Dodgson Hamilton Madden.

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

. (page 4 of 13)
Online LibraryDodgson Hamilton MaddenShakespeare and his fellows : an attempt to decipher the man and his nature → online text (page 4 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

text ; actors' names suddenly substituted for
those of the dramatis personae ; scenes and acts
left unindicated or indicated wrongly — all this
and more makes the text of the First Folio one
of the most portentous specimens of typography
and editing in existence.' *

All this is true, for two honest players, no
literary aid being forthcoming, simply handed
over to Isaac Haggard and Edward Blount, two
honest printers, manuscripts which they knew
to have been honestly come by, to put them
into print as best they could. No one but the

* Essays and Studies.



author is blamablc for the inevitable result.
And if Shakespeare, reading this criticism of
their handiwork, chanced to be in the frame
of mind attributed to him by Pope when he

There hapless Shakespeare yet of Tibbald sore
Wish'd he had blotted for himself before,

he might well regret that he had not printed
for himself before. But he would learn with
righteous indignation that doubts had been
cast on the honesty and good faith of his pious

' There is no doubt,' writes Mr. Spalding,*
' that they could at least have enumerated
Shakespeare's works correctly ; but their know-
ledge and design of profit did not suit each other.'
They must, he points out, be presumed to have
known perfectly what works were, and what
were not Shakespeare's. But these men were
' unscrupulous and unfair ' in their selection.
Their whole conduct ' inspires distrust,' and
justifies a critic in throwing the First Folio
entirely out of view as a * dishonest ' and, it
might be added, hypocritical ' attempt to put
down editions of about fifteen separate plays of
Shakespeare, previously printed in quarto, which,

* Letter on Authorship of Two Noble Kinsmen.


though in most respects more accurate than
their successors, had evidently been taken from
stolen copies.'

The profession of the editors of the Folio that
they had done their work ' without ambition
either of selfe-profit or fame ' was pure hypocrisy,
although, as Mr. Halliwell-Phillips pointed out,*
they, * in giving unreservedly to the public
valuable literary property of which they were
sole proprietors, made a sacrifice for which the
profits on the sale of the Folio would not com-
pensate them.'

The language used by the editors of the first
edition of the Cambridge Shakespeare, Mr. W. G.
Clarke and Mr. J. Glover, is much to the same
effect. Their preface is prefixed to one of the
best editions of Shakespeare's works, the Cam-
bridge Shakespeare of 1893, edited by the late
Dr. William Aldis Wright ; but he is not respon-
sible for language used by his predecessors. The
editors are guilty of suggestio falsi in conveying
to the public the idea that the Folio was printed
from original manuscripts received by them at
the hands of the author. If the editors were
guilty of the fraudulent puffing of their own
wares, coupled with ' denunciation of editions
which they knew to be superior of their own,'

* Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare.


the plainer language used by Mr. Spalding would
be fully justified.

Criticism is foreign to these pages, but they
arc conversant with Shakespeare's relations with
his fellows, and it is satisfactory to note that he
has been acquitted by more enlightened critics
of having bestowed his love — testified, as was
then the custom, by the gift of mourning rings —
upon a pair of fraudulent knaves. The attitude
of modern editors towards the Folio is totally
different. Sir Sidney Lee writes : ' Whatever
be the First Folio's typographical and editorial
imperfections, it is the fountain-head of know-
ledge of Shakespeare's complete achievement.' *
Mr. Grant White, in his historical sketch of the
text of Shakespeare prefixed to the edition of his
works edited by him (Boston, 1865), writes :
' Indeed, such is the authority given to this
volume by the auspices under which it appeared,
that had it been thoroughly prepared for the
press and printed with care, there would have
been no appeal from its text, and editorial labour
upon Shakespeare's plays, except that of an his-
torical or exegetical nature, would have been not
only without justification, but without oppor-
tunity.' The text of the late Mr. Horace Furness's
monumental Variorum Shakespeare is the First

• Life of Shakespeare, p. 557.


Folio the spelling of which he retains. An edition
of the plays by Charlotte Porter and H. A. Clarke,
with a general introduction by Mr. Churton
Collins, has been published, in which the text
of the Folio, with the original spelling, is adopted,
with no more than necessary corrections. Sir
Walter Raleigh, in a suggestive and interesting
volume on Shakespeare contributed to the
English Men of Letters series, writes : ' There
is no escape from the Folio ; for twenty of the
plays it is one sole authority ; for most of the
remainder it is the best authority that we shall
ever know.'

