William Michael Rossetti William Shakespeare.

The complete works of Shakespeare: With a critical biography online

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The complete
works of Shakespeare

William Shakespeare, William Michael Rossetti

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CoPYRfGHT, 1882.

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THIS edition of the Complete Works of William Shake-
speare derives its name from the distinguished poet and
scholar, to whose graceful pen it owes the critical life of the
dramatist, with which it opens. The text is that of Moxon's
"Library Edition" (London), which is based upon that of the
First Folio, of which Professor James Russell Lowell said :
"We doubt if posterity owe a greater debt to any two men
living in 1623, than to the two obscure actors who, in that
year, published the First Folio edition of Shakespeare's Plays.
But for them, it is more than likely that such of his works as
had remained to that time unprinted would have been irre-
coverably lost, and among them were 'Julius Caesar,' 'The
Tempest,' and 'Macbeth.' .... It remains the only text
we have with any claims whatever to authenticity."

The object of the publishers in making a new edition of
Shakespeare's Works is to give the reader the most thoroughly
furnished sinerle-volume edition to be had. The well-known

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literary world, which is not possible without some acquaint-
ance with the history of dramatic writing in England before
his time.

Among the many critics of Shakespeare, few have been
so generally accepted as belonging to the first class as
Schlegel, whose Lectures on Dramatic Literature were, upon
their delivery in Vienna, hailed throughout Europe with
marked approbation. His introductions to the separate Plays
of Shakespeare are both descriptive and critical, and put the
reader in a position to enjoy the Plays, — if read before them,
or give him an entertaining epitome of them, if read after-

Few readers who have not specially studied the subject, are
aware of the extent of Shakespeare's familiarity with the Bible,
and his debt to it. The brief essay on that subject, with its
accompanying quotations, gives suggestive help in reading the
plays with this thought in view.

Recognizing the importance of careful indexes, lists of the
Noteworthy Scenes are given, and of all the Characters, show-
ing just where each can be found in the text. Indexes of
the Songs, which are scattered through the plays, and of the
" Familiar Qjiotations " are also given.

For the use of students, there are lists of books useful for
their purposes, and of early editions of the Dramas. A care-
fully prepared Glossary completes the list of the illustrative
apparatus with which the volume is furnished, which, it is

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LiFB OF William Shakespeare. By William M, Rossetti . . xi
The Chronology op Shakespeare's Writings. By Prof, Edward

Dawden, LL. D xxiii

Shakespeare, from his Birth to the Present Time. By Prof.

Edward Dowden^ LL. D xxxiii

The Drama in England. By Arthur Gilmauy M. A zxzviii

Portraits of Shakespeare xlviii

Ward's Statue of Shakespeare xlviii

Introduction to Shakespeare's Plays. By Augustus WiUiam von

Schlegel xlix

Doubtful Plays. By Prof Edward Dowden, LL. D xcix

Shakespeare's Poems. By Prof. Edward Dowden^ LL, D. . . cii

Shakespeare's Indebtedness to the Bible cvi

Shakespeare's Will cxiii

List of Important Editions of the Works of William Shakes-
peare, FROM 1623 TO 1881 cxvi

Books useful to Students of Shakespeare cxxi

Noteworthy Scenes cxxiii

List of Shakespeare's Songs cxxvi


The Tempest i

The Two Gentlemen of Verona *9

A Midsummer Night's Dream 37

The Twelfth Night; or, What You Will 55

The Merry Wives of Windsor 77

Measure for Measure loi

Much Ado About Nothing '^5

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A Winter's Tale 261

Comedy of Errors 289

Macbeth 305

King John . 327

King Richard II 349

King Henry IV. — Part 1 373

King Henry IV. — Part II 399

King Henry V. 427

King Henry VI. — Part I. • • . 455

King Henry VI. — Part II 479

King Henry VI. — Part III • ... 507

King Richard III. 535

King Henry VIII 567

TiMON OF Athens • 595

CoRioLANUs 617

Julius Caesar 649

Antony and Cleopatra 671

Cymbeline 701

Titus Andronicus 730

Pericles 751

King Lear 773

Romeo and Juliet 803

Troilus and Cressida 829

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark 859

Othello 891


Venus and Adonis 920

The Rape of Lucrece 929

Sonnets 944

A Lover's Complaint 963

The Passionate Pilgrim 965

Sonnets to Sundry Notes of Music 967

The Phcenix and the Turtle 969

Index to Familiar Quotations 970

Index to all of Shakespeare's Characters, with the Plays,

Acts, and Scenes in which they appear 978

A Glossary of Difficult Words and of Expressions that


SINCE Shakespeare's time 997

Ben Jonson's Poetical Preface to the First Edition (1623) of

Shakespeare's Works ........ * . 1008

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Ward's Statue of Shakespeare, in the Central Park,

New York Frontispiece.

