, and some is given them of the parishioners themselves, every one 
conferring somewhat, according to his ability ; which malt, being made into very 
strong ale or beer, is set to sale, either in the church or some other place assigned 
to that purpose. Then, when this is set abroach, well is he that can get the 
soonest to it, and spend the most at it."t Carew, the historian of Cornwall, 
(1602), says, " The neighbour parishes at those times lovingly visit one another, 
and this way frankly spend their money together." Thus lovingly might John 
Shakspere and his friends, on a Whit-Monday morning, have ridden by the 
pleasant road to Bidford now from some little eminence beholding their Avon 
flowing amidst a low meadow on one side and a wood-crowned steep on t"he 
other, turning a mill-wheel, rushing over a dam now carefully wending their way 



>-.. 




[Bidford Bridge.] 

through the rough road under the hill, or galloping over the free downs, glad 
to escape from rut and quagmire. And then the Icknield Street t is crossed, 



Miscellanies." 



f " Anatomy of Abuses," 1585. 



The Roman way which runs near Bidford. 



CHAP. VL] HOLIDAYS. 47 



and they look down upon the little town with its gabled roofs ; and they pass 
the old church, whose tower gives forth a lusty peal ; and the hostel at the bridge 
receives them ; and there is the cordial welcome, the outstretched hand and the 
full cup. 

But nearer home Whitsuntide has its sports also. Had not Stratford its " Lord 
of Whitsuntide 1 " Might not the boy behold at this season innocence wearing a 
face of freedom like his own Perdita ? 

" Come take your flowers : 
Methinks, I play as I have seen them do 
In Whitsun pastorals."* 

Would there not be in some cheerful mansion a simple attempt jat dramatic 
representation, such as his Julia has described in her assumed character of a 
page ? 

" At Pentecost, 

When all our pageants of delight were play'd, 

Our youth got me to play the woman's part ; 

And I was trimm'd in madam Julia's gown ; 

Which served me as fit, in all men's judgments, 

As if the garment had been made for me : 

Therefore I know she is about my height. 

And at that time I made her weep a-good, 

For I did play a lamentable part : 

Madam, 'twas Ariadne, passioning 

For Theseus' perjury and unjust flight."f 

Certainly on that holiday some one would be ready to recite a moving tale from 
Gower or from Chaucer a fragment of the " Confessio Amantis" or of the " Troilus 
and Creseide :" 

" It hath been sung at festivals, 
On ember-eves, and holy-ales."! 

The elements of poetry would be around him ; the dramatic spirit of the people 
would be strugglij|g to give utterance to its thoughts, and even then he might 
cherish the desire to lend it a voice. 

The sheep-shearing that, too, is dramatic. Drayton, the countryman of our 
poet, has described the shepherd-king : 

" But, Muse, return to tell how there the shepherd-king, 
Whose flock hath chanc'd that year the earliest lamb to bring, 
In his gay baldric sits at his low grassy board, 
With flawns, curds, clouted cream, and country dainties stor'd : 
And, whilst the bagpipe plays, each lu&ty jocund swain 
Quaffs syllabubs in cans to all upon the plain ; 
And to their country girls, whose nosegays they do wear, 
Some roundelays do sing, the rest the burden bear." 

The vale of Evesham is the scene of Drayton's sheep-shearing. But higher up the 
Avon there are rich pastures ; and shallow bays of the clear river, where the wash- 
ing may be accomplished. Such a bay, so used, is there near the pretty village 
of Alveston, about two miles above Stratford. One of the most delicious scenes 
of the " Winter's Tale " is that of the sheep-shearing, in which we have the more 
poetical shepherd-<^<m. There is a minuteness of circumstance amidst the exqui- 
site poetry of this scene which shows that it must have been founded upon actual 
observation, and in all likelihood upon the keen and prying observation of a boy 

* "Winter's Tale," Act iv., Scene in. f " Two Gentlemen of Verona," Act IV., Scene m. 

$ "Pericles/' Act I. " Polyolbion," Song XIV. 



48 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK I. 



occupied and interested with such details. Surely his father's pastures and his 
father's homestead might have supplied all these circumstances. His father's man 
might be the messenger to the town, and reckon upon "counters" the cost of the 
sheep-shearing feast. "Three pound of sugar, five pound of currants, rice" and 
then he asks, " What will this sister of mine do with rice ] " In Bohemia, the clown 
might, with dramatic propriety, not know the use of rice at a sheep-shearing ; but a 
Warwickshire swain would have the flavour of cheese-cakes in his mouth at the first 
mention of rice and currants. Cheese-cakes and warden-pies were the sheep- 
shearing delicacies. How absolutely true is the following picture : 

" Fie, daughter ! when my old wife liv'd, upon 
This day she was both pantler, butler, cook ; 
Both dame and servant : welcom'd all, serv'd all : 
Would sing her song, and dance her turn ; now here 
At upper end o' the table, now i' the middle ; 
On his shoulder, and his : her face o' fire 
With laboiir ; and the thing she took to quench it 
She would to each one sip." 

This is the literal painting of a Teniers ; but the same hand could unite the unri- 
valled grace of a Correggio. William Shakspere might have had some boyish dreams 
of a " mistress o' the feast," who might have suggested his Perdita ; but such a 
creation is of higher elements than those of the earth. Such a bright vision is 
something more than " a queen of curds and cream." 
The poet who says 

" Come, ho, and wake Diana with a hymn ; 
With sweetest touches pierce your mistress' exir, 
And draw her home with music," * 

had seen the Hock-Cart of the old harvest-home. It was the same that Paul 
Hentzner saw at Windsor in 1598 : " As we were returning to our inn we happened 
to meet some country-people celebrating their Harvest-home. Their last load 
of corn they crown with flowers, having besides an image richly dressed, by which 
perhapst hey would signify Ceres. This they keep moving about, while men and 
women, men and maid-servants, riding through the streets in the cart, shout as loud 
as they can till they arrive at the barn." In the reign of James I., Moresin, another 
foreigner, saw a figure made of com drawn home in a cart, with men and women 
singing to the pipe and the drum. And then Puritanism arose, to tell us that all 
such expressions of the heart were pagan and superstitious, relics of Popery, abomi- 
nations of the Evil One. Robert Herrick, full of the old poetical feeling, sang the 
glories of the Hock-Cart in the time of Charles I. : but a severe religion, and there- 
fore an unwise one, denounced all such festivals as the causes of debauchery ; and 
so the debauchery alone remained with us. The music and the dancing were ban- 
ished, but the strong drinks were left. Herrick tells us that the ceremonies of the 
Hock-Cart were performed " with great devotion." Assuredly they were. Devotion 
is that which knocks the worldly shackles off the spirit ; strikes a spark out of our 
hard and dry natures ; enforces the money-getter for a moment to forego his gain, 
and the penniless labourer to forget his hunger-satisfying toil. Devotion is that 
which brings the tear into the eye and makes the heart throb against the bosom, in 
silent forests where the doe gazes fearlessly upon the unaccustomed form of man, 
by rocks overhanging the sea, in the gorge of the mountains, in the cloister of the 
cathedral when the organ-peal comes and goes like the breath of flowers, in the 
crowded city when joyous multitudes shout by one impulse. Devotion lived 

* " Merchant of Venice," Act V., Scene I. 



CHAP. VI.] HOLIDAYS. 49 

amidst old ceremonials derived from a long antiquity ; it waited upon the seasons ; 
it hallowed the seed-time and the harvest, and made the frosts cheerful. And thus 
it grew into Religion. The feeling became a principle. But the formalists came, 
and required men to be devout without imagination ; to have faith, rejecting tradi- 
tion and authority, and all the genial impulses of love and reverence associated with 
the visible world, the practical poetry of life, which is akin to faith. And so we 
are what we are, and not what God would have us to be. 

We have retained Christmas ; a starveling Christmas ; one day of excessive 
eating for all ages, and Twelfth-cake for the children. It is something that rela- 
tions meet on Christmas-day ; that for one day in the year the outward shows of 
rivalry and jealousy are not visible ; that the poor cousin puts on his best coat to 
taste port with his condescending host of the same name ; that the portionless nieces 
have their annual guinea from their wealthy aunt. But where is the real festive 
exhilaration of Christmas ; the meeting of all ranks as children of a common father ; 
the tenant speaking freely in his landlord's hall ; the labourers and their families 
sitting at the same great oak-table ; the Yule Log brought in with shout and song ? 

" No night is now with hymn or carol blest." * 

There are singers of carols even now at a Stratford Christmas. Warwickshire has 
retained some of its ancient carols. But the singers are wretched chorus-makers, 
according to the most unmusical style of all the generations from the time of the 
Commonwealth. There are no " three-man song-men " amongst them, no " means 
and bases ; " there is not even " a Puritan " who " sings psalms to hornpipes." t 
They have retained such of the carols as will most provoke mockery : 

" Rise up, rise up, brother Dives, 

And come along with me, 
For you 've a place provided in hell, 
Upon a sarpant's knee." 

And then the crowd laugh, and give their halfpennies. But in an age of music we 
may believe that one young dweller in Stratford gladly woke out of his innocent 
sleep, after the evening bells had rung him to rest, when in the stillness of the night 
the psaltery was gently touched before his father's porch, and he heard, one voice 
under another, these simple aiid solemn strains : 

" As Joseph was a- walking He neither shall be clothed^ 

He heard an angel sing, In purple nor in pall, 

This night shall be born But all in fair linen, 
Our heavenly king. As were babies all. 

He neither shall be born He neither shall be rock'd 

In housen nor in hall, In silver nor in gold, 

Nor in the place of Paradise, But in a wooden cradle 

But in an ox's stall. That rocks on the mould." 

London has perhaps this carol yet, amongst its halfpenny ballads. A man whose 
real vocation was mistaken in his busy time, for he had a mind attuned to the love 
of what was beautiful in the past, instead of being enamoured with the ugly dispu- 
tations of the present, has preserved it ; t but it was for another age. It was for 
the age of William Shakspere. It was for the age when superstition, as we call it, 
had its poetical faith : 

" Some say, that ever 'gainst that season comes 
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated, 

* " Midsummer Night's Dream." f " Winter's Tale." 

t William Hone's " Ancient Mysteries," p. 92. 



50 



WILLIAM BHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[l?OOK I. 



This bird of dawning singeth all night long ; 
And then, they say, no spirit dares stir abroad, 
The nights are wholesome ; then no planets strike, 
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm : 
So hallow'd and so gracious is the time." * 

Surely it is the poet himself who adds, in the person of Horatio, 
"So have I heard, and do in part believe it." 

Such a night was a preparation for a " happy Christmas ; " the prayers of an 
earnest Church, the Anthem, the Hymn, the Homily. The cross of Stratford was 
garnished with the holly, the ivy, and the bay. Hospitality was in every house ; but 
the hall of the great landlord of the parish was a scene of rare conviviality. The 
frost or the snow will not deter the principal friends and tenants from the welcome 
of Clopton. There is the old house, nestled in the woods, looking down upon the 
little town. Its chimneys are reeking ; there is bustle in the offices ; the sound of 
the trumpeters and the pipers is heard through the open door of the great entrance ; 
the steward marshals the guests ; the tables are fast filling. Then advance, courteously, 
the master and the mistress of the feast. The Boar's head is brought in with due 
solemnity ; the wine-cup goes round ; and perhaps the Saxon shout of Waes-hael and 
Drink-hael may still be shouted. The Lord of Misrule and the Mummers from 
Stratford are at the porch. Very sparing are the cues required for the enactment 
of this short drama. A speech to the esquire, closed with a merry jest; something 
about ancestry and good Sir Hugh ; the loud laugh ; the song and the chorus, and 
the Lord of Misrule is now master of the feast. 

* " Hamlet," Act I., Scene i. 




[Clopton House.] 



CHAP. VII.] 



KENILWORTH. 



51 



CHAPTER VII. 

KENILWORTH. 




WAS William Shakspere at Kenil worth in that summer of 1575, when the great 
Dudley entertained Elizabeth with a splendour which annalists have delighted to 
record, and upon which one of our own days has bestowed a fame more imperish- 
able than that of any annals ? Percy, speaking of the old Coventry Hock-play, 
says, " Whatever this old play or storial show was at the time it was exhibited to 
Queen Elizabeth, it had probably our young Shakspere for a spectator, who was then 
in his twelfth year, and doubtless attended with all the inhabitants of the surround- 
ing country at these ' princely pleasures of Kenilworth,' whence Stratford is only a 
few miles distant."* The preparations for this celebrated entertainment were on 
so magnificent a scale, the purveyings must have been so enormous, the posts so 
unintermitting, that there had needed not the flourishings of paragraphs (for the 
age of paragraphs was not as yet) to have roused the curiosity of aU mid-England. 
Elizabeth had visited Kenilworth on two previous occasions, in 1565, and in 
1572. 

Whether the boy Shakspere was at Kenilworth in 1575, when Robert Dudley wel- 
comed his sovereign with a more than regal magnificence, is not necessary to be 
affirmed or denied. It is tolerably clear that the exquisite speech of Oberon in 
" A Midsummer Night's Dream" is associated with some of the poetical devices 
which he might have there beheld, or have heard described : 

" Obe. My gentle Puck, come hither : Thou remember'st 
Since once I sat upon a promontory, 
And heard a mermaid, on a dolphin's back, 
Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath, 
That the rude sea grew civil at her song ; 



* " On the Origin of the English Stage : " Reliques, vol. i. 



E 2 



52 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE ; A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK I, 



And certain stars shot madly from their spheres, 
To hear the sea-maid's music. 

Puck I remember. 

Obe. That very time I saw, (but thou couldst not,) 
Flying between the cold moon and the earth, 
Cupid all arm'd ; a certain aim he took 
At a fair vestal throned by the west ; 
And loos'd his love-shaft smartly from his bow, 
As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts : 
But I might see young Cupid's fiery shaft 
Quench'd in the chaste beams of the watery moon ; 
And the imperial votaress passed on, 
In maiden meditation fancy-free." 




[Elizabeth.] 

The most remarkable of the shows of Kenilworth were associated with the mytho- 
logy and the romance of lakes and seas. "Triton, in likeness of a mermaid, 
came toward's the Queen's Majesty." "Arion appeared sitting on a dolphin's back." 
So the quaint and really poetical George Gascoigne, in his " Brief Rehearsal, or 
rather a true Copy of as much as was presented before her Majesty at Kenilworth." 
But the diffuse and most entertaining coxcomb Laneham describes a song of Arion 
with an ecstacy which may justify the belief that the " dulcet and harmonious 
breath" of "the sea-maid's music" might be the echo of the melodies heard by 
the young poet as he stood beside the lake at Kenilworth : " Now, Sir, the ditty 
in metre so aptly endited to the matter, and after by voice deliciously delivered ; 
the song, by a skilful artist into his parts so sweetly sorted ; each part in his instru- 
ment so clean and sharply touched ; every instrument again in his kind so excel- 
lently tunable ; and this in the evening of the day, resounding from the calm 



CHAP. VII.] 



KENILWORTH. 



53 



waters, where the presence of her Majesty, and longing to listen, had utterly 
damped all noise and din, the who!? harmony conveyed in time, tune, and temper 
thus incomparably melodious ; with what pleasure (Master Martin), with what 
sharpness of conceit, with what lively delight this might pierce into the hearers' 
hearts, I pray ye imagine yourself, as ye may." If Elizabeth be the " fair vestal 
throned by the west," of which there can be no reasonable doubt, the most appro- 
priate scene of the mermaid's song would be Kenilworth, and "that very time" the 
summer of 1575. ^ 

Percy, believing that the boy Shakspere was at Kenilworth, has remarked, with 
his usual taste and judgment, that "the dramatic cast of many parts of that 
superb entertainment must have had a very great effect upon a young imagination, 
whose dramatic powers were hereafter to astonish the world." Without assuming 
with Percy that "our young bard gained admittance into the castle" on the evening 
when " after supper was there a play of a very good theme presented ; but so set 
forth, by the actors' well handling, that pleasure and mirth made it seem very short, 
though it lasted two good hours and more ;"* yielding not our consent to Tieck's 
fiction, that the boy performed the part of " Echo " in Gascoigne's address to the 
Queen, and was allowed to see the whole of the performances by the especial favour 
of her Majesty, we may believe there were parts of that entertainment, which, with- 
out being a favoured spectator, William Shakspere with his friends might have 
beheld ; and which " must have had a very great effect upon a young imagination," 




[Entrance to the Hall.] 
* Lanehnm. 



* 



54 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK I. 



assisting, too, in giving it that dramatic tendency which, as we have endeavoured 
already to point out, was a peculiar characteristic of the simplest and the com- 
monest festivals of his age. 

And yet it is difficult to imagine anything more tedious than the fulsome praise, 
the mythological pedantries, the obscure allusions to Constancy and Deep-Desire, 
which were poured into the ears of Elizabeth during the nineteen days of Kenilworth. 
There was not, according to the historians of this visit, one fragment of our real old 
poetry produced, to gratify the Queen of a nation that had the songs and ballads of 
the chivalrous times still fresh upon its lips. There were no Minstrels at Kenil- 
worth ; the Harper was unbidden to its halls. The old English spirit of poetry was 
dead in a scheming court. It was something higher that in a few years called up 
Spenser and Shakspere. Yet there was one sport, emanating from the people, which 
had heart and reality in it. Laneham describes this as a " good sport presented in 
an historical cue by certain good-hearted men of Coventry, my lord's neighbours 
there." They " made petition that they might renew now their old storial show : 
of argument how the Danes, whilom here in a troublous season, were for quietness 
borne withal and suffered in peace ; that anon, by outrage and unsupportable inso- 
lency, abusing both Ethelred the King, then, and all estates everywhere beside, at 
the grievous complaint and counsel of Huna, the King's chieftain in wars, on Saint 
Brice's night Anno Dom. 1012 (as the book says, that falleth yearly on the thirteenth 
of November), were all despatched, and the realm rid. And for because that the 
matter mentioneth how valiantly our Englishwomen, for love of their country, 
behaved themselves, expressed in action and rhymes after their manner, they 
thought it might move some mirth to her Majesty the rather. The thing, said 
they, is grounded in story, and for pastime wont to be played in our city yearly, 
without ill example of manners, papistry, or any superstition ; and else did so 
occupy the heads of a number, that likely enough would have had worse meditations ; 
had an ancient beginning and a long continuance, till now of late laid down, they 
knew no cause why, unless it was by the zeal of certain of their preachers, men very 
commendable for their behaviour and learning, and sweet in their sermons, but 
somewhat too sour in preaching away their pastime." The description by Laneham 
is the only precise account which remains to us of the " old storial show," the "sport 
presented in an historical cue." It was a show not to be despised ; for it told the 
people how their Saxon ancestors had arisen to free themselves from " outrage and 
unsupportable insolency," and " how valiantly our Englishwomen, for love of their 
country, behaved themselves." Laneham, in his accustomed style, is more intent 
upon describing " Captain Cox," an odd man of Coventry, " mason, ale-conner, who 
hath great oversight in matters of story," than upon giving us a rational account of 
this spectacle. We find, however, that there were the Danish lance-knights on 
horseback, and then the English ; that they had furious encounters with spear and 
shield, with sword and target ; that there were footmen, who fought in rank and 
squadron ; and that " twice the Danes had the better, but at the last conflict beaten 
down, overcome, and many led captive for triumph by our Englishwomen." The 
court historian adds, " This was the effect of this show, that as it was handled 
made much matter of good pastime, brought all indeed into the great court, even 
under her Highness's window, to have seen." But her Highness, having pleasanter 
occupation within, " saw but little of the Coventry play, and commanded it therefore 
on the Tuesday following to have it full out, as accordingly it was presented." This 
repetition of the Hock-play in its completeness, full out, necessarily leads to the 
conclusion that the action was somewhat more complicated than the mere repetition 
of a mock-combat. Laneham, in his general description of the play, says, " expressed 
in action and rhymes." That he has preserved none of the rhymes, and has given 



CHAP. VII.] KENILWORTH. 55 



us a very insufficient account of the action, is characteristic of the man and of the 
tone of the courtiers. The Coventry clowns came there, not to call up any patriotic 
feeling by their old traditionary rhymes and dumb-show, but to be laughed at for 
their awkward movement and their earnest declamation. It appears to us that the 
conclusion is somewhat hasty which says of this play of Hock Tuesday, " It seems 
to have been merely a dumb-show."* Percy, resting upon the authority of Lane- 
ham, says that the performance " seems on that occasion to have been without reci- 
tation or rhymes, and reduced to mere dumb-show." Even this we doubt. But 
certainly it is difficult to arrive at any other conclusion than that of Percy, that the 
play, as originally performed by the men of Coventry, " expressed in action and 
rhymes after their manner," representing a complicated historical event, the 
insolence of tyranny, the indignation of the oppressed, the grievous complaint of one 
injured chieftain, the secret counsels, the plots, the conflicts, the triumph, must 
have offered us " a regular model of a complete drama." If the young Shakspere 
were a witness to the performance of this drama, his imagination would have been 
more highly and more worthily excited than if he had been the favoured spectator 
of all the shows of Tritons, and Dianas, and Ladies of the Lake that proceeded from 
" the conceit so deep in casting the plot " of his lordship of Leicester. It would be 
not too much to believe that this storial show might first suggest to him how English 
history might be dramatized ; how a series of events, terminating in some remark- 
able catastrophe, might be presented to the eye ; how fighting-men might be mar- 
shalled on a mimic field ; how individual heroism might stand out from amongst 
the mass, having its own fit expression of thought and passion ; how the wife or the 
mother, the sister or the mistress, might be there to uphold the hero, even as the 
Englishwomen assisted their warriors ; and how all this might be made to move the 
hearts of the people, as the old ballads had once moved them. Such a result would 
have repaid a visit to Kenilworth by William Shakspere. Without this, he, his 
father, and their friends, might have retired from the scene of Dudley's magnificence, 
as most thinking persons in all probability retired, with little satisfaction. There 
was lavish expense ; but, according to the most credible accounts, the possessor of 
Kenilworth was the oppressor of his district. We see him not delighting to show 
his Queen a happy tenantry, such as the less haughty and ambitious nobles and 
esquires were anxious to cultivate. The people came under the windows of Elizabeth 
as objects of ridicule. Slavish homage would be there to Leicester from the gentle- 
men of the county. They would replenish his butteries with their gifts ; they would 
ride upon his errands ; they would wear his livery. There was one gentleman in 
Warwickshire who would not thus do Leicester homage Edward Arden, the head 
of the great house of Arden, the cousin of William Shakspere's mother. But the 
mighty favourite was too powerful for him : " Which Edward, though a gentleman 
not inferior to the rest of his ancestors in those virtues wherewith they were adorned, 
had the hard hap to come to an untimely death in 27 Eliz., the charge laid against 
him being no less than high treason against the Queen, as privy to some foul inten- 
tions that Master Somerville, his son-in-law (a Roman Catholic), had towards her 
person : For which he was prosecuted with so great rigour and violence, by the Earl 
of Leicester's means, whom he had irritated in some particulars (as I have credibly 
heard), partly in disdaining to wear his livery, which many in this county, of his 
rank, thought, in those days, no small honour to them ; but chiefly for galling him 
by certain harsh expressions, touching his private accesses to the Countess of Essex 
before she was his wife ; that through the testimony of one Hall, a priest, he was 
found guilty of the fact, and lost his life in Smithfield."t The Rev. N. J. Halpin, 

* Collier : " Annals of the Stage," vol. i., p. 234. 
f Dugdale's " Warwickshire," p. 681. 



56 



WILLIAM 8HAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK I. 



who has contributed a most interesting tract to the publications of " The Shakespeare 
Society" on the subject of " Oberon's Vision in the Midsummer Night's Dream," has 
explained the allusions in that exquisite passage with far more success than the 
belief of Warburton that the Queen of Scots was pointed at, or of Mr. Boaden that 
Amy Eobsart was the " little western flower." He considers that Edward Arden, a 
spectator of those very entertainments at Kenilworth, discovered Leicester's guilty 
" accesses to the Countess of Essex ; " that the expression of Oberon, " That very 
time, I saw, but thou couldst not," referred to this discovery ; that when " the 
Imperial Votaress passed on," he " marked where the bolt of Cupid fell ; " that " the 
little western flower," pure, "milk-white" before that time, became spotted, "purple 
with love's wound." We may add that there is bitter satire in what follows " that 
flower," retaining the original influence, " will make or man or woman madly dote," 
as Lettice, Countess of Essex, was infatuated by Leicester. The discovery of 
Edward Arden, and his " harsh expressions " concerning it, might be traditions in 
Shakspere's family, and be safely allegorized by the poet in 1594 when Leicester was 
gone to his account. 




[Leicester.] 



CHAP, vni.] 



PAGEANTS. 



57 



CHAPTER VIII. 

PAGEANTS. 



IT is " the middle summer's spring." On 
the day before the feast of Corpus Christi 
all the roads leading to Coventry have far 
more than their accustomed share of pedes- 
trians and horsemen. The pageants are to 
be acted to-morrow, and perhaps for the last 
time. The preachers in their sermons 
have denounced them again and again ; but 
since the Queen's Majesty was graciously 
pleased with the Hock-play at Kenilworth, 
that ancient sport, so dear to the men of 
Coventry, has been revived, and the Guilds 
have struggled against the preachers to 
prevent their old pageantis from being 
suppressed. And why, say they, should 
they be suppressed 1 Have not they, the 
men of the Guilds, been accustomed to act 
their own pageants long after the Gray 
Friars had gone into obscurity ? Has not 
the good city all that is needful for their 
proper performance ? Do not they all 
know their parts, as arranged by the town- 
clerk ? Are not their robes in goodly order, 
some new, and all untattered ? Moreover, 
is not the trade of the city greatly declined 
its blue thread thrust out by thread 
brought from beyond sea its caps and 
girdles superseded by gear from London ;* 
and was not in the old time "the con- 
fluence of people from far and near to see 
this show extraordinary great, and yielded 
no small advantage to this city?"t The 
pageants shall be played in spite of the 
preachers ; and so the bruit thereof goes 
through the country, and Coventry is still 
to see its accustomed crowds on the day of 
Corpus Christi. 

It requires not the imagination of the 
romance-writer to assume that before 
William Shakspere was sixteen, that is, 
before the year 1580, when the pageants at Coventry, with one or two rare excep- 
tions, were finally suppressed, he would be a spectator of one of these remarkable 




See " A Briefe Conceipte of English Pollicye," 1581. 



f Dugdale. 



58 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK I. 



performances, which were hi a few years wholly to perish ; becoming, however, the 
foundations of a drama more suited to the altered spirit of the people, more uni- 
versal in its range, the drama of the laity, and not of the church. What a glorious 
city must Coventry have been in the days when that youth first looked upon it 
the " Prince's Chamber," as it was called, the " third city of the realm," a " shire- 
town,"* full of stately buildings of great antiquity, unequalled once in the splendour 
of its monastic institutions, full of associations of regal state, and chivalry, and high 
events ! As he finally emerges from the rich woodlands and the elm-groves which 
reach from Kenilworth, there would that splendid city lie before him, surrounded 
by its high wall and its numerous gates, its three wondrous spires, which he had 
often gazed upon from the hill of Welcombc, rising up in matchless height and 
symmetry, its famous cross towering above the gabled roofs. At the other extre- 
mity of the wall, gates more massive and defying a place of strength, even though 
no conqueror of Cressy now dwelt therein a place of magnificence, though the 
hand of spoliation had been there most busy. William Shakspere and his com- 
pany ride through the gate of the Gray Friars, and they are presently in the heart 
of that city. Eager crowding is there already in those streets on that eve of Corpus 
Christi, for the waits are playing, and banners are hung out at the walls of the 
different Guilds. The citizens gathered round the Cross are eagerly discussing the 
particulars of to-morrow's show. Here and there one with a beetling brow indig- 
nantly denounces the superstitious and papistical observance ; whilst the laughing 
smith or shearman, who is to play one of the magi on the morrow, describes the 
bravery of his new robe, and the lustre of his pasteboard crown that has been fresh 
gilded. The inns are fun, " great and sumptuous inns," as Harrison describes those 
of this very day, " able to lodge two hundred or three hundred persons, and their 
horses, at ease, and thereto, with a very short warning, make such provision for 
their diet as to him that is unacquainted withal may seem to be incredible : And 
it is a world to see how each owner of them contendeth with other for goodness of 
entertainment of their guests, as about fineness and change of linen, furniture of 
bedding, beauty of rooms, service at the table, costliness of plate, strength of drink, 
variety of wines, or well using of horses." So there would be no lack of cheer ; and 
the hundreds that have come into Coventry will be fed and lodged better even than 
in London, whose inns, as the same authority tells us, are the worst in the kingdom. 
Piping and dancing is there in the chambers, madrigals worth the listening. But 
silence and sleep at last fitly prepare for a busy day. Perhaps, however, a stray 
minstrel might find his way to this solemnity, and forget the hour in the exercise 
of his vocation, like the very ancient anonymous poet of the Alliterative Metre, 
whose manuscript, probably of the date of Henry V., has contrived to escape 
destruction : 

" Ones y me ordayned, as y have ofte doon, 
With frendes, and felawes, frendemen, and other; 
And caught me in a company on Corpus Christi even, 
Six, other seven myle, oute of Suthampton, 
To take melodye, and mirthes, among my makes ; 
With redyng of romaunces, and revelyng among, 
The dym of the darknesse drowe into the west, 
And began for to spryng in the gray day." f 

The morning of Corpus Christi comes, and soon after sunrise there is stir in the 
streets of Coventry. The old ordinances for this solemnity required that the Guilds 

* Coventry had altogether separate jurisdiction. It is called " a shire-town " by Dugdale, to 
mark this distinction. 

f See Percy's " Reliques :" On the Alliterative Metre. We give the lines as corrected in Sharp's 
" Coventry Mysteries." 



CHAP. VIII.] PAGEANTS. 59 



should be at their posts at five o'clock. There is to be a solemn procession for- 
merly, indeed, after the performance, of the pageant and then, with hundreds of 
torches burning around the figures of our Lady and St. John, candlesticks and 
chalices of silver, banners of velvet and canopies of silk, and the members of the 
Trinity Guild and the Corpus Christi Guild bearing their crucifixes and candlesticks, 
with personations of the angel Gabriel lifting up the lily, the twelve apostles, and 
renowned virgins, especially St. Catherine and St. Margaret. The Keformation has, 
of course destroyed much of this ceremonial ; and, indeed, the spirit of it has in 
great part evaporated. But now, issuing from the many ways that lead to the 
Cross, there is heard the melody of harpers and the voice of minstrelsy ; trumpets 
sound, banners wave, riding-men come thick from their several halls ; the mayor and 
aldermen in their robes, the city servants in proper liveries, St. George and the 
Dragon, and Herod on horseback. The bells ring, boughs are strewed in the streets, 
tapostry is hung out of the windows, officers in scarlet coats struggle in the crowd 
while the procession is marshalling. The crafts are getting into their ancient 
order, each craft with its streamer and its men in harness. There are " Fysshers 
and Cokes, Baxters and Milners, Bochers, Whittawers and Glovers, Pynners, 
Tylers, and Wrightes, Skynners, Barkers, Corvy sers, Smythes, We vers, 
Wirdrawers, Cardemakers, Sadelers, Peyntours, and Masons, Gurdelers, Tay- 
lours, Walkers, and Sherman, Deysters, Drapers, Mercers."* At length the 
procession is arranged. It parades through the principal lines of the city, from 
Bishopgate on the north to the Gray Friars' Gate on the south, and from Broadgate 
on the west to Gosford Gate on the east. The crowd is thronging to the wide area 
on the north of Trinity Church, and St. Michael's, for there is the pageant to be 
first performed. There was a high house or carriage which stood upon six wheels ; 
it was divided into two rooms, one above the other. In the lower room were the 
performers ; the upper was the stage. This ponderous vehicle was painted and 
gilt, surmounted with burnished vanes and streamers, and decorated with imagery ; 
it was hung round with curtains, and a painted cloth presented a picture of the 
subject that was to be performed. This simple stage had its machinery, too ; it 
was fitted for the representation of an earthquake or a storm ; and the pageant in 
most cases was concluded in the noise and flame of fireworks. It is the pageant 
of the company of Shearmen and Tailors which is now to be performed, the sub- 
ject the Birth of Christ and Offering of the Magi, with the flight into Egypt and 
Murder of the Innocents. The eager multitudes are permitted to crowd within a 
reasonable distance of the car. There is a moveable scaffold erected for the more 
distinguished spectators. The men of the Guilds sit firm on their horses. Amidst 
the sound of harp and trumpet the curtains are withdrawn, and Isaiah appears, 
prophesying the blessing which is to come upon the earth. Gabriel announces to Mary 
the embassage upon which he is sent from Heaven. Then a dialogue between Mary 
and Joseph, and the scene changes to the field where shepherds are abiding in the 
darkness of the night a night so dark that they know not where their sheep 
may be ; they are cold and in great heaviness. Then the star shines, and they hear 
the song of " Gloria in excelsis Deo." A soft melody of concealed music hushes 
even the whispers of the Coventry audience ; and three songs are sung, such as may 
abide in the remembrance of the people, and be repeated by them at their Christmas 
festivals. " The first the shepherds sing : " 

" As I rode out this endersf night, 

Of three jolly shepherds I saw a sight, 

And all about their fold a star shone bright ; 

They sang terli terlow : 

So merrily the shepherds their pipes can blow." 

* Sharp's " Dissertation," page 160. f Enders night last night. 



60 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK I. 



There is then a song "the women sing f 



" Lully, lulla, you little tiny child ; 
By, by, lully, lullay, you little tiny child : 

By, by, lully, lullay. 

sisters two, how may we do 

For to preserve this day 

This poor youngling, for whom we do sing 

By, by, lully, lullay ? 

Herod the king, in his raging, 
Charged he hath this day 
His men of might, in his own sight, 
All young children to slay. 

That woe is me, poor child, for thee, 
And ever mourn and say, 
For thy parting neither say nor sing 
By, by, lully, lullay." 

The shepherds again take up the song : 

" Down from heaven, from heaven so high, 
Of angels there came a great company, 
With mirth, and joy, and great solemnity : 
They sang terly, terlow : 
So merrily the shepherds their pipes can blow." 

The simple melody of these songs has come down to us ; they are part songs, each 
having the treble, the tenor, and the bass.* The star conducts the shepherds to 
the " crib of poor repast," where the child lies ; and, with a simplicity which is 
highly characteristic, one presents the child his pipe, the second his hat, and the 
third his mittens. Prophets now come, who declare in lengthened rhyme the wonder 
and the blessing : 

" Neither in halls nor yet in bowers 
Born would he not be, 
Neither in castles nor yet in towers 
That seemly were to see." 

The messenger of Herod succeeds ; and very curious it is, and characteristic of a 
period when the king's laws were delivered in the language of the Conqueror, that 
he speaks in French. This circumstance would carry back the date of the play to 
the reign of Edward III., though the language is occasionally modernized. We have 
then the three kings with their gifts. They are brought before Herod, who treats 
them courteously, but is inexorable in his cruel decree. Herod rages in the streets ; 
but the flight into Egypt takes place, and then the massacre. The address of the 
women to the pitiless soldiers, imploring, defying, is not the least curious part of 
the performance ; for example 

" Sir knightes, of your courtesy, 
This day shame not your chivalry, 
But on my child have pity," 

* This very curious Pageant, essentially different from the same portion of Scripture-history in 
the " Ludus Coventrice," is printed entire in Mr Sharp's " Dissertation," as well as the score of 
these songs. 



CHAP. VIII.] PAGEANTS. 61 

is the mild address of one mother. Another raves 

*' He that slays my child in sight, 
If that my strokes on him may light, 
Be he squire or knight, 
I hold him but lost." 

The fury of a third is more excessive : 

" Sit he never so high in saddle, 
But I shall make his brains addle, 
And here with my pot ladle 
With him will I fight." 

We have little doubt that he who described the horrors of a siege, 

" Whiles the mad mothers with their howls confus'd 
Do break the clouds, as did the wives of Jewry 
At Herod's bloody-hunting slaughtermen."* 

had heard the bowlings of the women in the Coventry pageant. And so "fynes 
lude de taylars aiid scharmen" 

And now the men of Coventry lead the way of the strangers to another spot, 
with the cry of " The Hock-play, the Hock-play ! " There was yawning and ill- 
repressed laughing during the pageant, but the whole population now seems 
animated with a spirit of joyfulness. As one of the worthy aldermen gallantly 
presses his horse through the crowd, there is a cry, too, of " A Nycklyn, a Nyck- 
lyn ! " for did not the excellent mayor, Thomas Nycklyn, three years ago, cause 
" Hock Tuesday, whereby is mentioned an overthrow of the Danes by the inhabi- 
tants of this city, to be again set up and showed forth, to his great commendation 
and the city's great commodity ?"t In the wide area of the Cross-cheaping is the 
crowd now assembled. The strangers gaze upon " that stately Cross, being one of 
the chief things wherein this city most glories, which for workmanship and beauty 
is inferior to none in England." $ It was not then venerable for antiquity, for it 
had been completed little more than thirty years ; but it was a wondrous work of a 
gorgeous architecture, story rising above story, with canopies and statues, to a magni- 
ficent height, glittering with vanes upon its pinnacles, and now decorated with 
numerous streamers. Around the square are houses of most picturesque form ; 
the balconies of their principal floors filled with gazers, and the windows imme- 
diately beneath the high-pitched roofs showing as many heads as could be thrust 
through the open casements. The area is cleared, for the play requires no scaffold. 
The English and the Danes marshal on opposite sides. There are fierce words and 
imprecations, shouts of defiance, whisperings of counsel. What is imperfectly heard 
or ill understood by the strangers is explained by those who are familiar with the 
show. There is no ridicule now ; no laughing at Captain Cox, in his velvet cap, 
and flourishing his tonsword ; all is gravity and exultation. Then come the women 
of Coventry, ardent in the cause of liberty, courageous, much enduring ; and some 
one tells, in the pauses of the play, how there once rode into that square, in a death- 
like solitude and silence, a lady all naked, who, " bearing an extraordinary affection 
for this place, often and earnestly besought her husband that he would free it from 

* " Henry V.," Act in., Scene in. 

j Extract from manuscript Annals of Coventry in Sharp's "Dissertation," p. 129. 

J Dugdale. 

The Cross has perished, not through age, but by the hands of Common-councilmen and Com- 
missioners of Pavement. The Turks broke up the Elgin marbles to make mortar for their Athenian 
hovels, and we call them barbarians. 



62 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK I. 



that grievous servitude whereunto it was subject;"* and he telling her the hard 
conditions upon which her prayer should be granted, 

"She rode forth, clothed on with chastity." (TENNYSON.) 

Noble-hearted women such as the Lady Godiva were those of Coventry who assisted 
their husbands to drive out the Danes ; and there they lead their captives in 
triumph ; and the Hock-play terminates with song and chorus. 

But the solemnities of the day are not yet concluded. In the space around Swine 
Cross, and near St. John's School, is another scaffold erected ; not a lofty scaffold 
like that of the drapers and shearmen, but gay with painted cloths and ribbons. 
The pageant of " The Nine Worthies" is to be performed by the dramatic body of 
the Grammar School ; the ancient pageant, such as was presented to Henry VI. and 
his Queen in 1455, and of which the Leet-book contains the faithful copy.t 
Assuredly there was one who witnessed that performance carefully employed in 
noting down the lofty speeches which the three Hebrews, Joshua, David, and Judas 
Maccabseus ; the three Infidels, Hector, Alexander, and Julius Csesar ; and the three 
Christians, Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Boulogne, uttered on that occasion. 
In the Coventry pageant Hector thus speaks : 

" Most pleasant princes, recorded that may be, 
I, Hector of Troy, that am chief conqueror, 
Lowly will obey you, and kneel on my knee." 

And Alexander thus : 

" I, Alexander, that for chivalry bcareth the ball, 
Most courageous in conquest through the world am I named, 
Welcome you, princes." 

And Julius Csesar thus : 

' I, Julius Csesar, sovereign of knighthood 
And emperor of mortal man, most high and mighty, 
Welcome you, princes most benign and good." 

Surely it was little less than plagiary, if it was not meant for downright parody, 
when, in a pageant of " The Nine Worthies" presented a few years after, Hector 
comes in to say 

" The armipotent Mars, of lances the almighty, 

Gave Hector a gift, the heir of Ilion : 
A man so breath'd, that certain he would fight, yea, 

From morn till night, out of his pavilion. 
I am that flower." 

And Alexander : 

" When in the world I liv'd, I was the world's commander ; 
By east, west, north, and south, I spread my conquering might : 
My 'scutcheon plain declares that I am Alisander." 

And Pompey, usurping the just honours of his triumphant rival : 

" I Pompey am, Pompey surnamed the great, 
That oft in field, with targe and shield, did make my foe to sweat." 

* Dugdale., f Sharp, page 145. 



CHAP. VIII.] 



PAGEANTS. 



63 



But the laugh of the parody was a harmless one. The Nine "Worthies were utterly 
dead and gone in the popular estimation at the end of the century. Certainly in 
the crowd before St. John's School at Coventry there would be more than one who 
would laugh at the speeches merry souls, ready to " play on the tabor to the 
Worthies, and let them dance the hay." * 

* " Love's Labour 's Lost," Act v. It is scarcely necessary to refer the reader to the same play for 
the speeches of Hector, Alexander, and Pompey. The coincidence between these and the old 
Coventry Pageant is remarkable. 



__ 



<-' 




[St. Mary's Hall, Coventry : Street Front.] 



64 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK i. 




[Fireside in the House in Henley Street.] 
CHAPTER IX. 

THE FIRESIDE. 



THE happy days of boyhood are nearly over. William Shakspere no longer looks 
for the close of the day when, in that humble chamber in Henley Street, his father 
shall learn something of his school progress, and hear him read some English book 
of history or travel, volumes which the active presses of London had sent cheaply 
amongst the people. The time is arrived when he has quitted the free-school. His 
choice of a worldly occupation is scarcely yet made. It is that pause which so often 
takes place in the life of a youth, when the world shows afar off like a vast plain 
with many paths, all bright and sunny, and losing themselves in the distance, where 
it is fancied there is something brighter still. At this season we may paint the 
family of John Shakspere at their evening fireside. The mother is plying her distaff, 
or hearing Richard his lesson out of the ABC book. The father and the elder son 
are each intent upon a book of chronicles, manly reading. Gilbert is teaching his 
sister Joan Gamut " the ground of all accord." A neighbour comes in upon business 
with the father, who quits the room ; and then all the group crowd round their elder 
brother, who has laid aside his chronicle, to entreat him for a story ; the mother 
even joins in the children's prayer to their gentle brother. Has not he himself 



CHAP. IX.] THE FIRESIDE. 



pictured such a home scene ? May we not read for Hermione, Mary Shakspere, and 
for Mamillius, William 1 

"Her. What wisdom stirs amongst you] Come, sir, now 
I am for you again : Pray you, sit by us, 
And tell 'a a tale. 

Mam. Merry, or sad, shall 't be ? 

Her. As merry as you will. 

Mam. A sad tale 's best for winter : 

I have one of sprites and goblins. 

Her. Let's have that, good sir. 

Come on, sit down : Come on, and do your best 
To fright me with your sprites : you're powerful at it. 

'Mam. There was a man, 

Her. Nay, come, sit down ; then on. 

Mam. Dwelt by a churchyard. I will tell it softly ; 
Yon crickets shall not hear it. 

Her. Come on then, 

And give 't me in mine ear."* 

And truly that boy must have had access to a prodigious mine of such stories, 
whether " merry or sad." What a storehouse was " The Palace of Pleasure, beautified, 
adorned, and well furnished with pleasaunt histories and excellent riouelles, selected 
out of diners good and commendable authors ; by William Painter, Clarke of the 
Ordinaunce and Armarie." In this book, according to the dedication of the trans- 
lator to Ambrose Earl of Warwick, was set forth " the great valiance of noble gentle- 
men, the terrible combats of courageous personages, the virtuous minds of noble 
dames, the chaste hearts of constant ladies, the wonderful patience of puissant 
princes, the mild sufferance of well-disposed gentlewomen, and, in divers, the quiet 
bearing of adverse fortune." Pleasant little apophthegms and short fables were 
there in that book. There was ^Esop's fable of the old lark and her young ones, 
wherein " he prettily and aptly doth premonish that hope and confidence of things 
attempted by man ought to be fixed and trusted in none other but in himself." 
There was the story, most delightful to a child, of the bondman at Rome, who was 
brought into the open place upon which a great multitude looked, to fight with a 
lion of marvellous bigness ; and the fierce lion when he saw him " suddenly stood 
still, and afterwards by little and little, in gentle sort, he came unto the man as 
though he had known him," and licked his hands and legs ; and the bondman told 
that he had healed in former time the wounded foot of the lion, and the beast be- 
came his friend. In the same storehouse was a tale which Painter translated from 
the French of Pierre Boisteau a true tale, as he records it, " the memory whereof 
to this day is so well known at Verona, as unnethst their blubbered eyes be yet 
dry that saw and beheld that lamentable sight." It was " The goodly history of the 
true and constant love between Romeo and Julietta ; " and there was described how 
Romeo came into the hall of the Capulets whose family were at variance with his 
own, the Montesches, and, " very shamefaced, withdrew himself into a corner ; but 
by reason of the light of the torches, which burned very bright, he was by and by 
known and looked upon by the whole company ; " how he held the frozen hand of 
Juliet, the daughter of the Capulet, and it warmed and thrilled, so that from that 
moment there was love between them ; how the lady was told that Romeo was the 
" son of her father's capital enemy and deadly foe ; " how, in the little street before 
her father's house, Juliet saw Romeo walking, "through the brightness of the moon ;" 
how they were joined in holy marriage secretly by the good Friar Lawrence ; and 
then came bloodshed, and grief, and the banishment of Romeo, and the friar gave 

* " Winter's Tale," Act n., Scene I. f Unneths, scarcely. 



66 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK I. 



the lady a drug to produce a pleasant sleep, which was like unto death ; and she, 
" so humble, wise, and debonnaire," was laid " in the ordinary grave of the Capulets," 
as one dead, and Romeo, having bought poison of an apothecary, went to the tomb, 
and there laid down and died ; and the sleeping wife awoke, and with the aid of 
the dagger of Borneo she died beside him. From the same collection of tales would 
he learn the story of " Giletta of Narbonne," who cured the King of France of a 
painful malady, and the King gave her in marriage to the Count Beltramo, with 
whom she had been brought up, and her husband despised and forsook her, but at 
last they were united, and lived in great honour and felicity. There was another 
collection, the "Gesta Romanorum," translated by R. Robinson in 1577, old 
legends, come down to those latter days from monkish historians, who had embodied 
in their narratives all the wild traditions of the ancient and modern world. Such 
was the story of the rich heiress who chose a husband by the machinery of a gold, 
a silver, and a leaden casket ; and another story of the merchant whose inexorable 
creditor required the fulfilment of his bond in cutting a pound of flesh nearest the 
merchant's heart, and by the skilful interpretation of the bond the cruel creditor 
was defeated. There was the story, too, in these legends, of the Emperor Theodosius, 
who had three daughters ; and those two daughters who said they loved him more 
than themselves were unkind to him, but the youngest, who only said she loved him 
as much as he was worthy, succoured him in his need, and was his true daughter. 
There was in that collection also a feeble outline of the history of a king whose wife 
died upon the stormy sea, and her body was thrown overboard, and the child she 
then bore was lost, and found by the father after many years, and the mother was 
also wonderfully kept in life. Stories such as these, preserved amidst the wreck of 
time, were to that youth like the seeds that are found in the tombs of ruined cities, 
lying with the bones of forgotten generations, but which the genial influences of 
nature will call into life, and they shall become flowers, and trees, and food for man. 
But, beyond all these, our Mamillius had many a tale " of sprites and goblins." 
He told them, we may well believe at that period, with an assenting faith, if not a 
prostrate reason. They were not then, in his philosophy, altogether " the very 
coinage of the brain." Such appearances were above nature, but the commonest 
movements of the natural world had them in subjection : 

" I have heard, 

The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn, 
Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat 
Awake the god of day, and at his warning, 
Whether in sea or fire, in earth or air, 
The extravagant and erring spirit hies 
To his confine."* 

Powerful they were, but yet powerless. They came for benevolent purposes : to 
warn the guilty ; to discover the guilt. The belief in them was not a debasing 
thing. It was associated with the enduring confidence that rested upon a world 
beyond this material world. Love hoped for such visitations ; it had its dreams of 
such where the loved one looked smilingly, and spoke of regions where change and 
separation were not. They might be talked of, even amongst children then, without 
terror. They lived in that corner of the soul which had trust in angel protections ; 
which believed in celestial hierarchies ; which listened to hear the stars moving in 
harmonious music 

" Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins," 
* "Hamlet." 



CHAP. IX.] THE FIRESIDE. 67 



but listened in vain, for, 

" Whilst this muddy vesture of decay 
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it." * 

There was another most valued book, which told how, 

" In olde dayis of the king Artour, 
Of which that Bretons speken gret honour, 
All was this lond full filled of faerie; 
The elf-queene, with her jolly compagnie, 
Danced full oft in many a grene mede." f 

Here was the ground-work of beautiful visions of a pleasant race of supernatural 
beings ; who lived by day in the acorn-cups of Arden, and by moonlight held their 
revels on the green sward of Avon-side, the ringlets of their dance being duly seen ; 

" Whereof the ewe not bites; " 

who tasted the honey-bag of the bee, and held council by the light of the glow- 
worm ; who kept the cankers from the rosebuds, and silenced the hootings of the 
owl. But from Chaucer the youth must have acquired many high things the 
highest things in poetry besides his glimpses of the fairies. We believe that 
Shakspere was the pupil of Chaucer ; we imagine that the fine bright folio of 1542, 
whose bold black letter seems the proper dress for the rich antique thought, was his 
closet companion. The boy would delight in his romance ; the poet would, in a 
few years, learn from him what stores lay hidden of old traditions and fables, 
legends that had travelled from one nation to another, gathering new circumstances 
as they became clothed in a new language, the property of every people, related in 
the peasant's cabin, studied in the scholar's cell ; and Chaucer would teach him 
that these were the best materials for a poet to work upon, for their universality 
proved that they were akin to man's inmost nature and feelings. The time would 
arrive when, in his solitary walks, unbidden tears would come into his eyes as he 
recollected some passage of matchless pathos ; or irrepressible laughter arise at those 
touches of genial humour which glance like sunbeams over the page. Finally, the 
matured judgment would learn from Chaucer the possibility of delineating indi- 
vidual character with the minutest accuracy, without separating the individual from 
the permanent and the universal ; and Chaucer would show how a high morality 
might still consist with freedom of thought and even laxity of expression, and how 
all that is holy and beautiful might be loved without such scorn or hatred of the 
impure and the evil as would exclude them from human sympathy. An early 
familiarity with such a poet as Chaucer must have been a loadstar to one like 
Shakspere, who was launching into the great ocean of thought without a chart. 

But as yet " the realms of gold" were dimly seen. At that hearth, in Henley 
Street, if the youth began to speak of witches, there would be fear and silence. For 
did not Mary Shakspere recollect that in the year she was married Bishop Jewel 
had told the Queen that her subjects pined away, even unto the death, and that 
their affliction was owing to the increase of witches and sorcerers ? Was it not 
known how there were three sorts of witches, those that can hurt and not help, 
those that can help and not hurt, and those that can both help and hurt ?$ It was 
unsafe even to talk of them. But the youth would have met with the history of 
the murder of Duncan, King of Scotland, in a chronicler older than Holinshed ; and 
he might tell softly, so that " yon crickets shall not hear it," that as Macbeth and 

* " Merchant of Venice." f Chaucer : " Wife of Bath's Tale." 

J See Scot's " Discovery of Witchcraft/' 1584. 

F 2 



68 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK i. 



Banquo journeyed from Torres, sporting by the way together, when the warriors 
came in the midst of a laund, three wierd sisters suddenly appeared to them, in 
strange and wild apparel, resembling creatures of an elder world, and prophesied 
that Macbeth should be king of Scotland ; and Macbeth from that hour desired to 
be King, and so killed the good King his liege lord. And then the story-teller and 
his listeners might pass On to safer matters to the calculations of learned men who 
could read the fates of mankind in the aspects of the stars ; and of those more 
deeply learned, clothed in garments of white linen, who had command over the 
spirits of the earth 5 of the water, and of the air. Some of the children might aver 
that a horse-shoe over the door, and vervain and dill, would preserve them, as they 
had been told, from the devices of sorcery. But their mother would call to their 
mind that there was security far more to be relied on than charms of herb or horse- 
shoe that there was a Power that would preserve them from all evil, seen or 
unseen, if such were His gracious will, and if they humbly sought Him, and offered 
up their hearts to Him, in all love and trust. And to that Power this household 
would address themselves ; and the night would be without fear, and their sleep 
pleasant. 




[The Fireside.] 




[Stratford Church, and Mill. From an original drawing at the beginning of the last century.] 
CHAPTER I. 

A CALLING. 



WE have endeavoured to fill up, with some imperfect forms and feeble colours, the 
very meagre outline which exists of the schoolboy life of William Shakspere. He is 
now, we will assume, of the age of fourteen the year 1578 ; a year which has been 
held to furnish decisive evidence as to the worldly condition of his father and his 
family. The first who attempted to write " Some Account of the Life of William 
Shakspeare," Howe, says, " His father, who was a considerable dealer in wool, had so 
large a family, ten children in all, that, though he was his eldest son, he could give 
him no better education than his own employment. He had bred him, it is true, 
for some time at a free-school, where, it is probable, he acquired what Latin he was 
master of : but the narrowness of his circumstances, and the want of his assistance 
at home, forced his father to withdraw him from thence, and unhappily prevented 
his further proficiency in that language." This statement, be it remembered, was 
written one hundred and thirty years after the event which it professes to record 
the early removal of William Shakspere from the free-school to which he had been 
sent by his father. It is manifestly based upon two assumptions, both of which 
are incorrect : The first, that his father had a large family of ten children, and was 
so narrowed in his circumstances that he could not spare even the time of his eldest 
son, he being taught for nothing ; and, secondly, that the son, by his early removal 
from the school where he acquired "what Latin he was master of," was prevented 



72 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II. 



attaining a " proficiency in that language," his works manifesting " an ignorance of the 
ancients." Mr. Haiti well, commenting upon this statement, says, " John Shakspeare's 
circumstances began to fail him when William was about fourteen, and he then 
withdrew him from the grammar-school, for the purpose of obtaining his assistance 
in his agricultural pursuits." Was fourteen an unusually early age for a boy to be 
removed from a grammar-school ? We think not, at a period when there were boy- 
bachelors at the Universities. If he had been taken from the school three years 
before, when he was eleven, certainly an early age, we should have seen his 
father then recorded, in 1575, as the purchaser of two freehold houses in Henley 
Street, and the "narrowness of his circumstances" as the reason of Shakspere's " no 
better proficiency," would have been at once exploded. In his material allegation 
Rowe utterly fails. 

The family of John Shakspere did not consist, as we have already shown, of ten 
children. In the year 1578, when the school education of William may be reason- 
ably supposed to have terminated, and before which period his " assistance at home" 
would rather have been embarrassing than useful to his father, the family consisted 
of five children : William, aged fourteen ; Gilbert, twelve ; Joan, nine ; Anne, seven ; 
and Richard four. Anne died early in the following year ; and, in 1580, Edmund, 
the youngest child, was born ; so that the family never exceeded five living at the 
same time. But still the circumstances of John Shakspere, even with five children, 
might have been straitened. The assertion of Rowe excited the persevering diligence 
of Malone ; and he collected together a series of documents from which he infers, or 
leaves the reader to infer, that John Shakspere and his family gradually sank from 
their station of respectability at Stratford into the depths of poverty and ruin. The 
sixth section of Malone's posthumous "Life" is devoted to a consideration of this 
subject. It thus commences : " The manufacture of gloves, which was, at this 
period, a very flourishing one, both at Stratford and Worcester (in which latter city 
it is still carried on with great success), however generally beneficial, should seem, 
from whatever cause, to have aftorded our poet's father but a scanty maintenance." 
We have endeavoured to show to what extent, and in what manner, John Shakspere 
was a glover. However, be his occupation what it may, Malone affirms that " when 
our author was about fourteen years old" the "distressed situation" of his father 
was evident : it rests " upon surer grounds than conjecture." The corporation 
books have shown that on particular occasions, such as the visitation of the plague 
in 1564, John Shakspere contributed like others to the relief of the poor ; but now, 
in January, 1577-8, he is taxed for the necessities of the borough only to pay half 
what other aldermen pay ; and in November of the same year, whilst other aldermen 
are assessed fourpence weekly towards the relief of the poor, John Shakspere " shall 
not be taxed to pay anything." In 1579 the sum levied upon him for providing 
soldiers at the charge of the borough is returned, amongst similar sums of other 
persons, as " unpaid and unaccounted for." There are other corroborative proofs of 
John Shakspere's poverty at this period brought forward by Malone. In this precise 
year, 1 5 78, he mortgages his wife's inheritance of Asbies to Edmund Lambert for forty 
pounds ; and, in the same year, the will of Mr. Roger Sadler of Stratford, to which 
is subjoined a list of debts due to him, shows that John Shakspere was indebted to 
him five pounds ; for which sum Edmund Lambert was a security, " By which," 
says Malone, " it appears that John Shakspeare was then considered insolvent, if 
not as one depending rather on the credit of others than his own." It is of little 
consequence to the present age to know whether an alderman of Stratford, nearly 
three hundred years past, became unequal to maintain his social position ; but to 
enable us to form a right estimate of the education of William Shakspere, and of 
the circumstances in which he was placed at the most influential period of his life, 



CHAP. L] A CALLING. 73 



it may not be unprofitable to consider how far these revelations of the private affairs 
of his father support the case which Malone holds he has so triumphantly proved. 
At the time in question, the best evidence is unfortunately destroyed ; for the 
registry of the Court of Kecord at Stratford is wanting, from 1569 to 1585. Nothing 
has been added to what Malone has collected as to this precise period. It amounts 
therefore to this, that in 1578 he mortgages an estate for forty pounds ; that he 
is indebted also five pounds to a friend for which his mortgagee had become security ; 
and that he is excused one public assessment, and has not contributed to another. 
At this time he is the possessor of two freehold houses in Henley Street, bought in 
1574. Malone, a lawyer by profession, supposes that the money for which Asbies 
was mortgaged went to pay the purchase of the Stratford freeholds ; according to 
which theory, these freeholds had been unpaid for during four years, and the " good 
and lawful money" was not "in hand" when the vendor parted with the premises. 
We hold, and we think more reasonably, that in 1578, when he mortgaged Asbies, 
John Shakspere became the purchaser, or at any rate the occupier, of lands in the 
parish of Stratford, but not in the borough ; and that, in either case, the money for 
which Asbies was mortgaged was the capital employed in this undertaking. The 
lands which were purchased by William Shakspere of the Combe family, in 1601, 
are described in the deed as " lying or being within the parish, fields, or town of 
Old Stretford." But the will of William Shakspere, he having become the heir-at- 
law of his father, devises all his lands and tenements " within the towns, hamlets, 
villages, fields, and grounds of Stratford-upon-Avon, Old Stratford, Bishopton, and 
Welcombe." Old Stratford is a local denomination, essentially different from 
Bishopton or Welcombe ; and, therefore, whilst the lands purchased by the son in 
1001 might be those recited in the will as lying in Old Stratford, he might have 
derived from his father the lands of Bishopton and Welcombe, of the purchase of 
which by himself we have no record. But we have a distinct record that William 
Shakspere did derive lands from his father, in the same way that he inherited the two 
freeholds in Henley Street. Mr. Halliwell prints, without any inference, a " Deed of 
Settlement of Shakespeare's Property, 1639 ;" that deed contains a remarkable 
recital, which appears conclusive as to the position of the father as a landed pro- 
prietor. The fine for the purpose of settlement is taken upon ; 1, a tenement in 
Blackfriars ; 2, a tenement at Acton ; 3, the capital messuage of New Place ; 4, the 
tenement in Henley Street ; 5, one hundred and twenty-seven acres of land purchased 
of Combe ; and 6, " all other the messuages, lands, tenements and hereditaments 
whatsoever, situate lying and being in the towns, hamlets, villages, fields and grounds 
of Stratford-upon-Avon, Old Stratford, Bishopton, and Welcombe, or any of them in 
the said comity of Warwick, which heretofore were the INHERITANCE of Wittiatn Shak- 
spere, gent., deceased." The word inheritance could only be used in one legal sense ; 
they came to him by descent, as heir-at-law of his father. It would be difficult to find a 
more distinct confirmation of the memorandum upon the grant of arms in the Heralds' 
College to John Shakspere, "he hath lands and tenements, of good wealth and 
substance, 50(tf." The lands of Bishopton and Welcombe are in the parish of 
Stratford, but not in the borough. Bishopton was a hamlet, having an ancient 
chapel of ease. We hold, then, that in the year 1578 John Shakspere, having become 
more completely an agriculturist a yeoman as he is described in a deed of 1579 
ceased, for the purposes of business, to be an occupier within the borough of Strat- 
ford. Other aldermen are rated to pay towards the furniture of pikemen, billmen. 
and archers, six shillings and eight-pence ; whilst John Shakspere is to pay three 
shillings and four-pence. Why less than other aldermen 1 The next entry but 
one, which relates to a brother alderman, suggests an answer to the question : 
" Robert Bratt, nothing IN THIS PLACE." Again, ten months after, " It is ordained 



74 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II. 



that every alderman shall pay weekly, towards the relief of the poor, four-pence, save 
John Shakspere and Robert Sratt, who shall not be taxed to pay any thing." Here 
John Shakspere is associated with Robert Bratt, who, according to the previous 
entry, was to pay nothing in this place ; that is, in the borough of Stratford, to 
which the orders of the council alone apply. The return, in 1579, of Mr. Shakspere 
as leaving unpaid the sum of three shillings and three-pence, was the return upon a 
levy for the borough, in which, although the possessor of property, he might have 
ceased to reside, or have only partially resided, paying his assessments in the parish. 
The Borough of Stratford, and the Parish of Stratford, are essentially different things, 
as regards entries of the Corporation and of the Court of Record. The Report from 
Commissioners of Municipal Corporations says, " The limits of the borough extend 
over a space of about half a mile in breadth, and rather more in length * * *. The 
mayor, recorder, and senior aldermen of the borough have also jurisdiction, as justices 
of the peace, over a small town or suburb adjoining the Church of Stratford-upon- 
Avon, called Old Stratford, and over the precincts of the church itself." We shall 
have occasion to revert to this distinction between the borough and the parish, at a 
more advanced period in the life of Shakspere's father, when his utter ruin has been 
somewhat rashly inferred from certain obscure registers. 

Seeing, then, that at any rate, in the year 1574, when John Shakspere purchased 
two freehold houses in Stratford, it was scarcely necessary for him to withdraw his 
son William from school, as Rowe has it, on account of the narrowness of his cir- 
cumstances (the education of that school costing the father nothing), it is not difficult 
to believe that the son remained there till the period when boys were usually with- 
drawn from grammar-schools. In those days the education of the university 
commenced much earlier than at present. Boys intended for the learned profes- 
sions, and more especially for the church, commonly went to Oxford and Cambridge 
at eleven or twelve years of age. If they were not intended for those professions, 
they probably remained at the grammar-school till they were thirteen .or fourteen ; 
and then they were fitted for being apprenticed to tradesmen, or articled to attorneys, 
a numerous and thriving body in those days of cheap litigation. Many also went 
early to the Inns of Court, which were the universities of the law, and where there 
was real study and discipline in direct connection with the several Societies. To 
assume that William Shakspere did not stay long enough at the grammar-school of 
Stratford to obtain a very fair " proficiency in Latin," with some knowledge of Greek, 
is to assume an absurdity upon the face of the circumstances ; and it could never 
have been assumed at all, had not Rowe, setting out upon a false theory, that, because 
in the works of Shakspere " we scarce find any traces of anything that looks like an 
imitation of the ancients," held that therefore " his not copying at least something 
from them may be an argument of his never having read them." Opposed to this 
is the statement of Aubrey, much nearer to the times of Shakspere : " he understood 
Latin pretty well." Rowe had been led into his illogical inference by the " small 
Latin and less Greek" of Jonson ; the "old mother-wit" of Denham ; the "his 
learning was very little" of Fuller; the "native wood-notes wild" of Milton, 
phrases, every one of which is to be taken with considerable qualification, whether 
we regard the peculiar characters of the utterers, or the circumstances connected 
with the words themselves. The question rests not upon the interpretation of the 
dictum of this authority or that ; but upon the indisputable fact that the very 
earliest writings of Shakspere are imbued with a spirit of classical antiquity ; and 
that the allusive nature of the learning that manifests itself in them, whilst it offers 
the best proof of his familiarity with the ancient writers, is a circumstance which 
has misled those who never attempted to dispute the existence of the learning which 
was displayed in the direct pedantry of his contemporaries. " If" said Hales of 



CHAP. I.] A CALLING. 75 



Eton, " he had not read the classics, he had likewise not stolen from them." Marlowe, 
Greene, Peele, and all the early dramatists, overload their plays with quotation and 
mythological allusion. According to Hales, they steal, and therefore they have read. 
He who uses his knowledge skilfully is assumed not to have read. 

It is scarcely necessary to entertain any strong opinions as to the worldly calling 
of William Shakspere, between the period of his leaving the grammar-school and his 
occupation as a dramatic poet and actor. The internal evidence of his writings 
would appear to show the most intimate acquaintance with the ordinary life of a 
cultivator ; and his own pursuits, in his occasional or complete retirement at Strat- 
ford, exhibit the same tastes. But Malone has a confident belief that upon Shakspere 
leaving school he was placed for two or three years in the office of one of the seven 
attorneys who practised in the Court of Record in Stratford. Mr. Wheler, of Strat- 
ford, having taken up the opinion many years ago, upon the suggestion of Malone, 
that Shakspere might have been in an attorney's office, availed himself of his 
opportunities as a solicitor to examine hundreds of documents of Shakspere's time, 
in the hope of discovering his signature. No such signature was found. Malone 
adds, " The comprehensive mind of our poet, it must be owned, embraced almost 
every object of nature, every trade, and every art, the manners of every description 
of men, and the general language of almost every profession : but his knowledge and 
application of legal terms seem to me not merely such as might have been acquired 
by the casual observation of his all-comprehending mind ; it has the appearance of 
technical skill ; and he is so fond of displaying it on all occasions, 'that there is, I 
think, some ground for supposing that he was early initiated in at least the forms of 
the law." * Malone then cites a number of passages exemplifying Shakspere's 
knowledge and application of legal terms. The theory was originally propounded by 
Malone in his edition of 1790 ; and it gave rise to many subsequent notes of the 
commentators, pointing out these technical allusions. The frequency of their occur- 
rence, and the accuracy of their use, are, however, no proof to us that Shakspere was 
professionally a lawyer. There is every reason to believe that the principles of law, 
especially of the law of real property, were much more generally understood in 
those days than in our own. Educated men, chiefly those who possessed property, 
looked upon law as a science instead of a mystery ; and its terms were used in 
familiar speech instead of being regarded as a technical jargon. When Hamlet says, 
" This fellow might be in his time a great buyer of land, with his statutes, his 
recognizances, his fines, his double vouchers, his recoveries," he employs terms with 
which every gentleman was familiar, because the owner of property was often engaged 
in a practical acquaintance with them. This is one of the examples given by Malone. 
" No writer," again says Malone, " but one who had been conversant with the tech- 
nical language of leases and other conveyances, would have used determination as 
synonymous to end." He refers to a passage in the 13th Sonnet, 

"So should that beauty which you hold in lease 
Find no determination.'" 

We may add that Coriolanus uses the verb in the same way : 

" Shall I be charg'd no further than this present 1 ? 
Must all determine here 1 " 

The word is used as a term of law, with a full knowledge of its primary meaning ; 
and so Shakspere uses it. The chroniclers use it in the same way. Upon the passage 

* Posthumous " Life." 



7C WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. L BOOK n - 



in the Sonnets to which we have just referred, Malone has a note, with a parallel 
passage from Daniel : 

" In beauty's lease expir'd appears 
The date of age, the calends of our death." 

Daniel was not a lawyer, but a scholar and a courtier. Upon the passage in 
Richard III., 

" Tell me, what state, what dignity, what honour, 
Canst thou demise to any child of mine 1 " 

Malone asks what poet but Shakspere has used the word demise in this sense ; 
observing that " hath demised, granted, and to farm let " is the constant language 
of leases. Being the constant language, a man of the world would be familiar with 
it. A quotation from a theologian may show this familiarity as well as one from a 
poet : " I conceive it ridiculous to make the condition of an indenture something 
that is necessarily annexed to the possession of the demise" If Warburton had 
used law-terms in this logical manner, we might have recollected his early career ; 
but we do not learn that Hammond, the great divine from whom we quote, had any 
other than a theological education. We are further told, when Shallow says to Davy, 
in Henry IV., " Are those precepts served 1 " that precepts, in this sense, is a word 
only known in the office of a justice of peace. Very different would it have been 
indeed from Shakspere's usual precision, had he put any word in the mouth of a 
justice of peace that was not known in his office. When the Boatswain, in " The 
Tempest," roars out " Take in the topsail," he uses a phrase that is known only on 
shipboard. In the passage of " Henry IV.," Part II., 

" For what in me was purchas'd, 
Falls upon thee in a more fairer sort," 

it is held that purchase, being used in its strict legal sense, could be known only to 
a lawyer. An educated man could scarcely avoid knowing the great distinction of 
purchase as opposed to descent, the only two modes of acquiring real estate. This 
general knowledge, which it would be very remarkable if Shakspere had not acquired, 
involves the use of the familiar law-terms of his day, fee simple, fine and recovery, 
entail, remainder, escheat, mortgage. The commonest practice of the law, such as a 
sharp boy would have learnt in two or three casual attendances upon the Bailiff's 
Court at Stratford, would have familiarized Shakspere very early with the words 
which are held to imply considerable technical knowledge action, bond, warrant, 
bill, suit, plea, arrest. It must not be forgotten that the terms of law, however they 
may be technically applied, belong to the habitual commerce of mankind ; they are 
no abstract terms, but essentially deal with human acts, and interests, and thoughts : 
and it is thus that, without any fanciful analogies, they more readily express the 
feelings of those who use them with a general significancy, than any other words 
that the poet could apply. A writer who has carried the theory of Shakspere's 
professional occupation farther even than Malone, holds that the Poems are especially 
full of these technical terms ; and he gives many instances from the " Venus and 
Adonis," the " Lucrece," and the " Sonnets," saying, " they swarm in his poems 
even to deformity." * Surely, when we read those exquisite lines, 

" When to the sessions of sweet silent thought 
I summon up remembrance of things past," 

we think of anything else than the judge and the crier of the court ; and yet this 
is one of the examples produced in proof of this theory. Dryden's noble use of 

* Brown's " Autobiographical Poems," &c. 



CHAP. I.] A CALLING. 77 



" the last assizes " is no evidence that he was a lawyer.* Many similar instances are 
given, equally founded, we think, upon the mistake of believing that the technical 
language has no relation to the general language. Metaphorical, no doubt, are some 
of these expressions, such as 

" But be contented when that fell arrest 
Without all bail shall carry me away; " 

but the metaphors are as familiar to the reader as to the poet himself. They pre- 
sent a clear and forcible image to the mind ; and looking at the habits of society, 
they can scarcely be called technical. Dekker describes the conversation at a 
third-rate London ordinary : " There is another ordinary, at which your London 
usurer, your stale bachelor, and your thrifty attorney do resort ; the price three- 
pence ; the rooms as full of company as a jail ; and indeed divided into several 
wards, like the beds of an hospital The compliment between these is not much, 
their words few ; for the belly hath no ears : every man's eye here is upon the 
other man's trencher, to note whether his fellow lurch him, or no : if they chance 
to discourse, it is of nothing but of statutes, bonds, recognizances, fines, recoveries, 
audits, rents, subsidies, sureties, enclosures, liveries, indictments, outlawries, feoff- 
ments, judgments, commissions, bankrupts, amercements, and of such horrible 
matter." t Here is pretty good evidence of the general acquaintance with the 
law's jargon ; and Dekker, who was himself a dramatic poet, has put together in a 
few lines as many technical terms as we may find in Shakspere. 

* " Ode on Mrs. Killigrew." f Dekker's "Gull's Hornbook :" 1609. 



78 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK ii. 




[The Bailiff's Play.] 
CHAPTER II. 

THE PLAYERS AT STRATFORD. 



THE ancient accounts of the Chamberlains of the Borough of Stratford exhibit a 
number of payments made out of the funds of the corporation for theatrical per- 
formances. In 1569, when John Shakspere was chief magistrate, there is a payment 
of nine shillings to the Queen's players, and of twelvepence to the Earl of Wor- 
cester's players. In 1573 the Earl of Leicester's players received five shillings and 
eightpence. In 1576 "my Lord of Warwick's players" have a gratuity of seventeen 
shillings, and the Earl of Worcester's players of five and eightpence. In 1577 " my 
Lord of Leicester's players" received fifteen shillings, and "my Lord of Worcester's 
players" three and fourpence. In 1579 and 1580 the entries are more circum- 
stantial : 

" 1579. Item paid to my Lord Straunge men the xi th day of February at the comaundement of 
Mr. Baylitfe, vs. 

P d at the comaundement of Mr. Baliffe to the Countys of Essex plears, xiiiis. virf. 

1580. P d to the Earlc of Darbyes players at the comaundement of Mr. Baliffe, viiis. ivc?." 



CHAP. II.] THE PLAYERS AT STRATFORD. 79 



It thus appears that there had been three sets of players at Stratford within a short 
distance of the time when William Shakspere was sixteen years of age. In a subse- 
quent volume we have endeavoured to present a general view of the state of the 
stage at this point of its history ; with reference to the impressions which theatrical 
performances would then make upon him who would be the chief instrument in 
building up upon these rude foundations a noble and truly poetical drama. Such a 
view may enable the reader to form a tolerable conception of the amusements which 
were so highly popular, and so amply encouraged, in a small town far distant from 
the capital, as to invite three distinct sets of players there to exhibit in the brief 
period which is denned in the entries of 1579 and 1580.* 

The hall of the Guild, which afterwards became the Town Hall, was the occasional 
theatre of Stratford. It is now a long room, and somewhat low, the building being 
divided into two floors, the upper of which is used as the Grammar School. The 
elevation for the Court at one end of the hall would form the stage ; and on one 
side is an ancient separate chamber to which the performers would retire. With a 
due provision of benches, about three hundred persons could be accommodated in 
this room ; and no doubt Mr. Bailiff would be liberal in the issue of his invitations, 
so that Stratford might not grudge its expenditure. 

If there was amongst that audience at Stratford, in 1580, witnessing the per- 
formance of such a comedy as " Common Conditions," t one in whom the poetical 
feeling was rapidly developing, and whose taste had been formed upon better models 
than anything which the existing drama could offer to him (such a one perhaps was 
there in the person of William Shakspere) he would perceive how imperfectly this 
comedy attained the end of giving delight to a body of persons assembled together 
with an aptitude for delight. And yet they would have been pleased and satisfied. 
There is in this comedy bustle and change of scene ; something to move the feelings 
in the separation of lovers and their re-union ; laughter excited by grotesqueness 
which stands in the place of wit and humour ; music and song ; and, more than all, 
lofty words and rhymed cadences which sound like poetry. But to that one critical 
listener the total absence of the real dramatic spirit would be most perplexing. At 
the moment when he himself would be fancying what the characters upon the scene 
were about to do, how their discourse, like that of real life, would have reference 
to the immediate business of the action in which they were engaged, and explain 
their own feelings, passions, peculiarities, the writer would present, through the 
mouth of some one of these characters, a description of what some one else was 
doing or had done ; and thus, though the poem was a dialogue, it was not a drama ; 
it did not realize the principle of personation which such a mind was singularly 
formed to understand and cultivate. The structure of the versification, too, would 
appear to him altogether unfit to represent the thoughts and emotions of human 
beings engaged in working out a natural train of adventures. Some elevation of style 
would be required to distinguish the language from that of ordinary life, without 
being altogether opposed to that language ; something that would convey the idea 
of poetical art, whilst it was sufficiently real not to make the art too visible. " The 
Tragedy of Ferrex and Porrex ;" printed in 1571, "as the same was showed on the 
stage before the Queen's Majesty, about nine year past, by the gentlemen of the 
Inner Temple," would give him the most complete specimen of that species of verse 
which appeared fitted for the purposes of the higher drama. The speeches were 
indeed long, after the model of the stately harangues which he had read in his " Livy " 
and "Sallust;" but they were forcible and impressive; especially those lines on 

* See " Studies of Shakspere," Book I., Chapters n, in, IV, and v. 
t "Studies," p. 11. 



80 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II. 



the causes and miseries of civil war of which our history had furnished such fearful 
examples : 

" And thou, Britain ! whilom in renown, 

Whilom in wealth and fame, shalt thus be torn, 

Dismember' d thus, and thus be rent in twain, 

Thus wasted and defac'd, spoil'd and destroy'd : 

These be the fruits your civil wars will bring. 

Hereto it comes, when kings will not consent 

To grave advice, but follow wilful will. 

This is the end, when in fond princes' hearts 

Flattery prevails, and sage rede hath no place. 

These are the plagues, when murder is the mean 

To make new heirs unto the royal crown. 

Thus wreak the gods, when that the mother's wnitli 

Nought but the blood of her own child may 'suage. 

These mischiefs spring when rebels will arise, 

To work revenge, and judge their prince's fact. 

This, this ensues, when noble men do fail 

In loyal truth, and subjects will be kings. 

And this doth grow, when, lo ! unto the prince, 

Whom death or sudden hap of life bereaves, 

No certain heir remains ; such certain heir 

As not all only is the rightful heir, 

But to the realm is so made known to be, 

And truth thereby vested in subjects' hearts." 

Yet the entire play of " Ferrex and Porrex " was monotonous and uninteresting ; it 
seemed as if the dramatic form oppressed the undoubted genius of one of the 
authors of that play. How inferior were the finest lines which Sackville wrote in 
this play, correct and perspicuous as they were, compared with some of the noble 
bursts in the Induction to "A Mirror for Magistrates !" Surely the author of the 
sublime impersonation of War could have written a tragedy that would have filled 
the heart with terror, if not with pity ! 

" Lastly stood War in glittering arms yclad, 
With visage grim, stern looks, and blackly hued : 
In his right hand, a naked sword he had 
That to the hilts was all with blood imbrued ; 
And in his left (that kings and kingdoms rued) 
Famine and Fire he held, and therewithal 
He razed towns, and threw down towers and all." 

Still, he might wonder that the example which Sackville had given of dramatic 
blank verse had not been followed by the writers of plays for the common theatres. 
A change, however, was taking place ; for the First Part of "Promos and Cassandra" 
was wholly in rhyme ; while in the Second Part Master George Whetstone had freely 
introduced blank verse. In the little book which Stephen Gosson had just written 
against plays, his second book in answer to Thomas Lodge, was an evidence that 
the multitude most delighted in rhyme : " The poets send their verses to the stage, 
upon such feet as continually are rolled up in rhyme at the fingers' ends, which is 
plausible to the barbarous and carrieth a sting into the ears of the common people."* 
And yet, from another passage of the same writer, the embryo poet might collect 
that even the refined and learned were delighted with the poetical structure of the 
common dramas : " So subtle is the devil, that under the colour of recreation in 
London, and of exercise of learning in the universities, by seeing of plays, he 
maketh us to join with the Gentiles in their corruption. Because the sweet num- 
bers of poetry, flowing in verse, do wonderfully tickle the hearers' ears, the devil 

* " Plays Confuted, in Five Actions." 



CHAP. II.] THE PLAYERS AT STRATFORD. 81 



hath tied this to most of our plays, that whatsoever he would have stick fast to our 
souls might slip down in sugar by this inticement, for that which delighteth never 
troubleth our swallow. Thus, when any matter of love is interlarded, though the 
thing itself be able to allure us, yet it is so set out with sweetness of words, fitness 
of epithets, with metaphors, allegories, hyperboles, amphibologies, similitude ; with 
phrases so picked, so pure, so proper ; with action so smooth, so lively, so wanton j 
that the poison, creeping on secretly without grief, chokes us at last, and hurleth us 
down in a dead sleep." It is difficult to arrive at an exact knowledge of the truth 
from the description of one who wrote under such strong excitement as Master 
Stephen Gosson. 

It was about the period which we are now touching upon that Sidney wrote his 
" Defence of Poesy." The drama was then as he has described it, " much used in 
England, and none can be more pitifully abused ; which, like an unmannerly 
daughter showing a bad education, causeth her mother Poesy's honour to be called 
in question." The early framers of the drama seem scarcely to have considered 
that she was the daughter of Poesy. A desire for dramatic exhibitions not a new 
desire, but taking a new direction had forcibly seized upon the English people. 
The demand was to be supplied as it best might be, by the players who were to 
profit by it. They were, as they always will be, the best judges of what would merely 
please an audience ; and it was to be expected that, having within themselves the 
power of constructing the rude plot of any popular story, so as to. present rapid 
movement, and what in the language of the stage is called business, the beauty or 
even propriety of the dialogue would be a secondary consideration, and indeed would 
be pretty much left to the extemporal invention of the actor. That the wit of the 
clown was almost entirely of this nature we have the most distinct evidence. Sidney, 
with all his fine taste, was a stickler for " place and time, the two necessary com- 
panions of all corporal actions. For," he says, " where the stage should always 
represent one place, and the uttermost time presupposed in it should be, both by 
Aristotle's precept and common reason, but one day, there is both many days and 
many places inartificially imagined." As the players were the rude builders of our 
early drama, and as that drama was founded upon the ruder Mysteries and Moral 
Plays, in which all propriety was disregarded, so that the senses could be gratified, 
they naturally rejected the unities of time and place, the observance of which would 
have deprived their plays of their chief attraction rapid change and abundant 
incident. And fortunate was it that they did so ; for they thus went on strength- 
ening and widening the foundations of our national drama, the truth and freedom 
of which could not exist under a law which, literally construed, is not the law of 
nature ; but which, in its treatment by a great artist like Shakspere, would evolve a 
higher law than " Aristotle's precept and common reason." Had Sidney lived five 
or six years longer, had he seen or read " Romeo and Juliet," or " A Midsummer- 
Night's Dream," he would probably have ceased to regard the drama as the un- 
mannerly daughter of Poesy ; he would in all likelihood have thought that some- 
thing was gained even through the "defectuous circumstances" that spurn the 
bounds of time and place, and compel the imagination to be still or to travel at its 
bidding, to be utterly regardless of the halt or the inarch of events, so that one 
dominant idea possess the soul and sway all its faculties. But this was only to be 
effected when a play was to become a high work of art ; when all the conditions of 
its excellence should be fully comprehended ; when it should unite the two main 
conditions of the highest excellence that of subjecting the popular mind to its 
power, through the skill which only the most refined understanding can altogether 
appreciate. When the young man of Stratford, who, as we have conceived, knew 
the drama of his time through the representations of itinerant players, heard the 



82 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II. 



rude dialogue of such an historic play as "The Famous Victories,"* not altogether 
without delight, and laughed most heartily at the extemporal pleasantness of the 
witty clown, a vivid though an imperfect notion of the excellence that might be 
attained by working up such common materials upon a principle of art must have 
been developed in his mind. If Sidney's noble defence of his beloved Poesy had 
then been published, he would, we think, have found in it a reflection of his own 
opinions as to the "bad education" of the drama. "All their plays be neither 
right tragedies nor right comedies, mingling kings and clowns, not because the 
matter so carrieth, but thrust in the clown by head and shoulders to play a part in 
majestical matters, with neither decency nor discretion : so as neither the admira- 
tion and commiseration, nor the right sportfulness, is by their mongrel tragi-comedy 
obtained." The objection here is scarcely so much to the mingling kings and clowns, 
when " the matter so carrieth," as to the thrusting in " the clown by head and 
shoulders." Upon a right principle of art the familiar and the heroic might be 
advantageously blended. In this play of " The Famous Victories," the Prince was 
not only prosaic, but altogether brutalized, so that the transition from the ruffian 
to the hero was distasteful and unnatural. But surround the same Prince with 
companions whose profligacy was in some sort balanced and counteracted by their 
intellectual energy, their wit, their genial mirthfulness ; make the Prince a gentleman 
in the midst of his most wanton levity ; and the transition to the hero is not merely 
probable, it is graceful in itself, it satisfies expectation. But the young poet is yet 
without models, and he will remain so. He has to work out his own theory of art ; 
but that theory must be gradually and experimentally formed. He has the love of 
country living in his soul as a presiding principle. There are in his country's annals 
many stories such as this of Henry V. that might be brought upon the stage to raise 
"heroes from the grave of oblivion," for glorious example to "these degenerate 
days." But in those annals are also to be found fit subjects for " the high and 
excellent tragedy, that openeth the greatest wounds, and showeth forth the ulcers 
that are covered with tissue ; that maketh kings fear to be tyrants, and tyrants to 
manifest their tyrannical humours ; that, with stirring the affections of admiration 
and commiseration, teacheth the uncertainty of this world, and upon how weak 
foundations gilded roofs are builded."t As the young poet left the Town Hall of 
Stratford he would forget Tarleton and his tricks ; he would think that an English 
historical play was yet to be written ; perhaps, as the ambitious thought crossed his 
mind to undertake such a task, the noble lines of Sackville would be present to 
his memory : 

" And sorrowing I to see the summer flowers, 
The lively green, the lusty leas forlorn, 
The sturdy trees so shatter'd with the showers, 
The fields so fade that flourish'd so beforn; 
It taught me well all eartly things be born 
To die the death, for nought long time may last ; 
The summer's beauty yields to winter's blast. 

Then looking upward to the heaven's learns, 
With night's stars thick-powdered everywhere, 
Which erst so glisten'd with the golden streams 
That cheerful Phoebus spread down from his sphere, 
Beholding dark oppressing day so near : 
The sudden sight reduced to my mind 
The sundry changes that in earth we find. 

* "Studies," p. 19. f Sidney. " Defence of Poesy." 



CHAP. H.] 



THE PLAYERS AT STRATFORD. 



8 



That musing on this worldly wealth in thought, 

Which comes and goes more faster than we see 

The flickering flame that with the fire is wrought, 

My busy mind presented unto me 

Such fall of peers as in this realm had be : 

That oft I wish'd some would their woes descrive, 

To warn the rest whom fortune left alive." 




[Thomas Sackville.] 



G 2 



84 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK ii. 




[Guy's Cliff in the 17th Century.] 



CHAPTER III. 

LIVING IN THE PAST. 



