William Shakespeare.

The complete dramatic and poetical works of William Shakspeare ....: from ... online

. (page 213 of 214)
Online LibraryWilliam ShakespeareThe complete dramatic and poetical works of William Shakspeare ....: from ... → online text (page 213 of 214)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


acquired knowledge. It may be safely assumed, therefore, that at
Stratford he was a hard, though perhaps an irregular, student. The
precocious maturity of Shakspeare's passions hurried him into a pre-
mature marriage. On the 28th of November, 1682, he obtained a
license at Worcester, legalizing his union with Anne Hathaway, with
once asking of the bans. Two of his neighbors became security in the
sum of $200, that the poet would fulfil his matrimonial engagement, he
being a minor, and unable, legally, to contract for himself.

Anne Hathaway was seven years Shakspeare's senior. She was the
daughter of a *' substantial yeoman '' of the village of Shottery, about a
mile from Stratford. The hurry and anxiety with respect to the mar-
riage-license is explained by the register of baptisms in the poet's native
town; his daughter Susanna was christened on the 26th of Miiy, 1588,
lix months after the mariiage. In a year and a half two other chil-^



Digitized by



Google



r — — N;



SHAKSPEARE'S 8IRIHPLACE (RESTORED).



LIFE OF SHAKSPEARE.



:i



WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE wan born at Stratford-on-Avon, in the
county of Warwick, in April, 1564. There is a pleasant and
poetical tradition, that he was born on the 23d of the month, the anni-
versary of St. George, the tutelar saint of England ; but all we know
with certainty is, that he was baptized on the 26th. His father, John
Bhakspeare, is traced to a family occnpying land at Snitterfield, near
Warwick. He settled in the town of Stratford, became a wool-comber
or glover, and elevated his social position by marriage with a rustic
heiress, Mary Arden, possessed of an estate worth about $600 per
annum of our present money. The poet's father rose to be high-bailifi'
and chief alderman of Stratford ; but in 1578, he is found mortgaging
his wife's inheritance, and, from entries in the town-books, is supposed
to have fallen into coraparntive poverty. William was the eldest of six
surviving children, and after some education at the grammar-school,
he is said to have been brought home to assist at his father's business.

There is a blank in his history for some years; doubtless Jie was
^8>*S^ whatever might be his circumstances or employment, in treas-
uring up materials for his future poetry. The study of man and of
nature, facts in natural history, the country, the fields, and the woods,
would be gleaned by familiar intercourse and observation among his




Digitized by



Google



J^




^:




rAOB

Full Length Status of Suakspbauk FnmlUpiece,

BiBTHPLACX OF SHAKSPKARB rii

Thb Chandos Portbait and thk Autograph op Shakspbarb .... xili

Fbrdinaivd Mbbtcmo Miranda Tempest. 45

Silvia AT THE Pa LACB Window Ikco Gentlemen 0/ Verona, 75

Scene in the Gardbn Twelfth Night, 117

Olivia's Welcome ** " 125

Hero Dbnouncrd at hek Rridal Much Ado about Nothing. 165

Oberon Enchanting Titan i a AfUUummer^NighTs Dream. IT!

Shtlock Leaving Jessica Merchant qf Venice. 221

The Judgment of Portia " " "281

Rosalind Bbstowin(» the Chain on Orlando As You Like JL 241

Captain Parolles A Prison KR Atrs Weil that Ends Well 279

Prtiiuchio Grerts his Friends Turning qf the Shrew. 299

Paulina and the Babe before Leontks Winter's Tale. 828

The Witches' Prophkcy Macbeth. 853

Combat between Macbeth and Macduff " 873

The Murder of King Richard Richard II. 417

Falstapf Asleep BKinND the Arras Henrp IV., Pari I. 429

Kino Henry's Love-Making Henry V. 497

Queen Margaret Urges Flight Henry VI., Pari UL 659

The Princes Led to Death Richard m. 695

Queen Katharine and Cardinal Wolsey Henry Vm. 628

The Mother, Wife, and Son Plead for Rome Cbriotomu. 715

The Ghost of Cjssab Appearing to Brutus JuZita Casar, 739

The Meeting of Antony and Cleopatra .... Antmy and Qeopaira. 761

Titus and his Wronged Dauohteb TUus Andronieus, 818

King Leab Leaves the Castle King Lear. 863

The Balcony Scene. Romeo and JuHeL 805

The Plat at the Palace Hamlet, 921

Othello about to Muboer Desdemona OtheOe, 965

The Venus of the Vatican Venus and Adonis. 979

iT



A



Digitized by



Google



Y N



. if^v^ec^ ^/^y^^^



\Pnm the Otandas rotiiaa.]

x'Ai



^ — ^

Digitized by VjOOQ IC



\ inve



must see that he united the closest study to the keenest observation ;
that he attained to the highest pitch of dramatic art, and the most
accurate philosophy of the human mind ; and tiiat he was, as Schlegel
has happily remarked, '* a profound artist, and not a blind and wildly
luxuriant genius."