— Shakespeare's fellowship with the players of
his day dated from shortly after his advent to
London, and endured to the day of his death.
They had rescued him from the mean condition
to which he had fallen, and they took pride in
his success. What manner of men these players
were is an inquiry the answer to which may aid
us, in some degree, in understanding the character
of their associate and friend.

The players who were most closely associated
with Shakespeare were Heming, Burbage and
Condell. Their names are associated with his
in the licences granted to the players at the
Globe theatre, and they are all remembered by
him in his will. ~~



With Burbagc, the impersonator of his greatest
creations in tragedy — Hamlet, Lear and Othello
— he appears to have been most intimately asso-
ciated. A merry tale, of a kind that is often
current about play-actors, in which their names
are connected, is recorded in Manningham's
Diary of the date of the 13th of March, 1601.
And after Shakespeare had settled in Stratford
we find him, in one of his visits to London,
engaged with Burbage in devising for the Earl
of Portland the kind of emblematic decoration
known as impresa, for his equipment at a tourna-
ment to be held at Whitehall.

We owe it to the pious care of Malone, followed
by Sir Sidney Lee and the late Mr. Joseph
Knight, that we have been granted some insight
into the character of the men who were, in a
special sense, the fellows and friends of Shake-

Heming died in 1630 in his house in St. Mary's,
Aldenbury, where he and his wife had lived
together for thirty years, and where he served
as churchwarden in 1608. He left a large family,
for whom he made provision by his will, and that
he gave them a good education is evident, for
his ninth son, William, who is also noticed in the
Dictionary of National Biography, was educated
at Westminster School, whence in 1621 he was



elected a King's scholar at Christ Church,

Condell also lived in the parish of St. Mary,
in good repute, as we must infer from the fact
that he was sidesman in 1606, and churchwarden
in 1 61 8. He died in his country house at
Fulham in 1627, having by his will, in which he
styles himself ' gentleman,' disposed of con-
siderable property, in addition to shares in the
Blackfriars and Globe theatres.

Of Burbage, the most famous actor of his
own, or perhaps of any age, Sir Sidney Lee has
been able to collect more full information in
his interesting biography in the Dictionary of
National Biography. The estimation in which
he was held appears from the many poems written
to his memory, and from his ' occasional intro-
duction into plays in his own person, and in no
assumed character. ... In a petition addressed
by his wife and son William to the lord Cham-
berlain in 1635, relative to the shares in the
Blackfriars and Globe playhouses, they speak of
Richard Burbage as " one who for thirty yeares'
paines, cost and labour made meanes to leave
his wife and children some estate," which implies
that he died a rich man.' He had some repu-
tation as a painter, and a tradition recorded by
Oldys attributes to him the Chandos portrait



of Shakespeare, which became the property of
Sir William Davenant.

The reader of the biographies of these players
must be struck by the respectability of their
lives, compared with the sad tale that must be
told of the University pens of the day. Shake-
speare's most intimate friends appear to have been
estimable family men, who took an interest in
Church matters, put some money together, as
he did, and provided well for their families.

The most prosperous of the players of the day
was Edward Alleyn. He was a famous actor,
and accumulated great wealth, part of which
he expended in the foundation and endowment
of the college at Dulwich. In 1600 he built, in
conjunction with Henslowe, the Fortune theatre
in Cripplegate. We do not read of him in con-
nection with any of Shakespeare's plays. Great
as he undoubtedly was as an actor, it is not
uncharitable to attribute his extraordinary finan-
cial success not so much to the legitimate drama
as to a speculation in which Shakespeare would
have taken no interest,* for in 1594 he acquired

• Shakespeare had no respect for the patrons of the bear garden.
' You'll leave your noise anon, ye rascals : do you take the Court
for Paris-garden ? ye rude slaves, leave your gaping' {Henry VIII.,
V. iv. 2). The lovers and haunters of bear-baiting and such like sports
are Autolycus {Winter's Tale, IV. iii. 108), Abraham Slender
{Merry Wives, I. i. 302), Sir Andrew Aguecheek {Twelfth Night,
I. iii. 97), Sir Toby Belch (1*., II. v. 8), Richard III. (2 Henry



an interest in the baiting-house at Paris Garden,
and he and Henslowe obtained the office of
' Master of the Royal Game of bears bulls and
Mastiff dogs.' 'On special occasions he seems
to have directed the sport in person, and a graphic
but revolting account of his baiting a lion before
James I. at the Tower is given in Stovfs Chronicle,
ed. 1631, p. 835/*

It is interesting to pass from the swollen
wealth of this ungentle Master Baiter, turned
philanthropist, to the modest fortunes of one of
Shakespeare's friends, and to his kindly thought
for his fellow players.