THE earliest, and the most permanent, of poetical associations are those which are 
impressed upon the mind by localities which have a deep historical interest. It 
would be difficult to find. a district possessing more striking remains of a past time 
than the neighbourhood in which William Shakspere spent his youth. The poetical 
feeling which the battle-fields, and castles, and monastic ruins of mid England 
would excite in him, may be reasonably considered to have derived an intensity 
through the real history of these celebrated spots being vague, and for the most 
part traditional. The age of local historians had not yet arrived. The monuments 
of the past were indeed themselves much more fresh and perfect than in the sub- 
sequent days, when every tomb inscription was copied, and every mouldering 
document set forth. But in the year 1580, if William Shakspere desired to know, 
for example, with some precision, the history which belonged to those noble 
towers of Warwick upon which he had often gazed with a delight that 
scarcely required to be based upon knowledge, he would look in vain for 



CHAP. III.] LIVING IN THE PAST. 85 



any guide to his inquiries. Some old people might tell him that they remem- 
bered their fathers to have spoken of one John Rous, the son of Geffrey Rous of 
Warwick, who, having diligently studied at Oxford, and obtained a reputation for 
uncommon learning, rejected all ambitious thoughts, shut himself up with his books 
in the solitude of Guy's Cliff, and was engaged to the last in writing the Chronicles 
of his country, arid especially the history of his native County and its famous Earls : 
and there, in the quiet of that pleasant place, performing his daily offices of devotion 
as a chantry priest in the little chapel, did John Rous live a life of happy industry 
till 1491. But the world in general derived little advantage from his labours. 
Another came after him, commissioned by royal authority to search into all the 
archives of the kingdom, and to rescue from damp and dust all ancient manuscripts, 
civil and ecclesiastical. The commission of Leland was well performed ; but his 
" Itinerary " was also to be of little use to his own generation. William Shakspere 
knew not what Leland had written about Warwickshire ; how the enthusiastic and 
half-poetical antiquary had described, in elegant Latinity, the beauties of woodland 
and river ; and had even given the characteristics of such a place as Guy's Cliff in a 
few happy words, that would still be an accurate description of its natural features, 
even after the lapse of three centuries. Caves hewn in the living rock, a thick over- 
shadowing wood, sparkling springs, flowery meadows, mossy grottos, the river rolling 
over the stones with a gentle noise, solitude and the quiet most friendly to the 
Muses, these are the enduring features of the place as painted by the fine old 
topographer.* But his manuscripts were as sealed to the young Shakspere as those 
of John Rous. Yet if the future Poet sustained some disadvantage by living before 
the days of antiquarian minuteness, he could still dw r ell in the past, and people it 
with the beings of his own imagination. The chroniclers who had as yet attempted 
to collect and systematize the records of their country did not aim at any very great 
exactness either of time or place. When they dealt with a remote antiquity they 
were as fabulous as the poets themselves ; and it was easy to see that they most 
assumed the appearance of exactness when they wrote of times which have left not 
a single monumental record. Very diffuse were they when they had to talk of the 
days of Brute. Intimately could they decipher the private history of Albanact and 
Humber. The fatal passion of Locrine for Elstride was more familiar to them than 
that of Henry for Rosamond Clifford, or Edward for Elizabeth Woodville. Of the 
cities and the gates of King Lud they could present a most accurate description. Of 
King Leir very exact was their narration : how he, the son of Baldud, " was made 
ruler over the Britons the year of the world 4338 ; was noble of conditions, and 
guided his land and subjects in great wealth." Minutely thus does Fabyan, a 
chronicler whose volume was open to William Shakspere's boyhood, describe how 
the King, " fallen into impotent age," believed in the professions of his two elder 
daughters, and divided with them his kingdom, leaving his younger daughter, who 
really loved him, to be married without dower to the King of France ; and then how 
his unkind daughters and their husbands " bereft him the governance of the land," 
and he fled to Gallia, " for to be comforted of his daughter Cordcilla, whereof she 
having knowledge, of natural kindness comforted him." This in some sort was a 
story of William Shakspere's locality ; for, according to the Chronicle, Leir "made 
the town of Caerleir, now called Leiceter or Leicester ; " and after he was " restored 
again to his lordship he died, and was buried at his town of Caerleir." The local 
association may have helped to fix the story in that mind, which in its maturity was 
to perceive its wondrous poetical capabilities. The early legends of the chroniclers 

* " Antra in vivo saxo, nemusculura ibidem opacum, fontes liquidae ctgemmei ; prata florida, antra 
muscosa, rivi levis et per saxa discursus; necnon solitude et quies Musis amicissima," Lcland's MS. 
" Itinerary," as quoted by Dugdale. 



86 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II. 



are not to be despised, even in an age which in many historical things justly requires 
evidence ; for .they were compiled in good faith from the histories which had been 
compiled before them by the monkish writers, who handed down from generation to 
generation a narrative which hung together with singular consistency. They were 
compiled, too, by the later chroniclers, with a zealous patriotism. Fabyan, in his 
Prologue," exclaims, with a poetical spirit which is more commendable even than 
the poetical form which he adopts, 

" Not for any pomp, nor yet for great raced, 

This work have I taken on hand to compile, 
But only because that I would spread 

The famous honour of this fertile isle, 

That hath continued, by many a long while, 
In excellent honour, with many a royal guide, 
Of whom the deeds have sprong to the world wide." 

Lines such as these, homely though they are, were as seeds sown upon a goodly soil, 
when they were read by William Shakspere. His patriotism was almost instinct. 

In the immediate neighbourhood of Stratford there are two remarkable monu- 
ments of ancient civilization, the great roads of the Ichnield-way and the Foss- 
way. Upon these roads, which two centuries and a half ago would present a 
singular contrast in the strength of their construction to the miry lanes of a 
later period, would the young Shakspere often walk ; and he would naturally regard 
these ways with reverence as well as curiosity, for his chroniclers would tell him 
that they were the work of the Britons before the invasion of the Romans. Fabyan 
would tell him, in express words, that they were the work of the Britons ; and 
Camden and Dugdale were not as yet to tell him otherwise. Robert of Gloucester 
says 

" Faire weyes many on ther ben in Englonde ; 

But four mest of all ther ben I understonde, 

That thurgh an old knyge were made ere this, 

As men schal in this boke aftir here tell I wis. 

Fram the South into the North takith Erminge-strete. 

Fram the East into the West goeth Ikeneld-strete. 

Fram South-est to North-west, that is sum del grete 

Fram Dover into Chestre goth Watlynge-strete. 

The ferth of thise is most of alle that tilleth fram Tateneys. 

Fram the South-west to North-est into Englondes ende 

Fosse men callith thilke wey that by mony town doth wende. 

Thise foure weyes on this londe kyng Belin the wise 

Made and ordeined hem with gret fraunchisc." 

His notion therefore of the people of the days of Lud and Cymbeline would be that 
they were a powerful and a refined people ; excelling in many of the arts of life ; 
formidable in courage and military discipline ; enjoying free institutions. When the 
matured dramatist had to touch upon this period, he would paint the Britons boldly 
refusing the Roman yoke, but yet partakers of the Roman civilization. The English 
king who .defies Augustus says 



"Thy Caesar knighted me } my youth I spent 
Much under him ; of him I gather'd honour ; 
Which he to seek of me again, perforce, 
Behoves me keep at utterance." 



This is an intelligent courage, and not the courage of a king of painted savages. In 
the depths of the remarkable intrenchments which surround the hill of Welcombe, 
hearing only the noise of the sheep-bell in the uplands, or the evening chime from 
the distant church-tower, would William Shakspere think much of the mysterious 



CHAI>. III.] LIVING IN THE PAST. 87 



past. No one could tell him who made these intrenchments, or for what purpose 
they were made. Certainly they were produced by the hand of man ; but were 
they for defence or for religious ceremonial ? Was the lofty mound, itself probably 
artificial, which looked down upon them, a fort or a temple ? Man, who would know 
everything and explain everything, assuredly knows little, when he cannot demand 
of the past an answer to such inquiries. But does he know much more of things 
which are nearer to his own days 1 Is the annalist to be trusted when he under- 
takes not only to describe the actions and to repeat the words, but to explain the 
thoughts and the motives which prompted the deeds that to a certain extent fixed 
the destiny of an age ? There was a truth, however, which was to be found amidst 
all the mistakes and contradictions of the annalists the great poetical truth, that 
the devices of men are insufficient to establish any permanent command over events ; 
that crime would be followed by retribution ; that evil passions would become their 
own tormentors ; that injustice could not be successful to the end ; that, although 
dimly seen and unwillingly acknowledged, the great presiding Power of the world 
could make evil work for good, and advance the general happiness out of the parti- 
cular misery. This was the mode, we believe, in which that thoughtful youth read 
the Chronicles of his country, whether brief or elaborate. Looking at them by the 
strong light of local association, there would be local tradition at hand to enforce 
that universal belief in the justice of God's providence which is in itself alone one 




[Tomb of King John, Worcester.] 



of the many proofs of that justice. It is this religious aspect of human affairs which 
that young man cultivated when he cherished the poetical aspect. His books have 
taught him to study history through the medium of poetry. "The Mirror for 



88 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II. 



Magistrates " is a truer book for him than Fabyau's " Chronicle." He can under- 
stand the beauty and the power of his beloved Froissart, who described with incom- 
parable clearness the events which he saw with his own eyes. To do this as Froissart 
has done it, requires a gift of imagination as well as of faithfulness ; of that imagi- 
nation which, grouping and concentrating things apparently discordant, produces 
the highest faithfulness, because it sees and exhibits all the facts. But the prosaic 
digest of what others had seen and written about, disproportionate in its estimate 
of the importance of events, dwelling little upon the influences of individual 
character, picturing everything in the same monotonous light, and of the same 
height and breadth ; this, which was called history, was to him a tedious fable. 
He stands by the side of the tomb of King John at Worcester. There, with little 
monumental pomp, lies the faithless King, poisoned, as he has read, by a monk. 
The poetical aspect of that man's history lies within a narrow compass. He was 
intriguing, trea'cherous, bloody, an oppressor of his people, a persecutor of the 
unprotected. His life is one of contest and misery ; he loses his foreign possessions ; 
his own land is invaded. But he stands up against foreign domination, and that 
a priestly domination. According to the tradition, he falls by private murder, as a 
consequence, not of his crimes, but of his resistance to external oppression. The 
prosaic view of this man's history separates the two things, his crimes and their retri- 
bution. The poetical view connects them. Arthur is avenged when the poisoned 
king, hated and unlamented, finds a resting-place from his own passions and their 
consequences in the earth beneath the paving-stones of the cathedral of Worcester. 
But there was a tear even for that man's grave, when his last sufferings were 
shadowed out in the young poet's mind : 

" Poison'd, ill fare : dead, forsook, cast off : 
And none of you will bid the winter come, 
To thrust his icy fingers in my maw ; 
Nor let my kingdom's rivers take their course 
Through my burn'd bosom ; nor entreat the north 
To make his bleak winds kiss my parched lips, 
And comfort me with cold."* 

When the dramatic power was working, as we have no doubt it was working early 
in the mind of William Shakspere, he would look at history to see how events might 
be brought together, not in the exact order of time, but in the more natural order 
of cause and effect. Events would be made prominent, not according to their 
absolute political importance, but as they were the result of high passions and fearful 
contests of opinion. The epic of history is a different thing from the dramatic. In 
the epic the consequences of an event, perhaps the remote consequences, may be 
more important than the event itself ; may be foreseen before the event comes ; 
may be fully delineated after the event has happened. In the drama the importance 
of an action must be understood in the action itself ; the hero must be great in the 
instant time, and not in the possible future. It is easy to understand, therefore, 
how the matured Shakspere attempted not to work upon many of the local associa- 
tions which must have been vividly present to his youthful fancy. The great events 
connected with certain localities were not capable of sustaining a dramatic develop- 
ment. There was no event, for example, more important in its consequences than 
the Battle of Evesham. The battle-field must have been perfectly familiar to the 
young Shakspere. About two miles and a half from Evesham is an elevated point, 
near the village of Twyford, where the Alcester road is crossed by another track. The 
Avon is not more than a mile distant on either hand ; for, flowing from OfFenham 
to Evesham, a distance of about three miles, it encircles that town, returning in a 

* " King John," Act v., Scene vn. 



CHAP. III.] LIVING IN THE PAST. 89 



nearly parallel direction, about the same distance, to Charlbury. The great road, 
therefore, from Alcester to Evesham continues, after it passes Tywford, through a 
narrow tongue of land bounded by the Avon, having considerable variety of eleva- 
tion. Immediately below Twyford is a hollow, now called Battlewell, crossing which 
the road ascends to the elevated platform of Greenhill. Here, then, was the scene 
of that celebrated battle which put an end to the terrible conflicts between the 
Crown and the Nobility, and for a season left the land in peace under the sway of 
an energetic despotism. The circumstances which preceded that battle, as told in 
"The Chronicle of Evesham" (which in William Shakspere's time would have been 
read and remembered by many an old tenant of the Abbey), were singularly in- 
teresting. Simon Montfort, the great Earl of Leicester, was waiting at Evesham the 
arrival of his son's army from Kenilworth ; but Prince Edward had surprised that 
army, and taken many of its leaders prisoners, and young Montfort durst not leave 
his stronghold. In that age rumour did not fly quite so quickly as in our days. 
The Earl of Leicester was ignorant of the events that had happened at Kenilworth. 
He had made forced marches from Hereford to Worcester, and thence to Evesham. 
There were solemn masses in the Abbey Church on the 3rd of August, 1265, and 
the mighty Earl, who had won for himself the name of " Sir Simon the Righteous," 
felt assured that his son was at hand, and that Heaven would uphold his cause 
against a perjured Prince. On the morning of the 4th of August the Earl of 
Leicester sent his barber Nicholas to the top of the Abbey tower, to look for the 
succour that was coming over the hills from Kenilworth. The barber came down 
with eager gladness, for he saw, a few miles off, the banner of young Simon de Mont- 
fort in advance of a mighty host. And again the Earl sent the barber to the top of 






[Bridge at Evesham.] 



the Abbey tower, and the man hastily descended in fear and sorrow, for the banner of 
young de Montfort was no more to be seen, but, coming nearer and nearer, were seen 
the standards of Prince Edward, and of Mortimer, and of Gloucester. Then saw the 
Earl his imminent peril ; and he said, according to one writer, " God have our souls 
all, our days are ah 1 done ;" or, according to another writer, " Our souls God have, 



90 



WILLIAM SHAK8PERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK ii. 



for our bodies be theirs." But Montfort was not a man to fly. Over the bridge of 
Evesham he might have led his forces, so as to escape from the perilous position in 
which he was shut up. He hastily marched northward, with King Henry his 
prisoner, at two o'clock in the afternoon of that day. Before nightfall the waters of 
the little valley were blood-red. Thousands were slain between those two hills ; 
thousands fled, but there was no escape but by the bridge of Evesham, and they 
perished in the Avon. The old King, turned loose upon a war-horse amidst the 
terrible conflict, was saved from death at the hands of the victors by crying out, " I 
am Henry of Winchester." The massacre of Evesham, where a hundred and eighty 
barons and knights, in arms for what they called their liberties, were butchered 
without quarter, was a final measure of royal vengeance. It was a great epic story. 
It had dramatic points, but it was not essentially dramatic. If Shakspere had chosen 
the wars of the Barons, instead of the wars of the Eoses, for a vast dramatic theme, 
the fate of Simon de Montfort and his gallant company might have been told so as 
never to have been forgotten. But he had another tale of civil war to tell ; one 
more essentially dramatic in the concentration of its events, the rapid changes in its 
fortunes, the marked characters of its leaders. On the battle-field of Evesham he 
would indeed meditate upon " The ill success of treason, the fall of hasty climbers, 
the wretched end of usurpers, the misery of civil dissension, and how just God is 
evermore in punishing murder."* But these lessons were to be worked out more 
emphatically in other histories. Another Warwickshire poet, Drayton, would sing 
the great Battle of Edward and Leicester. 

There is peace awhile in the land. A strong man is on the throne. The first 




[Ancient Statue of Guy at Guy's Cliff.] 

Edward dies, and, a weak and profligate son succeeding him, there is again misrule 
and turbulence. Within ten miles of Stratford there was a fearful tragedy enacted 
in the year 1312. On the little knoll called Blacklow Hill, about a mile from 
Warwick, might William Shakspere ponder upon the fate of Gaveston. In that 

* Nash. 



CHAP. III.] LIVING IN THE PAST. 9 1 



secluded spot all around him would be peacefulness ; the only sound of life about 
him would be the dashing of the wheel of the old mill at Guy's Cliff. The towers 
of Warwick would be seen rising above their surrounding trees ; and, higher than 
all, Guy's Tower. He would have heard that this tower was not so called from the 
Saxon champion, the Guy of minstrelsy, whose statue, bearing shield and sword, he 
had often looked upon in the chapel of St. Mary Magdalen at Guy's Cliff. The 
Tower was called after the Guy whose common name a name of opprobrium fixed 
on him by Gaveston was associated with that of his maternal ancestors, Guy, the 
Black Dog of Arden. And then the tragedy of Blacklow Hill, as he recollected this, 
would present itself to his imagination. There is a prisoner standing in the great 
hall of Warwick Castle. He is unarmed ; he is clad in holiday vestments, but they 
are soiled and torn ; his face is pale with fear and the fatigue of a night journey. 
By force has he been hurried some thirty miles across the country from Dedington, 
near Banbury ; and amidst the shouts of soldiery and the rude clang of drum and 
trumpet has he entered the castle of his enemies, where they are sitting upon the 
dais, Warwick and Lancaster, and Hereford and Arundcl, and the prisoner stands 
trembling before them, a monarch's minion, but one whom they have no right to 
punish. But the sentence is pronounced that he shall die. He sued for mercy to 
those whom he had called " the black dog " and " the old hog," but they spurned 
him. A sad procession is marshalled. The castle gates are opened ; the drawbridge 
is let down. In silence the avengers march to Blacklow Hill, with their prisoner in 
the midst. He dies by the axe. In a few years his unhappy master falls still more 
miserably. Here was a story, which in some particulars Shakspere's judgment would 
have rejected, as unworthy to be dramatized. Another poet would arise, a man of 
undoubted power, of daring genius, of fiery temperament, who would seize upon the 
story of Edward II. and his wretched favourite, and produce a drama that should 
pivsont a striking contrast to the drawling histories of the earlier stage. The 
subject upon which the "dead Shq>herd" had put forth his strength was not to be 
touched by his greater rival.* 

A reign of power succeeds to one of weakness. Edward III. is upon the throne. 
William Shakspere is familiar with the great events of this reign ; for the " Chro- 
nicles" of Froissart, translated by Lord Berners, have more than the charm of the 
romance-writers ; they present realities in colours more brilliant than those of fiction. 
The clerk of the chamber to Queen Philippa is overflowing with that genial spirit 
which was to be a great characteristic of Shakspere himself. Froissart looks upon 
nothing with indifference. He enters most heartily into the spirit of every scene 
into which he is thrown. The luxuries of courts unfit him not for a relish of the 
charms of nature. The fatigues of camps only prepare him for the enjoyment of 
banquets and dances. He throws himself into the boisterous sports of the field at 
one moment, and is proud to produce a virelay of his own composition at another. 
The early violets and white and red roses are sweet to his sense ; and so is a night 
draught of claret or Rochelle wine. He can meditate and write as he travels alone 
upon his palfrey, with his portmanteau, having no follower but his faithful grey- 
hound ; he can observe and store up in his memory when he is in the court of 
David II. of Scotland, or of Gaston de Foix, or in the retinue of the Black Prince. 
The hero of Froissart is Edward Prince of Wales, the glorious son of a glorious 
father. William Shakspere was in the presence of local associations connected with 

* The notice by Shakspere of Marlowe, in " As You Like It," is one of the few examples we 
have of any mention by the great poet of his contemporaries. This is a kind notice conveyed in 
the introduction of a line from Marlowe's " Hero and Leander :" 

" Dead Shepherd ! now I find thy saw of might 
"Who ever lov'd that lov'd not at first sight!" 



92 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK n. 




[St. Mary's Hall: Court Front.] 

this prince. Edward was especially Prince of Coventry ; it was his own city ; and 
he gave licence to build its walls and gates, and cherished its citizens, and dwelt 
among them. As the young poet walked in the courts of the old hall of St. Mary's, 
itself a part of an extensive palace, he would believe that the prince had sojourned 
there after he had won his spurs at Cressy ; and he would picture the boy-hero, as 
Froissart had described him, left by his confiding father in the midst of danger to 
struggle alone, and alone to triumph. And then, it may be, the whole epopee of that 
great war for the conquest of France might be shaped out in the young man's imagi- 
nation ; and amidst its chivalrous daring, its fields of slaughter, its perils overcome 
by almost superhuman strength, kings and princes for prisoners, and the conqueror 
lowly and humble in his triumph, would there be touching domestic scenes, Sir 
Eustace de Pierre, the rich burgher of Calais, putting his life in jeopardy for the safety 
of the good town, and the vengeance of the stern conqueror averted by his gentle 
queen, all arranging themselves into something like a great drama. But even here 
the dramatic interest was not sustained. There was a succession of stirring events, 



CHAP. III.] LIVING IN THE PAST. 93 



but no one great action to which all other actions tended and were subservient. 
Cressy is fought, Calais is taken, Poictiers is to come, after the hero has marched 
through the country, burning and wasting, regardless of the people, thinking only of 
his father's disputed rights ; and then a mercenary war in Spain in a bad cause, and 
the hero dies in his bed, and the war for conquest is to generate other wars. These 
are events that belong to the chronicler, and not to the dramatist. Romance has 
come in to lend them a human interest. The future conqueror of France is to be 
a weak lover at the feet of a Countess of Salisbury ; to be rejected ; to cast off his 
weakness. The drama may mix the romance and the chronicle together ; it has 
done so ; but we believe not that he who had a struggle with his judgment to unite 
the epic and the dramatic in the history of Henry V. ever attempted to dramatize 
the story of Edward III.* 

* See our Notice of the play entitled "The lleign of Edward III." in " Studies/' book vi., c. iv. 



04 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK ii. 




[St. Mary's Hall: Interior.] 
CHAPTER IV. 

YORK AND LANCASTER. 



HALL, the chronicler, writing his history of " The Families of Lancaster and York," 
about seventy years after the "continual dissension for the crown of this noble 
realm " was terminated, says, " What nobleman liveth at this day, or what gentle- 
man of any ancient stock or progeny is clear, whose lineage hath not been infested 
and plagued with this unnatural division ? " During the boyhood of William Shak- 
spere, it cannot be doubted that he would meet with many a gentleman, and many 
a yeoman, who would tell him how their forefathers had been thus " infested and 
plagued." The traditions of the most stirring events of that contest would at this 
time be about a century old ; generally diluted in their interest by passing through 
the lips of three or four generations, but occasionally presented vividly to the rnind 



CHAP. IV.] YORK AND LANCASTER. 95 



of the inquiring boy in the narration of some amongst the " hoary-headed eld," 
whose fathers had fought at Bosworth or Tewksbury. Many of these traditions, too, 
would be essentially local ; extending back even to the period when the banished 
Duke of Hereford, in his bold march 

" From Barentparg to Cotswold,"* 

gathered a host of followers in the Counties of Derby, Nottingham, Leicester, War- 
wick, and Worcester. Fields, where battles had been fought ; towns, where parlia- 
ments had assembled, and treaties had been ratified ; castles, where the great leaders 
had stood at bay,. or had sallied forth upon the terrified country such were the 
objects which the young poet would associate with many an elaborate description of 
the chroniclers, and many an interesting anecdote of his ancient neighbours. It 
appears to us that his dramatic power was early directed towards this long and 
complicated story, by some principle even more exciting than its capabilities for the 
purposes of the drama. It was the story, we think, which was presented to him in 
the evening-talk around the hearth of his childhood ; it was the story whose written 
details were most accessible to him, being narrated by Hall with a rare minuteness 
of picturesque circumstance ; but it was a story also of which his own district had 
been the scene, in many of its most stirring events. Out of ten English Historical 
Plays which were written by him, and some undoubtedly amongst his first perform- 
ances, he has devoted eight to circumstances belonging to this memorable story. 
No other nation ever possessed such a history of the events of a century, a history 
in which the agents are not the hard abstractions of warriors and statesmen, but 
men of flesh and blood like ourselves ; men of passion, and t;rime, and virtue ; 
elevated perhaps by the poetical art, but filled, also through that art, with such a 
wondrous life that we dwell amongst them as if they were of our own day, and feel 
that they must have spoken as he has made them speak, and act as he has made 
them act. It is in vain that we are told that some events are omitted, and some 
transposed ; that documentary history does not exhibit its evidence here, that a 
contemporary narrative somewhat militates against the representation there. The 
general truth of this dramatic history cannot be shaken. It is a philosophical 
history in the very highest sense of that somewhat abused term. It contains the 
philosophy that can only be produced by the union of the noblest imagination with 
the most just and temperate judgment. It is the loftiness of the poetical spirit 
which has enabled Shakspere alone to write this history with impartiality. Open 
the chroniclers, and we find the prejudices of the Yorkist or the Lancastrian mani- 
festing the intensity of the old factious hatred. Who can say to which faction 
Shakspere belongs ? He has comprehended the whole, whilst others knew only a 
part. 

After the first two or three pages of Hall's " Chronicle," we are plunged into the 
midst of a scene, gorgeous in all the pomp of chivalry ; a combat for life or death, 
made the occasion of a display of regal magnificence such as had been seldom pre- 
sented in England. The old chronicler of the two Houses puts forth all his strength 
in the description of such scenes. He slightly passes over the original quarrel 
between Hereford and Norfolk : the pride, and the passion, and the kingly craft, are 
left for others to delineate ; but the "sumptuous theatre and lists royal" at the city 
of Coventry are set forth with wondrous exactness. We behold the High Constable 
and the High Marshal of England enter the lists with a great company of men in 
silk sendall, embroidered with silver, to keep the field. The duke of Hereford 
appears at the barriers, on his white courser barbed with blue and green velvet, 
embroidered with swans and antelopes of goldsmith's work ; and there he swears 

* " Richard II.," Act n., Scene in. 



96 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE ! A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II 



upon the Holy Evangelists that his quarrel is true and just ; and he enters the lists, 
and sits down in a chair of green velvet. Then comes the King, with ten thousand 
men in harness ; and he takes his seat upon a stage, richly hanged and pleasantly 
adorned. The Duke of Norfolk hovers at the entry of the lists, his horse being 
barbed with crimson velvet, embroidered with lions of silver and mulberry-trees : 
and he, having also made oath, enters the field manfully, and sits down in his chair 
of crimson velvet. One reader of Hall's pompous description of the lists at Coventry 
will invest that scene with something richer than velvet and goldsmith's work. He 
will make the champions speak something more than the formal words of the 
chivalric defiance ; and yet the scene shall still be painted with the minutest cere- 
monial observance. We in vain look, at the present day, within the streets once 
enclosed by the walls of Coventry, for the lists where, if Richard had not thrown 
down his warder, the story of the wars of the Roses might not have been written. 
Probably in the days of the young Shakspere the precise scene of that event might 
have been pointed out. The manor of Cheylesmore, which was granted by Edward 
III. to the Black Prince for the better support of his honour as Duke of Cornwall, 
descended to his son Richard ; and in the eighth year of his reign, " the walls on 
the south part of this city being not built, the mayor, bailiffs, and commonalty 
thereof humbly besought the King to give them leave that they might go forward 
with that work, who thereupon granted licence to them so to do, on condition that 
they should include within their walls his said manor-place standing within the park 
of Cheylesmore, as the record expresseth, which park was a woody ground in those 
times."* Encroached upon, no doubt, was this park in the age of Elizabeth. But 
Coventry would then have abundant memorials of its ancient magnificence which 
have now perished. He who wrote the glorious scene of the lists upon St. Lambert's 
day in all probability derived some inspiration from the genius loci. 

The challenger and the challenged are each banished. John of Gaunt dies, and the 
King seizes upon the possessions of his dangerous son. Then begins that vengeance 
which is to harass England with a century of blood. Hah 1 and Froissart make the 
Duke of Lancaster, after his landing, march direct to London, and afterwards proceed 
to the west of England. There can be no doubt that they were wrong ; that the 
Duke, having brought with him a very small force, marched as quickly as possible 
into the midland counties, where he had many castles and possessions, and in which 
he might raise a numerous army among his own friends and retainers. The local 
knowledge of the poet, founded upon traditionary information, would have enabled 
him to decide upon the correctness of the statement which shows Bolingbroke 
marching direct from Ravenspurg to Berkeley Castle. The natural and easy dialogue 
between Bolingbroke and Northumberland exhibits as much local accuracy in a single 
line as if the poet had given us a laboured description of the Cotswolds : 

" I am a stranger here in Glostershire. 
These high wild hills, and rough uneven ways, 
Draw out our miles, and make them wearisome." f 

In a few weeks England sustains a revolution. The King is deposed ; the great 
Duke is on the throne. Two or three years of discontent and intrigue, and then 
insurrection. Shrewsbury can scarcely be called one of Shakspere's native locali- 
ties, yet it is clear that he was familiar with the place. In Falstaff's march from 
London to Shrewsbury the poet glances, lovingly as it were, at the old well-known 
scenes. " The red-nosed innkeeper at Daventry" had assuredly filled a glass of sack 
for him. The distance from Coventry to Suttoii-Coldfield was accurately known by 
him, when he makes the burly commander say "Bardolph, get thee before to 

* Dugdale. f " Richard II.," Act ii., Scene in. 



CHAP. IV.] YORK AND LANCASTER. 97 



Coventry ; fill me a bottle of sack : our soldiers shall march through : we'll to Sutton 
Cophill to-night." * Shakspere, it seems to us, could scarcely resist the temptation 
of showing the Prince in Warwickshire : " What, Hal ? How now, mad wag ? What 
a devil dost thou in Warwickshire ?" A word or two tells us that the poet had seen 
the field of Shrewsbury : 

" How bloodily the sun begins to peer 
Above yon busky hill !" 

The Chronicle informs us that Henry had marched with a great army towards Wales 
to encounter Percy and Douglas, who were coming from the north to join with 
Glendower ; and then, " The King, hearing of the Earls' approaching, thought it 
policy to encounter with them before that the Welshman should join with their 
army, and so include him on both parts, and therefore returned suddenly to the 
town of Shrewsbury. He was scantly entered into the town, but he was by his posts 
advertised that the Earls, with banners displayed and battles ranged, were coming 
toward him, and were so hot and so courageous that they with light horses began to 
.skirmish with his host. The King, perceiving their doings, issued out, and encamped 
himself without the east gate of the town. The Earls, nothing abashed although 
their succours them deceived, embattled themselves not far from the King's army." 
There was a night of watchfulness ; and then, " the next day in the morning early, 
which was the vigil of Mary Magdalen, the King, perceiving that the battle was nearer 
than he either thought or looked for, lest that long tarrying might be a minishing of 
his strength, set his battles in good order." The scene of this great contest is well 
defined ; the King has encamped himself without the east gate of Shrewsbury. The 
poet, by one of his magical touches, shows us the sun rising upon the hostile armies ; 
but he is more minute than the chronicler. The King is looking eastward, and he 
sees the sun rising over a wooded hill. This is not only poetical, but it is true. He 
who stands upon the plain on the east side of Shrewsbury, the Battle Field as it is 
now called, waiting, not " a long hour by Shrewsbury clock," but waiting till the 
minute 

" when the morning sun shall raise his car 
Above the border of this horizon," f 

will see that sun rise over a <' busky hill," Haughmond Hill. We may well believe, 
therefore, from this accuracy, that Shrewsbury had lent a local interest in the mind of 
Shakspere to the dramatic conception of the death-scene of the gallant Percy. Insur- 
rection was not crushed at Shrewsbury ; but the course of its action does not lie in 
the native district of the poet. Yet his Falstaff has an especial affection for these 
familiar scenes, and perhaps through him the poet described some of the "old 
familiar faces." Shallow and Silence, assuredly they were his good neighbours. 
We think there was a tear in his eye when he wrote, " And is old Double dead 1 " 
Mouldy, and Shadow, and Wart, and Feeble were they not the representatives of 
the valiant men of Stratford, upon whom the corporation annually expended large 
sums for harness ? Bardolph and Fluellen were real men, living at Stratford in 
1592. After the treacherous putting down of rebellion at Gualtree Forest, Falstaff 
casts a longing look towards the fair seat of "Master Robert Shallow, Esquire." 
" My lord, I beseech you give me leave to go through Gloucestershire." We are not 
now far out of the range of Shakspere's youthful journeys around Stratford. Shallow 
will make the poor carter answer it in his wages " about the sack he lost the other 

* All the old copies of The First Part of " Henry IV." have Cop-hill. There is no doubt that 
Sutton Coldfield, as it is now spelt, was meant by Cop-hill ; but the old printers, we believe, impro- 
perly introduced the hyphen ; for Dugdale, in his map, spells the word Cofeild; and it is easy to see 
how the common pronunciation would be Cophill or Cofill. 

f " Henry VI.," Part III., Act IV., Scene vn. 



98 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK ii. 



day at Hinckley Fair." " William Visor of Wincot," that arrant knave who, 
according to honest and charitable Davy, " should have some countenance at his 
friend's request," was he a neighbour of Christopher Sly's " fat ale-wife of Wincot ; " 
and did they dwell together in the Wincot of the parish of Aston-Clifford, or the 
Wilmecote of the parish of Aston-Cantlow ? The chroniclers are silent upon this 
point ; and they tell us nothing of the history of " Clement Perkes of the Hill." 
The chroniclers deal with less happy and less useful sojourners on the earth. Even 
" Goodman Puff of Barson," one of " the greatest men in the realm," has no fame 
beyond the immortality which Master Silence has bestowed upon him. 

The four great historical dramas which exhibit the fall of Richard II., the triumph 
of Bolingbroke, the inquietudes of Henry IV., the wild career of his son ending in a 
reign of chivalrous daring and victory, were undoubtedly written after the four other 
plays of which the great theme was the war of the Eoses. The local associations 
which might have influenced the young poet in the choice of the latter subject would 
be concentrated, in a great degree, upon Warwick Castle. The hero of these wars 
was unquestionably Richard Neville. It was a Beauchamp who fought at Agincourt 
in that goodly company who were to be remembered "to the ending of the 
world," 

" Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter, 
Warwick and Talbot. Salisbury and Gloucester." 




[Entrance to Warwick Castle.] 

He ordained in his will that in his chapel at Warwick " three masses every day 
should be sung as long as the world might endure." The masses have long since 
ceased ; but his tomb still stands, and he has a memorial that will last longer than 



CHAP. IV.] YORK AND LANCASTER. 99 



his tomb. The chronicler passes over his fame at Agincourt, but the dramatist 
records it. Did the poet's familiarity with those noble towers in which the Beau- 
champ had lived suggest this honour to his memory ? But here, at any rate was 
the stronghold of the Neville. Here, when the land was at peace in the dead sleep 
of weak government, which was to be succeeded by fearful action, the great Earl 
dwelt with more than a monarch's pomp, having his own officer-at-arms called 
Warwick herald, with hundreds of friends and dependants bearing about his badge 
of the ragged staff ; for whose boundless hospitality there was daily provision made 
as for the wants of an army ; whose manors and castles and houses were to be 
numbered in almost every county ; and who not only had pre-eminence over every 
Earl in the land, but, as Great Captain of the Sea, received to his own use the King's 
tonnage and poundage. When William Shakspere looked upon this castle in his 
youth, a peaceful Earl dwelt within it, the brother of the proud Leicester the son 
of the ambitious Northumberland who had suffered death in the attempt to make 
Lady Jane Grey queen, but whose heir had been restored in blood by Mary. War- 
wick Castle, in the reign of Elizabeth, was peaceful as the river which glided by it, 
the most beautiful of fortress palaces. No prisoners lingered in its donjon keep ; 
the beacon blazed not upon its battlements, the warder looked not anxiously out to 
see if all was quiet on the road from Kenilworth ; the drawbridge was let down for 
the curious stranger, and he might refresh himself in the buttery without suspicion. 
Here, then, might the young poet gather from the old servants of the house some of 
the traditions of a century previous, when the followers of the great Earl were ever 
in fortress or in camp, and for a while there seemed to be no king in England, but 
the name of Warwick was greater than that of king. 

In the connected plays which form the Three Parts of Henry VI., the Earl of 
Warwick, with some violation of chronological accuracy, is constantly brought 
forward in a prominent situation. The poet has given Warwick an early importance 
which the chroniclers of the age do not assign to him. He is dramatically correct 
in so doing ; but, at the same time, his judgment might in some degree have been 
governed by the strength of local associations. Once embarked in the great quarrel, 
\Vcinvick is the presiding genius of the scene : 

" Now, by my father's badge, old Nevil's crest, 
The rampant bear chain'd to the ragged staff, 
This day I '11 wear aloft my burgonet, 
As on a mountain-top the cedar shows 
That keeps his leaves in spite of any storm."* 

The sword is first unsheathed in that battle-field of St. Albans. After three or four 
years of forced quiet it is again drawn. The " she- wolf of France" plunges her fangs 
into the blood of York at Wakefield, after Warwick has won the great battle of North- 
ampton. The crown is achieved by the son of York at the field of Towton, where 

" Warwick rages like a chafed bull." 

The poet necessarily hurries over events which occupy a large space in the narra- 
tives of the historian. The rash marriage of Edward provokes the resentment of 
Warwick, and his power is now devoted to set up the fallen house of Lancaster. 
Shakspere is then again in his native localities. He has dramatized the scene of 
Edward's capture at Wolvey, on the borders of Leicestershire. Edward escapes from 
Middleham Castle, and, after a short banishment, lands again with a few followers in 
England, to place himself a second time upon the throne, by a movement which has only 

* " Henry VI," Part II., Act v., Scene III. 

H 2 



100 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II. 



one parallel in history.* Shakspere describes his countrymen, in the speech which 
the great Earl delivers for the encouragement of Henry : 

" In Warwickshire I have true-hearted friends, 
Not mutinous in peace, yet bold in war ; 
Those will I muster up.""}" 

Henry is again seized by the Yorkists. Warwick, " the great-grown traitor," is at 
the head of his native forces. The local knowledge of the poet is now rapidly put 
forth in the scene upon the walls of Coventry : 

" War. Where is the post that comes from valiant Oxford ? 
How far hence is thy lord, mine honest fellow ] 

1 Mess. By this at Dunsmore, marching thitherward. 
War. How far off is our brother Montague ? 

Where is the post that came from Montague 1 

2 Mess. By this at Daintry, with a puissant troop. 

Enter Sir JOHN SOMERVILLE. 

War. Say Somerville, what says my loving son ] 
And, by thy guess, how nigh is Clarence now ] 

Som. At Southam I did leave him with his forces, 
And do expect him here some two hours hence. 

[Drum heard. 

War. Then Clarence is at hand, I hear his drum. 

Som. It is not his, my lord ; here Southam lies ; 
The dram your honour hears march eth from Warwick." 

The chronicler tells the great event of the encounter of the two leaders at Coventry, 
which the poet has so spiritedly dramatized : " In the mean season King Edward 
came to Warwick, where he found all the people departed, and from thence with all 
diligence advanced his power toward Coventry, and in a plain by the city he pitched 
his field. And the next day after that he came thither, his men were set forward 
and marshalled in array, and he valiantly bade the Earl battle : which, mistrusting 
that he should be deceived by the Duke of Clarence, as he was indeed, kept himself 
close within the walls. And yet he had perfect word that the Duke of Clarence 
came forward toward him with a great army. King Edward, being also thereof 
informed, raised his camp, and made toward the Duke. And lest that there might 
be thought some fraud to be cloaked between them, the King set his battles in an 
order, as though he would fight without any longer delay ; the Duke did likewise."! 
Then "a fraternal amity was concluded and proclaimed," which was the ruin of 
Warwick and of the House of Lancaster. Ten years before these events, in the 
Parliament held in this same city of Coventry a city which had received great 
benefits from Henry VI. York, and Salisbury, and Warwick had been attainted. 
And now Warwick held the city for him who had in that same city denounced him 
as a traitor. With store of ordnance, and warlike equipments, had the great Captain 
lain in this city for a few weeks ; and he was honoured as one greater than either 
of the rival Kings one who could bestow a crown and who could take a crown 
away ; and he sate in state in the old lialls of Coventry, and prayers went up for 
his cause in its many churches, and the proud city's municipal officers were as his 
servants. He marched out of the city with his forces, after Palm Sunday ; and on 

* The landing of Bonaparte from Elba, and Edward ai Eavenspurg, are remarkably similar in 
their rapidity and their boldness, though very different in their final consequences, 
t " Henry VI.," Part III., Act v., Scene i. 
Hall. 



CHAP. IV.] 



YORK AND LANCASTER. 



101 



Easter Day the quarrel between him and the perjured Clarence and the luxurious 
Edward was settled for ever upon Barnet Field : 

" Thus yields the cedar to the axe's edge, 
Whose arms gave shelter to the princely eagle ; 
Under whose shade the ramping lion slept ; 
Whose top-branch overpeer'd Jove's spreading tree, 
And kept low shrubs from winter's powerful wind." * 

The Battle of Barnet was fought on the 14th of April, 1471. Sir John Paston, a 
stout Lancastrian, writes to his mother from London on the 18th of April : "As 
for other tidings, it is understood here that the Queen Margaret is verily landed, and 
her son, in the west country, and I trow that as to-morrow, or else the next day, the 
King Edward will depart from hence to her ward to drive her out again." t Sir John 
Paston, himself in danger of his head, seems to hint that the landing of Queen Mar- 
garet will again change the aspect of things. In sixteen days the Battle of Tewksbury 
was fought. This is the great crowning event of the terrible struggle of sixteen 
years ; and the scenes at Tewksbury are amongst the most spirited of these dramatic 
pictures. We may readily believe that Shakspere had looked upon the " fair park 
adjoining to the town," where the Duke of Somerset " pitched his field, against the 
will and consent of many other captains which would that he should have drawn 
aside ; " and that he had also thought of the unhappy end of the gallant Prince 
Edward, as he stood in "the church of the Monastery of Black Monks in Tewksbury," 
where " his body was homely interred with the other simple corses." $ 

There were twelve years of peace between the Battle of Tewksbury and the death 
of Edward IV. Then came the history which Hall entitles^ " The Pitiful Life of 
King Edward the Fifth," and " The Tragical Doings of King Eichard the Third." 
The last play of the series which belongs to the wars of the Roses is unquestionably 
written altogether with a more matured power than those which preceded it ; yet 
the links which connect it with the other three plays of the series are so unbroken, 
the treatment of character is so consistent, and the poetical conception of the whole 
so uniform, that we speak of them all as the plays of Shakspere, and of Shakspere 
alone. Matured, especially in its wonderful exhibition of character, as the Richard 
III. is, we cannot doubt that the subject was very early familiar to the young poet's 
mind. The Battle of Bosworth Field was the great event of his own locality, which 
for a century had fixed the government of England. The course of the Reformation, 
and especially the dissolution of the Monasteries, had produced great social changes, 
which were in operation at the time hi which Shakspere was born ; whose effects, 
for good and for evil, he must have seen working around him, as he grew from year 
to year in knowledge and experience. But those events were too recent, and indeed 
of too delicate a nature, to assume the poetical aspect in his mind. They abided 
still in the region of prejudice and controversy. It was dangerous to speak of the 
great religious divisions of the kingdom with a tolerant impartiality. History could 
scarcely deal with these opinions in a spirit of justice. Poetry, thus, which has 
regard to what is permanent and universal, has passed by these matters, important 
as they are. But the great event which placed the Tudor family on the throne, and 
gave England a stable government, however occasionally distracted by civil and reli- 
gious division, was an event which would seize fast upon such a mind as that of 
Shakspere. His ancestor, there can be little doubt, had been an adherent of the 
Earl of Richmond. For his faithful services to the conqueror at Bosworth he was 
rewarded, as we are assured, by lands in Warwickshire. That field of Bosworth 



* Henry VI.," Part III., Act v., Scene n. 
t " Paston Letters," edited by A. Ramsay, vol. ii., p. 60. 



Hall. 



102 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II. 



would therefore have to him a family as well as a local interest. Burton, the 
historian of Leicestershire, who was born about ten years after William Shakspere, 
tells us " that his great-great-grandfather, John Hardwick, of Lindley, near Bosworth, 
a man of very short stature, but active and courageous, tendered his service to 
Henry, with some troops of horse, the night he lay at Atherston, became his guide 
to the field, advised him in the attack, and how to profit by the sun and by the 
wind."* Burton further says, writing in 1622, that the inhabitants living around 
the plain called Bosworth Field, more properly the plain of Sutton, "have many 
occurrences and passages yet fresh in memory, by reason that some persons there- 
about, which saw the battle fought, were living within less than forty years, of which 
persons myself have seen some, and have heard of their disclosures, though related 
by the second hand." This " living within less than forty years " would take us 
back to about the period which we are now viewing in relation to the life of Shak- 
spere. But certainly there is something over-marvellous in Burton's story to enable 
us to think that William Shakspere, even as a very young boy, could have conversed 
with "some persons thereabout" who had seen a battle fought in 1485. That, as 
Burton more reasonably of himself says, he might have " heard their discourses at 
second-hand " is probable enough. Bosworth Field is about thirty miles from 
Stratford. Burton says that the plain derives its name from Bosworth, " not that 
this battle was fought at this place (it being fought in a large flat plain, and spacious 
ground, three miles distant from this town, between the towns of Shenton, Sutton, 
Dadlington, and Stoke) ; but for that this town was the most worthy town of note 
near adjacent, and was therefore called Bosworth Field. That this battle was fought 
in this plain appeareth by many remarkable places : By a little mount cast up, where 
the common report is, that at the first beginning of the battle Henry Earl of Rich- 
mond made his parsenetical oration to his army ; by divers pieces of armour, weapons, 
and other warlike accoutrements, and by many arrow-heads here found, whereof, 
about twenty years since, at the enclosure of the lordship of Stoke, great store were 
digged up, of which some I have now (1622) in my custody, being of a long, large, 
and big proportion, far greater than any now in use ; as also by relation of the 
inhabitants, who have many occurrences and passages yet fresh in memory." t 
Burton goes on to tell two stories connected with the eventful battle. The one 
was the vision of King Richard, of " divers fearful ghosts running about him, not 
suffering him to take any rest, still crying ' Revenge.' " Hall relates the tradition 
thus : " The fame went that he had the same night a dreadful and a terrible dream, 
for it seemed to him, being asleep, that he saw divers images like terrible devils, not 
suffering him to take any quiet or rest." Burton says, previous to his description 
of the dream, " The vision is reported to be in this manner." And certainly his 
account of the fearful ghosts " still crying Revenge" is essentially different from that 
of the chronicler. Shakspere has followed the more poetical account of the old local 
historian ; which, however, could not have been known to him : 

" Methought the souls of all that I have murther'd 
Came to my tent : and every one did threat 
To-morrow's vengeance on the head of Richard." 

Did Shakspere obtain his notion from the same source as Burton from " relation of 
the inhabitants who have many occurrences and passages yet fresh in memory ? " 

King Henry is crowned upon the Field of Bosworth. According to the Chronicler, 
Lord Stanley " took the crown of King Richard, which was found amongst the spoil 
in the field, and set it on the Earl's head, as though he had been elected king by 

* Button's " Bosworth Field." 
f From " Burton's Manuscripts," quoted by Mr. Nicholls. 



CHAP. IV.] YORK AND LANCASTER. 103 



the voice of the people, as in ancient times past in divers realms it hath been 
accustomed." Then, " the same night in the evening King Henry with great pomp 
came to the town of Leicester," where he rested two days. " In the mean season 
the dead corpse of King Richard was as shamefully carried to the town of Leicester, 
as he gorgeously the day before with pomp and pride departed out of the said 
town." 

Years roll on. There was another conqueror, not by arms but by peaceful intel- 
lect, who had once moved through the land in " pomp and pride," but who came 
to Leicester in humility and heaviness of heart. The victim of a shifting policy and 
of his own ambition, Wolsey, found a grave at Leicester scarcely more honourable 
than that of Richard : 

" At last, with easy roads, he came to Leicester, 
Lodg'd in the abbey ; where the reverend abbot, 
With all his convent, honourably receiv'd him ; 
To whom he gave these words : ' 0, father abbot, 
An old man, broken with the storms of state, 
Is come to lay his weary bones among ye ; 
Give him a little earth for charity ! ' 
So went to bed : whore eagerly his sickness 
Pursued him still ; and three nights after this, 
About the hour of eight, (which he himself 
Foretold should be his last,) full of repentance, 
Continual meditations, tears, and sorrows, 
He gave his honours to the world again, 
His blessed part to heaven, and slept in peace." * 

Wolsey is the hero of Shakspere's last historical play ; and even in this history, large 
as it is, and belonging to the philosophical period of the poet's life, we may trace 
something of the influence of the principle of Local Association. 

* " Henry VIII.," Act iv., Scene n. 




[Leicester Abbey.] 



104 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK n; 




[Evesham : The Bell Tower.] 
CHAPTER V. 

RUINS, NOT OF TIME. 



" High towers, fair temples, goodly theatres, 
Strong walls, rich porches, princely palaces, 
Large streets, brave houses, sacred sepulchres, 
Sure gates, sweet gardens, stately galleries, 
Wrought with fair pillars and fine imageries ; 
All these, pity ! now are turn'd to dust, 
And overgrown with black oblivion's rust." 

SUCH is Spenser's noble description of what was once the " goodly Verlam." These 
were " The Euins of Time." But within sixteen miles of Stratford would the young 
Shakspere gaze in awe and wonder upon ruins more solemn than any produced by 
" time's decay." The ruins of Evesham were the fearful monuments of a political 



CHAP. V.] RUINS, NOT OF TIME. 105 



revolution which William Shakspere himself had not seen ; but which, in the boy- 
hood of his father, had shaken the land lik an earthquake, and, toppling down its 
" high steeples," had made many 

" An heap of lime and sand, 
For the screech-owl to build her baleful bo'wer." 

Such were the ruins he looked upon, cumbering the ground where, forty years before, 
stood the magnificent abbey whose charters reached back to the days of the Kings 
of. Mercia. 

The last great building of the Abbey of Evesham is the only one properly belong- 
ing to the monastery which has escaped destruction. The campanile which formed 
an entrance to the conventual cemetery was commenced by Abbot Lichfield in 1533. 
In 1539 the good abbot resigned the office which he had held for twenty-six years. 
His successor was placed in authority for a few months, to carry on the farce which 
was enacting through the kingdom, of a voluntary grant and surrender of all the 
remaining possessions of the religious houses, which preceded the Act of 1539 " for 
dissolution of abbeys." Lelaud, who visited the place within a year or two after the 
suppression, " rambling to and fro in this nation, and in making researches into 
the bowels of antiquity."* says, "In the town is no hospital, or other famous 
foundation, but the late abbey." The destruction must indeed have been rapid. The 
house and site of the monastery were granted to Philip Hobby, with a remarkable 
exception ; namely, " all the bells and lead of the church and belfry." The roof of 
this magnificent fabric thus went first ; and in a few years the walls became a stone- 
quarry. Fuller, writing about a century afterwards, says of the abbey, " By a long 
lease it was in the possession of one Mr. Audrewes, father and son ; whose grand- 
child, living now at Berkhampstead in Hertfordshire, hath better thriven, by God's 
blessing on his own industry, than his father and grandfather did with Evesham 
Abbey ; the sale of the stones whereof he imputeth a cause of their ill success." t 
All was swept away. The abbey-church, with its sixteen altars, and its hundred 
and sixty-four gilded pillars,t its chapter-house, its cloisters, its library, refectory, 
dormitory, buttery, and treasury ; its almory, granary, and storehouse ; all the various 
buildings for the service of the church, and for the accommodation of eighty-nine 
religious inmates and sixty-five servants, were, with a few exceptions, ruins in the 
time of William Shakspere. Habingdon, who has left a manuscript " Survey of 
Worcestershire," written about two centuries ago, says, " Let us but guess what this 
monastery now dissolved was in former days by the gate-house yet remaining ; which, 
though, deformed with age, is as large and stately as any at this time in the king- 
dom." That gateway has since perished. Of the great mass of the conventual 
buildings Habingdon states that nothing was left beyond " a huge deal of rubbish 
overgrown with grass." One beautiful gateway, however, formerly the entrance to the 
chapter-house, yet remains even to our day. It admits us to a large garden, now 
let out in small allotments to industrious inhabitants of Evesham. The change 
is very striking. The independent possession of a few roods of land may perhaps 
bestow as much comfort upon the labourers of Evesham as their former dependence 
upon the conventual buttery. But we cannot doubt that, for a long course of years, 
the sudden and violent dissolution of that great abbey must have produced incal- 
culable poverty and wretchedness. Its princely revenues were seized upon by the 
heartless despot, to be applied to his unbridled luxury and his absurd wars. The 
same process of destruction and appropriation was carried on throughout the country. 
The Church, always a gentle landlord, was succeeded in its possessions by the grasping 

* Wood, Athena Oxon." f Church History." 

J Dugdale's " Monasticon," ed. 1819, vol. ii., p. 12. 



106 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK ii. 



creatures of the Crown ; the almsgiving of the religious houses was at an end ; and 
then came the age of vagabondage and of poor-laws. 







[Chapter-House Gateway.j 

The sense which we justly entertain of the advantages of the Reformation has 
accustomed us to shut our eyes to the tremendous evils which must have been 
produced by the iniquitous spoliations of the days of Henry VIII. and Edward VI. 
The religious houses, whatever might have been their abuses, were centres of civiliza- 
tion. Leland says, " There was no town at Evesham before the foundation of the 
abbey." Wherever there was a well-endowed religious house, there was a large and 
a regular expenditure, employing the local industry in the way best calculated to 
promote the happiness of the population. Under this expenditure, not only did 
handicrafts flourish, but the arts were encouraged in no inconsiderable degree. The 
commissioners employed to take surrender of the monasteries in Warwickshire 
reported of the nunnery of Polsworth, "that in this town were then forty-four 
tenements, and but one plough, the residue of the inhabitants being artificers, who 
had their livelihood by this house." * In another place Dugdale says, " Nor is it a 
little observable that, whilst the monasteries stood, there was no act for relief of 
the poor, so amply did those houses give succour to them that were in want ; 
whereas in the next age, namely 39th of Elizabeth, no less than eleven bills were 
brought into the House of Commons for that purpose." t We have little doubt that 
the judicious encouragement of industry in the immediate neighbourhood of each 
monastery did a great deal more to render a state provision for the poor unnecessary 
than the accustomed " succour to those who were in want." The benevolence of 
the religious houses was systematic and uniform. It was not the ostentatious and 
improvident almsgiving which would raise up an idle pauper population upon their 
own lands. The poor, as 1 far as we can judge from the acts of law-makers, did not 
become a curse to the country, and were not dealt with in the spirit of a detestable 
severity, until the law-makers had dried up the sources of their profitable industry. 
Leland, writing immediately after the dissolution of the Abbey of Evesham, says of 
the town that it is " meetly large and well builded with timber ; the market-sted 
is fair and large ; there be divers pretty streets in the town." While the abbey 

* " Dugdale's " Warwickshire," p. 800. f Ibid., p. 803. 



CHAP. V.] RUINS, NOT OF TIME. 107 



stood there was an annual disbursement there going forward which has been com- 
puted to be equal to eighty thousand pounds of our present money.* The revenues, 
principally derived from manors and tenements in eight different counties, are seized 
upon by the Crown. The site of the abbey is sold or granted to a private person, 
who will derive his immediate advantage by the rapid destruction of a pile of build- 
ings which the piety and opulence of five or six centuries had been rearing. 
More than a hundred and fifty inmates of this monastery are turned loose upon the 
world, a few with miserable pensions, but the greater number reduced to absolute 
indigence. Half the population at least of the town of Evesham must have derived 
a subsistence from the expenditure of these inmates, and this fountain is now almost 
wholly dried up. In the youth of William Shakspere it is impossible that Evesham 
could have been other than a ruined and desolate place. It was the policy of the 
unscrupulous reformers who, whatever service they may ultimately have worked 
in the destruction of superstitious observances, were, as politicians, the most dis- 
honest and rapacious it was their policy, when (to use their own heartless cant) 
they had driven away the crows and destroyed their nests, to heap every opprobrium 
upon the heads of the starving and houseless brethren, of whom it has been com- 
puted that fifty thousand were wandering through the land. The young Shakspere 
was in all probability brought into contact with some of the aged men who had been 
driven from the peaceful homes of their youth, where they had been brought up in 
scholastic exercises, and had looked forward to advance in honourable office, each in 
his little world. Some one of the Gray Friars of Coventry, or the Benedictines of 




- 

[Old House: Evesham.] 



Evesham, must he have encountered, hovering round the scenes of their ancient pros- 
perity ; sheltered perhaps in the cottage of some old servant who could labour with 
his hands, and upon whom the common misfortune therefore had fallen lightly. 

* " History of Evesham," by George May. A remarkably intelligent local guide. 



108 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II. 



The friars of the future great dramatist would, of necessity, be characters formed 
either out of his early observation, or moulded according to the general impressions 
of his early associates. In his mature life the race would be extinct. These his 
dramatic representations are wonderfully consistent ; and it is manifest that he 
looked upon the persecuted order with pity and with respect. It was for Chaucer 
to satirize the monastic life in the days of its greatness and abundance. It was for 
this rare painter of manners to show the grasping dissimulating friar, sitting down 
upon the churl's bench, and endeavouring to frighten or wheedle the bed-ridden man 
out of his money : 

" Thomas, nought of your tressor I desire 

As for myself, but that all our covent 

To pray for you is aye so diligent." 

The ridicule in those times of the Church's pride might be salutary ; but other days 
had come. The most just and tolerant moralist that ever helped to disencumber 
men of their hatreds and prejudices has consistently endeavoured to represent the 
monastic character as that of virtue and benevolence. One of Shakspere's earliest 
plays is " Borneo and Juliet ;" and many of the rhymed portions of that delicious 
tragedy might have been the desultory compositions of a very young poet, to be 
hereafter moulded into the dramatic form. Such is the graceful soliloquy which 
first introduces Friar Lawrence. The kind old man, going forth from his cell in the 
morning twilight to fill his osier basket with weeds and flowers, and moralizing on 
the properties of plants which at once yield poison and medicine, has all the truth 
of individual portraiture. But Friar Lawrence is also the representative of a class. 
The Infirmarist of a monastic house, who had charge of the sick brethren, was often 
in the early days of medical science their sole physician. The book-knowledge and 
the experience of such a valuable member of a conventual body would still allow 
him to exercise useful functions when thrust into the world ; and the young Shak- 
spere may have known some kindly old man, full of axiomatic wisdom, and sufficiently 
confident in his own management, like the well-meaning Friar Lawrence. In 
" Much Ado about Nothing," it is the friar who, when Hero is unjustly accused by 
him who should have been her husband, vindicates her reputation with as much 
sagacity as charitable zeal : 

" I have mark'd 

A thousand blushing apparitions start 
Into her face ; a thousand innocent shames 
In angel whiteness bear away those blushes ; 
And in her eye there hath appear'd a fire, 
To burn the errors that these princes hold 
Against her maiden truth : Call me a fool ; 
Trust not my reading, nor my observations, 
Which with experimental seal doth warrant 
The tenor of my book ; trust not my age, 
My reverence, calling, nor divinity, 
If this sweet lady lie not guiltless here 
Under some biting error." 

In "Measure for Measure" the whole plot is carried on by the Duke assuming the 
reverend manners, and professing the active benevolence, of a friar ; and his agents 
and confidants are Friar Thomas and Friar Peter. In an age when the prejudices of 
the multitude were nattered and stimulated by abuse and ridicule of the ancient 
ecclesiastical character, Shakspere always exhibits it so as to command respect and 
affection. The poisoning of King John by a monk, " a resolved villain," is 
despatched by him with little more than an allusion. The Germans believe that 
Shakspere wrote the old King John in two Parts. The vulgar exaggeration of the 



CHAP. V.] RUINS, NOT OF TIME. 109 



basest calumnies against the monastic character satisfies us that the play was 
written by one who formed a much lower estimate than Shakspere did of the dignity 
of the poet's office, as an instructor of the people. 

A deep reverence for antiquity is one of the clearest indications of the intimate 
union of the poetical and the philosophical temperament. An able writer of our 
own day has indeed said, " In some, the love of antiquity produces a sort of fanciful 
illusion : and the very sight of those buildings, so magnificent in their prosperous 
hour, so beautiful even in their present ruin, begets a sympathy for those who 
founded and inhabited them." * But, rightly considered, the fanciful illusion 
becomes a reasonable principle. Those who founded and inhabited these monastic 
buildings were for ages the chief directors of the national mind. Their possessions 
were, in truth, the possessions of all classes of the people. The highest offices in 
those establishments were in some cases bestowed upon the noble and the wealthy, 
but they were open to the very humblest. The studious and the devout here found 
a shelter and a solace. The learning of the monastic bodies has been underrated ; 
the ages in which they flourished have been called dark ages ; but they were almost 
the sole depositories of the knowledge of the land. They were the historians, the 
grammarians, the poets. They accumulated magnificent libraries. They were the 
barriers that checked the universal empire of brute force. They cherished an 
ambition higher and more permanent than could belong to the mere martial spirit. 
They stood between the strong and the weak. They held the oppressor in 
subjection to that power which results from the cultivation, however misdirected, 
of the spiritual part of our nature. Whilst the proud baron continued to live in 
the same dismal castle that his predatory fathers had built or won, the churchmen 
went on from age to age adding to their splendid edifices, and demanding a succes- 
sion of ingenious artists to carry out their lofty ideas. The devotional exercises of 
their life touched the deepest feelings of the human heart. Their solemn services, 
handed down from a remote antiquity, gave to music its most ennobling cultivation ; 
and the most beautiful of arts thus became the vehicle of the loftiest enthusiasm. 
Individuals amongst them, bringing odium upon the class, might be sordid, luxurious, 
idle, in some instances profligate. It is the nature of great prosperity and apparent 
security to produce these results. But it was not the mandate of a pampered tyrant, 
nor the edicts of a corrupt parliament, that could destroy the reverence which had 
been produced by an intercourse of eight hundred years with the great body of the 
people. The form of venerable institutions may be changed, but their spirit is 
indestructible. The holy places and mansions of the Church were swept away ; but 
the memory of them could not be destroyed. Their ruins, recent as they were, were 
still antiquities, full of instruction. The lightning had blasted the old oak, and its 
green leaves were no longer put forth ; but the gnarled trunk was a thing not to be 
despised. The convulsion which had torn the land was of a nature to make deep 
thinkers. After the wonder and the disappointment of great revolutions have sub- 
sided, there must always be an outgushing of earnest thought. The form which 
that thought may assume may be the result of accident ; it may be poetical or 
metaphysical, historical or scientific. By a combination of circumstances, perhaps 
by the circumstance of one man being born who had the most marvellous insight 
into human nature, and whose mind could penetrate all the disguises of the social 
state, the drama became the great exponent of the thought of the age of Elizabeth. 
It was altogether a new form for English poetry to put on. The drama, as we have 
seen, had been the humblest vehicle for popular excitement. When the Church 
ceased to use it as an instrument of instruction, it fell into the hands of illiterate 
mimics. The courtly writers were too busy with their affectations and their flatteries 
* Hallam's " Constitutional History of England." 



110 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II. 



to recognise its power, and its especial applicability to the new state of society. 
Those who were of the people ; who watched the manifestations of the popular 
feeling and understanding ; whose minds had been stirred up by the political storms, 
the violence of which had indeed passed away, but under whose influence the whole 
social state still heaved like a disturbed sea ; those were to build up our great 
national drama. But, at the period of which we are speaking, they were for the 
most part boys, or very young men. It is perhaps fortunate for us that the most 
eminent of these was introduced to the knowledge of life under no particular advan- 
tages ; was not dedicated to any one of the learned professions ; was cloistered not 
in an university ; was an adherent of no party ; was obliged to look forward to the 
necessity of earning his own maintenance, and yet not humiliated by poverty and 
meanness. "William Shakspere looked upon the very remarkable state of society 
with which he was surrounded, with a free spirit. But he saw at one and the same 
tune the present and the past. He knew that the entire social state is a thing of 
progress ; that the characters of men are as much dependent upon remote influences 
as upon the matters with which they come in daily contact ; that the individual 
essentially belongs to the general, and the temporary to the universal. His drama 
can never be antiquated, because he primarily deals with whatever is permanent and 
indestructible in the aspects of external nature, and in the constitution of the 
human mind. But, at the same time, it is no less a faithful transcript of the pre- 
vailing modes of thought even of his own day. Individual peculiarities, in his time 
called humours, he left to others. 

This principle of looking at life with an utter disregard of all party and sectarian 
feelings, of massing all his observations upon individual character, could have 
proceeded only from a profound knowledge of the past, and a more than common 
apprehension of the future. As we have endeavoured to show, the localities amidst 
which he lived were highly favourable to his cultivation of a poetical reverence for 
antiquity. But his unerring observation of the present prevented the past becoming 
to him an illusion. He had always an earnest patriotism ; he had a strong sense of 
the blessings which had been conferred upon his own day through the security won 
out of peril and suffering by the middle classes. The destruction of the old institu- 
tions, after the first evil effects had been mitigated by the energy of the people, had 
diffused capital, and had caused it to be employed with more activity. But he, who 
scarcely ever stops to notice the political aspects of his own day, cannot forbear an 
indignant comment upon the sufferings of the very poorest, which, if not caused by, 
were at least coincident with, the great spoliation of the property of the Church. 
Poor Tom, "who is whipped from tithing to tithing, and stocked, punished, and 
imprisoned,"* was no fanciful portrait ; he is the creature of the pauper legislation 
of half a century. Exhortations in the churches, " for the furtherance of the relief 
of such as were in unfeigned misery," were prescribed by the statute of the 1st of 
Edward VI. ; but the same statute directs that the unhappy wanderer, after certain 
forms of proving that he has not offered himself for work, shall be marked V with 
a hot iron upon his breast, and adjudged to be " a slave " for two years to him who 
brings him before justices of the peace ; and the statute goes on to direct the slave- 
owner " to cause the said slave to work by beating, chaining, or otherwise." Three 
years afterwards the statute is repealed, seeing that it could not be carried into 
effect by reason of the multitude of vagabonds and the extremity of their wants. 
The whipping and the stocking were applied by successive enactments of Elizabeth. 
The gallows, too, was always at hand to make an end of the wanderers, when, hunted 
from tithing to tithing, they inevitably became thieves. Nothing but a compulsory 
provision for the maintenance of the poor could then have saved England from a 
* " King Lear," Act in., Scene iv. 



CHAP. V.] RUIXS, NOT OF TIME. Ill 



fearful Jacquerie. It cannot reasonably be doubted that the vast destruction of 
capital, by the dissolution of the monasteries, threw for many years a quantity 
of superfluous labour upon the yet unsettled capital of the ordinary industry of the 
country. The prodigious changes in the value of money, favourable as they ulti- 
mately were to the development of industry, raised the prices of commodities 
without raising wages, an inevitable consequence of that natural law which makes 
wages wholly depend upon the number of the labourers. That Shakspere had 
witnessed much social misery is evident from his constant disposition to descry " a 
soul of goodness in things evil," and from his indignant hatred of the heartlessness 
of petty authority : 

" Thou rascal beadle, hold thy bloody hand."* 

And yet, with many social evils about him, the age of Shakspere's youth was one in 
which the people were making a great intellectual progress. The poor were ill 
provided for. The Church was in an unsettled state, attacked by the natural rest- 
lessness of those who looked upon the Reformation with regret and hatred ; and by 
the rigid enemies of its traditionary ceremonies and ancient observances, who had 
sprung up in its bosom. The promises which had been made that education should 
be fostered by the State had utterly failed ; for even the preservation of the univer- 
sities, and the protection and establishment of a few grammar-schools, had been 
unwillingly conceded by the avarice of those daring statesmen who had swallowed 
up the riches of the ancient establishment. The genial spirit of the English 
yeomanry had received a check from the intolerance of the powerful sect who 
frowned upon ah 1 sports and recreations who despised the arts who held poets 
and pipers to be " caterpillars of a commonwealth." But yet the wonderful stirring 
up of the intellect of the nation had made it an age favourable for the cultivation 
of the highest literature ; and most favourable to those who looked upon society, 
as the young Shakspere must have looked, in the spirit of cordial enjoyment and 
practical wisdom. 

* " Lear," Act iv., Scene vr. 




IBengeworth Church, seen through the Arch of the Bell-Tower.] 



112 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK ii. 



V 




LWelford: The Wake.] 
CHAPTER VI. 

THE WAKE. 



DECAY, followed by reproduction, is the order of nature ; and so, if the vital power 
of society be not extinct, the men of one generation attempt to repair what the 
folly or the wickedness of their predecessors has destroyed. Sumptuous abbeys 
were pulled down in the reign of Henry VIII. ; but humble parish-churches rose 
up in the reign of Elizabeth. Within four miles of Stratford, on the opposite bank 
of the Avon, is the pretty village of Welford ; and here is a church which bears the 
date of 1568 carved upon its wall. Although the church was new, the people would 
cling, and perhaps more pertinaciously than ever, to the old usages connected with 
their church. They certainly would not forego their Wake, " an ancient custom 
among the Christians of this island to keep a feast every year upon a certain week 
or day in remembrance of the finishing of the building of their parish-church, and 
of the first solemn dedicating of it to the service of God."* For fifty years after 
the period of which we are writing, the wakes prevailed, more or less, throughout 
England. The Puritans had striven to put them down ; but the opposite party in 
the Church as zealously encouraged them. Charles I. spoke the voice of this party 
in one of his celebrated declarations for sports, which gave such deep, and in some 

* Brand's " Popular Antiquities," by Ellis, 1841, vol. ii. page 1. 



CHAP. VI.] THE WAKE. 113 



respects just, offence. In 1633 the King's declaration in favour of wakes was as 
follows : " In some counties of this kingdom, his Majesty finds that, under pretence 
of taking away abuses, there hath been a general forbidding, not only of ordinary 
meetings, but of the feasts of the dedication of the churches, commonly called Wakes. 
Now, his Majesty's express will and pleasure is, that these feasts, with others, shall 
be observed \ and that his justices of the peace, in their several divisions, shall look 
to it, both that all disorders there may be prevented or punished, and that all 
neighbourhood and freedom, with manlike and lawful exercises, be used." * Neigh- 
bourhood and freedom, and manlike exercises, were the old English characteristics 
of the wakes. At the period when William Shakspere was just entering upon life, 
with the natural disposition of youth, strongest perhaps in the more imaginative, to 
mingle in the recreations and sports of his neighbours with the most cordial spirit 
of enjoyment, the Puritans were beginning to denounce every assembly of the people 
that strove to keep up the character of merry England. Stubbes, writing at this 
exact epoch, says, describing " The manner of keeping of Wakesses," that " every 
town, parish, and village, some at one time of the year, some at another, but so that 
every one keep his proper day assigned and appropriate to itself (which they call 
their wake-day), useth to make great preparation and provision for good cheer ; to 
the which all their friends and kinsfolks, far and near, are invited." Such were the 
friendly meetings in all mirth and freedom which the proclamation of Charles Calls 
"neighbourhood." The Puritans denounced them as occasions of gluttony and 
drunkenness. Excess, no doubt, was occasionally there. The old hospitality could 
scarcely exist without excess. But it must not be forgotten that, whatever might 
be the distinction of ranks amongst our ancestors in all matters in which "coat- 
armour " was concerned, there was a hearty spirit of social intercourse, constituting 
a practical equality between man and man, which enabled all ranks to mingle with- 
out offence and without suspicion in these public ceremonials ; and thus the civili- 
zation of the educated classes told upon the manners of the uneducated. There is 
no writer who furnishes us a more complete picture of this ancient freedom of 
intercourse than Chaucer. The company who meet at the Tabard, and eat the 
victual of the best, and drink the strong wine, and submit themselves to the merry 
host, and tell their tales upon the pilgrimage without the slightest restraint, are not 
only the very high and the very humble, but the men of professions and the men 
of trade, who in these latter days too often jostle and look big upon the debateable 
land of gentility. And so, no doubt, this freedom existed to a considerable extent 
even in the days of Shakspere. In the next generation, Herrick, a parish priest, 
writes, 

" Come, Anthea, let us two 
Go to feast, as others do. 
Tarts and custards, creams and cakes, 
Are the junkets still at wakes : 
Unto which the tribes resort, 
Where the business is the sport." 

With "the tribes" were mingled the stately squire, the reverend parson, and the 
well-fed yeoman ; and, what was of more importance, their wives and daughters 
there exchanged smiles and courtesies. The more these meetings were frowned upon 
by the severe, the more would they be cherished by those who thought not that the 
proper destiny of man was unceasing labour and mortification. Some even of the 
most pure would exclaim, as Burton exclaimed after there had been a contest for 
fifty years upon the matter, "Let them freely feast, sing, and dance, have their 

* Rushworth's " Collections," quoted in Harris's " Life of Charles I." 



114 WILLIAM SHAKSPEKE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II. 



puppet-plays, hobby-horses, tabors, crowds, bagpipes, &c., play at ball and barley- 
breaks, and what sports and recreations they like best ! "* 

From sunrise, then, upon a bright summer morning, are the country people in 
their holiday dresses hastening to Welford. It is the Baptist's day. There were 
some amongst them who had lighted the accustomed bonfires upon the hills on the 
vigil of the saint ; and perhaps a maiden or two, clinging to the ancient supersti- 
tions, had tremblingly sat in the church-porch in the solemn twilight, or more 
daringly had attempted at midnight to gather the fern-seed which should make 
mortals " walk invisible." Over the bridges at Binton come the hill people from 
Temple Grafton and Billesley. Arden pours out its scanty population from the 
woodland hamlets. Bidford and Barton send in their tribes through the flat pastures 
on either bank of the river. From Stratford there is a pleasant and not circuitous 
walk by the Avon's side, now leading through low meadows, now ascending some 
gentle knoll, where a long reach of the stream may be traced, and now close upon 
the sedges and alders, with a glimpse of the river sparkling through the green. 

u Jog on, jog on, the foot-path way, 

And merrily hent the stile-a : 

A merry heart goes all the day, 

Your sad tires in a mile-a." f 

The church-bells of Welford send forth a merry peal. There is cordial welcome in 
every house. The tables of the Manor Hall are set out with a substantial English 
breakfast ; and the farmer's kitchen emulates the same bounteous hospitality. In 
a little while the church-tower sends forth another note. A single bell tolls for 
matins. The church soon fills with a zealous congregation ; not a seat is empty. 
The service for this particular feast is attended to with pious reverence ; and when 
the people are invited to assist in its choral parts, they still show that, however the 
national taste for music may have been injured by the suppression of the chauntries, 
they are familiar with the fine old chaunts of their fathers, and can perform them 
with spirit and exactness, each according to his ability, but the most with some 
knowledge of musical science. The homily is ended. The sun shines glaringly 
through the white glass of this new church ; and some of the Stratford people may 
think it fortunate that their old painted windows are not yet all removed. J The dew 
is off the green that skirts the churchyard ; the pipers and crowders are ready ; the 
first dance is to be chosen. Thomas Heywood, one of Shakspere's pleasant con- 
temporaries, has left us a dialogue which shows how embarrassing was such a 
choice : 

"'Jack. Come, what shall it be? ' Rogero? ' 

Jenkin. * Rogero 1 ' no ; we will dance ' The beginning of the world.' 

Sisly. I love no dance so well as ' John, come kiss me now.' 

Nicholas. I have ere now deserv'd a cushion ; call for the 'Cushion-dance.' 

Roger. For my part, I like nothing so well as ' Tom Tyler.' 

Jenkin. No ; we'll have ' The hunting of the fox.' 

Jack. ' The hay, The hay ;' there's nothing like ' The hay.' 

Jenkin. Let me speak for all, and we'll have 'Sellenger's round.' " 

* " Anatomy of Melancholy," Part II., Sec. 2. 

f " Winter's Tale," Act iv., Scene n. The music of this song is given in the " Pictorial Shak- 
spere," and in Mr. Chappell's admirable collection of " English National Airs." We are indebted to 
Mr. Chappell for many of the facts connected with our ancient music noticed in the present chapter. 

J " All images, shrines, tabernacles, roodlofts, and monuments of idolatry are removed, taken 
down, and defaced ; only the stories in glass windows excepted, which for want of sufficient store of 
new stuff, and by reason of extreme charge that should grow by the alteration of -the same into 
white panes throughout the realm, are not altogether abolished in most places at once, but by little 
and little suffered to decay, that white glass may be provided and set up in their rooms." Harri- 
son's " Description of England :" 1586. 

" A Woman Killed with Kindness." 1600. 



CHAP. VI.] THE WAKE. 115 



Jenkin, who rejects " Rogero," is strenuous for " The Beginning of the World," and 
he carries his proposal by giving it the more modern name of " Sellenger's Round.' 
The tune was as old as Henry VIII. ; for it is mentioned in " The History of Jack of 
Newbury," by Thomas Deloney, whom Kemp called the great ballad-maker : " In 
comes a noise of musicians in tawny coats, who, taking off their caps, asked if they 
would have any music ? The widow answered, 'No ; they were merry enough. 
* Tut ! ' said the old man ; ' let us hear, good fellows, what you can do ; and play 
me "The Beginning of the World.'" A quaint tune is this, by whatever name it be 
known an air not boisterous hi its character, but calm and graceful ; a round 
dance " for as many as will ;" who " take hands and go round twice, and back again," 
with a succession of figures varying the circular movement, and allowing the display 
of individual grace and nimbleness : 

" Each one tripping on his toe, 
Will be here with mop and mowe." * 

The countryfolks of Shakspere's time put their hearts into the dance ; and, as their 
ears were musical by education, their energy was at once joyous and elegant. Glad 
hearts are there even amongst those who are merely lookers-on upon this scene. 
The sight of happiness is in itself happiness ; and there was real happiness in the 
"unreproved pleasures" of the youths and maidens 

" Tripping the comely country-round 
With daffodils and daisies crown'd." f 

If Jenkin carried the voices for " Sellenger's Round," Sisly must next be gratified 
with " John, come kiss me now." Let it not be thought that Sisly called for a 
vulgar tune. This was one of the most favourite airs of Queen Elizabeth's " Virginal 
Book," and after being long popular in England it transmigrated into a " godly 
song" of Scotland. The tune is in two parts, of which the first part only is in the 
" Virginal Book," and this is a sweet little melody full of grace and tenderness. The 
more joyous revellers may now desire something more stirring, and call for " Pack- 
ington's Pound," as old perhaps as the days of Henry VIII., and which survived for 
a couple of centuries hi the songs of Ben Jonson and Gay.$ The controversy about 
players, pipers, and dancers has fixed the date of some of these old tunes, showing 
us to what melodies the young Shakspere might have moved joyously in a round or 
a galliard. Stephen Gosson, for example, sneers at " Trenchmore." But we know 
that " Trenchmore" was of an earlier date than Gosson's book. A writer who 
came twenty years after Gosson shows us that the " Trenchmore" was scarcely to 
be reckoned amongst the graceful dances : " In this case, like one dancing the 
'Trenchmore,' he stamped up and down the yard, holding his hips in his hands." 
It was the leaping, romping dance, in which the exuberance of animal spirits delights. 
Burton says "We must dance 'Trenchmore' over tables, chairs, and stools." 
Selden has a capital passage upon " Trenchmore," showing us how the sports of the 
country were adopted by the Court, until the most boisterous of the dancing delights 
of the people fairly drove out " state and ancientry." He says, in his " Table Talk," 
" The Court of England is much altered. At a solemn dancing, first you had the 
grave measures, then the corantoes and the galliards, and this kept up with cere- 
mony ; and at length to 'Trenchmore' and the 'Cushion-dance:' then all the 
company dances, lord and groom, lady and kitchen-maid, no distinction. So in our 

* " Tempest," Act iv., Scene n. t Herrick's " Hesperides." 

J See Ben Jonson's song in " Bartholomew Fair," beginning 

" My masters, and friends, and good people, draw near." 
Deloney's " Gentle Craft :" 1598. 

I 2 



116 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II. 



Court in Queen Elizabeth's time, gravity and state were kept up ; in King James's 
time things were pretty well ; but in King Charles's time there has been nothing 
but ' Trenchmore,' and the ' Cushion-dance,' omnium gatherum, tolly polly, hoite 
come toite." It was in this spirit that Charles II. at a court ball called for " Cuckolds 
all arow," which he said was "the old dance of England."* From its name, and 
its jerking melody, this would seem to be one of the country dances of parallel lines. 
They were each danced by the people ; but the round dance must unquestionably 
have been the most graceful. Old Burton writes of it with a fine enthusiasm : 
" Joan's Placket," the delightful old tune that we yet beat time to, when the inspirit- 
ing song of " When I followed a lass" conies across our memories, t would be a 
favourite upon the green at Welford ; and surely he who in after-times said, " I did 
think by the excellent constitution of thy leg it was formed under the star of a 
galliard," might strive not to resist the attraction of the air of " Sweet Margaret," 
and willingly surrender himself to the inspiration of its gentle and its buoyant 
movements. One dance he must take part in ; for even the squire and the squire's 
lady cannot resist its charms, the dance which has been in and out of fashion for 
two centuries and a half, and has again asserted its rights in England, in despite of 
waltz and quadrille. We all know, upon the most undoubted testimony, that the 
Sir Roger de Coverley who to the lasting regret of all mankind caught a cold at the 
County Sessions, and died in 1712, was the great-grandson of the worthy knight of 
Coverley, or Cowley, who "was inventor of that famous country-dance which is 
called after him," with its graceful advancings and retirings, its bows and curtsies, 
its chain figures, its pretty knots unravelled in simultaneous movement. In vain 
for the young blood of 1580, might old Stubbes denounce peril to body and mind 
in his outcry against the " horrible vice of pestiferous dancing." The manner in which 
the first Puritans set about making people better, after the fashion of a harsh nurse to 
a froward child, was very remarkable. Stubbes threatens the dancers with lameness 
and broken legs, as well as with severer penalties ; but, being constrained to acknow- 
ledge that dancing " is both ancient and general, having been used ever in all ages 
as well of the godly as of the wicked," he reconciles the matter upon the following 
principle : "If it be used for man's comfort, recreation and godly pleasure, privately 
(every sex distinct by themselves), whether with music or otherwise, it cannot be 
but a very tolerable exercise" We doubt if this arrangement would have been alto- 
gether satisfactory to the young men and maidens at the Welford Wake, even if 
Philip Stubbes had himself appeared amongst them, with his unpublished manu- 
script in his pocket, to take the place of the pipers, crying out to them " Give 
over, therefore, your occupations, you pipers, you fiddlers, you minstrels, and you 
musicians, you drummers, you tabretters, you fluters, and all other of that wicked 
brood." 1 1 Neither, when the flowing cup was going round among the elders to song 
and story, would he have been much heeded, had he himself lifted up his voice, 
exclaiming, " Wherefore should the whole town, parish, village, and country, keep 
one and the same day, and make such gluttonous feasts as they do 1 " IT One young 
man might have answered, " Dost thou think because thou art virtuous there shall 
be no more cakes and ale ?"** 

* Pepys's " Memoirs," first 8vo., vol. i., p. 359. f " Love in a Village." 

J* " Twelfth Night," Act i., Scene in. "Spectator," Nos. 2 and 517. 
|| " Anatomy of Abuses." ^[ Ibid. ** " Twelfth Night," Act n., Scene in. 



CHAP. VII.] 



CHARLCOTE. 



117 




[Charlcote Church.] 
CHAPTER VII. 

CHARLCOTE. 



CHARLCOTE : the name is familiar to every reader of Shakspere ; but it is not 
presented to the world under the influence of pleasant associations with the world's 
poet. The story, which was first told by Howe, must be here repeated : " An extra- 
vagance that he was guilty of forced him both out of his country, and that way of 
living which he had taken up ; and though it seemed at first to be a blemish upon 
his good manners, and a misfortune to him, yet it afterwards happily proved the 
occasion of exerting one of the greatest geniuses that ever was known in dramatic 
poetry. He had, by a misfortune common enough to young fellows, fallen into ill 
company, and, amongst them, some that made a frequent practice of deer-stealing 
engaged him more than once in robbing a park that belonged to Sir Thomas Lucy, 
of Charlcote, near Stratford. For this he was prosecuted by that gentleman, as he 
thought, somewhat too severely ; and, in order to revenge that ill usage, he made a 
ballad upon him. And though this, probably the first essay of his poetry, be lost, 
yet it is said to have been so very bitter, that it redoubled the prosecution against 
him to that degree, that he was obliged to leave his business and family in Warwick- 



118 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II. 



shire for some time, and shelter himself in London." * The good old gossip Aubrey 
is wholly silent about the deer-stealing and the flight to London, merely saying, 
" This William, being inclined naturally to poetry and acting, came to London, I 
guess about eighteen." But there were other antiquarian gossips of Aubrey's age, 
who have left us their testimony upon this subject. The Reverend William Fulman, 
a fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, who died in 1688, bequeathed his papers 
bo the Reverend Richard Davies of Sandford, Oxfordshire ; and on the death of Mr. 
Davies, in 1708, these papers were deposited in the library of Corpus Christi. 
Fulman appears to have made some collections for the biography of our English 
poets, and under the name Shakspere he gives the dates of his birth and death. 
But Davies, who added notes to his friend's manuscripts, affords us the following 
piece of information : " Much given to all unluckiness, in stealing venison and 
rabbits ; particularly from Sir Lucy, who had him oft whipped, and sometimes 
imprisoned, and at last made him fly his native country, to his great advancement. 
But his revenge was so great, that he is his Justice Clodpate and calls him a great 
man, and that, in allusion to his name, bore three louses rampant for his arms." 
The accuracy of this chronicler, as to events supposed to have happened a hundred 
years before he wrote, may be inferred from his correctness in what was accessible 
to him. Justice Clodpate is a new character ; and the three louses rampant have 
diminished strangely from the " dozen white luces " of Master Slender. In Mr. 
Davies's account we have no mention of the ballad through which, according to 
Rowe, the young poet revenged his " ill usage." But Capell, the editor of Shakspere, 
found a new testimony to that fact : " The writer of his ' Life,' the first modern, 
[Rowe] speaks of a ' lost ballad,' which added fuel, he says, to the knight's before- 
conceived anger, and * redoubled the prosecution ; ' and calls the ballad ( the first 
essay of Shakespeare's poetry : ' one stanza of it, which has the appearance of 
genuine, was put into the editor's hands many years ago by an ingenious gentleman 
(grandson of its preserver), with this account of the way in which it descended to 
him : Mr. Thomas Jones, who dwelt at Tarbick, a village in Worcestershire, a few 
miles from Stratford-on-Avon, and died in the year 1703, aged upwards of ninety, 
remembered to have heard from several old people at Stratford the story of Shake- 
speare's robbing Sir Thomas Lucy's park ; and their account of it agreed with Mr. 
Rowe's, with this addition that the ballad written against Sir Thomas by Shake- 
speare was stuck upon his park-gate, which exasperated the knight to apply to a 
lawyer at Warwick to proceed against him. Mr. Jones had put down in writing the 
first stanza of the ballad, which was all he remembered of it, and Mr. Thomas Wilkes 
(my grandfather) transmitted it to my father by memory, who also took it in 
writing." t The first stanza of the ballad which Mr. Jones put down in writing as 
all he remembered of it, has been so often reprinted, that we can scarcely be justified 
in omitting it. It is as follows : 

" A parliamente member, a justice of peace, 
At home a poor scare-crowe, at London an asse ; 
If lowsie is Lucy, as some volke miscalle it, 
Then Lucy is lowsie, whatever befall it. 
He thinkes himself greate, 
Yet an asse is his state 

We allowe by his eares but with asses to mate. 
If Lucy is lowsie, as some volke miscalle it, 
Sing lowsie Lucy, whatever befalle it." 

But the tradition sprang up in another quarter. Mr. Oldys, the respectable anti- 

* " Some Account of the Life of William Shakespear, written by Mr. Rowe." 
f ""Notes and various Readings to Shakspere," Part III., p. 76. 



CHAP. Vn.] CHARLCOTE. 119 



quarian, has also preserved this stanza, with the following remarks : " There was a 
very aged gentleman living in the neighbourhood of Stratford (where he died fifty 
years since), who had not only heard from several old people in that town of Shak- 
speare's transgression, but could remember the first stanza of that bitter ballad, 
which, repeating to one of his acquaintance, he preserved it in writing, and here it 
is, neither better nor worse, but faithfully transcribed from the copy, which his 
relation very courteously communicated to me."* The copy preserved by Oldys 
corresponds word by word with that printed by Capell ; and it is therefore pretty 
evident that each was derived from the same source, the person who wrote down 
the verses from the memory of the one old gentleman. In truth, the whole matter 
looks rather more like an exercise of invention than of memory. Mr. De Quincey 
has expressed a very strong opinion " that these lines were a production of Charles 
II.'s reign, and applied to a Sir Thomas Lucy, not very far removed, if at all, from 
the age of him who first picked up the precious filth : the phrase ' parliament 
member' we believe to be quite unknown in the colloquial use of Queen Elizabeth." 
But he has overlooked a stronger point against the authenticity of the ballad. He 
says that "the scurrilous rondeau has been imputed to Shakspcare ever since the days 
of the credulous Rowe." This is a mistake. Rowe expressly says the ballad is 
" lost." It was not till the time of Oldys and Capell, nearly half a century after 
Rowe, that the single stanza was found. It was not published till seventy years 
after Rowe's " Life of Shakspeare." We have little doubt that the regret of Rowe 
that the ballad was lost was productive not only of the discovery, but of the creation, 
of the delicious fragment. By and by more was discovered, and the entire song 
" was found in a chest of drawers that formerly belonged to Mrs. Dorothy Tyler, of 
Shottery, near Stratford, who died in 1 7 78, at the age of 80." This is Malone's account, 
who inserts the entire song in the Appendix to his posthumous " Life of Shakspeare," 
with the expression of his persuasion " that one part of this ballad is just as genuine 
as the other ; that is, that the whole is a forgery." We believe, however, that the 
first stanza is an old forgery, and the remaining stanzas a modern one. If the ballad 
is held to be all of one piece, it is a self-evident forgery. But in the " entire song " 
the new stanzas have not even the merit of imitating the versification of the first 
attempt to degrade Shakspere to the character of a brutal doggrel-monger. 