Shakespeare's Birthplace xi

The Globe Theatre xv

Shakespeare's Bust in the Church at Stratford . xvi

A Play in an Inn Yard in the Olden Tlme xlii

The Chandos Portrait of Shakespeare xlviii

Interior of the Church at Stratford . . cxiv

The Elopement of Jessica 176

A Bridge at Venice . •. 190

A Room in Shakespeare's House 288

Hotspur and the Fop 376

Prince Henry, Poins and Falstaff 384

Talbot and the Countess of Auvergne . . 462

The Disgrace of Wolsey ... 583

The Acropolis at Athens 616

Ruins of the Forum and the Coliseum at Rome . 642

Hamlet and Ophelia 872

Othello relating his Adventures .... 894


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Shakespeare's birthplace at stratford-on-avon.

From an old Drawing in the British Museum*




What shall be said about Shakespeare ? What shall not be said ? How could
one adequately express the sense of his greatness ? How word anything on this
subject which has not been worded, and better worded, before ? The mind
bows down before this supreme embodiment of human intellect and of the uni-
versality of human character, and confesses its incompetence to estimate him,
or to express even €uch estimate as it can attain to forming. Analysis has long
been exhausted, and praise along with that : enthusiasm and reverence remain ;
but the terms in which they could be imparted show colourless and dull, sound
thin and hollow. I shall attempt little beyond summarizing the known or pre-
sumed facts of Shakespeare's life.

William Shakespeare came of a family of decent credit on the paternal side,
and on the maternal of some dignity and position. John Shakespeare, his father,
was son of a substantial farmer at Snitterfield, a village three or four miles dis-
tant from Stratford-on-Avon in Warwickshire. Mary Arden, the poet's mother,
was grand-niece to a gentleman who had been Groom of the Chamber to Henry
VII., and who was a brother of Sir John Arden : this family was connected with
that which produced the Hampden so famous in the time of Charles I. Mary's
father was an opulent yeoman at Wilmecote, and she herself heiress to a small
farm named Ashbies ; she married John Shakespeare presumably about 1557.
The latter, towards 1 551, had opened a shop in Henley Street, Stratford, for the
sale of gloves, and probably of meat, wool, and barley. He prospered, and
bought two small copyhold properties ; became a burgess and an alderman of the
town — which may at this time have numbered some twelve hundred inhabitants —
and hekl other local offices. He was not only an ordinary alderman, but in 156S,

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four years after the poet's birth, bailifT or chief magistrate of Stratford, and in
September 1571 chief alderman : this clearly stamps him as a person of eminent
credit in his locality, or, as we should now say, of " the highest respectability.*
A grant of arms was made to him in 1 569, and confirmed in 1 599. The instrument
of confirmation recites that the great-g^randfather of John Shakespeare had been
rewarded with lands and tenements for services rendered to Henry VII. Thus
we see that, both on the father's and on the mother's side, the dramatist had
special reasons for bearing the first Tudor sovereign in loyal memory ; and lus
play of Richard HL indicates that so he did.

It is universally, and we may say correctly, assumed that in that world-famous
house in Henley Street the poet was bom in April 1564. The day of his baptism
was the 26th of that month. The exact natal day is fixed at the 23rd, St.
George's Day, by the tradition (supposing it to be true) that he died on the very
anniversary of his birth. There were seven other children of the marriage, two
of them preceding and dying before the birth of William ; four younger ones,
three brothers named Gilbert, Richard, and Edmund, and a sister Joan, grew up.
Edmund, who died in 1607, became, like Shakespeare himself, an actor in Lon-
don. Joan married a Mr. Hart ; and to the Hart family the house in Henley
Street continued to belong up to 1806, William was probably sent at an early
age to the Free School of Stratford : it is to be presumed that he here learned
the rudiments of Latin, but not any Greek. He is said to have left school pre-
maturely, owing to the narrowing circumstances of his father, who in 1578 had
to mortgage the farm of Ashbies, and can in other respects be traced to have de-
clined. What Shakespeare did upon leaving school is matter of conjecture^ or
at best of obscure tradition. Aubrey retails a story indicating that he was ap-
prenticed to a butcher, or perhaps served his own father in the butchering branch
(if such existed) of the paternal business. " When he killed a calf," says Aubrey,
" he would do it in a high style, and make a speech ;" a story which was indeed
easy to invent, but which is also not particularly difficult to believe. Another
story, also from Aubrey, is that he acted as a country schoolmaster ; a third
supposition — ^founded on the intimate acquaintance vrith 1^^ terms apparent in
so many of his writings — ^that he entered a lawyer's office.