Augustine Phillips was, with Shakespeare, an
original shareholder of the Globe theatre. He
died in 1605, leaving by his will '"to my fellowe
William Shakespeare a thirty shilling peece in
gould." . . . Phillips died in affluent circum-
stances, and remembered many of his fellow
actors in his will, leaving to his " fellow," Henry
Condell, and to his theatrical servant, Christopher
Beeston, like sums as to Shakespeare. He also
bequeathed " twenty shillings in gould " to each
of the actors Lawrence Fletcher, Robert Armin,
Richard Cowley, Alexander Cash, Nicholas

VI., V. i. 151), Thersites (Troilus and Cressida, V. vii. 12), and
Aaron (Titus Andronicus, V. i. 10 1).
* Diet. Nat. Biography.



Toolcy, together with forty shillings and clothes,
or musical instruments to two theatrical appren-
tices Samuel Gilborne and James Sands. Five
pounds were further to be equally distributed
amongst " the hired men of the company." Of
four executors, three were the actors John
Heminges, Richard Burbage and William Ely,
who each received a silver bowl of the value of
five pounds.' *

The will of Augustine Phillips is an interesting
document, for by its aid we can discern in the
profession of player, from its very infancy, the
good fellowship and readiness to succour the
less successful members, by which it has been
always honourably distinguished.

The position of the players, at the time when
Shakespeare was admitted to the fellowship,
was a strange one. At law, unless he had
obtained a licence for the exercise of his functions
under a statute passed in 1572 from a peer of
the realm or other honourable personage of
greater degree, he was liable to the punishment
inflicted by magistrates on rogues, vagabonds,
or sturdy beggars. j* By a fiction of law the
licensed players were considered to be retained
as the ' household servants daylie waytors,' of

• Life of Shakespeare, p. 453, note 1.
f 14 Eliz. c. 5, re-enacted 39 Eliz. c. 4.



the great nobleman. They craved no further
stipend or benefit at his hands but their liveries,
and ' also your honors Licence to certifye that
we are your household Servaunts when we shall
have occasion to travayle amongst our frendes.' *

The legal fiction by which the player escaped
whipping as a vagabond by enrolling himself as
a servant had, like most others, its origin in
historical fact. The fellowships of players may
be traced to the vast number of servants and
retainers which was, up to the early years of the
sixteenth century, attached to the house of a
great nobleman. It was part of their office to
afford entertainment on festive occasions, such
as a marriage. The servants were often called
upon to entertain their masters and his guests
by a dramatic performance of some kind.

Play-acting was in the air in the reign of
Elizabeth. The miracle plays and moralities of
the Middle Ages were becoming out of date, and
the drama was in course of development. We find
it in a rudimentary form when ' three carters, three
shepherds, three neat herds, three swine-herds,
that have made themselves all men of hair,' have
a dance ' which the wenches say is a gallimaufry
of gambols because they are not in it.' f More

* Life of Shakespeare, p. 47, note 1.
f Winters Tale, IV. iv. 331.

6 9


ambitious was the presentation of the Nine
Worthies^ in which the village Curate, Sir
Nathaniel, ' a foolish mild man, an honest man
look you, and soon dashed, though a marvellous
good neighbour 'faith, and a very good bowler,'
was, when cast for the part of Alexander, some-
what o'er-parted. The servants of Duke Theseus
of Athens were ready, under the master of the
revels, to provide a masque or play to wear
away a tedious hour. The Duke inquires of

What masques, what dances shall we have,
To wear away this long age of three hours
Between our after-supper and bed-time ?
Where is our usual manager of mirth ?
What revels are in hand ? Is there no play,
To ease the anguish of a torturing hour ? *

It so happened that Philostrate, the master
of the revels, had seen rehearsed a play, as brief
as he had known a play, wherewith

Hard-handed men that work in Athens here,
Which never labour'd in their minds till now,

had made ready against their lord's nuptial,

Which when I saw rehearsed, I must confess
Made mine eyes water ; but more merry teares
The passion of loud laughter never shed.