This, then, is the entire evidence as to the deer-stealing tradition. According to 
Rowe, the young Shakspere was engaged more than once in robbing, a park, for which 
he was prosecuted by Sir Thomas Lucy ; he made a ballad upon his prosecutor, and 
then, being more severely pursued, fled to London. According to Davies, he was 
much given to all unluckiness in stealing venison and rabbits ; for which he was 
often whipped, sometimes imprisoned, and at last forced to fly the country. 
According to Jones, the tradition of Rowe was correct as to robbing the park ; and 
the obnoxious ballad being stuck upon the park-gate, a lawyer of Warwick was 
authorised to prosecute the offender. The tradition is thus full of contradictions 
upon the face of it. It necessarily would be so, for each of the witnesses speaks of 
circumstances that must have happened a hundred years before his time. We must 
examine the credibility of the tradition, therefore, by inquiring what was the state of 
the law as to the offence for which William Shakspere is said to have been prose- 
cuted ; what was the state of public opinion as to the offence ; and what was the 
position of Sir Thomas Lucy as regarded his immediate neighbours. 

The law in operation at the period in question was the 5th of Elizabeth, chapter 
21. The ancient forest-laws had regard only to the possessions of the Crown ; and 
therefore in the 32nd of Henry VIII. an Act was passed for the protection of " every 
inheritor and possessor of manors, land, and tenements," which made the killing of 

* MS. Notes upon Langbainc, from which Steevcns published the lines in 1778. 



120 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II. 



deer, and the taking of rabbits and hawks, felony. This Act was repealed in the 
1st of Edward VI. ; but it was quickly re-enacted in the 3rd and 4th of Edward VI. 
(1549 and 1550), it being alleged that unlawful hunting prevailed to such an extent 
throughout the realm, in the royal and private parks, that in one of the king's parks 
within a few miles of London five hundred deer were slain in one day. For the due 
punishment of such offences the taking of deer was again made felony. But the 
Act was again repealed in the 1st of Mary. In the 5th of Elizabeth it was attempted 
in Parliament once more to make the offence a capital felony. But this was success- 
fully resisted ; and it was enacted that, if any person by night or by day " wrongfully 
or' unlawfully break or enter into any park empaled, or any other several ground 
closed with wall, pale, or hedge, and used for the keeping, breeding, and cherishing 
of deer, and so wrongfully hunt, drive, or chase out, or take, kill, or slay any deer 
within any such empaled park, or closed ground with wall, pale, or other enclosure, 
and used for deer, as is aforesaid," he shall suffer three months' imprisonment, pay 
treble damages to the party offended, and find sureties for seven years' good behaviour. 
But there is a clause in this Act (1562-3) which renders it doubtful whether the 
penalties for taking deer could be applied twenty years after the passing of the Act, 
in the case of Sir Thomas Lucy. " Provided always, That this Act, or anything 
contained therein, extend not to any park or enclosed ground hereafter to be made 
and used for deer, without the grant or licence of our Sovereign Lady the Queen, 
her heirs, successors, or progenitors." At the date of this statute Charlcote, it is 
said, was not a deer-park ; was not an enclosed ground royally licenced. Mr. Collier 
has shown that the next Sir Thomas Lucy sent a present of a buck to Lord Keeper 
Egerton in 1602 ; and it is thence inferred that there were deer at Charlcote. No 
doubt. It appears to us that Malone puts the case against the tradition too strongly, 
when he maintains that Charlcote was not a licenced park in 1562 ; and that, there- 
fore, its venison continued to be unprotected till the statute of the 3rd James I. 
The Act of Elizabeth clearly contemplates any " several ground " " closed with wall, 




[Deer Barn : Fulbrooke.] 

pale, or hedge, and used for the keeping of deer ;" and as Sir Thomas Lucy built 
the mansion at Charlcote in 1558, it may reasonably be supposed that, at the date 
of the statute, the domain of Charlcote was closed with wall, pale, or hedge. The 
deer-stealing tradition, however, has grown more minute as it has advanced in age. 



CHAP. VII.] 



CHARLCOTE. 



121 



Charlcote, according to Mr ; Samuel Ireland, was not the place of Shakspere's unlucky 
adventures. The Park of Fulbrooke, he says, was the property of Sir Thomas Lucy ; 
and he gives us a drawing of an old house where the young offender was conveyed 
after his detection. Upon the Ordnance Map of our own day is the Deer Barn, 
where, according to the same veracious tradition, the venison was concealed. A 
word or two disposes of this part of the tradition : Fulbrooke did not come into the 
possession of the Lucy family till the grandson of Sir Thomas purchased it in the 
reign of James I. We have seen, then, that for ten years previous to the passing 
of the Act of Elizabeth for the preservation of deer there had been no laws in force 
except the old forest-laws, which applied not to private property. The statute of 
Elizabeth makes the bird-nesting boy, who climbs up to the hawk's eyrie, as liable 
to punishment as the deer-stealer. The taking of rabbits, as well as deer, was felony 
by the statutes of Henry VIII. and Edward VI. ; but from the time of Henry VIII. 
to James I. there was no protection for rabbits ; they were ferae naturce. Our 
unhappy poet, therefore, could not be held to steal rabbits, however fond he might 
be of hunting them ; and certainly it would have been legally unsafe for Sir Thomas 
Lucy to have whipped him for such a disposition. Pheasants and partridges were 
free for men of all condition to shoot with gun or cross-bow, or capture with hawk. 
There was no restriction against taking hares except a statute of Henry VIII., which, 
for the protection of hunting, forbade tracking them in the snow. With this general 
right of sport it is scarcely to be expected that the statute against the taking of deer 
should be very strictly observed by the bold yeomanry of the days of Elizabeth ; or 
that the offence of a young man should have been visited by such severe prosecution 




. 



[Charlcote House: From Avenue.] 



as should have compelled him to fly the country. The penalty for the offence was 
a defined one. The short imprisonment might have been painful for a youth to 
bear, but it would not have been held disgraceful. All the writers of the Elizabethan 



122 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK ii. 



period speak of killing a deer with a sort of jovial sympathy, worthy the descendants 
of Robin Hood, " I '11 have a buck till I die, I '11 slay a doe while I live," is the 
maxim of the Host in " The Merry Devil of Edmonton ; " and even Sir John, the 
priest, reproves him not : he joins in the fun. The dramatic, and even the serious, 
literature of Shakspere's youth treats deer-stealing as a venial offence ; and naturally 
so, for public opinion attached no disgrace to it. A century later it was the same. 
White of Selborue says, " towards the beginning of this century all this country was 
wild about deer-stealing. Unless he was a hunter, as they affected to call them- 
selves, no young person was allowed to be possessed of manhood or gallantry." 
With this loose state of public opinion, then, upon the subject of venison, is it likely 
that Sir Thomas Lucy would have pursued for such an offence the eldest son of an 
alderman of Stratford with any extraordinary severity ? The knight was nearly the 
most important person residing in the immediate neighbourhood of Stratford. In 
1578 he had been High Sheriff At the period when the deer-stealing may be 
supposed to have taken place, he was seeking to be member for the county of War- 
wick, for which he was returned in 1584. He was in the habit of friendly inter- 
course with the residents of Stratford ; for in 1583 he was chosen as an arbitrator 
in a matter of dispute by Hamnet Sadler, the friend of John Shakspere and of his 
son. All these considerations tend, we think, to show that the improbable deer- 
stealing tradition is based, like many other stories connected with Shakspere, on that 
vulgar love of the marvellous which is not satisfied with the wonder which a being 
eminently endowed himself presents, without seeking a contrast of profligacy, or 
meanness, or ignorance in his early condition, amongst the tales of a rude generation 




[Charlcote House: From the Avon.] 

who came after him, and, hearing of his fame, endeavoured to bring him as near as 
might be to themselves. 

Charlcote, then, shall not, at least by us, be surrounded by unpleasant associa- 



CHAP. VII.] CHARLCOTE. 123 



tions in connexion with the youth of Shakspere. It is, perhaps, the most interesting 
locality connected with his name ; for in its great features it is essentially unchanged. 
There stands, with slight alteration, and those in good taste, the old mansion as it 
was reared in the days of Elizabeth. A broad avenue leads to its fine gateway, 
which opens into the court and the principal entrance. We would desire to people 
that hall with kindly inmates ; to imagine the fine old knight, perhaps a little too 
puritanical, indeed, in his latter days, living there in peace and happiness with his 
family ; merry as he ought to have been \\ith his first wife, Jocosa (whose English 
name, Joyce, soundeth not quite so pleasant), and whose epitaph, by her husband, is 
honourable alike to the deceased and to the survivor. " All the time of her life a 
true and faithful servant of her good God ; never detected of any crime or vice ; in 
religion, most sound ; in love to her husband, most faithful and true ; in friendship, 
most constant ; to what in trust was committed to her, most secret ; in wisdom, 
excelling ; in governing her house, and bringing up of youth in the fear of God, that 
did converse with her, most rare and singular. A great maintainer of hospitality ; 
greatly esteemed of her betters ; misliked of none unless of the envious. When all 
is spoken that can be said, a woman so furnished and garnished with virtue as not 
to be bettered, and hardly to be equalled of any. As she lived most virtuously, so 
she died most godly. Set down by him that best did know what hath been written 
to be true, Thomas Lucy." We can picture him planting the second avenue, which 
leads obliquely across the park from the great gateway to the porch of the parish- 
church. It is an avenue too narrow for carriages, if carriages then had been com- 
mon ; and the knight and his lady walk in stately guise along that grassy pathway, 
as the Sunday bells summon them to meet their humble neighbours in a place where 
all arc equal. The relations between one in the social position of Sir Thomas Lucy, 
and his humble neighbours, could not have been otherwise than kindly ones. The 
epitaph in which he speaks of his wife as "a great maintainer of hospitality," is 
tolerable evidence of his own disposition. Hospitality, in those days, consisted not alone 
in giving mighty entertainments to the rich and noble, but it included the cherishing 
of the poor, and the welcome of tenants and dependents. The Squire's Hall was not, 
like the Baron's Castle, filled with a crowd of prodigal retainers, who devoured his 
substance, and kept him as a stranger amongst those who naturally looked up to him 
for protection. Yet was the Squire a man of great worship and authority. He was 
a justice of the peace ; the terror of all depredators ; the first to be appealed to in all 
matters of litigation. " The halls of the justice of the peace were dreadful to behold ; 
the screen was garnished with corslets, and helmets gaping with open mouths, with 
coats of mail, lances, pikes, halberds, brown bills, bucklers."* The Justice had these 
weapons ready to arm his followers upon any sudden emergency ; but, proud of his 
ancestry, his fighting-gear was not altogether modern. The " old worshipful gentle- 
man who had a great estate" is described 

" With an old hall, hung about with pikes, guns, and bows, 
With old swords, and bucklers, that had borne many shrewd blows." f 

There was the broad oak-table in the hall, and the arm-chair large enough for a 
throne. Upon ordinary occasions the Justice would sit in his library, a large oaken 
room with a few cumbrous books, of which the only novelty was the last collection 
of the Statutes. The book upon which our knight bestowed much of his attention 
would be the famous book of John Fox : " Acts and Monuments of these latter and 
perillous Dayes, touching Matters of the Church, wherein are comprehended and 
described the great Persecutions, and horrible Troubles, that have been wrought and 
ppactised by the Romishe Prelates." This book was next to his Bible. He hated 

* Aubrey. f " The Old and Young Courtier." 



1 24 WILLIAM 8HAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II. 



Popery, as he was bound to do according to law ; and lie somewhat dreaded the 
inroads of Popery in the shape of Church ceremonials. He was not quite clear that 
the good man to whom he had presented the living of Charlcote was perfectly right 
in maintaining the honour and propriety of the surplice ; but he did not altogether 
think that it was the "mark of abomination."* He reprobated the persecution of 
certain ministers " for omitting small portions or some ceremony prescribed in the 
Book of Common Prayer." t Those ministers were of the new opinions which men 
began to call puritanical. The good knight's visits to Stratford may be occasionally 
traced iii the Chamberlain's accounts, especially upon solemn occasions, when he 
went thither with " my Lady and Mr. Sheriff," and left behind him such pleasant 
memorials as " paid at the Swan for a quart of sack and a quartern of sugar, burned 
for Sir Thomas Lucy."J The "sack and sugar" would, we think, indispose him to 
go along with the violent denouncers of old festivals ; and those who deprecated 
hunting and hawking would be in his mind little better than fools. He had his 
falconer and his huntsman ; and he had his blandest mien when he rode out of his 
gates with his hounds about him, and graciously saluted the yeomen who rode with 
him to find a hare in Fulbrooke. 

* See Hooker's " Ecclesiastical Polity," Book v. 

f When in Parliament, in 1584, Sir Thomas Lucy presented a petition against the interference 
of ecclesiastical courts in such matters, wherein these words are used. 
J Chamberlain's Accounts Halliwell, p. 101. 



CHAP. VIII.] 



SPORTS. 



125 



v--" ^^r 




CHAPTER VIII. 

SPORTS. 



THERE is a book with which William Shakspere would unquestionably be familiar, 
the delightful " Scholemaster" of Roger Ascham, first printed in 1570, which would 
sufficiently encourage him, if encouragement were wanting, in the common pursuit 
of serious study and manly exercises. " I do not mean," says this fine genial old 
scholar, " by all this my talk, that young gentlemen should always be poring on a 
book, and, by using good studies, should lose honest pleasure and haunt no good 
pastime ; I mean nothing less ; for it is well known that I both like and love, and 
have always and do yet still use, all exercises and pastimes that be fit for my nature 
and ability. And beside natural disposition, in judgment also, I was never either 
stoic in doctrine, or Anabaptist in religion, to mislike a merry, pleasant, and playful 

nature, if no outrage be committed against law, measure, and good order 

Therefore to ride comely ; to run fair at the tilt or ring ; to play at all weapons ; to 
shoot fair in bow or surely in gun ; to vault lustily ; to run ; to leap ; to wrestle ; to 
swim ; to dance comely ; to sing, and play of instruments cunningly ; to hawk ; to 
hunt ; to play at tennis ; and all pastimes generally which be joined with labour, 
used in open place, and in the daylight, containing either some fit exercise for war, 



126 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II 



or some pleasant pastime for peace, be not only comely and decent, but also very 
necessary for a courtly gentleman to use." 

To " ride comely," to "shoot fairly in bow, or surely in gun," " to hawk, to hunt, 
were pastimes in which "William Shakspere would heartily engage. His plays abound 
with the most exact descriptions of matters connected with field-sports. In these 
exercises, " in open place and in the daylight," would he meet his neighbours ; and 
we may assume that those social qualities which won for him the love of the wisest 
and the wittiest in his mature years, would be prominent hi the frankness and fear- 
lessness of youth. Learned men had despised hunting and hawking had railed 
against these sports. Surely Sir Thomas More, he would think, never had hawk on 
fist, or chased the destructive vermin whose furs he wore, when he wrote, " What 
delight can there be, and nofrather displeasure, in hearing the barking and howling 
of dogs?"* Erasmus, too, was a secluded scholar. Ascham appreciated these 
things, because he liked, and loved, and used them. With his "stone-bow" in 
hand would the boy go forth in search of quail or partridge. It was a difficult 
weapon a random shot might hit a man " in the eye,"t but it was not so easy when 
the small bullet flew from the string to bring down the blackbird from the bush. 
There is abundant game in Fulbrooke. Ever since the attainder of John Dudley it 
had been disparked ; granted by the Crown to a favourite, and again seized upon. 
A lovely woodland scene was this, in the days when Elizabeth took into her own 
hands the property which her sister had granted to Sir Henry Englefield, now 
a proscribed wanderer. The boy-sportsman is on Daisy Hill with his " birding- 
bow ; " but the birds are for a while unheeded. He stops to gaze upon that glorious 
view of Warwick which is here unfolded. There, bright in the sunshine, at the 
distance of four or five miles, are the noble towers of the Beauchamps ; and there 
is the lofty church beneath whose roof their pride and their ambition lie low. 
Behind him is his own Stratford, with its humbler spire. All around is laund and 
bush, a spot which might have furnished the scene of the Keepers in Henry VI. : 

" 1 Keep. Under this thick-grown brake we'll shroud ourselves ; 
For through this laund anon the deer will come ; 
And in this covert we will make our stand, 
Culling the principal of all the deer. 

2 Keep. I'll stay above the hill, so both may shoot. 

1 Keep. That cannot be ; the noise of thy cross-bow 
Will scare the herd, and so my shoot is lost. 
Here stand we both, and aim we at the best;"J 

a spot to which many a fair dame had been led by gallant forester, with bow bent, 
and "quarrel" fitted: 

" Prin. Then, forester, my friend, where is the bush 
That we must stand and play the murtherer in ? 

For. Here by, upon the edge of yonder coppice ; 
A stand, where you may make the fairest shoot. " 

With the timid deer even the cross-bow scares the herd with its noise. But it was 
retained in "birding" long aftpr the general use of fire-arms, that the covey might 
not be scattered. Its silent power of destruction was its principal merit. 

But as boyhood is thrown off there are nobler pastimes for William Shakspere 
than those of gun and cross-bow. Like Gaston de Foix " he loved hounds, of all 

* " Utopia," book ii., chap. 7. 

f " 0, for a stone-bow ! to hit him in the eye." Twelfth Night. 
" Henry VI.," Part III., Act in., Scene i. " Love's Labour 's Lost," Act iv. Scene I. 



CHAP. VIII.] SPORTS. 127 



beasts, winter and summer."* He was skilled in the qualities of hounds : he de- 
lighted in those of the noblest breed, 

" So flew'd, so sanded ; and their heads are hung 
With ears that sweep away the morning dew ; 
Crook-kneed and dew-lapp'd, like Thessalian bulls ; 
Slow in pursuit, but match'd in mouth like bells, 
Each under each."f 

The chase in his day was not a tremendous burst for an hour or two, whose breath- 
less speed shuts out all sense of beauty in the sport. There was harmony in every 
sound of the ancient hunt there was poetry in all its associations. Such lines as 
those which Hippolita utters were not the fancies of a cloistered student : 

" I was with Hercules and Cadmus once, 
When in a wood of Crete they bay'd the bear 
With hounds of Sparta ' never did I hear 
Such gallant chiding ; for, besides the groves, 
The skies, the fountains, every region near 
Seem'd all one mutual cry : I never heard 
So musical a discord, such sweet thunder." $ 

The solemn huntings of princes and great lords, where large assemblies were con- 
vened to chase the deer in spaces enclosed by nets, but where the cook and the 
butler were as necessary as the hunter, were described in stately verse by George 
Gascoigne. " The noble art of Venerie " seems to have been an admirable excuse 
for ease and luxury " under the greenwood tree." But the open hunting with the 
country squire's beagles was a more stirring matter. By day-break was the bugle 
sounded ; and from the spacious offices of the Hall came forth the keepers, leading 
their slow-hounds for finding the game, and the foresters with their greyhounds in 
leash. Many footmen are there in attendance with their quarter-staffs and hangers. 
Slowly rides forth the master and his friends. Neighbours join them on their way 
to the wood. There is merriment in their progress, for, as they pass through the 
village, they stop before the door of the sluggard who ought to have been on foot, 
singing " Hunt's up to the day: " 

" The hunt is up, the hunt is up, 
Sing merrily we, the hunt is up ; 
The birds they sing, 
The deer they fling : 

Hey nony, nony-no : 
The hounds they cry, 
The hunters they fly : 

Hey troli lo, trololilo. 
The hunt is up." || 

It is a cheering and inspiriting tune the reveillee awakening like the "singing" 
of the lark, or the " lively din " of the cock. Sounds like these were heard, half a 
century after the youth of Shakspere, by the student whose poetry scarcely descended 
to the common things which surrounded him ; for it was not the outgushing of the 

* Lord Berners' " Froissart," book iii. chap. 26. 
f " Midsummer Night's Dream," Act iv., Scene I. $ Ibid. 

" Romeo and Juliet," Act in., Scene v. 
|| Douce, " Illustrations of Shakspere," vol. ii., p. 192. 



128 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK ii. 



As he were sent a messenger to the moon, 
In such a place flies, as he seems to say, 
See me, or see me not ! the partridge sprung, 
He makes his stoop ; but, wanting breath, is forced 
To cancelier ; then, with such speed, as if 
He carried lightning in his wings, he strikes 
The tumbling bird, who even in death appears 
Proud to be made his quarry." * 

The passage in which Massinger thus describes what had been presented to his 
observation is one of the many examples of the rare power which the dramatists of 
Shakspere's age possessed, the power of seeing nature with their own eyes. But 
we may almost venture to say that this power scarcely existed in dramatic poetry 
before Shakspere taught his contemporary poets that there was something better in 
art than the conventional images of books the shadows of shadows. The wonderful 
superiority of Shakspere over all others, in stamping the minutest objects of creation, 
as well as the highest mysteries of the soul of man, with the impress of truth, must 
have been derived, in some degree, from his education, working with his genius. All 
his early experience must have been his education ; and we therefore are not attempt- 
ing mere fanciful combinations of the individual with the circumstances of his social 
position, when we surround him with the scenes which belong to his locality, his 
time, and his condition of life. 







[Marl-Cliffs: Near Bidford.] 

The dwellers by a river have a natural familiarity with aquatic sports. The Avon 
would often witness an otter-hunt. 

" Look ! down at the bottom of the hill there, in that meadow, checkered with 

* " The Guardian," Act I., Scene I. The speakers are Durazza and Caldoro. 



CHAP. VIII.] SPORTS. 129 



water-lilies and lady-smocks ; there you may see what work they make ; look ! look ! 
you may see all busy ; men and dogs ; dogs and men ; all busy." Thus does honest 
Izaak Walton describe such an animated scene. The otter-hunt is now rare in Eng- 
land ; but in those days, when field-sports had the double justification of their 
exercise and of their usefulness, the otter-hunt was the delight of the dwellers near 
rivers. Spear in hand, every root and hole in the bank is tried by watermen and 
landsmen. The water-dog, as the otter was called, is at length found in her fishy 
hole, near her whelps. She takes to the stream, amidst the barking of dogs and the 
shouts of men ; horsemen dash into the fordable places ; boatmen push hither and 
thither ; the dogs have lost her, and there is a short silence ; for one instant she 
comes up to the surface to breathe, and the dogs are after her. One dog has just 
seized her, but she bites him, and he swims away howling ; she is under again, and 
they are at fault. Again she rises, or, in the technical language, vents. " Now 
Sweetlips has her ; hold her, Sweetlips ! Now all the dogs have her ; some above, 
and some under water : but now, now she is tired, and past losing." This is the 
catastrophe of the otter-hunt according to Walton. Sornerville, in his grandiloquent 
blank verse, makes her die by the spears of the huntsmen. 

When Izaak Walton and his friends have killed the otter, they go to their sport 
of angling. Shakspere in three lines describes "the contemplative man's recreation" 
as if he had enjoyed it : 

" The pleasantest angling is to see the fish 
Cut with her golden oars the silver stream 
And greedily devour the treacherous bait."* 

The oldest books upon angling have something of that half poetical, half devout 
enthusiasm about the art which Walton made so delightful. Even the author of 
the " Treatise of Fishing with an Angle," in the " Book of St. Albans," talks of 
" the sweet air of the sweet savour of the mead-flowers," and the " melodious har- 
mony of fowls ;" and concludes the " Treatise" thus : " Ye shall not use this 
foresaid crafty disport for no covetyseness to the increasing and sparing of your 
money only, but principally for your solace, and to cause the health of your body, 
and specially for your soul ; for when ye purpose to go on your disports in fishing, 
ye will not desire greatly many persons with you, which might let you of your game. 
And then ye may serve God devoutly in saying affectuously your customable prayer, 
and thus doing ye shall eschew and void many vices." t According to this good 
advice, with which he was doubtless familiar, would the young poet go alone to fish 
in the quiet nooks of his Avon. 

The young Shakspere, whose mature writings touch lightly upon country sports, 
but who mentions them always as familiar things, would be the foremost in all 
manly diversions. He would "ride the wild mare with the boys,"J and "play at 
quoits well," and " change places" at " handy-dandy," || and put out all his strength 
in a jump, though he might not expect to win " a lady at leap-frog," IT and run the 
"country-base" with "striplings,"** and be a " very good bowler." ft It was not 
in solitude only that he acquired his wisdom. He knew 

" All qualities, with a learned spirit, 
Of human dealings," J J 

* " Much Ado about Nothing," Act in., Scene I. 

f " The Treatyses perteynyng to Hawkynge, Huntynge, and Fisshynge with an Angle." 1496. 
t " Henry IV.," Act II. Scene IV. Ibid. || " Lear," Act. IV., Scene vi. 

*![ "Henry V.," Act v., Scene n. ** " Cymbeline," Act v., Scene IV. 

tf " Love's Labour 's Lost," Act v., Scene n. Jt " Othello," Act in., Scene ill. 

K 2 



130 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II. 



through his intercourse with his fellows, and not by meditating upon abstractions. 
The meditation was to apply the experience and raise it into philosophy. 

About a mile from the little town of Bidford, on the road to Stratford, was, some 
twenty years ago, an ancient crab-tree well known to the country round as Shakspere's 
Crab-tree. The tradition which associates it with the name of Shakspere is, like 
many other traditions regarding the poet, an attempt to embody the general notion 
that his social qualities were as remarkable as his genius. In an age when excess of 
joviality was by some considered almost a virtue, the genial fancy of the dwellers at 
Stratford may have been pleased to confer upon this crab-tree the honour of shelter- 
ing Shakspere from the dews of night, on an occasion when his merrymakings had 
disqualified him for returning homeward, and he had laid down to sleep under its 
spreading branches. It is scarcely necessary to enter into an examination of this 
apocryphal story. But as the crab-tree is associated with Shakspere, it may fitly be 
made the scene of some of his youthful exercises. He may "cleave the pin" and 
strike the quintain in the neighbourhood of the crab-tree, as well as sleep heavily 
beneath its shade. We shall diminish no honest enthusiasm by changing the 
association. Indeed, although the crab-tree was long ago known by the name of 
Shakspere's Crab-tree, the tradition that he was amongst a party who had accepted 
a challenge from the Bidford topers to try which could drink hardest, and there 
bivouacked after the debauch, is difficult to be traced further than the hearsay 
evidence of Mr. Samuel Ireland. In the same way, the merry folks of Stratford will 
tell you to this day that the Falcon inn in that town was the scene of Shakspere's 
nightly potations, after he had retired from London to his native home ; and they 
will show you the -shovel-board at which he delighted to play. Harmless traditions, 
ye are yet baseless ! The Falcon was not an inn at all in Shakspere's time, but a 
goodly private dwelling. 

About the year 1580 the ancient practice of archery had revived in England. 
The use of the famous English long-bow had been superseded in war by the 
arquebuss ; but their old diversion of butt-shooting would not readily be abandoned 
by the bold yeomanry, delighting as they still did in stories of their countrymen's 
prowess, familiar to them in chronicle and ballad. The "Toxophilus" of Eoger 
Ascham was a book well fitted to be amongst the favourites of our Shakspere ; and 
he would think with that fine old schoolmaster that the book and the bow might 
well go together.* He might have heard that a wealthy yeoman of Middlesex, John 
Lyon, who had founded the grammar-school at Harrow, had instituted a prize for 
archery amongst the scholars. Had not the fame, too, gone forth through the 
country of the worthy " Show and Shooting by the Duke of Shoreditch, and his 
Associates the Worshipful Citizens of London," t and of "The Friendly and Frank 
Fellowship of Prince Arthur's Knights in and about the City of London " 1 % There 
were men of Stratford who within a year or two had seen the solemn processions of 
these companies of archers, and their feats in Hogsden Fields ; where the wealthy 
citizens and their ladies sat in their tents most gorgeously dressed, and the winners 
of the prizes were brought out of the field by torchlight, with drum and trumpet, 
and volleys of shot, mounted upon great geldings sumptuously trapped with cloths 
of silver and gold. Had he not himself talked with an ancient squire, who, in the 

* " "Would to God that all men did bring up their sons, like my worshipful master Sir Henry 
Wingefield, in the book and the bow." ASCHAM. 

f This is the title of a tract published in 1583 ; but the author says that these mock solemnities 
had been " greatly revived, and within these five years set forward, at the great cost and charges of 
sundry chief citizens." 

J The title of a tract by Richard Mulcaster : 1581. 



CHAP. VIII.] SPORTS. 131 



elder days, at "Mile End Green " had played "Sir Dagonet at Arthur's Show" ? * 
And did he not know " old Double," who was now dead ? " He drew a good bow ; 
and dead ! he shot a fine shoot : * * * Dead ! he would have clapped i' the 
clout at twelve score ; and carried you a forehand shaft a fourteen and fourteen and 
a half, that it would have done a man's heart good to see." t Welcome to him, 
then, would be the invitation of the young men of Bidford for a day of archery ; 
for they received as a truth the maxim of Ascham, " That still, according to the 
old wont of England, youth should use it for the most honest pastime in peace." 
The butts are erected in the open fields after we cross the Ichnield way on the 
Stratford road. It is an elevated spot, which looks down upon the long pastures 
which skirt the Avon. These are not the ancient butts of the town, made and kept 
up according to the statute of Henry VIII. ; nor do the young men compel their 
fathers, according to the same statute, to provide each of them with " a bow and 
two shafts," until they are of the age of seventeen ; but each is willing to obey the 
statute, having " a bow and four arrows continually for himself." Their butts are 
mounds of turf, on which is fixed a small piece of circular paper with a pin in the 
centre. The young poet probably thought of Robin Hood's more picturesque 
mark : 

" On every syde a rose garlonde, 

They shot under the lyne. 
' Whoso faylcth of the rose garlonde,' sayd Robin, 

His takyll he shall tyne.' " 

At the crab-tree are the young archers to meet at the hour of eight : 
" Hold, or cut bowstrings." J 

The costume of Chaucer's squire's yeoman would be emulated by some of the 
assembly . 

" He was cladde in cote and hode of grene ; 

A shefe of peacock arwes bright and kene 

Under his belt he bare ful thriftily. 

Wei coude he dresse his takel yemanly : 

His arwes drouped not with fetheres lowe. 

And in his hond he bare a mighty bowe. 

Upon his arme he bare a gaie bracer." 

The lots are cast ; three archers on either side. The marker takes his place, to 
" cry aim." Away flies the first arrow " gone " it is over the butt ; a second 
" short ; " a third " wide ; " a fourth " hits the white," " Let him be clapped on 
the shoulder and called Adam ;" a fifth "handles his bow like a crow-keeper." || 
Lastly comes a youth from Stratford, and he is within an inch of " cleaving the pin." 
There is a maiden gazing on the sport ; she whispers a word in his ear, and " then 
the very pin of his heart" is "cleft with the blind bow-boy's butt-shaft." IT He 
recovers his self-possession, whilst he receives his arrow from the marker, humming 
the while 

" The blinded boy, that shoots so trim, 

From heaven down did hie ; 
He drew a dart and shot at him, 

In place where he did lie." ** 

* " Henry IV.," Part II., Act HI., Scene n. f I^d. 

I " Midsummer-Night's Dream," Act I., Scene n. " Much Ado about Nothing," Act r. 
|| " Lear." ^[ " Romeo and Juliet," Act n. Scene iv. 

** Ballad of "King Cophetua and the Beggar Maid." 



132 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK II. 




[The Crab Tree.] 

After repeated contests the match is decided. But there is now to be a trial of 
greater skill, requiring the strong arm and the accurate eye the old English practice 
which won the day at Agincourt. The archers go up into the hills : he who has 
drawn the first lot suddenly stops ; there is a bush upon the rising ground before 
him, from which hangs some rag, or weasel-skin, or dead crow ; away flies the arrow, 
and the fellows of the archer each shoot from the same spot. This was the roving 
of the more ancient archery, where the mark was sometimes on high, and sometimes 
on the ground, and always at variable distances. Over hill and dale go the young 
men onward in the excitement of their exercise, so lauded by Richard Mulcaster, 
first Master of Merchant Tailors' School : "And whereas hunting on foot is much 
praised, what moving of the body hath the foot-hunter in hills and dales which the 
roving archer hath not in variety of grounds 1 Is his natural heat more stirred 
than the archer's is 1 Is his appetite better than the archer's ? " * This natural 
premonition sends the party homeward to their noon-tide dinner at the Grange. 
But as they pass along the low meadows they send up many a " flight," with shout 
and laughter. An arrow is sometimes lost. But there is one who in after-years 
recollected his boyish practice under such mishaps : 

" In my school-days, when I had lost one shaft 
I shot his fellow of the self-same flight 
The self-same way, with more advised watch 
To find the other forth ; and by adventuring both, 
I oft found both : I urge this childhood proof, 
Because what follows is pure innocence. 

* "Positions:" 1581. 



CHAP. VIII,] SPORTS. 133 

I owe you much ; and, like a wilful youth, 
That which I owe is lost : but, if you please 
To shoot another arrow that self way 
Which you did shoot the first, I do not doubt, 
As I will watch the aim, or to find both, 
Or bring your latter hazard back again, 
And thankfully rest debtor for the first." * 

Gervase Markham, in his excellent " English Housewife," describes " a humble 
feast or an ordinary proportion which any good man may keep in his family for the 
entertainment of his true and worthy friend." We doubt if so luxurious a provision 
was made in our yeoman's house of the Grange ; for Markham's "humble feast" 
consisted of three courses, the first of which comprised sixteen " dishes of meat that 
are of substance." Harrison, writing about forty years earlier, makes the yeoman 
contented with somewhat less abundance : " If they happen to stumble upon a piece 
of venison, and a cup of wine or very strong beer or ale (which latter they com- 
monly provide against their appointed days), they think their cheer so great, and 
themselves to have fared so well, as the Lord Mayor of London." t But, whatever 
was the plainness or the delicacy of their dishes, there is no doubt of the hearty 
welcome which awaited all those who had claims to hospitality : " If the friends of 
the wealthier sort come to their houses from far, they are commonly so welcome till 
they depart as upon the first day of their coming." i Again : "Both the artificer 
and the husbandman are sufficiently liberal and very friendly at their tables ; and 
when they meet they are so merry without malice, and plain without inward Italian 
or French craft or subtility, that it would do a man good to be in company among 
them." 

Shakspere has himself painted, in one of his early plays, the friendly intercourse 
between the yeomen and their better educated neighbours. To the table where 
even Goodman Dull was welcome, the schoolmaster gives an invitation to the parson : 
" I do dine to-day at the father's of a certain pupil of mine ; where if, before repast, 
it shall please you to gratify the table with a grace, I will, on my privilege I have 
with the parents of the aforesaid child or pupil, undertake your ben venuto"\\ And 
it was at this table that the schoolmaster won for himself this great praise : " Your 
reasons at dinner have been sharp and sententious, pleasant without scurrility, witty 
without affection, audacious without impudency, learned without opinion, and strange 
without heresy." IF England was at that day not cursed with class and coterie 
society. The distinctions of rank were sufficiently well defined to enable men to 
mix freely, as long as they conducted themselves decorously. The barriers of modern 
society belong to an age of pretension. 

There are other .sports to be played, and other triumphs to be achieved, before 
the day closes. In the meadow, at some little distance from the butts, is fixed a 
machine of singular construction. It is the Quintain. Horsemen are beginning to 
assemble around it, and are waiting the arrival of the guests from the Grange, who 
are merry in " an arbour" of mine host's " orchard." But the youths are for more 
stirring matters ; and their horses are ready. To the inexperienced eye the machine 
which has been erected in the field 

" That which here stands up, 
Is but a quintain, a mere lifeless block." ** 

It is the wooden figure of a Saracen, sword in hand, grinning hideously upon the 
assailants who confront him. The horsemen form a lane on either side, whilst one, 

* " The Merchant of Venice," Act I., Scene I. 

f " Description of England," 1586, p. 170. % Ibid., p. 168. Ibid. 

|| " Love's Labour 's Lost," Act IV., Scene n. ^f Ibid., Act v., Scene I. 

** " As You Like It," Act I., Scene in. 



134 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK IT. 



the boldest of challengers, couches his spear and rides violently at the enemy, who 
appears to stand firm upon his wooden post. The spear strikes the Saracen just on 
the left shoulder ; but the wooden man receives not his wound with patience, for 
by the action of the blow he swings round upon his pivot, and hits the horseman a 
formidable thump with his extended sword before the horse has cleared the range 
of the misbeliever's weapon. Then one chorus of laughter greets the unfortunate 
rider as he comes dolefully back to the rear. Another and another fail. At last 
the quintain is struck right in the centre, and the victory is won. The Saracen 
conquered, a flat board is set up upon the pivot, with a sand-bag at one end, such 
as Stow has described : " I have seen a quintain set up on Cornhill, by Leadenhall, 
where the attendants of the lords of merry disports have run and made great 
pastime ; for he that hit not the board end of the quintain was laughed to scorn ; 
and he that hit it full, if he rode not the faster, had a sound blow upon his neck 
with a bag full of sand hanged on the other end."* The merry guests of the Grange 
enjoy the sport as heartily as Master Laneham, who saw the quintain at Kenil worth : 
" The speciality of the sport was to see how some of his slackness had a good 
bob with the bag ; and some for his haste to topple downright, and come tumbling 
to the post : some striving so much at the first setting out, that it seemed a question 
between the man and the beast, whether the course should be made a horseback or 
a foot : and, put forth with the spurs, then would run his race by us among the 
thickest of the throng, that down came they together hand over head. * * * By 
my troth, Master Martin, 't was a goodly pastime." And now they go to supper, 

" What time the labour'd ox 
In his loose traces from the furrow came." f 



" Survey of London.' 



f Milton : " Comus.' 



* 




[Bidford Orange.] 



:HAP. ix 



SOLITARY HOURS, 



135 




[Hampton Lucy : from Road near Alveston.") 
CHAPTER IX. 

SOLITARY HOURS. 



THE poet who has described a man of savage wildness, cherishing " unshaped, half- 
human thoughts" in his wanderings among vales and streams, green wood and 
hollow dell, has said that nature ne'er could find the way into his heart : 

" A primrose by a river's brim 
A yellow primrose was to him, 
And it was nothing more." 

These are lines at which some of the worldly-wise and clever have been wont to 
laugh ; but they contain a deep and universal truth. Without some association, 
the most beautiful objects in nature have no charm ; with association, the commonest 
acquire a value. The very humblest power of observation is necessarily dependent 
upon some higher power of the mind. Those who observe differ from those who do 
not observe, in the possession of acquired knowledge, or original reflection, which is 
to guide the observation. The observer who sees accurately, who knows what others 
have observed, and who applies this knowledge only to the humble purpose of adding 
a new flower or insect to his collection, we call a naturalist. But there are natu- 
ralists, worthy of the name, who, without bringing any very high powers of mind to 
their observation of nature, still show, not only by the minuteness and accuracy of 



136 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II. 



their eye, but by their genial love and admiration of the works of the Creator, that 
with them nature has found the way into the heart. Such was White of Selborne. 
We delight to hear him describe the mouse's nest which he found suspended in the 
head of a thistle ; or how a gentleman had two milk-white rooks in one nest : we 
partake in his happiness when he writes of what was to him an event : " This 
morning I saw the golden-crowned wren whose crown glitters like burnished gold ;" 
and we half suspect that the good old gentleman had the spirit of poetry in him 
when he says of the goat-sucker, " This bird is most punctual in beginning its song 
exactly at the close of day ; so exactly that I have known it strike up more than 
once or twice just at the report of the Portsmouth evening gun." He wrote verses ; 
but they are not so poetical as his prose. A naturalist endowed with higher powers 
of association has taught us how philosophy looks upon the common aspects of the 
outer world. Davy was a scientific observer. He shows us the reason of the fami- 
liar prognostications of the weather the coppery sunset, the halo round the moon, 
the rainbow at night, the flight of the swallow. Even omens have a touch of science 
in them ; and there is a philosophical difference in the luck of seeing one magpie 
or two. But there is an observer of nature who looks upon all animate and inani- 
mate existence with a higher power of association even than these. It is the poetical 
naturalist. Of this rare class our Shakspere is decidedly the head. Let us endeavour 
to understand what his knowledge of external nature was, how it was applied, and 
how it was acquired. 

Some one is reported to have said that he could affirm from the evidence of his 
" Seasons" that Thomson was an early riser. Thomson, it is well known, duly slept 
tiU noon. Bearing in mind this practical rebuke of what is held to be internal 
evidence, we still shall not hesitate to affirm our strong conviction that the Shak- 
spere of the country was an early riser. Thomson, professedly a descriptive poet, 
assuredly described many things that he never saw. He looked at nature Very often 
with the eyes of others. To our mind his celebrated description of morning offers 
not the slightest proof that he ever saw the sun rise.* In this description we have 
the meek-eyed morn, the dappled east, brown night, young day, the dripping rock, the 
misty mountain : the hare limps from the field ; the wild deer trip from the glade ; 
music awakes in woodland hymns ; the shepherd drives his flock from the fold ; the 
sluggard sleeps : 

" But yonder comes the powerful king of day, 
Rejoicing in the east ! The lessening cloud, 
The kindling azure, and the mountain's brow, 
Illum'd with fluid gold, his near approach 
Betoken glad. Lo, now apparent all, 
Aslant the dew-bright earth and colour'd air, 
He looks in boundless majesty abroad. 
And sheds the shining day, that burnish'd plays 
On rocks, and hills, and towers, and wandering streams, 
High-gleaming from afar." 

This is conventional poetry, the reflection of books ; excellent of its kind, but still 
not the production of a poet-naturalist. Compare it with Chaucer : 

" The besy larke, the messanger of day, 
Saleweth in hire song the morwe gray ; 
And firy Phebus riseth up so bright, 
That all the orient laugheth of the sight, 
And with his stremes drieth in the greves 
The silver dropes, hanging on the leves." f 

* " Summer." Line 43 to 96. f " The Knight's Tale." Line 1493. 



CHAP. IX.] SOLITARY HOURS. 137 



The sun drying the dewdrops on the leaves is not a book image. The brilliancy, 
the freshness, are as true as they are beautiful. Of such stuff are the natural 
descriptions of Shakspere always made. He is as minute and accurate as White ; 
he is more philosophical than Davy. The carrier in the inn-yard at Rochester 
exclaims, " An 't be not four by the day, I '11 be hanged : Charles' wain is over the 
new chimney."* Here is the very commonest remark of a common man ; and yet 
the principle of ascertaining the time of the night by the position of a star in relation 
to a fixed object must have been the result of observation in him who dramatized 
the scene. The variation of the quarter in which the sun rises according to the time 
of the year may be a trite problem to scientific readers ; but it must have been a 
familiar fact to him who, with marvellous art, threw in a dialogue upon the incident, 
to diversify and give repose to the pause in a scene of overwhelming interest : 

" Decius. Here lies the east : doth not the day break here 1 

Casca. No. 

Cinna. 0, pardon, sir, it doth ; and yon gray lines, 
That fret the clouds, are messengers of day. 

Casca. You shall confess that you are both deceived. 
Here, as I point my sword, the sun arises ; 
Which is a great way growing on the south, 
Weighing the youthful season of the year. 
Some two months hence up higher toward the north 
He first presents his fire ; and the high east 
Stands, as the Capitol, directly here." f 

It was in his native fields that Shakspere had seen morning under every aspect ; 
now, " in russet mantle clad ;" now, opening her " golden gates." A mighty battle 
is compared to the morning's war : 

" When dying clouds contend with growing light." 

Perhaps this might have been copied, or imagined ; but the poet throws in a reality, 
which leaves no doubt that it had been seen : 

" What time the shepherd, blowing of his nails, 
Can neither call it perfect day, nor night." J 

What but actual observation could have told the poet that the thin flakes of ice 
which he calls " flaws" are suddenly produced by the coldness of the morning just 
before sunrise ? The fact abided in his mind till it shaped itself into a comparison 
with the peculiarities in the character of his Prince Henry : 

" As humorous as winter, and as sudden 
As flaws congealed in the spring of day." 

He has painted his own Romeo, when under the influence of a fleeting first love, 
stealing " into the covert of the wood," 

" An hour before the worshipp'd sun 
Peer'd forth the golden window of the east." 

A melancholy and a joyous spirit would equally have tempted the young poet to 

* " Henry IV.," Part I., Act II., Scene I. 

t "Julius Caesar," Act. IT., Scene I. J " Henry VI.," Part III., Act II., Scene v. 
" Romeo and Juliet," Act I., Scene I. 



138 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE: A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK n. 



court the solitudes that were around him. Whether his "affections" were to be 
"most busied when most alone ;"* or, objectless, 

" Chewing the food of sweet and bitter fancy ;" f 

or intent upon a favourite book ; or yielding to the imagination which " bodies forth 
the forms of things unknown," many of the vacant hours of the young man would 
be solitary hours in his own fields. Yet, whatever was the pervading train of thought, 
he would still be an observer. In the vast storehouse of his mind would all that he 
observed be laid up ; not labelled and classified after the fashion of some poetical 
manufacturers, but to be called into use at a near or a distant day, by that wonderful 
power of assimilation which perceives all the subtile and delicate relations between 
the moral and the physical worlds, and thus raises the objects of sense into a com- 
panionship with the loftiest things that belong to the fancy and the reason. Who 
ever painted with such marvellous power we use the word advisedly the changing 
forms of an evening sky, " black vesper's pageants ? " 

" Sometime we see a cloud that 's dragonish ; 
A vapour, sometime, like a bear, or lion, 
A tower'd citadel, a pendent rock, 
A forked mountain, or blue promontory 
With trees upon 't, that nod unto the world, 
And mock our eyes with air." J 

This is noble painting, but it is something higher. When Antony goes on to com- 
pare himself to the cloud which " even with a thought the rack dislimns," we learn 
how the great poet uses his observation of nature. Not only do such magnificent 
objects as these receive an elevation from the poet's moral application of them, but 
the commonest things, even the vulgarest things, ludicrous but for their manage- 
ment, become in the highest degree poetical. Many a time in the low meadows of 
the Avon would Shakspere have seen the irritation of the herd under the torments 
of the gad-fly. The poet takes this common thing to describe an event which 
changed the destinies of the world : 

" Yon ribald nag of Egypt, 

Whom leprosy o'ertake ! i' the midst o' the fight, 
When vantage like a pair of twins appear'd, 
Both as the same, or rather ours the elder, 
The brize upon her, like a cow in June, 
Hoists sails, and flies," 

When Hector is in the field, 

" The strawy Greeks, ripe for his edge, 
Fall down before him, like the mower's swath." || 

Brutus, speculating upon the probable consequences of Csesar becoming king, 
exclaims 

" It is the bright day that brings forth the adder, 
And that craves wary walking." ^1 

* " Romeo and Juliet," Act I., Scene I. f " As You Like It," Act iv., Scene in. 

J " Antony and Cleopatra," Act iv., Scene XH. Ibid., Act in., Scene vin. 
|| " Triolus and Cressida," Act v., Scene v. \ "Julius Caesar," Act n., Scene r. 



CHAP. IX.] 



SOLITARY HOURS. 



139 










[Meadows near Welford.] 



The same object had been seen and described in an earlier play, without its grand 
association : 

" The snake lies rolled in the cheerful sun." * 

The snake seems a liege subject of the domain of poetry. Her enamel skin is a 
weed for a fairy ;t the green and gilded snake wreathed around the sleeping manj 
is a picture. But what ordinary writer would not shrink from the poetical handling 
of a snail ? It is the surpassing accuracy of the naturalist that has introduced the 
snail into one of the noblest passages of the poet, in juxta-position with the Hespe- 
rides and Apollo's lute : 

" Love's feeling is more soft and sensible 
Than are the tender horns of cockled snails." 

One of the grandest scenes of a tragedy of the mature poet is full of the most 
familiar images derived from an accurate observation of the natural world. The 
images seem to rise up spontaneously out of the minute recollections of a life spent 
in watching the movements of the lower creation. " A deed of dreadful note*" is 
to be done before nightfall. The bat, the beetle, and the crow, are the common, 
and therefore the most appropriate, instruments which are used to mark the 
approach of night. The simplest thing of life is thus raised into sublimity at a 
touch : 



ere 



" Ere the bat hath flown 
His cloister'd flight ;" 

The shard-borne beetle, with his drowsy hums, 
Hath rung night's yawning peal ;" 



* " Titus Andronicus," Act u., Scene Hi. f " A Midsummer's-Night's Dream," Act n., Sc. n. 

J " As You Like It," Act iv., Scene in. "Love's Labour's Lost," Act. iv. Scene I. 



140 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. , [BOOK II. 



the murder of Banquo is to be done. The very time is at hand : 

" Light thickens ; and the crow 
Makes wing to the rooky wood." * 

The naturalist has not only heard the " drowsy hums" of the beetle as he wandered 
in the evening twilight, but he has traced the insect to its hiding-place. The poet 
associates the fact with a great lesson, to be content in obscure safety : 

" Often, to our comfort, shall we find 
The sharded beetle in a safer hold 
Than is the full-wing'd eagle." f 

Let it not be forgotten that the young Shakspere had to make himself a naturalist. 
Books of accurate observation there were none to guide him ; for the popular works 
of natural history, of which there were very few, were full of extravagant fables and 
vague descriptions. Mr. Douce has told us that Shakspere was extremely well 
acquainted with one of these works " Batman uppon Bartholome his booke De 
proprietatibus rerum, 1582 ;" and he has ascertained that the original price of this 
volume was eight shillings. But Shakspere did not go to Bartholomeus or to Bat- 
man (who made large additions to the original work from Gesner), for his truths in 
natural history. Mr. Douce has cited many passages in his " Illustrations," in which 
he traces Shakspere to Bartholomeus. We have gone carefully through the volumes 
where these are scattered up and down, and we find a remarkable circumstance 
unnoticed by Mr. Douce, that these passages, with scarcely an exception, refer to the 
vulgar errors of natural history which Shakspere has transmuted into never-dying 
poetry. It is here that we find the origin of the toad which wears " a precious jewel 
in his head ;" J of the phoenix of Arabia ; of the basilisk that kills the innocent 
gazer ;|| of the unlicked bear-whelp.il But the truths of natural history which we 
constantly light upon in Shakspere were all essentially derived from his own obser- 
vation. There is a remarkable instance in his discrimination between the popular 
belief and the scientific truth in his notice of the habits of the cuckoo. The Fool 
in Lear expresses the popular belief in a proverbial sentence : 

" For you trow, nuncle, 

The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long . 

That it had its head bit off by its young." 

Worcester, in his address to Henry IV., expresses the scientific fact without the 
vulgar exaggeration, a fact unnoticed till the time of Dr. Jenner by any writer but 
the naturalist William Shakspere : 

" Being fed by us, you used us so 
As that ungentle gull the cuckoo's bird 
Useth the sparrow : did oppress our nest; 
Grew by our feeding to so great a bulk, 
That even our love durst not come near your sight." 

The noble description of the commonwealth of bees in Henry V. was suggested, in 
all probability, by a similar description in Lyly's "Euphues." But Shakspere's 
description not only displays the wonderful accuracy of his observation, in subser- 

* " Macbeth," Act in., Scene n. f " Cymbeline," Act in. Scene in. 

% " As You Like It," Act n., Scene I. " Tempest," Act in., Scene n. 

|| "Henry VL," Part II., Act in., Scene n. ^f Ibid. Part III., Act in., Scene n. 



CHAP. IX.] SOLITARY HOURS. 141 



vience to the poetical art, but the unerring discrimination of his philosophy. Lyly 
makes his bees exercise the reasoning faculty choose a king, call a parliament, con- 
sult for laws, elect officers ; Shakspere says " they have a king and officers ; " and he 
refers their operations to " a rule in nature." The same accuracy that he brought 
to the observation of the workings of nature in the fields, he bestows upon the 
assistant labours of art in the garden. The fine dialogue between the old gardener 
at Laugley and the servants, is full of technical information. The great principles 
of horticultural economy, pruning and weeding, are there as clearly displayed as in 
the most anti-poetical of treatises. We have the crab-tree slip grafted upon noble 
stock (the reverse of the gardener's practice) in one play : * in another we have the 
luxurious " scions put in wild and savage stock." t A writer in a technical periodical 
work seriously maintains that Shakspere was a professional gardener.^ This is 
better evidence of the poet's horticultural acquirements than Steevens's pert remark, 
" Shakspeare seems to have had little knowledge in gardening." Shakspere's 
philosophy of the gardener's art is true of all art. It is the great Platonic belief 
which raises art into something much higher than a thing of mere imitation, showing 
the great informing spirit of the universe working through man, as through any 
other agency of his will : 

" Per. Sir, the year growing ancient, 

Nor yet on summer's death, nor on the birth 
Of trembling winter, the fairest flowers o' the season 
Are our carnations, and streak'd gilly 'vors, 
Which some call nature's bastards : of that kind 
Our rustic garden 's barren ; and I care not 
To get slips of them. 

Pol. Wherefore, gentle maiden, 

Do you neglect them ] 

Per. For I have heard it said, 

There is an art which, in their piedness, shares 
With great creating nature. 

Pol. Say, there be ; 

Yet nature is made better by no mean, 
But nature make that mean : so, over that art, 
Which, you say, adds to nature, is an art 
That nature makes. You see, sweet maid, we marry 
A gentler scion to the wildest stock ; 
And make conceive a bark of baser kind 
By bud of nobler race : This is an art 
Which does mend nature, change it rather : but 
The art itself is nature." || 

Perdita's flowers ! who can mention them, and not think of the wonderful union of 
the accuracy of the naturalist with the loveliest images of the poet 1 It has been 
well remarked that in Milton's " Lycidas" we have "among vernal flowers many of 
those which are the offspring of Midsummer ;" but Shakspere distinguishes his 
groups, assorting those of the several seasons.!" Perhaps in the whole compass of 
poetry there is no such perfect combination of elegance and truth as the passage in 
which Perdita bestows her gifts parts of which are of such surpassing loveliness, 
that the sense aches at them : 

" 0, Proserpina, 
For the flowers now, that, frighted, thou lett'st fall 

* " Henry VI.," Part II., Act in., Scene II. 

t "Henry V.," Act in., Scene v .J " The Gardener's Chronicle," May 29, 1841. 

Note on " As You Like It," Act ill., Scene n. || " Winter's Tale," Act iv., Scene ill. 

^f Patterson's " Natural History of the Insects mentioned in Shakspeare's Plays." 



142 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II. 



From Dis's waggon ! daffodils, 
That come before the swallow dares, and take 
The winds of March with beauty ; violets, dim, 
But sweeter than the lids of Juno's eyes, 
Or Cytherea's breath."* 

Of all the objects of creation it is in flowers that Shakspere's genius appears most 
to revel and luxuriate ; but the precision with which he seizes upon their charac- 
teristics distinguishes him from all other poets. A word is a description. The 
" pale primrose," the " azur'd harebell," are the flowers to be strewn upon Fidele's 
grave ; but how is their beauty elevated when the one is compared to her face, and 
the other to her veins ! Shakspere perhaps caught the sweetest image of his 
sweetest song from the lines of Chaucer which we have recently quoted ; where we 
have the lark, and the fiery Pho3bus drying the silver drops on the leaves. But it 
was impossible to have translated this fine passage, as Shakspere has done, without 
the minute observation of the naturalist working with the invention of the poet : 

" Hark ! hark ! the lark at heaven's gate sings, 

And Phoebus 'gins arise, 
His steeds to water at those springs 
On chalic'd flowers that lies."f 

The rosebud shrivels and dies, and the cause is disregarded by a common observer' 
The poetical naturalist points out " the bud bit by an envious worm." J Again, the 
microscope of the poet sees " the crimson drops i' the bottom of a cowslip," and the 
observation lies in the cells of his memory till it becomes a comparison of exquisite 
delicacy in reference to the " cinque-spotted " mark of the sleeping Imogen. But 
the eye which observes everything is not 'only an eye for beauty, as it looks upon 
the produce of the fields ; it has the sense of utility as strong as that which exists 
in the calculations of the most anti-poetical. The mad Lear's garland is a catalogue 
of the husbandman's too luxuriant enemies : 

" Crown'd with rank fumiter, and furrow weeds, 
With harlocks, hemlock, nettles, cuckoo-flowers, 
Darnel, and all the idle weeds that grow 
In our sustaining corn." 

Who could have conceived the noble picture in Henry V. of a country wasted by 
war, but one who from his youth upward had been familiar, even to the minutest 
practice, with all that is achieved by cultivation, and all that is lost by neglect ; 
who had seen the wild powers of nature held in subjection to the same producing 
power under the guidance of art ; who had himself assisted in this best conquest 
of man ? 

" Her vine, the merry cheerer of the heart, 

Unpruned dies : her hedges even-pleach'd, 

Like prisoners wildly overgrown with hair 

Put forth disorder'd twigs : her fallow leas 

The darnel, hemlock, and rank fumitory, 

Doth root upon ; while that the coulter rusts, 

That should deracinate such savagery : 

The even mead, that erst brought sweetly forth 

The freckled cowslip, burnet, and green clover, 

Wanting the scythe, all unconnected, rank, 

Conceives by idleness ; and nothing teems 

But hateful docks, rough thistles, kecksies, burs, 

Losing both beauty and utility." || 

* " Winter's Tale," Act tv., Scene m. 

t " Cymbeline," Act Ji., Scene in. J " Romeo and Juliet," Act I., Scene I. 

" King Lear," Act iv., Scene iv. || " Henry V.," Act v. Scene n. 



CHAP. IX.] SOLITARY HOURS. 143 



Even the technical words of agriculture find their place in his language of poetry : 
" Like to the summer's corn by tempest lody'd" * 

He goes into the woods of his own Arden, and he associates her oaks with the 
sublimest imagery ; but still the oak loses nothing of its characteristics. " The thing 
of courage, as roused with rage, with rage doth sympathise," 

" When splitting winds 
Make flexible the knees of knotted oaks." f 
Again : 

" Merciful Heaven ! 

Thou rather with thy sharp and sulphurous bolt 
Splitt'st the unwedgeable and gnarled oak 
Than the soft myrtle. " J 

Kvrn the woodman's economy, who is careful not to exhaust the tree that furnishes 
him fuel, becomes an image to show, by contrast, the impolicy of excessive 
taxation : 

" Why, we take 

From every tree, lop, bark, and part o' the timber ; 

And, though we leave it with a root, thus hack'd 

The air will drink the sap." 

It is in these woods that he has studied the habits of the "joiner squirrel," who 
makes Malt's ehariot out of an "empty hazel-nut."|| Here the active boy was no 
doubt the "venturous fairy" that would seek the "squirrel's hoard, and fetch new 
nuts. "IT Here he has watched the stock-dove sitting upon her nest, and has 
stored the fact in his mind till it becomes one of the loveliest of poetical com- 
parisons : 

" Anon, as patient as the female dove, 

When that her golden couplets are disclos'd, 

His silence will sit drooping." ** 

What book-fed poet could have chosen a homely incident of country life as the 
aptest illustration of an assembly suddenly scattered by their fears ? 



" Russet-painted choughs, many in sort, 
Rising and cawing at the gun's report, 
Sever themselves, and madly sweep the sky. "ft 



The poet tells us and we believe him as much as if a Pliny or a Gesner had written 
it that 

" The poor wren, 

The most diminutive of birds, will fight, 

Her young ones in her nest, against the owl." JJ 

The boy has climbed to the kite's nest, and there perchance has found some of the 
gear that " maidens bleach ; " the discovery becomes a saying for Autolycus : 
" When the kite builds, look to lesser linen." In all this practical part of Shak- 
spere's education it is emphatically true that the boy " is father of the man." || || 

* " Henry VI.," Part II., Act in., Scene i. f " Troilus snd Cressida," Act i., Scene HI. 

t " Measure for Measure," Act n., Scene n. " Henry VIII.," Act i., Scene n. 

II " Romeo and Juliet," Act i., Scene iv. 1 " A Midsummer-Night's Dream," Act iv., Scene i. 

: * " Hamlet," Act v., Scene I. ft " A Midsummer-Night's Dream," Act Hi., Scene n. 

tt " Macbeth," Act iv., Scene n. " Winter's Tale," Act iv., Scene n. 

IHI Wordsworth. 



144 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK ii. 



Shakspere, in an early play, has described his native river : 

" The current that with gentle murmur glides, 
Thou know'st, being stopp'd, impatiently doth rage ; 
But, when his fair course is not hindered, 
He makes sweet music with the cnamell'd stones, 
Giving a gentle kiss to every sedge 
He overtaketh in his pilgrimage ; 
And so by many winding nooks he strays, 
With willing sport, to the wild ocean." * 




[Near Alveston.] 



The solitary boat of the young poet may be fancied floating down this " current." 
There is not a sound to disturb his quiet, but the gentle murmur when " the waving 
sedges play with wind." t As the boat glides unsteered into some winding nook, 
the swan ruffles his proud crest ; and the quick eye of the naturalist sees his mate 
deep hidden in the reeds and osiers : 

" So doth the swan her downy cygnets save, 
Keeping them prisoner underneath her wings." J 

Very lovely is this Avon for some miles above Stratford ; a poet's river in its 
beauty and its peacefulness. It is disturbed with no sound of traffic ; it holds its 
course unvexed by man through broad meadows and wooded acclivities, which for 
generations seem to have been dedicated to solitude. All the great natural features 
of the river must have suffered little change since the time of Shakspere. Inunda- 
tions in some places may have widened the channel ; osier islands may have grown 
up where there was once a broad stream. But we here look upon the same scenery 
upon which he looked, as truly as we gaze upon the same blue sky, and see its 
image in the same glassy water. As we unmoor our boat from the fields near 
Bishop's Hampton, we look back upon the church embosomed in lofty trees. The 



Two Gentlemen of Verona," Act ii., Scene vn. 
J " Henry VI.," Part I., Act v., Scene in. 



f Induction to " Taming of the Shrew. 
The old name for Hampton Lucy. 



CHAP. IX.] 



SOLITARY HOURS. 



145 



present church is new ; but it stands upon the same spot as the ancient church : 
its associations are the same. W glide by Charlcote. The house has been 







[Old Church of Hampton Lucy.] 



enlarged ; its antique features somewhat improved : but it is essentially the same 
as the Charlcote of Shakspere. We pass its sunny lawns, and are soon amidst the 
unchanging features of nature. We are between deep wooded banks. Even the 
deer, who swim from shore to shore where the river is wide and open, are prevented 
invading these quiet deeps. The old turrets rising amidst the trees alone tell us 
that human habitation is at hand. A little onward, and we lose all trace of that 
culture which is ever changing the face of nature. There is a high bank called Old 
Town, where perhaps men and women, with their joys and sorrows, once abided. 
It is colonized by rabbits. The elder-tree drops its white blossoms luxuriantly over 
their brown burrows. The golden cups of the yellow water-lilies lie brilliantly 
beneath on their green couches. The reed -sparrow and the willow-wren sing their 
small songs around us : a stately heron flaps his heavy wing above. The tran- 
quillity of the place is almost solemn ; and a broad cloud deepens the solemnity, by 
throwing for a while the whole scene into shadow. We drop down the current. 
Nothing can be more interesting than the constant variety which this beautiful 
river here exhibits. Now it passes under a high bank clothed with wood ; now a 
hill waving with corn gently rises from the water's edge. Sometimes a flat meadow 
presents its grassy margin to the current which threatens to inundate it upon the 
slightest rise ; sometimes long lines of willow or alder shut out the land, and throw 

L 2 



4G WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II. 



heir deep shadows over the placid stream. Islands of sedge here and there render 
ic channel unnavigable, except to the smallest boat. A willow thrusting its trunk 
ver the stream reminds us of Ophelia : 

" There is a willow grows aslant a brook, 
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream."* 







j_A Peep at Charlcote.j 

A gust of wind raises the underside of the leaves to view, and we then perceiv 
the exquisite correctness of the epithet " hoar." Hawthorns, here and there, grow 
upon the water's edge ; and the dog-rose spots the green bank with its faint red 
That deformity, the pollard-willow, is not so frequent as in most rivers ; but th 
unlopped trees wear their feathery branches, as graceful as ostrich-plumes. The 
gust which sings through that long colonnade of willows is blowing up a rain-storm 
The wood-pigeons, who have been feeding on the banks, wing their way homewards 
The old fisherman is hurrying down the current to the shelter of his cottage. H 
invites us to partake that shelter. His family are busy at their trade of basket 
making ; and the humble roof, with its cheerful fire, is a welcome retreat out of th 
driving rain. It is a long as well as furious rain. We open the volume of Shak 
spere's own poems ; and we bethink us what of these he may have composed, o 
partly shadowed out, wandering on this river-side, or drifting under its green banks 
when his happy and genial nature instinctively shaped itself into song, as the expres 
sion of his sympathy with the beautiful world around him. 

" The first heir of my invention." This may be literally true of the "Venus an 
Adonis," but it does not imply that the young poet had not been a diligent cultivate 
of fragmentary verse long before he had attempted so sustained a composition as thi 
most original and remarkable poem. We must carry back our minds to the pub 
lished poetry of 1593, when the "Venus and Adonis" appeared, fully to understaiK 
the originality of this production. Spenser had indeed then arisen to claim th 
highest rank in his own proper walk. Six books of "The Faery Queen" had been 

* " Hamlet," Act iv., Scene vii. 



CHAP IX.] 



SOLITARY HOURS. 



147 




[Below Charlcote.] 



published two or three years. But, rejoicing as Shakspere must have done in " The 
Faery Queen," in his own poems we cannot trace the slightest imitation of that 
wonderful performance ; and it is especially remarkable how steadily he resists the 
temptation to imitate the archaisms which Spenser's popularity must have rendered 
fashionable. If we go back eight or ten years, and suppose, which we have fairly a 
right to do, that Shakspere was a writer of verse before he was twenty, the absence 
of any recent models upon which he could found a style will be almost as remark- 
able, in the case of his narrative compositions, as in that of his dramas. In William 
Webbe's "Discourse of English Poetrie," published in 1586, Chaucer, Gower, 
Lydgate, and Skelton are the old poets whom he commends. His immediate pre- 
decessors, or contemporaries, are " Master George Gascoigne, a witty gentleman, 
and the very chief of our late rhymers," Surrey, Vaux, Norton, Bristow, Edwards, 
Tusser, Churchyard, Hunnis, Heywood, Hill, the Earl of Oxford (who " may challenge 
to himself the title of the most excellent" among "noble lords and gentlemen in 
her Majesty's court, which in the rare devices of poetry have been and yet are most 
excellent skilful") ; Phaer, Twyue, Golding, Googe, and Fleming, the translators ; 
Whetstone, Munday. The eminence of Spenser, even before the publication of " The 
Faery Queen," is thus acknowledged : " This place have I purposely reserved for 
one, who, if not only, yet in my judgment principally, deserveth the title of the 
Tightest English poet that ever I read : that is, the author of ' The Shepherd's 
Calendar.' " George Puttenham, whose " Arte of English Poesie" was published in 
1589, though probably written somewhat earlier, mentions with commendation among 
the later sort " For eclogue and pastoral poesy, Sir Philip Sidney and Master 
Challenner, and that other gentleman who wrate the late ' Shepherd's Calendar.' 
For ditty and amorous ode I find Sir Walter Raleigh's vein most lofty, insolent, and 



148 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II. 



passionate. Master Edward Dyer for elegy most sweet, solemn, and of high conceit. 
Gascoigne for a good metre and for a plentiful vein." The expression " that other 
gentleman who wrate the late 'Shepherd's Calendar'" would fix the date of this 
passage of Puttenham almost immediately subsequent to the publication of Spenser's 
poem in 1579, the author being still unknown. Shakspere, then, had very few 
examples amongst his contemporaries, even of the first and most obvious excellence 
of the "Venus and Adonis" "the perfect sweetness of the versification."* To con- 
tinue the thought of the same critic, this power of versification was " evidently 
original, and not the result of an easily imitable mechanism." But at the same time, he 
could not have attained the perfection displayed in the " Venus and Adonis" without 
a long and habitual practice, which could alone have bestowed the mechanical facility. 
It is not difficult to trace in that poem itself portions which might have been written 
as the desultory exercises of a young poet, and afterwards worked up so as to be 
imbedded in the narrative. Such is the description of the steed ; such of the hare- 
hunt. Upon the principle upon which we regard the Sonnets, that they are frag- 
mentary compositions, arbitrarily strung together, there can be no difficulty in 
assigning several of these, and especially those which are addressed to a mistress, to 
that period of the poet's life of which his own recollection would naturally suggest 
the second stage in his " Seven Ages." " The lover sighing like furnace," would 
have poured himself out in juvenile conceits, such as characterize the Sonnets 
numbered 135, 136, 143 ; or in playful tokens of affection, such as the 128th, the 
130th, the 145th; or in complaining stanzas, " a woeful ballad," such as the 131st 
and 132nd. The little poems of " The Passionate Pilgrim" which can properly be 
ascribed to Shakspere have the decided character of early fragments. The beautiful 
elegiac stanzas of " Love's Labour's Lost" have the same stamp upon them ; as 
well as similar passages in " The Comedy of Errors." The noble scene of the death 
of Talbot and his son, forming the 5th, 6th, and 7th scenes of the 4th a'ct of "Henry 
VI.," Part I., are so different in the structure of their versification from the other 
portions of the play that we may fairly regard them as forming a considerable part 
of some separate poem, and that perhaps not originally dramatic. " The period," 
says Malone, " at which Shakspeare began to write for the stage will, I fear, never 
be precisely ascertained." t Probably not. But, in the absence of this precise infor- 
mation, it is a far more reasonable theory that he was educating himself in dramatic 
as well as poetical composition generally at an early period of his life, when such a 
mind could not have existed without strong poetical aspirations, than the prevailing 
belief that the first publication of the " Venus and Adonis," and his production of 
an original drama, were nearly contemporaneous. This theory assumes that his 
poetical capacity was suddenly developed, very nearly in its perfection, at the mature 
age of twenty-eight, in the midst of the laborious occupation of an actor, who had 
no claim for reward amongst his fellows but as an actor. We, on the contrary, con- 
sider that we adopt not only a more reasonable view, but one which is supported by 
all existing evidence, external and internal, when we regard his native fields as Shak- 
spere's poetical school. Believing that, in the necessary leisure of a country life, 
encumbered as we think with no cares of wool-stapling or glove-making, neither 
educating youth at the charge-house like his own Holofernes, nor even collecting 
his knowledge of legal terms at an attorney's desk, but a free and happy agricul- 
turist, the young Shakspere not exactly "lisped in numbers," but cherished and 
cultivated the faculty when "the numbers came;" we yield ourselves up to the 
poetical notion, because it is at the same time the more rational and consistent 

* Coleridge: " Biographia Literaria." f Posthumous " Life," p. 167. 



CHAP. IX.] 



SOLITARY HOURS. 



149 



one, that the genius of verse cherished her young favourite on these " willow'd 

banks :" 

" Here, as with honey gather'd from the rock, 
She fed the little prattler, and with songs 
Oft sooth'd his wondering ears ; with deep delight 
On her soft lap he sat, and caught the sotmds." * 

* Joseph Warton. 




[Near Alveston.] 



150 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK ii. 




[Hampton Lucy : Old Church.] 



CHAPTER X. 



THE TROTHPLIGHT AND THE WEDDING. 



THE hospitality of our ancestors was founded upon their sympathies with each 
other's joys and sorrows. The festivals of the church, the celebrations of sheep- 
shearing and harvest-home, the Mayings, were occasions of general gladness. But 
upon the marriage of a son or of a daughter, at the christening of a child, the 
humblest assembled their neighbours to partake of their particular rejoicing. So 
was it also with their sorrows. Death visited a family, and its neighbours came to 
mourn. To be absent from the house of mourning would have seemed as if there 
were not a fellowship in sorrow as well as in joy. Christian neighbours in those 
times looked upon each other as members of the same family. Their intimacy was 



CHAP. X.] ' THE TROTHPLIGHT AND THE WEDDING. 151 



much more constant and complete than in days that are thought more refined. 
Privacy was not looked upon as a desirable thing. The latch of every door was lifted 
without knocking, and the dance in the hall was arranged the instant some young 
taborcr struck a note ; or the gossip's bowl was passed around the winter fire-side, 
to jest and song : 

" And then the whole quire hold their hips and loffe, 
And waxen in their mirth, and neeze, and swear 
A merrier hour was never wasted there." * 

Young men married early. In the middle ranks there was little outfit required to 
begin housekeeping. A few articles of useful furniture satisfied their simple tastes ; 
and we doubt not there was as much happiness seated on the wooden bench as now 
on the silken ottoman, and as light hearts tripped over the green rushes as over the 
Persian carpet. A silver bowl or two, a few spoons, constituted the display of the 
more ambitious ; but for use the treen platter was at once clean and substantial, 
though the pewter dish sometimes graced a solemn merry-making. Employment, 
especially agricultural, was easily obtained by the industrious ; and the sons of the 
yeomen, whose ambition did not drive them into the towns to pursue commerce, or 
to the universities to try for the pri/os of professions, walked humbly and contentedly 
iu the same road as their fathers had walked before them. They tilled a little land 
with indifferent skill, and their herds and flocks gave food and raiment to their 
household. Surrounded by the cordial intimacies of the class to which he belonged, 
it is not difficult to understand how William Shakspere married early ; and the very 
circumstance of his so marrying is tolerably clear evidence of the course of life in 
which lie was brought up. 

Shakspere's marriage-bond, which was discovered a few years since, has set at rest 
all doubt as to the name and residence of his wife. She is there described as Anne 
Hathaway, of Stratford, in the diocese of Worcester, maiden. Rowe, in his " Life," 
says, " Upon his leaving school, he seems to have given entirely into that way of 
living which his father proposed to him ; and in order to settle in the world, after a 
family manner, he thought fit to marry while he was yet very young. His wife was 
the daughter of one Hathaway, said to have been a substantial yeoman in the neigh- 
bourhood of Stratford." At the hamlet of Shottery, which is in the parish of Strat- 
ford, the Hathaways had been settled forty years before the period of Shakspere's 
marriage ; for in the Warwickshire Surveys, in the time of Philip and Mary, it is 
recited that John Hathaway held property at Shottery, by copy of Court-roll, dated 
20th of April, 34th of Henry VIII., (1646).t The Hathaway of Shakspere's time 
was named Richard ; and the intimacy between him and John Shakspere is shown 
by a precept in an action against Richard Hathaway, dated 1566, in which John 
Shakspere is his bondman. Before the discovery of the marriage-bond, Malone had 
found a confirmation of the traditional account that the maiden name of Shakspere's 
wife was Hathaway ; for Lady Barnard, the grand-daughter of Shakspere, makes 
bequests in her will to the children of Thomas Hathaway, " her kinsman." But 
Malone doubts whether there were not other Hathaways than those of Shottery, 
residents in the town of Stratford, and not in the hamlet included in the parish. 
This is possible. But, on the other hand, the description in the marriage-bond of 
Anne Hathaway, as of Stratford, is no proof that she was not of Shottery ; for such 
a document would necessarily have regard only to the parish of the persons described. 

* "A Midsummer-Night's Dream," Act n., Scene I. 

f The Shottery property, which was called Hewland, remained with the descendants of the 
Hathaways till 1838. Amongst the laudable objects of the Shakspere Club of Stratford was the 
purchase and preservation of this property. That has been abandoned for want of means. 



152 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK ii. 



Tradition, always valuable when it is not opposed to evidence, has associated for 
many years the cottage of the Hathaways at Shottery with the wife of Shakspere. 
Garrick purchased relics out of it at the time of the Stratford Jubilee ; Samuel 
Ireland afterwards carried off what was called Shakspere's courting-chair ; and there 
is still in the house a very ancient carved bedstead, which has been handed down 
from descendant to descendant as an heirloom. The house was no doubt once 
adequate to form a comfortable residence for a substantial and even wealthy yeo- 
man. It is still a pretty cottage, embosomed by trees, and surrounded by pleasant 
pastures ; and here the young poet might have surrendered his prudence to his 
affections : 

" As in the sweetest buds 

The eating canker dwells, so eating love 

Inhabits in the finest wits of all."* 





-v*"---^-- 



[Shottery Cottage.] 

The very early marriage of the young man, with one more than seven years his elder, 
has been supposed to have been a rash and passionate proceeding. Upon the face 
of it, it appears an act that might at least be reproved in the words which follow 
those we have just quoted : 

" As the most forward bud 

Is eaten by the canker ere it blow, 

Even so by love the young and tender wit 

Is turn'd to folly ; blasting in the bud, 

Losing his verdure even in the prime, 

And all the fair effects of future hopes." 

This is the common consequence of precocious marriages ; but we are not therefore 
to conclude that " the young and tender wit " of our Shakspere was " turned to 
folly" that his "forward bud" was "eaten by the canker" that "his verdure" 

* "Two Gentlemen of Verona," Act I., Scene I. 



CHAP. X.] THE TROTHPUGHT AND THE WEDDING. 163 



was lost " even in the prime," by his marriage with Anne Hathaway before he was 
nineteen. The influence which this marriage must have had upon his destinies was 
no doubt considerable ; but it is too much to assume, as it has been assumed, that 
it was an unhappy influence. All that we really know of Shakspere's family life 
warrants the contrary supposition. We believe, to go no farther at present, that the 
marriage of Shakspere was one of affection ; that there was no disparity in the worldly 
condition of himself and the object of his choice ; that it was with the consent of 
friends ; that there were no circumstances connected with it which indicate that it was 
either forced or clandestine, or urged on by an artful woman to cover her appre- 
hended loss of character. 

There is every reason to believe that Shakspere was remarkable for manly beauty : 
" He was a handsome well-shaped man," says Aubrey. According to tradition, 
he played Adam in " As You Like It," and the Ghost in " Hamlet." Adam says, 

" Though I look old, yet I am strong and lusty." 

Upon his personation of the Ghost, Mr. Campbell has the following judicious remarks: 
" It has been alleged, in proof of his mediocrity, that he enacted the part of his 
own Ghost, in * Hamlet.' But is the Ghost in ' Hamlet' a very mean character ? 
No : though its movements arc few, they must be awfully graceful ; and the spectral 
voice, though subdued and half-monotonous, must be solemn and full of feeling. It 
gives us an imposing idea of Shakspeare's stature and mien to conceive him in this 
part. The English public, accustomed to see their lofty nobles, their Essexcs, and 
their Raleighs, clad in complete armour, and moving under it with a majestic air, 
would not have tolerated the actor Shak.speare, unless he had presented an appear- 
ance worthy of the buried majesty of Denmark."* That he performed kingly parts 
is indicated by these lines, written, in 1611, by John Davies, in a poem inscribed 
"To our English Terence, Mr. William Shakespeare :" 

" Some say, good Will, which I in sport do sing, 

Hiidst thou not play'd some kingly parts in sport, 
Thou hadst been a companion for a king, 
And been a king among the meaner sort." 

The portrait by Martin Droeshout, prefixed to the edition of 1623, when Shakspere 
would be well remembered by his friends, gives a notion of a man of remarkably fine 
features, independent of the wonderful development of forehead. The lines accom- 
panying it, which bear the signature B. I. (most likely Ben Jonson), attest the 
accuracy of the likeness. The bust at Stratford bears the same character. The 
sculptor was Gerard Johnson. It was probably erected soon after the poet's death ; 
for it is mentioned by Leonard Digges, in his verses upon the publication of Shak- 
spere's collected works by his " pious fellows." All the circumstances of which we 
have any knowledge imply that Shakspere, at the time of his marriage, was such a 
person as might well have won the heart of a mistress whom tradition has described 
as eminently beautiful. Anne Hathaway at this time was of mature beauty. The 
inscription over her grave in the church of Stratford-upon-Avon states that she died 
on "the 6th day of August, 1623, being of the age of 67 years." In November 
1582, therefore, she would be of the age of twenty-six. This disparity of years 
between Shakspere and his wife has been, we think, somewhat too much dwelt upon. 
Malone holds that " such a disproportion of age seldom fails at a subsequent period 
of life to be productive of unhappiness." Malone had, no doubt, in his mind the 
belief that Shakspere left his wife wholly dependent upon her children, a belief of 

* Remarks prefixed to Moxon's edition of the Dramatic Works. 



154 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II. 



which we had the satisfaction of showing the utter groundlessness. He suggests that 
in the "Midsummer-Night's Dream" this disproportion is alluded to, and he quotes 
a speech of Lysander in Act I. Scene i., of that play, not however giving the com- 
ment of Hermia upon it. The lines in the original stand thus : 

" Lys. Ah me ! for aught that ever I could read, 
Could ever hear by tale or history, 
The course of true love never did run smooth : 
But either it was different in blood ; 

Her. cross ! too high to be enthrall'd to low ! 

Lys. Or else misgrajfed, in respect of years ; 

Her. spite ! too old to be engag'd to young ! 

Lys. Or else it stood upon the choice of friends ; - 

Her. hell ! to choose love by another's eye ; ( 

Lys. Or, if there were a sympathy in choice, 
War, death, or sickness did lay siege to it." 

Difference in blood, disparity of years, the choosing of friends, are opposed to sym- 
pathy in choice. But was Shakspere's own case such as he would bear in mind in 
making Hermia exclaim, "O spite ! too old to be engag'd to young /" The passage 
was in all probability written about ten years after his marriage, when his wife 
would still be in the prime of womanhood. When Mr. de Quincey, therefore, 
connects the saying of Parson Evans with Shakspere's early love, " I like not when 
a woman has a great peard," he scarcely does justice to his own powers of obser- 
vation and his book-experience. The history of the most imaginative minds, pro- 
bably of most men of great ability, would show that in the first loves, and in the 
early marriages, of this class, the choice has generally fallen upon women older than 
themselves, and this without any reference to interested motives. But Mr. de 
Quincey holds that Shakspere, " looking back on this part of his youthful history 
from his maturest years, breathes forth pathetic counsels against the errors into 
which his own inexperience had been ensnared. The disparity of years between 
himself and his wife he notices in a beautiful scene of the ' Twelfth Night.' " * In 
this scene Viola, disguised as a page, a very boy, one of whom it is said 

" For they shall yet belie thy happy years 
That say thou art a man," 

is pressed by the Duke to own that his eye " hath stay'd upon some favour." Viola, 
who is enamoured of the Duke, punningly replies, "A little, by your favour ;" and 
being still pressed to describe the " kind of woman," she says of the Duke's " com- 
plexion" and the Duke's "years." Any one who in the stage representation of the 
Duke should do otherwise than make him a grave man of thirty-five or forty, a staid 
and dignified man, would not present Shakspere's whole conception of the character. 
There would be a difference of twenty years between him and Viola. No wonder, 
then, that the poet should make the Duke dramatically exclaim, 

" Too old, by Heaven ! Let still the woman take 
An elder than herself; so wears she to him, 
So sways she level in her husband's heart." 

And wherefore ? 

" For, boy, however we do praise ourselves, 
Our fancies are more giddy and unfirm, 
More longing, wavering, sooner lost and worn, 
Than women's are." 

* Life of Shakspeare in the " Encyclopaedia Britannica." 



CHAP. X.] THE TROTHPLIOHT AND THE WEDDING. 155 



The pathetic counsels, therefore, which Shakspere is here supposed to breathe in his 
maturer years, have reference only to his own giddy and unfirm fancies. We are of 
opinion, with regard to this matter, that upon the general principle upon which 
Shakspere subjects his conception of what is individually true to what is universally 
true, he would have rejected instead of adopted whatever was peculiar in his own 
experience, if it had been emphatically recommended to his adoption through 
the medium of his self-consciousness. Shakspere wrote these lines at a time of life 
(about 1602) when a slight disparity of years between himself and his wife would 
have been a very poor apology to his own conscience that his affection could not 
hold the bent ; and it certainly does happen, as a singular contradiction to his sup- 
posed " earnestness in pressing the point as to the inverted disparity of years, which 
indicates pretty clearly an appeal to the lessons of his personal experience,"* that 
at this precise period he should have retired from his constant attendance upon ,the 
stage, purchasing land in his native place, and thus seeking in all probability the 
more constant companionship of that object of his early choice of whom he is thus 
supposed to have expressed his distaste. It appears to us that this is a tolerably 
convincing proof that his affections could hold the bent, however he might drama- 
tically and poetically have said, 

" Then let thy love be younger than thyself, 
Or thy affection cannot hold the bent : 
For women are as roses ; whose fair flower, 
Being once display'd, doth fall that very hour. " 

There can be little doubt that the ancient ceremony of betrothing had not fallen 
into disuse at the period of Shakspere's marriage. Shakspere himself, who always, 
upon his great principle of presenting his audiences with matters familiar to them^ 
introduces the manners of his own country in his own times, has several remarkable 
passages upon the subject of the troth-plight. In "Measure for Measure" we learn 
that the misery of the " poor dejected Mariana" was caused by a violation of the 
trothplight : 

" Duke. She should this Angelo have married ; was affianced to her 
by oath, and the nuptial appointed : between which time of the con- 
tract and limit of the solemnity, her brother Frederick was wracked at 
sea, having in that perished vessel the dowry of his sister. But mark, 
how heavily this befel to the poor gentlewoman : there she lost a noble 
and renowned brother, in his love toward her ever most kind and 
natural ; with him the portion and sinew of her fortune, her marriage- 
dowry ; with both, her combinate husband, this well-seeming Angelo. 

Isabella. Can this be sol Did Angelo so leave her! 

Duke. Left her in tears, and dried not one of them with his comfort ; 
swallowed his vows whole, pretending, in her, discoveries of dishonour ; 
in few, bestowed her on her own lamentation, which she yet wears 
for his sake ; and he, a marble to her tears, is washed with them , but 
relents not." 

Angelo and Mariana were bound then "by oath ;" the nuptial was appointed ; there 
was a prescribed time between the contract and the performance of the solemnity of 
the Church. But, the lady having lost her dowry, the contract was violated by her 
"combinate" or affianced husband. The oath which Angelo violated was taken 
before witnesses ; was probably tendered by a minister of the Church. In " Twelfth 
Night" we have a minute description of such a ceremonial. When Olivia is hastily 
espoused to Sebastian, she says, 

" Now go with me, and with this holy man, 
Into the chantry by : there, before him, 

* Life in " Encyclopaedia Britannica." 



156 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II. 



And underneath that consecrated roof, 
Plight me the full assurance of your faith ; 
That my most jealous and too doubtful soul 
May live at peace : He shall conceal it 
Whiles you are willing it shall come to note, 
What time we will our celebration keep 
According to my birth." 

This was a private ceremony before a single witness, who would conceal it till the 
proper period of the public ceremonial. Olivia, fancying she has thus espoused the 
page, repeatedly calls him "husband ;" and, being rejected, she summons the priest 
to declare 

" What thou dost know 
Hath newly pass'd between this youth and me." 

The priest answers, 

" A contract of eternal bond of love, 
Confirm'd by mutual joinder of your hands, 
Attested by the holy close of lips, 
Strengthen'd by interchangement of your rings ; 
And all the ceremony of this compact 
Seal'd in my function, by my testimony : 
Since when, my watch has told me, toward my grave 
I have travell' d but two hours." 

But from another passage in Shakspere, it is evident that the trothplight was ex- 
changed without the presence of a priest, but that witnesses were essential to the 
ceremony.* The scene in the "Winter's Tale" where this occurs, is altogether so 
perfect a picture of rustic life, that we may fairly assume that Shakspere had in view 
the scenes with which his own youth was familiar, where there was mirth without 
grossness, and simplicity without ignorance : 

" Flo. 0, hear me breathe my life 

Before this ancient sir, who, it should seem, 
Hath sometime lov'd : I take thy hand; this hand, 
As soft as dove's down, and as white as it ; 
Or Ethiopian's tooth, or the fanu'd snow, 
That 's bolted by the northern blasts twice o'er. 

Pol What follows this 1 
How prettily the young swain seems to wash 
The hand was fair before ! I have put you out : 
But to your protestation ; let me hear 
What you profess. 

Flo. Do, and be witness to 't. 

Pol. And this my neighbour too ? 

Flo. And he, and more 

Than he, and men ; the earth, the heavens, and all : 
That, were I crown'd the most imperial monarch, 
Thereof most worthy ; were I the fairest youth 
That ever made eye swerve ; had force, and knowledge, 
More than was ever man's, I would not prize them, 
Without her love : for her, employ them all ; 
Commend them, and condemn them, to her service, 
Or to their own perdition. 

Pol. Fairly offer'd. 

Com. This shows a sound affection. 

* Holinshed states that at a synod held at Westminster, in the reign of Henry I., it was decreed 
" that contracts made between man and woman, without witnesses, concerning marriage, should be ' 
void if either of them denied it." 



CHAP. X.] THE TROTHPLIGHT AND THE WEDDING. 157 



Shep. But, my daughter, 

Say you the like to him ? 

