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Shakespeare and his fellows : an attempt to decipher the man and his nature online

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twenty-seven Anne Elliott had ' every beauty
excepting bloom.' Anne Hathaway at twenty-
six was capable of fascinating a poetical and
impressionable youth of eighteen. It is at all
events certain that she retained sufficient attrac-
tion to induce Shakespeare, when his prospects
improved, to visit Stratford every autumn. It
is true that he did not bring his wife and family
to London, and live with them in suburban com-
fort and respectability, like his fellows Heming
and Condell. But if Halliwell-Phillipps' specu-

195 °*


lation is well founded, the infirmity which
induced Shakespeare to provide for his wife
by imposing on his daughter a trust for her
maintenance will equally explain why he
considered her unfit for the strenuous life of

It is at all events certain that Shakespeare did
return to Stratford to spend with his wife a life
that might reasonably have been expected to
continue for many years. It is also certain that
some years before his settlement in Stratford
he had written this sonnet :

O, never say that I was false of heart,
Though absence seem'd my flame to qualify.
As easy might I from myself depart
As from my soul, which in thy breast doth lie ;
That is my home of love : if I have ranged,
Like him that travels I return again,
Just to the time, not with the time exchanged,
So that myself bring water for my stain.
Never believe, though in my nature reign'd
All frailties that besiege all kinds of blood,
That it could so preposterously be stain'd
To leave for nothing all thy sum of good ;
For nothing this wide universe I call
Save thou, my rose ; in it thou art my all.

It is probably an accident that this sonnet (cix.)
was printed by Mr. Thorpe with two sonnets
(ex. and cxi.) which have been generally



accepted as autobiographical, in. the sense that
they express ideas and feelings present to the
mind of the writer which can be referred to
known facts in his experience. Those who favour
the autobiographical reading of the sonnets have
taken infinite pains to discover a foundation in
the experiences of the writer for sonnets relating
to a rival poet, and to a dark and sinful woman,
who obtained, for a time, a strange influence on
the poet's life. The searchers after the dark
woman would be the first to allow that at some
time of Shakespeare's life he was the victim of
' all frailties that besiege all kinds of blood,'
and they cannot deny that in the end he returned
again to end his days with the wife of his youth.
And yet I do not find that any one of these
writers has attempted to support the auto-
biographical theory by a reference to Son-
net cix.

Susanna Hall survived her father, her mother,
and her husband, dying at the age of sixty-six
on the nth of July, 1649. On her tombstone in
the chancel of Stratford Church the following
lines were inscribed :

Witty above her sexe, but that's not all :
Wise to salvation was good Mistress Hall ;
Something of Shakespere was in that, but this
Wholly of Him with whom she's now in blisse.



Then, passenger, hast ne'er 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 live, 1; :r memory spread,

When thou hast ne'er a tear to shed.

Reading these simple lines, the pilgrim felt
that he had been well repaid for his pains. They
bear the impress of truth, and owe nothing to
the partiality of a husband's love, for Hall had
died in the year 1635. They tell us what was
thought and said of Shakespeare's daughter
Susanna by the people among whom she had
spent her life. They tell us that thirty-three
years after the death of Shakespeare it was said
in Stratford that Mistress Hall had wits above
her sex, but that was not to be marvelled at in
the daughter of Shakespeare, of whom they were
often put in mind when they spoke to her. Then
a precisian of the straiter sect would say that
this was the least of her virtues, and would tell
of her Christlikc charity, how she would weep
with those that wept. Another would add that
Mistress Hall did more than weep with the
sorrowful ; that while she wept she set herself
to cheer up the sufferer with ' comforts cordiall,'
not of words only, spoken in her merry, cheerful
way within the limits of becoming mirth — some-




thing of Shakespeare was in that — but by deeds
of mercy, the memory of which would long