* Midsummer Night's Dream, V. i. 32.


To the master of the revels this was ' nothing,

nothing in the world.' But the magnanimous

Theseus would see the play :

For never anything can be amiss
When simpleness and duty tender it.
Go, bring them in.

The conversion of the feudal retinue of a great
nobleman into a company of players connected
with his name was due to the action of several
causes. The nobleman was no longer able to
bear the expense of the upkeep of a great feudal
retinue, except by the sale of a portion of his
inheritance, to which some had recourse, and the
national passion for the drama afforded the means
of maintaining at the expense of the public a
company of servants with which his name was
honourably associated.

The travelling companies in the time of
Elizabeth differed widely in importance. In the
old play upon which The Taming of the Shrew is
founded, we find this stage direction : ' Enter
player with a pack.' The company that visited
Elsinore was of a different class.

Rosencrantz tells Hamlet that he and his
companion had ' coted * them on the way, and
hither are they coming to offer you service.'

* In coursing language a greyhound outstripping his competitor
is said to have coted him. The players were travelling slowly with the
wardrobes and properties.



Ham. He that plays the King shall be welcome :
his majesty shall have tribute of me ; the adventurous
knight shall use his foil and target ; the lover shall not
sigh gratis; the humorous man shall end his part in
peace ; the clown shall make those laugh whose lungs
are tickled o' the sere ; and the lady shall say her mind
freely, or the blank verse shall halt for't. What players
are they ?

Ros. Even those you were wont to take delight in,
the tragedians of the city.

Ham. How chances it they travel ? Their residence
both in reputation and profit was better both ways.

It is then explained that since a late innova-
tion they do not hold the same estimation, and
are not so followed as when Hamlet was in the
city. It is not their fault, for ' their endeavour
keeps in the wonted pace.' But companies of
children — ' an aery of children, little eyases, that
cry out on the top of question, and are most
tyrannically clapped for't — are now the fashion.' f
Hamlet has some pertinent remarks to make on
this new fashion, which show that he was on the
side of the tragedians in whom he was wont to
take delight. The players arrive and are received

• Hamlet, II. ii. 330.

I The cyass was a hawk taken and trained as a nestling. It was
not so highly esteemed by falconers as the wild hawk or haggard,
when reclaimed, ' Eycasses are tedious and do use to cry very much
in their feedings, they are troublesome and paynfull to be entered.'
Turbervile, Booke of Faulcotine, 1575.



with a friendly courtesy, removed alike from
offensive patronage and undue familiarity.

You are welcome, masters ; welcome, all. I am glad
to see thee well. Welcome, good friends. my old
friend! thy face is valanced since I saw thee last;
comest thou to beard me in Denmark ? What my
young lady and mistress ! By'r lady, your ladyship
is nearer to heaven than when I saw you last by the
altitude of a chopine.

The coming of the tragedians of the city to
Elsinore, and their reception by the Prince of
Denmark, are reminiscences of a visit made by
the company of which Shakespeare was a
member to a great house, such as Wilton, and
of the favour with which, in the language of the
editors of the First Folio, he was ' prosecuted '
by its owner ; and it may be that the original of
Hamlet was found in some young nobleman
capable of great things, but through lack of
decision throwing away his life and oppor-
tunities ; distinguished nevertheless from the
idlers who occupied seats on the stage of the
Globe and passed jests to the actors, by genuine
interest in the drama, and by an understanding
of the true principles of the player's art. With
suchlike visitor to the Globe theatre Shakespeare
would hold converse, such as that of the First
Player with the Prince of Denmark.



In the year 1602 a curious satirical medley-
was produced in the University of Cambridge.
Although it was an academical production, and
full of classical quotations and allusions, it
excited sufficient general interest to lead to its
publication in 1606, by the title of The Returne
from Pernassus, or the Scourge of Simony, as it
was publickly acted by the Students in St. John's
College, Cambridge. ' It is a very singular, a
very ingenious, and, as I think, a very interesting
performance. It contains criticisms on con-
temporary authors, strictures on living manners,
and the earliest denunciation (I know of) of the
miseries and unprofitableness of a scholar's life.' *
The piece has no dramatic merit. The plot is a
slender thread on which are strung a number
of good things, in prose and in verse ; satire,
literary criticism, and reference to the men and
topics of the day ; a foretaste of the society
journalism of the present day.