Per. I cannot speak 

So well, nothing so well ; no, nor mean better : 
By the pattern of mine own thoughts I cut out 
The purity of his. 

Shep. Take hands, a bargain ; 

And friends unknown, you shall bear witness to 't : 
I give my daughter to him, and will make 
Her portion equal his. 

Flo. 0, that must be 

I' the virtue of your daughter : one being dead, 
I shall have more than you can dream of yet ; 
Enough then for your wonder : But, come on, 
Contract us 'fore these witnesses. 

Shep. Come, your hand , 

And daughter, yours." 

To the argument of Polixenes that the father of Florizel ought to know of his pro- 
ceeding, the young man answers, 

" Flo. Come, come, he must not : 

Mark our contract." 

And then the father, discovering himself, exclaims, 
" Mark your divorce, young sir." 

Here, then, in the publicity of a village festival, the hand of the loved one is solemnly 
taken by her "servant;" he breathes his life before the ancient stranger who is 
accidentally present. The stranger is called to be witness to the protestation ; and 
so is the neighbour who has come with him. The maiden is called upon by her 
father to speak, and then the old man adds, 

" Take hands, a bargain." 
The friends are to bear witness to it : 

" I give my daughter to him, and will make 
Her portion equal his." 

The impatient lover then again exclaims, 

" Contract us 'fore these witnesses." 

The shepherd takes the hands of the youth and the maiden. Again the lover 
exclaims, 

" Mark our contract." 

The ceremony is left incomplete, for the princely father discovers himself with, 
" Mark your divorce, young sir." 

We have thus shown, by implication, that in the time of Shakspere betrothment 
was not an obsolete rite. Previous to the Reformation it was in all probability that 
civil contract derived from the Roman law, which was confirmed indeed by the 
sacrament of marriage, but which usually preceded it for a definite period, some 
say forty days, having perhaps too frequently the effect of the marriage of the 
Church as regarded the unrestrained intercourse of those so espoused. In a work 
published in 1543, "The Christian State of Matrimony," we find this passage : "Yet 
in this thing also must I warn every reasonable and honest person to beware that 
in the contracting of marriage they dissemble not, nor set forth any lie. Every man 



158 WILLIAM 8HAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II. 



likewise must esteem the person to whom he is handfasted none otherwise than for 
his own spouse ; though as yet it be not done in the church, nor in the street. 
After the handfasting and making of the contract the church-going and wedding 
should not be deferred too long." The author then goes on to rebuke a custom, 
"that at the handfasting there is made a great feast and superfluous banquet ;" and 
he adds words which imply that the Epithalamium was at this feast sung, without 
a doubt of its propriety, " certain weeks afore they go to the church," where 

" All sanctimonious ceremonies may 
With full and holy rite be minister'd." 

The passage in "The Tempest" from which we quote these lines has been held 
to show that Shakspere denounced, with peculiar solemnity, that impatience which 
waited not for " all sanctimonious ceremonies." * But it must be remembered that 
the solitary position of Ferdinand and Miranda prevented even the solemnity of a 
betrothment ; there could be no witnesses of the public contract ; it would be of 
the nature of those privy contracts which the ministers of religion, early in the reign 
of Elizabeth, were commanded to exhort young people to abstain from. The proper 
exercise of that authority during half a century had not only repressed these privy 
contracts, but had confined the ancient practice of espousals, with their almost in- 
evitable freedoms, to persons in the lower ranks of life, who might be somewhat 
indifferent to opinion. A learned writer on the Common Prayer, Sparrow, holds 
that the Marriage Service of the Church of England was both a betrothment and a 
marriage. It united the two forms. At the commencement of the service the man 
says, " I plight thee my troth ;" and the woman, "I give thee my troth." This 
form approaches as nearly as possible to that of a civil contract ; but then comes 
the religious sanction to the obligation, the sacrament of matrimony. In the form 
of espousals so minutely recited by the priest in " Twelfth Night," he is only present 
to seal the compact by his " testimony." The marriage customs of Shakspere's 
youth and the opinions regarding them might be very different from the practice and 
opinions of thirty years later, when he wrote " The Tempest." But in no case does 
he attempt to show, even through his lovers themselves, that the public trothplight 
was other than a preliminary to a more solemn and binding ceremonial, however it 
might approach to the character of a marriage. It is remarkable that Webster, on 
the contrary, who was one of Shakspere's later contemporaries, has made the heroine 
of one of his noblest tragedies, " The Duchess of Main," in the warmth of her 
affection for her steward, exclaim 

" I have heard lawyers say, a contract in a chamber 
Per verba prcesenli is absolute marriage." 

This is an allusion to the distinctions of the canon law between betrothing and 
marrying the betrothment being espousals with the verba de fuiuro ; the marriage, 
espousals with the verba de prcesenti. The Duchess of Main had misinterpreted the 
lawyers when she believed that a secret "contract in a chamber" was "absolute 
marriage," whether the engagement was for the present or the future. 

It is scarcely necessary to point out to our readers that the view we have taken 
presupposes that the licence for matrimony, obtained from the Consistorial Court at 
Worcester, was a permission sought for under no extraordinary circumstances ; 
still less that the young man who was about to marry was compelled to urge on 
the marriage as a consequence of previous imprudence. We believe, on the contrary, 
that the course pursued was strictly in accordance with the customs of the time, and 

* Life of Shakspeare by Mr. de Quincey, in the " Encyclopaedia Britannica." 



CHAP. X.] 



THE TROTHPLIGHT AND THE WEDDIXG. 



159 



of the class to which Shakspere belonged. The espousals before witnesses, we have 
no doubt, were then considered as constituting a valid marriage, if followed up 
within a limited time by the marriage of the Church. However the Reformed 
Church might have endeavoured to abrogate this practice, it was unquestionably the 
ancient habit of the people. It was derived from the Roman law, the foundation of 
many of our institutions. It prevailed for a long period without offence. It still 
prevails in the Lutheran Church. We are not to judge of the customs of those 
days by our own, especially if our inferences have the effect of imputing criminality 
where the most perfect innocence existed. Because Shakspere's marriage-bond is 
dated in November, 1582, and his daughter is born in May, 1583, we are not to 
believe that here was " haste and secrecy." Mr. Halliwell has brought sound docu- 
mentary evidence to bear upon this question ; he has shewn that the two bondsmen, 
Sandels and Richardson, were respectable neighbours of the Hathaways of Shottery, 
although, like Anne herself, they are described as of Stratford. This disposes of the 
" secrecy." In the same year that Shakspere was married, Mr. Halliwell has shewn 
that there were two entries in the Stratford Register, recording the church rite of 
marriage to have preceded the baptism of a child, by shorter periods than indicated 
1 y Shakspere's marriage-bond ; and that in cases where the sacrcdness of the marriage 
has been kept out of view, illegitimacy is invariably noted in these registers. The 
"haste" was evidently not required in fear of the scandal of Stratford. We believe 
that the course pursued was strictly in accordance with the custom of the time, and 
of the class to which the Shaksperes and Hathaways belonged. 




[House in Charlcote Village.] 



The bells of some village church near Stratford are ringing for a wedding, in the 
last days of November, 1582. The out-door ceremonials are not quite so rude as 
those which Ben Jonson has delineated ; but they are founded on the same primitive 



160 WILLIAM SHAKSPEKE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK II. 



customs. There are " ribands, rosemary, and bay for the bridemen ; " and some one 
of the rustics may exclaim 

" Look ! and the wenches ha' not found 'un out, 
And do parzent un' with a van of rosemary, 
And bays, to vill a bow-pot, trim the head 
Of my best vore horse ! we shall all ha' bride laces, 
Or points I zee."* 

Like the father in Jonson's play, the yeoman of Shottery might say to his dame 

" You 'd have your daughters and maids 
Dance o'er the fields like fays to church :" 

but he will not add 

" I '11 have no roundels." 

He will not be reproached that he resolved 

" To let no music go afore his child 
To church, to cheer her heart up." f 

On the other hand, there are no court ceremonials here to be seen, 

" As running at the ring, plays, masks, and tilting." J 

There would be the bride-cup and the wheaten garlands ; the bride led by fair-haired 
boys, and the bridegroom following with his chosen neighbours : 



*' Glide by the banks of virgins then, and pass 
The showers of roses, lucky four-leav'd grass ; 
The while the cloud of younglings sing, 
And drown ye with a flow'ry spring ; 

While some repeat 
Your praise, and bless you, sprinkling you with wheat, 

While that others do divine 
* Blest is the bride on whom the sun doth shine.' " 

The procession enters the body of the church ; for, after the Keformation, the knot 
was no longer tied, as, at the five weddings of the Wife of Bath, at " church-door." 
The blessing is pronounced, the bride-cup is called for : the accustomed kiss is given 
to the bride. But neither custom is performed after the fashion of Petrucio : 

" He calls for wine : ' A health,' quoth he ; as if 
He had been aboard, carousing to his mates 
After a storm : quaff'd off the muscadel, 
And threw the sops all in the sexton's face ; 
Having no other reason, 
But that his beard grew thin and hungerly, 
And seem'd to ask him sops as he was drinking. 
This done, he took the bride about the neck, 
And kiss'd her lips with such a clamourous smack, 
That, at the parting, all the church did echo." || 

* " Tale of a Tub," Act I., Scene n. f " Tale of a Tub," Act II., Scene i. 

t "A New Way to Pay Old Debts," Act iv., Scene in. Herrick's " Hesperides.' 

II " Taming of the Shrew," Act in., Scene n. 



CHAP. X.] THE TROTHPLIGHT AND THE WEDDING. 161 



They drink out of the bride-cup with as much earnestness (however less the for- 
mality) as the great folks at the marriage of the Elector Palatine to the daughter of 
James I. : " In conclusion, a joy pronounced by the King and Queen, and seconded 
with congratulation of the lords there present, which crowned with draughts of 
Ippocras out of a great golden bowl, as an health to the prosperity of the marriage, 
began by the Prince Palatine, and answered by the Princess." * 

We will not think that "when they come home from church then beginneth 
excess of eating and drinking ; and as much is wasted in one day as were sufficient 
for the two new-married folk half a year to live upon." t The Dance follows the 
banquet : 

'* Hark ! hark ! I hear the minstrels play." f 

* Quoted in Reed's " Shakspeare," from Finet's " Philoxenis." 
f " Christian State of Matrimony." J " Taming of the Shrew," Act HI., Scene 11. 



M 2 




j 



o \V 

f BOOKIIlI 





[Clifford Church.] 



CHAPTER I. 



LEAVING HOME. 



" THIS William, being inclined^ naturally to poetry and acting, came to London, I 
guess about eighteen, and was an actor at one of the playhouses, and did act exceed- 
ingly well. Now Ben Jonson was never a good actor, but an excellent instructor. 
He began early to make Essays at Dramatic Poetry, which at that time was very 
low, and his plays took well." So writes honest Aubrey, in the year 1680, in his 
"Minutes of Lives" addressed to his "worthy friend, Mr. Anthony a Wood, Anti- 
quary of Oxford." Of the value of Aubrey's evidence we may form some opinion 
from his own statement to his friend : " T is a task that I never thought to have 
undertaken till you imposed it upon me, saying that I was fit for it by reason of my 
general acquaintance, having now not only lived above half a century of years in the 
world, but have also been much tumbled up and down in it ; which hath made me 
so well known. Besides the modern advantage of coffee-houses in this great city, 
before which men knew not how to be acquainted but with their own relations or 
societies, I might add that I come of a longaevous race, by which means I have wiped 



166 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE: A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK in. 



some feathers off the wings of time for several generations, which does reach high."* 
It must not be forgotten that Aubrey's account of Shakspere, brief and imperfect as 
it is, is the earliest known to exist. Eowe's "Life" was not published till 1707 ; 
and although he states that he must own a particular obligation to Betterton, the 
actor, for the most considerable part of the passages relating to this life "his vene- 
ration for the memory of Shakspeare having engaged him to make a journey into 
Warwickshire on purpose to gather up what remains he could of a name for which 
he had so great a veneration" we have no assistance in fixing the date of Better- 
ton's inquiries. Betterton was born in 1635. From the Eestoration until his 
retirement from the stage, about 1700, he was the most deservedly popular actor of 
his time ; " such an actor," says " The Tatler," " as ought to be recorded with the 
same respect as Roscius among the Romans." He died in 1710 ; and looking at 
his busy life, it is probable that he did not make this journey into Warwickshire 
until after his retirement from the theatre. Had he set about these inquiries earlier, 
there can be little doubt that the "Life" by Rowe would have contained more 
precise and satisfactory information. Shakspere's sister was alive in 1646 ; his 
eldest daughter, Mrs. Hall, in 1649 ; his second daughter, Mrs. Quiney, in 1662 ; 
and his grand-daughter, Lady Barnard, in 1670. The information which might be 
collected in Warwickshire, after the death of Shakspere's lineal descendants, would 
necessarily be mixed up with traditions, having for the most part some foundation, 
but coloured and distorted by that general love of the marvellous \vhich too often 
hides the fact itself in the inference from it. Thus, Shakspere's father might have 
sold his own meat, as the landowners of his time are reproached by Harrison for 
doing, and yet in no proper sense of the word have been a butcher. Thus, the 
supposition that the poet had intended to satirize the Lucy family, in an allusion to 
their arms, might have suggested that there was a grudge between him and the 
knight ; and what so likely a subject of dispute as the killing of venison ? The 
tradition might have been exact as to the dispute ; but the laws of another century 
could alone have suggested that the quarrel would compel the poet to fly the 
country. Aubrey's story of Shakspere's coming to London is a simple and natural 
one, without a single marvellous circumstance about it: " This William, being 
inclined naturally to poetry and acting, came to London." This, the elder story, 
appears to us to have much greater verisimilitude than the later : "He was obliged 
to leave his business and family in Warwickshire for some time, and shelter himself 
in London." Aubrey, who has picked up all the gossip " of coffee-houses in this 
great city," hears no word of Rowe's story, which would certainly have been handed 
down amongst the traditions of the theatre to Davenant and Shadwell, from whom 
he does hear something : "I have heard Sir William Davenant and Mr. Thomas 
Shadwell (who is counted the best comedian we have now) say, that he had a most 
prodigious wit." Neither does he say, nor indeed any one else till two centuries 
and a quarter after Shakspere is dead, that, " after four years' conjugal discord, he 
would resolve upon that plan of solitary emigration to the metropolis, which, at the 
same time that released him from the humiliation of domestic feuds, succeeded so 
splendidly for his worldly prosperity, and with a train of circumstances so vast for 
all future ages."t It is certainly a singular vocation for a writer of genius to bury 
the legendary scandals of the days of Rowe, for the sake of exhuming a new scandal, 
which cannot be received at all without the belief that the circumstance must have 
had a permanent and most evil influence upon the mind of the unhappy man who 
thus cowardly and ignominiously is held to have severed himself from his duty as a 
husband and a father. We cannot trace the evil influence, and therefore we reject 

* This letter, which accompanies the "Lives," is dated London, June 15, 1680. 
f " Encyclopaedia Britannica." 



CHAP. I.] LEAVING HOME. 167 



the scandal. It has not even the slightest support from the 
weakest tradition. It is founded upon an imperfect com- 
parison of two documents, judging of the habits of that period 
by those of our own day ; supported by quotations from a 
dramatist of whom it would be difficult to affirm that he ever 
wrote a line which had strict reference to his own feelings 
and circumstances, and whose intellect in his dramas went so 
completely out of itself that it almost realizes the description 
of the soul in its first and pure nature that it " hath no 
idiosyncrasies ; that is, hath no proper natural inclinations 
which are not competent to others of the same kind and 
condition." * 

In the baptismal register of the parish of Stratford for the 
year 1583 is the entry of the birth of Susanna. This record 
necessarily implies the residence of the wife of William Shak- 
sperc in the parish of Stratford. Did he himself continue to 
reside in this parish ? There is no evidence of his residence. 
His name appears in no suit in the Bailiff's Court at this 
] period. He fills no municipal office such as his father had 
filled before him. But his wife continues to reside in the 
native place of her husband, surrounded by his relations and 
her own. His father and his mother no doubt watch with 
anxious solicitude over the fortunes of their first son. He has 
a brother Gilbert, seventeen years of age, and a sister of four- 
teen. His brother Richard is nine years of age ; but Edmund 
is young enough to be the playmate of his little Susanna. In 
1585 there is another entry in the parochial register, the 
birth of a son and a daughter. 

William Shakspere has now nearly attained his majority. 
While he is yet a minor he is the father of three children. 
The circumstance of his minority may perhaps account for 
the absence of his name from all records of court-leet, or 
bailiffs court, or common-hall. He was neither a constable, 
^Q nor an ale-conner, nor an overseer, nor a jury-man, because 

^i he was a minor. We cannot affirm that he did not leave 

Stratford before his minority expired ; but it is to be inferred, 
^\ that, if he had continued to reside at Stratford after he was 
^ legally of age, we should have found traces of his residence 
C^ in the^records of the town. If his residence were out of 
^^ the borough, as we have supposed his father's to have been 
at this period, some trace would yet have been found of 
him, in all likelihood, within the parish. Just before the termina- 
tion of his minority we have an undeniable record that he was a second 
time a father within the parish. It is at this period, then, that we 
would place his removal from Stratford ; his flight, according to the 
old legend ; his solitary emigration, his unamiable separation from his 
family, according to the new discovery. That his emigration was even 
solitary we have not a tittle of evidence. The one fact we know with 
reference to Shakspcre's domestic arrangements in London is this: 
that as early as 1596 he was the occupier of a house in Southwark. "From a 

* " Enquiry into the Opinion of the Eastern Sages concerning the Prae-existence of Souls." By 
the Rev. Joseph Glanvil. 



168 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



paper now before me, which formerly belonged to Edward Alleyn, the player, 
our poet appears to have lived in Southwark, near the Bear-garden, in 1596."* 
Malone does not describe this paper ; but Mr. Collier found it at Dulwich College, 
and it thence appears that the name of " Mr. Shaksper " was in a list of " Inhabitants 
of Sowtherk as have complaned, this of Jully, 1596." It is immaterial to know 
of what Shakspere complained, in company with " Wilson the piper," and sundry 
others. The neighbourhood does not seem to have been a very select one, if we 
may judge from another name in this list. "We cannot affirm that Shakspere was 
the solitary occupier of this house in Southwark. Chalmers says, " it can admit of 
neither controversy nor doubt, that Shakspere in very early life settled in a family 
way where he was bred. Where he thus settled, he probably resolved that his wife 
and family should remain through life ; although he himself made frequent excursions 
to London, the scene of his profit, and the theatre of his fame." Mr. Hunter has 
discovered a document which shews that " William Shakespeare was, in 1598, assessed 
in a large sum to a subsidy upon the parish of St. Helen's, Bishopgate. He was 
assessed, also, in the Liberty of the Clink, Southwark, in 1609 ; but whether for a 
dwelling-house, or for his property in the Globe, is not evident. His occupation as 
an actor both at the Blackfriars and the Globe, the one a winter, the other a summer 
theatre, continued till 1603 or 1604. His interest as a proprietor of both theatres 
existed in all probability till 1612. In 1597 Shakspere became the purchaser of 
the largest house in Stratford, and he resided there with his family till the time of 
his death in 1616. Many circumstances show that his interests and affections were 
always connected with the place of his birth. 

William Shakspere, "being inclined naturally to poetry and acting," naturally 
became a poet and an actor. He would become a poet, without any impelling 
circumstances not necessarily arising out of his own condition. " He began early to 
make essays at dramatic poetry, which at that time was very low." Aubrey's 
account of his early poetical efforts is an intelligible and consistent account. 
Shakspere was familiar with the existing state of dramatic poetry, through his 
acquaintance with the stage in the visits of various companies of actors to Stratford. 
In 1584, there had been three sets of players at Stratford, remunerated for their 
performances out of the public purse of the borough. These were the players of 
"my Lord of Oxford," the Earl of Warwick, and the Earl of Essex. In 1585 we 
have no record of players in the borough. In 1586 there is only one performance 
paid for by the Corporation. But in 1587 the Queen's players, for the first time, 
make their appearance in that town ; and their performances are rewarded at a 
much higher rate than those of any previous company. Two years after this, that 
is in 1589, we have undeniable evidence that Shakspere had not only a casual 
engagement, was not only a salaried servant, as many players were, but was a share- 
holder in this very Queen's company, with other shareholders below him in the list. 
The fair inference is, that he did not at once jump into his position. Rowe says 
that, after having settled in the world in a family manner, and continued in this 
kind of settlement for some time, the extravagance of which he was guilty in robbing 
Sir Thomas Lucy's park obliged him to leave his business and family. He could 
not have so left, even according to the circumstances which were known to Rowe, 
till after the birth of his son and daughter in 1585. But the story goes on : "It 
is at this time, and upon this accident, that he is said to have made his first 
acquaintance in the playhouse. He was received into the company then in being, 
at first in a very mean rank ; but his admirable wit, and the natural turn of it to 
the stage, soon distinguished him, if not as an extraordinary actor, yet as an excellent 

* Malone : "Inquiry," Sec., p. 215. 



CHAP. I.] LEAVING HOME. 169 



writer." Sixty years after the time of Howe the story assumed a more circum- 
stantial shape, as far as regards the mean rank which Shakspere filled in his early 
connexion with the theatre. Dr Johnson adds one passage to the " Life," which he 
says " Mr. Pope related, as communicated to him by Mr. Howe." It is so remarkable 
an anecdote that it is somewhat surprising that Rowe did not himself add it to his 
own meagre account : 

" In the time of Elizabeth, coaches being yet uncommon, and hired coaches not 
at all in use, those who were too proud, too tender, or too idle to walk, went on 
horseback to any distant business or diversion. Many came on horseback to the 
play ; and when Shakspeare fled to London from the terror of a criminal prosecu- 
tion, his first expedient was to wait at the door of the playhouse, and hold the 
horses of those that had no servants, that they might be ready again after the 
performance. In this office he became so conspicuous for his care and readiness, 
that in a short time every man as he alighted called for Will Shakspeare, and 
scarcely any other waiter was trusted with a horse while Will Shakspeare could be 
had. This was the first dawn of better fortune. Shakspeare, finding more horses 
put into his hand than he could hold, hired boys to wait under his inspection, who, 
when Will Shakspeare was summoned, were immediately to present themselves. 
1 1 am Shakspeare's boy, Sir.' In time, Shakspeare found higher employment ; but 
as long as the practice of riding to the playhouse continued, the waiters that held 
the horses retained the appellation of Shakspeare's boys." 

Steevens has attempted to impugn the credibility of this anecdote by saying, 
" That it was once the general custom to ride on horseback to the play I am yet to 
learn. The most popular of the theatres were on the Bankside ; and we are told 
by the satirical pamphleteers of that time that the usual mode of conveyance to 
these places of amusement was by water, but not a single writer so much as hints 
at the custom of riding to them, or at the practice of having horses held during the 
hours of exhibition." Steevens is here in error ; he has a vague notion which is 
still persevered in with singular obstinacy, even by those who have now the means 
of knowing that Shakspere had acquired property in the chief theatre in 1589 
that the great dramatic poet had felt no inspiration till he was about eight-and- 
twenty, and that, therefore, his connexion with the theatre began in the palmy days 
of the Globe on the Bankside a theatre not built till 1593. To the earlier theatres, 
if they were frequented by the gallants of the Court, they would have gone on horses. 
They did so go, as we learn from Dekker, long after the Bankside theatres were 
established. The story first appeared in a book entitled " The Lives of the Poets," 
considered to be the work of Theophilus Gibber, but said to be written by a Scotch- 
man of the name of Shiels, who was an amanuensis of Dr. Johnson. Shiels had 
certainly some hand in the book ; and there we find that Davenant told the anecdote 
to Betterton, who communicated it to Rowe, who told it to Pope, who told it to Dr. 
Newton. Improbable as the story is as it now stands, there may be a scintillation 
of truth in it, as in most traditions. It is by no means impossible that the Black- 
friars Theatre might have had Shakspere's boys to hold horses, but not Shakspere 
himself. As a proprietor of the theatre, Shakspere might sagaciously perceive that 
its interest would be promoted by the readiest accommodation being offered to its 
visitors ; and further, with that worldly adroitness which, in him, was not incom- 
patible with the exercise of the highest genius, he might have derived an individual 
profit by employing servants to perform this office. In an age when horse-stealing 
was one of the commonest occurrences, it would be a guarantee for the safe charge 
of the horses that they were committed to the care of the agents of one then well 
known in the world, an actor, a writer, a proprietor of the theatre. Such an 
association with the author of Hamlet must sound most anti-poetical ; but the fact 



170 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



is scarcely less prosaic that the same wondrous man, about the period when he wrote 
Macbeth, had an action for debt in the Bailiff's Court at Stratford, to recover thirty- 
five shillings and tenpence for corn by him sold and delivered. 

Familiar, then, with theatrical exhibitions, such as they were, from his earliest 
youth, and with a genius so essentially dramatic that all other writers that the 
world has seen have never approached him in his power of going out of himself, it 
is inconsistent with probability that he should not have attempted some dramatic 
composition at an early age. The theory that he was first employed in repairing 
the plays of others we hold to be altogether untenable ; supported only by a very 
narrow view of the great essentials to a dramatic work, and by verbal criticism, 
which, when carefully examined, utterly fails even in its own petty assumptions. 
There can be no doubt that the three Parts of " Henry VI." belong to the early stage. 
We believe them to be wholly and absolutely the early work of Shakspere. But we 
do riot necessarily hold that they were his earliest work ; for the proof is so absolute 
of the continual improvements and elaborations which he made in his best produc- 
tions, that it would be difficult to say that some of the plays which have the most 
finished air, but of which there were 110 early editions, may not be founded upon 
very youthful compositions. Others may have wholly perished ; thrown aside after 
a season ; never printed ; and neglected by their author, to whom new inventions 
would be easier than remodellings of pieces probably composed upon a false theory 
of art. For it is too much to imagine that his first productions would be wholly 
untainted by the taste of the period. Some might have been weak delineations of 
life and character, overloaded with mythological conceits and pastoral affectations, 
like the plays of Lyly, which were the Court fashion before 1590. Others might 
have been prompted by the false ambition to produce effect, which is the charac- 
teristic of Locrine, and partially so of Titus Andronicus. But of one thing we may 
be sure that there would be no want of power even in his first productions ; that 
real poetry would have gushed out of the bombast, and true wit sparkled amidst 
the conceits. His first plays would, we think, fall in with the prevailing desire of 
the people to learn the history of their country through the stage. , If so, they would 
certainly not exhibit the feebleness of some of those performances which were popular 
about the period of which we are now speaking, and which continued to be popular 
even after he had most successfully undertaken 

" To raise our ancient sovereigns from their hearse." 

The door of the theatre was not a difficult one for him to enter. It is a singular 
fact, that several of the most eminent actors of this very period are held to have 
been his immediate neighbours. The petition to the Privy Council, which has 
proved that Shakspere was a sharer in the Blackfriars playhouse in 1589, contains 
the names of sixteen shareholders, he being the twelfth on the list. The head of 
the Company was James Burbage ; the second, Richard Burbage his son. Malone 
suspected that both John Heminge, one of the editors of Shakspere's Collected 
Works, and Eichard Burbage, " were Shakspere's countrymen, and that Heminge 
was born at Shottery." His conjecture with regard to Heminge was founded upon 
entries in the baptismal register of Stratford, which show that there was a John 
Heminge at Shottery in 1567, and a Richard Heminge in 1570. Mr. Collier has 
shewn that a John Burbadge was bailiff of Stratford in 1555 ; and that many of the 
same name were residents in Warwickshire. But Mr. Hunter believes that Richard 
Burbage was a native of London. A letter addressed by Lord Southampton to Lord 
Ellesmere in 1608, introducing Burbage and Shakspere to ask protection of that 
nobleman, then Lord Chancellor, against some threatened molestation from the Lord 
Mayor and aldermen of London, says, "they are both of one county, and indeed almost 



CHAP. I.] LEAVING HOME. 171 



of one town." This would be decisive, had some doubts not been thrown upon the 
authenticity of this document. We do not therefore rely upon the assumption that 
William Shakspere and Richard Burbage were originally neighbours. But from the 
visits of the Queen's players to Stratford, Shakspere might have made friends with 
Burbage and Heruinge, and have seen that the profession of an actor, however dis- 
graced by some men of vicious manners, performing in the inn-yards and smaller 
theatres of London, numbered amongst its members men of correct lives and honour- 
able character. Even the enemy of plays and players, Stephen Gosson, had been 
compelled to acknowledge this : " It is well known that some of them are sober, 
discreet, properly learned, honest householders, and citizens well thought on among 
their neighbours at home."* It was a lucrative profession, too ; especially to those 
who had the honour of being the Queen's Servants. Their theatre was frequented 
by persons of rank and fortune ; the prices of admission were high ; they were called 
upon not unfrequently to present their performances before the Queen herself, and 
their reward was a royal one. The object thus offered to the ambition of a young 
man, conscious of his own powers, would be glittering enough to induce him, not 
very unwillingly, to quit the tranquil security of his native home. But we inverse 
the usual belief in this matter. We think that Shakspere became an actor because 
he was a dramatic writer, and not a dramatic writer because he was an actor. He 
very quickly made his way to wealth and reputation, not so much by a handsome 
person and pleasing manners, as by that genius which left all other competitors far 
behind him in the race of dramatic composition ; and by that prudence which taught 
him to combine the exercise of his extraordinary powers with a constant reference 
to the course of life he had chosen, not lowering his art for the advancement of his 
fortune, but achieving his fortune in showing what mighty things might be accom- 
plished by his art. 

There is a subject, however, which we are now called upon to examine, which may 
have had a material influence upon the determination of Shakspere to throw himself 
upon the wide and perilous sea of London dramatic society. We have uniformly 
contended against the assertion that the poverty of John Shakspere prevented him 
giving his son a grammar-school education. We believe that all the supposed evi- 
dences of that poverty, at the period of Shakspere's boyhood, are extremely vague 
and contradictory.t But, on the other hand, it appears to us more than probable 
that after William Shakspere had the expenses of a family to meet, there were 
changes, and very natural ones, in the worldly position of his father, and conse- 
quently of his own, which might have rendered it necessary that the son should 
abandon the tranquil course of a rural life which he probably contemplated when he 
married, and make a strenuous and a noble exertion for independence, in a career 
which his peculiar genius opened to him. We will first state the facts which appear 
to bear upon the supposed difficulties of John Shakspere, about the period when 
William may be held to have joined Burbage's company in London facts which are 
far from indicating any thing like ruin, but which exhibit some involvements and 
uneasiness. 

In 1578 John Shakspere mortgaged his property of Asbies, acquired by marriage. 
Four years before this he purchased two freehold houses in Stratford, which he 
always retained. In 1578, therefore, he wanted capital. In 1579 he sold an interest 
in some property at Snitterfield. But then, in 1580, he tendered the mortgage 
money to the mortgagee of the Asbies' estate, which was illegally refused, on the 
pretence that other money was owing. A Chancery suit was the consequence, which 
was undetermined in 1597. In an action for debt in the bailiff's court in 1586, 
the return of the serjeants-at-mace upon a warrant of distress against John Shak- 
* "School of Abuse," 1579. f See Book n., Chap. i. 



172 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III 



spere is, that lie had nothing to distrain upon. It is held, therefore, that all the 
household gear was then gone. Is it not more credible that the family lived else 
where ? Mr. Hunter has discovered that a John Shakspere lived at Clifford, a pretty 
village near Stratford, in 1579, he being described in a will of 1583 as indebted tc 
the estate of John Ashwell, of Stratford. His removal from Stratford borough as a 
resident, is corroborated by the fact that he was irregular in his attendance at the 
halls of the corporation, after 1578 ; and was finally, in 1586, removed from th 
body, for that he " doth not come to the halls when they be warned." And yet, as 
there were fines for non-attendance, as pointed out by Mr. Halliwell, there is some 
proof that he clung to the civic honours, even at a personal cost ; though, from 
some cause, and that probably non-residence, he did not perform the civic duties 
Lastly, he is returned in 1592, with other persons, as not attending church, anc 
this remark is appended to a list of nine persons, in which is the name of " Mr 
John Shackespere," " It is said that these last nine come not to church for fear of 
process for debt." If he had been residing in the borough it would have been quite 
unnecessary to execute the process in the sacred precincts ; he evidently lived anc 
was occupied out of the borough. It is tolerably clear that the traffic of Henley 
Street, whether of wool, or skins, or carcases, was at an end. John Shakspere, the 
yeoman, was farming ; and, like many other agriculturists, in all districts, and all 
times, was a sufferer from causes over which he had no control. There were pecu- 
liar circumstances at that period which, temporarily, would have materially affected 
his property. 

In 1580 John Shakspere tendered the mortgage-money for his wife's inheritance 
at Asbies. The property was rising in value ; the mortgagee would not give it up. 
He had taken possession, and had leased it, as we learn from the Chancery proceed- 
ings. He alleges, in 1597, that John Shakspere wanted to obtain possession, because 
the lease was expiring, " whereby a greater value is to be yearly raised." Other 
property was sold to obtain the means of making this tender. John Shakspere 
would probably have occupied his estate of Asbies, could he have obtained posses- 
sion. But he was unlawfully kept out ; and he became a tenant of some other land, 
in addition to what he held of his own. There was, at this particular period, a 
remarkable pressure upon proprietors and tenants who did not watchfully mark the 
effects of an increased abundance of money a prodigious rise in the value of all 
commodities, through the greater supply of the precious metals. In "A Briefe 
2onceipte touching the Commonweale," already quoted,* there is, in the dialogue 
Between the landowner, the husbandman, the merchant, the manufacturer, and the 
doctor of divinity, a complaint on the part of the landowner, which appears to offer 
a parallel case to that of John Shakspere : " All of my sort- I mean all gentlemen 
have great cause to complain, now that the prices of things are so risen of all 
lands, that you may better live after your degree than we ; for you may and do 
raise the price of your wares as the prices of victuals and other necessaries do rise, 
and so cannot we so much ; for though it be true, that of such lands as come to 
lands either by purchase or by determination and ending of such terms of years 
ihat I or my ancestors had granted them in time past, I do receive a better fine 
han of old was used, or enhance the rent thereof, being forced thereto for the charge 
>f my household, that is so encreased over that it was ; yet in all my lifetime I look 
not that the third part of my land shall come to my disposition, that I may enhance 
he rent of the same, but it shall be in men's holding either by leases or by copy 
granted before my time, and still continuing, and yet like to continue in the same 
tate for the most part during my life, and percase my sons. ***** * 
We are forced therefore to minish the third part of our household, or to raise the 

* Page 12. 



CHAP. I.] LEAVING HOME. 173 



third part of our revenues, and for that we cannot so do of our own lands that is 
already in the hands of other men, many of us are enforced to keep pieces of our 
own lands when they fall in our own possession, or to purchase some farm of other 
men's lands, and to store it with sheep or some other cattle, to help make up the 
decay of our revenues, and to maintain our old estate withal, and yet all is little 
enough." 

In such a transition state, we may readily imagine John Shakspere to have been 
a sufferer. But his struggle was a short one. He may have owed debts he was 
unable to pay, and have gone through some seasons of difficulty, deriving small rents 
from his own lands, " in the hands of other men," and enforced to hold " some farm 
of other men's lands" at an advanced rent. Yet this is not ruin and degradation. 
He maintained his social position ; and it is pleasant to imagine that his illustrious 
son devoted some portion of the first rewards of his labour to make the condition 
of his father easier in that time of general uneasiness and difficulty. In ten years 
prosperity brightened the homes of that family. The poet bought the best house 
in Stratford ; the yeoman applied to the College of Arms for bearings that would 
exhibit his gentle lineage, and asserted that he was a man of landed substance, 
sufficient to uphold the pretension. But in the period of rapid changes in the value 
of property, a transition which, from the time of Latimer, was producing the most 
remarkable effects on the social condition of all the people of England, pressing 
severely upon many, although it was affording the sure means of national progress, 
it is more than probable that Shakspere's father gradually found himself in 
straitened circumstances. This change in his condition might have directed his son 
to a new course of life which might be entered upon without any large pecuniary 
means, and which offered to his ambition a fair field for the exercise of his peculiar 
genius. There was probably a combination of necessity and of choice which gave 
us "Hamlet" and "Lear." If William Shakspere had remained at Stratford he 
would have been a poet a greater, perhaps, than the author of " The Faery Queen ; " 
but that species of literature which it was for him to build up, almost out of chaos, 
and to carry onward to a perfection beyond the excellence of any other age, might 
have been for him " an unweeded garden." 



174 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK in. 



NOTE. 

Mr. Halliwell, in the Preface to his " Life," has done me the favour to call public attention to 
my ignorance of " Palaeography," in reference to my publication of some documents on which 
the preceding statements are founded. He says, " Mr. Knight is, I believe, the only one of 
late years who has referred to the originals, ("records of Stratford-on-Avon,") but the very 
slight notice he has taken of them, and the portatttnu mistakes he has committed in cases where 
printed copies were not to be found, would appear to show that they were unintelligible to that 
writer." In one other passage Mr. Halliwell has conferred on me the greater favour of pointing 
out the number of " the portentous mistakes " in two documents out of the four which I gave 
from reference " to the originals." As to the others he is silent. He says, as to these two 
documents, "Malone makes thirty-one errors, and Mr. Knight, who professes in this in- 
stance to see the value of accuracy in such matters, and to correct his predecessors, falls into 
twenty-six." I acknowledge my own errors, with deep humility ; and I owe the public a duty 
to show what these twenty-six " portentous mistakes " are, and how they ought to be corrected 
from Mr. Halliwell's transcripts, founded upon his knowledge of " palaeography," which he 
describes as " a science essentially necessary in the investigation of contracted records of the 
sixteenth century, especially of those written in Latin." But Mr. Halliwell is too indulgent to 
me. I have exceeded the number of Malone's errors by two. Of course I assume that in 
reading these mouldy and blurred records Mr. Halliwell is infallible in the matters of ys and 
it. In his case no one can believe in the possibility of a doubt. 

" At his word 
Is A deposed, and B with pomp restor'd." 



MR. KNIGHT'S 
ERRORS. 

1. ibm. 

2. dnse. 

3. Elizabeth. 

4. &c. . 

5. is . 

6. , . . 

7. such 

8. towards . 

9. three 

10. burgess . 

11. such 

12. paye 

13. ivrf. 

14. Plymley . 

15. omitted . 

16. sum. 

17. inhabitants 



MR. HALLIWELL'S 
TRUE HEADINGS. 

ibidem 
domino 
Elizabeths; 
reginse nostrse, &c. 

ys 

110 comma 

suche 

towardes 

thre 

burgese 

suche 

pay 

iiijd. 

Plumley 

Aldermen 

Summa 

inhabitantes 



MR. KNIGHT'S 

ERRORS. 

18. appear 

19. ibm. 

20. a? . 

21. dnie. 

22. &c. . 

23. is . 

24. ordeined . 

25. towards . 

26. releif 

27. saving 

28. omitted . 

29. omitted . 

30. Plimley . 

31. pay . 

32. burgesses 

33. weekely . 



MR. HALLIWELL'S 
TRUE READINGS. 

appeare 

ibidem 

anno 

domiuai 

reginse nostrse, &c. 

ys 

ordened 

towardes 

relief 

savinge 

Mr. 

Mr. 

Plumley 

paye 

burgeses 

weekeley 



I think it my further duty " to make a clean breast," as my fellow- criminals say, and ac- 
knowledge my faults in the other Latin document I examined. I have omitted in my copy of 
a Writ the words "eundem" and "preedicti" recondite words, which to have passed over was 
not only a crime but a fault a critical sin and a " portentous mistake " an ignorance of the 
science of " Palaeography," which, to use the words of one who knew all sciences, " wholly dis- 
qualifies for the office of critic." One has come to enlighten the world, who, by the light of 
" science," does know that ibm. means ibidem, and dnce. domince. I am grateful. 



CHAP. II.] 



A NEW PLAY. 




[A Play at the BLtckfriars.] 
CHAPTER II. 

A NEW PLAY. 



AMONGST those innumerable by-ways in London which are familiar to the hurried 
pedestrian, there is a well-known line of streets, or rather lanes, leading from the 
hill on which St. Paul's stands to the great thoroughfare of Blackfriars Bridge. 
The pavement is narrow, the carriage-way is often blocked up by contending 
carmen, the houses are mean ; yet the whole district is full of interesting associa- 
tions. We have scarcely turned out of Ludgate Street, under a narrow archway, 
when the antiquary may descry a large lump of the ancient city wall embedded in 
the lath and plaster of a modern dwelling. A little farther, and we pass the Hall 



176 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III, 



of the Apothecaries, who have here, by dint of long and earnest struggle, raised their 
original shopkeeping vocation into a science. A little onward, and the name 
Printing-house Yard indicates another aspect of civilization. Here was the King's 
printing-house in the days of the Stuarts ; and here, in our own days, is the office 
of the " Times"' Newspaper, the organ of a greater power than that of prerogative. 
Between Apothecaries' Hall and Printing-house Yard is a short lane, leading into an 
open space called Playhouse Yard. It is one of those shabby places of which so 
many in London lie close to the glittering thoroughfares ; but which are known 
only to their own inhabitants, and have at all times an air of quiet which seems like 
desolation. The houses of this little square, or yard, are neither ancient nor modern. 
Some of them were probably built soon after the great fire of London ; for a few 
present their gable fronts to the streets, and the wide casements of others have 
evidently been filled up and modern sashes inserted. But there is nothing here, 
nor indeed in the whole precinct, with the exception of the few yards of the ancient 
wall, that has any pretension to belong to what may be called the antiquities of 
London. Yet here, three centuries ago, stood the great religious house of the 
Dominicans, or Black Friars, who were the lords of the precinct ; shutting out all 
civic authority, and enclosing within their four gates a busy community of shop- 
keepers and artificers. Here, in the hallowed dust of the ancient church, were the 
royal and the noble buried ; and their gilded tombs proclaimed their virtues to the 
latest posterity. Where shall we look for a fragment of these records now 1 Here 
parliaments have sat and pulled down odious favourites ; here kings have required 
exorbitant aids from their complaining subjects ; here Wolsey pronounced the 
sentence of divorce on the persecuted Katharine. In a few years the house of the 
Black Friars ceased to exist ; their halls were pulled down ; their church fell into 
ruin. The precinct of the Blackfriars then became a place of fashionable residence. 
Elizabeth, at the age of sixty, here danced at a wedding which united the houses 
of Worcester and Bedford. In the heart of this precinct, close by the church of 
the suppressed monastery, surrounded by the new houses of the nobility, in the 
very spot which is known as Playhouse Yard, was built, in 1575, the Blackfriars' 
Theatre. 

The history of the early stage, as it is to be deduced from statutes, and proclama- 
tions, and orders of council, exhibits a constant succession of conflicts between the 
civic authorities and the performers of plays. The act of the 14th of Elizabeth, 
" for the punishment of vagabonds, and for relief of the poor and impotent," was 
essentially an act of protection for the established companies of players. We have 
here, for the first time, a definition of rogues and vagabonds ; and it includes not 
only those who can " give no reckoning how he or she doth lawfully get his or her 
living," but " all fencers, bearwards, common players in interludes, and minstrels, 
not belonging to any baron of this realm, or towards any other honourable personage 
of greater degree ; all jugglers, pedlers, tinkers, and petty chapmen ; winch said 
fencers, bearwards, common players in interludes, minstrels, jugglers, pedlers, tinkers, 
and petty chapmen, shall wander abroad, and have not licence of two justices of the 
peace at the least, whereof one to be of the quorum, where and in what shire they 
shall happen to wander." The circumstance of belonging to any baron, or person of 
greater degree, was in itself a pretty large exception ; and if in those times of rising 
puritanism the licence of two justices of the peace was not always to be procured, the 
large number of companies enrolled as the servants of the nobility offers sufficient 
evidence that the profession of a player was not a persecuted one, but one expressly 
sanctioned by the ruling powers. The very same statute throws by implication as 
much odium upon scholars as upon players ; for amongst its vagabonds are included 
" all scholars of the Universities of Oxford or Cambridge that go about begging, not 



CHAP. II.] A NEW PLAY. 177 



being authorised under the seal of the said Universities." * There was one company 
of players, the Earl of Leicester's, which within two years after the legislative pro- 
tection of this act received a more important privilege from the Queen herself. In 
1574 a writ of privy seal was issued to the keeper of the great seal, commanding 
him to set forth letters patent addressed to ah 1 justices, &c., licensing and authorizing 
James Burbage, and four other persons, servants to the Earl of Leicester, " to use, 
exercise, and occupy the art and faculty of playing comedies, tragedies, interludes, 
stage-plays, and such other like _ as they have already used and studied, or hereafter 
shah 1 use and study, as well for the recreation of our loving subjects, as for our 
solace and pleasure, when we shall think good to see them." And they were to 
exhibit their performances " as well within our city of London and liberties of the 
same," as "throughout our realm of England." Without knowing how far the 
servants of the Earl of Leicester might have been molested by the authorities of the 
city of London, in defiance of this patent, it is clear that the patent was of itself 
insufficient to insure their kind reception within, the city ; for it appears that, 
within three months after the date of the patent, a letter was written from the 
Pi-ivy Council to the Lord Mayor, directing him " to admit the comedy-players within 
the city of London, and to be otherwise favourably used." This mandate was 
probably obeyed ; but in 1575 the Court of Common Council, without any exception 
for the objects of the patent of 1574, made certain orders, in the city language 
termed an act, which assumed that the whole authority for the regulation of plays 
was in the Lord Mayor and Court of Aldermen ; that they only could license 
theatrical exhibitions within the city ; and that the players whom they did license 
should contribute half their receipts to charitable purposes. The civic authorities 
appear to have stretched their power somewhat too far ; for in that very year James 
Burbage, and the other servants of the Earl of Leicester, erected their theatre amidst 
the houses of the great in the Blackfriars, within a stone's throw of the city walls, 
but absolutely out of the control of the city officers. The immediate neighbours of 
the players were the Lord Chamberlain and Lord Hunsdon, as we learn from a 
petition against the players from the inhabitants of the precinct, t The petition was 
unavailing. The rooms which it states "one Burbadgc hath lately bought" were 
converted " into a common playhouse ; " and within fourteen years from the period 
of its erection William Shakspere was one of its proprietors. 

It would not be an easy matter, without some knowledge of minute facts and a 
considerable effort of imagination, to form an accurate notion of that building in the 
Blackfriars rooms converted into a common playhouse in which we may conclude 
that the first plays of Shakspere were exhibited. The very expression used by the 
petitioners against Burbage's project would imply that the building was not very 
nicely adapted to the purposes of dramatic representation. They say, " which rooms 
the said Burbage is now altering, and meaneth very shortly to convert and turn the 
same into a common playhouse." And yet we are not to infer that the rooms were 
hastily adapted to their object by the aid of a few boards and drapery, like the barn 
of a strolling company. In 1596 the shareholders say, in a petition to the Privy 
Council, that the theatre, " by reason of its having been so long built, hath fallen 
into great decay, and that, besides" the reparation thereof, it has been found necessary 
to make the same more convenient for the entertainment of auditories coming 
thereto." The structure, no doubt, was adapted to its object without any very 

* It is curious that the act against vagabonds of the 39th of Elizabeth somewhat softens this 
matter ; for in its definition of vagabonds it includes " all persons calling themselves scholars, going 
about begging." It says nothing, with regard to players, about the licence of two justices ; and 
requires that the nobleman's licence shall be under his hand and seal. 

f Lord Hunsdon's name appears to this petition, but the Lord Chamberlain's does not appear. 

N 2 



178 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



great regard to durability ; and the accommodations, both for actors and audience, 
were of a somewhat rude nature. The Blackfriars' was a winter theatre ; so that, 
differing from the Globe, which belonged to the same company, it was, there can be 
little doubt, roofed in. It appears surprising that, in a climate like that of England, 
even a summer theatre should be without a roof ; but the surprise is lessened when 
we consider that, when the Globe was built, in 1594, not twenty years had elapsed 
since plays were commonly represented in the open yards of the inns of London. 
The Belle Savage* was amongst the most famous of these inn-yard theatres ; and 
even the present area of that inn will show how readily it might be adapted for such 
performances. We turn aside from the crowds of Ludgate Hill, and pass down a 
gateway which opens into a considerable space. The present inn occupies the east 
and north sides of the area, the west side consists of private houses of business. But 
formerly the inn occupied the entire of the three sides, with open galleries running 
all round, and communicating with the chambers. Raise a platform with its back 
to the gateway for the actors, place benches in the galleries- which run round three 
sides of the area, and let those who pay the least price be contented with standing- 
room in the yard, and a theatre, with its stage, pit, and boxes, is raised as quickly 
as the palace of Aladdin. The Blackfriars' theatre was probably therefore little 
more than a large space, arranged pretty much like the Belle Savage yard, but with 
a roof over it. Indeed, so completely were the public theatres adapted after the 
model of the temporary ones, that the space for the "groundlings" long continued 
to be called the yard. One of the earliest theatres, built probably about the same 
time as the Blackfriars', was called the Curtain, from which we may infer that the 
refinement of separating the actors from the audience during the intervals of the 
representation was at first peculiar to that theatre. 

In the petition to the Privy Council in 1596 it is stated that the petitioners "are 
owners and players of the private house or theatre in the precinct or liberty of the 
Blackfriars." Yet the petition of the inhabitants of the precinct against the enter- 
prise of Burbage, in 1576, states the intention of Burbage to convert the rooms 
which he has bought " into a common playhouse," arid it alleges the inconvenience 
that will result from the " gathering together of all manner of vagrant and lewd 
persons, under colour of resorting to the plays." Here then is an apparent contra- 
diction, the Blackfriars' theatre is called a private house and also a common play- 
house. But the seeming contradiction is reconciled when we learn that for many 
years a distinction was preserved between public and private theatres. The theatres 
of inn-yards were undoubtedly public theatres. The yard was hired for some short 
period, the scaffold hastily run up, and the gates closed, except to those who came 
with penny in hand. Such were the theatres of the Belle Savage in Ludgate Hill, 
the Cross Keys in Gracechurch Street, and the Bull in Bishopsgate Street. But, as 
we learn from a passage in an old topographer, in which he expressly mentions the 
Belle Savage, the penny at the theatre-gate was something like the penny at the 
porch of our cathedral show-shops of the present day, other pennies were demanded 
for a peep at the sights within. " Those who go to Paris Garden, the Belsavage, or 
Theatre, to behold bear-baiting, interludes, or fence-play, must not account of any 
pleasant spectacle, unless first they pay one penny at the gate, another at the entry 
of the scaffold, and a third for quiet standing." t The Paris Garden here mentioned 
was the old bear-baiting place which had existed from the time of Henry VIII., and 
perhaps earlier. The Belle Savage, rude as its accommodations doubtless were, had 
yet its graces and amenities, if Stephen Gosson be not a partial critic : " The two 
prose books played at the Bel-savage, where you shall find never a word without wit, 

* The old writers spell the word less learnedly than we Bel-savage. 
f Lambarde's " Perambulation of Kent," 1576. 



CHAP. II.] A NEW PLAY. 179 



never a line without pith, never a letter placed in vain." * The Theatre also men- 
tioned by Lambarde was a public playhouse so called. It was situated in Shoreditch, 
without the City walls. In Aggas's map we see a tolerably continuous street, leading 
from Bishop's Gate to Shoreditch Church ; but on each side of this street there is a 
wide extent of fields and gardens ; Spital field to the east, and Finsbury field to the 
west, with rude figures, in the map, of cows and horses, archers, laundresses, and 
water-carriers, which show how completely this large district, now so crowded with 
human life in all its phases of comfort and misery, was in the days of Elizabeth a 
rural suburb. Stow, in the first edition of his "Survey," 1599, mentions the old 
Priory of St. John the Baptist, called Holy well. " The church thereof being pulled 
down, many houses have been there builded for the lodgings of noblemen, of strangers 
bom, and other. And near thereunto are builded two public-houses for the acting 
and show of comedies, tragedies, and histories, for recreation. Whereof the one is 
called the Curtain, the other the Theatre, both standing on the south-west side 
toward the field." t In a sermon by John Stockwood, in 1578, the Theatre is called 
a "gorgeous playing place." Stubbes, in 1583, rails bitterly against these public 
playhouses : " Mark the flocking and running to Theatres and Curtains." The early 
history of the less important theatres is necessarily involved in great obscurity. 
There were playhouses on the Bankside, against the immoralities of which, particu- 
larly as to playing on Sundays, the inhabitants of Southwark complained to the 
authorities in 1587 ; but it is not known when Henslowe's playhouse, the Rose, 
which was in that neighbourhood, was erected. The Swan and the Hope, also 
theatres of the Bankside, were probably, as well as the Rose, mean erections in the 
infancy of the stage, which afterwards grew into importance. There was an ancient 
theatre also at Newington, which offered its attractions to the holiday-makers who 
sallied out of the City to practise at the Butts. 

In the continuation of Stow's " Chronicle," by Edmund Howes, there is a very 
curious passage, which carries us back from the period in which he was writing 
(1631) for sixty years. He describes the destruction of the Globe by fire in 1613, 
the burning of the Fortune Playhouse four years after, the rebuilding of both theatres, 
and the erection of " a new fair playhouse near the Whitefriars." He then adds, 
" And this is the seventeenth stage, or common playhouse, which hath been new 
made within the space of threescore years within London and the suburbs, viz. : five 
inns, or common hostelries, turned to playhouses, one Cockpit, St. Paul's singing- 
school, one in the Blackfriars, and one in the Whitefriars, which was built last of all, 
in the year one thousand six hundred twenty-nine. All the rest not named were 
erected only for common playhouses, besides the new-built Bear-garden, which was 
built as well for plays, and fencers' prizes, as bull-baiting ; besides one in former 
time at Newington Butts. Before the space of threescore years abovesaid, I neither 
knew, heard, nor read of any such theatres, set stages, or playhouses, as have been 
purposely built within man's memory." It would appear, as far as we can judge 
from the very imperfect materials which exist, that in the early period of Shakspere's 
connection with the Blackfriars' it was the only private theatre. At a subse- 
quent period the Cockpit, or Phrenix, in Drury Lane, was a private theatre ; and so 
was the theatre in Salisbury Court, the " new fair playhouse near the Whitefriars" 
of Howes. What then was the distinction between the private theatre of the Black- 
friars, of which Shakspere was a shareholder in 1589, and the permanent and tem- 
porary public theatres with which it entered into competition ? It is natural to 

* " School of Abuse," 1579. 

f Mr. Collier, who originally pointed out this passage, by comparing the printed copy with Stow's 
manuscript in the British Museum, found that "activities" (tumbling) were mentioned as performed 
at these theatres, as well as plays. 



180 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



conclude that the proprietors of this theatre, being the Queen's servants, not merely 
nominally, but the sworn officers of her household, were the most respectable of 
their vocation ; conformed to the ordinances of the state with the utmost scrupu- 
.ousness ; endeavoured to attract a select audience rather than an uncritical multi- 
tude ; and received higher prices for admission than were paid at the public theatres. 
The performances at the Blackfriars' were for the most part in the winter. Whether 
the performances were in the day or evening, artificial lights were used. The 
audience in what we now call the pit (then also so called) sat upon benches, and did 
not stand as in the yard open to the sky of the public playhouses. There were 
small rooms corresponding with the private boxes of existing theatres. A portion 
of the audience, including those who aspired to the distinction of critics, sat upon 
the stage. " Though you be a magistrate of wit, and sit on the stage at Blackfriars 
to arraign plays daily," says the preface to the first folio of Shakspere. The passage 
we have quoted from Lambarde gives us a notion of the prices of admission at the 
very early theatres. Those who paid a penny for the "entry of the scaffold" had 
of course privileges not obtained by those who merely paid " the penny at the gate ;" 
and those who, when they had reached the scaffold, had to pay another penny " for 
quiet standing," had no doubt the advantage of some railed-off space, in some degree 
similar to the stalls of the modern pit. But the mass of the audience must have 
been the penny payers. The passages in old plays and tracts which allude to the 
prices of admission, for the most part belong to the high and palmy period of the 
stage. But we learn from one of Lyly's tracts, in 1590, that the admission at " The 
Theatre" was twopence, and at St. Paul's fourpence ; though a penny still seems 
from other authorities to have been the common price. It is possible, and indeed 
there is some evidence, that the rate of admission even then varied according to the 
attraction of the performance ; and we may be pretty sure that a company like that 
of Shakspere's generally charged at a higher rate than the larger theatres, which 
depended more upon the multitude. At a much later period, Ben Jonson and 
Fletcher mention a price as high as half-a-crown ; and the lowest price which Jon- 
son mentions is sixpence. At a later period still, Jonson speaks of the sixpenny 
mechanics of the Blackfriars, Those who sat upon the stage, it would appear, paid 
sixpence for a stool, in addition to their payment for admission. With these 
preliminary notices we may proceed to the picture of a new play at the Blackfriars', 
about a year or so before the period when it has been ascertained that Shakspere 
was one amongst the sixteen shareholders of that company, with four other share- 
holders, and those not unimportant persons, below him on the list. 

On the posts of the principal thoroughfares of the City a little bill is affixed, 
announcing that a new History will be performed at the private theatre of the 
Blackfriars. The passengers are familiar with such bills ; they were numerous 
enough in the year 1587 to make it of sufficient importance that one printer should 
be licensed by the Stationers' Company for their production. At an early hour in 
the afternoon the watermen are actively landing their passengers at the Blackfriars' 
Stairs ; and there are hasty steps along the narrow thoroughfares to the south of 
Lud Gate. The pit of the Blackfriars is soon filled. The people for the most part 
wait for the performance in tolerable quiet, but now and then a disturbance takes 
place. If we may judge from sober documents and allusive satires, London was 
never so full of cheats and bullies as about this period. There is a curious passage 
in Henry Chettle's " Kind-Harte's Dream," printed in 1593, in which tract the 
author, " sitting alone not long since, not far from Finsbury, in a taphouse of anti- 
quity, attending the coming of such companions as might wash care away with 
carousing," falls asleep, and has a vision of five personages, amongst whom is 
Tarleton, the famous clown. In the discourse which Tarleton makes is this passage : 



CHAP. II.] A NEW PLAY. 181 



" And let Tarleton entreat the young people of the city, either to abstain altogether 
from plays, or at their coming thither to use themselves after a more quiet order. 
In a place so civil as this city is esteemed, it is more than barbarously rude to see 
the shameful disorder and routs that sometime in such public meetings are used. 
The beginners arc neither gentlemen nor citizens, nor any of both their servants, 
but some lewd mates that long for innovation; and when they see advantage that 
cither servingmen or apprentices are most in number they will be of either side.* 
Though indeed they are of no side, but men beside all honesty, willing to make booty 
of cloaks, hats, purses, or whatever they can lay hold on in a hurley-burley. These 
are the common causers of discord in public places. If otherwise it happen, as it 
seldom doth, that any quarrel be between man and man, it is far from manhood to 
make so public a place their field to fight in : no men will do it but cowards that 
would fain be parted, or have hope to have many partakers." Amongst the quiet 
audience the sellers of nuts and pippins are gliding. Ever and anon a cork bounces 
out of a bottle of ale. Tobacco was not as yet. . While the audience are impatiently 
waiting for the three soundings of trumpet that precede the prologue, a noise of 
in any voices is heard behind the curtain which separates them from the stage. The 
noise is not of the actors ; but of the crowd of spectators who have entered by the 
tiring-room door, and are struggling for places, or in eager groups communicating 
their expectations of the performance, and their opinions of the author. Amongst 
this crowd would be the dramatic writers of the time, who in all probability then, 
as without doubt at a subsequent period, had a free admission to the theatres gene- 
rally, the stage being their prescriptive place. 

In his Induction to " Cynthia's Revels," Jonson has a humorous passage which 
very clearly describes the arrangements for the critics and gallants ; and shows also 
the intercourse which the author was expected to have with his part of the audience. 
The play was originally performed by the children of the Queen's Chapel ; and in 
this Induction they give us a picture of the ignorant critic and another gallant with 
remarkable spirit : 

" 3 Child. Now, Sir, suppose I am one of your genteel auditors, that am come in, 
having paid my money at the door, with much ado, and here I take my place and 
sit down : I have my three sorts of tobacco in my pocket, my light by me, and thus 
I begin : 'By this light, I wonder that any man is so mad to come to see these 
rascally tits play here ! They do act like so many wrens, or pismires not the 
fifth part of a good face amongst them all. And then their music is abominable 
able to stretch a man's ears worse than ten pillories ; and their ditties most 
lamentable things, like the pitiful fellows that make them poets. But this vapour, 
an 'twere not for tobacco I think the very stench of 'em would poison me. I 
should not dare to come in at their gates. A man were better visit fifteen jails or a 
dozen or two of hospitals than once adventure to come near them.' How is 't 1 
Well? 

1 Child. Excellent. Give me my cloak. 

3 Child. Stay ; you shall see me do another now, but a more sober, or better- 
gather'd gallant ; that is, as it may be thought, some friend or well-wisher to the 
house : and here I enter. 

1 Child. What, upon the stage too ? 

2 Child. Yes ; and I step forth like one of the children, and ask you, Would you 
have a stool, Sir ? 

3 Child. A stool, boy ? 

2 Child. Ay, Sir, if you '11 give me sixpence, I '11 fetch you one. 

3 Child. For what, I pray thee ? What shall I do with it ? 

* This indicates a state of quarrel between the servingmen and apprentices. 



1 82 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



2 Child. Lord, Sir ! Will you betray your ignorance so much ? Why throw 
yourself in state on the stage, as other gentlemen use, Sir. 

3 Child. Away, wag ! What, wouldst thou make an implement .of me ? .... 
/ would speak with your author ; where is he ? 

2 Child. Not this way, I assure you, Sir ; we are not so officiously befriended by 
him as to have his presence in the tiring-house, to prompt us aloud, stamp at the 
bookholder, swear for our properties, curse the poor tireman, rail the music out of 
tune, and sweat for every venial trespass we commit, as some author would, if he 
had such fine engles as we." 

It may be presumed from this passage, that it was not uncommon for the author 
to mix with that part of the audience which sate upon the stage. We may imagine 
the young "maker" composedly moving amidst this throng of wits and critics. 
He moves amongst them modestly, but without any false humility. In worldly 
station, if such a consideration could influence his demeanour, he is fully the equal 
of his brother poets. They are for the most part, as he himself is, actors, as well 
as makers of plays. Phillips says Marlowe was an actor. Greene is reasonably 
conjectured to have been an actor. Peele and Wilson were actors of Shakspere's 
own company ; and so was Anthony Wadeson. The curtain is drawn back, slowly, 
and with little of mechanical contrivance. The rush-strewn stage is presented to 
the spectators. The play to be performed is " Henry VI." The funeral procession of 
Henry V. enters to a dead march ; a few mourners in sable robes following the 
bier. The audience is silent as the imaginary corse ; but their imaginations arc 
not stimulated with gorgeous scenery. There is no magical perspective of the lofty 
roof and long-drawn aisles of Westminster Abbey ; no organ peals, no trains of 
choristers with tapers and censers sing the Requiem. The rushes on the floor are 
matched with the plain arras on the walls. Bedford speaks: 

" Hung be the heavens with black, yield day to night." 

Lofty is his tone, corresponding with the solemn and unvarying rhythm. It is the 
" drumming decasyllabon " which Nashe ridicules. The great master of a freer versi- 
fication is not yet confident of his power. The attention of the auditory is fixed by 
the stirring introduction. There are old remembrances of national honour in every 
line. The action moves rapidly. The mourners disperse ; and by an effort of 
imagination the scene must be changed from England to France. Charles the king 
marches with drum and soldiers. The English are encountered, the French arc 
beaten. The Maid of Orleans appears. The people will see the old French wars 
which live in their memories fought over again ; and their spirits rise with every 
alarum. But the poet will show too the ruinous course of faction at home. The 
servingmen of Gloucester and Winchester battle at the Tower gates. The Mayor 
of London and his officers suppress the riot. Again to Orleans, where Salisbury is 
slain by a " fatal hand." All is bustle and contention in France ; but the course of 
intrigue in England is unfolded. The first page of the fatal history of York and 
Lancaster is here read. We see the growth of civil war at home ; we trace the 
beginnings of disaster abroad. The action presents a succession of events, rather 
than developing some great event brought about by a skilful adjustment of many 
parts. But in a " chronicle history" this was scarcely to be avoided ; and it is easy 
to see how, until the great principle of art which should produce a "Lear" and a 
"Macbeth" was evolved, the independent succession of events in a chronicle history 
would not only be the easiest to portray by a young writer, but would be the most 
acceptable to an uncritical audience, that had not yet been taught the dependences 
of a catastrophe upon slight preceding incidents, upon niceties of character, upon 
passion evolved out of seeming tranquility, the danger of which has been skilfully 



CHAP. II.] A NEW PLAY. 183 



shadowed forth to the careful observer. It was in detached passages, therefore, that 
the young poet would put out his strength in such a play. The death of Talbot 
and his son was a fit occasion for such an effort ; and the early stage had certainly 
seen nothing comparable in power and beauty to the couplets which exhibit the fall 
of the hero and his boy. Other poets would have described the scene. Shakspere 
dramatized it ; and his success is well noticed by Thomas Nashe, who for once loses his 
satirical vein in fervent admiration : " How would it have joyed brave Talbot (the 
terror of the French) to think that, after he had lain two hundred years in his tomb, 
he should triumph again on the stage, and have his bones new embalmed with the 
tears of ten thousand spectators at least (at several times), who, in the tragedian 
that represents his person, imagine they behold him fresh bleeding ! " * The pre- 
judices of the age are gratified by the condemnation of the Pucelle ; but the poet takes 
care to make it felt that her judges are " bloody homicides." At the very close of 
the play a new series of events is opened, ending here with the mission of Suffolk 
to bring a bride for the imbecile king ; but showing that the issue is to be presented 
in some coming story. 

* " Pierce Pennilesse." 



184 



WILLIAM 8HAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK in. 




[Old London.] 



CHAPTER III. 



THE ONLY SHAKE-SCENE. 



A BELIEF has been long entertained in England, that Greene and Peele either wrote 
in conjunction the Second and Third Parts of Henry VI., originally published as the 
two Parts of the " Contention," or that Greene wrote one Part, and Peele the other 
Part ; or that, at any rate, Greene had some share in these dramas. This was a 
theory propagated by Malone in his " Dissertation ; " and it rests, not upon the 
slightest examination of the works of these writers, but solely on a far-famed 
passage in Greene's posthumous pamphlet, the " Groat's Worth of Wit," in which he 
points out Shakspere as " a crow beautified with our feathers." 

The entire pamphlet of Greene's is, perhaps, one of the most extraordinary frag- 
ments of autobiography that the vanity or the repentance of a sinful man ever 
produced. The recital which he makes of his abandoned course of life involves not 
only a confession of crimes and follies which were common to a very licentious age, 
but of particular and especial depravities, which even to mention argues as much 
shamelessness as repentance. The portion, however, which relates to the subject 



CHAP. III.] THE ONLY SHAKE-SCENE. . 185 



before us stands alone, in conclusion, as a friendly warning out of his own terrible 
example : " To those gentlemen, his quondam acquaintance, that spend their wits 
in making plays, R. G. wisheth a better exercise, and wisdom to prevent his extre- 
mities." To three of his quondam acquaintance the dying man addresses himself. 
To the first, supposed to be Marlowe "thou famous gracer of tragedians" he 
speaks in words as terrible as came from 

" that warning voice, which he who saw 
Th' Apocalypse heard cry in heaven aloud." 

In exhorting his friend to turn from atheism, he ran the risk of consigning him to 
the stake, for Francis Kett was burnt for his opinions only three years before 
Greene's death. That Marlowe resented this address to him we have the testimony 
of Chettle. With his second friend, supposed to be Lodge, his plain speaking is 
much more tender : " Be advised, and get not many enemies by bitter words." He 
addresses the third, supposed to be Peele, as one "driven as myself to extreme 
shifts ;" and he adds, "thou art unworthy better hap sith thou dependest on so 
mean a stay." What is the stay ? " Making plays." The exhortation then proceeds 
to include the three " gentlemen his quondam acquaintance that spend their wits in 
making plays." " Base-minded men all three of you, if by my misery ye be not 
warned : for unto none of you, like me, sought those burs to cleave ; those puppets, 
I mean, that speak from our mouths : those antics garnished in our colours." Up 
to this point the meaning is perfectly clear. The puppets, the antics, by which 
names of course arc meant the players, whom he held, and justly, to derive their 
chief importance from the labours of the poet, in the words which they uttered and 
the colours with which they were garnished, had once cleaved to him like burs. 

But a change had taken place : " Is it not strange that I, to whom they all have 
been beholding is it not like that you, to whom they all have been beholding, shall, 
were ye in that case that I am now, be, both, of them at once forsaken 1 " This is 
a lamentable picture of one whose powers, wasted by dissipation and enfeebled by 
sickness, were no longer required by those to whom they had once been serviceable. 
As he was forsaken, so he holds that his friends will be forsaken. And chiefly for 
what reason 1 " Yes, trust them not : for there is an upstart crow, beautified with 
our feathers, that, with his tiger's heart wrapped in a player's hide, supposes he is as 
well able to bombast out a blank-verse as the best of you : and, being an absolute 
Johannes factotum, is in his own conceit the only Shake-scene in a country." There 
can be no doubt that Shakspere was here pointed at ; that the starving man spoke 
with exceeding bitterness of the successful author ; that he affected to despise him 
as a player ; that, if " beautified with our feathers " had a stronger meaning than 
"garnished in our colours," it conveyed a vague charge of borrowing from other 
poets ; and that he parodied a line from " The Contention." This is literally every 
word that can be supposed to apply to Shakspere. Greene proceeds to exhort his 
friends " to be employed in more profitable courses." " Let these apes imitate your 
past excellence, and never more acquaint them with your admired inventions." 
" Seek you better masters." It is perfectly clear that these words refer only to the 
players generally ; and possibly, to the particular company of which Shakspere was 
a member. As such, and such only, must he take his share in the names which 
Greene applies to them, of " apes," " rude grooms," " buckram gentlemen," 
"peasants," and "painted monsters." It will be well to give the construction 
that has been put upon these words, in the form in which the " hypothesis " was 
first propounded by Malone : 

"Shakspeare having therefore, probably not long before the year 1592, when 
Greene wrote his dying exhortation to his friend, new-modelled and amplified these 



186 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



two pieces (the two parts of the 'Contention'), and produced on the stage what in 
the folio edition of his works are called the Second and Third Parts of King Henry 
VI., and having acquired considerable reputation by them, Greene could not conceal 
the mortification that he felt at his own fame, and that of his associate, both of them 
old and admired playwrights, being eclipsed by a new upstart writer (for so he calls 
our great poet), who had then first perhaps attracted the notice of the public by 
exhibiting two plays, formed upon old dramas written by them, considerably enlarged 
and improved. He therefore in direct terms charges him with having acted like the 
crow in the fable, 'beautified himself with their feathers ; in other words, with having 
acquired fame furtivis coloribm, by new-modelling a work originally produced by 
them : and wishing to depreciate our author, he very naturally quotes a line from 
one of the pieces which Shakspeare had thus re-written, a proceeding which the 
authors of the original plays considered as an invasion both of their literary property 
and character. This line, with many others, Shakspeare adopted without any alter- 
ation. The very term that Greene uses, 'to bombast out a blank-verse,' exactly 
corresponds with what has been now suggested. This new poet, says he, knows as 
well as any man how to amplify and swell out a blank-verse. Bumbast was a soft 
stuff of a loose texture, by which garments were rendered more swelling and 
protruberant." * 

Thus then, the starving and forsaken man rejected by those who had been 
"beholding" to him ; wanting the very bread of which he had been robbed, in the 
appropriation of his property by one of those who had rejected him ; a man, too, 
prone to revenge, full of irascibility and self-love contents himself with calling his 
plunderer " an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers " " A Johannes factotum" 
"The only Shake-scene in the country." "He could not conceal his mortifica- 
tion ! " It would have been miraculous if he could. And how does he exhibit it 1 
He parodies a line from one of the productions of which he had been so plundered, 
to carry the point home to leave no doubt as to the sting of his allusion. But, as 
has been most justly observed, the epigram would have wanted its sting if the line 
parodied had not been that of the very writer attacked.t Be this as it may, the 
dying man, for some cause or other, chose to veil his deep wrongs in a sarcastic 
allusion. He left the manuscript containing this allusion to be published by a 
friend ; and it was so published. It was " a perilous shot out of an elder gun." 
But the matter did not stop here. The editor of the posthumous work actually 
apologised to the " upstart crow : " " I am as sorry as if the original fault had been 
my fault, because myself hath seen his demeanour no less civil than he excellent in 
the quality he professes ; besides, divers of worship have reported his uprightness of 
dealing, which argues his honesty, and his facetious grace in writing, that approves 
his art." $ This apology was not written by Chettle at some distant period ; it 
came out in the same year with the pamphlet which contained the insult. The 
terms which he uses "uprightness of dealing," and "facetious grace in writing" 
seem as if meant distinctly to refute the vague accusation of " beautified with our 
feathers." It is perfectly clear that Chettle could not have used these terms if 
Shakspere had been the wholesale plunderer, either of Greene or of any other writer, 
that it is assumed he was by those who deprive him of the authorship of the two 
Parts of the " Contention." If he had been this plunderer, and if Chettle had basely 

* Malone gives here a special application to the term bombast, as if it were meant to express the 
amplification of the old plays charged against Shakspere. The term had been used by Nashe five years 
before : " Idiot art-masters, that intrude themselves to our ears as the alchymists of eloquence, who 
(mounted on the stage of arrogance) think to outbrave better pens with the swelling bombast of 
bragging blank-verse? (Epistle prefixed to Greene's "Menaphon," 1587.) 

f " Edin. Review," July, 1840. J Preface to " Kind-Harte's Dream." 



CHAP. III.] 



THE ONLY SHAKE-SCENE. 



187 



apologised for a truth uttered by his dying friend, would the matter have rested 
there ? Were there no Peeles, and Marlowes, and Nashes in the world, to proclaim 
the dishonour of the thief and the apologist ? 

There was an indistinct echo of Greene's complaint, by some "R. B." in 1594 : 

" Greene gave the ground to all who wrote upon him. 
Nay, more ; the men that so eclips'd his fame 
Purloin'd his plumes, can they deny the same ] " 

We believe that there never yet appeared any great author in the world who was not 
reputed, in the onset of his career, to be a plagiarist ; or any great literary perform- 
ance produced by one whose reputation had to be made that was not held to be 
written by some one else than the man who did write it : there was some one 
behind the curtain some mysterious assistant whose possible existence was a 
consolation to the envious and the malignant. Examples in our own day are common 
enough. " R. B." was probably one of these small critics. If he is held for any 
authority, we may set against him the indignant denial of Nashe that he had any- 
thing to do with " Greene's Groat's Worth of Wit," which he denounces as a " scald, 
//'<(/, lying pamphlet" Nashe, be it remembered, was the friend and companion 
of the unfortunate Greene. 

It appears to us that Greene, in his attack on the reputation of our great poet, has 
rendered to his memory the most essential service. He has fixed the date of the 
" Second Part of the Contention." However plausible may be the conjectures as to 
the early production of two or three of Shakspere's comedies, the " Romeo and 
Juliet," and even the first " Hamlet," there is no positive landmark on them for 
our direction. But in the case of the First Part of " Henry VI.," and the two Parts of 
the " Contention," we have the most unquestionable proof, in Greene's parody of a 
line from the Second Part (the third of the series), that they were popularly known 
in 1592. The three Parts are so dependent each upon the other, that the order of 
their production must have been the order of the historical events. They either 
belonged, therefore, to the first half of the decad between 1585 and 1595, or they 
touched very closely upon it. Important considerations with reference to Shakspere's 
share in the original building up of that mighty structure, the drama of Elizabeth, 
depend upon the establishment of this point, in connexion with the proof that these 
dramas were originally written by one poet that the three Parts of " Henry VI, " 
and the " Richard III." emanated from the same mind. 

This is not the place for the examination of this question, which is purely critical. 
A full " Illustration " of the unity of these four dramas will be found in a sub- 
sequent volume. 

It is highly probable that, when the First Part of " Henry VI." was originally 
produced, the stage had possession of a complete series of chronicle histories, rudely 
put together, aspiring to little poetical elevation, and managed pretty generally after 
the fashion described by Gosson, in a pamphlet against the stage printed about 
1581 : "If a true history be taken in hand, it is made like our shadows, longest 
at the rising and falling of the sun, shortest of all at high noon ; for the poets drive 
it most commonly into such points as may best show the majesty of their pen in 
tragical speeches, or set the hearers agog with discourses of love, or paint a few antics 
to fit their own humours with scoffs and taunts, or bring in a show to furnish the 
stage when it is bare : when the matter of itself comes short of this, they follow the 
practice of a cobbler, and set their teeth to the leather to pull it out." The truth 
is, that up to the period when Shakspere reached the age of manhood, there were 
no artists in existence competent to produce an historical play superior to these 
rude performances. The state of the drama generally is thus succinctly, but most 



188 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



correctly noticed by an anonymous writer: "From the commencement of Shak- 
spere's boyhood, till about the earliest date at which his removal to London can be 
possibly fixed, the drama lingered in the last stage of a semi-barbarism. Perhaps 
we do not possess any monument of the time except Whetstone's ' Promos and 
Cassandra ; ' but neither that play, nor any details that can be gathered respecting 
others, indicate the slightest advance beyond a point of development which had been 
reached many years before by such writers as Edwards and Gascoyne. About 1585, 
or Shakspere's twenty-first year, there opened a new era, which, before the same 
decad was closed, had given birth to a large number of dramas, many of them 
wonderful for the circumstances in which they rose, and several possessing real and 
absolute excellence."* Of the poets which belong to this remarkable decad, we 
possess undoubted specimens of the works of Lyly, Peele, Marlowe, Lodge, Greene, 
Kyd, and Nashe. There are one or two other inferior names, such as Chettle and 
Munday, connected with the latter part of this decad. We ourselves hold that 
Shakspere belongs to the first as well as to the second half of this short but most 
influential period of our literature. Of those artists to whom can be possibly 
imputed the composition of the First Part of " Henry VI.," there are only five in 
whom can be traced any supposed resemblance of style. They are Pecle, Mar- 
lowe, Greene, Lodge, arid Kyd. The First Part of " Henry VI." was therefore either 
written by one of these five poets, or by some unknown author whose name has 
perished, or by Shakspere. We believe that it was written by Shakspere in his 
earliest connection with the dramatic art. We hold that the First Part of " Henry 
VI.," in all the essentials of its dramatic construction, is, with reference to the object 
which its author had in view of depicting a series of historical events with poetical 
truth, immeasurably superior to any other chronicle history which existed between 
1585 and 1590. It has been called a " drum-and-trumpet thing." The age in 
which it was produced was one in which the most accomplished of its courtiers said, 
" I never heard the old song of Percy and Douglas that I found not my heart moved 
more than with a trumpet : and yet it is sung but by some blind crowder, with no 
rougher voice than rude style ; which being so evil apparelled in the dust and 
cobweb of that uncivil age, what would it work trimmed in the gorgeous eloquence 
of Pindar !"f He who made the "drum-and-trumpet thing" desired to move 
men's hearts as Sydney's was moved. He saw around him thousands who crowded 
to the theatres to witness the heroic deeds of their forefathers, although " evil 
apparelled in the dust and cobweb of that uncivil age ;" N and it was he who first 
seized upon the great theme for his own, and "trimmed" it in his own "gorgeous 
eloquence." And what, if the music which he first uttered had a savour of the 
rough voice and the rude style which had preceded him ? What, if his unpractised 
hand sometimes struck the notes of timidity and unskilfulness 1 What, if he now 
and then hurried away even from the principles of his own art, and appeared to 
start at " sounds himself had made 1 " He did what no other man up to that day 
had done, and long after did, he banished the "senseless and soulless shows" of 
the old historical drama, and at once raised up a stage " ample and true with life." 
To understand the value of the First Part of " Henry VI.," we must have a com- 
petent knowledge of the chronicle histories which had preceded it. We must also 
have a knowledge of the productions of those dramatists who were the contemporaries 
of Shakspere's first period. The dramatists are briefly indicated in another place. J 
We have something to add with reference to him who was unquestionably the next 
in intellectual rank to " the greatest in all literature." He alone makes any approach 
to the peculiar merits of the three dramas of " Henry VI.," in their original form. 

* "Edin. Review," July 1840, p. 469, f Sir Philip Sydney's "Defence of Poetry." 

% "Studies," Book I., Chap. VI. 



CHAP. III.] THE ONLY SHAKE-SCENE. 189 



It has long been the fashion to consider Marlowe as the precursor of Shakspere ; 
to regard Marlowe as one of the founders of the regular drama, and Shakspere only 
as an improver. We may say a few words as to the external evidence for this 
belief, before we proceed to the internal evidences. Marlowe was killed in a wretched 
brawl on the 1st of June, 1593. He was then in his thirty-first year, being born 
in February, 1563-4. He was only two months older than Shakspere. We owe 
this discovery of Marlowe's age to the Rev. A. Dyce, whose labours in connection 
with the old Drama are so valuable and meritorious.* A native of Canterbury, he 
was educated at the King's School in that city ; and was matriculated as a pensioner 
of Corpus-Christi College, Cambridge, in 1580-1. He took his degree of Bachelor 
of Arts in 1583 ; and that of Master of Arts in 1587. Phillips, in his "Theatrum 
Poetarum," thus speaks of him : " Christopher Marlowe, a kind of a second Shak- 
spere (whose contemporary he was), not only because like him he rose from an actor 
to be a maker of plays, though inferior both in fame and merit," &c. We have no 
distinct record of Marlowe as an actor. We know that he was early a maker of 
plays. He probably became a dramatic writer about the time he took his Master's 
degree in 1587. " Tamburlaine " is mentioned by Greene in 1588. But "Hamlet" 
is mentioned by Nashe in 1589, in his address prefixed to Greene's " Menaphon : "t 
" It is a common practice uow-a-day, among a sort of shifting companions, that run 
through every art and thrive by none, to leave the trade of Noverint, whereto they 
were born, and busy themselves with the endeavours .of art, that could scarcely 
latini/e their neck-verse if they should have need ; yet English Seneca, read by 
candlelight, yields many good sentences, as Blond is a Beggar, and so forth : and, if 
you entreat him fair in a frosty morning, he will afford you whole ' Hamlets? I should 
say haudfuls, of tragical speeches." This quotation is held to furnish the external 
evidence that Shakspere had been an attorney, by the connection here implied of 
"the trade of Noverint" and "whole Hamlets." Noverint was the technical begin- 
ning of a bond. It is imputed, then, by Nashe, to a sort of shifting companions, that, 
running through every art and thriving by none, they attempt dramatic composition, 
drawing their tragical speeches from English Seneca. Does this description apply 
to Shakspere ? Was he thriving by no art ? In 1589 he was established in life as 
a sharer in the Blackfriars' theatre. Does the use of the term " whole Hamlets " 
fix the allusion upon him ? It appears to us only to show that some tragedy called 
" Hamlet," it may be Shakspere's, was then in existence ; and that it was a play also 
at which Nashe might sneer as abounding with tragical speeches. But it does not 
seem to us that there is any absolute connection between the Noverint and the 
"Hamlet." Suppose, for example, that the "Hamlet" alluded to was written by 
Marlowe, who was educated at Cambridge, and was certainly not a lawyer's clerk. 
The sentence will read as well ; the sarcasm upon the tragical speeches of the 
"Hamlet" will be as pointed ; the shifting companion who has thriven by no art, 
and has left the calling to which he was born, may study English Seneca till he 
produces " whole Hamlets, I should say handfuls, of tragical speeches." In the same 
way Nashe might have said whole Tamburlaines of tragical speeches, without 
attempting to infer that the author of "Tamburlaine" had left the trade of Noverint. 
We believe that the allusion was to Shakspere's " Hamlet," but that the first part of 

* " Some Account of Marlowe and his Writings ;" in the Rev. A. Dyce's edition of Marlowe, 
1850. 

f The first recorded edition of Greene's "Menaphon" bears the date of 1589. Nashe in the 
introductory epistle promises a satirical work called "Anatomy of Absurdities," and in 1589 such a 
work appears. Mr. Dyce, however, fixes the date of the first edition of " Menaphon " as 1587 ; 
but he cites the title from the earliest edition he has met with, that of 1589. It would be satis- 
factory to know upon what authority an earlier date than that of 1589 is given to Nashe's 
edition. 



190 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



the sentence had no allusion to Shakspere's occupation. The context of the passage 
renders the matter even clearer. Nashe begins, " I will turn back to my first text 
of studies of delight, and talk a little in friendship with a few of our trivial trans- 
lators." Nashe aspired to the reputation of a scholar ; and he directs his satire 
against those who attempted the labours of scholarship without the requisite quali- 
fications. The trivial translators could scarcely latinize their neck- verse they could 
scarcely repeat the verse of Scripture which was the ancient form of praying the 
benefit of clergy. Seneca, however, might be read in English. We have then to 
ask was " Hamlet " a translation or an adaptation from Seneca ? Did Shakspere 
ever attempt to found a play upon the model of Seneca ; to be a trivial translator of 
him ; even to transfuse his sentences into a dramatic composition ? If this impu- 
tation does not hold good against Shakspere, the mention of "Hamlet" has no 
connection with the shifting companion who is thus talked to as a trivial translator. 
Nashe does not impute these qualities to " Hamlet," but to those who busy them- 
selves with the endeavours of art in adapting sentences from Seneca which should 
rival whole "Hamlets" in tragical speeches. And then he immediately says, "But, 
O grief ! Tempus edax rerum ; what is it that will last always ? The sea exhaled 
by drops will in continuance be clay ; and Seneca, let blood line by line, and page 
by page, at length must needs die to our stage." This is in some sort a digression ; 
but it has reference to the exact period of which we are writing. 

The young Shakspere angl the young Marlowe were of the same age. What right 
have we to infer that the one could produce a " Tamburlaine " at the age of twenty- 
four, and the other not produce an imperfect outline of his own " Hamlet" at the 
same age, or even a year earlier 1 Malone connects the supposed date of Shakspere's 
commencement as a dramatic writer with the notice of him by some of his contem- 
poraries. He passes over Nashe's "whole Hamlets;" he maintains that Spenser's 
description, in 1591, of the "gentle spirit," who 

" Doth rather choose to sit in idle cell 
Than so himself to mockery to sell. " 

applied not to Shakspere, but to Lyly, who was at that instant most active in 
"mockery;" but he fixes Shakspere with having begun to write in 1592, because 
Greene in that year sneers at him as " the only Shake-scene in a country." Docs a 
young writer suddenly jump into the distinction of a sneer of envy from one much 
older in reputation, as Greene was ? In an age when there were no newspapers and 
no reviews, it must be extremely difficult to trace the course of any man, however 
eminent, by the notices of the writers of his times. An author's fame, then, was 
not borne through every quarter of the land in the very hour in which it was won. 
More than all, the reputation of a dramatic writer 'could scarcely be known, except 
to a resident in London, until his works were committed to the press. The first 
play of Shakspere's (according to our belief) which was printed was The First Part 
of the Contention (" Henry VI.," Part II.), and that did not appear till 1594. Now, 
Malone says, " In Webbe's ' Discourse of English Poetry,' published in 1586, we meet 
with the names of most of the celebrated poets of that time ; particularly those of 
George Whetstone and Anthony Munday, who were dramatic writers ; but we find 
no trace of our author, or of any of his works." But Malone does not tell us that 
in Webbe's " Discourse of Poetry," we find the following passage : " I am humbly 
to desire pardon of the learned company of gentlemen scholars, and students of the 
universities and inns of court, if I omit their several commendations in this place, 
which I know a great number of them have worthily deserved, in many rare devices 
and singular inventions of poetry : for neither hath it been my good hap to have 
seen all which I have heard of, neither is my abiding in such place where I can with 
facility get knowledge of their works." 



CHAP. III.] THE ONLY SHAKE-SCENE. 191 



" Three years afterwards," continues Malone, " Puttenham printed his ' Art of 
English Poesy ; ' and in that work also we look in vain for the name of Shakspeare." 
The book speaks of the one-and-thirty years' space of Elizabeth's reign ; and thus 
puts the date of the writing a year earlier than the printing. But we here look in 
vain for some other illustrious names besides that of Shakspere. Malone has not 
told us that the name of Edmund Spenser is not found in Puttenham ; nor, what is 
still more uucandid, that not one of Shakspere's early dramatic contemporaries is 
mentioned neither Marlowe, nor Greene, nor Peele, nor Kyd, nor Lyly. The author 
evidently derives his knowledge of "poets and poesy" from a much earlier period 
than that in which he publishes. He does not mention Spenser by name, but he 
does " that other gentleman who wrote the late ' Shepherd's Calendar.' " The 
"Shepherd's Calendar" of Spenser was published in the year 1579. 