£leven of the dramas were printed during Shakspeare's life, probably
from copies piratically obtained. It was the interest of the managers
that new and popular pieces should not be published ; but we entertain
the most perfect conviction, that the poet intended all his original works,
as he had revised some, for publication. The Merry Wives of WincUor
is said to have been written «n fourteen days, by command of Queen
Elisabeth, who wished to see FaUtaff in love. Shakspea^e, however,
was anxious for his fame, as well as eager to gratify the queen : when
the temporary occasion was served, he returned to his play, filled up his
first imperfect outline, and heightened the humor of the dialogue an<i
character. Let not the example of this greatest name in English litera-
ture be ever quoted Ut 8up{K)rt the false opinion, that excellence can be
attained without study and labor i

In 1623 appeared the first collected edition of Shakspeare's dramatic
works — seven years after his own death, and six months aflci that of
his widow, who, we suspect, had a life-interest in the plays. The whole
were contained in one folio volume, and a preface and dedication were
supplied by the poet's fellow-comedians, Hemming and Condell.

The plots of Shakspeare's dramas were nearly all borrowe<l, some
from novels and romances, others from legendary tales, and some from
older plays. In his Roman subjects, he followed North's translation
of Plutarch's Lives; his English historical plays are chiefly taken from
Holinshed's Chronicle. From the latter source he also derived the plot
of Madbethy perhaps the most transcendent of all his works. A very
cursory perusal will display the gradual progress and elevation of his
art. In the Two Qentlemen of Verona^ and the earlier comedies, we see
the timidity and immaturity of youthful genius; a half-formed style,
bearing frequent traces of that of his predecessors; fantastic quibbles
and conceits — which he never wholly abandoned ; only a partial devel-
opment of character; a romantic and playful fancy; but no great
strength of imagination, energy, or passion. In Richards If. and ///".,
the creative and master mind are visible in the delineation of char-
acter. In the Midsummer Nights Dream^ the Merchant of Venice^ Borneo
and Juliet, etc., we find the ripened poetical imagination, prodigality of
invention, and a searching, meditative spirit. These qualities, with a
finer vein of morality and contemplative philosophy, pervade ^4^ youIAk*



Digitized by



Google



V Nh

r LIFE OP SHAKSPEARE. xi>

Erron, his Lov^a Labor Lotty his Lov^b Labor Wen (or AU '» WeU ihtd
Ends Well), his MidHummer Nights Dream, and his MercharU of Venice;
for tragedy, his Richard //., Richard IIL, Henry IV., King John, Tittis
AndronicuB, and his Romeo and Juliet" This was indeed a hriliiant con-
tribution to the English drama, throwing Greene, Peele, and Marlowe
immeasurably into shade, and far transcending all the previous produc-
tions of the English stage. The harvest, however, was not yet half
reaped — the glorious intellect of Shakspeare was still forming, and his
imagination nursing those magnificent conceptions which were after-
wards embodied in the 2>ar, the Macbeth, Othello, and Tempest of his
tragic muse.

The chronology of Shakspeare's plays has been arbitrarily fixed by
Malone and others, without adequate authority. It has been proved,
for example, that OtheUo was on the stage in 1602, though Malone
assigns its first appearance to 1604. Macbeth in put down to 1606,
though we only know that it existed in 1610. Henry VHL is assigned
to 1603, yet it is mentioned by Sir Henry Wotton as a new play in 1613,
and we know that ^it was produced with unusual scenic decoration and
splendor in that year. The Roman plays were undoubtedly among hia
latest works. The Tempest has been usually considered the last, but on
no decisive authority. Adopting this popular belief, Mr. Campbell hai^
remarked, that the Temped has a '' sort of sacredness ** as the last drama
of the great poet, who, as if conscious that this was to be the case, haa
"been inspired to typify himself as a wise, potent, and benevolent
magician.''