In his nineteenth year Shakespeare married ; and the facts suggest that the
bride-elect had been liberal of her favours to her boy-wooer in anticipation of
the nuptial ceremony. The damsel, about eight years his senior, was Anne,
daughter of Richard Hathaway, a well-to-do yeoman at Shottery, a village
distant about a mile or so firom Stratford. There was only one asking of the
banns of marriage, instead of the prescribed and customary three ; and, to save
the licencing bishop and hb officers harmless for such an irregularity and against
other contingencies, two friends of the Hathaways, Fulk Sandells and John
Richardson, had to enter beforehand into a bond, dated 28th November 1582,
taking all the responsibility on themselves. The wedding ensued; and only

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about six months thereafter, on the 26th of May 1583, the firstborn child,
Susanna, was baptized. It should be understood that Anne Hathaway's indis«
cretion, if .any there was, was not a very grave one according to the standard of
those times, for betrothal or precontract carried the privileges of marriage ; in
order to legitimize the offspring, however, actual preceding marriage wai

At Charlecote, in the neighbourhood of Stratford, resided a magistrate, Sir
Thomas Lucy, who. for various reasons was by no means in good odour with the
townsmen. There was no park at Charlecote, and therefore many modem
scnitinizers of well-worn old stories say there were not any deer ; nevertheless it
is possible that there were deer, although there was not a park. It is highly
conceivable that the ruffling boon-companions and mounting young spirits of
Stratford thought it a fine sort of thing to harass the public enemy Sir Thomas
by any means they could, and among others by appropriating his deer, if any
existed — ^an act which should rather be regarded under the circumstances as
retaliatory poaching than as strictly criminal deer-stealing. And it is equally
possible that Shakespeare may have borne his part in expeditions of this kind.
No proof to any such effect is, or ever has been, adduced ; but an old and constant
tradition purports that he stole deer from Sir Thomas Lucy, and was prosecuted
for so doing. As bearing on this tradition we have to take count of the first
scene in the Merry Wives of Windsor, Here Justice Shallow accuses Falstaff
of having " beaten my men, killed my deer^ and broken open my lodge ; ** and
he and his ancestors are said by his cousin Slender to have *' the dozen white
luces in their coat" [coat of arms], and the parson Sir Hugh Evans puns or
blunders upon this observation, " The dozen white louses do become an old coat
well" The luce (pike-fish or jack) was the crest of the Lucy family. A diflerent
motive suggested for Shakespeare's going to London is the decrease of his
father's means, and the necessity for doing what he could for his own growing
family : two twins, Hamnet and Judith, had succeeded Susanna, and had been
christened in February 1585. These, however, were in fact the last of his
children, to all appearance.

How did Shakespeare fare in London? It is certain that at some time,
perhaps in 1586, he became an actor in Lord Strangers (afterwards the Lord
Chamberlain's) company at one of the two theatres in Shoreditch ; but whether
this was his first employment is questioned. A member of an Inn of Court,
writing about 1693, says that Shakespeare was originally received into the
playhouse as a ** servitor ; " and the story runs that he used to hold the horses
of the gentlemen who came to see the performances, and that he got noted for
e3cpertness in his humble vocation. Leaving this dubious preliminary, we
behold William Shakespeare initiated into his immortality by the fact of his
becoming an actor — various companies of players had visited Stratford in his
bovhood. and had oossibly excited in him some emulous longings and aptitudes

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— and by his being thus put in the way, not only of acting, but also of revising
and re-adapting plays writtten by other authors, and hence in the sequel under
taking plays of his own ; how different from all that had preceded, and how
supreme over all, even if we look only to his earliest original productions, the
world has sufficiently found out. — I will divide Shakespeare's London career
into three sections, and consider him — ist, as the Actor ; 2nd, as the Author ;
3rd, as the Man.