Malone goes on to argue that the omission of Shakspere's name, or any notice of 
his works, in Sir John Harrington's "Apology of Poetry," printed in 1591, in which 
" he takes occasion to speak of the theatre, and mentions some of the celebrated 
dramas of that time," is a proof that^noue of Shakspere's dramatic compositions had 
then appeared. The reader will be in a better position to judge of the value of this 
argument by a reference to the passage of Sir John Harrington : " For tragedies, 
to omit other famous tragedies, that, that was played at St. John's in Cambridge, 
of Richard III., would move, I think, Phalaris the tyrant, and terrify all tyrannous- 
ininded men." [This was a Latin play, by Dr. Legge, acted some years before 1588.] 
" Then for comedies. How full of harmless mirth is our Cambridge ' Pedantius ' and 
the Oxford ' Bcllum Grammatical ! ' ' [Latin plays again.] " Or, to speak of 
a London comedy, how much good matter, yea, and matter of state, is there in that 
comedy called The Play of the Cards,' in which it is showed how four parasitical 
knaves robbed the four principal vocations of the realm ; videl. the vocation of 
soldiers, scholars, merchants, and husbandmen ! Of which comedy, I cannot forget 
the saying of a notable wise counsellor that is now dead, who, when some (to sing 
Placebo) advised that it should be forbidden, because it was somewhat too plain, and 
indeed as the old saying is (sooth boord is no boord), yet he would have it allowed, 
adding it was fit that they which do that they should not, should hear that they 
would not." Nothing, it will be seen, can be more exaggerated than Malone's state- 
ment, " He takes occasion to speak of the theatre, and mentions some of the cele- 
brated dramas of that time." Does he mention " Tamburlaine," or " Faustus," or 
"The Massacre of Paris," or "The Jew of Malta?" As he does not, it may be 
assumed with equal justice that none of these plays of Marlowe had appeared in 
1591 ; and yet we know that he died in 1593. So of Lyly's " Galathea," "Alexander 
and Campaspe," " Endymion," &c. So of Greene's " Orlando and Furioso," " Friar 
Bacon," "James IV." So of the "Spanish Tragedy" of Kyd. The truth is, that 
Harrington in his notice of celebrated dramas was even more antiquated than Put- 
tenham ; and his evidence, therefore, in this matter, is utterly worthless. 

But Malone has given his crowning proof that Shakspere had not written before 
1591, in the following words : "Sir Philip Sydney, in his 'Defence of Poesie,' speaks 
at some length of the low state of dramatic literature at the time he composed this 
treatise, but has not the slightest allusion to Shakspeare, whose plays, had they then 
appeared, would doubtless have rescued the English stage from the contempt which 
is thrown upon it by the accomplished writer ; and to which it was justly exposed 
by the wretched compositions of those who preceded our poet. ' The Defence of 
Poesie' was not published till 1595, but must have been written some years before." 
There is one slight objection to this argument : Sir Philip Sydney was killed at the 
battle of Zutphen, in the year 1586 ; and it would really have been somewhat 
surprising if the illustrious author of the " Defence of Poesy" could have included 



192 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



Shakspere in his account "of the low state of dramatic literature at the time he 
composed this treatise," which was in effect a reply to "The School of Abuse" of 
Gosson, and to other controversialists of the puritanical faction, who were loudest 
about 1580. At that time Shakspere was sixteen years of age. 

The earliest example of the application of blank-verse to the drama is exhibited 
in "Ferrex and Porrex," (usually called "Gorboduc,") written by Sackville and 
Norton, and acted in the Inner Temple, and before the queen, in 1561. A surrep- 
titious copy of this play was published in 1565 ; and a genuine edition appeared in 
1571. Gascoyne's " Jocasta," played at Gray's Inn in 1566, was also in blank- 
verse. Whetstone's "Promos and Cassandra," printed in 1578, but not previously 
acted, was partially in blank-verse. Hughes's " Misfortunes of Arthur," in blank- 
verse, was acted before the queen in 1587 at Greenwich. The plays pvblidy acted 
subsequent to these performances, and up to 1587, when Nashe, in a passage we 
have quoted, talks of the "swelling bombast of bragging blank-verse," are held 
by Mr. Collier either to have been written in prose or in rhyming verse. Mr. Collier 
therefore maintains that the establishment of blank- verse upon the public stage was 
a great and original effort ; and he gives the praise of effecting this revolution to 
Christopher Marlowe. " Tamburlaine," which he holds to be Marlowe's work, was, 
he affirms, the first example of a play in blank-verse so acted. Mr. Collier says, 
"To adduce 'Tamburlaine' as our earliest popular dramatic composition in blank- 
verse is to present it in an entirely new light, most important in considering the 
question of its merits and its defects." Again : " Marlowe did not ' set the end of 
scholarism in an English blank- verse ; ' * but he thought that the substitution of 
blank- verse for rhyme would be a most valuable improvement in our drama." Now, 
we honestly confess, admitting that " Marlowe was our first poet who used blank-verse 
in compositions performed in public theatres," (and the question is not one which 
we are called upon here to examine,) we cannot appreciate the amount of the merit 
which Mr. Collier thus claims for Marlowe. "Ferrex and Porrex" had been acted, 
more than once, before numerous spectators ; and it was in existence, in the printed 
form in which it was accessible to all men, sixteen years before Marlowe is supposed 
to have effected this improvement. It was not an obscure or a contemptible per- 
formance. Sydney describes it as "full of stately speeches and well-sounding 
phrases, climbing to the height of Seneca his style." At any rate, here was dramatic 
blank-verse ; monotonous indeed, not informed with any bold or creative spirit of 
poetry, coldly correct, and tediously didactic ; but still blank-verse, constructed 
upon a principle that was imitated by all the early dramatists, till some master arose 
who broke up its uniformity, and refined the " drumming decasyllabon"f with 
variety of measure and of pause. Where was the remarkable merit of introducing 
the blank-verse of Sackville to the public stage ? If "Ferrex and Porrex" had not 
been printed, if " Promos and Cassandra" had not been printed, if, being known 
to a few, their memory had perished the man who first introduced blank- verse 
into a popular play might have been held in some sense to have been an inventor. 
But the public stage had not received the dramatic blank- verse with which every 
scholar must have been familiar, from one very obvious circumstance, the rudeness 
of its exhibitions did not require the aid of the poet, or at least required only the 
aid which he could afford with extreme facility. The stage had its extemporal actors, 
its ready constructors of dull and pointless prose, and its manufacturers of doggrel 
which exhibited nothing of poetry but its fetters. Greene himself, who is not to 
be confounded with the tribe of low writers for the theatre in its earliest transition- 
state, says, in 1588, that he still maintains his "old course ,to palter up something 
in prose." He is as indignant as his friend Nashe against " verses jet on the stage 
* Greene, in 1588. f Nashe, 1587. 



CHAP. III.] THE ONLY SHAKE-SCENE. 193 



in tragical buskins, every word filling the mouth like the faburden of Bow-bell." 
This, Mr. Collier says, is pointed at Marlowe. Greene is no doubt sarcastic upon 
some one who had made mouthing verses, whilst he continued to write prose. 
Marlowe, very probably, had first made a species of verse popular which Greene had 
not practised, and which, he says, he was twitted with being unable to produce. 

It was commendable in any man to adopt an essentially higher style than that 
with which the stage had been familiar ; but it certainly required no great effort in 
a poet to transfer the style which had been popular in the Inner Temple and Gray's 
Inn to Blackfriars and the Curtain. The cases appear to us parallel with many cases 
of publication in another form. The style which was first made popular by Beppo, 
for . example, was previously presented to the English taste in Whistlecraft ; but 
because Whistlecraft was known to a few, whilst Beppo was read by thousands, shall 
we say. that Byron first thought the introduction of the style of Berni would be a 
most valuable improvement in our poetry ? With the highest respect for Mr. 
Collier's opinions, it appears to us that the reputation of Marlowe must rest, not 
upon his popular revival of dramatic blank-verse, if he did so revive it, but upon 
the extent to which he improved the model which was ready to his hand. And here 
we cannot help thinking that the invective both of Nashe and Greene is not directed 
so much against the popular introduction of blank-verse, as against a particular 
species of blank-verse whose very defects had perhaps contributed to its popularity. 
Nashe bestows his satire upon "vain-glorious tragedians, who contend not so seriously 
to excel in action as to embowel the clouds in a speech of comparison ;" art- 
masters, who " think to outbrave better pens with a swelling bombast," &c. ; 
" being not extemporal in the invention of any other means to vent their manhood." 
Greene, on the other hand, is one " whose extemporal vein in any humour will excel 
our greatest art-masters' deliberate thoughts." Greene himself, although he derides 
those " who set the end of scholarism in an English blank-verse," points especially 
at verse where he finds " every word filling the mouth like the faburden of Bow- 
bell;" and, he adds, "daring God out of heaven with that atheist Tamburlaine." 
Mr. Collier has proved, very conclusively, that Marlowe was the author of " Tam- 
burlaine ;" and there can be no doubt that much of the invective of Nashe and 
Greene may justly apply to this performance. Its very defects Mr. Collier ascribes 
to the circumstances under which it was written: "We may assert that, when 
writing ' Tamburlaine,' Marlowe contemplated a most important change and im- 
provement in English dramatic poetry. Until it appeared, plays upon the public 
stage were written, sometimes in prose, but most commonly in rhyme ; and the 
object of Marlowe was to substitute blank- verse. His genius was daring and original: 
he felt that prose was heavy and unattractive, and rhyme unnatural and wearisome ; 
and he determined to make a bold effort, to the success of which we know not how 

much to attribute of the after-excellence of even Shakespeare himself. 

Marlowe had a purpose to accomplish ; he had undertaken to wean the multitude 
from the 'jigging veins of rhyming mother- wits,' which, according to Gosson, were 
so attractive ; and in order to accomplish this object it was necessary to give some- 
thing in exchange for what he took away. Hence the 'swelling bombast' of the 
style in which much of the two Parts of 'Tamburlaine the Great' is written." Be 
this as it may, we greatly doubt whether, if Shakspere had followed in the steps of 
" Tamburlaine," his "after-excellence" would have been so rapidly matured. It was 
when he rejected this model, if he ever followed it, that he moved onward with free- 
dom to his own surpassing glory. 

The plays that can be unhesitatingly assigned to Marlowe are, the two Parts of 
"Tamburlaine," the "Massacre of Paris," "Faustus," "The Jew of Malta," and 
" Edward II." There can be no doubt, whatever be the defects of these perform- 

o 2 



194 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



ances, that they are the work of a very remarkable man, one that stood apart from 
the mass of his contemporaries to impress the peculiarities of his genius upon every- 
thing he touched. It is impossible to open " Tamburlaine," at any page, without 
feeling that we have lighted upon a work of power. We encounter perpetual instances 
of the most extravagant taste ; the inflated style invades, without intermission, the 
debateable ground between the sublime and the ridiculous ; the characters are 
destitute of interest, with the exception of the gorgeous savage who perpetually fills 
the scene ; we look in vain for the slightest approach to simplicity. But still we 
are not wearied with the feeble platitudes that belong to the herd of imitators. 
The wild magnificence, the unbridled passion, the fierceness of love or hatred, the 
revelling in blood and cruelty without fear or remorse, the pride in being accounted 
a scourge of God these attributes of the character of Tamburlaine were pre- 
cisely suited to the power which Marlowe possessed for their development. In the 
furnace of his imagination not only the images and figurative allusions, but the whole 
material of his poetry, the action, the characterization, and the style, became 
all of the same white heat. Everything in " Tamburlaine" burns. The characters 
walk about like the damned in " Vathek," with hearts of real fire in their bosoms. 
They speak in language such as no human beings actually employ, not because 
they are Orientals, but because they are not men and women. They look to us as 
things apart from this earth, not because they are clothed in " barbaric pearl and 
gold," but because their feelings are not our feelings, and their thoughts not our 
thoughts. The queen of the hero is dying in his presence : though he tied kings to 
his. chariot- wheels, and scourged them with whips, he is represented as accessible 
to the softer emotions ; and the lover thus pours forth his lament : 

" Proud fury, and intolerable fit, 
That dares torment the body of my love, 
And scourge the scourge of the immortal God : 
Now are those spheres, where Cupid us'd to sit, 
Wounding the world with wonder and with love, 
Sadly supplied with pale and ghastly death. 
Whose darts do pierce the centre of my soul. 
Her sacred beauty hath enchanted heaven ; 
And had she liv'd before the siege of Troy, 
Helen, (whose beauty summon'd Greece to arms, 
And drew a thousand ships to Tenedos,) 
Had not been nam'd in Homer's Iliads ; 
Her name had been in ev'ry line he wrote. 
Or had those wanton poets, for whose birth 
Old Rome was proud, but gaz'd awhile on her, 
Nor Lesbia nor Corinna had been nam'd ; 
Zenocrate had been the argument 
Of ev'ry epigram or elegy. 

\The Music sounds. ZENOCRATE dies. 

What ! is she dead 1 Techelles, draw thy sword 

And wound the enrth, that it may cleave in twain, 

And we descend into th' infernal vaults, 

To hale the fatal sisters by the hair, 

And throw them in the triple moat of hell, 

For taking hence my fair Zenocrate. 

Casane and Theridamas, to arms ! 

Raise cavalieros higher than the clouds, 

And with the cannon break the frame of heav'n ; 

Batter the shining palace of the sun, 

And shiver all the starry firmament, 

For am'rous Jove hath snatch'd my love from hence, 

Meaning to make her stately queen of heaven. 

What God soever hold thee in his arms, 



CHAP. III.] THE ONLY SHAKE-SCENE. 195 



Giving thee nectar and ambrosia, 
Behold me hero, divine Zenocrate, 
Raving, impatient, desperate, and mad, 
Breaking my steeled lance, with which I burst 
The rusty beams of Janus' temple-doors, 
Letting out death and tyrannizing war, 
To march with me under this bloody flag ! 
And if thou piticst Tamburlaine the Great, 
Come down from heav'n and live with me again." 

" The Massacre of Paris," which Mr. Collier thinks " was produced soon after 
1588," is essentially without dramatic interest. It was a subject in which Marlowe 
would naturally revel ; for in the progress of the action blood could be made to flow 
as freely as water. Charles Lamb wittily says, " Blood is made as light of in some 
of these old dramas as money in a modern sentimental comedy ; and as this is given 
away till it reminds us that it is nothing but counters, so that is spilt till it affects 
us no more than its representative, the paint of the property-man in the theatre." 
Unquestionably this was a characteristic of the transition state of the drama ; and 
"Titus Andronicus" is a memorable example of it. But Marlowe, especially, revels 
in these exhibitions ; and in the " Jew of Malta" the passion is carried to the verge 
of the ludicrous. The effect intended to be produced is, of course, utterly defeated 
by these wholesale displays of brutality. As we pity the " one solitary captive," so 
we weep over the one victim of another's passions ; but the revenge of Barabas, the 
poisoning not only of his own daughter but of the entire nunnery in which she had 
take 11 refuge, the massacres, the treacheries, the burning caldron that he had intended 
for a whole garrison, and into which he is himself plunged, tragedy such as this 
is simply revolting. The characters of Barabas and of his servant, and the motives 
by which they are stimulated, are the mere coinage of extravagance ; and the effect 
is as essentially undramatic as the personification is unreal. 

" Faustus" is of a higher cast than the " Jew of Malta," although it was probably 
written before it. Mr. Collier conceives that "Faustus" was intended to follow up 
"Tamburlaine ;" while he assigns the "Jew" to 1589 or 1590. Its great merit 
lies in the conception of the principal character. It is undramatic in the general 
progress of the action ; full of dark subtleties, that rather reveal the condition of 
Marlowe's own mind than lead to the popular appreciation of the character which 
he painted ; and the comedy with which it is blended is perfectly out of keeping, 
neither harmonising with the principal action, nor relieving it by contrast. But still 
there is wonderful power. It is, however, essentially the power of Marlowe, to 
whom it was not given, as to the " myriad-minded man," to go out of himself to 
realise the truth of every form of human thought and passion, and even to make 
the supernatural a reality. It was for Marlowe to put his own habits of mind into 
his dramatic creations ; to grapple with terrors that would be 'revolting to a well- 
disciplined understanding ; " to wander in fields where curiosity is forbidden to go ; 
to approach the dark gulf near enough to look in ; to be busied in speculations 
which are the rottenest part of the core of the fruit that fell from the tree of know- 
ledge."* It is in this spirit, Lamb holds, that he dealt with the characters of 
r.arabas and Faustus. May we not add that when he worked upon a new model, 
when he produced his " Edward II.," in all probability his latest play, he could 
not even then avoid exposing " a mind which at least delighted to dabble with inter- 
dicted subjects 1 " The character of Gavestoii is certainly not drawn as Shakspere 
would have drawn it : if there had been a necessity for so treating the subject, he 
would have abandoned it altogether. 

* Lamb's " Specimens," vol. i., page 44. 



196 WILLIAM SHAKSrERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



Within a year or two of his death the genius of Marlowe was thus revelling in the 
exercise of its own peculiar qualities ; displaying alike its strength and its weakness, 
its refinement and its grossness. In his latest period he produced the " Edward II." 
Mr. Collier mentions this as " if not the last, certainly one of the most perfect, of 

Marlowe's productions Here the author's versification is. exhibited in its 

greatest excellence." It was entered at Stationers' Hall in July 1593, the unhappy 
poet having been killed in the previous month. We presume, therefore, that those 
who hold that Marlowe wrote the two Parts of the "Contention between the Houses of 
York and Lancaster" the two old plays upon which they say Shakspere founded the 
Second and Third Parts of "Henry VI." also hold that they were written before 
Marlowe's " Edward II." Chalmers was the first to broach the theory of Marlowe's 
authorship of these plays. Malone, as we have seen, propounded, with minute 
circumstantiality, in his " Dissertation," how Greene " could not conceal his morti- 
fication" that he and Peele had been robbed of their property by a "new upstart 
writer." But Malone, in his " Chronological Order," arraigns the thief under an 
entirely new indictment. Some circumstances, he says, which have lately struck 
him, confirm an opinion that Marlowe was the author. And he then goes on to 
produce " confirmations strong as proofs of holy writ." " A passage in his (Mar- 
lowe's) historical drama of ' King Edward II.,' which Dr. Farmer has pointed out 
to me since the ' Dissertation ' was printed, also inclines me to believe, with him, 
that Marlowe was the author of one, if not both, of the old dramas on which Shak- 
speare formed the two plays which in the first folio edition of his works are distin- 
guished by "the titles of 'The Second and Third Parts of King Henry VI.' " The 
passage which produced this recantation of Malone's former opinion is that of the 
two celebrated lines in the Second Part of the " Contention : " 

" What, will the aspiring blood of Lancaster 
Sink in the ground ] I thought it would have mounted." 

Mark the proof. "Marlowe, as Dr. Farmer observes to me, has the very same 
phraseology in ' King Edward II. :' 

" ' Scorning that the lowly earth 
Should drink his blood, mounts up to the air.' 

" And in the same play I have lately noticed another line in which we find the very 
epithet here applied to the pious Lancastrian king : 

" ' Frown'st thou thereat, aspiring Lancaster 9 ' " 

The Rev. A. Dyce has adopted the same opinion. " To the first Part of the 
* Contention ' and to ' The True Tragedy ' (second part), Greene may have contri- 
buted his share ; so also may Lodge, and so may Peele have done ; but in both 
pieces there are scenes characterised by a vigour of conception and expression, to 
which, as their undisputed works demonstratively prove, neither Greene, nor Lodge, 
nor Peele could possibly have risen. Surely, therefore, we have full warrant for 
supposing that Marlowe was largely concerned in the composition of the first Part 
of the ' Contention,' and the ' True Tragedy.' " * 

The theory that Marlowe wrote one or both Parts of the " Contention " must 
begin by assuming that his mind was so thoroughly disciplined at the period when 
he produced " Tamburlaine," and " Faustus," and the " Jew of Malta," that he was 
able to lay aside every element, whether of thought or expression, by which those 

* " Some Account of Marlowe and his Writings." 



CHAP. III.] THE ONLY SHAKE-SCENE. 197 



plays are characterised ; adopt essentially different principles for the dramatic 
conduct of a story ; copy his characters from living and breathing models of actual 
man ; come down from his pomp and extravagance of language, not to reject poetry, 
but to ally poetry with familiar and natural thoughts ; and delineate crime, not with 
the glaring and fantastic pencil that makes demons spout forth fire and blood in the 
midst of thick darkness, but with a severe portraiture of men who walk in broad 
daylight upon the common earth, rendering the ordinary passions of their fellows 
pride, and envy, and ambition, and revenge most fearful, from their alliance with 
stupendous intellect and unconquerable energy. This was what Marlowe must have 
done before he could have conducted a single sustained scene of either Part of the 
" Contention ; " before he could have depicted the fierce hatreds of Beaufort and 
Gloster, the never-subdued ambition of Margaret and York, the patient suffering 
amidst taunting friends and reviling enemies of Henry, and, above all, the courage, 
the activity, the tenacity, the self-possession, the intellectual supremacy, and the 
passionless ferocity, of Richard. In the " Tamburlaine," and " Jew," and " Faustus," 
events move on with no natural progression. In every scene there must be some- 
thing to excite. We have no repose ; for, if striking situations are not presented, 
we have the same exaggerations of thought, and the same extravagance of language. 
What is intended to be familiar at once plunges into the opposite extravagance of 
ribaldry ; and even the messengers and servants are made out of something different 
from life. We have looked through Marlowe's plays those which are unquestionably 
of an earlier date than his " Edward II." for a plain piece of narrative, such as might 
contrast with the easy method with which Shakspere in general tells a story, and of 
which the " Contention " furnishes abundant examples : but we have looked in vain. 
On the other hand, innumerable passages may be found in Marlowe's "Edward II." 
in which his peculiar characteristics continue to prevail, but associated with many 
evidences of a really higher style of dramatic poetry. This is decisive, we think, 
against Marlowe being the author of the "Contention." But it proves something 
more ; it is evidence that he had become acquainted with another model, and that 
model we hold to be the " Contention " itself. Here it stands, with a fixed date ; 
in itself a model, we believe, if no other works of Shakspere can be proved to have 
existed in, or close upon, the first half of the decad commencing in 1585. To show 
the contrary it would be necessary to maintain that Marlowe's " Edward II." preceded 
the " Contention ; " but upon this point no one has ever raised a doubt. All the 
English authorities have left the " Contention " amidst the dust and rubbish of that 
drama, which Marlowe first, and Shakspere afterwards, according to their theory, came 
to inform with life and poetry. They have always proclaimed these dramas as old 
plays rude plays things which Shakspere remodelled. We hold that they were 
the things upon which Marlowe built his later style, whether as regards the dramatic 
conduct of an action, the development of character, or the structure of the verse ; 
and we hold that they were Shakspere's. 

But there is one point which those who deny Shakspere the authorship of the 
:wo Parts of the " Contention " altogether pass over. They know that the wonderful 
comedy of the Jack Cade scenes of the second Part of " Henry VI." is, with scarcely 
any change, to be found in the play which they say Shakspere did not write. But 
according to the theory of Malone, and Collier, and Dyce, and Hunter, there was 
' some author who preceded Shakspeare " who may justly claim the merit of having 
riven birth in England to the very highest comedy not the mere comedy of 
manners, not the comedy of imitation, but that comedy which, having its roots 
mbedded in the most profound philosophy, is still as fresh as at the hour when it 
was first written, and will endure through every change in the outward forms of 
social life. For what is the comedy which is here before us, written, as it would 



98 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



eem, by " some author who preceded Shakspeare 1 " Is it the comedy of Marlowe ? 
r of Greene ? or of Peele ? or of the latter two 1 or of Lodge, who wrote in con- 
unction with Greene ? or of Lyly ? or Kyd 1 or Nashe ? or is it to be traced 
,o some anonymous author, such as he who produced " The Famous Victories 1 " 
We are utterly at a loss where to assign the authorship of such comedy upon this 
heory. We turn to the works of the authors who preceded Shakspere, and we find 
abundance indeed of low buffoonery, but scarcely a spark of that universal wit and 
mmour which, all things considered, is the very rarest amongst the gifts of genius. 
Those who are familiar with the works of the earliest English dramatists will know 
that our assertion is not made at random. We believe that the man, to use the 
words of our valued friend, Mr. Craik, " who first informed our drama with true wit 
and humour " was the only man of whose existence we have any record who could 
lave written the Jack Cade scenes of the " Contention." 

If Shakspere had done to these remarkable dramas what it is the fashion to assert 
that he did, new-versify, new-model, transpose, amplify, improve, and polish, he 
would still have been essentially a dishonest plagiarist. We have no hesitation in 
stating our belief that the two Parts of the " Contention " are immeasurably supe- 
rior, in the dramatic conduct of the story, the force and consistency of character, 
the energy of language, yea, and even harmony of versification, to any dramatic pro- 
duction whatever which existed in the year 1591. We hold that whoever obtained 
possession, legally or otherwise, of the property of these productions (meaning by 
property the purchased right of exhibiting them on the stage), and applied himself 
to their amplification and improvement to the extent, and with the success, which is 
represented, was, to say the best of him, a presumptuous and self-sufficient meddler. 
We hold that it was utterly impossible that Shakspere should have set about such a 
work at all, having any consciousness of his own original power. We further hold, 
that the only consistent theory that can be maintained with regard to the amplifi- 
cations and improvements upon the original work must be founded upon the belief 
that the work in its first form was Shakspere's own. " He new-modelled," says 
Malone. This is a phrase of large acceptation. We can understand how Shakspere 
new-modelled the old " Taming of a Shrew," and the old " King John," by com- 
pletely re- writing all the parts, adding some characters, rejecting others, rendering 
the action at his pleasure more simple or more complex, expanding a short exclama- 
tion into a long and brilliant dialogue, or condensing a whole scene into some expres- 
sive speech or two. This, to our minds, is a sort of remodelling which Shakspere 
did not disdain to try his hand upon. But the remodelling which consists in the 
addition of lines here and there, -in the expansion of a sentiment already expressed, 
in the substitution of a forcible line for a weak one, or a rhythmical line for one 
less harmonious, in the change of an epithet or the inversion of two epithets, 
and this without the slightest change in the dramatic conception of the original, 
whether as to the action as a whole, or the progress of the action, or the charac- 
terization as a whole, or the small details of character ; remodelling such as this, 
to be called the work of Shakspere, and the only work upon which he exercised his 
hand in these dramas, appears to us to assume that he stood in the same relation to 
the original author of these pieces as the mechanic who chisels a statue does to the 
artist who conceives and perfects -its design. 



CHAP. IV.] 



THE MIGHTY HEART. 



199 







[Funeral of Sydney.] 
CHAPTER IV. 

THE MIGHTY HEART 



IN the spring of 1588, and through the summer also, we may well believe that 
Shakspere abided in London. The course of public events was such that he would 
scarcely have left the capital, even for a few weeks. For the hearts of all men in 
the vast city were mightily stirred ; and whilst in that *' shop of war" might be 
heard on every side the din of " anvils and hammers waking to fashion out the 
plates and instruments of armed justice,"* the poet had his own work to do, in 
urging forward the noble impulse through which the people, of whatever sect, or 
whatever party, willed that they would be free. It was the year of the Armada. 
* Milton : " Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing." 



200 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY, [BOOK III. 



When Shakspere first exchanged the quiet intercourse of his native town for the 
fierce contests of opinion amongst the partisans of London he must have had fears 
for his country. A conspiracy, the most daring and extensive, had burst out against 
the life of the Queen ; and it was the more dangerous that the leaders of the plot 
were high-minded enthusiasts, who mingled with their traitorous designs the most 
chivalrous devotion to another Queen, a long-suffering prisoner. The horrible 
cruelties that attended the execution of Babington and his accomplices aggravated 
the pity which men felt that so much enthusiasm should have been lost to their 
country. More astounding events were to follow. In a year of dearth the citizens 
had banqueted, amidst bells and bonfires, in honour of the detection of Babington 
and his followers ; and now, within three weeks of the feast of Christmas, the Lord 
Mayor and Aldermen, assisted with divers earls, barons, and gentlemen of account, 
and worshipful citizens " in coats of velvet and chains of gold, all on horseback, in 
most solemn and stately manner, by sound of four trumpets, about ten of the clock 
in the forenoon, made open and public proclamation and declaration of the sentence 
lately given by the nobility against the Queen of Scots under the great seal of 
England."* At the Cross in Cheap, or at the end of Chancery Lane, or at St. 
Magnus' Corner near London Bridge, would the young sqjourner in this seat of 
policy hear the proclamation ; and he would hear also the " great and wonderful 
rejoicing of the people of all sorts, as manifestly appeared by ringing of bells, making 
of bonfires, and singing of psalms in every of the streets and lanes of the City."t 
But amidst this show of somewhat ferocious joy would he encounter gloomy and 
fear-stricken faces. Men would not dare even to whisper their opinions, but it 
would be manifest that the public heart was not wholly at ease. On the eighth of 
February the Queen of Scots is executed. Within a week after London pours forth 
its multitudes to witness a magnificent and a mournful pageant. The Queen has 
taken upon herself the cost of the public funeral of Sir Philip Sydney. She has done 
wisely in this. In honouring the memory of the most gallant arid accomplished of 
her subjects, she diverts the popular mind from unquiet reflections to feelings in 
which all can sympathise. Even the humblest of the people, who know little of the 
poetical genius, the taste, the courtesy, the chivalrous bearing of this star of the 
Court of Elizabeth, know that a young and brave man has fallen in the service of 
his country. Some of his companions in arms have perhaps told the story of his 
giving the cup of water, about to be lifted to his own parched lips, to the dying 
soldier whose necessities were greater than his. And that story indeed would move 
their tears, far more than all the gallant recollections of the tilt-yard. From the 
Minorites at the eastern extremity of the City, to St. Paul's, there is a vast proces- 
sion of authorities in solemn purple ; bnt more impressive is the long column of 
" certain young men of the City, marching by three and three in black cassokins, with 
their short pikes, halberds, and ensign trailing on the ground." There are in that 
procession many of the " officers of his foot in the Low Countries," his " gentlemen 
and yeomen-servants," and twelve "knights of his kindred and friends." One there 
is amongst them upon whom all eyes are gazing Drake, the bold seaman, who has 
carried the terror of the English .flag through every sea, and in a few months will be 
" singeing the King of Spain's beard." The corpse of Sydney is borne by fourteen of 
his yeomen ; and amongst the pall-bearers is one weeping manly tears, Fulke Greville, 
upon whose own tomb was written as the climax of his honour that he was " friend 
to Sir Philip Sydney." The uncle of the dead hero is there also, the proud, ambi- 
tious, weak, and incapable Leicester, who has been kinging it as Governor-General of 
the Low Coutries, without the courage to fight a battle, except that in which Sydney 
was sacrificed. He has been recalled ; and is in some disfavour in the courtly circle, 
* Stow's " Annals." f Ibid. 



CHAP. IV.] 



THE MIGHTY HEART. 



201 



although he tried to redeem his disgraces in the Netherlands by boldly counselling 
the poisoning of the Queen of Scots. Shakspere may have looked upon the haughty 
peer, and shuddered when he thought of the murderer of Edward Arden.* 

Within a year of the burial of Sydney the popular temper had greatly changed. 
It had gone forth to all lands that England was to be invaded. Philip of Spain 
was preparing the greatest armament that the combined navies of Spain and Por- 
tugal, of Naples and Sicily, of Genoa and Venice, could bear across the seas, to 
crush the arch-heretic of England. Rome had blessed the enterprise. Prophecies 
had been heard in divers languages, that the year 1588 "should be most fatal and 
ominous unto all estates," and it was " now plainly discovered that England was the 
main subject of that time's operation."t Yet England did not quail. " The whole 
commonalty," says the annalist, " became of one heart and mind." The Council of 
War demanded five thousand men and fifteen ships of the City of London. Two 




[Camp at Tilbury.] 



days were craved for answer ; and the City replied that ten thousand men and 
thirty ships were at the sendee of their country.! In every field around the 
capital were the citizens who had taken arms practising the usual points of war. 
The Camp at Tilbury was formed. " It was a pleasant sight to behold the soldiers, 

_ * See page 5-5. f Stow's " Annals." 

: It has been said, in contradiction to the good old historian of London, that the City only gave 
what the Council demanded ; 10,000 men were certainly levied in the twenty-five wards. 



202 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



as they marched towards Tilbury, their cheerful countenances, courageous words 
and gestures, dancing and leaping wheresoevor they came ; and in the camp their 
most felicity was hope of fight with the enemy : where ofttimes divers rumours ran 
of their foes approach, and that present battle would be given them ; then were 
they joyful at such news, as if lusty giants were to run a race." There is another 
description of an eager and confident army that may parallel this : 

" All furnish'd, all in arms : 
All plum'd, like estridgcs that with the wind 
Bated, like eagles having lately bath'd ; 
Glittering in golden coats, like images j 
As full of spirit as the month of May, 
And gorgeous as the sun at midsummer : 
Wanton as youthful goats, wild as young bulls." * 

He who wrote this description had, we think, looked upon the patriot trainbands of 
London in 1588. But, if we mistake not, he had given an impulse to the spirit 
which had called forth this " strong and mighty preparation," in a voice as trumpet- 
tongued as the proclamations of Elizabeth. The chronology of Shakspere's King 
John is amongst the many doubtful points of his literary career. The authorship 
of the " King John " in two Parts is equally doubtful. But if that be an older play 
than Shakspere's and be not, as the Germans believe with some reason, written by 
Shakspere himself, the drama which we receive as his is a work peculiarly fitted for 
the year of the great Armada. The other play is full of matter that would have 
offended the votaries of the old religion. This, in a wise spirit of toleration, attacks 
no large classes of men excites no prejudices against friars and nuns, but vindicates 
the independence of England against the interference of the papal authority, and 
earnestly exhorts her to be true to herself. This was the spirit in which even the 
undoubted adherents of the ancient forms of religion acted while England lay under 
the ban of Rome in 1588. The passages in Shakspere's " King John " appear to us 
to have even a more pregnant meaning, when they are connected with that stirring 
time : 

" K. John. What earthly name to interrogatories 
Can task the free breath of a sacred king 1 
Thou canst not, cardinal, devise a name 
So slight, unworthy and ridiculous, 
To charge me to an answer, as the pope. 
Tell him this tale ; and from the mouth of England 
Add thus much more, that no Italian priest 
Shall tithe or toll in our dominions ; 
But as we under Heaven are supreme head, 
So under Him, that great supremacy, 
Where we do reign, we will alone uphold, 
Without the assistance of a mortal hand : 
So tell the pope ; all reverence set apart, 
To him, and his usurp'd authority. 

K. Phil. Brother of England, you blaspheme in this. 

K. John. Though you, and all the kings of Christendom, 
Are led so grossly by this meddling priest, 
Dreading the curse that money may buy out ; 
And, by the merit of vile gold, dross, dust, 
Purchase corrupted pardon of a man, 
Who, in that sale, sells pardon from himself; 
Though you, and all the rest, so grossly led, 
This juggling witchcraft with revenue cherish ; 

* " Henry IV.," Part I., Act iv., Scene i. 



CHAP. IV,] THE MIGHTY HEART. 203 



Yet I, alone, alone do me oppose 

Against the pope, and count his friends my foes. 



K. John. The legate of the pope hath been with me, 
And I have made a happy peace with him ; 
And he hath promis'd to dismiss the powers 
Led by the dauphin. 

Bast. inglorious league ! 

Shall we, upon the footing of our land, 
Send fair-play orders, and make compromise, 
Insinuation, parley, and base truce, 
To arms invasive ? 



This England never did, nor never shall, 

Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror, 

But when it first did help to wound itself. 

Now these her princes are come home again, 

Come the three corners of the world in arms, 

And we shall shock them : Nought shall make us rue, 

If England to itself do rest but true." 

The patriotism of Shakspere is less displayed in set speeches than in the whole 
life of historical plays incident and character. Out of inferior writers might be 
collected more laudatory sentences flattering to national pride; but his words are 
bright uiid momentary as the spark which fires the mine. The feeling is in the 
audience, and he causes it to burst out in shouts or tears. He learnt the manage- 
ment of this power, we think, during the excitement of the great year of 1588. 

The Armada is scattered. England's gallant sons have done their work ; the winds, 
which a greater Power than that of sovereigns and councils holds in His hand, 
have been let loose. The praise is to Him. Again a mighty procession is on the 
way to St. Paul's. The banners taken from the Spanish ships are hung out on the 
battlements of the cathedral ; and now, surrounded by all the nobles and mighty 
men who have fought her battles, the Queen descends from her "chariot throne" to 
make her " hearty prayers on her bended knees." Leicester, the favourite to whose 
weak hand was nominally intrusted the command of the troops, has not lived to 
see this triumph. But Essex, the new favourite, would be there ; and Hunsdon, 
the General for the Queen. There too would be Raleigh, and Hawkins, and 
Frobisher, and Drake, and Howard of Emngham one who forgot all distinctions of 
sect in the common danger of his country. Well might the young poet thus apos- 
trophize this country ! 

" This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle, 
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, 
This other Eden, demi-parndise ; 
This fortress, built by Nature for herself, 
Against infestion and the hand of war ; 
This happy breed of men, this little world ; 
This precious stone set in the silver sea, 
Which serves it in the office of a wall, 
Or as a moat defensive to a house, 
Against the envy of less happier lands ; 
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England." 

But, glorious as was the contemplation of the attitude of England during the 
year of the Armada, the very energy that had called forth this noble display 
of patriotic spirit exhibited itself in domestic controversy when the pressure 



204 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



from without was removed. The poet might then, indeed, qualify his former 
admiration : 

" England ! model to thy inward greatness, 
Like little body with a mighty heart, 
What mightst thou do that honour would thee do, 
Were all thy children kind and natural ! " 

The same season that witnessed the utter destruction of the armament of Spain 
saw London excited to the pitch of fury by polemical disputes. It was not now the 
quarrel between Protestant and Romanist, but between the National Church and 
Puritanism. The theatres, those new and powerful teachers, lent themselves to the 
controversy. In some of these their license to entertain the people was abused by 
the introduction of matters connected with religion and politics ; so that in 1589 
Lord Burghley not only directed the Lord Mayor to inquire what companies of 
players had offended, but a commission was appointed for the same purpose. How 
Shakspere's company proceeded during this inquiry has been made out most clearly 
by a valuable document discovered at Bridgewater House, by Mr. Collier, wherein 
they disclaim to have conducted themselves amiss. " These are to certify your 
right Honourable Lordships that her Majesty's poor players, James Burbage, Richard 
Burbage, John Laneham, Thomas Greene, Robert Wilson, John Taylor, Anth. 
Wadeson, Thomas Pope, George Peele, Augustine Phillipps, Nicholas Towley, William 
Shakespeare, William Kempe, William Johnson, Baptiste Goodale, and Robert 
Armyn, being all of them sharers in the Blackfriars playhouse, have never given 
cause of displeasure, in that they have brought into their plays matters of state and 
religion, unfit to be handled by them or to be presented before lewd spectators : 
neither hath any complaint in that kind ever been preferred against them or any 
of them. Wherefore they trust most humbly in your Lordships' consideration of 
their former good behaviour, being at all times ready and willing to yield obedience 
to any command whatsoever your Lordships in your wisdom may think in such 
case meet," &c. 
"Nov. 1589." 

In this petition, Shakspere, a sharer in the theatre, but with others below him in 
the list, says, and they all say, that " they have never brought into their plays mat- 
ters of state and religion." The public mind in 1589-90 was furiously agitated by 
" matters of state and religion." A controversy was going on which is now known 
as that of Martin Marprelate, in which the constitution and discipline of the Church 
were most furiously attacked in a succession of pamphlets ; and they were defended 
with equal violence and scurrility. Izaak Walton says, " There was not only one 
Martin Marprelate, but other venomous books daily printed and dispersed, books 
that were so absurd and scurrilous, that the graver divines disdained them an 
answer." Walton adds, " And yet these were grown into high esteem with the 
common people, till Tom Nashe appeared against them all, who was a man of a sharp 
wit, and the master of a scoffing, satirical, merry pen." Connected with this con- 
troversy, there was subsequently a more personal one between Nashe and Gabriel 
Harvey ; but they were each engaged in the Marprelate dispute. John Lyly was the 
author of one of the most remarkable pamphlets produced on this occasion, called 
" Pap with a Hatchet." Harvey, it must be observed, was the intimate friend of 
Spenser ; and in a pamphlet which he dates from Trinity Hall, November 5, 1589, 
he thus attacks the author of " Pap with a Hatchet," the more celebrated Euphuist, 
whom Sir Walter Scott's novel has made familiar to us : 

" I am threatened with a bable, and Martin menaced with a comedy a fit motion 
for a jester and a player to try what may be done by employment of his faculty. 



CHAP. IV.] THE MIGHTY HEART. 205 



Babies and comedies are parlous fellows to decipher and discourage men (that is the 
point) with their witty flouts and learned jerks, enough to lash any man out of 
countenance. Nay, if you shake the painted scabbard at me, I have done ; and all 
you that tender the preservation of your good names were best to please Pap- 
Hatched, and fee Euphues betimes, for fear lest he be moved, or some one of his apes 
hired, to make a play of you, and then is your credit quite undone for ever and 
ever. Such is the public reputation of their plays, he must needs be dis- 
couraged whom they decipher. Better anger an hundred other than two such 
that have the stage at commandment, and can furnish out vices and devils at their 
pleasure."* 

We thus see that Harvey, the friend of Spenser, is threatened by one of those 
who " have the stage at commandment " with having a play made of him. Such 
plays were made in 1589, and Nashe thus boasts of them in one of his tracts printed 
in 1589 : "Methought Vetus Comcedia began to prick him at London in the right 
vein, when he brought forth Divinity with a scratched face, holding of her heart as 
if she were sick, because Martin would have forced her ; but missing of his purpose, 
he left the print of his nails upon her cheeks, and poisoned her with a vomit, which 
he ministered unto her to make her cast up her dignities." Lyly, taking the same 
side, writes, " Would those comedies might be allowed to be played that are 
penned, and then I am sure he [Martin Marprelate] would be deciphered, and so 
perhaps discouraged" Here are the very words which Harvey has repeated, " He 
must needs be discouraged whom they decipher'' 1 Harvey, in a subsequent passage 
of the same tract, refers to this prostitution of the stage to party purposes in very 
striking words : " The stately tragedy scorneth the trifling comedy, and the trifling 
comedy flouteth the new ruffianism''' These circumstances appear to us very remark- 
able, with reference to the state of the drama about 1590. Shakspere's great con- 
temporary, Edmund Spenser, in a poem entitled, " The Tears of the Muses," originally 
published in 151)1, describes, in the "Complaint" of Thalia, the Muse of Comedy, 
the state of the drama at the time in which he is writing : 

" Where be the sweet delights of learning's treasure, 

That wont with comic sock to beautify 
The painted theatres, and fill with pleasure 

The listeners' eyes, and ears with melody ; 
In which I late was wont to reign as queen, 
And mask in mirth with graces well beseen 1 

! all is gone ; and all that goodly glee, 

Which wont to be the glory of gay wits, 
Is laid a-bed, and nowhere now to see ; 

And in her room unseemly Sorrow sits, 
With hollow brows and grissly countenance, 
Marring my joyous gentle dalliance. 

And him beside sits ugly Barbarism, 

And brutish Ignorance, ycrept of late 
Out of dread darkness of the deep abysm, 

Where being bred, he light and heaven does hate ; 
They in the minds of men now tyrannize, 
And the fair scene with rudeness foul disguise. 

All places they with folly have possess'd, 

And with vain toys the vulgar entertain ; 
But me have banished, with all the rest 

That whilom wont to wait upon my train, 
Fine Counterfesance, and unhurtful Sport, 
Delight, and Laughter, deck'd in seemly sort." 

* Pierce's " Supererogation." Eeprinted in " Archaica," p. 137. 



206 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



Spenser was in England in 1590-1, and it is probable that " The Tears of the Muses " 
was written in 1590, and that the poet described the prevailing state of the drama 
in London during the time of his visit. 

The four stanzas which we have quoted are descriptive, as we think, of a period 
of the drama when it had emerged from the semi-barbarism by which it was charac- 
terized, " from the commencement of Shakspere's boyhood, till about the earliest date 
at which his removal to London can be possibly fixed."* This description has 
nothing in common with those accounts of the drama which have reference to this 
" semi-barbarism." Nor does the writer of it belong to the school which considered 
a violation of the unities of time and place as the great defect of the English theatre. 
Nor does he assert his preference of the classic school over the romantic, by object- 
ing, as Sir Philip Sydney objects, that " plays be neither right tragedies nor right 
comedies, mingling kings and clowns." There had been, according to Spenser, a 
state of the drama that would 

" Fill with pleasure 

The listeners' eyes, and ears with melody.'' 

I 

Can any comedy be named, if we assume that Shakspere had, in 1590, not written 
any, which could be celebrated and by the exquisite versifier of " The Faery Queen " 
for its "melody ?" Could any also be praised for 

" That goodly glee 
Which wont to be the glory of gay wits ] " 

Could the plays before Shakspere be described by the most competent of judges 
the most poetical mind of that age next to Shakspere as abounding in 

" Fine Counterfesance, and unhurtful Sport, 
Delight, and Laughter, deck'd in seemly sort ? " 

We have not seen such a comedy, except some three or four of Shakspere's, which 
could have existed before 1590. We do not believe there is such a comedy from 
any other pen. What, according to the " Complaint " of Thalia, has banished such 
comedy 1 " Unseemly Sorrow," it appears, has been fashionable ; not the proprie- 
ties of tragedy, but a sorrow 

" With hollow brows and grissly countenance ; " 

the violent scenes of blood which were offered for the excitement of the multitude, 
before the tragedy of real art was devised. But this state of the drama is shortly 
passed over. There is something more defined. By the side of this false tragic sit 
"ugly Barbarism' and brutish Ignorance." These are not the barbarism and igno- 
rance of the old stage ; they are 

" Ycrept of late 
Out of dread darkness of the deep abysm." 

They "now tyrannize;" they now "disguise" the fair scene "with rudeness.'" 
The Muse of Tragedy, Melpomene, had previously described the "rueful spec- 
tacles " of " the stage." It was a stage which had no " true tragedy." But it had 
possessed 

" Delight, and Laughter, deck'd in seemly sort." 

Now " the trifling comedy flouteth the new ruffianism" The words of Gabriel 
* "Edinburgh Review," vol. Ixxi., page 469. 



CHAP. IV.] THE MIGHTY HEART. 207 



Harvey and Edmund Spenser agree in this. The bravos that " have the stage at 
commandment can furnish out vices and devils at their pleasure," says Harvey. 
This describes the Vetus Comcedia the old comedy of which Nashe boasts. Can 
there be any doubt that Spenser had this state of things in view when he denounced 
the 

" Ugly Barbarism, 
And brutish Ignorance, ycrept of late 
Out of dread darkness of the deep abysm." 

He denounced it in common with his friend Harvey, who, however he partook of 
the controversial violence of his time, was a man of learning and eloquence ; and to 
whom only three years before he had addressed a sonnet of which the highest mind 
in the country might have been proud. 

But we must return to the " Thalia." The four stanzas which we have quoted 
are immediately followed by these four others : 

" All these, and all that else the comic stage 

With season'd wit and goodly pleasure graced, 
By which man's life in his likest image 

Was limned forth, are wholly now defaced ; 
And those sweet wits, which wont the like to frame, 
Are now despis'd, and made a laughing game. 

And he, the man whom Nature self had made 

To mock herself, and Truth to imitate, 
With kindly counter, under mimic shade, 

Our pleasant Willy, ah ! is dead of late : 
With whom all joy and jolly merriment 
Is also deaded, and in dolour drent. 

Instead thereof scoffing Scurrility, 

And scornful Folly, with Contempt, is crept, 
Rolling in rhymes of shameless ribtildry, 

Without regard or due decorum kept ; 
Each idle wit at will presumes to make, 
And doth the Learned's task upon him take. 

But that same gentle spirit, from whose pen 

Large streams of honey and sweet nectar flow, 
Scorning the boldness of such base-born men, 

Which dare their follies forth so rashly throw, 
Doth rather choose to sit in idle cell 
Than so himself to mockery to sell." 

Here there is something even stronger than what has preceded it, in the direct allu- 
sion to the state of the stage in 1590. Comedy had ceased to be an exhibition of 
"seasoned wit" and "goodly pleasure ;" it no longer showed "man's life in his 
likest image." Instead thereof there was " Scurrility " " scornful Folly " " shame- 
less Ribaldry ;" and "each idle wit" 

" doth the Learned's task upon him take." 

It was the task of " the Learned " to deal with the high subjects of religious con- 
troversy the " matters of state and religion," with which the stage had meddled. 
Harvey had previously said, in the tract quoted by us, it is " a godly motion, when 
interhcders leave penning their pleasurable plays to become zealous ecclesiastical 
writers." He calls Lyly more expressly, with reference to this meddling, the " fool- 



208 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



master of the theatre." In this state of things the acknowledged head of the comic 
stage was silent for a time : 

" HE, the man whom Nature self had made 
To mock herself, and Truth to imitate, 
With kindly counter, under mimic shade, 
Our pleasant WILLY, ah ! is dead of lutf." 

And the author of " The Faery Queen " adds, 

" But that same gentle spirit, from whose pen 

Large streams of honey and sweet nectar flow, 
Scorning the boldness of such base-born men, 

Which dare their follies forth so madly throw, 
Doth rather choose to sit in idle cell 
Than so himself to mockery to sell." 

The love of personal abuse had driven out real comedy ; and there was one. 
who, for a brief season, had left the madness to take its course. We cannot doubt 
that 

" HE, the man whom Nature self had made 
To mock herself, and Truth to imitate," 

was William ShaJcspere. Mr. Collier, in his " History of Dramatic Poetry," says of 
Spenser's " Thalia," " Had it not been certain that it was written at so early a 
date, and that Shakespeare could not then have exhibited his talents and acquired repu- 
tation, we should say at once that it could be meant for no other poet. It reads 
like a prophetic anticipation, which could not have been fulfilled by Shakspere until 
several years after it was published." Mr. Collier, when he wrote this, had not dis- 
covered the document which proves that Shakspere was a sharer in the Blackfriars 
Theatre at least a year before this poem was published. At a later period, Mr. Collier 
lends his valuable opinion to the belief that Spenser's lines did allude to Shakspere. 
We are happy in such a convert.* Spenser, we have no doubt, described a real 
man, and real facts. He made no " prophetic anticipation ;" there had been genuine 
comedy in existence ; the ribaldry had driven it out for a season. The poem has 
reference to some temporary degradation of the stage ; and what this temporary 
degradation was is most exactly defined by the public documents of the period, and 
the writings of Harvey, Nashe, and Lyly. The dates of all these proofs correspond with 
minute exactness. And who then is " our pleasant Willy" according to the opinion 
of those who would deny to Shakspere the title to the praise of the other great poet 
of the Elizabethan age ? It is John Lyly, says Malone the man whom Spenser's 
bosom friend was, at the same moment, denouncing as " the foolmaster of the 
theatre." We say, advisedly, that there is absolutely no proof that Shakspere had 
not written " The Two Gentlemen of Verona," " The Comedy of Errors," " Love's 
Labour 's Lost," " The Taming of the Shrew," and " All 's Well that Ends Well," 
amongst his comedies, before 1590: we believe that he alone merited the high 
praise of Spenser ; that it was meant for him. 

Eight years after the publication of " The Tears of the Muses," died in an obscure 
lodging-house in King Street, Westminster, " the prince of poets," Edmund Spenser. 
Ben Jonson, says, " He died for lack of bread in King Street, and refused twenty 
pieces sent him by my Lord Essex, and said he was sorry he had no time to spend 
them." The lack of bread could scarcely be. He could only have been a very- 
short time in London, where he came to seek that imperfect compensation which the 

* See Mr. Collier's "Life of Shakespeare," published in 1844. The arguments which we employed 
were printed in the first edition of this "Biography," 1843. 



CHAP. IV.] THE MIGHTY HEART. 209 



government might afford him for some of his wrongs. His house was burnt ; his 
wife and two children had fled from those outrages which had made 

" The cooly shade 
Of the green alders by the Mulla's shore," 

a place of terror and fatal recollections ; his infant had perished in the flames which 
destroyed his property. But it seems impossible that one in his social position 
could die for lack of bread. He died most probably of that which kills as surely as 
hunger the " hysterica passio " of Lear. In a few days most of the illustrious 
band of writers would be gathered round Spenser's grave in Westminster Abbey : 
" his hearse attended by poets, and mournful elegies, and poems, with the pens that 
wrote them, thrown into his tomb."* One of the ablest writers of our day, in his 
quaint and pleasant " Citation and Examination of William Shakspeare," &c., says, 
" William Shakspeare was the only poet who abstained from throwing in either pen 
or poem, at which no one marvelled, he being of low estate, and the others not 
having yet taken him by the hand." This is the language only of romance ; for 
assuredly when Shakspere stood by the grave of Spenser, he of all the poets then 
living must have been held to be the head. He was the " pleasant Willie " of Spenser 
himself. Five years before, Spenser had also, without doubt, thus described him : 

" And there, though last not least, is Action ; 
A gentler shepherd may nowhere be found : 
Whose Muse, full of high thoughts' invention, 
Doth like himself heroically sound" f 

Jonson says 

" He seems to shake a lance 
As brandish 'd at the eyes of ignorance." 

Fuller compares him to the poet Martial, " in the warlike sound of his surname, 
whence some may conjecture him of a military extraction, hasti-vibrans, or Shake- 
speare." We cannot doubt of the allusion. He could not have meant to compare 
the poet with the Roman painter Action. The fancy of Spenser might readily con- 
nect the " high thoughts " with the soaring eagle aeros and we might almost fancy 
that there was some association of the image with Shakspere's armorial bearings 
" his crest or cognizance, a falcon, his wings displayed." 

* Camden. f "Colin Clout's come Home again," 1594. 



P 2 



210 



WILLIAM SHAKSPFRE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK in. 




[Richmond.] 
CHAPTER V. 

LEISURE. 



JOHN STANHOPE, one of the gentlemen of the Privy Chamber, writes thus to Lord 
Talbot, in December, 1589 : "The Queen is so well as, I assure you, six or seven 
galliards in a morning, besides music and singing, is her ordinary exercise." * This 
letter is dated from Richmond. The magnificent palace which the grandfather of 
Elizabeth erected upon the ruins of the old palace of the Plantagenets was a favourite 
residence of the Queen. Here, where she danced her galliards, and made the courts 
harmonious with her music, she closed her life some ten years after, not quite so 
deserted as was the great Edward upon the same spot, but the victim, in all proba- 
bility, of blighted affections and unavailing regrets. Scarcely a vestige is now left of 
the second palace of Richmond. The splendid towers of Henry VII. have fallen ; 
but the name which he gave to the site endures, and the natural beauty which fixed 

* Lodge's "Illustrations," 4to., vol. ii., page 411. 



CHAP. V.] 



LEISURE. 



211 



here the old sovereigns of England, and which the people of all lands still come to 
gaze upon, is something which outlives the works of man, if not the memory of those 
works. In the Christmas of 1589 the Queen's players would be necessarily busy for 
the diversion of the Court. The records are lost which would show us at this period 
what were the precise performances offered to the Queen ; and the imperfect registers 
of the Council, which detail certain payments for plays, do not at this date refer to 
payments to Shakspere's company. But there can be little doubt that the Lord 
Chamberlain's servants were more frequently called upon for her Majesty's solace 
than the Lord Admiral's men, or Lord Strange's men, or the Earl of Warwick's men, 
to whom payments are recorded at this period. It is impossible that the registers 
of the Council, as published originally by Chalmers, should furnish a complete 
account of the theatrical performances at Court ; for there is no entry of any pay- 
ment whatever for such performances, under the Council's warrant, between the 
llth of March, 1593, and the 27th of November, 1597. The office-books of the 
Treasurers of the Chamber exhibit a greater blank at this time. We can have no 
doubt that the last decade of the sixteenth century was the most brilliant period of 
the regal patronage of the drama ; the period when Shakspere, especially, 

" Made those flights upon the banks of Thames" 

to which Jonson has so emphatically alluded. That Shakspere was familiar with 
Richmond we am well believe. He and his fellows would unquestionably, at the 




[St. James's.] 

holiday seasons of Christmas and Shrovetide, be at the daily command of the Lord 
Chamberlain, and in attendance upon the Court wherever the Queen chose to dwell. 



212 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



The servants of the household, the ladies waiting upon the Queen, and even the 
great officers composing the Privy Council, seem to have been in a perpetual state of 
migration from palace to palace. Elizabeth carried this desire for change of place to 
an extent that was not the most agreeable to many of her subjects. Her progress 
from house to house, with a cloud of retainers, was almost ruinous to some who were 
yet unable to reject the honour. But even the frequent removals of the Court from 
palace to palace must have been productive of rio little annoyance to the grave and 
the delicate amongst the royal attendants. The palaces were ill-furnished ; and 
whenever the whim of a moment directed a removal, many of the heavier household 
necessaries had to be carried from palace to palace by barge or waggon. In the time 
of Henry VIII. we constantly find charges attendant upon these removals.* Gifford 
infers that in the time of which we are writing the practice was sufficiently common 
and remarkable to have afforded us one of our most significant and popular words : 
" To the smutty regiment, who attended the progresses, and rode in the carts with 
the pots and kettles, which, with every other article of furniture, were then moved 
from palace to palace, the people, in derision, gave the name of black guards, a term 
since become sufficiently familiar, and never properly explained." t The palaces 
themselves were most inconveniently adapted for these changes. Wherever the 
Queen was, there was the seat of government. The Privy Council were in daily 
attendance upon the Queen ; and every public document is dated from the Court. 
Official business of the most important nature had to be transacted in bedchambers 
and passages. Lady Mary Sydney, whose husband was Lord President of Wales, 
writes the most moving letter to an officer of the Lord Chamberlain, to implore him 
to beg his principal " to have some other room than my chamber for my lord to 
have his resort unto, as he was wont to have, or else my lord will be greatly 
troubled when he shall have any matters of dispatch ; my lodging, you see, being 
very little, and myself continually sick, and not able to be much out of my bed." J 
A great officer of state being obliged to transact business with his servants and 
suitors in his sick wife's bedroom, is a tolerable example of the inconvenient arrange- 
ments of our old palaces. Perhaps a more striking example of their want of comfort, 
and even of decent convenience, is to be found in a memorial from the maids of 
honour, which we have seen in the State Paper Office, humbly requesting that the 
partition which separates their sleeping-rooms at Windsor from the common passage 
may be somewhat raised, so as to shut them out from the possible gaze of her 
Majesty's gallant pages. If Windsor was thus inconvenient as a permanent residence, 
how must the inconvenience have been doubled when the Queen suddenly migrated 
there from St. James's, or Somerset Place, or Greenwich ? The smaller palaces of 
Nonsuch and Richmond were probably still less endurable. But they were all the 
seats of gaiety, throwing a veil over fears and jealousies and feverish ambition. Our 
business is not with their real tragedies. 

From about the period of Shakspere's first connection with the stage, and thence 
with the Court, Henry Lord Hunsdon, the kinsman of Elizabeth, was Lord Chamber- 
lain. It is remarkable, that when Burbage erected the Blackfriars Theatre, in 1576, 
close by the houses of Lord Hunsdon and of the famous Ratcliffe, Earl of Sussex, 
Lord Hunsdon was amongst the petitioners against the project of Burbage. But the 
Earl of Sussex, who was then Lord Chamberlain, did not petition against the erection 
of a playhouse ; and he may therefore be supposed to have approved of it. The 
opinions, however, of Lord Hunsdon must have undergone some considerable change ; 
for upon his succeeding to the office of Lord Chamberlain upon the death of Sussex, 

* See Nicolas's " Privy Purse Expenses of King Henry the Eighth." 
f Note to " Every Man out of his Humour." J The letter is given in Malone's " Inquiry," page 91. 



CHAP. V.] 



LEISURE. 



213 



__ 




[Somerset House.] 



he became the patron of Shakspere's company. They were the Lord Chamberlain's 
men ; or, in other words, the especial servants of the Court. Henry Lord Hunsdon 
held this office for eleven years, till his death in 1596. Elizabeth bestowed upon 
him as a residence the magnificent palace of the Protector Somerset. Here, in the 
halls which had been raised out of the spoliation of the great Priory of St. John of 
Jerusalem, would the company of Shakspere be frequently engaged. The Queen 
occasionally made the palace her residence ; and it can scarcely be doubted that on 
these occasions there was revelry upon which the genius of the new dramatic poet, 
so immeasurably above all his compeers, would bestow a grace which a few years 
earlier seemed little akin to the spirit of the drama. That palace also is swept away ; 
and the place which once witnessed the stately measure and the brisk galliard 
where Cupids shook their painted wings in the solemn masque and where, above 
all, our great dramatic poet may first have produced his " Comedy of Errors," his 
" Two Gentlemen of Verona," his " Romeo and Juliet," and have been rewarded with 
smiles and tears, such as seldom were bestowed in the chill regions of state and 
etiquette, that place now sees the complicated labours of the routine departments 
of a mighty government constantly progressing in their prosaic uniformity. No 
contrast can be more striking than the Somerset House of Queen Elizabeth's Lord 



214 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



Chamberlain, and the Somerset House of Queen Victoria's Commissioners of Stamps 
and Taxes. 

"How chances it they travel?" says Hamlet, speaking of the players "Their 
residence, both in reputation and profit, was better both ways." Hamlet's "trage- 
dians of the city" travel because "the boys carry it away." But there were other 
causes that more than once forced Shakspere's company to disperse, and which 
affected also every other company. That terrible affliction, the plague, almost 
invariably broke up the residence of the players. They were in general scattered about 
the country seeking a precarious maintenance, whilst their terror-stricken families 
remained in the fated city. In the autumn of 1592 the plague raged in London. 
Michaelmas term was kept at Hertford ; as in 1593 it was at St. Albans. During 
this long period all the theatres were closed, the Privy Council justly alleging " that 
infected people, after their long keeping in and before they be cleared of their disease 
and infection, being desirous of recreation, use to resort to such assemblies, where 
through heat and throng they infect many sound persons." In the letters of Alleyn 
the player, which are preserved in Dulwich College, there is one to his wife, of this 
exact period, being dated from Chelmsford, the 2nd of May, 1593, which exhibits a 
singular picture of the indignities to which the less privileged players appear to have 
been subjected : "I have no news to send thee, but I thank God we are all well, 
and in health, which I pray God to continue with us in the country, and with you 
in London. But, mouse, I little thought to hear that which I now hear by you, for 
it is well known, they say, that you were by my Lord Mayor's officers made to ride 
in a cart, you and all your fellows, which I am sorry to hear ; but you may thank 
your two supporters, your strong legs I mean, that would not carry you away, but 
let you fall into the hands of such termagants." * On the 1st of September, 1592, 
there was a company of players at Cambridge, and, as it appears, engaged in a contest 
with the University authorities. On that day the Vice-Chancellor issued a warrant 
to the constable forbidding the inhabitants to allow the players to occupy any houses, 
rooms, or yards, for the purpose of exhibiting their interludes, plays, and tragedies. 
The players, however, disregarded the warrant ; for on the 8th of September the 
Vice-Chancellor complains to the Privy Council that " certain light persons, pretend- 
ing themselves to be her Majesty's players, &c., did take boldness, not only here to 
proclaim their interludes (by setting up of writings about our college gates), but also 
actually at Chesterton to play the same, which is a village within the compass of the 
jurisdiction granted to us by her Majesty's charter, and situated hard by the plot 
where Stourbridge fair is kept." The Privy Council does not appear to have been 
in a hurry to redress the grievance ; for ten days afterwards the Vice-Chancellor and 
various heads of colleges repeated the complaint, alleging that the offenders were 
supported by Lord North (who resided at Kirtling, near Cambridge), who said " in 
the hearing as well of the players, as of divers knights and gentlemen of the shire 
then present," that an order of the Privy Council of 1575, forbidding the perform- 
ance of plays in the neighbourhood of universities, " was no perpetuity." It was 
not till the following year that the Privy Council put an end to this unseemly contest, 
by renewing the letters of 1575. The company of Shakspere was not, we appre- 
hend, the " certain light persons, pretending themselves to be her Majesty's players." 
The complaint of the Vice-Chancellor recites that one Dutton was a principal 
amongst them ; and Button's company is mentioned in the accounts of the Eevels 
as early as 1572. But for this notice of Dutton we might have concluded that the 
Queen's players were the company to which Shakspere belonged ; and that his 
acquaintance with Cambridge, its splendid buildings, and its noble institutions, was 
to be associated with the memory of a dispute that is little creditable to those who 
* Collier's " Memoirs of Edward Alleyn," page 24. 



CHAP. V.] LEISURE. 215 



resisted the just exercise of the authority of the University. The Queen and her 
courtiers appear to have looked upon this contest in something of the spirit of mis- 
chievous drollery. Three months after the dispute, Dr. John Still, then Vice-Chan- 
cellor, Master of Trinity College, and Bishop of Bath and Wells, writes thus to the 
Lords of the Council : " Upon Saturday last, being the second of December, we 
received letters from Mr. Vice-Chamberlain by a messenger sent purposely, wherein, 
by reason that her Majesty's own servants in this time of infection may not disport 
her Highness with their wonted and ordinary pastimes, his Honour hath moved our 
University (as he writeth that he hath also done the other of Oxford) to prepare a 
comedy in English, to be acted before her Highness by some of our students in this 
time of Christmas. How ready we are to do anything that may tend to her Majesty's 
pleasure, we are very desirous by all means to testify ; but how fit we shall be by 
this is moved, having no practice in this English vein,* and being (as we think) 
nothing beseeming our students, specially out of the University, we much doubt ; 
and do find our principal actors (whom we have of purpose called before us) very 
unwilling to play in English." f If Dr. Still were the author of " Gammer Gurton's 
Needle," as commonly believed, the joke is somewhat heightened ; but at any rate 
it is diverting enough, as a picture of manners, to find the University who have 
opposed the performances of professional players, being called upon to produce a 
play in the " English vein," a species of composition mostly held in contempt by 
the learned as fitted only for the ignorant multitude. 

In relation to Shakspere, we learn from these transactions at Cambridge that at 
the Christmas of 1592 there were no revels at Court : "her Majesty's own servants 
in this time of infection may not disport her Highness with their wonted and ordi- 
nary pastimes." Shakspere, we may believe, during the long period of the con- 
tinuance of the plague in London, had no occupation at the Blackfriars Theatre ; 
and the pastimes of the Lord Chamberlain's servants were dispensed with at the 
palaces. It is probable that he was residing at his own Stratford. But with 
reference to his poetical labours it is scarcely necessary to infer that all his time was 
spent in " lonely musing." A notion has been propounded that he personally visited 
Italy. In the Local Illustrations to the " Taming of the Shrew," and the " Merchant 
of Venice," with which we were favoured by Miss Martineau, will be found some 
very striking proofs of Shakspere's intimate acquaintance, not only with Italian 
manners, but with those minor particulars of the domestic life of Italy, such as the 
furniture and ornaments of houses, which could scarcely be derived from books, nor, 
with reference to their minute accuracy, from the conversation of those who had 
" swam in a gondola." These observations were communicated to us by our excel- 
lent friend, without any previous theorizing on the subject, or any acquaintance with 
the opinions that had been just then advanced on this matter by Mr. Brown. It is 
not our intention here to go over this ground again ; but it appears to us strongly 
confirmatory of the belief that Shakspere did visit Italy; that in 1593 he might have 
been absent several months from England without any interference with his pro- 
fessional pursuits. It is difficult to name any earlier period of his life in which we 
can imagine him with the leisure and the command of means necessary for such a 
journey. The subsequent part of the sixteenth century left him no leisure. " The 
Merchant of Venice" and "Othello" (in which there is also one or two remarkable 
indications of local knowledge) were produced within a few years of 1593. "The 
Taming of the Shrew" probably belongs to the same time. At any rate, looking 
at the poetical labours of Shakspere at this exact period, we may infer that there 

* The English vein had gone out of use. In 1564, " Ezekias," a comedy in English by Dr. 
Nicholas Udall, was performed before Elizabeth in King's College Chapel. 

f The various documents may be consulted in Collier's " Annals of the Stage," vol. i. 



216 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



was some pause in his professional occupation ; and that his leisure, from the autumn 
of 1592 to the summer of 1593, enabled him more systematically to cultivate those 
higher faculties which placed him, even in the opinion of his contemporaries, at the 
head of the living poets of England. 

Let us place then the Shakspere of eight-and-twenty once more in the solitude of 
Stratford, with the experience of seven years in the pursuits which he has chosen 
as his profession. He has produced, we believe, several plays belonging to each class 
of the drama with which the early audiences were familiar. In the tragedy of 
" Andronicus," as it has come down to us, and with great probability in the first 
conceptions of "Hamlet" and of "Romeo and Juliet," the physical horrors of the 
scene were as much relied upon as attractions, if not more so, than the poetry and 
characterization. The struggles for the empery of France, and the wars of the 
Roses, had been presented to the people with marvellous animation ; but the great 
dramatic principle of unity of idea had been but imperfectly developed, and pro- 
bably, without the practice of that apprentice-period of the poet's dramatic life, 
would scarcely have been conceived in its ultimate perfection. Comedy, too, had 
been tried ; and here the rude wit and the cumbrous affectations of his contem- 
poraries had been supplanted by drollery and nature, with a sprinkle of graceful 
poetry whose essential characteristic is the rejection of the unnatural ornament and 
the conventional images which belong to every other dramatic writer of the period. 
The " Two Gentlemen of Verona," the " Comedy of Errors," " Love's Labour's 
Lost," the "Taming of the Shrew," and "All's Well that Ends Well," are essen- 
tially nobler and purer in their poetical elements than anything that Peele, or 
Greene, or Lyly, or Lodge, have bequeathed to us. That they are superior in many 
respects to many of the best productions of Shakspere's later contemporaries may be 
the result of the after-polish which we have no doubt the poet bestowed even upon 
his least important works. They, with the histories and tragedies we have named, 
essentially belonged, we think, to his earliest period. We are about to enter upon 
the career of a higher ambition. 

William Shakspere left Stratford about 1585 or 1586, an adventurer probably, 
but, as we hold, not the reckless adventurer which it has been the fashion to repre- 
sent him. We know not whether his wife and children were with him in London. 
There is no evidence to show that they did not so dwell. If he were absent alone 
during a portion of the year from his native place, his visits to his family would not 
necessarily be of rare occurrence and of short duration. The Blackfriars was a 
winter theatre, although at a subsequent period, when the Globe was erected, it was 
let for summer performances to the " children of the Chapel." With rare exceptions 
the performances at Court occupied only the period from Hallowmas Day to Shrove 
Tuesday. The latter part of the summer and autumn seem therefore to have been 
at Shakspere's disposal, at least during the first seven or eight years of his career. 
That he spent a considerable portion of the year in the quiet of his native walks we 
may be tolerably well assured, from the constant presence of rural images in all his 
works, his latest as well as his earliest. We have subsequently more distinct evidence 
in his farming occupations. At the time of which we are now wrfting we believe 
that a great public calamity gave him unwonted leisure ; and that here commences 
what may be called the middle period of his dramatic life, which saw the production 
of his greater histories, and of some of his most delightful comedies. 

There is a well-known passage in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" which goes 
very far towards a determination of its date. Titania thus reproaches Oberon: 

" These are the forgeries of jealousy : 
And never, since the middle summer's spring, 
Met we on hill, in dale, forest, or mead, 



CHAP. V.] LEISURE. 217 



By paved fountain, or by rushy brook, 
Or on the beached margent of the sea, 
To dance our ringlets to the whistling wind, 
But with thy brawls thou hast disturb'd our sport. 
Therefore, the winds, piping to us in vain, 
As in revenge, have suck'd up from the sea 
Contagious fogs ; which, falling in the land, 
Have every pelting river made so proud, 
That they have overborne their continents : 
The ox hath therefore stretch'd his yoke in vain, 
The ploughman lost his sweat ; and the green corn 
Hath rotted, ere his youth attain'd a beard : 
The fold stands empty in the drowned field, 
And crows are fatted with the murrain flock ; 
The nine men's morris is fill'd up with mud ; 
And the quaint mazes in the wanton green, 
For lack of tread, are undistinguishable." 

The summers of 1592, 1593, and 1594 were so unpropitious, that the minute 
description of Titania, full of the most precise images derived from the observation 
of a resident in the country, gives us a far more exact idea of these remarkable 
seasons than any of the prosaic records of the time. In 1594, Dr. J. King thus 
preaches at York : " Remember that the spring (that year when the plague broke 
out) was very unkind, by means of the abundance of rains that fell. Our July hath 
been like to a February, our June even as an April, so that the air must needs be 
infected." He then adds, speaking of three successive years of scarcity, "Our 
years are turned upside down. Our summers are no summers ; our harvests are 
no harvests ; our seed-times are no seed-times." There are passages in Stow's 
" Annals," and in a manuscript by Dr. Simon Forman in the Ashmolcan Museum, 
which show that in the June and July of 1594 there were excessive rains. But 
Stow adds, of 1594, " notwithstanding in the month of August there followed a fair 
harvest." This does not agree with 

" The ox hath therefore stretch'd his yoke in vain, 
The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn 
Hath rotted, ere his youth attain'd a beard." 

It is not necessary to fix Shakspere's description of the ungenial season upon 1594 
in particular. There was a succession of uupropitious years, when 

" The spring, the summer, 
The childing autumn, angry winter, change 
Their wonted liveries." 

" Our summers are no summers ; our harvests are no harvests ; our seed-times are 
no seed-times." Churchyard, in his preface to a poem entitled "Charity,"* says, 
" A great nobleman told me this last wet summer the weather was too cold for 
poets." The poetry of Shakspere was as much subjective as objective, to use one 
of the favourite distinctions which we have derived from the Germans. The most 
exact description of the coldness of the "wet-summer" becomes in his hands the 
finest poetry, even taken apart from its dramatic propriety ; but in association with 
the quarrels of Oberon and Titania, it becomes something much higher than descrip- 
tive poetry. It is an integral part of those wondrous efforts of the imagination which 
we can call by no other name than that of creation. It is in " A Midsummer 
Night's Dream," as it appears to us, that Shakspere first felt the entire strength of 
his creative power. That noble poem is something so essentially different from any 

* Quoted by Mr. Halliwell in his " Introduction to ' A Midsummer Night's Dream.' " 



218 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



thing which the stage had previously possessed, that we must regard it as a- great 
effort of the highest originality ; conceived perhaps with very little reference to its 
capacity of pleasing a mixed audience ; probably composed with the express inten- 
tion of being presented to " an audience fit though few," who were familiar with the 
allusions of classical story, of " masque and antique pageantry," but who had never 
yet been enabled to form an adequate notion of 



" Such sights as youthful poets dream 
On summer eves by haunted stream." 



The exquisite delicacy of the compliment to "the imperial votaress" fully warrants 
the belief that in the season of calamity, when her own servants " may not disport 
her Highness with their wonted and ordinary pastimes," one of them was employed 
in a labour for her service, which would make all other pastimes of that epoch 
appear flat and trivial. 

It is easy to believe that if any external impulse were wanting to stimulate the 
poetical ambition of Shakspere to make him aspire to some higher character than 
that of the most popular of dramatists such might be found in 1593 in the clear 
field which was left for the exercise of his peculiar powers. Eobert Greene had 
died on the 3rd of September, 1592, leaving behind him a sneer at the actor who 
aspired "to bombast out a blank verse." Even had his genius not been destroyed 
by the wear and tear, and the corrupting influences, of a profligate life, he never 
could have competed with the mature Shakspere. But as we know that " the 
only Shake-scene in a country," at whom the unhappy man presumed to scoff, felt 
the insult somewhat deeply, so we may presume he took the most effectual means 
to prove to the world that he was not, according to the malignant insinuation of 
his envious compeer, " an upstart crow beautified with our feathers." We believe 
that in the gentlenessof his nature, when he introduced into " A Midsummer Night's 
Dream," 

" The thrice three Muses mourning for the death 
Of learning, late deceas'd in beggary," 

he dropped a tear upon the grave of him whose demerits were to be forgiven in his 
misery. On the 1st of June, 1593, Christopher Marlowe perished in a wretched 
brawl, "slain by Francis Archer," as the Register of Burials of the parish of 
St. Nicholas, Deptford, informs us. Who was left of the dramatists that could enter 
into competition with William Shakspere, such as he then was ? He was almost 
alone. The great disciples of his school had not arisen. Jonson had not appeared 
to found a school of a different character. It was for him, thenceforth, to sway the 
popular mind after his own fashion ; to disregard the obligation which the rivalry 
of high talent might have imposed upon him of listening to other suggestions than 
those of his own lofty art ; to make the multitude bow before that art, rather than 
that it should accommodate itself to their habits and prejudices. But at a period 
when the exercise of the poetical power in connection with the stage was scarcely 
held amongst the learned and the polite in itself to be poetry, Shakspere vindicated 
his reputation by the publication of the " Venus and Adonis." It was, he says, 
" the first heir of my invention." There may be a doubt whether Shakspere meant 
to say literally that this was the first poetical work that he had produced ; or 
whether he held, in deference to some critical opinions, that his dramatic produc- 
tions could not be classed amongst the heirs of " invention." We think that he 
meant to use the words literally ; and that he used them at a period when he might 
assume, without vanity, that he had taken his rank amongst the poets of his time. 
He dedicates to the Earl of Southampton something that had not before been given 



CHAP. V.] 



LEISURE. 



219 



to the world. He calls his verses " unpolished lines ;" he vows to take advantage 
of all idle hours till he had honoured the young patron of the Muses with " some 
graver labour." But invention was received then, as it was afterwards, as the 
highest quality of the poet. Dryden says. " A poet is a maker, as the word sig- 
nifies ; and he who cannot make, that is invent, hath his name for nothing." We 
consider, therefore, that " my invention " is not the language of one unknown to 
fame. He was exhibiting the powers which he possessed upon a different instru- 
ment than that to which the world was accustomed ; but the world knew that the 
power existed. We employ the word genius always with reference to the inventive 
or creative faculty. Substitute the word genius for invention, and the expression 
used by Shakspere sounds like arrogance. But the substitution may indicate that 
the actual expression could not have been used by one who came forward for the 
first time to claim the honours of the poet. It has been argued from this expres- 
sion that Shakspere had produced nothing original before the " Venus and Adonis " 
that up to the period of its publication, in 1593, he was only a repairer of the 
works of other men. We hold tliat the expression implies the ch'rect contrary. 
The dreary summer of 1593 has passed away ; 

" And on old Hyems' chin, and ivy crown, 
An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds 
Is, as in mockery, set." 

From the 1st of August in that year to the following Christmas the Queen was at 
Windsor. The plague still raged in London, and the historian gravely records, 
amongst the evils of the time, that Bartholomew Fair was not held. Essex was at 
Windsor during this time, and probably the young Southampton was there also. It 
was a long period for the Court to remain in one place. Elizabeth was afraid of the 
plague in the metropolis ; and upon a page dying within the castle on the 21st of 
November she was about to rush away from the pure air which blew around the 
" proud keep." But " the lords and ladies who were accommodated so well to their 
likings had persuaded the Queen to suspend her removal from thence till she should 
see some other effect." * Living in the dread of " infection," we may believe that 
the Queen would require amusement ; and that the Lord Chamberlain's players, 
who had so long forborne to resort to the metropolis, might be gathered around her 
without any danger from their presence. If so, was the "Midsummer Night's 
Dream " one of the novelties which her players had to produce ? But there was 
another novelty which tradition tells us was written at the especial desire of the 
Queen herself a comedy which John Dennis altered in 1702, and then published 
with the following statement : " That this comedy was not despicable, I guessed 
for several reasons : first, I knew very well that it had pleased one of the greatest 
queens that ever was in the world great not only for her wisdom in the arts of 
government, but for her knowledge of polite learning, and her nice taste of the 
drama ; for such a taste we may be sure she had, by the relish which she had of 
the ancients. This comedy was written at her command, and by her direction, and 
she was so eager to see it acted, that she commanded it to be finished in fourteen 
days ; and was afterwards, as tradition tells us, very well pleased at the representa- 
tion." The plain statement of Dennis, "this comedy was written at her command," was 
amplified by Howe into the circumstancial relation that Elizabeth was so weh 1 pleased 
with the character of FalstafF in " Henry IV." " that she commanded him [Shakspere] 
to continue it for one play more, and to show him in love." Hence all the attempts, 
which have only resulted in confusion worse confounded, to connect " The Merry 

* Letter from Mr. Standen to Mr. Bacon, in Birch's " Memoirs of Queen Elizabeth." 



220 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[.BOOK III. 



Wives of Windsor " with " Henry IV." We have stated this question fully, and, we 
hope, impartially, in the Notice of " The Merry Wives of Windsor."* The belief is 
there expressed, that the comedy was written in 1593, or very near to that time ; 
the circumstance itself being somewhat of a proof that Shakspere was at Windsor 
precisely at that period, and ready to obey the Queen's command that a comedy 
suggested by herself should be " finished in fourteen days." 

In 1593 Elizabeth remained five months in her castle, repressing her usual desire 
to progress from county to county, or to move from palace to palace. She has com- 
pleted her noble terrace, with its almost unrivalled prospect of beauty and fertility. 
Her gallery too is finished, whose large bay window looks out upon the same mag- 
nificent landscape. The comedy, which probably arose out of some local incident, 
abundantly provocative of courtly gossip and merriment, has hastily been produced. 
The hand of the master is yet visible in it. Its allusions, contrary to the wont of 
the author, are all local, and therefore agreeable to his audience. As his characters 




" Studies," Book V., c. vr. 



CHAP. V.] 



LEISURE. 



221 



hover about Frogmore, with its farm-house where Anne Page is a feasting ; as 
Falstaff meets his most perilous adventure in Datchet Mead ; as Mistress Anne and 
her Fairies crouch in the castle ditch, the poet shows that he has made himself 
familiar with the scenes where the Queen delighted to dwell. The characters, too, 
are of the very time of the representation of the play, perhaps more than one of 
them copied from actual persons. In the original sketch Shakspere hardly makes 
an attempt to transfer the scene to an earlier period. The persons of the drama are 
all of them drawn from the rich storehouse of the humours of the middle classes of 
his own day. We may readily believe the tradition which tells us that the Queen 
was " very well pleased with the representation." The compliment to her in asso- 
ciation with Windsor, in the last scene, where the drollery is surrounded with the 
most appropriate poetry, sufficiently indicates the place at which the comedy was 
performed, and the audience to whom it was presented : 

" About, about ; 

Search Windsor Castle, elves, within and out : 
Strew good luck, ouphes, on every sacred room, 
That it may stand till the perpetual doom, 
In state as wholesome as in state 't is fit ; 
Worthy the owner, and the owner it." 

This is one of the few passages which in the amended edition remain unaltered from 
the original text. 




[Windsor.] 



222 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK in. 







[The Globe Theatre.] 

CHAPTER VI. 

THE GLOBE. 



WE have a distinct record when the theatres were re-opened after the plague. The 
" Diary" of Philip Henslowe records that " the Earl of Sussex his men " acted " Huon 
of Bordeaux" on the 28th of December, 1593. Henslowe appears to have had an 
interest in this company. It is probable that Shakspere's theatre of the Blackfriars 
was opened about the same period. We have some evidence to show what was the 
duration of the winter season at this theatre ; for the same diary shows that from 
June, 1594, the performances of the theatre at Newington Butts were a joint under- 



CHAP. VI.] THE GLOBE. 223 



taking by the Lord Admiral's men and the Lord Chamberlain's men. How long 
this association of two companies lasted is not easy to determine ; but during the 
month of June we have entries of the exhibition of " Andronicus," of " Hamlet," and 
of " The Taming of a Shrew." No subsequent entries exhibit the names of plays 
which have any real or apparent connection with Shakspere.* It appears that in 
December, 1593, Richard Burbage entered into a bond with Peter Streete, a carpenter, 
for the performance on the part of Burbage of the covenants contained in an inden- 
ture of agreement by which Streete undertook to erect a new theatre for Burbage's 
company. This was the famous Globe on the Bankside, of which Shakspere was 
mi questionably a proprietor. We thus see that in 1594 there were new demands to 
be made upon his invention ; and we may reasonably conclude that the reliance of 
Burbage and his other fellows upon their poet's unequalled powers was one of their 
principal inducements to engage in this new enterprise. 

In the midst of his professional engagements, which doubtless were renewed with 
increased activity after their long suspension, Shakspere published his "Rape of 
Lucrece." He had vowed to take advantage of all idle hours till he had honoured 
Lord Southampton with some graver labour than the first heir of his invention. 
The " Venus and Adonis " was entered in the Registers of the Stationers' Company 
on the 18th of April, 1593. The "Lucrece" appears in the same registers on 
the 9th of May, 1594. That this elaborate poem was wholly or in part composed 
in that interval of leisure which resulted from the shutting of the theatres in 1593 
may be reasonably conjectured ; but it is evident that during the year which had 
elapsed between the publication of the first and the second poem, Shakspere had been 
brought into more intimate companionship with his noble patron. The language of 
the first dedication is that of distant respect, the second is that of grateful 
friendship : 

" To the Sight Honourable Henry Wriothcsly Earl of Soutluimpton and Baron of Titchfteld. 

" The love I dedicate to your Lordship is without end ; whereof this pamphlet, without beginning, 
is but a superfluous moiety. The warrant I have of your honourable disposition, not the worth of 
my untutored lines, makes it assured of acceptance. What I have done is yours, what I have to do 
is yours ; being part in all I have, devoted yours. Were my worth greater, my duty would show 
greater ; meantime, as it is, it is bound to your Lordship, to whom I wish long life, still lengthened 
with all happiness. Your Lordship's in all duty, 

" WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE." 

Henry Wriothesly was bora October 6th, 1573. His grandfather, the first Earl, 
was the celebrated Chancellor of Henry VIII., a fortunate statesman and lawyer, 
whose memory, however he was lauded by his contemporaries, is infamously asso- 
ciated with the barbarous cruelties of that age in the torture of the heroic Ann Askew. 
His son Henry, the second Earl, bred up by his father in the doctrines opposed to 
the Reformation, adhered with pertinacity to the old forms of religion, and was of 
course shut out from the honours and employments of the government. He was unmo- 
lested, however, till his partisanship in the cause of Mary Queen of Scots occasioned 
his imprisonment in the Tower, in 1572. The house in which his father the Chan- 
cellor dwelt was also his London residence ; and its site is still indicated by the 
name of Southampton Buildings. In Aggas's map the mansion appears to have been 
backed by extensive gardens. Gervase Markham, in his curious book, printed in 
1624, entitled "Honour in his Perfection ; or, a Treatise in Commendation of the 
Vertues and Renowned Vertuous Vndertakings of the Illustrious and Heroicall 
Princes Henry Earle of Oxenford, Henry Earle of Southampton, Robert Earle of 
Essex, &c.," thus describes the state with which the father of Shakspere's friend was 

surrounded " His muster-roll never consisted of four lackeys and a coachman, but 

of a whole troop of at least a hundred well-mounted gentlemen and yeomen ; he was 

* See " Studies," p. 62. 