There seems no good reason for believing that Shakspeare did no^
continue writing on to the period of his death in 1616 ; and such a sup«
position is countenanced by a tradition thus recorded in the diary of
the Rev. John Ward, A.M., vicar of 8tratford-on-Avon, extending from
1648 to 1679. " I have heard," says the careless and incurious vicar«
who might have added largely to our stock of Shakspearian facts, had
he positessed taste, acuteness, or industry — " I have heard that Mr.
Shakspeare was a natural wit, without any art at all. He frequented
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 it had an
allowance so large, that he spent at the rate of £1000 a year, as I have
heard. Shakspeare, Drayton, and Ben Jonson, had a merry-meeting,
and it seems drank too hard, for Shakspeare died of a fever there con-
tracted." We place no reliance at all on this testimony, either as to
^ facts literary or personal. Those who have studied the works of the ^
^^ great dramatist, and marked hb successive approaches to perfection,^

y Google



Digitized by >



Y-



LIFE OF SHAKSPEARE.



^



\ Latii
^ kind



others may have sunk into oblivion, as being judged unworthy of resus-
citation or improvement in his riper years. Pericles is supposed to be
one of his earliest adaptations. Dryden, indeed, expressly states it to
be the first birth of his muse ; but two if not three styles are distinctly
traceable in this play, and the first two acts look like the work of
Greene or Peele. 2^U8 Andronieus resemble:* the style of Marlowe, and
if written by Shakspeare, as distinct contemporary testimony affirms, it
must have been a very youthful production. The Taming of the Shrew
is greatly indebte<l to an old play on the same subject, and muSt also be
referred to the same period. It is doubtful whether Shakspeare wrote
any of the first part of Henry VL The second and third parts are
modelled on two older plays, the Contention of York and Lancaster, and
the True Tragedy of the Duke of York, Whether these old dramas were
early sketches of Shakspeare's own, cannot now be ascertained ; they
contain the death-scene of Cardinal Beaufort, the last speech of the
Duke of York, and the germs of that vigorous delineation of character
and passion completed in Ricfuu'd IIL We know no other dramatist
of that early period, excepting Marlowe, who could have written those
powerful sketches. From the old plays, Shakspeare borrowed no less
than 1771 entire lines, and nearly double the number are merely altera-
tions. Hence some critics conclude that Shakspeare's property in the
second and third parts of Henry VI. was only in the additions and
alterations he introduced.

The gradual progress of Shakspeare's genius is supposed to have
been not unobserved by Spenser. In 1594, or 1595, the venerable poet
wrote his pastoral, entitled Odin Clout* s Come Home Again, in which he
commemorates his brother-poets under feigned names. The gallant
Raleigh is the Shepherd of the Ocean, Sir Philip Sidney is Astrophel,
and other living authors are characterized by fictitious appellations.

At this time Shakspeare had published his two classical poems, and
probably most of his historical English plays had been acted. The
supposition that Shakspeare was meant, is at least a pleasing one. We
love to figure Spenser and Raleigh sitting under the *' shady alders'' on
the banks of Mulla, reading the manuscript of the Faery Queen; but it is
not less interesting to consider the great poet watching the dawn of that
mighty mind which was to eclipse all its contemporaries. A few years
afterwards, in 1598, we meet with an important notice of Shakspeare
by Francis Meres, a contemporary author. " As Plautus and Seneca,*'
he says, " are accounted the best for comedy and tragedy among the
Latins, so Shakspeare, among the English, is the most excellent in both
kinds for the stage; for comedy, witne&< hU Oentlemen of Verona, hhj



Digitized by



Google



Y-



. ^

LIFE OP SHAKSPEARE. ix \



fame, and with a handsome competency, and before age bad chilled the
enjoyment of life, the poet returned to bin native town to spend the
remainder of his days among the quiet scenes and the friends of his
youth. His parents were both dead, but their declining years had
been gladdened by the prosperity of their illustrious son. His family
appears to have had a leaning towards the Puritans, and in the town-
chamberlain's accounts for 1614, there is a record of a present of sack
and claret, ** given to a preacher at New Place." Preachers of all sects,
if goocUmen, would be welcome to the poet's hospitality i Four years
were spent by Shakspeare in this dignified retirement, and the history
of literature scarcely presents another such picture of calm felicity and
satisfied ambition. He died on the 23d of April, 1016, having just
completed his fifty-second year. His widow survived him seven years.
His two daughters were both married — his only sou Hamnet had died
in 1596 — and one of them had three sons; but all these died without
isBue, and there now remains no lineal representative of the great poet
Shakspeare, it is believed, like his contemporary dramatists, began his
career as an author by altering the works of others, and adapting them
for the stage. The extract from Greene's Oi'oa^a Worth of Wit, which
hia biographer gives in the life of that unhappy author, shows that he
had been engaged in this subordinate literary labor before 1592. Three
years previous to this, Nash had published an address to the students of
the two universities, in which there is a remarkable passage: ''It is,"
he says, "a common practice nowadays, among a sort of shifting com-
panions, that run through every art, and thrive by none, to leave the
trade of Noverint, whereto they were born, and busy themselves with the
endeavors of art, that could scarce Latinize their neck- verse if they
should have need ; yet English Seneca, read by candle-light, yields
many good sentences, as blood is a beggary and so forth ; and if you
ititreat him £aur in a fro^y morning, he will afford you whole Handdt, I
should say Jiandfuls, of tragical speeches." The term Noverint was ap-
plied to lawyers' clerks, so called from the first word of a Latin deed
of those times, equivalent to the modern commencement of Know all
men, etc We have no doubt that Nash alluded to Shakspeare. in this
satirical glance, for Shakspeare was even then, as has been discovered,
a shareholder in the theatre ; and it appears from the title-page to the
first edition of Hamlet, in 1604, that, like Romeo and JuiieL, and the
Merry Wwea of Windsor, it had been enlarged to almost twic^ its origi-
nal size. It seems scarcely probable that the great dramatist should
not have commenced writing before he was twenty-seven. Some of his
fint drafii^ aa we have seen, he subsequently enlarged and completed ;