When we find among the men, Shakespeare,
Ben Jonson and Burbage, and among the topics,
the position and reputation of thef play-actor,
and of the university playwright, with a
critical estimate of the poets and dramatists of
the day, the relevance of the piece to the present
inquiry becomes apparent.

• Dramatic Literature of the Age of Elizabeth, W. Hazlitt.



The burden of the play is the little respect that
is paid to learning and worth, and the failure of
the highest academic merit to attain success in
life. It tells of the ill-fortune that befell certain
students who left the university to seek their
fortunes in the world, and who were compelled
to return from Parnassus to humbler pursuits.

The second title, the Scourge of Simony,
indicates that the piece contains a castigation of
the corrupt practices by which the deserving
Academico was deprived of presentation to a
living which was sold by a patron from whom he
had expectations to the father of an unlettered
boor. There is good comedy in the description
of the devices by which this ignoramus manages
to pass the necessary examination. But the
part of the piece in which we are interested is
that which relates to the fortunes of playwrights
and players.

The man of genius, Ingenioso, writes plays,
for which he is, somehow, prosecuted. ' To be
brief Academico,' he says, ' writts are out for
me to apprehend me for my playes, and now
I am bound for the He of Doggs.'

Two students, Philomusus and Studioso,
having tried medicine and acting, become
fiddlers. Finally leaving the ' baser fidling trade,'
they make choice of ' a shepheards poor secure



contented life ' and are content to end their
days on the Kentish downs.

True mirth we may enjoy in thacked stall
Not hoping higher rise, nor fearing lower fall.

In the fourth act we are introduced to a
travelling company of players, who have visited
Cambridge. They are represented by Burbage and
by Kempe, who filled the leading parts in tragedy
and in comedy. It is the company of which
Shakespeare was at this time a member. Burbage
had often noticed among the scholars an aptitude
for the stage, and suggests that they could
probably be engaged at a low rate. With their
experience of their fellow Shakespeare present
to his mind he suggests that they might also be
able to pen a part. Accordingly, the players
appointed to meet Philomusus and Studioso, in
order to make test of their quality. The students
keep the players waiting so long that when they
at length arrive the merry Kemp addresses
Studioso as Otioso. In the meantime the
players converse :

Bur. Now, Will Kempe, if we can intertaine these
schollers at a low rate, it will be well, they have often-
times a good conceite in a part.

Kempe. Its true indeede, honest Dick, but the slaves
are somewhat proud, and besides, it is a good sport in a
part, to see them never speake in their walke, but at the

7 6


end of the stage, iust as though in walking with a fellow
we should never speake but at a stile, a gate, or a ditch,
where a man can go no further. I was once at a Comedie
in Cambridge, and there I saw a parasite make faces and
mouths of all sorts in this fashion.

Bur. A little teaching will mend these faults, and it
may bee beside they will be able to pen a part.

Kemp. Few of the vniversity pen plaies will, they
smell too much of that writer Ovid, and that writer
Metamorphosis, and talke too much of Proserpina and
luppiter. Why heres our fellow Shakespeare puts them
all downe. I and Ben Ionson too. O that Ben Ionson
is a pestilent fellow, he brought up Horace giuing the
poets a pill, but our fellow Shakespeare hath giuen him a
purge that made him beray his credit.

Bur. Its a shrewd fellow indeed : I wonder these
schollers stay so long, they appointed to be here presently
that we might try them ; Oh here they come.

Studioso and Philomusus enter, and after
some pleasantry, they are tried. Kempe thinks
that Studioso should belong to his tuition.
' Your face me thinkes would be good for a
foolish Mayre or a foolish justice of peace.'

Bur. {to Philomusus). I like your face, and the propor-
tion of your body for Richard the 3. I pray M. Phil, let
me see you act a little of it.

Phil. Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorious summer by the sonne of York.

Bur. Very well I assure you, well M. Phil, and
M. Stud, wee see what ability you are of ; I pray walke
with us to our fellows, and weele agree presently.


1 2 4 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryDodgson Hamilton MaddenShakespeare and his fellows : an attempt to decipher the man and his nature → online text (page 4 of 13)