224 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



not known in the streets by guarded liveries, but by gold chains ; not by painted 
butterflies, ever running as if some monster pursued them, but by tall goodly fellows, 
that kept a constant pace, both to guard his person and to admit any man to their 
lord which had serious business." The pomp with which he was encircled might in 
some degree have compensated for the absence of courtly splendour. But he lived 
not long to enjoy his solitary dignity, or, as was sufficiently probable, to conform to 
the opinions which might have opened to him the road to the honours of the crown. 
He died in 1581, leaving two children, Henry and Maiy. The boy earl was only 
eight years old at the death of his father. During his long minority the accumula- 
tion of the family property must have been great ; and we may thus believe that 
the general munificence of his patronage in after-life has not been over-rated. He 
appears to have had careful guardians, who taught him that there were higher 
honours to be won than those which his rank and wealth gave him. At the age of 
twelve he became a student of St. John's College, Cambridge ; and four years after- 
wards took the degree of Master of Arts by the usual exercises.* He subsequently 
became, according to one account, a member of Gray's Inn. At the period when 
Shakspere dedicated to him his " Venus and Adonis " he was scarcely twenty years 
of age. He is supposed to have become intimate with Shakspere from the circum- 
stance that his mother had married Sir Thomas Heneage, who filled the office of 
Treasurer of the Chamber, and in the discharge of his official duties would be brought 
into frequent intercourse with the Lord Chamberlain's players. This is Drake's 
theory. The more natural belief appears to be that he had a strong attachment to 
literature, and, with the generous impetuosity of his character, did not regard the 
distinctions of rank to the extent with which they were regarded by men of colder 
temperaments and more worldly minds. Shakspere appears to have been the first 
amongst the writers of his day that offered a public tribute to the merits of the 
young nobleman. Both the dedications, and especially that of " Lucrece," are con- 
ceived in a modest and a manly spirit, entirely different from the ordinary language 
of literary adulation. Nashe, who dedicates a little book to him at the same period, 
after calling him " a dear lover and cherisher, as well of the lovers of poets as of 
poets themselves," gives us one of the many proofs that the characters of satirist and 
flatterer may have some affinity : " Incomprehensible is the height of your spirit, 
both in heroic resolution and matters of conceit. Unreprievably perisheth that book 
whatsoever to waste paper which on the diamond rock of your judgment disasterly 
chanceth to be shipwracked." Gervase Markham, who many years after became the 
elaborate panegyrist of Southampton, dedicates a tragedy to him in the following 
sonnet, in 1595 : 

" Thou glorious laurel of the Muses' hill, 
Whose eyes doth crown the most victorious pen ; 
Bright lamp of virtue, in whose sacred skill 
Lives all the bliss of ears-enchanting men : 

From graver subjects of thy grave assays, 
Bend thy courageous thoughts unto these lines ; 
The grave from whence mine humble Muse doth raise 
True honour's spirit in her rough designs : 

And when the stubborn stroke of my harsh song 
Shall seasonless glide through almighty ears, 
Vouchsafe to sweet it with thy blessed tongue, 
Whose well-tun'd sound stills music in the spheres : 

So shall my tragic lays be blest by thee, 

And from thy lips suck their eternity." 

This hyperbolical praise is something different from Shakspere's simple expressions 
of respect and devotion in the dedication to the " Lucrece." There is evidence in 

* "Cum prius disputasset publice pro gradu." //ar/eiVm MS. 7138. 



CHAP. VI.] THE GLOBE. 225 



that dedication of a higher sort of intercourse between the two minds than consists 
with any forced adulation of any kind, and especially with any extravagant compli- 
ments to the learning and to the abilities of a superior in rank. Such testimonies 
are always suspicious ; and probably honest old Florio, when he dedicated his 
"World of Words " to the Earl in 1598, shows pretty correctly what the race of 
panegyrists expected in return for their compliments : " In truth, I acknowledge an 
entire debt, not only of my best knowledge, but of all ; yea of more than I know, 
or can, to your bounteous lordship, in whose pay and patronage I have lived some 
years ; to whom I owe and vow the years I have to live. But, as to me, and many 
more, the glorious and gracious sunshine of your honour hath infused light and life." 
There is an extraordinary anecdote told by Howe of Lord Southampton's munificence 
to Shakspere, which seems to bring the poet somewhat near to Florio's plain-speaking 
association of pay and patronage : " What grace soever the Queen conferred upon 
him, it was not to her only he owed the fortune which the reputation of his wit made. 
He had the honour to meet with many great and uncommon marks of favour and 
friendship from the Earl of Southampton, famous in the histories of that time for 
his friendship to the unfortunate Earl of Essex. It was to that noble lord that he 
dedicated his poem of ' Venus and Adonis.' There is one instance so singular in 
the magnificence of this patron of Shakspeare's, that if I had not been assured that 
the story was handed down by Sir William D'Avenant, who was probably very well 
acquainted with his affairs, I should not have ventured to have inserted ; that my 
Lord Southampton at one time gave him a thousand pounds, to enable him to go 
through with a purchase which he heard he had a mind to. A bounty very great, 
and very rare at any time, and almost equal to that profuse generosity the present 
age has shown to French dancers and Italian singers." * This is one of the many 
instances in which we are not warranted in rejecting a tradition, however we may 
look suspiciously upon the accuracy of its details. D'Avenant could scarcely be very 
well acquainted with Shakspere's affairs, for he was only ten years old when Shak- 
spere died. The sum mentioned as the gift of the young nobleman to the poet is 
so large, looking at the value of money in those days, that it could scarcely consist 
with the independence of a generous spirit to bear the load of such a prodigality of 
bounty. The notions of those days were, however, different from ours. Examples 
will readily suggest themselves of the most lavish rewards bestowed by princes and 
nobles upon great painters. They received such gifts without any compromise of 
their intellectual dignity. It was the same then with poets. The public, now the 
best patron, was then but a sorry paymaster ; and the great stepped in to give the 
price for a dedication as they would purchase any other gratification of individual 
vanity. According to the habits of the time Shakspere might have received a large 
gift from Lord Southampton, without any forfeiture of his self-respect. Nevertheless, 
Rowe's story must still appear sufficiently apocryphal : " My Lord Southampton at 
one time gave him a thousand pounds, to enable him to go through with a purchase 
which he heard he had a mind to." It is not necessary to account for the gradual 
acquisition of property by Shakspere that we should yield our assent to this tradition, 
without some qualification. In 1589, when Lord Southampton was a lad at College, 
Shakspere had already acquired that property w r hich was to be the foundation of his 
future fortune. He was then a shareholder in the Blackfriars Theatre. That the 
adventure was a prosperous one, not only to himself but to his brother shareholders, 
may be inferred from the fact that four years afterwards they began the building of 
another theatre. The Globe was commenced in December, 1593 ; and being con- 
structed for the most part of wood, was ready to be opened, we should imagine, in 
the summer of 1594. In 1596 the same prosperous company were prepared to 
* Rowe's " Life of Shakspeare." 

Q2 



226 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



expend considerable sums upon the repair and extension of their original theatre, 
the Blackfriars. The name of Shakspere occupies a prominent position in the 
document from which we collect this fact : it is a petition to the Lords of the Privy 
Council from " Thomas Pope, Richard Burbadge, John Hemings, Augustine Philips, 
William Shakespeare, William Kempe, William Slye, Nicholas Tooley, and others, 
servants to the Right Honorable the Lord Chamberlain to her Majesty ; " and it 
sets forth that they are " the owners and players of the private theatre in the Black- 
friars ; that it hath fallen into decay ; and that it has been found necessary to make 
the same more convenient for the entertainment of auditories coming thereto." It 
then states what is important to the present question : " To this end your peti- 
tioners have all and each of them put down sums of money according to their shares 
in the said theatre, and which they have justly and honestly gained by the exercise 
of their quality of stage-players." It then alleges that certain inhabitants of the 
precinct had besought the Council not to allow the said private house to remain open, 
" but hereafter to be shut up and closed, to the manifest and great injury of your 
petitioners, who have no other means whereby to maintain their wives and families, 
but by the exercise of their quality as they have heretofore done." The common 
proprietorship of the company in the Globe and Blackfriars is also noticed : " In 
the summer season your petitioners are able to play at their new-built house on the 
Bankside, called the Globe, but in the winter they are compelled to come to the 
Blackfriars." If the winter theatre be shut up, they say they will be " unable to 
practise themselves in any plays or interludes when called upon to perform for the 
recreation and solace of her Majesty and her honourable Court, as they have been 
heretofore accustomed." Though the Registers of the Council and the Office-books 
of the Treasurer of the Chamber are wanting for this exact period, we have here the 
distinct evidence of the intimate relation between Shakspere's company and the 
Court. The petitioners, in concluding by the prayer that their " honourable Lord- 
ships will grant permission to finish the reparations and alterations they have begun," 
add as a reason for this favour that they " have hitherto been well ordered in their 
behaviour, and just in their dealings." * The performances at the Blackfriars went 
on without interruption. Shakspere, in 1597, bought "all that capital messuage or 
tenement in Stratford called the New Place." This appears to have been his first 
investment in property distinct from his theatrical speculations. The purchase of 
the best house in his native town, at a period of his life when his professional occu- 
pations could have allowed him little leisure to reside in it, would appear to have 
had in view an early retirement from a pursuit which probably was little agreeable 
to him. His powers as a dramatic writer might be profitably exercised without 
being associated with the actor's vocation. We know from other circumstances that 
at this period Stratford was nearest to his heart. On the 24th of January, 1598, 
Mr. Abraham Sturley, an Alderman of Stratford, writes to his brother-in-law, Richard 
Quiney, then in London : " I would write nothing unto you now but come home. 
I pray God send you comfortably home. This is one special remembrance, from 
our father's motion. It seemeth by him that our countryman Mr. Shakspere is 
willing to disburse some money upon some odd yard land or other at Shottery, or 
near about us. He thinketh it a very fit pattern to move him to deal in the matter 
of our tithes. By the instructions you can give him thereof, and by the friends he 
can make therefore, we think it a fair mark for him to shoot at, and not impossible 
to hit. It obtained, would advance him indeed, and would do us much good." We 
thus see that in a year after the purchase of New Place, Shakspere's accumulation of 
money was going on. The worthy alderman and his connections appear to look 
confidently to their countryman, Mr. Shakspere, to assist them in their needs. On 
* The petition is printed in Mr. Collier's " Annals of the Stage," vol. i., p. 298. 



CHAP. VI.] THE GLOBE. 227 



the 4th of November, in the same year, Sturley again writes a very long letter " to 
his most loving brother Mr. Richard Quiney, at the Bell, in Carter Lane, in London," 
in which he says of a letter written by Quiney to him on the 21st of October, that 
it imported, amongst other matters, " that our countryman Mr. W. Shakspere would 
procure us money, which I well like of, as I shall hear when, and where, and how ; 
and I pray let not go that occasion, if it may sort to any indifferent conditions." 
Quiney himself at this very time writes the following characteristic letter to his 
" loving good friend and countryman, Mr. William Shakspere : " " Loving country- 
man, I am bold of you as of a friend, craving your help with thirty pounds upon Mr. 
Bushell and my security, or Mr. Myttens with me. Mr. Rosswell is not come to 
London as yet, and I have especial cause. You shall friend me much in helping me 
out of all the debts I owe in London, I thank God, and much quiet to my mind 
which would not be indebted. I am now towards the Court in hope your answer for 
the dispatch of my business. You shall neither lose credit nor money by me, the 
Lord willing ; and now but persuade yourself so as I hope, and you shall not need 
to fear but with all hearty thankfulness I will hold my time, and content your friend, 
and if we bargain farther, you shall be the paymaster yourself. My time bids me to 
hasten to an end, and so I commit this to your care and hope of your help. I fear 
I shall not be back this night from the Court. Haste. The Lord be with you and 
with us all. Amen. From the Bell in Carter Lane, the 25th October, 1598. Yours 
in all kindness, Rye. Quiney." The anxious dependence which these honest men 
appear to have upon the good offices of their townsman is more satisfactory even 
than the evidence which their letters afford of his worldly condition. 

In the midst of this prosperity the registers of the parish of Stratford-upon-Avon 
present to us an event which must have thrown a shade over the brightest prospects. 




n 

This is the register of the burial of the only son of the poet in 1596. Hamnet was 




228 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



born on the 2nd of February, 1585 ; so that at his death he was eleven years and 
six months old. He was a twin child ; and it is not unlikely that he was constitu- 
tionally weak. Some such cause interfered probably with the education of the twin- 
sister Judith ; for whilst Susannah, the elder, is recorded to have been " witty above 
her sex," and wrote a firm and vigorous hand, as we may judge from her signature 
to a deed in 1639 (see p. 227), the mark of Judith appears as an attesting witness 
to a conveyance in 1611. 




Shakspere himself has given us a most exquisite picture of a boy, who, like his own 
Hamnet, died young, in whom the imaginative faculty was all-predominant. Was 
this a picture of his own precocious child ? 

" Her, Take the boy to you : he so troubles me, 
'T is past enduring. 

1 Lady. Come, my gracious lord, 

Shall I be your playfellow ] 

Mam. No, I '11 none of you. 

1 Lady. Why, my sweet lord 1 

Mam. You '11 kiss me hard ; and speak to me as if 
I were a baby still. I love you better. 

2 Lady. And why so, my lord? 

Mam. Not for because 

Your brows are blacker ; yet black brows they say, 
Become some women best ; so that there be not 
Too much hair there, but in a semi-circle, 
Or a half-moon made with a pen. 

2 Lady. Who taught you this ? 

Mam. I learn'd it out of women's faces. Pray, now, 
What colour are your eyebrows ? 

1 Lady. Blue, my lord. 

Mam. Nay, that 's a mock : I have seen a lady's nose 
That has been blue, but not her eyebrows." * 

With the exception of this inevitable calamity, the present period may probably 
be regarded as a happy epoch in Shakspere's life. He had conquered any adverse 
circumstances by which his earlier career might have been impeded. He had taken 
his rank among the first minds of his age ; and, above all, his pursuits were so 
engrossing as to demand a constant exercise of his faculties, but to demand that 
exercise in the cultivation of the highest and the most pleasurable thoughts. This 
was the period to which belong the great histories of " Richard II.," " Richard III.," 
and " Henry IV.," and the delicious comedies of the " Merchant of Venice," " Much 
Ado about Nothing," and " Twelfth Night." These productions afford the most 
abundant evidence that the greatest of intellects was in the most healthful possession 
of its powers* 1 These were not hasty adaptations for the popular appetite, as we 
may well believe some of the earlier plays were in their first shape ; but highly- 
wrought performances, to which all the method of his cultivated art had been 

* " Winter's Tale," Act IL, Scene i. 



CHAP. VI.] THE GLOBE. 229 



strenuously applied. It was at this period that the dramatic poet appears not to 
have been satisfied with the applause of the Globe or the Blackfriars, or even with 
the gracious encouragements of a refined Court. During three years he gave to the 
world careful editions of some of these plays, as if to vindicate the drama from the 
pedantic notion that the Muses of tragedy and comedy did not meet their sisters 
upon equal ground. "Richard II." and " Richard III." were published in 1597 ; 
"Love's Labour's Lost," and "Henry IV.," Part I., in 1598 ; "Romeo and Juliet," 
corrected and augmented, in 1599; "Henry IV.," Part II., the "Merchant of 
Venice," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and "Much Ado about Nothing," in 1600. 
The system of publication then ceased. It no doubt interfered with the interests of 
his fellows ; and Shakspere was not likely to assert an exclusive interest, or to gratify 
an exclusive pride, at the expense of his associates. But his reputation was higher 
than that of any other man, when only four of his plays were accessible to the 
readers of poetry. In 1598 it was proclaimed, not timidly or questionably, that "as 
Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for tragedy and comedy among the 
Latins, so Shakespeare, among the English, is the most excellent in both kinds for 
the stage : " and " As the soul of Euphorbus was thought to li ve in Pythagoras, so 
the sweet witty soul of Ovid lives in mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare."* 
It was certainly not at this period of Shakspere's life that he wrote with reference to 
himself, unlocking his heart to some nameless friend : 

" When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, 
I all alone be weep my outcast .state, 
And trouble deaf Heaven with my bootless crios, 
And look upon myself, and curse my fate, 
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, 
Featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd, 
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope, 
With what I most enjoy contented least ; 
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising, 
!l;i]ly I think on thee, and then my state 
(Like to the lark at break of day arising 
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven's gate ; 
For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings, 
That then I scorn to change my state with kings." 

Sonnets of Shakspere were in existence in 1598, when Meres tells us of "his 
sugared sonnets among his private friends." We have entered so fully into the 
question, w r hether these poems are to be considered autobiographical, that it would 
be useless for us here to repeat an argument not hastily entered upon, or carelessly 
set forth. We believe that the order in which they were printed is an arbitrary 
one ; that some form a continuous poem or poems, that others are isolated in their 
subjects and the persons to whom they are addressed ; that some may express the 
poet's personal feelings, that others are wholly fictitious, dealing with imaginary 
loves and jealousies, and not attempting to separate the personal identity of the 
artist from the sentiments which he expressed, and the situations which he delineated. 
" We believe that, taken as works of art, having a certain degree of continuity, the 
Sonnets of Spenser, of Daniel, of Drayton, of Shakspere, although in many instances 
they might shadow forth real feelings and be outpourings of the inmost heart, were 
presented to the world as exercises of fancy, and were received by the world as such."t 
Even of those portions of these remarkable lyrics which appear to have an obvious 
reference to the poet's feelings and circumstances, we cannot avoid rejecting the 
principle of continuity ; for they clearly belong to different periods of life, if they 

* Francis Meres. f " Studies." p. 484. 



230 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



are the reflection of his real sentiments. We have the playfulness of an early love, 
and the agonizing throes of an unlawful passion. They speak of a period when 
the writer had won no honour or substantial rewards " in disgrace with fortune 
and men's eyes," the period of his youth, if the allusion was at all real ; and yet the 
writer is 

" With time's injurious hand crush'd and o'erworn." 

One little dedicatory poem says, 

" Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage 

Thy merit hath my duty strongly knit, 
To thee I send this written embassage, 
To witness duty, not to show my wit." 

Another (and it is distinctly associated with what we hold to be a continued little 
poem, wholly fictitious, in which the poet dramatizes as it were the poetical character) 
boasts that 

" Not marble, not the gilded monuments 
Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme." 

Without attempting therefore to disprove that these Sonnets were addressed to the 
Earl of Southampton, or to the Earl of Pembroke, we must leave the reader who 
fancies he can find in them a shadowy outline of Shakspere's life to form his own 
conclusion from their careful perusal. We have endeavoured, in our analysis of 
these poems, to place before him all the facts which have relation to the subject. 
But to preserve in this place the unity of our narrative with reference to the period 
before us, we reprint a passage from the " Studies " to which we refer : " The 71st 
to the 74th Sonnets seem bursting from a heart oppressed with a sense of its own 
unworthiness, and surrendered to some overwhelming misery. There is a line in the 
74th which points at suicide. We cling to the belief that the sentiments here 
expressed are essentially dramatic. In the 32nd Sonnet, where we recognise the 
man Shakspere speaking in his own modest and cheerful spirit, death is to come 
across his f well-contented day.' The opinion which we have endeavoured to sustain 
of the probable admixture of the artificial and the real in the Sonnets, arising from 
their supposed original fragmentary state, necessarily leads to the belief that some 
are accurate illustrations of the poet's situation and feelings. It is collected from 
these Sonnets, for example, that his profession as a player was disagreeable to him ; 
and this complaint is found amongst those portions which we have separated from 
the series of verses which appear to us to be written in an artificial character-. It 
might be addressed to any one of his family, or to some honoured friend, such as 
Lord Southampton : 

' 0, for my sake do you with Fortune chide, 
The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds, 
That did not better for my life provide 
Than public means, which public manners breeds. 
Thence comes it that my name receives a brand, 
And almost thence my nature is subdued 
To what it works in, like the dyer's hand.' 

But if from his professional occupation his nature was felt by him to be subdued to 
what it worked in, if thence his name received a brand, if vulgar scandal some- 
times assailed him, he had high thoughts to console him, such as were never before 
imparted to mortal. This was probably written in some period of dejection, when 
his heart was ill at ease, and he looked upon the world with a slight tinge of indif- 



CHAP. VI.] 



THE GLOBE. 



231 



ference, if not of dislike. Every man of high genius has felt something of this. It 
was reserved for the highest to throw it off, ' like dew-drops from the lion's mane.' 
But the profound self-abasement and despondency of the 74th Sonnet, exquisite as 
the diction is, appear to us unreal, as a representation of the mental state of William 
Shakspere ; written, as it most probably was, at a period of his life when he revels 
and luxuriates (in the comedies which belong to the close of the sixteenth century) 
in the spirit of enjoyment, gushing from a heart full of love for his species, at peace 
with itself and with all the world." 




[Lord Southampton.] 



232 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK in. 



1 




[Essex House.] 



CHAPTER VII. 



EVIL DAYS 



THE spring of 1599 saw Shakspere's friends and patrons, Essex and Southampton, 
in honour and triumph. "The 27th of March, 1599, about two o'clock in the after- 
noon, Robert Earl of Essex, Vicegerent of Ireland, &c., took horse in Seeding Lane, 
and from thence, being accompanied with divers noblemen and many others, himself 
very plainly attired, rode through Grace Street, Cornhill, Cheapside, and other high 
streets, in all which places, and in the fields, the people pressed exceedingly to 
behold him, especially in the highways for more than four miles space, crying, 
and saying, God bless your Lordship, God preserve your honour, &c., and some 
followed him until the evening, only to behold him. When he and his company 
came forth of London, the sky was very calm and clear, but before he could get 
past Iseldon [Islington] there arose a great black cloud in the north-east, and 
suddenly came lightning and thunder, with a great shower of hail and rain, 



CHAP. VII.] EVIL DAYS. 233 



the which some held as an ominous prodigy." * It was perhaps with some 
reference to such forebodings that in the chorus to the fifth Act of " Henry V." 
which of course must have been performed between the departure of Essex in 
March, and his return in September Shakspere thus anticipates the triumph 
of Essex : 

" But now behold, 

In the quick forge and working house of thought, 

How London doth pour out her citizens ! 

The mayor and all his brethren, in best sort, 

Like to the senators of the antique Rome, 

With the plebeians swarming at their heels, 

Go forth, and fetch their conquering Caesar in : 

As, by a lower but by loving likelihood, 

Were now the general of our gracious empress 

(As, in good time, he may) from Ireland coming, 

Bringing rebellion broached on his sword, 

How many would the peaceful city quit 

To welcome him ! '' 

But the " ominous prodigy " was sadly realized. About the close of the year 
1599, the Blackfriars Theatre was remarkable for the constant presence of two 
men of high rank, who were there seeking amusement and instruction as some 
solace for the bitter mortifications of disappointed ambition. " My Lord South- 
am pton and Lord Rutland came not to the Court ; the one doth but very seldom ; 
they pass away the time in London merely in going to plays every day." t Essex 
had arrived from Ireland on the 28th of September, 1599 not 

" Bringing rebellion broached on his sword," 
not surrounded with swarms of citizens who 

" Go forth, and fetch their conquering Caesar in," 

but a fugitive from his army ; one who in his desire for peace had treated with 
rebels, and had brought down upon him the censures of the Court ; one who knew 
that his sovereign was surrounded with his personal enemies, and who in his reck- 
less anger once thought to turn his army homeward to compel justice at their hands ; 
one who at last rushed alone into the Queen's presence, " full of dirt and mire," and 
found that he was in the toils of his foes. From that Michaelmas till the 26th of 
August, 1600, Essex was in the custody of the Lord Keeper ; in free custody as it 
was termed, but to all intents a prisoner. It was at this period that Southampton 
and Rutland passed " away the time in London merely in going to plays every day." 
Southampton in 1598 had married Elizabeth Vernon, a cousin of Lord Essex. The 
marriage was without the consent of the Queen ; and therefore Southampton was 
under the ban of the Court, having been peremptorily dismissed by Elizabeth from 
the office to which Essex had appointed him in the expedition to Ireland. Rutland 
was also connected with Essex by family ties, having married the daughter of Lady 
Essex, by her first husband, the accomplished Sir Philip Sydney. The season when 
these noblemen sought recreation at the Theatre was one therefore of calamity to 
themselves, and to the friend who was at the head of their party in the state. At 
Shakspere's theatre there were at this period abundant materials for the highest 
intellectual gratification. Of Shakspere's own works we know that at the opening 
of the seventeenth century there were twenty plays in existence. Thirteen (consi- 
dering " Henry IV." as two parts) are recorded by Meres in 1598 ; " Much Ado About 

* Stow's " Annals." f Letter of Rowland Whyte to Sir Robert Sydney, in the Sydney Papers. 



234 WILLIAM SHAK8PERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



Nothing," and " Henry V." (not in Meres' list), were printed in 1 600 ; and we have 
to add the three parts of " Henry VI.," " The Taming of the Shrew," and the original 
" Hamlet," which are also wanting in Meres' record, but which were unquestionably 
produced before this period. We cannot with extreme precision fix the date of any 
novelty from the pen of Shakspere when Southampton and Rutland were amongst 
his daily auditors ; but there is every reason to believe that " As You Like It " 
belongs as nearly as possible to this exact period. It is pleasant to speculate upon 
the tranquillizing effect that might have been produced upon the minds of the 
banished courtiers, by the exquisite philosophy of this most delicious play. It is 
pleasant to imagine Southampton visiting Essex in the splendid prison of the Lord 
Keeper's house, and there repeating to him from time to time those lessons of wis- 
dom that were to be found in the woods of Arden. The two noblemen who had once 
revelled in all the powers and privileges of Court favouritism had now felt by how 
precarious a tenure is the happiness held of 

" That poor man that hangs on princes' favours." 

The great dramatic poet of their time had raised up scenes of surpassing love- 
liness, where happiness might be sought for even amidst the severest penalties of 
fortune : 

" Now, my co-mates, and brothers in exile, 
Hath not old custom made this life more sweet 
Than that of painted pomp ? Are not these woods 
More free from peril than the envious court V 

It was for them to feel how deep a truth was there in this lesson : 

" Sweet are the uses of adversity." 
Happy are those that can feel such a truth ; 

" That can translate the stubbornness of fortune 
Into so quiet and so sweet a style." 

And yet the same poet had created a character that could interpret the feelings of 
those who had suffered undeserved indignities, and had learnt that the greatest 
crime in the world's eye was to be unfortunate. There was one in that play who 
could moralize the spectacle of 

" A poor sequester'd stag,. 
That from the hunter's aim had ta'en a hurt," 

and who thus pierced through the hollowness of " this our life : " 

" 'Poor deer,' quoth he, f thou mak'st a testament 
As worldlings do, giving thy sum of more 
To that which had too much.' Then being there alone, 
Left and abandon'd of his velvet friend ; 
' 'Tis right,' quoth he ; ' thus misery doth part 
The flux of company : ' Anon, a careless herd, 
Full of the pasture, jumps along by him, 
And never stays to greet him ; ' Ay,' quoth Jaques, 
* Sweep on, you fat and greasy citizens ; 
'Tis just the fashion : Wherefore do you look 
Upon that poor and broken bankrupt there 1 ' " 

We could almost slide into the belief that " As You Like It " had an especial refer- 



CHAP. VH.J EVIL DAYS. 235 



ence to the circumstances in which Essex and Southampton were placed in the spring 
of 1600. There is nothing desponding in its tone, nothing essentially misanthropical 
in its philosophy. Jaques stands alone in his railing against mankind. The healing 
influences of nature fall sweetly and fruitfully upon the exiled Duke and his co-mates. 
But, nevertheless, the ingratitude of the world is emphatically dwelt upon, even 
amidst the most soothing aspects of a pure and simple life " under the greenwood 
tree." The song of Amiens has perhaps a deeper meaning even than the railing of 
Jaques : 

" Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky, 
That dost not bite so nigh 

As benefits forgot : 
Though thou the waters warp, 
Thy sting is not so sharp 
As friend remember'd not." 

There was one who had in him much of the poetical temperament a gorgeous 
imagination for the externals of poetry upon whose ear, if he ever sought common 
amusement in the days of his rising power, these words must have fallen like the 
warning voice that cried " woe." There was one who, when Essex in the days of 
his greatness had asked a high place for him and had been refused, received from 
the favourite a large private gift thus bestowed : " I know that you are the least 
part of your own matter, but you fare ill because you have chosen me for your 
mean and dependence. You have spent your time and thoughts in my matters. I 
die, if I do not somewhat towards your fortune. You shall not deny to accept a 
piece of land, which I will bestow upon you." The answer of him who accepted a 
park from the hands of the generous man who had failed to procure him a place, 
was prophetic. The Duke of Guise, he said, was the greatest usurer in France, 
" because he had turned all his estates into obligations, having left himself nothing. 
I would not have you imitate this course, for you will find many bad 
debtors. 1 ' It was this man who, in the darkest hour of Essex, when he was hunted 
to the death, said to the Lord Steward, " My lord, I have never yet seen in any case 
such favour shown to any prisoner." 

" Blow, blow, thou winter wind, 
Thou art not so unkind 
As man's ingratitude." 

Who can doubt that the ingratitude had begun long before the fatal catastrophe of 
the intrigues of Cecil and Ealeigh ? Francis Bacon, the ingrate, justifies himself by 
the " rules of duty " which opposed him to his benefactor, at the bar in his " public 
service." The same rules of duty were powerful enough to lead him to blacken his 
friend's character after his death, by garbling with his own hand the depositions 
against the victim of his faction, and publishing them as authentic records of the 
trial.* Essex, before the last struggles, had acquired experience of " bad debtors." 
The poet of "As You Like It" might have done something in teaching him to bear 
this and other afflictions bravely : 

" Thou seest, we are not all alone unhappy : 
This wide and universal theatre 
Presents more woeful pageants than the scene 
Wherein we play in." 

Essex was released from custody in the August of 1600 ; but an illegal sentence 
had been passed upon him by commissioners, that he should not execute the offices 

* See Jardine's " Criminal Trials, vol. i., page 387. 



236 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



of a Privy Counsellor, or of Earl Marshal, or of Master of the Ordnance. The Queen 
signified to him that he was not to come to Court without leave. He was a marked 
and a degraded man. The wily Cecil, who at this very period was carrying on a cor- 
respondence with James of Scotland, that might have cost him his head, was laying 
every snare for the ruin of Essex. He desired to do what he ultimately effected, 
to goad his fiery spirit into madness. Essex was surrounded with warm but impru- 
dent friends. They relied upon his unbounded popularity, not only as a shield 
against arbitrary power, but as a weapon to beat down the strong arm of authority. 
During the six months which elapsed between the release of Essex and the fatal 
outbreak of 1601, Essex House saw many changing scenes, which marked the fitful 
temper and the wavering counsels of its unhappy owner. Within a month after he 
had been discharged from custody, the Queen refused to renew a valuable patent to 
Essex, saying that "to manage an ungovernable beast he must be stinted in his 
provender." On the other hand, rash words that had been held to fall from the lips 
of Essex were reported to the Queen. He was made to say, " She was now grown 
an old woman, and was as crooked within as without."* The door of reconciliation 
was almost closed for ever. Essex House had been strictly private during its mas- 
ter's detention at the Lord Keeper's. Its gates were now opened, not only to his 
numerous friends and adherents, but to men of all persuasions, who had injuries to 
redress or complaints to prefer. Essex had always professed a noble spirit of tolera- 
tion, far in advance of his age ; and he now received with a willing ear the com- 
plaints of all those who were persecuted by the government for religious opinions, 
whether Roman Catholics or Puritans. He was in communication with James of 
Scotland, urging him to some open assertion of his presumptive title to the crown 
of England. It was altogether a season of restless intrigue, of bitter mortifications 
and rash hopes. Between the closing of the Globe Theatre and the opening of the 
Blackfriars, Shakspere was in all likelihood tranquil amidst his family at Stratford. 
The winter comes, arid then even the players are mixed up with the dangerous 
events of the time. Sir Gilly Merrick, one of the adherents of Essex, was accused 
amongst other acts of treason, with " having procured the out-dated tragedy of the 
' Deposition of Richard II.' to be publicly acted at his own charge, for the entertain- 
ment of the conspirators." 1* In the "Declaration of the Treasons of the late 
Earl of Essex and his Complices," which Bacon acknowledges to have been written 
by him at the Queen's command, there is the following statement : " The after- 
noon before the rebellion, Merrick, with a great company of others, that afterwards 
were all in the action, had procured to be played before them the play of deposing 
" King Richard the Second ;" when it was told him by one of the players, that the 
play was old, and they should have loss in playing it, because few would come to it, 
there was forty shillings extraordinary given to play, and so thereupon played it 
was." In the " State Trials " this matter is somewhat differently mentioned : " The 
story of ' Henry IV.' being set forth in a play, and in that play there being set 
forth the killing of the King upon a stage ; the Friday before, Sir Gilly Merrick 
and some others of the Earl's train having an humour to see a play, they must needs 
have the play of ' Henry IV.' The players told them that was stale ; they could 
get nothing by playing that ; but no play else would serve : and Sir Gilly Merrick 

* There is a slight resemblance in a passage in " The Tempest : " 
" And as with age his body uglier grows, 

So his mind cankers." 

f This is the translation of the passage in Camden's " Annales," &.C., as printed in Kennett's 
" History of England." The accusation against Merrick is thus stated in the original : " Quod 
exoletain tragaediam de tragica abdicatione regis Ricardi Secundi in publico theatre coram conjuratis 
data pecunia agi curasset." 



CHAP. VII.] EVIL DAYS. 237 



gives forty shillings to Philips the player to play this, besides whatsoever he could 
get." Augustine Philips was one of Shakspere's company ; and yet it is perfectly 
evident that it was not Shakspere's " Richard II," nor Shakspere's " Henry IV.," that 
was acted on this occasion. In his " Henry IV." there is no " killing of the king 
upon a stage." His "Richard II.," which was published in 1597, was certainly not 
an out-dated play in 1601. A second edition of it had appeared in 1598, and it 
was no doubt highly popular as an acting play. But if any object was to be gained 
by the conspirators in the stage representation of the " deposing King Richard II.," 
Shakspere's play would not assist that object. The editions of 1597 and 1598 do 
not contain the deposition scene. That portion of this noble history which contains 
the scene of Richard's surrender of the crown was not printed till 1608 ; and the 
edition in which it appears bears in the title the following intimation of its novelty : 
" The Tragedie of ' King Richard the Second,' with new additions of the Parliament 
ftceane, and the deposing of King Richard. As it hath been lately acted by the 
Kinges servantes, at the Globe, by William Shake-speare." In Shakspere's Parlia- 
ment scene our sympathies are wholly with King Richard. This, even if the scene 
were acted in 1601, would not have forwarded the views of Sir Gilly Merrick, if his 
purpose were really to hold up to the people an example of a monarch's dethrone- 
ment. But, nevertheless, it may be doubted whether such a subject could be safely 
played at all by the Lord Chamberlain's players during this stormy period of the 
reign of Elizabeth. Her sensitiveness on this head was most remarkable. There is 
a very curious record existing of " that which passed from the Excellent Majestic 
of Queen Elizabeth, in her Privie Chamber at East Greenwich, 4 Augusti, 1601, 
43 Reg. sui, towards William Lambarde,"* which recounts his presenting the 
Queen his " Pandecta " of historical documents to be placed in the Tower, which 
the Queen read over, making observations and receiving explanations. The follow- 
ing dialogue then takes place : 

" \V. L. He likewise expounded these all according to their original diversities, which she took 
in gracious and full satisfaction ; so her Majesty fell upon the reign of King Richard II., saying ' I 
am Richard II., know ye not that .' ' 

" W. L. ' Such a wicked imagination was determined and attempted by a most unkind gentleman, 
the most adorned creature that ever your Majesty made.' 

" Her Majesty. ' He that will forget God will also forget his benefactors ; this tragedy was 
played forty times in open streets and houses.' " 

The " wicked imagination " that Elizabeth was Richard the Second is fixed upon 
Essex by the reply of Lambarde, and the rejoinder of the Queen makes it clear that 
the " wicked imagination " was attempted through the performance of the Tragedy 
of the Deposition of " Richard the Second : " " This tragedy was played forty times 
in open streets and houses." The Queen is speaking six months after the outbreak 
of Essex ; and it is not improbable that the outdated play that performance which 
in the previous February the players " should have loss in playing " had been ren- 
dered popular through the partisans of Essex after his fall, and had been got up in 
open streets and houses with a dangerous avidity. But there is a circumstance 
which renders it tolerably evident that, although Sir Gilly Merrick might have given 
forty shilling to Philips to perform that stale play, the company of Shakspere were 
not the performers. In the Office Book of the Treasurer of the Chamber t there is 
an entry on the 31st of March, 1601, of a payment to John Heminge and Richard 
Cowley, servants to the Lord Chamberlain, for three plays showed before her High- 
ness on St. Stephen's Day at night [26th of December, 1600], Twelfth Day at night 

* This was first printed from the original in Nicholl's " Progresses of Queen Elizabeth." Lam- 
barde died in a fortnight after this interview, 
f Cunningham's " Revels at Court." 



238 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK m. 




[Essex.] 

[January 6th, 1601], and Shrove Tuesday at night [Easter Day being on the 12th 
of April in 1601, Shrove Tuesday would be on the 3rd of March]. Shakspere's 
company were thus performing before the Queen within a week of the period when 
Essex was beheaded. They would not have been so performing had they exhibited 
the offensive tragedy. 

In her conversation with Lambarde, Elizabeth uttered a great truth, which might 
not be unmingled with a retrospect of the fate of Essex. Speaking of the days of 
her ancestors, she said " In those days force and arms did prevail, but now the 
wit of the fox is everywhere on foot, so as hardly a faithful or virtuous man may be 
found." When Kaleigh was called upon the trial of Essex, and " his oath given him," 
Essex exclaimed, " What booteth it to swear the fox ? " The fox had even then 
accomplished his purpose. He had driven his victim onwards to that fatal move- 
ment of Sunday the 8th of February, which, begun without reasonable plan or fixed 
purpose, ended in casual bloodshed and death by the law. We may readily believe 
that the anxiety of Shakspere for his friends and benefactors would have led him to 
the scene of that wild commotion. He might have seen Essex and Southampton, 
with Danvers, Blount, Catesby, Owen Salisbury, and a crowd of followers, riding into 
Fleet Street, shouting, " For the Queen ! for the Queen ! " He might have heard the 
people crying on every side, " God save your honour ! God bless your honour !" An 
hour or two later he might have listened to the proclamation in Gracechurch Street 
and Cheapside, that the Earl and all his company were traitors. By two o'clock of 
that fatal Sunday, Shakspere might have seen his friends fighting their way back 
through the crowds of armed men who suddenly assailed them, and, taking boat at 
Queenhithe, reach Essex House in safety. But it was surrounded with soldiers 
and artillery ; shots were fired at the windows ; the cries of women within mingled 
with the shouts of fury without. At last came the surrender, at ten o'clock at 
night. The axe with the edge turned towards the prisoners followed as a matter of 
course. 



CHAP. VII. J EVIL DATS. 239 



The period at which Essex fell upon the block, and Southampton was under con- 
demnation, must have been a gloomy period in the life of Shakspere. The friend- 
ship of Southampton in all likelihood raised the humble actor to that just apprecia- 
tion of himself which could alone prevent his nature being subdued to what it 
worked in. There had been a compromise between the inequality of rank and the 
inequality of intellect, and the fruit had been a continuance and a strengthening of 
that " love " which seven years earlier had been described as " without end." Those 
ties were now broken by calamity. The accomplished noble, a prisoner looking 
daily for death, could not know the depth of the love of his " especial friend."* He 
was beyond the reach of any service that this friend could render him. All was 
gloom and uncertainty. It has been said, and we believe without any intention to 
depreciate the character of the great poet, that " There seems to have been a period 
of Shakspcre's life when his heart was ill at ease, and ill content with the world or 
his own conscience ; the memory of hours mis-spent, the pang of affection misplaced 
or unrequited, the experience of man's worser nature, which intercourse with ill- 
chosen associates, by choice or circumstance, peculiarly teaches ; these, as they 
sank down into the depths of his great mind, seem not only to have inspired into it 
the conception of Lear and Timon, but that of one primary character, the censurer 
of mankind." t The genius of Shakspere was so essentially dramatic, that neither 
Lear, nor Timon, nor Jaques, nor the Duke in "Measure for Measure," nor 
Hamlet, whatever censure of mankind they may express, can altogether be held 
to reflect " a period of Shakspere's life when his heart was ill at ease, and ill content 
with the world." That period is referred to the beginning of the seventeenth cen- 
tury, to which the plays belong that are said to exhibit these attributes. % But from 
this period there is certainly a more solemn cast of thought in all the works of the 
great poet. We wholly reject the opinion that this tone of mind in the slightest 
degree partakes of " the memory of hours mis-spent, the pang of affection mis- 
placed or unrequited, the experience of man's worser nature, which intercourse with 
ill-chosen associates,, by choice or circumstance, peculiarly teaches." There is a 
strong but yet tolerant censure of the heartlessness of worldly men, and the delu- 
sions of friendship, such as we have pointed out, in " As You Like It." There is 
the fierce misanthropy of Timon, so peculiar to his character and situation that 
it is quite lifted out of the range of a poet's self-consciousness : " the experience of 
man's worser nature " was not to make of Shakspere one " who all the human sons 
doth hate." "Measure for Measure" was, we believe, a covert satire upon the 
extremes of weak and severe government : it interprets nothing of unrequited affec- 
tions and an evil conscience. The bitter denunciations of Lear are the natural 
reflections of his own disturbed thoughts, seeking to recover the balance of his feel- 
ings out of the vehemence of his passion. The " Hamlet," such as we have it in its 
altered state, as compared with the earlier sketch, does indeed contain passages 
which have a peculiar fitness for Hamlet's utterance, but which, at the same time, 
might afford relief in their expression to the poet's own wrestlings with the problem 
of existence. An example or two of these new passages will suffice : 

" How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable 
Seems to me all the uses of this world ! 
Fye on 't ! fye ! 't is an unweeded garden 
That grows to seed ; things rank, and gross in nature, 
Possess it merely." 

* The expression is used by Southampton in his letter to Lord Ellesmere introducing Shakspere 
and Burbage in 1608. See Collier's "New Facts," p. 33. 
f Hallam's " Literature of Europe," vol. iii., p. 568. 
j Mr. Hallam refers to " Hamlet " in its altered form. 



240 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



Again : 

" I h.ive of late (but, wherefore, I know not) lost all my mirth, foregone all custom of exercises : 
and, indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition, that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a 
steril promontory ; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you, this brave o'erhanging firmament 
this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and 
pestilent congregation of vapours." 

We can conceive this train of thought to be in harmony with the temper in which 
Shakspere must have regarded the public events of 1600. We may even believe 
that those events might have directed his mind to a more passionate and solemn 
and earnest exercise of its power than had previously been called forth. We may 
fancy such tragic scenes having their influence in rendering the great master of 
comedy, unrivalled amidst his contemporaries for the brilliancy of his 
wit and the genuineness of his humour, turn to other and loftier I 

themes : > 

" I come no more to make you laugh ; things now, JK 

That bear a weighty and a serious brow, ^f v 

Sad, high, and working, full of state and woe, 
Such noble scenes as draw the eye to flow 
We now present." * 

But the influence of time in the formation and direction of the poetical 
power must also be taken into account. Shakspere was now thirty- 
seven years of age. He had attained to the consciousness of his own 
intellectual, strength, and he had acquired by long practice the mastery 
of his own genius. He had already learnt to direct the stage to higher 
and nobler purposes than those of mere amusement. It might be 
carried farther into the teaching of the highest philosophy through the 
medium of the grandest poetry. The epoch which produced " Othello," 
" Lear," and " Macbeth," has been described as exhibiting the genius of 
Shakspere in full possession and habitual exercise of power, "at its 
very point of culmination." t 

The year 1601 was also a year which brought to Shakspere a great 
domestic affliction. His father died on the 8th of September of that 
year. It is impossible not to feel that Shakspere's family arrange- 
ments, imperfectly as we know them, had especial reference to the 
comfort and honour of his parents. When he bought New Place in 
1597, his occupations then demanding his presence in London through 
great part of the year, his wife and children, we may readily imagine, 
were near neighbours if not under the same roof with his father and 
mother. They had sighed over the declining health of his little 
Hamnet, they had watched over the growth of his Susanna and 
Judith. If restricted means had at any previous period assailed them, 
he had provided for the comforts of their advanced age. And now 
that father, the companion of his boyhood he who had led him forth 
into the fields and had taught him to look at nature with a practical 
eye was gone. More materials for deep thought in the year 1601. 
The Register of Stratford thus attests the death of this earliest 
friend : 

* Prologue to "Henry VIII." f Coleridge. 



CHAP. VIII.] 



DID SHAKSPERE VISIT SCOTLAND 



241 




[Edinburgh in the Seventeenth Century 



CHAPTER VIII. 



DID SHAKSPERE VISIT SCOTLAND? 



IN an elaborate and ingenious paper read to the Society of Antiquaries of Scot- 
land, by John Anderson, Esq., " On the Site of Macbeth's Castle at Inverness,"* the 
author says, " The extreme accuracy with which Shakspere has followed the minutise 
of Macbeth's career has given rise to the opinion that he himself visited those scenes 
which are immortalized by his pen." This question was first raised by William 
Guthrie, in 1767. Sir John Sinclair, as stated by Drake, "when speaking of the 
local traditions respecing Macbeth's castle at Dunsinane, infers from their coinci- 
dence with the drama, that Shakspeare, ' in his capacity of actor, travelled to Scot- 
land in 1599, and collected on the spot materials for the exercise of his imagination.'" 
Drake doubts the validity of the inference. Malone gives the statement and the 



" Transactions," vol. iii., 28th January, 1828. 



R 2 



242 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



conjecture of Guthrie, adding, " If the writer had any ground for this assertion, why 
was it not stated ? It is extremely improbable that Shakspeare should have left 
London at this period. In 1599 his 'King Henry V.' was produced, and without 
doubt acted with great applause." A subsequent visit of a company of English 
players to Scotland is detailed in a bulky local history published in London in 1818, 
the " Annals of Aberdeen," by William Kennedy. This writer does not print 
the document upon which he founds his statement ; but his narrative is so circum- 
stantial as to leave little doubt that the company of players to which Shakspere 
belonged visited Aberdeen in 1601. The account of Mr. Kennedy has since been 
commented upon in a paper published in the " Transactions of the Society of Anti- 
quaries in Scotland," in 1830 ; and in a most lively, instructive, and learned volume 
a model of guide-books "The Book of Bon Accord, or a Guide to the City of 
Aberdeen," 1839. 

The story of Macbeth was presented to Shakspere in a sufficiently complete form 
by the chronicler from whom he derived so many other materials, Holinshed. In 
testing, therefore, " the extreme accuracy with which Shakspere has followed the 
minutiae of Macbeth's career" by which we understand the writer to mean the 
accuracy of the poet in details of locality we must inquire how far he agrees with, 
or differs from, and how far he expands, or curtails, the local statements or allusions 
of his chief authority. In the tragedy, Macbeth and Banquo, returning from their 
victory, are proceeding to Forres : " How far is 't called to Forres 1 " In the chronicler 
we find, " It fortuned as Macbeth and Banquo journeyed towards Forres, where the 
king then lay." So far there is agreement as to the scene. The historian thus 
proceeds : " They went sporting by the way together without other company, passing 
thorough the woods and fields, when suddenly, in the middest of a laund, there met 
them three women in strange and wild apparel." This description presents to us 
the idea of a pleasant and fertile place. The very spot where the supernatural 
soliciting occurs is a laund, or meadow amongst trees.* The poet chose his scene 
with greater art. The witches meet " upon the heath;' 1 '' they stop the way of Macbeth 
and Banquo upon the " blasted heath" But the poet was also more accurate than 
the historian in his traditionary topography. The country around Forres is wild 
moorland. Boswell, passing from Elgin to Forres in company with Johnson, says, 
" In the afternoon we drove over the very heath where Macbeth met the witches, 
according to tradition. Dr. Johnson again solemnly repeated, ' How far is 't called 
to Forres ?' &c." But, opposed to this, the more general tradition holds that the 
" blasted heath " was on the east of Forres, between that town and Nairn. " A 

more dreary piece of moorland is not to be found in all Scotland There 

is something startling to a stranger in seeing the solitary figure of the peat-digger 
or rush-gatherer moving amidst the waste in the sunshine of a calm autumn day ; 
but the desolation of the scene in stormy weather, or when the twilight fogs are 
trailing over the pathless heath, or settling down upon the pools, must be inde- 
scribable.'^ We thus see that, whether Macbeth met the weird sisters to the east 
or west of Forres, there was in each place that desolation which was best fitted for 
such an event, and not the woods and fields and launds of the chronicler. From 
Forres, where Macbeth proffers his service and his loyalty to his king, was a day's 
ride to his own castle : " From hence to Inverness." Boece makes Inverness the 
scene of Duncan's murder. Holinshed merely says, " He slew the king at Enverns, 
or (as some say) at Botgosvane." The chroniclers would have furnished Shakspere 
no notion of the particular character of the castle at Inverness. Without some 

* A laund is described by Camden as " a plain amongst trees." 
f See " Illustrations of Macbeth," Act I. 



CHAP. VIII.] DID SHAKSPERE VISIT SCOTLAND ] 243 



local knowledge the poet might have placed it upon a frowning rock, lonely, inacces- 
sible, surrounded with a gloom and grandeur fitted for deeds of murder and usur- 
pation. He has chosen altogether a different scene : 

" Dun. This castle hath a pleasant seat ; the air 
Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself 
Unto our gentle senses. 

Ban. This guest of summer, 

The temple-haunting martlet, does approve, 
By his lov'd mansionry, that the heaven's breath 
Smells wooingly here : no jutty, frieze, 
Buttress, nor coigne of vantage, but this bird 
Hath made his pendent bed, and procreant cradle : 
Where they most breed and haunt, I have observ'd, 
The air is delicate." 



Such a description, contrasting as it does with the deeds of terror that are to be 
acted in that pleasant seat, is unquestionably an effort of the highest art. But here 
again the art appears founded upon a reality. Mr. Anderson, in the paper which 
we have already quoted, has shown from various records that there was an old castle 
at Inverness. It was not the castle whose ruins Johnson visited, and of which 
Boswell says, " It perfectly corresponds with Shakspeare's description ; " but a castle 
on an adjacent eminence called the Crown so called from having been a royal 
scat. Traditionary lore, Mr. Anderson says, embodies this opinion, connecting the 
place with the history of Macbeth. " Immediately opposite to the Crown, on a 
similar eminence, and separated from it by a small valley, is a farm belonging to a 
gentleman of the name of Welsh. That part of the ascent to this farm next View- 
field, from the Great Highland Road, is called ' Banquo's Brae.' The whole of the 
vicinity is rich in wild imagery. From the mouth of the valley of Diriebught to 
Bang's Mills, thence by the road to Viewfield, and down the gorge of Aultmuniack 
to the mail-road along the sea-shore, we compass a district celebrated in the annals 
of diablerie" The writer the ngoes on to mention other circumstances corrobo- 
rating his opinion as to the site of Macbeth's castle : " Traces of what has been an 
approach to a place of consequence are still discernible. This approach enters the 
lands of Diriebught from the present mail-road from Fort George ; and, running 
through the valley, gradually ascends the bank of the Crown Hill ; and, the level 
attained, strikes again towards the eastern point, where it terminates. Here the 
' pleasant seat ' is rumoured to have stood, facing the sea ; and singularly correct 
with respect to the relative points of the compass will be found the poet's disposal 
of the portal ' at the south entry.' " 

The investiture of Macbeth at Scone, and the burial of Duncan at Colmes-kill, 
are facts derived by the poet from the chronicler. Hence also Shakspere derived 
the legend, of which he made so glorious a use, that "a certain witch whom he had 
in great trust had told Macbeth that he should never be slain with man born of any 
woman, nor vanquished till the wood of Birnane came to the Castle of Dunsinane." 
From Holinshed, also, he acquired a general notion of the situation of this castle : 
" He builded a strong castle on the top of an high hill called Dunsinane, situate in 
Gowrie, ten miles from Perth, on such a proud height that standing there aloft a 
man might behold well near all the countries of Angus, Fife, Stirmond, and Erndale, 
as it were lying underneath him." The propinquity of Birnam Wood to Dunsinane 
is indicated only in the chronicler by the circumstance that Malcolm rested there 
the night before the battle, and on the morrow marched to Dunsinane, every man 
" bearing a bough of some tree or other of that wood in his hand." The com- 



244 


WILLIAM 


SHAKSPERE : 


A 


BIOGRAPHY. 


[BOOK 


III. 



manding position of Dunsinane, as described by the chronicler, is strictly adhered 
to by the poet: 

" As I did stand my watch upon the hill 
I look'd toward Birnam, and anon, methought 
The wood began to move." 

But the poet has a particularity which the historian has not : 

" Within this three mile may you see it coming ; 
I say, a moving grove." 

This minuteness sounds like individual local knowledge. The Dunsinane Hills form 
a long range extending in a north-easterly direction from Perth to Glamis. The 
castle of the " thane of Glamis" has been made a traditionary scene of the murder 
of Duncan. Birnam Hill is to the north-west of Perth ; and between the two 
elevations there is a distance of some twelve miles, formed by the valley of the Tay. 
But Birnam Hill and Birnam Wood might have been essentially different spots two 
centuries and a half ago. The plain is now under tillage ; but even in the time of 
Shakspere it might have been for the most part woodland, extending from Birnam 
Hill to within four or five miles of Dunsinane ; distinguished from Birnam Hill as 
Birnam Wood. At the distance of three or four miles it was " a moving grove." 
It was still nigher to Dunsinane when Malcolm exclaimed, 

" Now, near enough, your leafy screens throw down." 

These passages in the play might have been written without any local knowledge, but 
they certainly do not exhibit any local ignorance. It has been said, " The probability 




[Dunsinane ] 



CHAP. VIII.] DID SHAKSPfcRE VISIT SCOTLAND ? 245 



of Shakspcare's ever having been in Scotland is very remote. It should seem by his 
uniformly accenting the name of this spot Dunsinane, that he could not possibly 
have taken it from the mouths of the country-people who as uniformly accent it 
Dunsinnan."* This is not quite accurate, as Dr. Drake has pointed out. Shak- 
spere has this passage : 

" Macbeth shall never vanquish'd be, until 
Great Birnam wood to high Dunsinane hill 
Shall come against him." 

Wintoun, in his " Chronicle," has both Dunsinane and Dunsinane. But we are 
informed by a gentleman who is devoted to the study of Scotch Antiquities, that 
there is every reason to believe that Dunsindne was the ancient pronunciation, and 
that Shakspcrc was consequently right in making Dunsinane the exception to his 
ordinary method of accenting the word. So much for the topographical knowledge 
displayed in "Macbeth.* 1 Alone, it is scarcely enough to found an argument upon. 

We proceed to the documentary part of this question. 

The fortieth volume of the registers of the Town Council of Aberdeen contains 
the following entries : 

"Nono Octobris 1601. 
" Ordinance to the dean of gild. 

" The samen day The prouest Bailleis and counsall ordanis the svme of threttie tua merkis to be 
ircviu to the Kingis serwandes presently in this burcht . . quha playes coraedeis and staige playes 
Be reasoun they ur recommendit be his majesties spcciall letter and hes played sum of their comedies 
in this burcht and ordanis the said svme to be payit to thara be the dean of gild quhilk salbe allowit 
in his comptis." 

"220ctr 1601. 

" The Quhilk day Sir Francis Hospitall of Haulszie Knycht Frenschman being reeommendit be 
his majistie to the Prouest Bailleis and Counsall of this brocht to be favorablie Interteneit with the 
gentilmen his majesties seruands efter specifeit quha war direct to this burcht be his majestic to 
acaimpanie the said Frenshman being ane nobillman of France cumming only to this burcht to sie 
the towne ;ui'l cuntrie the said Frenshmrui \vith the knightis and gentillmen folowing wer all ressauit 
and adniittit Burgesses of Gild of this burcht quha gawe thair aithis in common form folowis the 
names of thame that war admittit burgesses 

Sir Francis Hospitall of halzie knycht 

Sir Claud Hamiltoun of Schawfeild knycht 

Sir Johm Grahame of orkill knycht 

Sir John Ramsay of Ester Baronie knycht 

James Hay James Auchterlony Robert Ker James Schaw Thomas foster James 

Gleghorne Dauid Drummond Seruitors to his Majestie 
Monsieur de Scheyne Monsieur la Bar Seruitours to the said Sir Francis 
James Law 

James Hamiltoun seruitour to the said Sir Claud 
Archibald Sym Trumpeter 
Laurence Fletcher comediane to his majestic. 
Mr Dauid Wod 
Johne Bronderstainis " 

These documents present something more than the facts, that a company of players, 
specially recommended by the King, were paid a gratuity from the Corporation of 
Aberdeen for their performances in that town, one of them subsequently receiving 
the freedom of the borough. The provost, baillies, and council ordain that thirty-two 
marks should be given to the King's servants then in that borough, who played 

* Stoddart's " Remarks on the Local Scenery and Manners in Scotland," 1801. 



246 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



comedies and stage-plays. The circumstance that they are recommended by the 
King's special letter is not so important as the description of them as the King's 
servants. Thirteen days after the entry of the 9th of October, at which first period 
these servants of the King had played some of their comedies, Lawrence Fletcher, 
comedian to his Majesty, is admitted a burgess of Guild of the borough of Aberdeen 
the greatest honour which the Corporation could bestow. He is admitted to this 
honour, in company with a nobleman of France visiting Aberdeen for the gratification 
of his curiosity, and recommended by the King to be favourably entertained ; as well 
as with three men of rank, and others, who were directed by his Majesty to accom- 
pany " the said Frenchman." All the party are described in the document as knights 
and gentlemen.* We have to inquire, then, who was Lawrence Fletcher, comedian 
to his Majesty ? Assuredly the King had not in his service a company of Scotch 
players. In 1599 he had licensed a company of English comedians to play at Edin- 
burgh. Fond as James was of theatrical exhibitions, he had not the means of 
gratifying his taste, except through the visits of English comedians. Scotland had 
no drama. Before the Reformation she had her Mysteries, as England had. The 
Moralities of Lyndsay, of which " The Satyre of the three Estaitis " is one of the 
most remarkable, were indeed dialogues, but in no sense of the word dramas. The 
biting humour, the fierce invectives, the gross obscenity which we find in "The 
Satyre of the Three Estaitis," were no doubt the characteristics of other popular 
exhibitions of the same period. But, taking that singular production as a specimen, 
they were scarcely so dramatic in their form and spirit as the contemporary produc- 
tions in England of John Hey wood, of which " The four P's " is a favourable example. 
" Philotus" " Ane verie excellent and delectabill Treatise intitulit Philotvs, qvhairin 
we may persave the greit inconveniences that fallis out in the Marriage betvvene age 
and zouth" belongs to a later period. It was first printed in 1603, and again in 
1612, when it was entitled "a Comedy." The plot is founded upon one of the 
stories of Barnaby Rich, told by him in the collection from which Shakspere is sup- 
posed to have derived some hints for the conduct of the action in " Twelfth Night." 
The dialogue of " Philotus " is in verse, not deficient in spirit and harmony, but 
utterly undramatic sometimes easy and almost refined, at others quaint and gross 
beyond all conception. The stanza with which the play opens will furnish some 
notion of the prevailing metre, and of the poetical tone, of this singular performance : 

" lustie luifsome lamp of licht, 
Your bonynes, your bewtie bricht, 
Your staitly stature trym and ticht, 

With gesture graue and gude : 
Your countenance, your cullour cleir, 
Your lauching lips, your smyling cheir, 
Your properties dois all appear, 

My senses to illude." 

Until William Alexander appeared in 1603 with his tragedy of "Darius," Scotland 
possessed no literature that could be called dramatic ; and it may be doubted if even 
Alexander's " Historical Dialogues " can be properly called dramas. We may safely 
conclude that King James would have no Scottish company of players, because 
Scotland had no dramas to play. 

" Lawrence Fletcher, comedian to his Majesty," was undoubtedly an Englishman ; 

* Archibald Sym, trumpeter, was a person of dignified occupation. He was no doubt the state- 
trumpeter, whose business it was to assist in proclaiming the royal commands to the people. In 
Scottish annals we find constant notices of certain acts of authority notified at Edinburgh " by open 
proclamation and sound of trumpet at the Cross." 



CHAP. VIII.] DID SHAKSPERE VISIT SCOTLAND. 247 



and " the King's servants presently in this borough who play comedies and stage- 
plays" were as certainly English players. There are not many facts known by which 
we can trace the histoiy of Lawrence Fletcher. He is not mentioned amongst 
" the names of the principal actors in all these plays," which list is given in the 
first folio edition of Shakspere ; but he undoubtedly belonged to Shakspere's com- 
pany. Augustine Phillips, who, by his will, in 1605, bequeathed a thirty-shilling 
piece of gold to his "fellow" William Shakspere, also bequeathed twenty shillings 
to his "fellow" Lawrence Fletcher. But there is more direct evidence than this of 
the connection of Fletcher with Shakspere's company. The patent of James I., 
dated at Westminster on the nineteenth of May, 1 603, in favour of the players acting 
at the Globe, is headed " Pro Laurentio Fletcher et Willielmo Shakespeare & aliis ;" 
and it licenses and authorises the performances of " Laurence Fletcher, William 
Shakespeare, Richard Burbage, Augustine Phillippes, John Hemings, Henrie Condel, 
William Sly, Robert Armin, Richard Cowly, and the rest of their associates." The 
connection in 1603 of Fletcher and Shakspere cannot be more distinctly established 
than by this document. Chalmers says that Fletcher " was placed before Shak- 
speare and Richard Burbage in King James's licence as much perhaps by accident 
as by design."* The Aberdeen Register is evidence against this opinion. Lawrence 
Fletcher, comedian to his Majesty, is admitted to honours which are not bestowed 
upon the other King's servants who had acted plays in the borough of Aberdeen 
in 1601. Lawrence Fletcher is first named in the letters patent of 1603. It is 
evident, we think, that he was admitted a burgess of Aberdeen as the head of the 
company, and that he was placed first in the royal licence for the same reason. But 
there is a circumstance, we apprehend, set forth in the Aberdeen Registers which is 
not only important with reference to the question of Shakspere having visited Scot- 
land, but which explains a remarkable event in the history of the stage. The 
company rewarded by the Corporation of Aberdeen on the 9th of October, 1601, 
were not only recommended by his Majesty's special letter, but they were the King's 
servants. Lawrence Fletcher, according to the second entry, was comedian to his 
Majesty. This English company, then, had received an honour from the Scottish 
King, which had not been bestowed upon them by the English Queen. They were 
popularly termed the Queen's players about 1590 ; but, subsequently, we find them 
invariably mentioned in the official entries as the Lord Chamberlain's servants. As 
the servants of the first officer of the Court, they had probably higher privileges than 
the servants of other noblemen ; but they were not formally recognised as the 
Queen's servants during the remainder of Elizabeth's reign. In Gilbert Dugdale's 
" The Time Triumphant ; declaring in briefe the arival of our Soveraigne Leidge 
Lord King James into England," printed in 1604, the author, after noticing that the 
King " dealt honours as freely to our nations as their hearts could wish," adds, 
" not only to the indifferent of worth and the worthy of honour did he freely deal 
about these causes ; but to the mean gave grace : as taking to him the late Lord 
Chamberlain's servants, now the King's actors ; the Queen taking to her the Earl of 
Worcester's servants, that arc now her actors ; the Prince their son, Henry Prince 
of Wales, full of hope, took to him the Earl of Nottingham his servants, who are 
now his actors ; so that of Lords' servants they are now the servants of the King, 
the Queen, and Prince." Mr. Collier, in noticing the 'licence "Pro Laurentio 
Fletcher et Willielmo Shakespeare et aliis," says that the Lord Chamberlain's com- 
pany " by virtue of this instrument, in which they are termed ' our servants,' 
became the King's players, and were so afterwards constantly distinguished." t But 
the instrument did not create Lawrence Fletcher, William Shakspere, and others, 

* " Apology," page 422. f " Annals of the Stage," vol. i., p. 348. 



248 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



the King's servants ; it recognises them as the King's servants already appointed : 
" Know you that we, of our special grace, certain knowledge, and mere motion, have 
licensed and authorised, and by these presents do license and authorise, these our 
servants," &c. They are licensed to use and exercise their art and faculty " as well 
for the recreation of our loving subjects as for our solace and pleasure, when we 
shall think good to see them." They are " to show and exercise publicly to their 
best commodity, when the infection of the plague shall decrease, within their now 
usual house called the Globe," as in all other places. The justices, mayors, sheriffs, 
and others to whom the letters patent are addressed, are called upon to aid and 
assist them, and to do them courtesies ; and the instrument thus concludes: '-'And 
also what further favour you shall show to these our servants for our sake we shall 
take kindly at your hands." The terms of this patent exhibit towards the 
players of the Globe a favour and countenance, almost an affectionate solicitude 
for their welfare, which is scarcely reconcileable with a belief that they first became 
the King's players by virtue of this instrument. James arrived in London, at the 
Charter House, on the 7th of May, 1603. He then removed^to the Tower, and 
subsequently to Greenwich on the 1 3th. The Privy Seal, directing the letters patent 
to Fletcher, Shakspere, and others, is dated from Greenwich on the 1 7th of May ; 
and in that document the exact words of the patent are prescribed. The words of 
the Privy Seal and of the patent undoubtedly imply some previous appointment of 
the persons therein named as the King's servants. It appears scarcely possible that 
during the three days which elaped between James taking up his residence at Green- 
wich, and the day on which the Privy Seal is issued, the Lord Chamberlain's servants, 
at the season of the plague, should have performed before the King, and have so 
satisfied him that he constituted them his own servants. It would at first seem 
improbable that amidst the press of business consequent upon the accession, the 
attention of the King should have been directed to the subject of players at all, 
especially in the selection of a company as his own servants, contrary to the prece- 
dent of the former reign. If these players had been the servants of Elizabeth, their 
appointment as the servants of James might have been asked as a matter of course ; 
but certain players were at once to be placed above their professional brethren, by 
the King's own act, carried into effect within ten days after his arrival within his 
new metropolis. All these objections are removed when we refer to the facts 
opened to us by the council registers of Aberdeen. King James the Sixth of Scot- 
land had recommended his servants to the magistrates of Aberdeen ; and Lawrence 
Fletcher, there can be no doubt, was one of those servants so recommended. The 
patent of James the First of England directed to Lawrence Fletcher, William Shak- 
spere, and others, eighteen months after the performances at Aberdeen, is directed 
to those persons as " our servants." It does not appoint them the King's servants, 
but recognises the appointment as already existing. Can there be a reasonable 
doubt that the appointment was originally made by the King in Scotland, and 
subsisted when the same King ascended the English throne ? Lawrence Fletcher 
was admitted a burgess of Guild of the borough of Aberdeen as comedian to his 
Majesty, in company with other persons who were servitors to his Majesty. He 
received thai honour, we may conclude, as the head of the company, also the King's 
servants. "\Ve know not how he attained this distinction amongst his fellows, but 
it is impossible to imagine that accident so favoured him in two instances. The 
King's servant who was most favoured at Aberdeen, and the King's servant who is 
first in the patent in 1603, was surely placed in that position by the voice of his 
fellows, the other King's servants. William Shakspere is named with him in a 
marked manner in the heading of the patent. Seven of their fellows are also 
named, as distinguished from " the rest of their associates." There can be no 



CHAP. VIII.] 



DID SHAKfcPERE VISIT SCOTLAND ] 



249 




[James the Sixth of Scotland and First of England.] 



doubt of the identity of the Lawrence Fletcher, the servant of Jaines VI. of Scotland, 
and the Lawrence Fletcher, the servant of James I. of England. Can we doubt that 
the King's servants who played comedies and stage plays in Aberdeen, in 1601, 
were, taken as a company, the King's servants who were licensed to exercise the art 
and faculty of playing, throughout all the realm, in 1603 ? If these points are 
evident, what reason have we to doubt that William Shakspere, the second named 
in the licence of 1603, was amongst the King's servants at Aberdeen in 1601 ? Every 
circumstance concurs in the likelihood that he was of that number recommended 
by the King's special letter ; and his position in the licence, even before Burbage, 
was, we may well believe, a compliment to him who in 1601 had taught "our 
James" something of the power and riches of the English drama. 

The circumstances which we have thus detailed give us, we think, warranty to 
conclude that the story of Macbeth might have been suggested to Shakspere upon 
Scottish ground ; that the accuracy displayed in the local descriptions and allusions 
might have been derived from a rapid personal observation ; and that some of the 
peculiarities of his witchcraft imagery might have been found in Scottish superstitions, 
and more especially in those which may have been rife at Aberdeen at the beginning of 
the seventeenth century. Is there anything to contradict the inferences which are 
justly to be deduced from the records which we have just described and commented 
upon ? There is one contradiction which renders us more sceptical than any anti- 



250 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK III. 



quarian objections. A writer whose sagacity is only equalled by his wondrous 
imaginative power, says, "It has been asked was Shakspeare ever in Scotland. 
Never. There is not one word in this Tragedy ["Macbeth "] leading a Scotchman to 
think so many showing he never had that happiness. Let him deal with our 
localities according to his own sovereign will and pleasure, as a prevailing poet. But 
let no man point out his dealings with our localities as proof of his having such 
knowledge of them as implies personal acquaintance with them gained by a longer 
or shorter visit in Scotland."* But it cannot be denied, we apprehend, that Shak- 
spere's company was at Aberdeen in the autumn of 1601. There is nothing that we 
have found which can be opposed to the fair and natural inferences that belong to 
the registers of the Town Council. The records of the Presbytery of Aberdeen are 
wholly silent upon the subject of this visit of a company of players to their city. 
These records, on the 25th of September, 1601, contain an entry regarding Lord 
Glamis an entry respecting one of the many deeds of violence for which Scotland 
was remarkable, when the strong hand so constantly attempted to defy the law : 
Mr. Patrick Johnson, it seems, had been killed by Lord Glamis, and the fact is here 
brought under the cognizance of the Presbytery. An entry of the 9th of October 
deals with Alexander Ceath [Keith], on a charge of adultery. Another of the 23rd 
of October relates to John Innis. Beyond the 5th of November, when there is 
another record, it would be unnecessary to seek for any minute regarding the players 
who were rewarded and honoured by the Town Council. There is no entry what- 
ever on the subject.t If Shakspere's company were at Aberdeen and to disprove 
it, it must be shown that Lawrence Fletcher who was the King of Scotland's 
comedian in 1601, was not the Lawrence Fletcher who was associated with Shak- 
spere in the patent granted by James upon his accession in 1603 what absolute 
reason can there be for supposing that Shakspere was absent from his company 
upon so interesting an occasion as a visit to the Scottish King and Court 1 The 
extraordinary merits of the dramas of Shakspere might have been familiar to the 
King through books. Previous to 1601, there had been nine undoubted plays of 
Shakspere's published, which might readily have reached Scotland.J Essex and 
Southampton were in the habit of correspondence with James ; and at the very hour 
when James officially knew of his accession to the crown of England, he dispatched 
an order from Holyrood House to the Council of State for the release of Southampton 
from the Tower. It is not likely that the Lord Chamberlain's servants would have 
taken the long journey to Scotland upon the mere chance of being acceptable to the 
Court. If they were desired to come, it is not probable that Shakspere would have 
been absent. It was his usual season of repose from his professional pursuits in 
London. The last duties to his father's memory might have been performed on the 
8th of September, leaving abundant time to reach the Court, whether at Holyrood, 
or Stirling, or Linlithgow, or Falkland ; to be enrolled amongst the servants who 
performed before the King ; and subsequently to have been amongst those his 
fellows who received rewards on the 9th of October for their comedies and stage- 
plays at Aberdeen. 

* Christopher North, in " Blackwood," 1849. 

f We consulted these documents, which are preserved in the fine Library of the Advocates at 
Edinburgh. We were assisted by very kind friends Professor Spalding (who very early distin- 
guished himself as a critic on Shakspere), and John Hill Burton, Esq. (who possesses the most com- 
plete knowledge of the treasures of that valuable library) in searching for documents that could 
illustrate this question. 

J There is a beautiful copy of the first edition of "Love's Labour's Lost," 1598, amongst Drum- 
mond's books, preserved apart in the library of the University of Edinburgh. 

This argument is very briefly given in " Studies," page 355. 



''BOOK IV 1 





[Jonson.] 
CHAPTER I. 

GLIMPSES OF SOCIETY. 



ABOUT four years before the death of Elizabeth, there appeared a dramatic writer in 
London, who, though scarcely twenty-five years of age, had studied society under 
many aspects. He was a scholar, bred up by the most eminent teachers, amongst 
aristocratic companions ; but his home was that of poverty and obscurity, and he 
had to labour with his hands for his daily bread. He delighted in walking not only 
amidst the open fields of ancient poetry and eloquence, but in all the by-places oi 
antiquity, gathering flowers amongst the weeds with infinite toil : but he possessed 



254 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE I A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK IV. 



no merely contemplative spirit : he had high courage and ardent passions, and 
whether with the sword or the pen he was a dangerous antagonist. This humbly- 
born man, with the badge of the "hod and trowel" fixed on him by his "enemies 
twitted with ambling " by a play-waggon in the highway " with a face held up to 
ridicule as being " like a rotten russet apple when it is bruised," or " punched full of 
eyelet-holes, like the cover of a warming pan " described by himself as remarkable 
for 

" His mountain belly and his rocky face " 

with " one eye lower than t'other, and bigger," as Aubrey has it and, according to 
the same authority, " wont to wear a coat like a coachman's coat, with slits under 
the arm-pits ;" this uncouth being was for a quarter of a century the favourite 
poet of the Court, one that wrote masques not only for two kings to witness, but 
for one to perform in, the founder and chief ornament of clubs where the greatest 
of his age for wit, and learning, and rank, gathered round him as a common centre ; 
but, above all, he was the rigid moralist, who spared no vice, who was fearless in his 
denunciation of public or private profligacy, who crouched not to power or riches, 
but who stood up in the worst of days a real man. The pictures which Jonson has 
left of his time are more full, more diversified, and more amusing, than those of any 
contemporary writer, Dekker not excepted, for his range is not so wide. He pos- 
sessed a combination of the power of acute and accurate observation with unrivalled 
vigour in the delineation of what he saw. Aubrey, one of the shrewdest as well as 
the most credulous of biographers, has a very sensible remark upon the character- 
istics of Shakspere's comedy, as compared with the writers after the Restoration. 
" His comedies will remain wit as long as the English tongue is understood, for that 
he handles mores hominum ; now, our present writers reflect so much upon parti- 
cular persons and coxcombeities, that twenty years hence they will not be under- 
stood." This is precisely the case with Jonson as compared with Shakspere ; but 
he is on this account a far more valuable authority for what essentially belongs to 
periods and classes. Shakspere has purposely left this field uncultivated ; but it is 
Jonson's absolute domain. Studied with care, as he must be to be properly appre- 
ciated, he presents to us an almost inexhaustible series of Daguerreotypes, forms 
copied from the life, with absolute certainty, of the manners of three reigns, when 
there was freedom enough for men to abandon themselves without disguise to what 
they called their humours, and the conflicts of opinion had not yet become so violent 
as to preclude the public satirist from attacking sects and parties. There is a pecu- 
liar interest, too, about Jonson and his writings, if we regard him as the representa- 
tive of the literary class of his own day. In his hands the stage was to teach what 
the Essayists of a century afterwards were to teach. The age was to be exhibited ; 
its vices denounced ; its follies laughed at. Gifford has remarked that there is a 
singular resemblance between Benjamin Jonson and Samuel Johnson. Nothing can 
be more true ; and the similarity is increased by the reflection that they are both of 
them essentially London men : for them there is no other social state. Of London 
they know all the strange resorts : they move about amongst the learned and the rich 
with a thorough independence and self-respect ; but they know that there are other 
aspects of life worthy to be seen, and they study them in obscure places where less 
robust writers are afraid to enter. As it is our duty to present a brief general 
view of the " Times " of Shakspere, we may best illustrate them, however imper- 
fectly, from the writings of Jonson. 

We have said that Ben Jonson is essentially of London. He did not, like his 
illustrious namesake, walk into the great city from the midland country, and throw 
his huge bulk upon the town as if it were a wave to bear up such a leviathan. 



CHAP. I.] GLIMPSES OF SOCIETY. 255 



Fuller traces him " from his long coats ;" and from that poor dwelling " in Harts- 
horn Lane near Charing Cross " he sees him through " a private school in St. 
Martin's Church " into the sixth form at " Westminster." What wanderings must 
the bricklayer's stepson have had during those school-days, and in the less happy 
period when they were passed ! And then, when the strong man came back from 
the Low Countries, and perhaps on one day was driven to the taverns and the play- 
houses by the restlessness of his genius, and on another ate the sweeter bread of 
manual labour, how thoroughly must he have known that town in which he was 
still to live for forty years ; and how familiarly must all its localities have come 
unbidden into his mind ! As his characters could only have existed in the precise 
half-century in which he himself lived, so they could only have moved in the identi- 
cal places which form the background in these remarkable groups. We open " Every 
Man in his Humour:" Master Stephen dwells at Hogsden, but he despises the 
"archers of Finsbury and the citizens that come a-ducking to Islington ponds." 
We look upon the map of Elizabeth's time, and there we see Finsbury Field covered 
with trees and windmills ; and we understand its ruralities, and picture to ourselves 
the pleasant meadows between the Archery-ground and Islington. But the dwellers 
at Hoxton have a long suburb to pass before they reach London. " I am sent for 
this morning by a friend in the Old Jewry to come to him ; it is but crossing over 
the fields to Moorgate." The Old Jewry presented the attraction of " the Wind- 
mill " tavern ; and near it dwelt Cob, the waterman, by the wall at the bottom of 
Coleman Street, " at the sign of the Water Tankard, hard by the Green Lattice." 
Some thirty years after this we have in " The Tale of a Tub " a more extended 
picture of suburban London. The characters move about in the fields near Pan- 
cridge (Pancras), to Holloway, Highgate, Islington, Kentish Town, Hampstead, 
St. John's Wood, Paddington, and Kilburn : Totten-Court is a mansion in the fields : 
a robbery is pretended to be committed in " the ways over the country " between 
Kentish Town and Hampstead Heath, and a warrant is granted by a " Marribone " 
justice. In London the peculiarities of the streets become as familiar to us as the 
names of the taverns. There is " a rare motion (puppet show) to be seen in Fleet 
Street,"* and " a new motion of the city of Nineveh with Jonas and the Whale at 
Fleet Bridge." t The Strand was the chief road for ladies to pass through in their 
coaches ; and there Lafoole in the " Silent Woman " has a lodging, " to watch when 
ladies are gone to the china-houses, or the Exchange, that he may meet them by 
chance and give them presents." Cole-Harbour, in the Parish of All Hallows the 
Less, is not so genteel it is a sanctuary for spendthrifts. Sir Epicure Mammon, 
in " The Alchymist," would buy up all the copper in Lothbury ; and we hear of the 
rabbit-skins of Budge Row and the stinking tripe of Panyer Alley, t At the bottom 
of St. Martin's Lane was a nest of alleys (some remains of which existed within the 
last thirty years) the resort of infamy in every shape. Jonson calls them " the 
Straits," " where the quarrelling lesson is read," and the " seconds are bottle-ale and 
tobacco." The general characteristics of the streets before the fire are not for- 
gotten. In " The Devil is an Ass " the Lady and her lover speak closely and gently 
from the windows of two contiguous buildings. Such are a few examples of the 
local proprieties which constantly turn up in Jonson's dramas. 

The personal relations in which this great dramatist stood in regard to his literary 
compeers is not an unimportant chapter in the history of the social state. The 
influence of men of letters even upon their own age is always great ; it is sometimes 
all-powerful. In Jonson's time the pulpit and the stage were the teachers and the 
inciters ; and the stage, taken altogether, was an engine of great power, either for 

* " The Fox." f " Every Man out of his Humour." f " Bartholomew Fair." Ibid. 



256 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK IV. 



good or evil. In the hands of Shakspere and Jonson it is impossible to over-esti- 
mate the good which it produced. The one carried men into the highest region of 
lofty poetry (and the loftier because it was comprehensible by all), out of the narrow 
range of their own petty passions and low gratifications : the other boldly lashed 
the follies of individuals and classes, sometimes with imprudence, but always with 
honesty. If others ministered to the low tastes and the intolerant prejudices of the 
multitude, Jonson was ever ready to launch a bolt at them, fearless of the conse- 
quences. No man ever laboured harder to uphold the dignity of letters, and of that 
particular branch in which his labour was embarked. He was ardent in all he did ; 
and of course he made many enemies. But his friendship was as warm as his 
enmity. No man had more friends or more illustrious. He was the father of many 
sons, to use the affectionate phrase which indicated the relation between the great 
writer and his disciples. Jonson was always poor, often embarrassed ; but his 
proper intellectual ascendancy over many minds was never doubted. Something of 
this ascendancy may be attributed to his social habits. 

In the year 1599, when Henslowe, according to his records, was lending Benjamin 
Jonson twenty shillings, and thirty shillings, and other small sums, in earnest of this 
play and that sometimes advanced to himself alone, oftener for works in which he 
was joined with others he was speaking in his own person to the audiences of the 
time with a pride which prosperity could not increase or adversity subdue. In " Every 
Man out of his Humour," first acted in 1599, he thus delivers himself in the charac- 
ter of " Asper, the Presenter :" 

" If any here chance to behold himself, 
Let him not dare to challenge me of wrong ; 
For if he shame to have his follies known, 
First he should shame to act 'em : my strict hand 
Was made to seize on vice, and with a gripe 
Squeeze out the humour of such spongy souls 
As lick up every idle vanity." 

The spirit which dictated these lines was not likely to remain free from literary 
quarrels. Jonson was attacked in turn, or fancied he was attacked. In 1601 he 
produced " The Poetaster ;" and in his " Apologetical Dialogue which was only once 
spoken upon the stage," he thus defends his motives for this supposed attack upon 
some of his dramatic brethren : 

" Sure I am, three years 

They did provoke me with their petulant styles 
On every stage : and I at last, unwilling, 
But weary, I confess, of so much trouble, 
Thought I would try if shame could win upon 'em ; 
And therefore chose Augustus Caesar's times, 
When wit and arts were at their height in Rome, 
To show that Virgil, Horace, and the rest 
Of those great master-spirits, did not want 
Detractors then, or practisers against them : 
And by this line, although no parallel, 
I hop'd at last they would sit down and blush ; 
But nothing I could find more contrary. 
And though the impudence of flies be great, 
Yet this has so provok'd the angry wasps, 
Or, as you said, of the next nest, the hornets, 
That they fly buzzing, mad, about my nostrils, 
And, like so many screaming grasshoppers 
Held by the wings, fill every ear with noise." 

In "The Poetaster" Jonson characterises himself as Horace ; and his enemy, Deme- 



CHAP. I.] 



GLIMPSES OF SOCIETY. 



257 



triiis, says, " Horace is a mere sponge nothing but humours and observations. He 
goes up and down sucking upon every society, and when he comes home squeezes 
himself dry again." This reminds one of Aubrey : " Ben Jonson and he (Shakspere) 
did gather humours of men daily wherever they came." They used their observa- 
tions, however, very differently ; the one was the Raphael, the other the Teniers, of 
the drama. When we look at the noble spirit with which Jonson bore poverty, 
it is perhaps to be lamented that he was so impatient of censure. If the love of 
fame be 

" The last infirmity of noble minds," 

the horror of ridicule or contempt is too often its companion. The feelings are 
mixed in the fine lines with which Jonson concludes the " Apologetical 
Dialogue :" 

" I, that spend half my nights, and all my days, 

Here in a cell to get a dark, pale face, 
To come forth with the ivy or the bays, 

And in this age can hope no other grace 
Leave me ! There 's something come into my thoughts 
That must and shall be sung high and aloof, 
Safe from the wolfs black jaw and the dull ass's hoof." 

GifFord has thus described the club at the Mermaid: "About this time [1603] 
Jonson probably began to acquire that turn for conviviality for which he was after- 
wards noted. Sir Walter Raleigh, previously to his unfortunate engagement with 
the wretched Cobham and others, had instituted a meeting of beaux esprits at the 
Mermaid, a celebrated tavern in Friday Street. Of this club, which combined more 
talent and genius than ever met together before or since, our author was a member ; 
and here for many years he regularly repaired with Shakspeare, Beaumont, Fletcher, 
Selden, Cotton, Carew, Martin, Donne, and many others, whose names, even at this 
distant period, call up a mingled feeling of reverence and respect." Jonson has been 
accused of excess in wine ; and certainly temperance was not the virtue of his age. 
Drummond, who puts down his conversations in a spirit of detraction says, " Drink 
was the element in which he lived." Aubrey tells us " he would many times exceed 
in drink ; Canary was his beloved liquor." And so he tells us himself in his grace- 
ful poem " Inviting a Friend to Supper : " 

" But that which most doth take my muse and me 
Is a pure cup of rich Canary wine, 
Which is the Mermaid's now, but shall be mino." 

But the rich Canary was to be used, and not abused : 

" Of this we will sup free, but moderately ; 
Nor shall our cups make any guilty men : 
But at our parting we will be as when 
We innocently met. No simple word, 
That shall be utter'd at our mirthful board, 
Shall make us sad next morning, or affright 
The liberty that we'll enjoy to-night." 

This is not the principle of intemperance, at any rate ; nor were the associates of 
Jonson at the Mermaid such as mere sensual gratification would have allied in that 
band of friendship. They were not such companions as the unhappy Robert Greene, 
whose genius was eaten up by his profligacy, describes himself to have lived 
amongst : " His company were lightly the lewdest persons in the land, apt for 
pilfery, perjury, forgery, or any villainy. Of these he knew the cast to cog at cards, 

s 2 



258 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [B OK Jy - 



cozen at dice ; by these he learned the legerdemains of nips, foysts, conycatchers, 
crossbyters, lifts, high lawyers, and all the rabble of that unclean generation of 
vipers ; and pithily could he point out their whole courses of craft : so cunning was 
in all crafts, as nothing rested in him almost but craftiness." This is an unhappy 
picture ; and in that age, when the rewards of unprofessional scholars were few and 
uncertain, it is scarcely to be wondered that their morals sometimes yielded to their 
necessities. Jonson and Shakspere passed through the slough of the theatre without 
a stain. Their club meetings were not the feasts of the senses alone. The following 
verses by Jonson were inscribed over the door of the Apollo Room in the Devil 
Tavern : 

" Welcome all who lead or follow 

To the oracle of Apollo : 

Here he speaks out of his pottle, 

Or the tripos, his tower bottle ; 

All his answers are divine, 

Truth itself doth flow in wine. 

Hang up all the poor hop- drinkers, 

Cries old Sim, the king of skinkers ; 

He the half of life abuses 

That sits watering with the Muses. 

Those dull girls no good can mean us ; 

Wine it is the milk of Venus, 

And the poet's horse accounted : 

Ply it, and you all are mounted. 

'Tis the true Phoebean liquor, 

Cheers the brains, makes wit the quicker ; 

Pays all debts, cures all diseases, 

And at once three senses pleases. 

Welcome all who lead or follow 

To the oracle of Apollo t " 

In the Apollo Room Jonson sat, the founder of the club, perhaps its dictator. One 
of his contemporary dramatists, Marmion, describes him in his presidential chair : 

" The boon Delphic god 
Drinks sack, and keeps his Bacchanalia, 
And has his incense, and his altars smoking, 
And speaks in sparkling prophecies." 

' The boon Delphic god " had his Leges Convivales, written in the purest Latinity, 
engraved in black marble over the chimney. These laws have been translated into 
very indifferent verse, to quote which would give an imperfect idea of their elegance 
and spirit. They were not laws for common boon-companions ; but for the " Eruditi, 
urbani, hilares, honesti." The tavern has perished : it has long been absorbed by 
the all-devouring appetite of commerce. But its memory will be ever fresh, whilst 
the laws of its club record that there were elegance without expense, wit without 
malice, high converse without meddling with sacred things, argumentation without 
violence. If these were mingled with music and poetry, and sometimes accomplished 
women were present, and the dance succeeded to the supper, we must not too readily 
conclude that there was licence, allurements for the careless, which the wise ought 
not to have presided over. We must not judge of the manners of another age by 
those of our own. Jonson was too severe a moralist to have laid himself open to 
the charge of being a public example of immorality. 