Digitized by



Google



exterior remains very nearly in its original state, and may be consid-
ered a fair specimen of the residence of a wealthy country gentleman
of those days. The front of the house is completely in the old style —
with stone-shafted casements, a great bow- window of heavy stone-work,

and a portal with armorial bearings over it, carved in stone

The Avon, which winds through the park» makes a bend just at the foot
of a gently sloping bank, which sweeps round the rear of the house.
Large herds of deer were reposing upon its borders.^'

Shakspeare soon rose to distinction in the theatre. He was a share-
holder of the Blackfriars Company witliin two or three years after his
arrival ; of the fifteen shareholders of the theatre in November, 1589*
Shakspeare's name is the eleventh on the list In 1596, his name is the
fifth in a list of only eight proprietors; and in 1603, he was second in
the new patent granted by King James. It appears from recent discov-
eries, that the wardrobe and stage properties afterwards belonged to
Shakspeare, and with the shares which he possessed, were estimated at
£1400, equal to between $30,000 and $35,000 of our present money. He
was also a proprietor of the Globe theatre ; and at the lowest computa-
tion, his income must have been about £300 a year, or $7500 at the
present day. As an actor, Shakspeare is said by a contemporary —
supposed to be Lord Southampton — to have been *' of good account in
the company;*' but the cause of his unexampled success was his
immortal dramas, the delight and wonder of his age.

Up to 1611. the whole of Shakspeare's plays — thirty-seven in number,
according to the first folio edition — are supposed to have been pro-
duced. With the nobles, the wit«», and poets of his day, he was in
familiar intercourse. The ** gentle Shakspeare,*' as he was usually
styled, was throned in all hearts. But notwithstanding his brilliant
success in the metropolis, the poet early looked forward to a permanent
retirement to the country. He visited Stratford once a year ; and when
wealth ^owed in upon him, he purchased property in his native town
and its vicinity. In 1597, he paid £60 for New Place, the principal
house in Stratford ; in 1602, he gave £320 for 107 acres of land adjoin-
ing to his purchase ; and in 1605 he paid £440 for the lease of the
tithes of Stratford. The produce of his lands he no doubt disposed of *
like the ordinary lords of the soil, and Mr. Halliwell in his life of
Shakspeare (1848) shows that in 1604 the poet brought an action against
Philip Rogers for £1, 15h. lOd., for malt sold and delivered to him.
The Litedt entry of his name among the king's players is in 1604, but
he was living in London in 1609. The year 1612 has been assigned as
the date pf his final retirement to the country. In the fulness of his



Digitized by



Google



.^



dren, twins, were born to Shakspeare, who had no family afterwards.
We may readily rappose that the small town of Stratford did not offer
scope for the ambition of the poet, now arrived at early manhood, and
feeling the ties of a husband and a father. He removed to London in
1586 or 1587. It has been said that his departure was hastened by the
effects of a lampoon he had written on a neighboring squire, Sir Thomas
Lucy of Charlecote, in revenge for Sir Thomas prosecuting him for
deer-stealing. The story is inconsistent in its details. Part of it must
be untrue ; it was never recorded against him in his lifetime ; and the
whole may have been built upon the opening scene in the Merry Wives
of Windsor — not written till after Sir Thomas Lucy's death — in which
there is some wanton wit on the armorial bearings of the Lucy femily.
The tale, however, is now associated so intimately with the name of
Shakspeare, that, considering the obscurity which rests, and probably
will ever rest, on his history, there seems little likelihood of its ceasing
to have a place in the public mind.