To such a daughter, keen-witted, and Christ-
like in practical charity, a fond father might well
give the name ' Miranda.'
^ JSir Walter Raleigh writes of The Tempest :
' The thought which occurs at once to almost
every reader of the play, that Prospero resembles
Shakespeare himself, can hardly have been absent
from the mind of the author.' In Shakespere,
his Mind and Art, Professor Dowden has given
the fullest expression to a reading of the cha-
racter of Shakespeare that has found general
acceptance. ' It is not chiefly,' he writes,
' because Prospero is a great enchanter, now
about to break his magic staff, to drown his
book deeper than ever plummet sounded, to
dismiss his airy spirits, and to return to the
practical service of his dukedom, that we identify
Prospero in some measure with Shakespeare
himself. It is rather because of the temper of
Prospero, the grave harmony of his character,
his self-mastery, his calm validity of will, his
sensitiveness to wrong, his unfaltering justice,
and with these a certain abandonment, a remote-
ness from the common joys and sorrows of the
world, are characteristics of Shakespeare as



discovered to us in all his latest plays.' ' It is
Shakespeare's own nature which overflows into
Prospero,' writes Dr. Brandes, and from that
source may have flowed the love of daughter
and the love of books which are the most striking
characteristics of Prospero, as revealed to us by
Shakespeare. :£==*

Of Shakespeare's younger daughter, Judith,
we know little. About two months before the
death of her father she married Thomas Quiney,
whose father, Richard Quiney, had been High
Bailiff of Stratford. Quiney, who was a vintner,
had received a good education. This is shown
by his use of a French motto in one of his
accounts, the penmanship of which is par-
ticularly good. He was unsuccessful in business,
and the marriage was an unfortunate one.
Judith died in Stratford in the year 1662, at the
age of seventy-six. Her husband, in education
and position, was far inferior to Hall, and it is
no violent assumption to conclude that there
was a corresponding difference between Susanna
and Judith, and that a truthful epitaph might
have recorded that, as Susanna had inherited
the wits of her father, the virtues of her mother
had descended on Judith.

' In the latest plays the country life of Strat-
ford reasserts itself. After all our martial and



political adventures, our long-drawn passions and
deadly sorrows, we are back in Perdita's flower-
garden, and join in the festivities of a sheep-
shearing. A new type of character meets us in
these plays : a girl innocent, frank, dutiful, and
wise, cherished and watched over by her devoted
father, or restored to him after long separation.
It is impossible to escape the thought that we are
indebted to Judith Shakespeare for something
of the beauty and simplicity which appear in
[Miranda and] Perdita, and in the earlier sketch
of Marina. In his will Shakespeare bequeathes
to Judith a " broad silver-gilt bowl " — doubtless
the bride-cup that was used at her wedding.
There were many other girls within reach of his
observation, but (such are the limitations of
humanity) there were few so likely as his own
daughter to exercise him in disinterested sym-
pathy and insight, or to touch him with a sense
of the pathos of youth ' {Shakespeare, Raleigh).

This delightful picture of Judith Shakespeare
has no monumental inscription to vouch for its
truthfulness. It has a deeper and a sounder
foundation, an appreciation of the nature of
Shakespeare, and an understanding of the kind
of domestic life for the sake of which he was
ready to abandon the intellectual society and the
fuller life of London. It has a relation to fact



widely different from the gloomy fancies about
the family life of Shakespeare with which we are
familiar, for it is at all events consistent with

The most distressing of these nightmares
results from the inability of certain critics
inwardly to digest a speech into which Shake-
speare, irrelevantly after his manner, intro-
duced certain ideas borrowed from a book that
lay open before him as he wrote.

The book was a copy of Florio's English
version of Montaigne's Essayes. Whether it
was the very copy which may be seen in the
British Museum is an interesting inquiry, but it
is nothing to our present purpose.

Gonzalo. V the commonwealth I would by
Execute all things ; for no kind of traffic
Would I admit ; no name of magistrate ;
Letters should not be known ; riches, poverty,
And use of service, none ; contract, succession,
Bourn, bound of land, tilth, vineyard none ;
No use of metal, corn, or wine, or oil ;
No occupation ; all men idle, all ;
And women too, but innocent and pure ;
No sovereignty.*

In these words a passage is reproduced with
literal accuracy from Montaigne.

• Tempest, II. i. 150.


In another page of the same volume he had
read these words :

1 Few men have wedded their sweet hartes,
their paramours or Mistrises, but have come
home by weeping crosse, and erelong repented
their bargain. And even in the other world
what an unquiet life leads Jupiter with his wife,
whom before he had secretly knowen and
lovingly enjoyed ? '

Shakespeare was a dramatist, ever ready to
adapt to his purpose whatever he might have
seen or read which was capable of artistic treat-
ment. There is no particular reason apparent
why he should have worked Montaigne's descrip-
tion of an ideal commonwealth into a speech put
into the mouth of Gonzalo. But having done
so, it is natural that the passage should be repro-
duced with the faithful and prosaic accuracy that
was suitable to his character.