Such, then, was the social life of the illustrious men of letters and the more taste- 
ful of the aristocracy in the latter period of Shakspere's London life. But where 
did the great painters of manners " pick up humours daily ? " Where did they find 
the classes assembled that were to be held up to ridicule and reproof ? We open 



CHAP. I.] GLIMPSES OF SOCIETY. 259 



Jonson's first great comedy, " Every Man in his Humour," and there in the list of 
characters we find Captain Bobadiil, a Paul's man." Adventurers like Bobadill 
were daily frequenters of Paul's. The middle aisle of the old cathedral was the 
resort of all the idle and profligate in London. The coxcomb here displayed his 
finery, and the cutpurse picked his pocket. Serving-men here came to find masters, 
and tradesmen to attract purchasers by their notices on the pillars. Jonson has, up 
and down, constant allusions to Paul's. It was here that, wrapped up in his old 
coachman's coat, he studied the fopperies in dress which were so remarkable a 
characteristic of his times. It was here, probably, that Jonson got the hint of Boba- 
dill's boots worn over his silk stockings, and the jewel in his ear. Here, too, he 
heard the gingle of the silver spurs which the gallants wore in spite of the choris- 
ters, who had a vigilant eye to enforce the fine called spur-money. Here, too, he 
might have seen the "wrought shirt" of Fastidious Brisk, embroidered all over with 
fruits and flowers, which fashion the Puritans imitated by ornamenting their shirts 
with texts of Scripture. Here he saw the " gold cable hatband " " the Italian cut 
work band " " the embossed girdle " and the " ruffle to the boot " of the same 
distinguished fop. The " mirror in the hat," and the " finger that hath the ruby," 
could not fail to be noticed in Paul's by the satirist. The "love-lock" and the " cut 
beard " were displayed in every variety that caprice and folly could suggest. Dekker 
has noted such minor follies of his age even with more assiduity than Jonson. He 
is confident in his powers ; and claims to be a satirist by as indefeasible a title as 
that of his greater rival. In Paul's Walk, in the Mediterranean Aisle, he has noted 
one who walks there from day to day, even till lamp-light, for he is safe from his 
creditors. Another is waited upon by his tailor, who steps behind a pillar with his 
table-book to note the last fashion which hath made its appearance there, and to 
commend it to his worship's admiration. He has many a joke against the gallants 
of the theatre whom he has noted sitting on the stage in all the glory of their cox- 
combry on the very rushes where the comedy is to dance, beating down the mews 
and hisses of the opposed rascality. The proportionable leg, the white hand, the 
love-lock of the essenced fop, have none of them passed unmarked. The red beard 
artistically dyed according to the most approved fashion supplies many a laugh ; 
especially if the wearer had risen to be gone in the middle of the scene, saluting his 
gentle acquaintance to the discomfiture of the mimics. He, above all, is quizzed 
who hoards up the play scraps upon which his lean wit most savouredly feeds. 
Equally familiar is the satirist with the ordinary. He tells of a most absolute gull 
that he has marked riding thither upon his Spanish jennet, with a French lacquey 
carrying his cloak, who having entered the public room walks up and down scorn- 
fully with a sneer and a sour face to promise quarrelling ; who, when he does speak, 
discourses how often this lady has sent her coach for him, and how he has sweat in 
the tennis-court with that lord. An unfledged poet, too, he has marked, who drops 
a sonnet out of the large fold of his glove, which he at last reads to the company 
with a pretty counterfeit lothness. He has a story of the last gull whom he saw 
there, skeldered of his money at primero and hazard, who sat as patiently as a dis- 
armed gentleman in the hands of the bailiffs. At the tavern he has drawn out a 
country gentleman that has brought his wife to town to learn the fashions, and see 
the tombs at Westminster, and the lions in the Tower ; and is already glib with the 
names of the drawers, Jack and Will and Tom : the tavern is to him so delightful, 
with its suppers, its Canary, its tobacco, and its civil hostess at the bar, that it is 
odds but he will give up housekeeping. Above all, " the satirical rogue" is familiar 
with the habits of those who hear the chimes at midnight. He knows how they 
shun the waking watch and play tricks with the sleeping, and he hears the pre- 
tenders to gentility call aloud Sir Giles, or Sir Abraham, will you turn this way ? 



260 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK IV. 



Every form of pretence is familial' to him. He has watched his gull critical upon 
new books in a stationer's shop, and has tracked him through all his vagaries at the 
tobacco ordinary, the barber's, the fence-school, and the dancing-school. Thomas 
Dekker is certainly one of those who gather humours from all men ; but his wit is 
not of the highest or the most delicate character. He knows the town, and he makes 
the most of his knowledge. 

The two great genera into which society was divided in Jonson's time were, the 
gentry and the citizens. During the law-terms London was full of the country 
squires and their families ; who sometimes came up to town with the ostensible 
purpose of carrying on their law-suits, but more generally to spend some portion of 
that superfluous wealth which the country could not so agreeably absorb. The evil 
if evil it were grew to be so considerable that James, by proclamation, directed 
them to return to their own counties. But this, of course, was mere idle breath. 
Jonson, though the theatres might be supposed to gain by this influx of strangers, 
boldly satirized the improvidence and profligacy of the squires, whom he has no hesi- 
tation in denouncing as " country gulls," " who come up every term to learn to take 
tobacco and see new motions." He does this in the spirit of the fine song of the 
" Old and Young Courtier :" 

" With a new fashion, when Christinas is drawing on, 
On a new journey to London straight we must all begone, 
And leave none to keep house but our new porter John, 
Who relieves the poor with a thump on the back with a stone, 
Like a young courtier/' &c. 

Jonson's rules for making a town gentleman out of a country clown are drawn 
from the life : 

" First, to be an accomplished gentleman that is, a gentleman of the time you must give over 
housekeeping in the country, and live altogether in the city amongst gallants ; where, at your first 
appearance, 't were good you turn'd four or five acres of your best land into two or three trunks of 
apparel, you may do it without going to a conjuror ; and be sure you mix yourself still with such 
as flourish in the spring of the fashion, and are least popular [vulgar] : study their carriage and be- 
haviour in all ; learn to play at primero and passage, and ever (when you lose) have two or three 
peculiar oaths to swear by, that no man else swears : but, above all, protest in your play, and affirm, 
e Upon your credit,' ' As you are a true gentleman,' at every cast : you may do it with a safe con- 
science, I warrant you You must endeavour to feed cleanly at your ordinary, sit 

melancholy, and pick your teeth when you cannot speak ; and when you come to plays be humourous, 
look with a good starched face, and ruffle your brow like a new boot, laugh at nothing but your own 

jests, or else as the noblemen laugh. That 's a special grace, you must observe You 

must pretend alliance with courtiers and great persons : and ever, when you are to dine or sup in any 
strange presence, hire a fellow with a great chain (though it be copper it's no matter) to bring you 
letters, feigned from such a nobleman, or such a knight, or such a lady." 

All this is keen satire. It is directed against what has been the bane of English 
society up to the hour in which we write pretence the aping to be what we are 
not the throwing aside our proper honours and happiness to thrust ourselves into 
societies which despise us, and to sacrifice our real good for fancied enjoyments which 
we ourselves feel to be worthless. 

Turn we from the gentlemen to the citizens. The satire which we have tran- 
scribed is followed by a recommendation to get largely in debt amongst the " rich 
fellows that have the world, or the better part of it, sleeping in their counting houses." 
According to Jonson's picture in another comedy (" The Devil is an Ass ") the citi- 
zens were as anxious to get the gentlemen in their books as the gentlemen to be 



CHAP. I.] GLIMPSES OF SOCIETY. 261 



there. The following dialogue takes place between Gilthead, a goldsmith, and 
Piutarchus, his son : 

" Plu, but, good father, you trust too much. 

Gilt. Boy, boy, 

We live by finding fools out to be trusted. 
Our shop-books are our pastures, our corn-grounds ; 
We lay 'em open, for them to come into ; 
And when we have them there we drive them up 
Into one of our two pounds, the compters, straight ; 
And this is to make you a gentleman ! 
We citizens never trust, but we do cozen : 
For if our debtors pay, we cozen them ; 
And if they do not, then we cozen ourselves. 
But that 's a hazard every one must run 
That hopes to make his son a gentleman ! 

Plu. I do not wish to be one, truly, father. 
In a descent or two we come to be 
Just in their state, fit to be cozen'd like them ; 
For, since the gentry scorn the city so much, 
Methinks we should in time, holding together, 
And matching in our own tribes, as they say, 
Have got an act of common-council for it, 
That we might cozen them out of rerum natura. 

Gilt. Ay, if we had an act first to forbid 
The marrying of our wealthy heirs unto them, 
And daughters with such lavish portions : 
That confounds all. 

Plu. And makes a mongrel breed, father. 
And when they have your money, then they laugh at you, 
Or kick you down the stairs. I cannot abide them : 
I would fain have them cozen'd, but not trusted," 

The age in which Jonson wrote was remarkable for two things which generally go 
together boundless profusion, and the most extravagant desire for sudden wealth. 
The poet has left us two of the most vivid personifications of an insane abandonment 
to the longing for boundless riches that were ever conceived by a deep philosophical 
spirit working upon actual observation. Sir Epicure Mammon in the " Alchymist," 
is a character for " all time." The cheating mysteries by which his imagination 
was inflamed have long ceased to have their dupes ; but there are delusions in the 
every-day affairs of life quite as exciting, perhaps more dangerous. The delights 
which this unfortunate dupe proposes to himself, when he shall have obtained the 
philosopher's stone, are strong illustrations indeed of the worthlessness of ill-employed 
riches : 

" We will be brave, Puffe, now we have the med'cine. 
My meat shall all come in in Indian shells, 
Dishes of agate set in gold, and studded 
With emeralds, sapphires, hyacinths, and rubies. 
The tongues of carps, dormice, and camels' heels, 
Boil'd in the spirit of sol, and dissolv'd pearl, 
Apicius' diet 'gainst the epilepsy : 
And I will eat these broths with spoons of amber, 
Headed with diamond and carbuncle. 
M-y footboy shall eat pheasants, calver'd salmons, 
Knots, godwits, lampreys : I myself will have 
The beards of barbels serv'd instead of salads ; 
Oil'd mushrooms ; and the swelling unctious paps 
Of a fat pregnant sow, newly cut off, 
Dress'd with an exquisite and poignant sauce ; 
For which, I '11 say unto my cook, There 's gold ; 
Go forth, and be a knight." 



262 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK iv. 



And then conies the little tobacconist, Abel Drugger, who " this summer will be of 
the clothing of his company ;" and he would give a crown to the Alchymist to 
receive back a fortune. This satire, it may be objected, is not permanent, because 
we have no alchymy now ; but the passion which gave the alchymists their dupes 
is permanent : and Jonson has exhibited another mode in which it sought its grati- 
fication, which comes somewhat nearer to our own times. The Norfolk Squire of 
" The Devil is an Ass " meets with a projector one who pretends to influence 
at court to obtain monopolies an "undertaker," who makes men's fortunes 
without the advance of a penny, except a mere trifle of a ring or so by way of 
present to the great lady who is to procure the patent. But let the projector speak 
for himself : 

" He shall not draw 

A string of 's purse ; I '11 drive his patent for him. 
We '11 take in citizens, commoners, and aldermen, 
To bear the charge, and blow them off again, 
Like so many dead flies, when it is carried. 
The thing is for recovery of drown'd land, 
Whereof the crown 's to have a moiety, 
If it be owner ; else the crown and owners 
To share that moiety, and the recoverers 
To enjoy the t'other moiety for their charge. 

JEng. Throughout England ] 

Meer. Yes ; which will arise 
To eighteen millions seven the first year : 
I have computed all, and made my survey 
Unto an acre." 

The dupe thus recounts his great fortunes to his wife : 

" Wife, such a man, wife ! 
He has such plots ! he will make me a duke ! 
No less, by heaven ! six mares to your coach, wife ! 
That 's your proportion ! and your coachman bald, 
Because he shall be bare enough. Do not you laugh ; 
We are looking for a place, and all, in the map, 
What to be of. Have faith be not an infidel. 
You know I am not easy to be gull'd. 
I swear, when I have my millions, else, I '11 make 
Another duchess, if you have not faith. 

Mrs. Fitz. You'll have too much, I fear, in these false spirits. 

Fitz. Spirits ! 0, no such thing, wife ; wit, mere wit. 
This man defies the devil and all his works ; 
He does 't by engine, and devices, he ! 
He has his winged ploughs, that go with sails, 
Will plough you forty acres at once ! and mills 
Will spout you water ten miles off" ! All Crowland 
Is ours, wife : and the fens, from us, in Norfolk, 
To the utmost bounds in Lincolnshire ! we have view'd it, 
And measur'd it within all, by the scale : 
The richest tract of land, love, in the kingdom ! 
There will be made seventeen or eighteen millions, 
Or more, as 't may be handled ! so therefore think, 
Sweet-heart, if thou hast a fancy to one place 
More than another, to be duchess of, 
Now name it ; I will have 't, whate'er it cost, 
(If 't will be had for money,) either here, 
Or in France, or Italy. 

Mrs. Fitz. You have strange phantasies ! " 

Is this satire obsolete ? 



CHAP. I.] GLIMPSES OF SOCIETY. 263 



But there is another form of the passion whose permanency and universality 
cannot be denied. What the victims of gaming propose to themselves Jonson has 
delineated with inimitable humour : 

" There 's a young gentleman 
Is born to nothing forty marks a year, 
Which I count nothing : he is to be initiated, 
And have a fly of the doctor. He will win you, 
By unresistible luck, within this fortnight, 
Enough to buy a barony. They will set him 
Upmost, at the groom-porters, all the Christmas : 
And for the whole year through, at every place 
Where there is play, present him with the chair ; 
The best attendance, the best drink ; sometimes 
Two glasses of Canary, and pay nothing ; 
The purest linen, and the sharpest knife ; 
The partridge next his trencher. 
You shall have your ordinaries bid for him, 
As playhouses for a poet ; and the master 
Pray him aloud what dish he affects, 
Which must be butter'd shrimps : and those that drink 
To no mouth else will drink to his as being 
The goodly president mouth of all the board." 

A general appetite for luxurious fare appears to have been one of the most pre- 
vailing vices, both in the Court and in the City in these days. In the beginning of 
the reign of James I. London was one universal academy for gourmands and gourmets. 
The cooks, according to Jonson, were infected with principles that in an earlier age 
of the Reformation would have consigned them to the stake : 

" Where have you greater atheists than your cooks 1 " 

But in the more tolerant age of James, the master-cooks, whose atheism (if this 
quality be not a mere scandal of the poet) was derived with their professional 
knowledge from " the world abroad " for travel was then necessary to make an 
accomplished cook cooks were then personages that the great delighted to 
honour : 

" A master-cook ! why he 's the man of men, 
For a professor ! he designs, he draws, 
He paints, he carves, he builds, he fortifies, 
Makes citadels of curious fowl and fish : 
Some he dry-ditches, some moats round with broths ; 
Mounts marrow-bones ; cuts fifty-angled custards ; 
Rears bulwark pies ; and, for his outer works, 
He raiseth ramparts of immortal crust ; 
And teacheth all the tactics at one dinner. 

He is an architect, an engineer, 

A soldier, a physician, a philosopher, 

A general mathematician ! " 

The passage in the " Alchymist " in which Jonson pours out his learning in 
describing the rare but somewhat nasty dishes of ancient cookery, is a gorgeous 
piece of verse. We doubt whether " dormice," and " camels' heels," and the " beards 
of barbels," and " oiled mushrooms," would really be so successful as the perform- 
ances of the maltre de cuisine to the Mar6chal Strozzi, who, at the seige of Leith, 
according to Monsieur Beaujeu, " made out of the hind quarter of one salted horse 
forty-five converts, that the English and Scottish officers and nobility, who had the 



264 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK IV. 



honour to dine with Monseigneur upon the rendition, could not tell what the devil 
any one of them were made upon at all." The real professors of that day, according 
to the recommendation which Ho well gives of one of them in 1630, could " mari- 
nate fish," " make jellies," were " excellent for piquant sauce and the haugou," 
were " passing good for an olla," understood " larding of meat after the mode of 
France," and decorated their victims with "chains of sausages." With these 
refinements prevailing amongst us two centuries ago, it is lamentable to think how 
we retrograded to the Saxon barbarism of sirloins and suet-dumplings in the days 
of George III. 

Gifford has remarked that " Shakspere is the only one of the dramatic writers of 
the age of James who does not condescend to notice tobacco ; all the others abound 
in allusions to it." In Jonson we find tobacco in every place in Cob the water- 
man's house, and in the Apollo Club-room on the stage, and at the ordinary. The 
world of London was then divided into two classes the tobacco-lovers and the 
tobacco-haters. Jonson has made Bobadill speak the exaggerated praise of the one 
class : " I have been in the Indies, where this herb grows, where neither myself nor 
a dozen gentlemen more of my knowledge have received the taste of any other 
nutriment in the world for the space of one-and-twenty weeks, but the fume of 
this simple only : therefore, it cannot be but 't is most divine." Cob the waterman, 
on the other hand, represents the denouncers of the weed : " Odds me, I marie 
what pleasure or felicity they have in taking this roguish tobacco ! It 's good for 
nothing but to choke a man, and fill him full of smoke and embers : there were 
four died out of one house last week with taking of it, and two more the bell 
went for yesternight." King James I., in his celebrated " Counterblast to Tobacco," 
is an imitator of Master Cob, for he raises a bugbear of " an unctuous and oily 
kind of soot found in some great tobacco-takers that after their death were 
opened." The Bang could not write down tobacco, even with Joshua Sylvester for 
an ally ; who in his poem entitled " Tobacco Battered, and the Pipes Shattered," 
informs us that 

" Of all the plants that Tellus' bosom yields, 
In groves, glades, gardens, marshes, mountains, fields, 
None so pernicious to man's life is known 
As is tobacco, saving hemp alone." 

In the old play called " Jack Drum's Entertainment," one of the characters says, 
" I have followed ordinaries this twelvemonths, only to find a fool that had lands, or 
a fellow that would talk treason, that I might beg him." Garrard, in his letters to 
Lord Strafford, communicates a bit of news to his patron, which not only illustrates 
the unprincipled avarice of the courtiers down almost to the time when a national 
convulsion swept this and other abominations away with much that was good and 
graceful but which story is full of a deep tragic interest. An old usurer dies in 
Westminster ; his will is opened, and all the property the coin, the plate, the 
jewels, and the bonds all is left to his man-servant. The unhappy creature goes 
mad amidst his riches ; and there is but one thing thought of at court for a week 
who is to be successful in begging him. Elizabeth had the merit of abolishing 
the more hateful practice of begging concealed lands, that is such lands as at the 
dissolution of the monasteries had privily got into the possession of private persons. 
There was not a title in the kingdom that was thus safe from the rapacity of the 
begging courtiers. But, having lost this prey, they displayed a new ability for the 
discovery of treason and treasonable talk. In the "Poetaster," written in 1601, 
Jonson does not hesitate to speak out boldly against this abominable practice. The 
characters in the following dialogue are Lupus, Caesar, Tucca, and Horace ; and, 



CHAP. I.] GLIMPSES OF SOCIETY. 265 



as wo have already mentioned, Jonson himself was designated under the name of 
Horace : 

" Lup. A libel, Caesar ; a dangerous, seditious libel ; a libel in picture. 

Ccesar. A libel ! 

Lup. Ay ; I found it in this Horace his study, in Mecaenas his house 
here ; I challenge the penalty of the laws against them. 

Tuc. Ay, and remember to beg their land betimes ; before some of these 
hungry court-hounds scent it out. 

Ccesar. Show it to Horace : ask him if he know it. 

Lup. Know it ! his hand is at it, Caesar. 

Ccesar. Then 't is no libel. 

HOT. It is the imperfect body of an emblem, Caesar, I began for Mecaenas. 

Lup. An emblem ! right : that 's Greek for a libel. Do but mark how 
confident he is. 

HOT. A just man cannot fear, thou foolish tribune ; 
Not, though the malice of traducing tongues, 
The open vastness of a tyrant's ear, 
The senseless rigour of the wrested laws, 
Or the red eyes of strain'd authority, 
Should, in a point, meet all to take his life : 
His innocence is armour 'gainst all these." 

Soon after the accession of James, Jonson himself went to prison for a supposed 
libel against the Scots in " Eastward Ho ; " in the composition of which comedy he 
assisted Chapman and Marston. They were soon pardoned : but it was previously 
reported that their ears and noses were to be slit. Jonson's mother, at an entertain- 
ment which he made on his liberation, "drank to him, and showed him a paper 
which she designed, if the sentence had taken effect, to have mixed with his drink, 
and it was strong and hasty poison." Jonson, who tells this story himself, says, 
" to show that she was no churl, she designed to have first drunk of it herself." This 
is a terrible illustration of the ways of despotism. Jonson was pardoned, probably 
through some favouritism. Had it been otherwise, the future laureat of James would 
have died by poison in a wretched prison, and that poison given by his mother. 
Did the bricklayer's wife learn this terrible stoicism from her classical son ? Fortu- 
nately there was in the world at that day, as there is now, a higher spirit to make 
calamity endurable than that of mere philosophy ; and Jonson learnt this in sickness 
and old age. After he had become a favourite at court he still lost no proper 
occasion of lashing the rapacious courtiers. If a riot took place in a house, and 
manslaughter was committed, the house became a deodand to the Crown, and was 
begged as usual. In " The Silent Woman," first acted in 1609, one of the characters 
says, " 0, sir, here hath like to have been murder since you went ; a couple of 
knights fallen out about the bride's favours : we were fain to take away their 
weapons ; your house had been begged by this time else." To the question, " For 
what ? " comes the sarcastic answer, " For manslaughter, sir, as being accessary" 

The universal example of his age made Jonson what we should now call a court 
flatterer. Elizabeth old, wrinkled, capricious, revengeful was "the divine Cynthia." 
But Jonson compounded with his conscience for flattering the Queen, by satirizing 
her court with sufficient earnestness ; and this, we dare say, was not in the least 
disagreeable to the Queen herself. In " Cynthia's Revels " we have a very bizarre 
exhibition of the fantastic gallantry, the absurd coxcombities, the pretences to wit, 
which belonged to lords in waiting and maids of honour. Affectation here wears 
her insolent as well as her " sickly mien." Euphuism was not yet extinct ; and so 
the gallant calls his mistress "my Honour," and she calls him "her Ambition." 
But this is small work for a satirist of Jonson's turn ; and he boldly denounces 
"pride and ignorance " as "the two essential parts of the courtier." "The ladies and 



266 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGBAPHY. [BOOK IV. 



gallants lie languishing upon the rushes ; " and this is a picture of the scenes in the 
antechambers : 

" There stands a neophyte glazing of his face, 
Preening his clothes, perfuming of his hair, 
Against his idol enters ; and repeats, 
Like an imperfect prologue, at third music, 
His parts of speeches, and confederate jests, 
In passion to himself. Another swears 
His scene of courtship over ; bids, believe him, 
Twenty times ere they will ; anon, doth seem 
As he would kiss away his hand in kindness ; 
Then walks off melancholic, and stands wreath'd 
As he were pinn'd up to the arras, thus. 

Then fall they in discourse 

Of tires and fashions ; how they must take place ; 
Where they may kiss, and whom; when to sit down, 
And with what grace to rise : if they salute, 
What court 'sy they must use : such cobweb stuff 
As would enforce the common'st sense abhor 
Th' Arachnean workers." 

The dramatist has bolder delineations of profligacy and ambition portraits in which 
the family likeness of two centuries and a half ago may yet be traced, if we make 
due allowances for the differences between the antique ruff and the costume of our 
unpicturesque days : 

" Here stalks me by a proud and spangled sir, 
That looks three handfuls higher than his foretop ; 
Savours himself alone, is only kind 
And loving to himself ; one that will speak 
More dark and doubtful than six oracles ; 
Salutes a friend as if he had a stitch ; 
Is his own chronicle, and scarce can eat 
For registering himself ; is waited on 
By ninnies, jesters, panders, parasites, 
And other such-like prodigies of men. 
He pass'd, appears some mincing marmoset 
Made all of clothes and face ; his limbs so set 
As if they had some voluntary act 
Without man's motion, and must move just so 
In spite of their creation : one that weighs 
His breath between his teeth, and dares not smile 
Beyond a point, for fear t' unstarch his look ; 
Hath travell'd to make legs, and seen the cringe 
Of several courts and courtiers ; knows the time 
Of giving titles, and of taking walls ; 
Hath read court commonplaces ; made them his : 
Studied the grammar of state, and all the rules 
Each formal usher in that politic school 
Can teach a man. A third comes, giving nods 
To his repenting creditors, protests 
To weeping suitors, takes the coming gold 
Of insolent and base ambition, 
That hourly rubs his dry and itchy palms ; 
Which grip'd, like burning coals, he hurls away 
Into the laps of bawds and buffoons' mouths. 
With him there meets some subtle Proteus, one 
Can change and vary with all forms he sees ; 
Be anything but honest ; serves the time ; 
Hovers betwixt two factions, and explores 



CHAP. I.] 



GLIMPSES OF SOCIETY. 



267 



The drifts of both, which, with cross face, he bears 
To the divided heads, and is receiv'd 
With mutual grace of either." 

It was in such a state of society as this a transition state, in which the contests 
of classes had ceased to be a contest of physical power a condition in which " the 
age is grown so piiked that the toe of the peasant conies so near the heel of the 
courtier, he galls his kibe," an age of separation, when tyranny had lost much of 
its force, and the weak had also surrendered its partial protection, that Shakspere 
lived in his later years. They were his years of philosophy. He had seen the 
hollowness of " the ignorant present " and threw himself into the universal. 




[Thomas Dekker.] 



268 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK iv 








[Hall of the Middle Temple. 1 



CHAPTER II. 



LABOURS AND REWARDS. 



"AT our feast we had a play called ' Twelve Night; or, What you Will,' much like 
the 'Comedy of Errors,' or 'Menechmus' in Plautus, but most like and neere to 
that in Italian called ' Inganni.' A good practise in it to make the steward believe 
biis lady widdowe was in love with him, by counterfayting a letter, as from a lady, 
in geiierall termes telling him what shee liked best in him, and prescribing his 
gestures, inscribing his apparaile, &c., and then when he came to practise, making 
him beleeve they tooke him to be mad." The student of the Middle Temple, whose 
little diary, after snugly lying amongst the Harleian Manuscripts, now in the British 



CHAP. II.] LABOURS AND REWARDS. 269 



Musueni, unnoticed for two centuries and a quarter, luckily turned up to give us 
one authentic memorial of a play of Shakspere's, is a facetious and gossiping young 
gentleman, who appears to have mixed with actors and authors, recording the scandal 
which met his ear with a diligent credulity. The 2nd of February, 1602, was the 
Feast of the Purification, which feast and AU-Hallown Day, according to Dugdale, 
" are the only feasts in the whole year made purposely for the Judges and Serjeants 
of this Society, but of later time divers noblemen have been mixed with them." 
The order of entertainment on these occasions is carefully recorded by the same 
learned antiquary.* The scarlet robes of the Judges and Serjeants, the meat carried 
to the table by gentlemen of the house under the bar, the solemn courtesies, the 
measures led by the Ancient with his white staff, the call by the reader at the cup- 
board " to one of the gentlemen of the bar, as he is walking or dancing with the 
rest, to give the Judges a song," the bowls of hypocras presented to the Judges 
with solemn congees by gentlemen under the bar, all these ceremonials were matter 
of grave arrangement according to the most exact precedents. But Dugdale also 
tells us of " Post Revels performed by the better sort of the young gentlemen of the 
Society, with galliards, corantos, and other dances ; or else with stage plays." The 
historian does not tell us whether the stage plays were performed by the young 
gentlemen of the Society, or by the professional players. The exact description 
which the student gives of the play of " Twelfth Night" would lead us to believe 
that it had not been previously familiar to him. It was not printed. The probabi- 
lity therefore is that it was performed by the players, and by Shakspere's company. 
The vicinity of the Blackfriars would necessarily render the members of the two 
Societies well acquainted with the dramas of Shakspere, and with the poet himself. 
There would be other occasions than the feast days of the Society that Shakspere 
would be found amidst those Courts. Amongst "the solemn temples" which 
London contained, no one would present a greater interest than that ancient edifice 
in which he might have listened, when a young man, to the ablest defender of the 
Church which had been founded upon the earlier religion of England ; one who did 
not see the wisdom of wholly rejecting all ceremonials consecrated by habit and 
tradition ; who eloquently wrote " Of Law there can be no less acknowledged than 
that her seat is the bosom of God, her voice the harmony of the world : all things 
in heaven and earth do her homage, the very least as feeling her care, and the greatest 
as not exempted from her power." t It was in the spirit of this doctrine that Shak- 
spere himself wrote 

" The heavens themselves, the planets, and this centre, 
Observe degree, priority, and place, 
Insisture, course, proportion, season, form, 
Office, and custom, in all line of order." J 

Dugdale's " Origines" was published six years after the Restoration. He speaks of 
the solemn revels of Inns of Court, with reference to their past and to their existing 
state. They had wont to be entertained with Post Revels, which had their dances 
and their stage plays. This was before the domination of the Puritans, when stage 
plays and dancing were equally denounced as " the very works, the pomps, inven- 
tions, and chief delights of the devil." There is a passage in Dugdale which shows 
how the revels at the Inns of Court gradually changed their character according to 
the prevailing opinions: "When the last measure is dancing, the Reader at the 
Cupboard calls to one of the Gentlemen of the Bar, as he is walking or dancing with 

* " Origines Juridiciales," p. 205. f Hooker's u Eccclesiastical Polity," Book I. 

J " Troilus and Cressida," Act I., Scene in. Prynne's " Histrio-Mastix." 



270 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK iv. 




[Interior of the Temple Church.] 

the rest, to give the Judges a song : who forthwith begins the first line of any psalm 
as he thinks fittest ; after which all the rest of the company follow, and sing with 
him." This is very like the edifying practice of the Court of Francis I., where the 
psalms of Clement Marot were sung to a fashionable jig, or a dance of Poitou.* 
Shakspere had good authority when he made the clown say of his three-man song- 
men, " They are most of them means and basses : but one Puritan amongst them, 
and he sings psalms to hornpipes, "t This is one of the few allusions which Shak- 
spere has to that rising sect, which in a few years was to become the dominant 
power in the state. Ben Jonson attacks them again and again with the most bitter 
indignation, and the coarsest satire.J The very hardest gird which Shakspere has 
at them is contained in the gentle reproof of Sir Toby to the Steward, " Dost thou 
think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale V In this 
very scene of "Twelfth Night" he ridicules the unreasoning hostility with which 
the Puritans themselves were assailed by the ignorant multitude. Sir Toby asks to 
be told something of the Steward : 

" Mar. Marry, sir, sometimes he is a kind of Puritan. 
Sir And. 0, if I thought that, I 'd beat him like a dog. 
Sir Toby. What, for being a Puritan ? thy exquisite reason, dear knight 1 
Sir And. I have no exquisite reason for 't, but I have reason good enough." 

* See Warton's " History of English Poetry," Section xlv. 
f " Winter's Tale," Act iv., Scene n. J See " The Alchymist," and " Bartholomew Fair." 



CHAP. II.] LABOURS AND REWARDS. 271 



This is iii the best spirit of toleration, which cannot endure that any body of men 
should be persecuted for their opinions, and especially by those who will show no 
reason for their persecution but that they " have reason good enough." 

In May, 1602, Shakspere made a large addition to his property at Stratford by 
the purchase, from W*illiam and John Combe, for the sum of three hundred and 
twenty pounds, of one hundred and seven acres of arable land in the town of Old 
Stratford. The indenture, which is in the possession of Mr. Wheler of Stratford, 
is dated the 1st of May, 1602.* The conveyance bears the signatures of the vendors 
of the property. But although it concludes in the usual form, " The parties to these 
presents having interchangeably set to their hands and seals," the counterpart (also 
in the possession of Mr. Wheler) has not the hand and seal of the purchaser of the 
property described in the deed as " William Shakespere, of Stratford-upon-Avon, in 
the conn tie aforesaide, Gentleman." The counterpart is not signed, and the piece 
of wax which is affixed to it is unimpressed with any seal. The property was delivered 
to Gilbert Shakspere to the use of William. Gilbert was two years and a half 
younger than William, and in all likelihood was the cultivator of the land which the 
poet thus bought, or assisted their father in the cultivation. 

We collect from this document that William Shakspere was not at Stratford on 
the 1st of May, 1602, and that his brother Gilbert was his agent for the payment of 
the three hundred and twenty pounds paid "at and before the sealing" of the con- 
veyance. In the following August the Lord Chamberlain's company performed 
" Othello " in the house of the Lord Keeper at Harefield. The accounts of the large 
expenditure on this occasion, in the handwriting of Sir Arthur Mainwaring, were 
discovered by Mr. Collier amongst the " Egertou Papers," and they contain the 
following entry: 

"6 August, 1602. Rewardcs to the vaultcrs, players, and dauncers. Of 
this x h to Burbidge's players for Othello, Ixiiij 1 ' xviij 8 . x d ."t 

The Queen came to Harefield on the 31st of July, and remained there during the 
1st and 2nd of August. In those days Harefield Place was "a fair house standing 
on the edge of the hill, the river Coin passing near the same through the pleasant 
meadows and sweet pastures, yielding both delight and profit." This is Norden's 
description, a little before the period of Elizabeth's visit. The Queen was received, 
after the usual quaint fashion of such entertainments, with a silly dialogue between 
a bailiff and a dairymaid, as she entered the domain ; and the house welcomed her 
with an equally silly colloquy between Place and Time. The Queen must have been 
somewhat better pleased when a copy of verses was delivered to her in the morning, 
beginning 

" Beauty's rose, and virtue's book, 
Angel's mind and angel's look." 

The weather, we learn from the same verses, was unpropitious : 

" Only poor St. Swithin now 
Doth hear you blame his cloudy brow." 

* The document, which contains nothing remarkable in its clauses, is given in Mr. Wheler's 
" History of Stratford-upon-Avon." 

f This important entry was first published by Mr. Collier in his " New Particulars regarding the 
Works of Shakespeare," 1836. Mr. Collier in the same tract publishes "a poetical relic," of which 
he says, " Although I believe it to be his, I have some hesitation in assigning it to Shakespeare." 
This copy of verses, without date or title, found amongst the same papers, bears the signature W. Sh. 
or W. Sk. (Mr. Collier is doubtful which). If the verses contained a single line which could not be 
produced by any one of the " mob of gentlemen who write with ease," we would venture to borrow 
a specimen. 



272 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK iv. 



Some great poet was certainly at work upon this occasion, but not Shakspere.* It 
was enough for him to present the sad story of 

" The gentle lady married to the Moor." 

Another was to come within' some thirty years who should sing of Harefield with 
the power of a rare fancy working upon classical models, and who thus makes the 
Genius of the Wood address a noble audience in that sylvan scene: 

*' For know, by lot from Jove I am the Power 
Of this fair wood, and live in oaken bower, 
To nurse the saplings tall, and curl the grove 
With ringlets quaint, and wanton windings wove. 
And all my plants I save from nightly ill 
Of noisome winds, and blasting vapours chill : 
And from the boughs brush off the evil dew, 
And heal the harms of thwarting thunder blue, 
Or what the cross dire-looking planet smites, 
Or hurtful worm with canker'd venom bites. 
When evening gray doth rise, I fetch my round 
Over the mount, and all this hallow'd ground ; 




[Harefield.J 

* These verses, with other particulars of the entertainment, were first published from an original 
manuscript in Nicholls's " Progresses of Queen Elizabeth." 



CHAP. II.] 



LABOURS AND REWARDS. 



273 



And early, ere the odorous breath of morn 
Awakes the slumb'ring leaves, or tassel'd horn 
Shakes the high thicket, haste I all about, 
Number my ranks, and visit every sprout 
With puissant words, and murmurs made to bless." 

Doubly honoured Harefield ! Though thy mansion has perished, yet are thy groves 
still beautiful. Still thy summit looks out upon a fertile valley, where the gentle 
river wanders in silent beauty. But thy woods and lawns have a charm which are 
wholly their own. Here the " Othello" of William Shakspere was acted by his own 
company ; here is the scene of the " Arcades " of John Milton. 

Amongst the few papers rescued from " time's devouring maw" which enable us 
to trace Shakspere's career with any exactness, there is another which relates to the 
acquisition of property in the same year. It is a copy of Court Roll for the Manor 
of Rowington, dated the 28th of September, 1602, containing the surrender by 
Walter Getley to the use of William Shakspere of a house in Stratford, situated in 
Walker Street. This tenement was opposite Shakspere's house of New Place. It is 
now taken down ; it was in existence a few years ago. 



- - 




1 1 louse in Walker Street.] 

This document, which is in the possession of Mr. Hunt, the town-clerk of Stratford, 
shows that at the latter end of September, 1602, William Shakspere, the purchaser 
of this property, was not at Stratford. It could not legally pass to him, being a 
copyhold, till he had done suit and service in the Lord's Court ; and the surrender 
therefore provides that it should remain in the possession of the lord till he, the 
purchaser, should appear. 

In the September of 1602, the Earl of Worcester, writing to the Earl of Shrews- 
bury, says, " We are frolic here in Court, much dancing in the Privy Chamber of 
country-dances before the Queen's Majesty, who is exceedingly pleased therewith." 
In the December she was entertained at Sir Robert Cecil's house in the Strand, and 
some of the usual devices of flattering mummery were exhibited before her. A few 
months saw a period to the frolic and the flattery. The last entry in the books of 
the Treasurer of the Chamber during the reign of Elizabeth, which pertains to Shak- 
spere, is the following; melancholy in the contrast between the Candlemas-Day of 

T 2 



274 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK 



1603, the 2nd of February, and the following 24th of March, when Elizabeth died : 
" To John Hemynges and the rest of his companie, servaunts to the Lorde Ch im- 
berleyne, uppon the Councells Warraunte, dated at Whitehall the xxth o Ajrill, 
1 603, for their paines and expences in preseiitinge before the Queenes M tie twoe 
playes, the one uppon St. Stephens day at nighte, and thother upon Candlemas day 
at night, for ech of which they were allowed, by way of her Ma 18 rewarde, tenne 
poundes, amounting in all to xx 11 ." The late Queen's Majesty ! Before she had seen 
the play on Candlemas-day, at night, she had taken Sir Robert Carey by the hand, 




and wrung it hard, saying, " Robin, I am not well." At the 
date of the Council's warrant to John Hemings, Elizabeth 
had not been deposited in the resting-place of Kings at West- 
minster. Her pomp and glory were now to be limited to the 
display of heralds and banners and officers of state ; and, to 
mark especially the nothingness of all this, " The lively pic- 
ture of her Majesty's whole body, in her Parliament-robes, with 
a crown on her head, and a sceptre in her hand, lying on the 
corpse enshrined in lead, and balmed ; covered with purple 
velvet ; borne in a chariot, drawn by four horses, trapped in 
black velvet." 



CHAP. II.] LABOURS AND REWARDS. 275 



King James I. of England left his good city of Edinburgh on the 5th of April, 
1603. He was nearly five weeks on the road, banqueting wherever he rested ; at 
one time releasing prisoners, " out of his princely and Christian commiseration," and 
at another hanging a cut-purse taken in the fact. He entered the immediate neigh- 
bourhood of London in a way that certainly monarch never entered before or 
since : " From Stamford Hill to London was made a train with a tame deer, that 
the hounds could not take it faster than his Majesty proceeded." On the 7th of 
May he was safely lodged at the Charter-House ; and one of his first acts of autho- 
rity in the metropolis, after creating four new peers, and issuing a proclamation 
against robbery on the Borders, was to order the Privy Seal for the patent to 
Lawrence Fletcher, William Shakspere, and others. We learn from the patent 
itself that the King's servants were to perform publicly " when the infection of the 
plague shall decrease." It is clear that the King's servants were not at liberty then 
to perform publicly. How long the theatres were closed we do not exactly know ; 
but a document is in existence, dated April 9th, 1604, directing the Lord Mayor of 
London, and Justices of Middlesex and Surrey, " to permit and suffer the three com- 
panies of players to the King, Queen, and Prince to exercise their plays in their 
.several and usual houses."* On the 20th of October, 1603, Joan, the wife of the 
celebrated Edward Alleyn, writes to her husband from London, " About us the 
sickness doth cease, and likely more and more, by God's help, to cease. All the 
companies be come home, and well, for aught we know." Her husband is hawking 
in the country, and Henslowe, his partner, is at the Court. Shakspere is in London. 
Some one propounded a theory that there was no real man called William Shakspere, 
and that the plays which passed with his name were the works of Marlowe and 
others. This very letter of good Mrs. Alleyn shows that William Shakspere not 
only lived but went about pretty much like other people, calling common things by 
their common names, giving advice about worldly matters in the way of ordinary 
folk, and spoken of by the wife of his friend without any wonder or laudation, just 
as if he had written no " Midsummer Night's Dream," or " Othello " : "Aboute a 
weeke a goe there came a youthe, who said he was Mr. Francis Chaloner, who would 

have borrowed X H to have bought things for and said he was known 

unto you, and Mr. Shakespeare of the Globe, who came .... said he knewe 

hym not, onely he herde of hyni that he was a roge so he was glade 

we did not lend him the monney Richard Johnes [went] to seeke and 

inquire after the fellow, and said he had lent hym a horse. I feare me he gulled 
hym, thoughe he gulled not us. The youthe was a prety youthe, and hansome in 
appayrell : we knowe not what became of hym." So we learn from the Papers in 
Dulwich CoUege printed in Mr. Collier's " Memoirs of Edward Alleyn." But there 
is a portentous " discovery" brought to light by the science of Palaeography. Mr. 
Halliwell, the facile princeps of the science, says, " It has been stated that Shakspeare 
was in London in October, 1603, on the strength of a letter printed in Mr. Collier's 
Memoirs of Alleyn, p. 63 ; but having carefully examined the original, I am con- 
vinced it has been misread. The following is now all that remains." And then 
Mr. Halliwell prints " all that remains," which does not contain the name of Shak- 
spere at all. We know, beyond a doubt, that Mr. Collier saw the words which he 
for the first time published ; though the letter was much damaged by the damp, 
and was falling to pieces. But although Shakspere was in London on the 20th 
of October, 1603, it is tolerably clear that the performances at the public 
theatres were not resumed till after the order of the 9th of April, 1604. In 

* Malone's " Inquiry," p. 215. Mr. Collier prints the document in his "Life of Alleyn," by which 
it appears that there had been letters of prohibition previously issued that had reference to the con- 
tinuance of the plague, and that it still partially continued. 



276 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK IV. 



the Office Books of the Treasurer of the Chamber there is an entry of a payment 
of thirty-two pounds upon the Council's warrant, dated at Hampton Court, February 
8th, 1604, "by way of his Majesty's free gift" to Richard Burbage, one of his 
Majesty's comedians, " for the maintenance and relief of himself and the rest of his 
company, being prohibited to present any plays publicly in or near London, by reason 
of great peril that might grow through the extraordinary concourse and assembly of 
people, to a new increase of the plague, till it shall please God to settle the city in a 
more perfect health." * But though the public playhouses might be closed through 
the fear of an " extraordinary concourse and assembly of people," the King, a few 
months previous, had sent for his own players to a considerable distance to perform 
before the Court at Wilton. There is an entry in the same Office Book of a payment 
of thirty pounds to John Hemings " for the pains and expenses of himself and the 
rest of his company in coming from Mortlake in the county of Surrey unto the Court 
aforesaid, and there presenting before his Majesty one play on the 2nd of December 
last, by way of his Majesty's reward." t Wilton was the seat of William Herbert, 
Earl of Pembroke, to 'whom it has been held that Shakspere's Sonnets were 
addressed. We do not yield our assent to this opinion.! But we know from good 
authority that this nobleman, " the most universally beloved and esteemed of any 




[William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke.] 

man of that age," (according to Clarendon,) befriended Shakspere, and that his 
brother joined him in his acts of kindness. The dedication by John Heminge and 
Henry Condell, prefixed to the first collected edition of the works of Shakspere, is 
addressed, " To the most noble and incomparable pair of brethren, William Earl of 
Pembroke, and Philip Earl of Montgomery." In the submissive language of poor 



** -*- J.AAJ.O. ij JUGU1 \J1 J-TXV/llt&wJ.JJ.C/J. V . J-JLJ. LI1U OtiMlUJ 

* Cunningham's " Eevels at Court," p. xxxv. f Ibid. 
J See " Studies/' page 498. 



p. xxxiv. 



CHAP. II.] 



LABOURS AND REWARDS. 



277 



players to their " singular good lords " they say, " When we value the places your 
Honours sustain, we cannot but know their dignity greater than to descend to the 
reading of these trifles ; and while we name them trifles, we have deprived ourselves 
of the defence of our dedication. But since your Lordships have been pleased to 
think these trifles something, heretofore ; and have prosecuted both them, and their 
author living, with so much favour : we hope that (they out-living him, and he not 
having the fate, common with some, to be executor to his own writings) you will use 
the like indulgence toward them you have done unto their parent." They subse- 
quently speak of their Lordships liking the several parts of the volume when they 
were acted but their author was the object of their personal regard and favour. 




[Philip Herbert, Earl of Montgomery.] 



The call to Wilton of Shakspere's company might probably have arisen from Lord 
Pembroke's desire to testify this favour. It would appear to be the first theatrical 
performance before James in England. The favour of the Herberts towards Shaks- 
pere thus began early. The testimony of the player-editors would imply that it 
lasted during the poet's life. The young Earl of Pembroke, upon whom James had 
just bestowed the Order of the Garter, would scarcely, we think, have been well 
pleased to have welcomed the poet to Wilton who had thus addressed him : 

" How sweet and lovely dost thou make the shame, 
Which, like a canker in the fragrant rose, 
Doth spot the heauty of thy budding name ! " * 

* Sonnet xcv. 



278 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK iv. 




[Wolsey's Hall, Hampton Court.] 

At the Christmas of the same year the King had taken up his residence at 
Hampton Court. It was here, a little before the period when the Conference on 
Conformity in Religion was begun, that the Queen and eleven ladies of honour were 
presenting Daniel's Masque ; and Shakspere and his fellows performed six plays 
before the King and Prince, receiving twenty nobles for each play.* The patronage 
of the new King to his servants, players acting at the Globe, seems to have been 
constant and liberal. To Shakspere this must have been a season of prosperity and 
of honour. The accession of the King gave him something better. His early friend 
and patron Southampton was released from a long imprisonment. Enjoying the 
friendship of Southampton and Pembroke, who were constantly about the King, 
their tastes may have led the monarch to a just preference of the works of Shakspere 
before those of any other dramatist. The six plays performed before the King and 
Prince in the Christmas of 1603-4 at Hampton Court, were followed at the succeed- 

* Cunningham's " Revels at Court," p. xxxv. 



CHAP. It] 



LABOURS AND REWARDS. 



279 



ing Christmas by performances " at the Banqueting-House at Whitehall," in which 
the plays of Shakspere were preferred above those of every other competitor. There 
were eleven performances by the King's players, of which eight were plays .of Shak- 
spere. Jonson shared this honour with him in the representation of "Every One 
in his Humour," and " Every One out of his Humour." A single play by Heywood, 
another by Chapman, and a tragedy by an unknown author, completed the list of 
these revels at Whitehall. It is told, Malone says, " upon authority which there is 
no reason to doubt, that King James bestowed especial honour upon Shakspere." 
The story is told in the Advertisement to Liutot's edition of Shakspere's Poems 
" That most learned Prince and great patron of learning, King James the First, was 
pleased with his own hand to write an amicable letter to Mr. Shakespeare ; which 
letter, though now lost, remained long in the hands of Sir William Davenant, as a 
credible person now living can testify." Was the honour bestowed as a reward for 
the compliment to the King in " Macbeth," or was the compliment to the King 
a tribute of gratitude for the honour ? 

" The Accompte of the Office of the Reuelles of this whole yeres Charge, in An 
1604" which was discovered through the zealous industry of Mr. Peter Cunning- 
ham, is a most interesting document : first, as giving the names of the plays which 
were performed at Court, and showing how pre-eminently attractive were those of 
Shakspere ; secondly, as exhibiting the undiminished charm of Shakspere's early 
plays, such as " The Comedy of Errors," and " Love's Labour 's Lost ;" and, thirdly, 
as fixing the date of one of our poet's dramas, which has generally been assigned to 
a later period " Measure for Measure." The worthy scribe who keeps the accounts 
has no very exact acquaintance with " the poets wch niayd the plaies," as he heads 
the margin of his entries ; for he adds another variety to the modes of spelling the 







[Banqueting- Mouse, Whitehall.] 



280 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK IV. 



name of the greatest of those poets " Shaxberd." The list gives us no informa- 
tion as to the actors which acted the plays, in addition to the poets which made 
them. We learn, indeed, from the corresponding accounts in the Office Books of the 
Treasurer of the Chamber, that on the 21st of January, 1605, sixty pounds were paid 
" To John Hemynges, one of his Ma ts players, for the paines and expences of himselfe 
and the reste of his Companie, in playinge and presentinge of sixe Enterludes, or 
plaies, before his Ma tie ." The name of Shakspere is found amongst the names of the 
performers of Ben Jonson's "Sejanus," which was first acted at the Globe in 1603. 
Burbage, Lowin, Hemings, Condell, Phillipps, Cooke, and Sly had also parts in it. In 
Jonson's " Volpone," brought out at the Globe in 1605, the name of Shakspere does 
not occur amongst the performers. It has been conjectured, therefore, that he 
retired from the stage between 1603 and 1605. But, appended to the letter from 
the Council to the Lord Mayor and other Justices, dated April the 9th, 1604 (which 
we have already noticed), there has been found the following list of the " King's 
Company : " * 

" Burbidge, Condle, Cowley, 

Shakspeare, Hemminges, Hostler, 

Fletcher, Armyn, Day." 

Phillips, Slye, 

It is thus seen that in the spring of 1604 Shakspere was still an actor, and still held 
the same place in the company which he held in the patent of the previous year. 
Lawrence Fletcher, the first named in that patent, has changed places with Burbage. 
The probable explanation of these changes is, that the shareholders periodically chose 
one of their number as their chairman, or official head ; that Lawrence Fletcher 
filled this office at Aberdeen in 1601, and at London in 1603, Burbage succeeding 
to his rank and office in 1604. In the meantime the reputation of Shakspere as a 
dramatic poet must have secured to him something higher than the fame of an 
actor, and something better than courtly honours and pecuniary advantages. He 
must have commanded the respect and admiration of the most distinguished amongst 
his contemporaries for taste and genius. Few, indeed, comparatively of his plays 
were printed. The author of " Othello," for example, must have been content with 
the fame which the theatre afforded him. But in 1604, probably to vindicate his 
reputation from the charge of having, in his mature years, written his " Hamlet," 
such as it appeared in the imperfect edition of 1603, was published "The Tragicall 
Historic of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke. By William Shakespeare. Newly im- 
printed and enlarged to almost as much againe as it was, according to the true and 
perfect coppie." Edition after edition was called for ; and assuredly that wonderful 
tragedy, whose true power can only be adequately felt by repeated study, must have 
carried its wonderful philosophy into the depths of the heart of many a reader who 
was no haunter of play-houses, and have most effectually vindicated plays and play- 
books from the charge of being nothing but " unprofitable pleasures of sin," to be 
denounced in common with " Love-locks, periwigs, women's curling, powdering and 
cutting of the hair, bonfires, New-year's gifts, May-games, amorous pastorals, lasci- 
vious effeminate music, excessive laughter, luxurious disorderly Christmas keeping, 
mummeries."t From the hour of the publication of " Hamlet," in 1604, to these 
our days, many a solitary student must have closed that wonderful book with the 
application to its author of something like the thought that Hamlet himself 
expresses, " What a piece of work is man ! How noble in reason, how infinite in 
faculty ! " 

* Collier's " Memoirs of Alleyn," p. 68. f Prynne's " Histrio-Mastix." 



CHAP. III.] 



BEST. 



281 




[The Garden of New Place.] 

CHAPTER III. 

REST. 



WE have seen that in the year 1602 Shakspere was investing the gains of his profession 
in the purchase of property at Stratford. It appears from the original Fines of the 
Court of King's Bench, preserved in the Chapter-house, that a little before the acces- 
sion of James, in 1603, Shakspere had also purchased a messuage at Stratford, with 
barns, gardens, and orchards, of Hercules Underbill, for the sum of sixty pounds.* 
There can be little doubt that this continued acquisition of property in his native 
place had reference to the ruling desire of the poet to retire to his quiet fields and 
the placid intercourse of society at Stratford, out of the turmoil of his professional 
life and the excitement of the companionship of the gay and the brilliant. And yet 
it appears highly probable that he was encouraged, at this very period, through the 
favour of those who rightly estimated his merit, to apply for an office which would 
have brought him even more closely in connexion with the Court. As one of 

* The document was first published in Mr. Collier's " New Facts." 



282 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK IV. 



the King's servants he received the small annual fee of three pounds six and eight- 
pence. 

On the 30th of January, 1604, Samuel Daniel was appointed by letters patent to an 
office which, though not so called, was in fact that of master of the Queen's Revels. 
In a letter from Daniel to Lord Ellesmere, he expresses his thanks for a " new, great, 

and unlocked for favour I shall now be able to live free from those 

cares and troubles that hitherto have been my continual and wearisome compa- 
nions I cannot but know that I am less deserving than some that 

sued by other of the nobility unto her Majesty for this room : if M. Dray ton, my 
good friend, had been chosen, I should not have murmured, for sure I am he would 
have filled it most excellently ; but it seemeth to mine humble judgment that one who 
is the author of plays now daily presented on the public stages of London, and the 
possessor of no small gains, and moreover himself an actor in the King's Company 
of Comedians, could not with reason pretend to be Master of the Queen's Majesty's 
Revels, forasmuch as he would sometimes be asked to approve and allow of his own 
writings. Therefore he, and more of like quality, cannot justly be disappointed, 
because through your honour's gracious interposition the chance was haply mine."* 
It appears highly probable that Shakspere was pointed at as the author of popular 
plays, the possessor of no small gains, the actor in the King's company. It is not 
impossible that Shakspere looked to this appointment as a compensation for his 
retirement from the profession of an actor, retaining his interest, however, as a the- 
atrical proprietor. Be that as it may, he still carried forward his ruling purpose of 
the acquisition of property at Stratford. In 1605 he accomplished a purchase 
which required a larger outlay than any previous investment. On the 24th of July, 
in the third year of James, a conveyance was made by Ralph Huband, Esq., to 
William Shakspere, gentleman, of a moiety of a lease of the great and small tithes 
of Stratford, for the remainder of a term of ninety-two years, and the amount of the 
purchase was four hundred and forty pounds. There can be little doubt that he was 
the cultivator of his own land, availing himself of the assistance of his brother 
Gilbert, and, in an earlier period, probably of his father. An account in 1597 of 
the Stock of malt in the borough of Stratford, is said to exhibit ten quarters in the 
possession of William Shakspere, of Chapel Street Ward. New Place was situated 
in Chapel Street. The purchase of a moiety of the tithes of so large a parish as 
Stratford might require extensive arrangements for their collection. Tithes in those 
days were more frequently collected in kind than by a modus. But even if a modus 
was taken, it would require a knowledge of the value of agricultural produce to farm 
the tithes with advantage, t But before the date of this purchase it is perfectly 
clear that William Shakspere was in the exercise of the trading part of a farmer's 
business. He bought the hundred and seven acres of land of John and William 
Combe in May, 1602. In 1604 a declaration was entered in the Borough Court of 
Stratford, on a plea of debt, William Shakspere against Philip Rogers, for the sum 
of thirty-five shillings and ten-pence, for corn delivered. The precept was issued in 
the usual form upon this declaration, the delivery of the corn being stated to have 
taken place at several times in the first and second years of James. There cannot 
be more distinct evidence that William Shakspere, at the very period when his 
dramas were calling forth the rapturous applause of the new Sovereign and his 
Court, and when he himself, as it would seem, was ambitious of a courtly office, did 

* This letter, found amongst the " Egerton Papers/' is published by Mr. Collier in his " New 
Facts." 

f There is a document dated the 2Sth of October, 1614, in which William Replingham covenants 
with William Shakspere to make recompense for any loss and hindrance, upon arbitration, for and in 
respect to the increasing value of tithes. 



CHAP. III.] REST. 283 

not disdain to pursue the humble though honourable occupation of a farmer in 
Stratford, and to exercise his just rights of property in connexion with that occupa- 
tion. We must believe that he looked forward to the calm and healthful employ- 
ment of the evening of his days, as a tiller of the land which his father had tilled 
before him, at the same time working out noble plans of poetical employment in his 
comparative leisure, as the best scheme of life in his declining years. The exact 
period when he commenced the complete realization of these plans is somewhat 
doubtful. He had probably ceased to appear as an actor before 1605.* If the date 
1608 be correctly assigned to a letter held to be written by Lord Southampton, it is 
clear that Shakspere was not then an actor, for he is there described as " till of late 
an actor of good account in the company, now a- sharer in the same." His partial 
freedom from his professional labours certainly preceded his final settlement at 
Stratford. 

In the conveyance by the Combes to Shakspere in 1602, he is designated as 
William Shakspere of Stratford-upon-Avon. The same designation holds in subse- 
quent legal documents connected with Stratford ; but there is no doubt that, at the 
period of the conveyance from the Combes, he was an actor in the company per- 
forming at the Blackfriars and at the Globe ; and in tracing therefore the " where- 
about " of Shakspere, from the imperfect records which remain to us, we have 
aasumad that where the fellows of Shakspere are to be found, there is he to be also 
located. But in the belief that before 1608 he had ceased to be an actor, we are 
not required to assume that he was so constantly with his company as before that 
partial retirement. His interest would ^ no doubt require his occasional presence 
with them, for he continued to be a considerable proprietor in their lucrative con- 
cerns. That prudence and careful management which could alone have enabled him 
to realize a large property out of his professional pursuits, and at the same time not 
to dissipate it by his agricultural occupations, appears to have been founded upon an 
.arrangement by which he secured the assistance of his family, and at the same time 
made a provision for them. We have seen that in 1602 his brother Gilbert was 
his representative at Stratford. Richard, who was ten years his junior, and who, 
dying a year before him, was buried at Stratford, would also appear to have been 
resident there. His youngest brother Edmund, sixteen years his junior, was, there 
can be little question, associated with him in the theatre ; and he probably looked 
to him to attend to the management of his property in London, after he retired 
from any active attention to its conduct. But Edmund died early. He lived in 
the parish of St. Saviour's, and the register of burials of that parish has the follow- 
ing record : " 1607, December 31st, Edmond Shakespeare, a player, in the church." 
The death of his brother might probably have had a considerable influence upon 
the habits of his life, and might have induced him to dispose of all his theatrical 
property, as there is reason to believe he did, several years before his death. The 
value of a portion of this property has been ascertained, as far as it can be, upon 
an estimate for its sale ; and by this estimate the amount of his portion, as com- 
pared with that of his co-proprietors, is distinctly shown. The original establish- 
ment of the theatre at the Blackfriars, in 1574 was in opposition, to the attempt of 
the Corporation of London to subject the players to harsh restrictions. Within the 
city the authority of the Lord Mayor and Aldermen appears to have been powerful 
enough to resist the protection which was given to the players by the Court. Burbage 
therefore built his theatre at a convenient place, just out of the jurisdiction of the 
city. In 1579 the Corporation were defeated in some attempt to interfere with the 
players at the Blackfriars Theatre, by a peremptory order in Council that they should 

* See the preceding Chapter. 



284 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK IV. 



not be restrained nor in anywise molested in the exercise of their quality. The 
players at a subsequent period occasionally exercised freedoms towards the digni- 
taries of the city, not so much in the regular drama, as in those merriments or jigs 
with which the comic performers amused the groundlings. In 1605 the worshipful 
magistrates took this freedom so greatly to heart that they brought the matter 
before the Privy Council : " Whereas Kemp, Armin, and others, players at the 
Blackfriars, have again not forborne to bring upon their stage one or more of the 
worshipful Aldermen of the City of London, to their great scandal and to the 
lessening of their authority ; the Lords of the right honourable the Privy Council are 
besought to call the said players before them and to inquire into the same, that 
order may be taken to remedy the abuse, either by putting down or removing the 
said theatre."* It was probably with reference to such satirizers, often extemporal, 
whose licentiousness dates back as far as the days of Tarleton, that Hamlet said, 
" After your death you had better have a bad epitaph than their ill report while 
you lived." Nothing was done by the Privy Council in consequence of the com- 
plaint of 1605 ; but it appears that in 1608 the question of the jurisdiction of the 
City in the Blackfriars, and especially with reference to the playhouse, was again 
brought before Lord Ellesmere. The proprietors of the theatre remained in undis- 
turbed possession. Out of this attempt a negotiation appears to have arisen for the 
purchase of the property by the City ; for amongst the documents connected with 
this attempt of the Corporation is found a paper headed, " For avoiding of the play- 
house in the precinct of the Blackfriars." The document states, in conclusion, that 
"in the whole it will cost the Lord Mayor and the citizens at the least 7000?." 
Richard Burbage claims 1000?. for the fee, and for his four shares 933?. 6s. 8d. 
Laz. Fletcher owns three shares, which he rates at 700?., that is, at seven years' pur- 
chase. " W. Shakespeare asketh for the wardrobe and properties of the same play- 
house 500 H , and for his four shares, the same as his fellowes Burbidge and Fletcher, 
viz. 933 li 6 s 8 d ." Hemings and Condell have each two shares, Taylor and Lowin 
each a share and a half ; four more players each a half share ; which they all value 
at the same rate. The hired men of the company also claim recompense for their 
loss ; " and the widows and orphans of players who are paid by the sharers at divers 
rates and proportion s."t It thus appears that, next to Richard Burbage, Shakspere 
was the largest proprietor in the theatre ; that Burbage was the exclusive owner 
of the real property, and Shakspere of the personal. We see that Fletcher is the 
next largest shareholder. Fletcher's position, both in Aberdeen and in the licence 
of 1603, did not depend, we conclude, upon the amount of his proprietary interest. 
In the same way that we find in the accounts of the Treasurer of the Chamber pay- 
ments to Hemings, when he was a holder of a smaller number of shares than 
Burbage, or Shakspere, or Fletcher (he probably being then paid as the man of business 
representing the company), so Fletcher in 1601 and 1603 stood at their head by 
some choice independent of his proprietorship. There is a precision in Fletcher's 
valuation of his shares which shows that he possessed the qualities necessary for 
representing the pecuniary interests of his fellows : " Three shares which he rateth 
at 700?,, that is at seven years' purchase for each share, or thirty-three pounds six 
shillings and eight-pence one year with another." Shakspere founds the valuation of 
his share upon the valuation of Burbage and Fletcher. If the valuation be correct, 
Shakspere's annual income derived from his shares in the Blackfriars alone, was 
133?. 6s. 8d. His wardrobe and properties, being perishable matters, were probably 
valued at five years' purchase, giving him an additional income of 100?. This income 

* Collier's " New Facts." 

f This valuable document was discovered by Mr. Collier, and published by him in his " New 
Facts." 



CHAP. III.] REST. 285 

was derived from the Blackfriars alone. His property in the Globe Theatre was in 
all likelihood quite equal. He would, besides, derive additional advantages as the 
author of new plays. With a professional income, then, of 400 or 5001. per annum, 
which may be held to be equal to six times the amount in our present money, it is 
evident that Shakspere possessed the means not only of a liberal expenditure at his 
houses in London and at Stratford, but from the same source was enabled to realize 
considerable sums, which he invested in real property in his native place. We can 
trace his purchase of his "capital messuage" in 1597 ; of his hundred and seven 
acres of land and of a tenement of 1602 ; of another tenement in 1603 ; and of a 
moiety of the tithes of Stratford in 1605. He had previously invested capital in 
the building of the Globe and the repairs of the Blackfriars. His unprofessional 
purchases, during a period of ten years, establish the fact that he improved his 
worldly advantages with that rare good sense which formed so striking a feature in 
the whole character of his mind. That he acquired nothing by unfair dealings with 
his fellow-labourers, authors or actors, we may well believe, even without the testi- 
mony of Henry Chettle in the early period of his career, that " divers of worship 
have reported his uprightness of dealing," and of Hemings and Condell after his 
death, who speak in their Dedication with deep reverence of " so worthy a friend 
and fellow." It would seem, however, that his prosperity was envied. Mr. Collier 
supposes that a passage in an anonymous tract called " Ratsey's Ghost," applies to 
Shakspere : " When thou feelest thy purse well lined, buy thee some place of lord- 
ship in the country, that, growing weary of playing, thy money may there bring thee 

to high dignity and reputation for, I have heard indeed of some that 

have gone to London very meanly, and have come in time to be exceedingly wealthy." 
If the application be correct, we still cannot hold with Mr. Collier that the " gone to 
London very meanly" of this writer implies that "Shakespeare came to London a 
penniless fugitive."* Mr. Collier has shown that in 1589 Shakspere was a share- 
holder in the Blackfriars, taking precedence of the most popular actors, Kemp and 
Armin, and also of William Johnson, a shareholder of fifteen years' standing. If 
Shakspere won this position out of the depths of that poverty which it is the fashion 
to surround him with, absolutely without a tittle of evidence, the success of the first 
four or five years of his professional career must have been greater than that of any 
subsequent period. All the records of Shakspere's professional life, and the results 
of his success as exhibited in the accession of property, indicate, on the contrary, a 
steady and regular advance. They show us that perseverance and industry were as 
much the characteristics of the man as the greatness of his genius ; that he held 
with constancy to the course of life which he had early adopted ; that year by year 
it afforded him increased competence and wealth ; and that if he had the rare privi- 
lege of pursuing an occupation which called forth the highest exercise of his powers, 
rendering it in every essential a pleasurable occupation, he despised not the means 
by which he had risen ; he lived in a free and genial intercourse with his profes- 
sional brethren, and to the last they were his friends and fellows. 

Aubrey says of Shakspere, " He was wont to go to his native country once a-year." 
This statement, which there is no reason to disbelieve, has reference to the period 
when Shakspere was engaged as an actor. There is another account of Shakspere's 
mode of life, which does not contradict Aubrey, but brings down his information to 
a later period. In the " Diary of the Rev. John Ward, Vicar of Stratford-upon- 
Avon," the manuscript of which was discovered in the library of the Medical Society 
of London, we find the following curious record of Shakspere's later years : " I have 
heard that Mr. Shakspeare was a natural wit, without any art at all ; hee frequented 

* " New Facts," p. 31. 



286 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK IV. 



the plays all his younger time, but in his elder days lived at Stratford, and supplied 
the stage with two plays every year, and for itt had an allowance so large, that hee 
spent att the rate of 1000 a-year, as I have heard." The Diary of John Ward 
extends from 1648 to 1679 ; and it is in many respects interesting, from the circum- 
stance that he united the practice of medicine to the performance of his duties as a 
parish priest. Amidst the scanty rural population such a combination was not 
unusual, the bishop of the diocese granting a licence to an incumbent to practise 
medicine in the diocese where he dwelt. Upon the removal from the vicarage of 
Stratford-upon-Avon of Alexander Beane, who had held the living from 1648 to the 
Restoration, John Ward, A.M., was appointed his successor in 1662.* It is evident 
that, although forty-six years had elapsed since the death of Shakspere, his memory 
was the leading association with Stratford-upon-Avon. After noticing that Shak- 
spere had two daughters, we find the entry presented above. It is just possible that 
the new vicar of Stratford might have seen Shakspere's younger daughter Judith, 
who was born in 1585, and, having married Thomas Quiney, in 1616, lived to the 
age of seventy-seven, having been buried on the 9th of February, 1662. The descend- 
ants of Shakspere's family and of his friends surrounded the worthy vicar on every 
side ; and he appears to have thought it absolutely necessary to acquire such a 
knowledge of the productions of the great poet as might qualify him to speak of 
them in general society : " Remember to peruse Shakespeare's plays, and bee much 
versed in them, that I may not bee ignorant in that matter." The honest vicar was 
not quite certain whether the fame of Shakspere was only a provincial one, for he 
adds "Whether Dr. Heylin does well, in reckoning up the dramatick poets which 
have been famous in England, to omit Shakespeare ?"t The good man is not alto- 
gether to be blamed for having previously to 1662 been "ignorant" of Shakspere's 
plays. He was only thirty-three years of age ; and his youth had been passed in 
the stormy period when the Puritans had well nigh banished all literature, and 
especially dramatic literature, from the minds of the people, in their intolerant pro- 
scription of all pleasure and recreation. At any rate we may accept the statements 
of the good vicar as founded upon the recollections of those with whom he was 
associated in 1662. It is wholly consistent with what we otherwise know of Shak- 
spere's life, that " He frequented the plays all his younger time." It is equally 
consistent that he " in his elder days lived at Stratford." There is nothing impro- 
bable in the belief that he " supplied the stage with two plays every year." The 
last clause of the sentence is somewhat startling: "And for it had an allowance 
so large, that he spent at the rate of 1000. a-year, as I have heard." And yet the 
assertion must not be considered wholly an exaggeration. " He spent at the rate of 
1000 a-year," must mean the rate of the time when Mr. Ward is writing. During 
the half century which had preceded the Restoration there had been a more im- 
portant decrease in the value of money than had even taken place in the reign of 
Elizabeth. During that reign the prices of all commodities were constantly rising ; 
but after the reduction of the legal rate of interest from ten per cent, to eight in 
1624, and from eight to six in 1651, the change was still more remarkable. Sir 
Josias Child, in 1688, says that five hundred pounds with a daughter, sixty years 
before, was esteemed a larger portion than two thousand pounds now. It would 
appear, therefore, that the thousand a-year in 1662 was not more than one-third of 
the amount in 1612 ; and this sum, from 3001. to 400L, was, as near as may be, the 
amount which Shakspere appears to have derived from his theatrical property. In 
all probability he held that property during the greater part of the period when he 

* See the list of Incumbents in Wheler's " History of Stratford-upon-Avon," p. 32. 
f See ' Diary," &c., 1839, p. 183. 



CHAP. Ill] REST. 287 

"supplied the stage with two plays every year ;" and this indirect remuneration for 
his poetical labours might readily have been mistaken, fifty years afterwards, as 
" an allowance so large " for authorship that the good vicar records it as a memor- 
able thing. 

It is established that "Othello" was performed in 1602; "Hamlet," greatly 
enlarged, was published in 1604 ; "Measure for Measure" was acted before the 
Court on St. Stephen's night in the same year. If we place Shakspere's partial 
retirement from his professional duties about this period, and regard the plays 
whose dates up to this point have not been fixed by any authentic record, or satis- 
factory combination of circumstances, we have abundant work in reserve for the 
great poet in the maturity of his intellect. " Lear," " Macbeth," " Timon of Athens," 
"Troilus and Cressida," " Cymbeline," "The Winter's Tale," "The Tempest," 
" Henry VIII.," " Coriolanus," " Julius Cccsar," " Antony and Cleopatra," eleven of 
the noblest productions of the human intellect, so varied in their character, the 
deepest passion, the profoundest philosophy, the wildest romance, the most compre- 
hensive history what a glorious labour to fill the nine or ten remaining years of 
the life of the man who had left his native fields twenty years before to seek for 
advancement in doubtful and perilous paths, in a profession which was denounced 
l>y .some and despised by others, amongst companions full of genius and learning, 
but who had perished early in their pride and their self-abandonment ! And he 
returns wealthy and honoured to the bosom of those who are dearest to him his 
wife and daughters, his mother, his sisters and brothers. The companions of his 
boyhood are all around him. They have been useful members of society in their 
native place. He has constantly kept up his intercourse with them. They have 
looked to him for assistance in their difficulties. He is come to be one of them, to 
dwell wholly amongst them, to take a deeper interest in their pleasures and in their 
cares, to receive their sympathy. He is come to walk amidst his own fields, to till 
them, to sell their produce. His labour will be his recreation. In the activity of 
his body will the energy of his intellect find its support and its rest. His nature is 
eminently fitted for action as well as contemplation. Were it otherwise, he would 
have " bad dreams," like his own " Hamlet." Morbid thoughts may have come over 
him " like a passing cloud ;" but from this time his mind will be eminently healthful. 
The imagination and the reason henceforth will be wonderfully balanced. Much of 
this belongs to the progressive character of his understanding ; something to his 
favourable position. 

To a mind which habitually dwells amongst high thoughts, familiar with the 
greatness of the past, the littleness of the present, and the vastness of the future, 
the petty jealousies, the envies, the heart-burnings, that have ever belonged to pro- 
vincial society can only present themselves under the aspect of the ludicrous. 
William Shakspere was no doubt pointed out by some of his neighbours as the rich 
player that had " gone to London very meanly." It appears to us that we can trace 
the workings of this jealousy in a small matter which has hitherto been viewed some- 
what differently. The father and mother of Shakspere were of good family, a 
circumstance more regarded in those days than wealth. We never have attempted 
to show that John Shakspere was a wealthy man ; but we have contended that the 
evidence by which it has been sought to prove that he was " steeped up to the very 
lips in poverty" did not support the allegation. On the grant of arms to John 
Shakspere made in 1596, which is preserved in the Heralds' College, there is a 
memorandum which appears to have been made as an explanation of the circum- 
stances connected with the grant. It recites that John Shakspere showed a previous 
patent ; that he had been chief officer of Stratford ; " that he hath lands and tene- 
ments, of good wealth and substance, five hundred pounds ; that he married a daughter 



288 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK IV. 



and heir of Arden, a gentleman of worship." Malone, who published this docu- 
ment, holds that the assertion that he was worth five hundred pounds is incompatible 
with the averment of a bill in Chancery, filed by John Shakspere and Mary his wife, 
against John Lamberte, who had foreclosed upon the estate of Asbies, mortgaged to 
his father in 1578. The concluding petition of this bill in Chancery says : "And 
for that also the said John Lamberte is of great wealth and ability, and well friended 
and allied amongst gentlemen and freeholders of the country in the said county of 
Warwick, where he dwelleth, and your said orators are of small wealth and very few 
friends and alliance in the said county." Malone calls this " the confession of our 
poet's father himself " of his poverty, and even of his insolvency. 'Others hold the 
same opinion. The averments of the petition and the replication afford a proof 
to the contrary ; for these documents state that the mortgagee wrongfully held 
possession of the premises, although the mortgage-money was tendered in 1580. 
The complainant says that he is a man of small wealth, the man against whom he 
complains is one of great wealth. The possessor of five hundred pounds was not, 
even in those days, a man of great wealth ; but it was a reason, according to the 
heralds, for such a grant of arms as belonged to a gentleman. But he had "very 
few friends and alliance in the said county." This was a motive probably for some 
one of higher wealth and greater friends making an attempt to disturb the honours 
which the heralds had confirmed to John Shakspere. It appears that some charges 
were made against Garter and Clarencieux, Kings at Arms (which offices were then 
held by Dethick and Camden), that they had wrongfully given arms to certain 
persons, twenty-three in number. The answer of Garter and Clarencieux, preserved 
in the Herald's College, was presented on the 10th of May, 1602 ; and it appears 
that John Shakspere was one of those named in the " libellous scroll," as the heralds 
call it. Their answer as regards Shakspere is as follows : " ShaTcespere. It may as 
well be said that Harely, who beareth gould a bend between two cotizes sables, and all 
other that [bear] or and argent a bend sables, usurpe the coat of the Lo. Mauley. As 
for the speare in bend, [it] is a patible difference ; and the person to whom it was 
granted hath borne magestracy, and was justice of peace at Stratford-upon-Avon. 
He maried the daughter arid heire of Arderne, and was able to maintain that estate." 
The information, or "libellous scroll," was heard before Lord Howard and others 
on the 1st of May, 1602. At that time John Shakspere had been dead six months. 
The answer of the heralds points to the position of the person to whom the arms 
were granted in 1599, when the shield of Shakspere was impaled with the ancient 
arms of Arden of Wellingcote. In May, 1602, William Shakspere bore these joint 
arms of his father and mother by virtue of the grant of 1599 ; and against him, 
therefore, was the "libellous scroll" directed. He had bought a "place of lord- 
ship" in the county of Warwick ; he was written down in all indentures, gentleman 
and generosus ; he had a new coat of arms, it is true, but he claimed it through a 
gentle ancestry. Was there any one in his immediate neighbourhood, a rich arid 
proud man, who looked upon the acquisition of lands and houses by the poor player 
with a self-important jealousy 1 Sir Thomas Lucy he who possessed Charlcote in 
the days of William Shakspere's youth was dead. He died on the 6th of July, 
1600 ; and it is probable that he who had looked with reverence upon the worthy 
knight when, as a boy, he was unfamiliar with greatness, might have dropped a tear 
upon his grave in the parish church of Charlcote. But another Sir Thomas Lucy, 
who had just succeeded to large possessions, might have thought it necessary to make 
an attempt to lower, in the eyes of his neighbours, the importance of the presump- 
tuous man who, being nothing but an actor and a poet, had presumed to write 
himself gentleman. In the first copy of "The Merry Wives of Windsor" there is 
not a word about the dignities of Justice Shallow, his old coat, or his quarters. 



CHAP. III.] 



REST. 



289 




[Monument of Sir Thomas Lucy.] 

Those passages first appeared in the folio of 1623. They probably existed when the 
play was acted before James in November, 1604 : 

" Shallow. Sir Hugh, persuade me not ; I will make a Star-chamber matter of it : if he were 
twenty Sir John Falstaffs, he shall not abuse Robert Shallow, esquire. 

Slender. In the county of GHoster, justice of peace, and coram. 

Shal. Ay, cousin Slender, and cust-alorum. 

Slen. Ay, and ratolorum too ; and a gentleman born, master parson j who writes himself arnii- 
gero ; in any bill, warrant, quittance, or obligation, armigefo. 

Shal. Ay, that I do ; and have done any time these three hundred years. 

Slen. All his successors, gone before him, have done 't ; and all his ancestors, that come after 
him, may : they may give the dozen white luces in their coat. 

Shal. It is an old coat. 

Evans. The dozen white louses do become an old coat well ; it agrees well, passant : it is a 
familiar beast to man, and signifies love. 

Shal. The luce is the fresh fish ; the salt fish is an old coat." 

The allusion of the dozen white luces cannot be mistaken. " Three luces hauriant, 
argent," are the arms of the Lucys. The luce is a pike " the fresh fish," but 
the pike of the Lucys, as shown in their arms in the church window of Charlcote,* 
are hauriant, springing, the heraldic term applied to fish ; saltant being the term 
applied to quadrupeds in the same attitude. This is the salt or saltant fish of 
Shallow. The whole passage is a playful satire upon the solemn pretensions of one 
with three hundred years of ancestry boasting of his " old coat." The " dozen white 
louses" (the vulgarism covered by the Welshman's pronunciation) points the appli- 
cation of the satire with a personality which, coming from one whose habitual 
practice was never to ridicule classes or individuals, shows that it was a smart 
return for some insult or injury. The old coat, we believe, could not endure the 



* See Dugdale's " Warwickshire," p. 401. 



U 2 



290 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK IV. 



neighbourhood of the new coat. The "dozen white luces" could not leap in the 
same atmosphere in which the " spear in bend" presumed to dwell. We can un- 
derstand the ridicule of the old coat in the second copy of " The Merry Wives of 
Windsor," without connecting it with the absurd story of the prosecution for deer- 
stealing by the elder Sir Thomas Lucy. The ballad attributed to Shakspere is clearly 
a modern forgery, founded upon the passage in " The Merry Wives of Windsor." 
If the ridicule of the " old coat " had been intended to mark Shakspere's sense of 
early injuries, it would have appeared in the first copy of that play, when the feeling 
which prompted the satire was strong, because the offence was recent. It finds a 
place in the enlarged copy of that comedy, produced, there can be little doubt, at a 
period when some one had prompted an attack upon the validity of the armorial 
honours which were granted to his father ; attacking himself, in all likelihood, in 
the insolent -spirit of an aristocratic provinciality. The revenge is enduring ; the 
subject of the revenge is forgotten. The antiquarian microscope has discovered that, 
in 1602, Sir Thomas Lucy (not the same who punished Shakspere " for stealing his 
deer," because lie died in 1600*) sent Sir Thomas Egerton the present of a buck, 
on the very occasion when the " Othello" of Shakspere was presented before Queen 
Elizabeth at Harefield. Whatever might be the comparative honours of William 
Shakspere and the Knight of Charlcote at the beginning of the seventeenth century, 
this fact furnishes a precise estimate of their relative importance for all future times. 
Posterity has settled the debate between the new coat and the old coat by a very 
summary arbitrement. 

With the exception of this piece of ridicule in " The Merry Wives of Windsor," 
we know not of a single personality which can be alleged against Shakspere, in an 
age when his dramatic contemporaries, especially, bespattered their rivals and their 
enemies as fiercely as any modern paragraph writer. But vulgar opinion, which is 
too apt most easily to recognise the power of talent in its ability to inflict pain 
which would scarcely appreciate the sentiment, 

" 0, it is excellent 

To have a giant's strength \ but it is tyrannous 
To use it like a giant" 

has assigned to Shakspere a performance which has the quality, extraordinary as 
regards himself, of possessing scurrility without wit. It is something lower in the 
moral scale even than the fabricated ballad upon Sir Thomas Lucy ; for it exhibits a 
wanton and unprovoked outrage upon an unoffending neighbour, in the hour of con- 
vivial intercourse. Howe tells the story as if he thought he were doing honour to 
the genius of the man whose good qualities he is at the same moment recording : 
" The latter part of his life was spent, as all men of good sense will wish theirs may 
be in ease, retirement, and the conversation of his friends. He had the good 
fortune to gather an estate equal to his occasion, and, in that, to his wish ; and is 
said to have spent some years before his death at his native Stratford. His pleasur- 
able wit and good nature engaged him in the acquaintance, and entitled him to the 
friendship, of the gentlemen of the neighbourhood. Amongst them, it is a story still 
remembered in that country that he had a particular intimacy with Mr. Combe, an 
old gentleman noted thereabouts for his wealth and usury : it happened, that in a 
pleasant conversation amongst their common friends, Mr. Combe told Shakspeare, in 
a laughing manner, that he fancied he intended to write his epitaph, if he happened 
to outlive him, and since he could not know what might be said of him when he was 

* See ''Egerton Papers," published by the Camden Society, p. 350, in which this fact is over- 
looked. 



CHAP. III.] 



REST. 



291 



dead, he desired it might be done immediately, upon which Shakspeare gave him 
these four lines : 

' Ten in the hundred lies here ingrav'd ; 
'T is a hundred to ten his soul is not sav'd : 
If any man ask, Who lies in this tomb] 
Oh ! Oh quoth the devil, 't is my John-a-Combe.' 

But the sharpness of the satire is said to have stung the man so severely, that he 
never forgave it." Certainly this is an extraordinary illustration of Shakspere's 
"pleasurable wit and good nature" of those qualities which won for him the name 
of the " gentle Shakspere ; " which made Jonson, stern enough to most men, pro- 
claim " He was honest, and of an open and free nature," and that his " mind and 
manners" were reflected in his " well-turned and true-filed lines." John-a-Combc 
never forgave the sharpness of the satire ! And yet he bequeathed by his last will 
" To Mr. William Shakspere, five pounds." Aubrey tells the story with a difference : 
" One time, as he was at the tavern at Stratford-upon-Avon, one Combes, an old 
rich usurer, was to be buryed, he makes there this extemporary epitaph;" and then 
he gives the lines with a variation, in which "vows" rhymes to "allows," instead 
of "sav'd" to "ingrav'd." 

Of course, following out this second story, the family of John Combe resented the 
insult to the memory of their parent, who died in 1614 ; and yet an intimacy sub- 
sisted between them even till the death of Shakspere, for in his own will he bequeaths 
to the son of the usurer a remarkable token of personal regard, the badge of a gen- 
tleman : " To Mr. Thomas Combe my sword." The whole story is a fabrication. 
Ten in the hundred was the old name of opprobrium for one who lent money. To 
receive interest at all was called usury. " That ten in the hundred was gone to the 
devil," was an old joke, that shaped itself into epigrams long before the death of 
John Combe; and in the "Remains of Richard Brathwaite," printed in 1618, we 
have the very epitaph assigned to Shakspere, with a third set of variations, given as 




[The College.] 



292 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK iv. 




[Ancient Hall in the College.] 



a notable production of this voluminous writer : " Upon one John Combe, of Strat- 
ford-upon-Avon, a notable usurer, fastened upon a Tombe that he had caused to be 
built in his Lifetime." The lie direct is given by the will of John Combe to this 
third version of the lines against him ; for it directs that a convenient tomb shall 
be erected one year after his decease. John Combe was the neighbour and without 
doubt the friend of Shakspere. His house was within a short distance of New Place, 
being upon the site of the ancient College, and constructed in part out of the offices 
of that monastic establishment.* It was of John Combe and his brother that 
Shakspere made a large purchase of land in 1602. The better tradition survived 
the memory of Howe's and Aubrey's epitaph ; and before the mansion was pulled 
down, the people of Stratford delighted to look upon the Hall where John Combe 
had listened to the " very ready and pleasant smooth wit " t of his friend " the 
immortal Shakspere," as the good folks of Stratford always term their poet. It was 
here that the neighbours would talk of " pippins " of their " own grafting," of a fine 
"dish of leathercoats," "how a good yoke of bullocks at Stamford Fair ? " "how 
a score of ewes now ? " The poet had brought with him from London a few of the 

* This fine old building, we regret to say, was taken down in 1799. f Aubrey. 



CHAP. III.J REST. 293 

new mulberry plants. There was one at New Place, and one at the College. Which 
throve best ? Should they ever raibe silk-worms upon the leaves, and give a new 
manufacture to Stratford 1 The King was sanguine about the success of his mulberry- 
tree project, for he procured plants from France, and dispersed them through the 
kingdom ; but they doubted.* The poet planted his mulberry-tree for the ornament 
of his " curious knotted garden ; " little dreaming that his very fame in future times 
should accelerate its fall. 

It would be something if we could now form an exact notion of the house in 
which Shakspere lived ; of its external appearance, its domestic arrangements. 
Dugdale, speaking of Sir Hugh Clopton, who built the bridge at Stratford and 
repaired the chapel, says : " On the north side of this chapel was a fair house, 
built of brick and timber, by the said Hugh, wherein he lived in his later days, and 
died." This was nearly a century before Shakspere bought the "fair house," which, 
in the will of Sir Hugh Clopton, is called the "great house." Theobald says that 
Shakspere, " having repaired and modelled it to his own mind, changed the name to 
New Place." Malone holds that this is an error : " I find from ancient documents 
that it was called New Place as early at least as 1565." The great house, having 
been sold out of the Clopton family, was purchased by Shakspere of William Under- 
hill, Esq. Shakspere by his will left it to his daughter, Mrs. Hall, with remainder 
to her heirs male, or, in default, to her daughter Elizabeth and her heirs male, or the 
heirs male of his daughter Judith. Mrs. Hall died in 1649 ; surviving her husband 
fourteen years. There is little doubt that she occupied the house when Queen 
Henrietta Maria, in 1643, coming to Stratford in royal state with a large army, 
resided for three weeks under this roof. The property descended to her daughter 
Elizabeth, first married to Mr. Thomas Nash, and afterwards to Sir Thomas Barnard. 
She dying without issue, New Place was sold in 1675, and was ultimately re-purchased 
by the Tlopton family. Sir Hugh Clopton, in the middle of the eighteenth century, 
resided there. The learned knight thoroughly repaired and beautified the place, as 
the local historians say, and built a modern front to it. This was the first stage of 
its desecration. After the death of Sir Hugh, in 1751, it was sold to the Rev. 
Francis Gastrell, in 1753. 

The total destruction of New Place in 1757, by its then possessor, is difficult to 
account for upon any ordinary principles of action. Malone thus relates the story: 
' The Rev. Mr. Gastrell, a man of large fortune, resided in it but a few years, in 
consequence of a disagreement with the inhabitants of Stratford. Every house in 
that town that is let or valued at more than 40s. a-year is assessed by the overseers, 
according to its worth and the ability of the occupier, to pay a monthly rate toward 
the maintenance of the poor. As Mr. Gastrell resided part of the year at Lichfield, 
he thought he was assessed too highly ; but being very properly compelled by the 
magistrates of Stratford to pay the whole of what was levied on him, on the prin- 
ciple that his house was occupied by his servants in his absence, he peevishly 
declared, that that house should never be assessed again : and soon afterwards 
pulled it down, sold the materials, and left the town. Wishing, as it should seem, 
to be ' damn'd to everlasting fame,' he had some time before cut down Shakspere's 
celebrated mulberry-tree, to save himself the trouble of showing it to those whose 
admiration of our great poet led them to visit the poetic ground on which it stood." 
The cutting down of the mulberry-tree seems to have been regarded as the chief 
offence in Mr. Gastrell's own generation. His wife was a sister of Johnson's corre- 
spondent, Mrs. Aston. After the death of Mr. Gastrell, his widow resided at 
Lichfield ; and in 1776, Boswell, in company with Johnson, dined with the sisters. 

* See Howes's Continuation of Stow's " Chronicle/' p. 894. 



294 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK IV. 