I. Shakespeari the Actor. There is a famous passage (which will be quoted
farther on) in the work which Robert Greene wrote on his deathbed in 1592,
A Groatsworth of Wit, attacking Shakespeare savagely ; this work was edited
by Henry Chettle, stationer (/>. printer or compositor) and playwright, who a
few months afterwards apologfized for the attack, and averred Shakespeare to
be ^ excellent " in his vocation ; and, though there is nothing to show that he
ever made a great sensation as an actor, i^e may reasonably assume that he
was a creditable, and even a distinguished, member of his company. It is said
that he played the part of a king in various pieces, and some part or other in
Ben Jonson's SejanuSy and (among other characters) the Ghost in Hamlet,
Whether he played the part " like an oyster- wife " would be matter of opinion.
Thomas Lodge was entitled to his opinion, and he, in his Wifs Misery^ dated
1596, has a funny passage applicable to some actor of the Ghost, possibly
(though this is the merest conjecture) Shakespeare : " He [the fiend Hate-
Virtue] looks as pale as the visard of the Ghost which cried so miserably at th*
Theatre like an oyster-wife, ' Hamlet, revenge ! '" The facts of Shakespeare's
subsequent connection with the Blackfriars Theatre, and afterwards with the
Globe (or Bankside) Theatre, have been involved in great confusion by definite
mis-statements, worse than a free confession of simple uncertainty ; it has been
said, for instance, and repeated times out of number, that he was a sharer in
the Blackfriars Theatre as early as 1589, and concurred in the building of the
Globe. The contrary is apparent from documents recently published, and
seemingly unimpugnable. Richard Burbage (who became the most celebrated
actor of the time) and his brother, Cuthbert Burbage, built the Globe Theatre
in 1599. They placed Shakespeare in the theatre, and made him and some
others partners in the profits of " the House ** (so-called) — a term which may at
that time have designated the money paid at the doors, and perhaps something
more. At a later date — later certainly than May 1603, when James I. came to
the throne — the Burbages re-entered upon the Blackfriars Theatre, which had
been built by their father years before the Globe ; and here also they placed
Shakespeare and other actors. The date when he left the stage is not certainly
known : "after 1603'* used to be the date assigned, but it is now clear that his
retirement must have been some considerable while after 1603, which, as we have
just seen, is the year when he was transferred (or re-transferred) to the Blackfriars
boards. Manifestly he did not wholly like his occupation. He felt that it lowered

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him in the eyes of others ; perhaps too even in his own, for Shakespeare, it may
be abundantly inferred from his writings, always accounted himself a gentleman
by birth and breeding, and the associates of his choice were gentlemen. Witness
the following passages from his sonnets (no, in) :

" Alas, 'ds true I haw gone here and there.
And made myself a motley to the view.

Oh, 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 subdned
To what it works in, like the dyer's hand.

Pity me then, and wish I were renewed.**


3. SJuikespeare the Author, If we except the doggerel effusion* dubiously
ascribed to his youth, before he came to London, — some abusive verses on Sir
Thomas Lucy, and a still more juvenile quatrain ridiculing the neighbouring
villages where he had drunk,' — we know of nothing written by Shakespeare

1 Here are the venes ; —

**IHping Pebworth, dandng Marston,
Haunted Hillborough, and hungry Grafton,
With dodging Exhall, papist Wixford,
Beggarly Broom, and dirunken BidfcM J."

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earlier for certain than 1593 and 1594, at which dates he must have been at least
twenty-eight and twenty-nine years of age. In 1593 he published his poem of
Venus and Adonis; which, in the dedication addressed to Henry Wriothesly,
Earl of Southampton, he terms " the first heir of my invention ** (some critics
suppose it to have been written years before) : and in 1594 the Rafie of Lucrece^
dedicated to the same nobleman. The latter entertained a warfn friendship
for Shakespeare : one anecdote (which greatly needs verification however) is that
the Elarl on one occasion gave the actor ;£iooo. Venus and Adonis made an
impression, running rapidly through several editions : the seventh (or perhaps
sixth) appeared in 1602. The date when the greatest dramatist of the world first
wrote a play cannot be fixed ; but it must have been not later at any rate than
1597, when the texts of his Richard IL^ Richard IIL^ and Romeo and Juliet^
were published. He himself had nothing apparently to do with the publi-
cation in this instance, or in the instance of any other of his plays whatsoever :
he wrote for the stage, acted in his own plays, pleased the audience as
dramatist and player, distanced all writing competitors in this form of
public favour, excited little notice and less enthusiasm among brother authors,
knew his own worth, and (seemingly with the most reckless indifference)
abandoned his poetic offspring to their fate. Perhaps he had gone to the
cuckoo's school for policy, and felt pretty sure that the eggs deposited by the
cuckoo in the sparrow's nest would be hatched, if not by itself, by the sparrow.

Online LibraryWilliam Michael Rossetti William ShakespeareThe complete works of Shakespeare: With a critical biography → online text (page 1 of 224)