For some reason, equally inscrutable, he puts
into the mouth of Prospero Montaigne's warning
against the destruction of happiness in married
life consequent on marrying a paramour or
mistress ; attracted, possibly, by the quaintness
of the appeal to Jupiter's experience of the un-
quiet life which he led with his wife. Shake-
speare was not a copyist. If such a warning
were to be given by Prospero, Shakespeare's



dramatic instinct taught him that it should be
expressed with poetic fervour, inspired by the
love of a precious daughter, which was part of
the nature which he had poured into Prospero.
And so he wrote

Take my daughter : but
If thou dost break her virgin-knot before
All sanctimonious ceremonies may
With full and holy rite be minister'd,
No sweet aspersion shall the heavens let fall
To make this contract grow ; but barren hate,
Sour-eyed disdain and discord shall bestrew
The union of your bed with weeds so loathly
That you shall hate it both ; therefore take heed
As Hymens lamps shall light you.*

Two thoughts are involved in this address.
Lovers should take heed as Hymen's lamps shall
light them, for the consequences of anticipating
marriage will be fatal to the happiness of their
married life. And, moreover if they would
have the blessing of heaven upon the marriage
contract, the blessing should be invoked by all
sanctimonious ceremonies, with full and holy
rite. These ideas which arc easily separable in
prose, arc somewhat involved, in a manner
characteristic of Shakespeare, and Prospero spoke
of the contract and of the holy rite as one and

• Tempest, IV. i. 15.


the same thing. But the offence to which a
terrible punishment is attached in these words

barren hate,
Sour-eyed disdain and discord shall bestrew
The union of your bed with weeds so loathly
That you shall hate it both,

is not that of separating the civil contract from
the holy rite, but that of breaking the virgin
knot heedless of Hymen's lamps : in plain prose,
before marriage. To those who are obsessed
with the idea that Shakespeare, when he wrote
of barren hate, sour-eyed disdain, discord, and
loathing, had in his mind the torture to which
he had yielded himself up when he returned to
Stratford, it would be idle to prescribe a remedy
in the form of reasoning, even if argumentation
or controversy could be admitted to pages which
deal simply with ascertained fact. But those
who suffer under this affliction — and they are,
happily, a decreasing number — may find some
relief in reading what has been written by some
whose minds were unclouded by theories and
prepossessions which have no foundation in

' No writer of any time — and his own time was
certainly not one of special respect for marriage
— has represented it so constantly as not only
" good," but " delightful," to retort La Roche-



foucauld's injurious distinction. Except Goneril
and Regan, who designedly are monsters, there
is hardly a bad wife in Shakespeare — there are
no unloving, few unloved, ones. It is not
merely in his objects of courtship — Juliet, Viola,
Rosalind, Portia, Miranda — that he is a woman-
worshipper. Even Gertrude — a questionable
widow — seems not to have been an unsatis-
factory wife to Hamlet the elder, as she certainly
was not to his brother. One might hesitate a
little as to Lady Macbeth as a hostess — certainly
not as a wife. From the novice sketch of
Adriana in the Errors to the unmatchable triumph
of Imogen, from the buxom honesty of Mistress
Ford to the wronged innocence and queenly
grace of Hermione, Shakespeare has nothing but
the beau role for wives. And if in this invariable
gynasolatry he was actuated by disappointment
in his own wife or repentance for his own mar-
riage, he must either have been the best good
Christian, or the most pigeon-livered philosopher,
or the most cryptic and incomprehensible ironist
that the world has ever seen. Indeed, he might
be all these things, and feel nothing of the
kind.' *

1 In the plays of Shakespeare's closing years

* Cambridge History of English Literature, Vol. V., p. 168 (George




there is a pervading sense of quiet and happi-
ness,' Sir Walter Raleigh writes, ' which seems
to bear witness to a change in the mind of their
author. . . . An all-embracing tolerance and
kindliness inspires these last plays.'