Boswell on this occasion says, "I was not informed till afterwards, that Mrs. 
GastrelTs husband was the clergyman who, while he lived at Stratford-upon-Avon, 
with Gothic barbarity cut down Shakspcre's mulberry-tree, and, as Dr. Johnson told 
me, did it to vex his neighbours. His lady, I have reason to believe on the same 
authority, participated in the guilt of what the enthusiasts of our immortal bard 
deem almost a species of sacrilege." The mulberry- tree was cut down in 1756 ; 
was sold for firewood ; and the bulk of it was purchased by a Mr. Thomas Sharpe, 
of Stratford-upon-Avon, clock and watchmaker, who made a solemn affidavit some 
years afterwards, that out of a sincere veneration for the memory of its celebrated 
planter he had the greater part of it conveyed to his own premises, and worked it 
into curious toys and useful articles. The destruction of the mulberry-tree, which 
the previous possessor of New Place used to show with pride and veneration, enraged 
the people of Stratford ; and Mr. Wheler tells us that he remembers to have heard 
his father say that, when a boy, he assisted in the revenge of breaking the reverend 
destroyer's windows. The hostilities were put an end to by the Rev. Mr. Gastrell 
quitting Stratford in 1757 ; and, upon the principle of doing what he liked with his 
own, pulling the house to the ground in which Shakspere and his children had lived 
and died. 

There is no good end to be served in execrating the memory of the man who 
deprived the world of the pleasure of looking upon the rooms in which the author 
of some of the greatest productions of human intellect had lived, in the common 
round of humanity of treading reverentially upon the spot hallowed by his presence 
and by his labours. It appears to us that this person intended no insult to the 
memory of Shakspere ; and, indeed, thought nothing of Shakspere in the whole 
course of his proceedings. He bought a house, and paid for it. He wished to 
enjoy it in quiet. People with whom he could not sympathize intruded upon him 
to see the gardens and the house. In the gardens was a noble mulberry-tree. 
Tradition said it was planted by Shakspere ; and the professional enthusiasts of 
Shakspere, the Garricks and the Macklins, had sat under its shade, during the occu- 
pation of one who felt that there was a real honour in the ownership of such a place. 
The Rev. Mr. Gastrell wanted the house and the gardens to himself. He had that 
strong notion of the exclusive rights of property which belongs to most Englishmen, 
and especially to ignorant Englishmen. Mr. Gastrell was an ignorant man, though 
a clergyman. We have seen his diary, written upon a visit to Scotland three years 
after the pulling down of New Place. His journey was connected with some elec- 
tioneering intrigues in the Scotch boroughs. He is a stranger in Scotland, and he 
goes into some of its most romantic districts. The scenery makes no impression 
upon him, as may be imagined ; but he is scandalized beyond measure when he 
meets with a bad dinner and a rough lodging. He has just literature enough to 
know the name of Shakspere ; but in passing through Torres and Glamis he has not 
the slightest association with Shakspere's "Macbeth." A Captain Gordon informs his. 
vacant mind upon some abstruse subjects, as to which we have the following 
record : " He assures me that the Duncan murdered at Torres was the same person 
that Shakspere writes of." There scarcely requires any further evidence of the 
prosaic character of his mind ; and if there be some truth in the axiom of Shaks- 
pere, that 

" The man that hath no music in himself, 
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, 
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils," 

we hold, upon the same principle, that the man who speaks in this literal way of the 
" person that Shakspere writes of," was a fit man to root up Shakspere's mulberry- 




CHAP. III.] REST. 295 

tree, and pull down his house, being totally insensible to the feeling that he 
was doing any injury to any person but himself, and holding that the wood 
and the stone were his own, to be dealt with at his own good pleasure. 

It is a singular fact that no drawings or prints exist of New Place as 
Shakspere left it, or at any period before the alterations by Sir Hugh 
Clopton. It is a more singular fact that although Garrick had been there 
only fourteen years before the destruction, visiting the place with a feeling 
of veneration that might have led him and others to preserve some 
memorial of it, there is no trace whatever existing of what New Place 
was before 1757. The representation of "New Place" given in some 
variorum editions of Shakspere, is unquestionably a forgery. A modern 
house is now built upon the spot. Part of the site is still a pleasant place 
of garden and bowling-green. 

The register of marriages at Stratford-upon-Avon, for the year 1607, 
contains the following entry : 

"John Hall, gentleman, and Susanna Shaxspere." 

Susanna, the eldest daughter of William Shakspere, was now twenty-four 
years of age. John Hall, gentleman, a physician settled at Stratford, was 
in his thirty-second year. This appears in every respect to have been a 
propitious alliance. Shakspere received into his family a man of learning 
and talent. Dr. Hall lived at a period when medicine was throwing off 
the empirical rules by which it had been too long directed ; and a school 
of zealous practitioners were beginning to rise up who founded their 
success upon careful observation. It was the age which produced the 
great discoveries of Harvey. Shaksperc's son-in-law belonged to this school 
of patient and accurate observers. He kept a record of the cases which 
came under his care ; and his notes, commencing in the year 1617, still 
exist in manuscript. The minutes of his earlier practice are probably 
lost. The more remarkable of the cases were published more than twenty 
years after his death, being translated from the original Latin by James 
Cooke, and given to the world under the title of " Select Observations 
on English Bodies, or Cures in desperate Diseases." This work went 
through three editions. 






[Signature of Dr. Hall.] 

The season at which the marriage of Shakspere's elder daughter took 
place would appear to give some corroboration to the belief that, at this 
period, he had wholly ceased to be an actor. It is not likely that an 
event to him so deeply interesting would have taken place during his 
absence from Stratford. It was the season of performances at the Globe ; 
when the eager multitude who crowded the pit might look up through 
the open roof upon a brilliant sky ; and when the poet, whose productions were 
the chief attraction of that stage, might rejoice that he could wander in the free 
woods, and the fresh fields, from the spring time, 

" When proud-pied April, dress'd in all his trim, 
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything," 




296 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK iv. 



to the last days of autumn, when he saw 

" The summer's green all girded tip in sheaves, 
Born on the bier with white and bristly beard." 

A pleasanter residence than Stratford, independent of all the early associations 
which endeared it to the heart of Shakspere, would have been difficult to find as a 
poet's resting-place. It was a town, as most old English towns were, of houses 
amidst gardens. Built of timber, it had been repeatedly devastated by fires. In 
1594 and 1595 a vast number of houses had been thus destroyed ; but they were 
probably small tenements and hovels. New houses arose of a better order ; and 
one still exists, bearing the date on its front of 1596, which indicates something of 
the picturesque beauty of an old country town before the days arrived which, by one 
accord, were to be called elegant and refined their elegance and refinement chiefly 
consisting in sweeping away our national architecture, and our national poetry, to 
substitute buildings and books which, to vindicate their own exclusive pretensions 
to utility, rejected every grace that invention could bestow, and in labouring for a 




[House in the High Street, Stratford.] 



CHAP. III.] 



REST. 



297 



dull uniformity lost even the character of proportion. Shakspere's own house was 
no doubt one of those quaint buildings which were pulled down in the last genera- 
tion, to set up four walls of plain brick, with equi-distant holes called doors and 
windows. His garden was a spacious one. The Avon washed its banks : and 
within its enclosures it had its sunny terraces and green lawns, its pleached alleys 
and honeysuckle bowers. If the poet walked forth, a few steps brought him into 
the country. Near the pretty hamlet of Shotteiy lay his own grounds of Bishopton, 
then part of the great common field of Stratford. Not far from the ancient chapel of 
Bishopton, of which Dugdale has preserved a representation, and the walls of which still 




[Bishopton Chapel.] 



remain, would he watch the operation of seed-time and harvest. If he passed the church 
and the mill, he was in the pleasant meadows that skirted the Avon on the pathway 
to Ludington. If he desired to cross the river, he might now do so without going 
round by the great bridge ; for in 1599, soon after he bought New Place, the pretty 
foot-bridge was erected which still bears that date. His walks and his farm-labours 
were his recreations. But they were not his only pleasures. It is at this period 
that we can fix the date of " Lear." That wonderful tragedy was first published in 
1608 ; and the title-page recites that "It was plaid before the King's Majesty at 
White-Hall, uppon S. Stephen's Night ; in Christmas Hollidaies." This most extra- 
ordinary production might well have been the first fruits of a period of comparative 
leisure ; when the creative faculty was wholly untrammelled by petty cares,. and the 
judgment might be employed in working again and again upon the first conceptions, 
so as to produce such a masterpiece of consummate art without after labour. The 
next season of repose gave birth to an effort of genius wholly different in character ; 
but almost as wonderful in its profound sagacity and knowledge of the world, as 
" Lear " is unequalled for its depth of individual passion. " Troilus and Cressida " 
was published in 1609. Both these publications were probably made without the 
consent of the author ; but it would seem that these plays were first produced before 



298 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK iv 




[Foot-bridge above the Mill.] 



the Court, and there might have been circumstances which would have rendered it 
difficult or impossible to prevent their publication, in the same way that the publica- 
tion was prevented of any other plays after 1603, and during the author's life-time. 
We may well believe that the Sonnets were published in 1609, without the consent 
of their author. That the appearance of those remarkable lyrics should have 
annoyed him, by exposing, as they now appear in the eyes of some to do, the 
frailties of his nature, we do not for a moment believe. They would be received by 
his family and by the world as essentially fictitious ; and ranked with the produc- 
tions of the same class with which the age abounded. 

The year 1608 brought its domestic joys and calamities to Shakspere. In the 
same font where he had been baptized, forty-three years before, was baptized, on the 
21st of February, his grand-daughter, "Elizabeth, daughter of John Hall." In the 
same grave where his father was laid in 1601, was buried his mother, "Mary Shak- 
spere, widow," on the 9th of September, 1608. She was the youngest daughter of 
Robert Arden, who died in 1556. She was probably, therefore, about seventy years 
of age when her sons followed her to the " house of all living." Whatever had been 
the fortunes of her early married life, her last years must have been eminently happy. 
Her eldest son, by the efforts of those talents which in their development might 
have filled her with apprehension, had won his way to fame and fortune. Though 
she had parted with him for a season, he was constant in his visits to the home of 
his childhood. His children were brought up under her care ; his wife, in all like- 
lihood, dwelt in affection with her under the same roof. And now he was come to 
be seldom absent from her ; to let her gaze as frequently as she might upon the face 
of the loved one whom all honoured and esteemed ; whose fame she was told was 
greater than that of any other living man. And this was the child of her earliest 
cares, and of her humble hopes. He had won for himself a distinction, and a 



CHAP. III.] REST. 299 

worldly recompense, far above even a, mother's expectations. But in his deep affec- 
tion and reverence he was unchangeably her son. In all love and honour did 
William Shakspere, in the autumn of 1608, lay the head of his venerable mother 
beneath the roof of the chancel of his beautiful parish church.* 

* Shakspere was at Stratford later in the autumn of 1608. In his will he makes a bequest to 
his godson, William Walker. The child to whom he was sponsor was baptized at Stratford, October 
16, 1608. 




(.Stratford Church.) 



300 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK iv. 




[The Bear Garden.] 

CHAPTER IV. 

VISITS TO LONDON. 



THERE is a memorandum existing (to which we shall hereafter more particularly 
advert), by Thomas Greene, a contemporary of Shakspere, residing at Stratford, 
which, under the date of November 17th, 1614, has this record: "My cousin 
Shakspeare coming yesterday to town, I went to see him how he did." We cite 
this memorandum here, as an indication of Shakspere's habit of occasionally visiting 
London ; for Thomas Greene was then in the capital, with the intent of opposing 
the project of an inclosure at Stratford. The frequency of Shakspere's visits to 
London would essentially depend upon the nature of his connexion with the theatres. 
He was a permanent shareholder, as we have seen, at the Blackfriars ; and no doubt 
at the Globe also. His interests as a sharer might be diligently watched over by his 
fellows ; and he might only have visited London when he had a new play to bring 
forward, the fruit of his leisure in the country. But until he disposed of his ward- 



CHAP. IV.] VISITS TO LONDON. 301 



robe and other properties, more frequent demands might be made upon his personal 
attendance than if he were totally free from the responsibilities belonging to the 
charge of such an embarrassing stock in trade. Mr. Collier has printed a memo- 
randum in the handwriting of Edward Alleyn, dated April 1612, of the payment of 
various sums " for the Blackfryers," amounting to 599?. 6s. 8d. Mr. Collier adds, 
" To whom the money was paid is nowhere stated ; but, for aught we know, it was 
to Shakespeare himself, and just anterior to his departure from London." The 
memorandum is introduced with the observation, " It seems very likely, from evi- 
dence now for the first time to be adduced, that Alleyn became the purchaser of our 
great dramatist's interest in the theatre, properties, wardrobe, and stock of the Black- 
friars." Certainly the document itself says nothing about properties, wardrobe, and 
stock. It is simply as follows : 

" April 1612. 

Money paid by me E. A. for the Blackfryers . 160 li, 

More for the Blackfryers 126H 

More aga'ne for the Leasse . . . . 310 li 

The writings for the same, and other small charges 3 li 6s. 8d." 

More than half of the entire sum is paid "again for the lease." If the estimate "For 
avoiding of the Playhouse," &c., be not rejected as an authority, the conjecture of 
Mr. Collier that the property purchased by Alleyn belonged to Shakspere is wholly 
untenable ; for the Fee, valued at a thousand pounds, was the property of Burbage, 
and to the owner of the Fee would be paid the sum for the lease. Subsequent 
memoranda by Alleyn show that he paid rent for the Blackfriars, and expended 
sums upon the building collateral proofs that it was not Shakspere's personal pro- 
perty that he bought in April 1612. There is distinct evidence furnished by another 
document that Shakspere was not a resident in London in 1613 ; for in an inden- 
ture, executed by him on the 10th of March in that year, for the purchase of a 
dwelling-house in the precinct of the Blackfriars, he is described as " William Shake- 
speare of Stratforde Upon Avon in the Countie of Warwick gentleman ; " whilst his 
fellow John Hemings, who is a party to the same deed, is described as " of London, 
gentleman." From the situation of the property it would appear to have been 
bought either as an appurtenance to the theatre, or for some protection of the inte- 
rests of the sharers. In the deed of 1602, Shakspere is also described as of Strat- 
ford-upon-Avon. It is natural that he should be so described, in a deed for the 
purchase of land at Stratford ; but, upon the same principle, had he been a resident 
in London in 1613, he would have been described as of London in a deed for the 
purchase of property in London. Yet we also look upon this conveyance as evidence 
that Shakspere had in March 1613 not wholly severed himself from his interest in 
the theatre. He is in London at the signing of the deed, attending, probably, to 
the duties which still devolved upon him as a sharer in the Blackfriars. He is not 
a resident in London ; he has come to town, as Thomas Greene describes, in 1614. 
But we have no evidence that he sold his theatrical property at all. Certainly the 
evidence that he sold it to Edward Alleyn may be laid aside in any attempt to fix 
the date of Shakspere's departure from London. 

In the November of 1611 two of Shakspere's plays were acted at Whitehall. The 
entries of their performance are thus given in the " Book of the Revels ; " 

" By the Kings Hallomas nyght was presented att Whithall before y e Kinge 
Players : Ma tie a play called the Tempest. 

The Kings The 5th of Nouember ; A play called y e winters nighte 

Players : Tayle." 

That " The Tempest " was a new play when thus performed, it would be difficult to 



302 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK IV. 



affirm, upon this entry alone. In the earlier part of the reign of James we have 
seen that old plays of Shakspere were performed before the King ; but at that period 
all his plays would be equally novel to the Monarch and to the Court. According 
to the accounts of the Treasurer of the Chamber, the performances at Court of the 
King's players appear to have been so numerous after the year of the accession, that 
it would be necessary to add the attraction of novelty even to Shakspere's stock 
plays. At the Christmas and Shrovetide of 1604-5 there were thirteen perform- 
ances by Shakspere's company ; in 1605-6, ten plays by the same ; in October, 1606, 
upon the occasion of the visit of the King of Denmark, three plays; in 1606-7, 
twenty-two plays ; in 1607-8 there is no record of payments, but in 1608-9 
there are twelve plays : in 1610-11 fifteen plays ; and in 1611-12 (the holidays to 
which we are now more particularly referring) there were six performances by Shak- 
spere's company before the King, and sixteen by the same company " before the 
Prince's Highness." But however probable it may be that the players would be 
ready with novelties for the Court, especially when other companies performed con- 
stantly before the royal family, we have a distinct record that the plays of Shakspere 
held their ground, even though the Court was familiar with them. At the Easter of 
1618, "Twelfth Night " and "The Winter's Tale" were performed before the King. 
We are not, therefore, warranted in concluding that in 1611 "The Tempest" was a 
new play ; although we have evidence that " The Winter's Tale " was then a new 
play. Dr. Forman saw " The Winter's Tale " at the Globe on the 1 5th of May, 1611; 
and he describes it with a minuteness which would make it appear that he had not 
seen it before. This is not conclusive ; but in 1623 "The Winter's Tale" is entered 
in the Office-Book of the Master of the Kevels as an old play, " formerly allowed of 
by Sir George Bucke." Sir George's term of office commenced in 1610. This fixes 
the date with tolerable accuracy, and shows that it was not an old play when 
performed at Court on the 5th of November, 1611. There is a passage in the play 
which might be implied to refer to the great event of which that day was the 
anniversary : 

" If I could find example 
Of thousands that had struck anointed kings 
And flourish 'd after, I 'd not do 't : but since 
Nor brass, nor stone, nor parchment, bears not one, 
Let villainy itself forswear 't." 

But there was a more recent example of the fate of one who had struck an anointed 
king. Henry the Fourth of France was stabbed by Kavaillac on the 14th of May, 
1610 ; and certainly the terrible end of the assassin was a warning for "villainy 
itself" to forswear such a crime. If " The Tempest " and " The Winter's Tale," and 
probably " Cymbeline " also, belong to this epoch and we believe that they were 
separated by a very short interval we have the most delightful evidence of the per- 
fect healthfulness of Shakspere's mind at this period of his life. To the legendary 
tales upon which the essentially romantic drama is built, he brought all the graces 
of his poetry and all the calm reflectiveness of his mature understanding. Beauty 
and wisdom walked together as twin sisters. 

The "Book of the Revels," 1611-12, which thus shows us that the graces of Perdita 
and the charms of Prospero had shed their influence over the courtly throngs of 
Whitehall, also informs us that on Twelfth Night the " Prince's Masque " was per- 
formed. In the margin there is this entry : " This day the King and Prince with 
divers of his noblemen did run at the ring for a prize." There was a magnificence 
about the Court of James at this period which probably had some influence even 
upon the productions which Shakspere presented to the Court and the people. The 
romantic incidents of "The Winter's Tale" and "The Tempest," the opportunities 



CHAP. IV.] VISITS TO LONDON. 303 



afforded by the construction of their plots for gorgeous scenery, the masque so 
beautifully interwoven with the loves of Ferdinand and Miranda, all was in har- 
mony with the poetical character of the royal revels. Prince Henry in his prema- 
ture manhood was distinguished for his skill in all noble exercises. The tourna- 
ments of this period were attempts on the part of the Prince to revive the spirit of 
chivalry. The young man was himself of a higlr and generous nature ; and if he 
was surrounded by some favourites whose embroidered suits and glittering armour 
were the coverings of heartless profligacy and low ambition, there were others amongst 
the courtiers who honestly shared the enthusiasm of Henry, and invoked the genius 
of chivalry, 

" Possess' d with sleep, dead as a lethargy," 

to awake at the name Meliadus.* The " Prince's Masque " was one of those elegant 
productions of Ben Jonson which have given an immortality to the fleeting pleasures 
of the nights of Whitehall. Jonson's own descriptions of the scenery of these 
masques show how much that was beautiful as well as surprising was attempted 
with imperfect materials. The effects were perhaps very inferior to the scenic dis- 
plays of the modern stage, though Inigo Jones was the machinist. But the descrip- 
tions of these wonders rocks, and moons, and transparent palaces, and moving 
chariots are as vivid as if the early genius of Stanfield had realized the poet's con- 
ceptions, t 

It was in the spirit of a high literature that the Masques of the courts of 
Elizabeth and James were conceived. The dramatic entertainments Shakspere's 
especially 

" those flights upon the banks of Thames 

That so did take Eliza and our James," ; 

were open to all the world ; and the great showed then- good sense in cherishing 
those wonderful productions, which could not have been what they are if they had 
been conceived in a spirit of exclusiveuess. But the Masque was essentially courtly 
and regal. It was produced at great expense. It was, like the Italian Opera, con- 
ceived in that artistical spirit which makes its own laws and boundaries. It did not 
profess to be an imitation of common life. To be understood, it assumed that a 
certain portion of classical knowledge and taste existed in the spectator. Hurd, in 
his " Dialogues," says, " I should desire to know what courtly amusements even of 
our time are comparable to the shows and masques which were the delight and 
improvement of the court of Elizabeth." The masques of the time of Elizabeth 
were, however, not in the slightest degree comparable with those produced in the 
reign of James ; in which such men as Jonson, and Daniel, and Fletcher, were the 
artificers " artificer" is the expression which Jonson applies to himself in connexion 
with these performances. The masques of Elizabeth were little more than the old 
pageants, in which heathen deities walked in procession amidst loud music ; and 
the cloth of gold and the silver tinsel constituted a far higher attraction than -the 
occasional speeches of the performers. 

Bacon, whose own mind was essentially poetical, has an essay "Of Masques 
and Triumphs." His notions are full of taste : " It is better they should be graced 
with elegancy than daubed with cost. Dancing to song is a thing of great state 
and pleasure." Choirs placed one over against another, scenes abounding with 

* The name adopted by the Prince. Drummond called him Mceliades, an anagram of Miles a 
Deo. 

f See Mr. Peter Cunningham's "Life of Inigo Jones;" one of those performances,^ which is 
shown how accuracy and dulness are not essential companions; how taste and antiqnarianism may 
co-exist. 



304 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK IV. 



Light, colours of white, carnation, and a kind of sea-water green, graceful suits, 
not after examples of known attires, sweet odours suddenly coming forth ; these 
are Bacon's notions of the chief requisites of a masque. His ideas were realized in 
the masques of Jonson. 

The refinements of the Court extended to the people. The Bear-Garden was 
adapted to theatrical performances ; and rendered " convenient in all things both 
for players to play in, and for the game of bears and bulls to be baited in the 
same."* The gorgeousness of the scenic displays of Whitehall became at this period 
a subject of imitation at the public theatres. Sir Henry Wotton thus writes to his 
nephew on the 6th of July, 1613 ; "Now to let matters of state sleep, I will 
entertain you at the present with what happened this week at the Bankside. The 
King's players had a new play, called, ( All is True,' representing some principal pieces 
of the reign of Henry the Eighth, which was set forth with many extraordinary cir- 
cumstances of pomp and majesty, even to the matting of the stage ; the knights of 
the order, with their Georges and Garter, the guards with their embroidered coats 
and the like ; sufficient, in truth, within a while to make greatness very familiar, if 
not ridiculous." This description, as we believe, applies to the original representa- 
tion of Shakspere's play of " Henry VIII." t We believe also that Shakspere on this 
occasion introduced such a compliment to the government of the King as was con- 
sistent with the independence of his character and the genuine patriotism that was 
a part of his nature : 

" Wherever the bright sun of heaven shall shine, 
His honour, and the greatness of his name, 
Shall be, and make new nations." 

This is somewhat different from Jonson's compliment to the man : 

" His meditations, to his height, are even : 
All, all their issue is akin to heaven 
He is a god o'er kings." J 

And yet it has been said, either that Shakspere condescended to be a flatterer, or 
that he did not write the compliment to James implied in Cranmer's prophecy. We 
believe that he did write the lines ; that they are not an interpolation ; and that, 
although they may have been written in the spirit of gratitude for personal favours, 
it is gratitude of the loftiest kind, honourable alike to the giver and to the receiver, 
because wholly free from adulation. 

There was a catastrophe at this representation of the new play " Henry VIII." 
which may possibly have had some influence upon the future life of Shakspere. 
Sir Henry Wotton thus describes the burning of the Globe Theatre : " Now King 
Henry, making a mask at the Cardinal Wolsey's house, and certain cannons being 
shot off at his entry, some of the paper, or other stuff wherewith one of them was 
stopped, did light on the thatch, where, being thought at first but an idle smoke, and 
their eyes being more attentive to the show, it kindled inwardly, and ran round 
like a train, consuming, within less than an hour, the whole house to the very ground." 
The Globe was re-built in the ensuing spring. The conflagration was so rapid that 
Prynne wished to show it was a judgment of Providence upon players "The 
sudden fearful burning even to the ground." Jonson, in his "Execration upon 
Vulcan," says the Globe was 

" Raz'd, ere thought could urge, this might have been." 

* Collier's " Annals of the Stage," vol. iii., p. 285. 
t See " Studies," Book vin., c. v. J " Masque of Oberon." 



CHAP. IV.] VISITS TO LONDON. 305 



It appears likely that this calamity terminated the direct and personal connexion of 
Shakspere with the London stage. We do not find him associated with the rebuild- 
ing of the Globe, nor with any of the schemes for new theatres with which Alleyn 
and Henslowe were so busy. We have no record whatever of any new play of Shak- 
spere's being produced after this performance of " Henry VIII." at the Globe. Was 
he wholly idle as a writer ? We apprehend not. Of the three Roman plays we have 
yet to speak. 

Every one agrees that during the last three or four years of his life Shakspere 
ceased to write. Yet we venture to think that every one is in error. The opinion 
is founded upon a belief that he only finally left London towards the close of 1613. 
We have shown, from his purchase of a large house at Stratford, his constant acqui- 
sition of landed property there, his active engagements in the business of agriculture, 
the interest which he took in matters connected with his property in which his 
neighbours had a common interest, that he must have partially left London before 
this period. There were no circumstances, as far as we can collect, to have pre- 
vented him finally leaving London several years before 1613. But his biographers, 
having fixed a period for the termination of his connexion with the active business 
of the theatre, assume that he became wholly unemployed ; that he gave himself up, 
as Howe has described, to " ease, retirement, and the conversation of his friends." 
His income was enough, they say, to dispense with labour ; and therefore he did not 
labour. They have attained to " a perfect conviction, that when Shakspere bade 
adieu to London, he left it predetermined to devote the residue of his days exclu- 
sively to the cultivation of social and domestic happiness in the shades of retire- 
ment." These are Dr. Drake's words, who repeats what he has found in Malone and 
the other commentators. Mr. De Quincey, a biographer of a higher mark, gives a 
currency to a very similar opinion : "From 1591 to 1611 are just twenty years, 
within which space lie the whole dramatic creations of Shakspeare, averaging nearly 
one for every six months. In 1611 was written ' The Tempest,' which is supposed 
to have been the last of Shakspeare's works."* " The Tempest" has been held by 
some to be Shakspere's latest work ; as "Twelfth Night" was held by others to be 
the latest. The conclusion in the case of the " Twelfth Night" had been proved 
to be far wide of the truth. There was poetry, at any rate, in the belief that he 
who wrote 

"I '11 break my staff, 
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth, 
And deeper than did ever plummet sound 
I '11 drown my book," 

was "inspired to typify himself ;"t for ever to renounce the spells by which he 
had bound the subject mind. This is, indeed, poetical ; but it is opposed to all 
the experience of the course of a great intellect. Shakspere had to abjure no " rough 
magic," such as his Prospero abjured. His "potent art" was built on the calm 
and equal operations of his surpassing genius. More than half of his life had been 
employed in the habitual exercise of this power. The strong spur, first of necessity, 
and secondly of his professional duty, enabled him to wield this power, even amidst 
the distractions of a life of constant and variable occupation. But when the days of 
leisure arrived, is it reasonable to believe that the mere habit of his life would not 
assert its ordinary control ; that the greatest of intellects would suddenly sink to 
the condition of an every-day man cherishing no high plans for the future, looking 

* " Encyclopaedia Britannica " Article, "Shakspeare." 
f Campbell Preface to Moxon's Edition of Shakspeare. 

x 2 



306 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK IV. 



back with no desire to equal and excel the work of the past 1 At the period of life 
when Chaucer began to write the " Canterbury Tales," Shakspere, according to his 
biographers was suddenly and utterly to cease to write. We cannot believe it. Is 
there a parallel case in the career of any great artist who had won for himself com- 
petence and fame ? Is the mere applause of the world, and a sufficiency of the goods 
of life, "the end-all and the be-all" of the labours of a mighty mind? These 
attained, is the voice of his spiritual being to be heard no more ? Are the thoughts 
with which he daily wrestles to have no utterance ? Is he to come down from the 
mountain from which he had a Pisgah-view of life, and what is beyond life, to walk 
on the low shore where the other children of humanity pick up shells and pebbles, 
from the first hour of their being to the last 1 If those who reason thus could 
present a satisfactory record of the dates of all Shakspere's works, and especially of 
his later works, we should still cling to the belief that some fruits of the last years 
of his literary industry had wholly perished. It is unnecessary, as it appears to us, 
to adopt any such theory. Without the means of fixing the precise date of many 
particular dramas, we have indisputable traces, up to this period, of the appearance 
of at least five-sixths of all Shakspere's undoubted works.* The mention by con- 
temporaries, the notices of their performance at Court, the publications through the 
press, enable us to assign epochs to a very large number of these works, whether the 
labours of his youth, his manhood, or his full and riper years. It is not a fanciful 
theory that these works were produced in cycles ; that at one period he saw the 
capabilities of the English history for dramatic representation ; at another poured 
forth the brilliancy of his wit and the richness of his humour in a succession of 
heart-inspiriting comedies ; at another conceived those great tragic creations which 
have opened a new world to him who would penetrate into the depths of the human 
mind ; taking a loftier range even in his lighter efforts, at another time shedding the 
light of his philosophy and the richness of his poetry over the regions of romantic 
fiction, while other men would have been content to amuse by the power of a well- 
constructed plot and a rapid succession of incidents. Are there any dramas which 
belong to a class not yet described dramas whose individual appearance is not 
accounted for by those who have attempted to fix the exact chronology of other 
plays ? There is such a class. It is formed of the three great Roman plays of 
" Coriolanus," "Julius Caesar," and "Antony and Cleopatra." In our "Studies" 
of those plays we have stated every circumstance by which Malone and others 
attempted to fix their date as between 1607 and 1610. There is not one 
atom of evidence upon the subject beyond the solitary fact that " A book called 
Anthony and Cleopatra," without the name of Shakspere as its author, was entered 
at Stationers' Han on the 20th of May, 1608. Every other entry of a play by 
Shakspere has preceded the publication of the play, whether piratical or otherwise. 
The " Antony and'Cleopatra" of Shakspere was not published till fifteen years after- 
wards ; it was entered in 1623 by the publishers of the folio as one of the copies 
" not formerly entered to other men." And yet we are told that the entry of 
1608 is decisive as to the date of Shakspere's " Antony and Cleopatra." The con- 
jectures of Malone and Chalmers, which would decide the dates of these great plays 
by some fancied allusion, are more than usually trivial. What they are we need not 
here repeat. 

The lines prefixed by Leonard Digges to the first collected edition of Shakspere's 
works would seem to imply that " Julius Csesar" had been acted, and was popular : 

" Nor fire nor cank'ring age, as Naso said 
Of his, thy wit-fraught book shall once invade; 

* See Studies," p. 40. 



CHAP. IV.] VISITS TO LONDON. 307 



Nor shall I e'er believe or think thee dead 

(Though miss'd) until our bankrout stage be sped 

(Impossible !) with some new strain'd t' outdo 

Passions of Juliet and her Romeo ; 

Or till I hear a scene more nobly take 

Than when thy half-sword parleying Romans spake." 

The " half-sword parleying Romans" alludes, there can be little doubt, to the quarrel 
between Brutus and Cassius ; and this is evidence that the play was performed 
before the publication of Digges's verses. We believe that it was performed during 
Shakspere's lifetime. Malone says, " It appears by the papers of the late Mr. George 
Vcrtue, that a play called ' Caesar's Tragedy' was acted at Court before the 10th of 
April, in the year 1613." We agree with Malone that this was probably Shakspere's 
" Julius Cccsar." That noble tragedy is in every respect an acting play. It is not 
too long for representation ; it has no scenes in which the poet seems to have 
abandoned himself to the inspiration of his subject, postponing the work of curtail- 
ment till the necessities of the stage should demand it. Not so was " Coriolanus ;" 
not so especially was " Antony and Cleopatra." They each contain more lines than 
any other of Shakspere's plays ; they are each nearly a third longer than " Julius 
( ';i s;ir." It is our belief that they were not acted in Shakspere's lifetime ; and that 
his fellows, the editors of the folio in 1C 23, had the honesty to publish them from 
the posthumous manuscripts, uncurtailed. In their existing state they are not only 
too long for representation, but they exhibit evidence of that exuberance which 
characterises the original execution of a great work of art, when the artist, throwing 
all his vigour into the conception, leaves for a future period the rejection or com- 
I Mission of passages, however splendid they may be, which impede the progress of 
the action, and destroy that proportion which must never be sacrificed even to indi- 
vidual beauty. We know that this was the principle upon which Shakspere worked 
in the correction of his greatest efforts his " Hamlet," *his " Lear," his " Othello." 
We believe that "Coriolanus" and "Antony and Cleopatra" have come down to 
us unconnected ; that they were posthumous works ; that the intellect which could 
not remain inactive conceived a mighty plan, of which these glorious performances 
were the commencement ; that Shakspere, calmly meditating upon the grandeur of 
the Roman story, seeing how fitted it was, not only for the display of character and 
passion, but for profound manifestations of the aspects of social life, ever changing 
and ever the same, had conceived the sublime project of doing for Rome what he had 
done for England. He has exhibited to us the republic in her youthfulness, and her 
decrepitude ; her struggle against the sovereignty of one ; the great contest for a 
principle terminating in ruin ; an empire established by cunning and proscription. 
There were, behind, the great annals of Imperial Rome ; a story perhaps unequalled 
for the purposes of the philosophical dramatist, but one which the greatest who had 
ever attempted to connect the actions and motives of public men and popular bodies 
with lofty poetry, not didactic but " ample and true with life," was not permitted 
to touch. The marvellous accuracy, the real substantial learning, of the three Roman 
plays of Shakspere, present the most complete evidence to our minds that they were 
the result of a profound study of the whole range of Roman history, including the 
nicer details of Roman manners, not in those days to be acquired in a compendious 
form, but to be brought out by diligent reading alone. It is pleasant to believe that 
the last years of Shakspere's life were those of an earnest student. We confidently 
ask if the belief be not a reasonable one ? 



308 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK iv. 




[Chancel of Stratford Church.] 

t 

CHAPTER V. 

THE LAST BIRTHDAY. 



THE happy quiet of Shakspere's retreat was not wholly undisturbed by calamity, 
domestic and public. His brother Richard, who was ten years his junior, was buried 
at Stratford on the 4th of February, 1613. Of his father's family his sister Joan, 
who had married Mr. William Hart of Stratford, was probably the only other left. 
There is no record of the death of his brother Gilbert , but as he is not mentioned 
in the will of "William, in all likelihood he died before him, Oldys, in his manu- 



CHAP. V.] THE LAST BIRTHDAY. 309 



script notes upon Langbaine, has a story of " one of Shakspeare's younger brothers, 
who lived to a good old age, even some years, as I compute, after the restoration of 
King Charles II." Gilbert was born in 1566 ; so that if he had lived some years 
after the restoration of Charles II., it is not surprising that "his memory was 
weakened," as Oldys reports, and that he could give " the most noted actors " but 
" little satisfaction in their endeavours to learn something from him of his brother." 
The story of Oldys is clearly apocryphal, as far as regards any brother of Shakspere's. 
They were a short-lived race. His sister, indeed, survived him thirty years. The 
family at New Place, at this period, would be composed therefore of his wife only, 
and his unmarried daughter Judith ; unless his eldest daughter and his son-in-law 
formed a part of the same household, with their only child Elizabeth, who was born 
in 1 608. The public calamity to which we have alluded was a great fire, which 
broke out at Stratford on the 9th of July, 1614 ; and "within the space of two 
hours consumed and burnt fifty and four dwelling-houses, many of them being very 
fair houses, besides barns, stables, and other houses of office, together with great 
store of corn, hay, straw, wood, and timber therein, amounting to the value of eight 
hundred pounds and upwards : the force of which fire was so great (the wind setting 
full upon the town), that it dispersed into so many places thereof, whereby the whole 
town was in very great danger to have been utterly consumed."* That Shakspere 
assisted with all the energy of his character in alleviating the miseries of this cala- 
mity, and in the restoration of his town, we cannot doubt. In the same year we 
find him taking some interest in the project of an inclosure of the common-fields of 
Stratford. The inclosure would probably have improved his property, and especially 
have increased the value of the tithes, of the moiety of which he held a lease. The 
Corporation of Stratford were opposed to the inclosure. They held that it would 
be injurious to the poorer inhabitants, who were then deeply suffering from the 
desolation of the fire ; and they appear to have been solicitous that Shakspere should 
take the same view of the matter as themselves. His friend William Combe, then 
high sheriff of the county, was a principal person engaged in forwarding the inclosure. 
The Corporation sent their common clerk, Thomas Greene, to London, to oppose the 
project ; and a memorandum in his hand- writing, which still remains, exhibits the 
business-like manner in which Shakspere informed himself of the details of the plan. 
The first memorandum is dated the 17th of November, 1614, and is as follows : 
" My Cosen Shakspeare comyng yesterday to town, I went to see how he did. He 
told me that they assured him they ment to inclose no further than to Gospel 
Bush, and so upp straight (leaving out pt. of the Dyngles to the field) to the gate in 
Clopton hedg, and take in Salisbury's peece ; and that they mean in Aprill to svey. 
the land and then to gyve* satisfaccion, and not before : and he and Mr. Hall say they 
think yr. will be nothyng done at all." Mr. Greene appears to have returned to 
Stratford in about a fortnight after the date of this memorandum, and Shakspere 
seems to have remained in London ; for according to a second memorandum, which 
is damaged and partly illegible, an official letter was written to Shakspere by the 
Corporation, accompanied by a private letter from Mr. Greene, moving him to exert 
his influence against this plan of the inclosure : "23 Dec. A. Hall, Lres. wrytten, 
one to Mr. Manyring another to Mr. Skakspeare, with almost all the company's 
hands to eyther. I also wrytte myself to my Csn. Shakspear, the coppyes of all 

our then also a note of the inconvenyences wold ... by the inclosure." 

Arthur Manneriug, to whom one of these letters was written by the Corporation, 
was officially connected with the Lord Chancellor, and then residing at his house ; 

* Brief granted for the relief of the inhabitants, on the llth of May, 1615, quoted from Wheler's 
" History of Stratford," p. 15. 



310 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK iv. 



and from the letter to him, which has been preserved, " it appears that he was 
apprised of the injury to be expected from the intended inclosure ; reminded of the 
damage that Stratford, then 'lying in the ashes of desolation,' had sustained from 
recent fires ; and entreated to forbear the inclosure."* The letter to Shakspere has 
not been discovered. The fact of its having been written leaves no doubt of the 
importance which was attached to his opinion by his neighbours. Truly, in his later 
years he had 

" Honour, love, obedience, troops of friends." 

John Combe, the old companion of Shakspere, died at the very hour that the 
great fire was raging at Stratford. According to the inscription on his monument 
he died on the 10th of July, 1614. Upon his tomb is a fine recumbent figure, 
executed by the same sculptor who, a few years later, set up in the same Chancel a 
monument to one who, " when that stone is rent," shall still be " fresh to all ages." 




[Monument of John Combe.] 

Shakspere was at this period fifty years old. He was in all probability healthful 
and vigorous. His life was a pure and simple one ; and its chances of endurance 
were the greater, that high intellectual occupation, not forced upon him by necessity, 
varied the even course of his tranquil existence. His retrospections of the past 
would, we believe, be eminently happy. His high talents had been employed not 
only profitably to himself, but for the advantage of his fellow-creatures. He had 
begun life obscurely, the member of a profession which was scarcely more than 
tolerated. He had found the stage brutal and licentious. There were worse faults 
belonging to the early drama than its ignorant coarseness. It was adapted only for 
a rude audience in its strong excitement and its low ribaldry. He saw that the 
drama was to be made a great teacher. He saw that the highest things in the 
region of poetry were akin to the natural feelings in the commonest natures. 

* Wheler's " Guide to Stratford." 



CHAP. V.] THE LAST BIRTHDAY. 311 



He would make the noblest dramatic creations the most popular. He knew that 
the wit that was unintelligible to the multitude was not true wit, that the passion 
which did not move them to tears or auger was not real passion. He had raised a 
despised branch of literature into the highest art. He must have felt that he had 
produced works which could never die. It was not the applause of princes, or even 
the breath of admiring crowds, that told him this. He would look upon his own 
great creations as works of art, no matter by whom produced, to be compared with 
the performances of other men, to be measured by that high ideal standard which 
was a better test than any such comparisons. Shakspere could not have mistaken 
his own intellectual position ; for if ever there was a mind entirely free from that 
self-consciousness which substitutes individual feelings for general truths, it was 
Shakspere's mind. To one who is perfectly familiar with his works, they come 
more and more to appear as emanations of the pure intellect, totally disconnected 
from the personal relations of the being which has produced them. Whatever 
might have been the worldly trials of such a mind, it had within itself the power of 
rising superior to every calamity. Although the career of Shakspere was prosperous, 
he may have felt " the proud man's contumely," if not " the oppressor's wrong." If 
we are to trust his Sonnets, he did feel these things. But he dwelt habitually in a 
region above these clouds of common life. He suffered family bereavements ; yet 
he chronicled not his sorrows with that false sentimentality which calls upon the 
world to see how graceful it is to weep. In his impersonations of feeling he has 
looked at death under every aspect with which the human mind views the last great 
change. To the thoughtless and selfish Claudio, 

" The weariest and most loathed worldly life 
That ago, ach, penury, and imprisonment 
Can lay on nature, is a paradise 
To what we fear of death." 

To the philosophical Duke life is a thing 

" That none but fools would keep." 
To Hamlet, whose conscience [consciousness] " puzzles the will," 

" The dread of something after death " 

" makes cowards of us all." To Prospero the whole world is as perishable as the 
life of man : 

" The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces, 

The solemn temples, the great globe itself, 

Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve ; 

And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, 

Leave not a rack behind : We are such stuff 

As dreams are made on, and our little life 

Is rounded with a sleep." 

Shakspere, when he speaks in a tone approaching to that of personal feeling, looks 
upon death with the common eye of humanity : 

" That time of year thou mayst in me behold 
"When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang 
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, 
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. 
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day 
As after sunset fadeth in the west, 
Which by and by black night doth take away, 
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest." 

Sonnet Ixxiii. 



312 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK vi. 



He dwells in the place of his birth, and when he asks, " the friends of my childhood 
where are they ? an echo answers, where are they." Some few remain ; the hoary- 
headed eld that he remembered fresh and full of hope. Ever and anon as he rambles 




[Weston Church.] 

through the villages where he rambled in his boyhood, the head of some one is laid 
under the turf whose name he remembers as the foremost at barley-break or foot-ball. 

" To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, 
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day, 
To the last syllable of recorded time ; 
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools 
The way to dusty death." 

The younger daughter of Shakspere was married on the 10th of February, 1616, 
to Thomas Quiney, as the register of Stratford shows. Thomas Quiney was the son 
of Richard Quiney of Stratford, whom we have seen in 1598 soliciting the kind 
offices of his loving countryman Shakspere. Thomas, who was born in 1588, was 
probably a well-educated man. At any rate he was a great master of calligraphy, as 
his signature attests, a plain signature, that un-palseographic men may read : 




CHAP. V.] THE LAST BIRTHDAY. 313 



The last will of Shakspere would appear to have been prepared in some degree with 
reference to this marriage. It is dated the 25th of March, 1616 ; but the word 
" Januarii " seems to have been first written and afterwards struck out, " Martii " 
having been written above it. It is not unlikely, and indeed it appears most 
probable, that the document was prepared before the marriage of Judith ; for the 
elder daughter is mentioned as Susanna Hall, the younger simply as Judith. To 
her, one hundred pounds is bequeathed, and fifty pounds conditionally. The life- 
interest of a further sum of one hundred and fifty pounds is also bequeathed to her, 
with remainder to her children ; but if she died without issue within three years 
after the date of the will,' the hundred and fifty pounds was to be otherwise appro- 
priated. We pass over the various legacies to relations and friends * to come to the 
bequest of the great bulk of the property. All the real estate is devised to his 
daughter Susanna Hall, for and during the term of her natural life. It is then 
entailed upon her first son and his heirs male ; and in default of such issue, to her 
second son and his heirs male ; and so on : in default of such issue, to his grand- 
daughter Elizabeth Hall (called in the language of the time his " niece ") : and in 
default of such issue, to his daughter Judith, and her heirs male. By this strict 
entailment it was manifestly the object of Shakspere to found a family. Like many 
other such purposes of short-sighted humanity the object was not accomplished. 
His elder daughter had no issue but Elizabeth, and she died childless. The heirs 
male of Judith died before her. The estates were scattered after the second 
generation ; and the descendants of his sister were the only transmitters to 
posterity of his blood and lineage.t 

" Item, I give unto my wife my second-best bed, with the furniture." This is the 
clause of the will upon which, for half a century, all men believed that Shakspere 
recollected his wife only to mark how little he esteemed her, to " cut her off, not 
indeed with a shilling, but with an old bed." We had the satisfaction of first 
showing the utter groundlessness of this opinion, and it is pleasant to know, that 
the statement which we originally published, some ten years ago, is now fully acqui- 
esced in by all writers on Shakspere. But it was once very different. To show the 
universality of the former belief in such a charge, we will first exhibit it in the 
words of one, himself a poet, who cannot be suspected of any desire to depreciate 
the greatest master of his art. Mr. Moore, in his " Life of Byron," speaking of un- 
happy marriages with reference to the domestic misfortune of his noble friend, thus 
expresses himself : 

" By whatever austerity of temper, or habits, the poets Dante and Milton may 
have drawn upon themselves such a fate, it might be expected that, at least, the 
'gentle Shakspere' would have stood exempt from the common calamity of his 
brethren. But, among the very few facts of his life that have been transmitted to 
us, there is none more clearly proved than the unhappiness of his marriage. The 
dates of the births of his children, compared with that of his removal from Strat- 
ford, the total omission of his wife's name in the first draft of his will, and the 
bitter sarcasm of the bequest by which he remembers her afterwards, all prove beyond 
a doubt both his separation from the lady early in life, and his unfriendly feeling 
towards her at the close of it. 

" In endeavouring to argue against the conclusion naturally to be deduced from 
this will, Boswell, with a strange ignorance of human nature, remarks, ' If he had 
taken offence at any part of his wife's conduct, I cannot believe he would have taken 
this petty mode of expressing it.' " 

Stevens, amongst many faults of taste, has the good sense and the good feeling 

* See the Will in the Appendix, 
f See notes on some points of the Will : Appendix. 



314 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. [BOOK IV 



to deny the inferences of Malone in this matter of the " old bed." He considers 
this bequest "a mark of peculiar tenderness ;" and he assumes that she was pro- 
vided for by settlement. Stevens was a conveyancer by profession. Malone, who 
was also at the bar, says, " what provision was made for her by settlement does not 
appear." A writer in "Lardner's Cyclopaedia" doubts the legal view of the matter 
which Stevens charitably takes : " Had he already provided for her ? If so, he 
would surely have alluded to the fact ; and if he had left her the interest of a 
specific sum, or the rent of some messuage, there would, we think, have been a 
stipulation for the reversion of the property to his children after her decease." 
Boswell, a third legal editor, thus writes upon the same subject ; " If we may 
suppose that some provision had been made for her during his lifetime, the bequest 
of his second-best bed was probably considered in those days neither as uncommon 
or reproachful." As a somewhat parallel example Boswell cites the will of Sir 
Thomas Lucy, in 1600, who gives his son his second-best horse, but no land, 
because his father-in-law had promised to provide for him. "We will present our 
readers with a case in which the parallel is much closer. In the will of David 
Cecil, Esq., grandfather to the great Lord Burleigh, we find the following bequest to 
his wife : 

" Item I wiU that my wife have all the plate that was hers before I married her ; and 
twenty Icye and a bull"* 

Our readers will recollect the query of the Cyclopa3dist, " Had he already provided 
for her 1 If so, he would surely have alluded to the fact." Poor Dame Cecil, 
according to this interpretation, had no resource but that of milking her twenty kye, 
kept upon the common, and eating sour curds out of a silver bowl. 

The " forgetfulness " and the "neglect" by Shakspere of the partner of his for- 
tunes for more than thirty years is good-naturedly imputed by Stevens to " the 
indisposed and sickly fit." Malone will not have it so : " The various regulations 
and provisions of our author's will show that at the time of making it he had the 
entire use of his faculties" We thoroughly agree with Malone in this particular. 
Shakspere bequeaths to his second daughter three hundred pounds under certain con- 
ditions ; to his sister money, wearing apparel, and a life interest in the house where 
she lives ; to his nephews five pounds each ; to his grand-daughter his plate ; to the 
poor ten pounds ; to various friends, money, rings, his sword. The chief bequest, 
that of his real property, is as follows : 

" Item I give, will, bequeath, and devise, unto my daughter, Susanna Hall, for 
better enabling of her to perform this my will, and towards the performance thereof, 
all that capital messuage or tenement, with the appurtenances, in Stratford afore- 
said, called the New Place, wherein I now dwell, and two messuages or tenements, 
with the appurtenances, situate, lying, and being in Henley Street, within the borough 
of Stratford aforesaid ; and all my barns, stables, orchards, gardens, lands, tenements, 
and hereditaments whatsoever, situate, lying, and being, or to be had, received, per- 
ceived, or taken, within the towns, hamlets, villages, fields, and grounds of Stratford- 
upon-Avon, Old Stratford, Bishopton, and Welcombe, or in any of them, in the said 
county of Warwick ; and alsto that messuage or tenement, with the appurtenances, 
wherein one John Robinson dwelleth, situate, lying, and being in the Blackfriars in 
London, near the Wardrobe ; and all other my lands, tenements, and hereditaments 
whatsoever : to have and to hold all and singular the said premises, with their 
appurtenances, unto the said Susanna Hall, for and during the term of her natural 
life ; and after her decease to the first son of her body lawfully issuing," &c. 

Immediately after this clause, by which all the real property is bequeathed to 

* Peck's " Desiderata Curiosa," lib. iii., No 2. 



CHAP. V.] THE LAST BIRTHDAY. 315 



Susanna Hall, for her life, and then entailed upon her heirs male ; and in default of 
such issue upon his grand-daughter, and her heirs male ; and in default of such 
issue upon his daughter Judith and her heirs male, comes the clause relating to 
his wife : 

"Item I give unto my wife my second-best bed, with the furniture." 

It was the object of Shakspere by this will to perpetuate a family estate. In 
doing so did he neglect the duty and affection which he owed to his wife ? He 
did not. 

Shakspere knew the law of England better than his legal commentators. His 
estates, with the exception of a copyhold tenement, expressly mentioned in his will, 
\\-crufreehuld. His WIFE WAS ENTITLED TO DOWER. She was provided for, as the 
wife of David Cecil was provided for, who, without doubt, was not "cut off" with 
her own plate and twenty kye and a bull. She was provided for amply, by the clear 
and undeniable operation of the English law. Of the lands, houses, and gardens 
which Shakspere infierited from his father, she was assured of the life-interest of a 
third, should she survive her husband, the instant that old John Shakspere died. Of 
the capital messuage, called New Place, the best house in Stratford, which Shakspere 
purchased in 1597, she was assured of the same life-interest, from the moment of the 
conveyance, provided it was a direct conveyance to her husband. That it was so 
conveyed we may infer from the terms of the conveyance of the lands in Old Strat- 
ford, and other places, which were purchased by Shakspere in 1602, and were then 
conveyed " to the onlye proper use and behoofe of the saide William Shakcspere, his 
hcircs and assigncs, for ever." Of a life-interest in a third of these lands also was 
she assured. The tenement in Blackfriars, purchased in 1614, was conveyed to 
Shakspere and three other persons ; and after his death was re-conveyed by those per- 
sons to the uses of his will, " for and in performance of the confidence and trust in 
them reposed by William Shakespeare deceased." In this estate certainly the widow 
of our poet had not dower. The reason is pretty clear it was theatrical property. 
It has been remarked to us that even the express mention of the second-best bed 
was anything but unkindiiess and insult ; that the best bed was in all probability an 
heir-loom : it might have descended to Shakspere himself from his father as an 
heir-loom, and, as such, was the property of his own heirs. The best bed was con- 
sidered amongst the most important of those chattels which went to the heir by 
custom with the house. " And note that in some places chattels as heir-looms (as 
the best bed, table, pot, pan, cart, and other dead chattels moveable) may go to the 
heir, and the heir in that case may have an action for them at the common law, 
and shall not sue for them in the ecclesiastical court ; but the heir-loom is due by 
custom, and not by the common law."* 

It is unnecessary for us more minutely to enter into the question before us. It 
is sufficient for us to have the satisfaction of having first pointed out the absolute 
certainty that the wife of Shakspere was provided for by the natural operation 
of the law of England. She could not have been deprived of this provision 
except by the legal process of Fine, the voluntary renunciation of her own right. 
If her husband had alienated his real estates she might still have held her right, 
even against a purchaser. In the event, which we believe to be improbable, that 
she and the " gentle Shakspere " lived on terms of mutual unkindness, she 
would have refused to renounce the right which the law gave her. In the 
more probable case, that, surrounded with mutual friends and relations, they 
lived at least amicably, she could not have been asked to resign it. In the 
most probable case, that they lived affectionately, the legal provision of dower 

* " Coke upon Littleton," 18 b. 



316 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



[BOOK iv. 



would have been regarded as the natural and proper arrangement so natural 
and usual as not to be referred to in a will. By reference to other wills of the 
same period it may be seen how unusual it was to make any other provision 
for a wife than by dower. Such a provision in those days, when the bulk of pro- 
perty was real, was a matter of course. The solution which we have here offered to 
this long-disputed question supersedes the necessity of any conjecture as to the 
nature of the provision which those who reverence the memory of Shakspere must 
hold he made for his wife. Amongst those conjectures the most plausible has pro- 
ceeded from the zealous desire of Mr. Brown* to remove an unmerited stigma 
from the memory of our poet. He believes that provision was made for Shakspere's 
widow through his theatrical property, which he imagines was assigned 
to her. Such a conjecture, true as it may still be, is not necessary for 
the vindication of Shakspere's sense of justice. We are fortunate in 
having first presented the true solution of the difficulty. There are lines 
in Shakspere, familiar to all, which would have pointed to it : 

" Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour 
Draws on apace ; four happy days bring in 
Another moon ; but, oh, methinks how slow 
This old moon wanes ! she lingers my desires 
Like to a step-dame, or a DOWAGEK f 
Long withering out a young man's revenue." 

Midsummer NiyhCs Dream, Act I. Sc. I. 

The will of Shakspere thus commences : "I, William Shakspere, of 
Stratford-upon-Avon, in the county of Warwick, gent., in perfect health 
and memory, (God be praised !) do make and ordain this my last will 
and testament." And yet within one month of this declaration William 
Shakspere is no more : 

OBIIT ANO. DOI. 1616. ^ETATIS 53. DIE 23. AP. 

Such is the inscription on his tomb. It is corroborated by the register 
of his burial : 

"April 25, Will. Shakspere, Gent." 

Writing forty-six years after the event, the vicar of Stratford says, 
"Shakspere, Drayton, and Ben Jonson had a merry meeting, and, it 
seems, drank too hard, for Shakspere died of a fever there contracted." 
A tradition of this nature, surviving its object nearly half a century, is 
not much to be relied on. But if it were absolutely true, our reverence 
for Shakspere would not be diminished by the fact that he accelerated 
his end in the exercise of hospitality, according to the manner of his age, 
towards two of the most illustrious of his friends. The " merry meet- 
ing," the last of many social hours spent with the full-hearted Jonson 
and the elegant Drayton, may be contemplated without a painful feeling. 
Shakspere possessed a mind eminently social " he was of a free and 
generous nature." But, says the tradition of half a century, " he drank 
too hard" at this "merry meeting." We believe that this is the 
vulgar colouring of a common incident. He "died of a fever there 
contracted." The fever that is too often the attendant upon a hot 

* " Shakspeare's Autobiographical Poems." 

f Dowager is here used in the original sense of a widow receiving dower out of the " revenue ' 
which has descended to the heir with this customary charge. 





CHAP. V.] THE LAST BIRTHDAY. 317 



spring, when the low grounds upon a river bank have been recently inundated, is a 
fever that the good people of Stratford did not well understand at that day. The 
"merry meeting" rounded off a tradition much more effectively. Whatever was the 
immediate cause of his last illness, we may weU believe that the closing scene was 
full of tranquillity and hope ; and that he who had sought, perhaps more than any 
man, to look beyond the material and finite things of the world, should rest at last 
in the "peace which passeth all understanding" in that assured belief which the 
opening of his will has expressed with far more than formal solemnity: " I com- 
mend my soul into the hands of God my creator, hoping, and assuredly believing, 
through the only merits of Jesus Christ, my Saviour, to be made partaker of life 
everlasting." 



[END OF THE BIOGRAPHY.] 




I Monument at Stratford. 



APPENDIX. 



I. SHAKSPERE'S WILL. 



" Vicesimo quinto die Mart'ri, Anno Regni Domini nostri Jacobi nunc Regis Angh<e, &c. decimo 
quarto, et Scotiee quadragesimo nono. Anno Domini 1616. 

" In the name of God, Amen. I, William Shakspere, of Stratford-upon Avon, in the county 
of Warwick, gent., in perfect health and memory, (God be praised !) do make and ordain this 
my last will and testament in manner and form following ; that is to say : 

" First, I commend my soul into the hands of God my creator, hoping, and assuredly 
believing, through the only merits of Jesus Christ my Saviour, to be made partaker of life 
everlasting ; and my body to the earth whereof it is made. 



320 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



" Item, I give and bequeath unto my daughter Judith one hundred and fifty pounds of lawful 
English money, to be paid unto her in manner and form following ; that is to say, one hun- 
dred pounds in discharge of her marriage portion within one year after my decease, with 
consideration after the rate of two shillings in the pound for so long time as the same shall 
be unpaid unto her after my decease ; and the fifty pounds residue thereof, upon her surren- 
dering of, or giving of such sufficient security as the overseers of this my will shall like of, to 
surrender or grant, all her estate and right that shall descend or come unto her after my 
decease, or that she now hath, of, in, or to, one copyhold tenement, with the appurtenances, 
lying and being in Stratford-upon-Avon aforesaid, in the said county of Warwick, being 
parcel or holden of the manor of Eowington, unto my daughter Susanna Hall, and her heirs 
for ever. 

" Item, I give and bequeath unto my said daughter Judith one hundred and fifty pounds 
more, if she, or any issue of her body, be living at the end of three years next ensuing the day 
of the date of this my will, during which time my executors are to pay her consideration from 
my decease according to the rate aforesaid : and if she die within the said term without issue 
of her body, then my will is, and I do give and bequeath one hundred pounds thereof to my 
niece Elizabeth Hall, and the fifty pounds to be set forth by my executors during the life of 
my sister Joan Hart, and the use and profit thereof coming, shall be paid to my said sister 
Joan, and after her decease the said fifty pounds shall remain amongst the children of my 
said sister, equally to be divided amongst them ; but if my said daughter Judith be living at 
the end of the said three years, or any issue of her body, then my will is, and so I devise and 
bequeath, the said hundred and fifty pounds to be set out by my executors and overseers for 
the best benefit of her and her issue, and the stock not to be paid unto her so long as she 
shall be married and covert baron ; but my will is, that she shall have the consideration 
yearly paid unto her during her life, and after her decase the said stock and consideration to 
be paid to her children, if she have any, and if not, to her executors or assigns, she living the 
said term after my decease : provided that if such husband as she shall at the end of the said 
three years be married unto, or at any [time] after, do sufficiently assure unto her, and the 
issue of her body, lands answerable to the portion by this my will given unto her, and to be 
adjudged so by my executors and overseers, then my will is, that the said hundred and fifty 
pounds shall be paid to such husband as shall make such assurance, to his own use. 

" Item, I give and bequeath unto my said sister Joan twenty pounds, and all my wearing 
apparel, to be paid and delivered within one year after my decease ; and I do will and devise 
unto her the house, with the appurtenances, in Stratford, wherein she dwelleth, for her 
natnatural life, under the yearly rent of twelve-pence. 

" Item, I give and bequeath unto her three sons, William Hart, Thomas Hart, and Michael 
Hart, five pounds a piece, to be paid within one year after my decease. 

"Item, I give and bequeath unto the said Elizabeth Hall all my plate (except my broad silver 
and gilt bowl) that I now have at the date of this my will. 

" Item, I give and bequeath unto the poor of Stratford aforesaid ten pounds ; to Mr. Thomas 
Combe my sword; to Thomas Eussel, esq., five pounds; and to Francis Collins of the 
borough of Warwick, in the county of Warwick, gent., thirteen pounds six shillings and eight- 
pence, to be paid within one year after my decease. 

" Item, I give and bequeath to Hamlet {Hamncf} Sadler twenty-six shillings eight-pence, to 
buy him a ring ; to William Eeynolds, gent., twenty-six shillings eight-pence, to buy him a 
ring ; to my godson William Walker, twenty shillings in gold ; to Anthony Nash, gent., twenty- 
six shillings eight-pence ; and to Mr. John Nash, twenty-six shillings eight-pence ; and to my 
fellows, John Hemynge, Eichard Burbage, and Henry Cundell, twenty-six shillings eight-pence 
apiece, to buy them rings. 

" Item, I give, will, bequeath, and devise, unto my daughter, Susanna Hall, for better 
enabling of her to perform this my will, and towards the performance thereof, all that capital 
messuage or tenement, with the appurtenances, hi Stratford aforesaid, called The New Place, 
wherein I now dwell, and two messuages or tenements, with the appurtenances, situate, lying, 
and being in Henley Street, within the borough of Stratford aforesaid ; and all my barns, 
stables, orchards, gardens, lands, tenements, and hereditaments whatsoever, situate, lying, and 
being, or to be had, received, perceived, or taken, within the towns, hamlets villages, fields, 
and grounds of Stratford-upon-Avon, Old Stratford, Bishopton, and W'elcombe, or in any of 
them, in the said county of Warwick ; and also all that messuage or tenement, with the appur 
tenances, wherein one John Eobinson dwelleth, situate, lying, and being, hi the Blackfriars 



APPENDIX. 321 



in London, near the Wardrobe ; and all other my lands, tenements, and hereditaments whatso- 
ever ; to have and to hold all and singular the said premises with their appurtenances, unto 
the said Susanna Hall, for and dining the term of her natural life ; and after her decease to 
the first son of her body lawfully issuing, and to the heirs males of the body of the said first 
son lawfully issuing, and for default of such issue, to the second son of her body lawfully 
issuing, and to the heirs males of the body of the said second son lawfully issuing ; and for 
default of such heirs, to the third son of the body of the said Susanna lawfully issuing, and 
to the heirs males of the body of the said third son lawfully issuing ; and for default of such 
issue, the same so to be and remain to the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh sons of her body, 
lawfully issuing one after another, and to the heirs males of the bodies of the said fourth, fifth, 
sixth, and seventh sons lawfully issuing, in such manner as it is before limited to be and 
remain, to the first, second, and third sons of her body, and to their heirs males ; and for 
default of such issue, the said premises to be and remain to my said niece Hall, and the heirs 
males of her body lawfully issuing ; for default of such issue, to my daughter Judith, and the 
heirs males of her body lawfully issuing; and for default of such issue, to the right heirs of 
me the said William Shakspeare for ever. 

" Item, I give unto my wife my second best bed, with the furniture. 

" Item, I give and bequeath to my said daughter Judith my broad silver gilt bowl. All the 
rest of my goods, chattels, leases, plate, jewels, and household-stuff whatsoever, after my debts 
and legacies paid, and my funeral expenses discharged, I give, devise, and bequeath to my son- 
in-law, John Hall, gent., and my daughter Susanna his wife, whom I ordain and make executors 
of this my last will and testament. And I do entreat and appoint the said Thomas Russel, esq., 
and Francis Collins, gent., to be overseers hereof. And do revoke all former wills, and publish 
this to be my last will and testament. In witness whereof I have hereunto put my hand, the 
day and year first above-written. 

" By me, TOUiam Sftafopm. 

" Witness t<> the publishing hereof, 

FRA. COLLYNS, 
JULIUS SHAW, 
JOHN KOBINSON, 
HAMNET SADLER, 
ROBERT WHATTCOAT. 

" Probatum fuit fcstnmentum suproscriptum apud London, coram Magistro William Byrde, Legum 
Doctore, &c. viccsimo secundo die mensis Junii, Antw Domini 161C ; jnramento Johannis Hall 
unius ex. cni, &c. dc bene, Ac. jurat, reservata potestate, Ac. Susannas Hall, alt. ex. Ac. earn 
cum venerit dc. petitur. <tc" 



Y 2 



WILLIAM SHAKSPERE . A BIOGRAPHY. 



II. SOME POINTS OF SHAKSPERE'S WILL. 



THE solemn clause, " My body to the earth whereof it is made," was carried into effect by the 
burial of William Shakspere in the chancel of his parish church. A tomb, of which we shall 
presently speak more particularly, was erected to his memory before 1623. The following 
lines are inscribed beneath the bust : 

" JVDICIO PYLIVM, GENIO SOCRATEM, AETE MARONEM, 
TERRA TEGIT, POPVLVS M.&RET, OLYMPVS HABET. 

STAY PASSENGER, WHY GOEST THOV BY so FAST, 
READ, IF THOV CANST, WHOM ENVIOVS DEATH HATH PLAST 
WITHIN THIS MONVMENT, SHAKSPEARE, WITH WHOME 
QVICK NATVRE DIDE ; WHOSE NAME DOTH DECK YS. TOMBE 
FAR MORE THEN COST ; SITH ALL YT. HE HATH WRITT 
LEAVES LIVING ART BVT PAGE TO SERVE HIS WITT. 

OBIIT ANO. DOI. 1616. JETATIS 53. DIE 23. AP." 

Below the monument, but at a few paces from the wall, is a flat stone, with the following extra- 
ordinary inscription : 

GOOD FREND FOR JESUS SAKE FORBEARE, 
To DIGG T E DUST ENCLOASED HEARE : 

BLESTE BE ~ MAN J SPARES THES STONES, 

AND CURST BE HE - MOVES MY BONES. 

In a letter from Warwickshire, in 1693,* the writer, after describing the monument to Shak- 
spere, and giving its inscription, says, " Near the wall where this monument is erected lies the 
plain free-stone underneath which his body is buried, with this epitaph made by himself a 
little before his death." He then gives the epitaph, and subsequently adds, " Not one for 
fear of the curse above-said .dare touch .his grave-stone, though his wife and daughters did 
earnestly desire to be laid in the same grave with him." This information is given by the 
tourist upon the authority of the clerk who showed him the church, who " was above eighty 
years old." Here is unquestionable authority for the existence of this free-stone seventy- 
seven years after the death of Shakspere. We have an earlier authority. In a plate to 
Dugdale's "Antiquities of Warwickshire," first published in 1656, we have a representa- 
tion of Shakspere's tomb, with the following : " Neare the wall where this monument 
is erected, lyeth a plain free-stone, underneath which his body is buried, with this 
epitaph 

" Good frend," &c. 

But it is very remarkable, we think, that this plain free-stone does not bear the name of Shak 
spere has nothing to establish the fact that the stone originally belonged to his grave. We 
apprehend that during the period that elapsed between his death and the setting-up of the 
monument, a stone was temporarily placed over the grave ; and that the warning not to touch 
the bones was the stonemason's invention, to secure their reverence till a fitting monument 
should be prepared, if the stone were not ready in his yard to serve for any grave. We quite 
agree with Mr. De Quincey that this doggrel attributed to Shakspere is " equally below his 
intellect no less than his scholarship," and we hold with him that " as a sort of state viator 

* Published from the original manuscript by Mr. Eodd, 1838. 



APPENDIX. 



323 



appeal to future sextons, it is worthy of the grave-digger or the parish-clerk, who was probably 
its author." 

The bequest of the second-best bed to his wife was an interlineation in Shakspere's Will. 
" He had forgot her," says Malone. There was another bequest which was also an interlinea- 
tion : " To my fellows, John Hemynge, Richard Burbage, and Henry Cundell, twenty-six shil- 
lings eightpence apiece, to buy them rings." It is not unlikely that these companions of his 
professional life derived substantial advantages from his death, and probably paid him an 
annuity after his retirement. The bequest of the rings marked his friendship to them, as the 
bequest of the bed his affection to his wife. She died on the 6th of August, 1623, and was 
buried on the 8th, according to the register 



Her grave-stone is next to the stone with the doggrel inscription, but nearer to the north wall, 
upon which Shakspere's monument is placed. The stone has a brass plate, with the following 
inscription : 

" HEERE LYETH INTERRED THE BODY OF ANNE, WIFE OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, WHO 

DEPTED. THIS LIFE THE 6TH DAY OF AVGV, 1623, BEING OF THE AGE OF 67 YEARES." 

" VBERA, TU MATER, TU LAC VITAMQ. DEDISTI, 

VjE MIHI PRO TANTO MUNERE SAXA DABO. 
QUAM MALLEM, AMOUEAT LAPIDEM, BONUS ANGEL' ORE' 

EXEAT UT CHRISTI CORPUS, IMAGO TUA ? 
SED NIL VOTA VALENT, VENIAS CITO CHRISTE RESURGET, 

CLAUSA LICET TUMULO MATER, ET ASTRA PETET." 

It is evident that the epitaph was intended to express the deep affection of her daughter, to 
whom Shakspere bequeathed a life interest in his real property, and the bulk of his personal. 
The widow of Shakspere in all likelihood resided with this elder daughter. It is possible 
that they formed one family previous to his death. That daughter died on the llth of July, 
1(540, having survived her husband, Dr. Hall, fourteen years. She is described as widow in 
the register of burials : 




16 te 



-H) 



Ranging with the other stones, but nearer the south wall, is a flat stone now bearing the 
following inscription : 

"HEERE LYETH YE. BODY OF SVSANNA, WIFE TO JOHN HALL, GENT. YE. DAVGHTER OF 

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE, GENT. SHEE DECEASED YE. HTH OF JVLY, Ao. 1640, AGED 66." 

On the same stone is an inscription for Richard Watts, who had no relationship to Shakspere 
or his descendants. Fortunately Dugdale preserved an inscription which the masons of 
Stratford obliterated, to make room for the record of Richard Watts, who thus attained a dis- 
tinction to which he had no claim. A liberal admirer of Shakspere, himself an elegant writer, 
the Rev. W. Harness, has restored the inscription at his own cost : 

" WITTY ABOVE HER SEXE, BUT THAT'S NOT ALL, 
WISE TO SALVATION WAS GOOD MISTRIS HALL, 
SOMETHING OF SHAKESPEARE WAS IN THAT, BUT THIS 
WHOLLY OF HIM WITH WHOM SHE'S NOW IN BIJSSE. 



324 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



THEN PASSENGEB, HA'ST NE'KE A TEARE, 

TO WEEPE WITH HER THAT WEPT WITH ALL ? 
THAT WEPT, YET SET HERSELF TO CHERE 

THEM UP WITH COMFORTS CORDIALL. 
HER LOVE SHALL LTVE, HER MERCY SPREAD, 
WHEN THOU HAST NE'RE A TEARE TO SHED." 

Judith, the second daughter of Shakspere, lived till 1662. She was huried on the 9th of 
February of that year : 



a 



Her married Ufe must have heen one of constant affliction in the bereavement of her children. 
Her first son, who was named Shakspere, was born in November, 1616, and died in May, 1617. 
Her second son, Eichard, was born in February, 1618, and died in February, 1639. Her third 
son, Thomas, was born in August, 1619, and died in January, 1639. Thus perished all of the 
second branch of the heirs male of William Shakspere. His grand-daughter Elizabeth, the 
only child of his daughter Susanna, was married in 1626, when she was eighteen years of age, 
to Mr. Thomas Nash, a native of Stratford. He died in 1647, leaving no children. She 
remained a widow about two years, having married, on the 5th of June, 1649, Mr. John Bar- 
nard, of Abington, near Northampton. He was a widower, with a large family. They were 
married at Billesley, near Stratford. Her husband was created a knight by Charles II., in 
1661. The grand-daughter of Shakspere died in February, 1670, and was buried at Abingtoii. 
Her signature, with a seal, the same as that used by her mother, the arms of Hall impaled 
with those of Shakspere, is affixed to a deed of appointment in the possession of Mr. Wheler 
of Stratford, She left no issue. 





We have seen that all the sons of Judith Quiney were dead at the commencement of 1639. 
Shakspere's elder daughter and grand-daughter were therefore at liberty to treat the property 
as their own by the usual processes of law. The mode hi which they, in the first instance, 
made it subservient to their family arrangements is thus clearly stated by Mr. Wheler, in an 
interesting tract on the birth-place of Shakspere : " By a deed of the 27th of May, 1639, and 
a fine and recovery (Trinity and Michaelmas Terms, 15th Charles 1st), Mrs. Susannah Hall, 
Shakspere's eldest daughter, with Thomas Nash, Esq., and Elizabeth his wife, (Mrs. Hall's 
only child), confirmed this and our bard's other estates to Mrs. Hall for her life, and after- 
wards settled them upon Mr. and Mrs. Nash, and her issue ; but in the event of her leaving 
no family, then upon Mr. Nash. As, however, Mr. Nash died 4th April, 1647, without issue, 
a resettlement of the property was immediately adopted, to prevent its falling to the heir of 
Mr. Nash, who had, by his will of the 26th of August, 1642, devised his reversionary interest in 
the principal part of Shakspere's estates to his cousin Edward Nash. By a subsequent settle- 
ment, therefore, of the 2nd of June, 1647, and by another fine and recovery (Easter and 
Michaelmas Terms, 23rd Charles 1st), Shakspere's natal place and his other estates were again 



APPENDIX. 325 



limited to the bard's descendants, restoring to Mrs. Nash the ultimate power over the pro- 
perty." Upon the second marriage of Shakspere's grand-daughter other arrangements were 
made, in the usual form of fine and recovery, by which New Place, and all the other property 
which she inherited of William Shakspere, her grandfather, were settled to the use of John 
Barnard and Elizabeth his wife, for the term of their natural lives ; then to the heirs of the 
said Elizabeth ; and in default of such issue to the use of such person, and for such estate, 
as the said Elizabeth shall appoint by any writing, either purporting to be her last will or 
otherwise. She did make her last will on the 29th of January, 1G69 ; according to which, after 
the death of Sir John Barnard, the property was to be sold. Thus, in half a century, the estates 
of Shakspere were scattered and went out of his family, with the exception of the two houses 
in Henley Street, where he is held to have been born, which Lady Barnard devised to her kins 
man Thomas Hart, the grandson of Shakspere's sister Joan. Those who are curious to trace 
the continuity of the line of the Harts will find very copious extracts from the Stratford regis- 
ters in Boswell's edition of Malone. 



III. THE AUTOGRAPHS OF SHAKSPERE. 



THE will of William Shakspere, preserved in the Prerogative Office, Doctors' Commons, is 
written upon three sheets of paper. The name is subscribed at the right-hand corner of the 
first sheet ; at the left-hand corner of the second sheet ; and immediately before the names 
of the witnesses upon the third sheet. These signatures, engraved from a tracing by Steevens, 
were first published in 1778. The first signature has been much damaged since it WBS origi- 
nally traced by Steevens. It was for a long time thought that in the first and second of these 
signatures the poet had written his name Shakspere, but in the third Shakspeare ; and Steevens 
mid Malone held, therefore, that they had authority in the handwriting of the poet for uniformly 
spelling his name Shakspeare. They rested this mode of spelling the name not upon the 
mode hi which it was usually printed during the poet's life, and especially in the genuine 
editions of his own works, which mode was Shakespeare, but upon this signature to the last 
sheet of his will, which they fancied contained an a in the last syllable. When William Henry 
Ireland, in 1795, produced his " Miscellaneous Papers and Legal Instruments," it was neces- 
sary that he should fabricate Shakspere's name, and the engraving .published by Steevens 
enabled him to do so. He varied the spelling, as he found it said to be varied in the signa- 
tures to the will ; but he more commonly spelt the name with the a in the final syllable. His 
confidence in the Shakspere editors supplied one of the means for his detection. Malone, in 
his " Inquiry," published in 1796, has a confession upon this subject, which is almost as 
curious as any of Ireland's own confessions: "In the year 1776 Mr. Steevens, in my pre- 
sence, traced with the utmost accuracy the three signatures affixed by the poet to his will. 
While two of these manifestly appeared to us Shakspere, we conceived that in the third there 
was a variation ; and that hi the second syllable an a was found. Accordingly we have con- 
stantly so exhibited tlie poet's name ever since that time. It ought certainly to have struck us as 
a very extraordinary circumstance, that a man should write his name twice one way, and once 
another, on the same paper : however, it did not ; and I had no suspicion of our mistake till, 
about three years ago, I received a very sensible letter from an anonymous correspondent, 
who showed me very clearly that, though there was a superfluous stroke when the poet came 
to write the letter r in his last signature, probably from the tremor of his hand, there was no 
a discoverable in that syllable ; and that this name, like both the other, was witten ' Shak- 
spere." Revolving this matter in my mind, it occurred to me, that in the new fac-simile of his 
name which T gave in 1790, my engraver had made a mistake in placing an a over the name which 
was there exhibited, and that what was supposed to be that letter was only a mark of abbre 



326 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



viation, with a turn or curl at the first part of it, which gave it the appearance of a letter- 
. . . . If Mr. Steevens and I had maliciously intended to lay a trap for this fabricator to 
fall into, we could not have done the business more adroitly." The new fac-simile to which 
Malone here alludes continued to be given with the a over the name, in subsequent editions ; 
and we have no alternative now but to copy it from the engraving. It was taken from the 
mortgage deed executed by Shakspere on the llth of March, 1613. When Malone's engraver 
added to that signature an a, the deed was in the possession of Mr. Albany Wallis, a solicitor. 
It was subsequently presented to Garrick ; but after his death was nowhere to be found. 
Malone, however, traced that the counterpart of the deed of bargain and sale, dated the 10th 
of March, 1613, was also in the possession of Mr. Wallis; and he corrected his former error 
by engraving the signature to that deed in his " Inquiry." He says, " Notwithstanding this 
authority, I shall continue to write our poet's name Shakspeare, for reasons which I have 
assigned in his Life. But whether in doing so I am right or wrong, it is manifest that he 
wrote it himself Shakspere ; and therefore if any original Letter or other MS. of his shall ever 
be discovered, his name will appear in that form." This prophecy has been partially realized. 
The autograph of Shakspere, corresponding in its orthography with the other documents, was 
found in a small folio volume, the first edition of Florio's translation of Montaigne, having 
been sixty years in the possession of the Rev. Edward Patteson, minister of Smethwick, near 
Birmingham. In 1838 the volume was sold by auction, and purchased by the British Museum 
for one hundred pounds. The deed of bargain and sale, the signature of which was copied 
by Malone in 1796, was sold by auction in 1841, and was purchased by the Corporation of 
London for one hundred and forty-five pounds. The purchase was afterwards denounced in 
Court of Common Council as " a most wasteful and prodigal expenditure ; " but it was de- 
fended upon the ground that " it was not very likely that the purchase of the autograph would 
be acted upon as a precedent, for Shakspere stood alone in the history of the literature of the 
world." Honoured be those who have thus shown a reverence for the name of Shakspere ! 
It is a symptom of returning health in the Corporation of London, after a long plethora, which 
might have ended in sudden death. If the altered spirit of the majority is willing thus to 
reverence the symbol of the highest literature in Shakspere's autograph, that spirit will lead 
to a wise employment of the civic riches, in the encouragement of intellectual efforts in their 
own day. 

We have given as a frontispiece fac-similes of the six authentic autographs of Shakspere. 
That at the head of the page is from the Montaigne of Florio ; the left, with the seal, is from 
the counterpart of the Conveyance in the possession of the Corporation of London ; the right, 
with the seal, is from Malone's fac -simile of the Mortgage-deed which has been lost ; the three 
others are from the three sheets of the Will. 



APPENDIX. 327 



IV. STRATFORD REGISTERS. 



BAPTISMS. 

1558 Septeber 15 Jone Shakspere daughter to John Shakspere. 

1562 December 2 Margareta filia Johannis Shakspere. 

1564 April 26 Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakspere. 

1566 October 13 Gilbertus filius Johannis Shakspere. 

1569 April 15 lone the daughter of John Shakspere. 

1571 Septeb 28 Anna filia Magistri Shakspere. 

1573 [1573-4] March 11 ... Richard sonne to Mr. John Shakspeer. 

1580 May 3 Edmund sonne to Mr. John Shakspere. 

1583 May 26 Susanna daughter to William Shakspere. 

1584 [1584-5] February 2 . . Hamnet & ludeth sonne & daughter to Willia Shakspere. 

*** There are then entries of Ursula, 1588 ; Humphrey, 1590 ; Philippus, 1591 ;--children 
of John Shakspere (not Mr.) 

MARRIAGES. 

1607 Junii 5 John Hall gentlema & Susanna Shaxspere. 

1615 [1615 6] February 10. Tho: Queeny tow Judith Shakspere. 

BURIALS. 

1563 April 30 Margaret filia Johannis Shakspere. 

1579 April 4 Anne daughter to Mr. John Shakspere. 

1596 August 11 Hamnet filius William Shakspere. 

1601 Septemb 8 Mr. Johanes Shakspeare. 

1608 Sept 9 Mayry Shaxspere, Widowo. 

1612 [1612-13] February 4 . Rich. Shakspeare. 

1616 April 25 Will : Shakspere, Gent. 

1 <!->:{ August 8 Mrs. Shakspeare. 

1649 July 16 Mrs. Susanna Hall, Widow. 

1661 [1661-2] Feb. 9 Judith uxor Thomas Quiney. 

*** It appears by the Register of Burials that Dr. Hall, one of the sons-in-law of William 
Shakspere, was buried on the 26th November, 1635. He is described in the entry as " Medicus 
peritissimus." The Register contains no entry of the burial of Thomas Quiney. Elizabeth, 
the daughter of John and Susanna Hall, was baptized February 21, 1607 [1607-8] ; and she 
is mentioned in her illustrious grandfather's will. The children of Judith, who was only 
married two months before the death of her father, appear to have been three sons, all of 
whom died before their mother. 



328 WILLIAM SHAKSPERE : A BIOGRAPHY. 



V. THE PORTRAITS OF SHAKSPERE. 



VOLUMES have been written on the subject of the genuineness of Shakspere's portraits. The 
bust upon Shakspere's Monument has the first claim to notice. The sculptor of that monu- 
ment was Gerard Johnson. The tomb itself is accurately represented at the head of Shak- 
spere's Will. We learn the name of the sculptor from Dugdale's correspondence, published 
by Mr. Hamper in 1827 ; and we collect from the verses by Leonard Digges, prefixed to the 
first edition of Shakspere, that it was erected previous to 1623 : 

" Shakespeare, at length thy pious fellows give 
The world thy works : thy works by which outlive 
Thy tomb thy name must : when that stone is rent, 
And time dissolves thy Stratford monument, 
Here we alive shall view thee still. This book, 
When brass and marble fade, shall make thee look 
Fresh to all ages." 

The fate of this portrait of Shakspere, for we may well account it as such, is a singular one. 
Mr. Britton, who has on many occasions manifested an enthusiastic feeling for the associations 
belonging to the great poet, published hi 1816 " Remarks on his Monumental Bust," from 
which we extract the following passage : " The Bust is the size of life ; it is formed out of a 
block of soft stone ; and was originally painted over in imitation of nature. The hands and 
face were of flesh colour, the eyes of a light hazel, and the hair and beard auburn ; the doublet 
or coat was scarlet, and covered with a loose black gown, or tabard, without sleeves ; the upper 
part of the cushion was green, the under half crimson, and the tassels gilt. Such appear to 
have been the original features of this important but neglected or insulted bust. After 
remaining in this state above one hundred and twenty years, Mr. John Ward, grandfather to 
Mrs. Siddons and Mr. Kemble, caused it to be ' repaired,' and the original colours preserved, 
in 1748, from the profits of the representation of ' Othello.' This was a generous, and appa 
rently judicious act ; and therefore very unlike the next alteration it was subjected to in 1793. 
In that year Mr. Malone caused the bust to be covered over with one or more coats of white 
paint; and thus at once destroyed its original character, and greatly injured the expression of 
the face." It is fortunate that we live in an age when no such unscrupulous insolence as that 
of Malone can be again tolerated. 

A small head, engraved from the little print, by WILLIAM MAESHALL, prefixed to the edition 
of Shakspere's poems in 1640, is considered amongst the genuine portraits of Shakspere. It 
is probably reduced, with alterations, from the print by MARTIN DROE SHOUT, which is prefixed 
to the folio of 1623. The original engraving is not a good one; and as the plate furnished 
the portraits to three subsequent editions, it is not easy to find a good impression. The 
persons who published this portrait were the friends of Shakspere. It was published at a time 
when his features would be well recollected by many of his contemporaries. The accuracy of 
the resemblance is also attested by the following lines from the pen of Ben Jonson : 

" This figure, that thou here seest put, 
It was for gentle Shakespeare cut ; 
Wherein the graver had a strife 
With Nature, to outdo the life : 
0, could he but have drawn his wit 
As well in brass, as he had hit 
His face, the print would then surpass 
All that was ever writ in brass. 
But, since he cannot, Reader, look 
Not on his Picture, but his Book." B. J. 



APPENDIX. 329 



Under these circumstances we are inclined to regard it as the most genuine of the portraits of 
Shakspere. It wants that high art which seizes upon a likeness by general resemblance, and 
not through the merely accurate delineation of features. The draughtsman from whom this 
engraving was made, and the sculptor of the bust at Stratford, were literal copyists. It is 
>erfectly clear that they were working upon the same original. 

The famous CHANDOS picture, is now the property of the Earl of Ellesmere ; and has recently 
een engraved for the " Shakespeare Society," by Mr. Cousens. It has a history belonging to 
t which says much for its authenticity. It formerly belonged to Davenant, and afterwards to 
Betterton. When in Betterton's possession it was engraved for Eowe's edition of Shakspere's 
vorks. It subsequently passed into various hands ; during which transit it was engraved, first 
by Vertue and afterwards by Houbraken. It became the property of the Duke of Chandos, by 
carriage ; and thence descended to the Buckingham family. Kneller copied this portrait for 
Dryden, and the poet addressed to the painter the following verses as a return for the gift :* 

" Shakspeare, thy gift, I place before my sight, 
With awe I ask his blessing as I write ; 
With reverence look on his majestic face, 
Proud to be less, but of his godlike race. 
His soul inspires me, while thy praise I write, 
And I like Teucer under Ajax fight : 
Bids thee, through me, be bold; with dauntless breast 
Contemn the bad, and emulate the best : 
Like his, thy critics in the attempt are lost, 
When most they rail, know then, they envy most," 

Of a portrait, said to have been painted by CORNELIUS JANSEN, an engraving was made by 
Earlom, and was prefixed to an edition of " King Lear," published in 1770, edited by Mr. 
) niii-ii-;. It has subsequently been more carefully engraved by Mr. Turner, for Mr. Boaden's 
" Inquiry into the Authenticity of the Portraits of Shakspere." This portrait has the inscrip- 
tion " JE ie 46, 1010;" and in a scroll over the head are the words " Ut. Magus." Mr. Boaden 
says, " The two words are extracted from the famous Epistle of Horace to Augustus, the First 
of the Second Book ; the particular passage this : 

* Ille per extent umftniem milii posse videtur 
Ire poeta; meum qui pectus inaniter angit, 
Irritat, mulcet, falsis terroribus implet, 
Ut Magus; et modo me Thebis, modo ponit Athenis.' 

No man ever took this 'extended range' more securely than Shakspere; no man ever 
possessed so ample a control over the passions ; and he transported his hearers, ' as a magi 
cian,' over lands and seas, from one kingdom to another, superior to all circumspection or 
confine." The picture passed from the possession of Mr. Jennens into that of the Duke of 
Somerset. 

The five miniature-portraits of Shakspere, forming the frontispiece to the " Studies of Shak- 
spere," are taken from the following authorities : top, left The Chandos Picture, now in the 
possession of the Earl of Ellesmere; top, right Droeshout's Print, prefixed to the folio of 
K;-^:', ; centre The Bust at Stratford, as drawn by the late Mr. Phillips, K.A., and engraved 
under the direction of Mr. Britton; bottom, left Mr. Nicol's Picture, of which there is an 
engraving ; bottom, right An Ancient Picture (with the panel frame of the wainscot in which 
it was inserted), in the possession of Mr. Knight. 

* This picture, by permission of the late Duke of Buckingham, was copied for the engraving in 
the " Gallery of Portraits," for the first time for forty years ; and the copy, by Mr. Witherington, R. A . 
is in our possession. 

[THE END.] 



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