Washington Irving, in his Skeleh-hook, thus adverts to Charlecote and
the deer-Atealing affair :

" I had a desire to see the old family seat of the Lucys at Charlecote,
and to ramble through the park where Shakspeare, in company with
some of the roysters of Stratford, is said to have committed his youthful
offence of deer-stealing. In this hair-brained exploit, we are told that
he was taken prisoner, and carried to the keeper's lodge, where he re-
mained all night in doleful captivity. When brought into the presence
of Sir Thomas Lucy, his treatment must have been galling and humili-
ating; for it so wrought upon his spirit, as to produce a rough pasquin-
ade, which was affixed to the park-gate at Charlecote.

"This flagitious attack upon the dignity of the knight, so incensed
him, that he applied to a lawyer at Warwick to put the severity of the
laws in force against the rhyming deer-stalker. Shakspeare did not
wait to brave the united puissance of a knight of the shire and a
country attorney

** I now found myself among noble avenues of oaks and elms, whose
vast sise bespoke the growth of centuries. It was from wandering in
early life among this rich scenery, and about the romantic solitudes of
the adjoining park of Fulbroke, which then formed a part of the Lucy
estate, that some of Shakspeare's commentators have supposed he de-
rived his noble forest meditations of Jaques and the enchanting wood-
land pictures in As You Like It The house is a large

building of brick, with stone quoins, and is in the Qothic style of Queen
Elisabeth's day, having been built in the first year of her reign. The



Digitized by



Google




fellow-townsmen, and in rambling over the beautiftil valley of the Avon.
It has been conjectured that he was sometime in a lawyer's office, as his
works abound in technical legal phrases and illustrations. This has
always seemed to us highly probable. The London players were also
then in the habit of visiting Stratford : Thomas Green, an actor, was a
native of the town ; and Burbage, the greatest performer of his day —
the future Richard, Hamlet, and Othello — was originally from War-
wickshire. Who can doubt, then, that the high-bailiflTs son, from the
years of twelve to twenty, was a frequent and welcome visitant behind
the Keenest — that he there imbibed the tastes and feelings which col-
ored all his future life — and that he there felt the first stirrings of his
immortal dramatic genius? We are persuaded that he had begun to
write long before he left Stratford, and had most probably sketched, if
not completed, his Venue and Adonis, and the Lucreee. The amount of
his education at the grammar-school has been made a question of eager
scrutiny and controversy. Ben Jonson says, he had " little Latin, and
less Greek." This is not denying that he had some. Many Latinized
idioms and expressions are to be found in his plays. The choice of two
classical subjects for his early poetry, and the numerous felicitous allu-
sions in his dramas to the mythology of the ancients, show that he was
imbued with the spirit and taste of classical literature, and was a happy
student, if not a critical scholar. His mind wns too comprehensive to
d^enerate into pedantry ; but when, at the age of four or ^ve and
twenty, he took the field of original dramatic composition, in company
with the university-bred authors and wits of his times, he soon dis-
tanced them all, in correctness as well as facility, in the intellectual
richness of his thoughts and diction, and in the wide range of his
acquired knowledge. It may be safely assumed, therefore, that at
Stratford he was a hard, though perhaps an irregular, student. The
precocious maturity of Shakspeare's passions hurried him into a pre-
mature marriage. On the 28th of November, 1582, he obtained a
license at Worcester, legalizing his union with Anne Hathaway, with
once asking of the bans. Two of his neighbors became security in the
sum of $200, that the poet would fulfil his matrimonial engagement, he
being a minor, and unable, legally, to contract for himself.

Anne Hathaway was seven years Shakspeare's senior. She was the
daughter of a ''substantial yeoman" of the village of Shottery, about a
mile from Stratford. The hurry and anxiety with respect to the mar-
riage-license is explained by the register of baptisms in the poet's native
town; his daughter Susanna was chiistcfned on the 26th of Mtiy, 1589,
six months after the marf^ge. In a year and a half two other




Digitized by



Google



r



SHAKSPEARE'S SiRrHPLACE (RESTORED).



LIFE OF SHAKSPEARE.



WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE wiw born at Stratford-on-Avon, in the
county of Warwick, in April, 1564. There is a pleasant and
poetical tradition, that he was bom on the 23d of the month, the anni-
versary of St. George, the tutelar saint of England ; but all we know
with certainty is, that he was baptized on the 26th. His father, John
Shakspeare, is traced to a family occnpying land at Snitterfield, near



Online LibraryWilliam ShakespeareThe complete dramatic and poetical works of William Shakspeare ....: from ... → online text (page 213 of 214)