And of the last of his plays Professor Dowden
writes : ' The sympathetic reader can discern
unmistakably a certain abandoning of the com-
mon joy of the world, a certain remoteness from
the usual pleasures and sadness of life, and at
the same time, all the more, this tender bending
over those who are like children still absorbed
in their individual joys and sorrows.'

By the homely words ' ease and retirement,'
the tradition of Stratford, as recorded by Rowe,
expressed the idea that critics have extracted
from the plays written in the later years of
Shakespeare's life

Me, poor fool, my library
Was dukedom large enough.

Shakespeare wrote these touching words as
one who was bidding farewell to public life, in
which he had taken an active and successful
part, and by none other could they have been
written. In them Shakespeare, through Pros-
pero, reveals to us his inner self ; his love of
his books and of the library by the narrow



limits of which his dukedom was henceforth
to be bounded. And we find Prospero-Shake-
speare recurring to the thought of his library
when he tells Miranda how a noble Neapolitan,
Gonzalo, out of his charity, supplied them with
' rich garments, linens, stuffs, and necessaries,'
adding —

So, of his gentleness,
Knowing I loved my books, he furnished me
From mine own library with volumes that
I prize above my dukedom.*

It is in modern times, according to the New
English Dictionary, that the word ' library ' has
come to denote a room above a certain level of
size and pretensions. To Shakespeare the word
meant no more than a collection or ' study '
of books in some unpretending room, or closet,
in New Place. It is not to be believed that
Shakespeare, when at the age of forty-seven he
passed, in the words of Professor Dowden,
' from his service as artist to his service as
English gentleman,' and from companionship
with the world of letters to the society of a
country town, did not better for his life provide
than to divorce it from fellowship, through his
books, with the mighty minds of old.

• Tempest, I. ii. 162.


My days among the Dead are past ;

Around me I behold

Where'er these casual eyes are cast,

The mighty minds of old ;

My never failing friends are they

With whom I converse day by day.

It would, be a grave omission from pages in
which it is sought to learn something from the
fellowship wherein we find Shakespeare engaged
throughout his life, to leave unconsidered such
beloved and constant companions as his books,
and here we can tread with certainty, without
encroaching on the forbidden ground of specu-
lation. Shakespeare's library, like other libraries
of the time, has been long since scattered to the
winds. But unlike many more important col-
lections, it has left certain traces behind. Walter
Bagehot, in his essay on Shakespeare — the Man,
writes : ' On few subjects has more nonsense
been written than on the learning of Shake-
speare.' I do not propose to make any contri-
bution to the accumulated mass, for I am satis-
fied with the testimony of Ben Jonson, rightly
understood. When he said of Shakespeare that
he had ' small Latin and less Greek,' he criti-
cised him as classical scholar, who had proceeded
so far as to have some knowledge of Greek — a
rare acquisition in those days — but who, in this

s - 209 p


particular, was vastly his inferior. Jonson's
testimony, in the lines in which these words arc
found, to the surpassing greatness of Shake-
speare is so generous and so nobly expressed
that we need not grudge him this small satis-

An examination of the traces that may be
found of Shakespeare's library involves no
inquiry into the extent of his learning. Shake-
speare makes no mention of books in his will.
He gave his ' broad silver-gilt bole ' to his
daughter Judith, and with the disregard which
has been already noted of the testamentary
obligations to posterity which devolved on him
as a famous poet and dramatist, he allowed his
books to become the property of his son-in-law,
John Hall, by the gift to him and to his daughter
Susanna of all the rest of his ' goodes, chattels,
leases, and household stuffe whatsoever.'

Their daughter, Elizabeth Hall, the last lineal
descendant of Shakespeare, married Thomas
Nash in 1626. Hall, in 1635, made what is
known as a nuncupative will, in which the
following words occur : ' Item concerning my

* Those who desire to pursue the subject of the learning of Shake-
speare cannot do better than study Professor Baynes' essay, entitled
What Shakespeare learned at School, published in his Shakespeare
Studies, where the question is discussed in a judicial spirit, removed
from the extremes of Farmer on the one hand, and Churton Collins
on the other.



study of books, I leave them, said he, to you my
son Nash, to dispose of them as you see good.'

And here again we owe an obligation to Mr.
Elton and to his studies as an antiquary, through
which we have made known to us the meaning,
in the seventeenth century, of the words ' study
of books.' ' We know hardly anything about
Shakespeare's books, except that they must
have passed to Mr. Nash and afterwards to his
widow, as his residuary legatee. . . . There is
no list of the " study of books," but it appears
by several authorities that the phrase means a
collection or library.' *

Elizabeth, after the death of her first husband,
married a Mr. John Barnard, who was created
a baronet by Charles II. in 1661. She died in
1669. Malone records an old tradition men-
tioned by Sir Hugh Clopton to Mr. Macklin
in 1742, that Elizabeth ' carried away with
her from Stratford many of her grandfather's

However this may be, all attempts to trace the
' study of books ' have failed, and that it was
dispersed is evident from the fact of the dis-
covery in the course of the eighteenth century
of two books that it had contained.

* William Shakespeare, his Family and Friends. An authority
referred to by Mr. Elton is of the year 1667.

211 P2


There is in the Bodleian library a copy of the
Aldine edition of Ovid's Metamorphoses (1502),
on the title of which is the signature ' Wm. Sh e ,'
and a note : ' This little Booke of Ovid was
given to me by W. Hall, who sayd it was once
Will. Shakespere's.' The opinions of the experts
in favour of its authenticity will be found in the
Annals of the Bodleian Library 1890 (Macray).
But belief in the presence of a copy of Ovid in
Shakespeare's library rests on what is to some
minds a firmer foundation, for the book brings
us into certain touch with the earliest period of
Shakespeare's literary work.

Venus and Adonis was published in 1593, but
as the poet calls it, in the dedication to the Earl
of Southampton, the first heir of his invention,
it must have been written some years before its
publication. It is a love poem written in the
manner of Ovid, founded on a story told in the
Metamorphoses. Two lines from the Amores are
printed on the title page :

Vilia miretur vulgus : mihi flavus Apollo
Pocula castalia plena ministret aqua.

The poem had an extraordinary success, and
the poet was acclaimed as a second Ovid.
Francis Meres writes in Palladis Tamia (1598) :
' As the soule of Euphorbus was thought to live



in Pythagoras, so the sweete wittie soule of Ovid
lives in mellifluous and honey-tongued Shake-
speare, witnes his Venus and Adonis his Lucrece
his sugred Sonnets among his private friends.'
Shakespeare's love of Ovid is shown not only by
imitation, but, characteristically, by making him
the subject of a pun : ' Ovidus Naso was the man ;
and why, indeed, Naso, but for smelling out the
odoriferous flowers of fancy.' * For many years
Shakespeare's literary position was estimated by
his poems rather than by his dramas. This was
in accordance with the ideas of the time, for
poems were literature, plays were not. Ben
Jonson was ridiculed when in 1616 he published
a collection of plays under the title of his Works.
In The Returne from Pernassus Judicio, in his
censure of Shakespeare, says

Who loves Adonis love or Lucre 's rape
His sweeter verse containes hart robbing life
Could but a graver subject him content
Without love's foolish lazy languishment.

And yet when this play was presented (1602)
Shakespeare had given to the world Henry IV .,
King John and Henry V . A critic of the
day, writing after the production of Hamlet,
says —

* Love's Labour's Lost, IV. ii. 130.


And Shakespeare thou, whose hony-flowing vein
(Pleasing the world) thy praises doth obtain.
\\ hose Venus, and whose Lucrece (sweet and chaste)
Thy name in fame's immortal book have placed.

It is remarkable that the claim to immortality
of the creator of Hamlet should have been rested
on the authorship of Venus and Adonis and
Lucrece. It is still more strange that Shake-
speare would have it so, for his poems were
given by him to the world edited with care.
As to his plays, he was satisfied with the applause
of the playgoers and the profits of the Globe
theatre. We owe their preservation, as we have
seen, to the piety of his fellow-playgoers, and the
sonnets which in literary merit far exceed these
poems, remained tossing about among his private
friends, and but for the adventure of Thomas
Thorpe, would have been lost to the world.

An analogy may be found in the instance of
another great creative genius, worthy of being
named with Shakespeare. Scott, for many years
after his immortal novels had been given to the
world, preferred to be known as a poet rather than

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Online LibraryDodgson Hamilton MaddenShakespeare and his fellows : an attempt to decipher the man and his nature → online text (page 11 of 13)