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His working den at the Blackfriars was crowded with a mass of theatrical literary productions, ancient and modern, while our lodging rooms were piled up with Latin, Greek, Spanish and French translations.
Manager Burbage, Dick Field and even Chris Marlowe were constantly patronizing the wonderful William, and supplied him with the iron ore products of the ancient and middle ages, which he quickly fashioned into the laminated steel of dramatic excellence.
"Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
GROWING LITERARY RENOWN. ROYAL PATRONS.
"Follow your envious courses, men of malice; You have Christian warrant for them, and, no doubt,
In time will find their fit rewards."
"O beware, my lord, of jealousy;
It is the green-eyed monster, which doth mock The meat it feeds on."
THE literary and dramatic world of London in the years 1589 to 1592 was stirred with pride and astonishment at the productions of William Shakspere, and from the tavern and guilds of tradesmen to the crack clubs of authors, lords and royalty itself, the Dramatic Magician of the Blackfriars was praised to the skies and sought for by even Queen Elizabeth, who saw more than another Edmund Spenser to glorify her reign and flash her name down the ages with even finer, luminous colors than bedecked the sylvan pathway of the Faerie Queen!
The Earl of Leicester was one of the first great men of England to recognize the divine accomplishments of the Warwickshire boy who had made
his first theatrical adventures through the domain of the old Earl, and who was ever the friend of old John Shakspere, the impecunious and agnostic father of our brilliant Bard.
On the death of the old Earl in the autumn of 1588, his domain reverted to his stepson, the young Earl of Essex, who continued to be the patron of letters and often attended the Blackfriars, with his friend, the handsome and intellectual Earl of Southampton, Henry Wriothesley, who took the greatest interest in the plays of "Love's Labor's Lost," "Two Gentlemen of Verona," "King John," "Henry the Fourth, "Henry the Fifth," and "Henry the Sixth," that were then fermenting in the brain of William.
He had ransacked the history of Hollingshead and others to illustrate on the stage the civil wars between the houses of York and Lancaster, known as the war of the Red and White Roses, with canker and thorn to pester each royal clan and bring misery on the British people because of a family quarrel!
"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”
What have Kings that privates have not too,
The jealousy of Kyd, Lodge and Greene continued to secretly knife the Stratford butcher boy, but the more they tried to cough him down the more he rose in public estimation, until finally these little vipers of spite and spleen gave up their secret scandal chase, when, like a roebuck from the
forest of Arden or Caledonian heather crags, he flashed out of sight of all the dramatic and poetic hounds who pursued him, and ever after looked down from the imperial heights of Parnassus at the dummies of theatrical pretense.
They accused him of wholesale plagiarism and of robbing the archives of every land for raw material to build up his comedies, tragedies and histories.
He laughed and worked on, night and day, acknowledging the "soft impeachment" of his literary integrity, but at the same time defied them to equal or surpass the marvelous characters he created for the edification and glory of mankind!
Yet, while he had a few envious literary, political and religious detractors, he was building up constantly a bulwark of sentimental and material friends in London that kept his name on the tongue of thinkers in home, tavern, club and palace.
The keen and generous Burbage knew the intrinsic value of Shakspere, and to tie him to the interest of the Blackfriars, he gradually increased the Bard's salary and gave him an interest in the stock company. Yet, other theatres staged his plays.
Edmund Spenser, the greatest rhythmic poet of his day, author of the "Faerie Queen," and prime favorite of Sidney and Queen Elizabeth, was lavish in his praise of the rising dramatist, while Michael Drayton and Christopher Marlowe vied with each other in admiration of the newly discovered star of intellectual brilliancy that glittered unceasingly in the sky of poetic and philosophic letters.
Essex, Southampton, Raleigh, Bacon, Monmouth, Derby, Norfolk, Northumberland, Percy,
Burleigh, Cecil, Montague, and many other lords of London club life, gave a ready adherence to Shakspere, and after his mighty acting on the Blackfriars and other stages, struggled with each other as to who should have the honor of entertaining him at the gay midnight suppers that delighted the amusement world of London.
One of the most valuable friends William encountered in London was John Florio, a Florentine, the greatest linguist of his day, who had traveled in all lands and gathered nuggets of thought in every clime. He spoke Spanish, Italian, French, German and Greek, with the accent of a native, and had but recently translated the works of Montaigne, the great French philosopher. The Herbert-Southampton family patronized him.
When not employed at the various theatres, the Stratford miracle could be found at the rooms of his friend Florio, at the "Red Lion," across the street from Temple Bar, where law students, bailiffs and barristers made day and night merry with their professional antics.
William employed Florio to teach him the technical and philosophic merits of the Greek and Latin languages, and at the same time furnish him with ancient stories that he might dramatize into English classics, and astonish the native writers by dressing up old subjects in new frocks, cloaks, robes and crowns.
Florio would often read by the hour, gems of Latin, Greek and French philosophy, and explain to us the intricate phrases of Virgil, Ovid, Terence, Homer, Eschylus, Plutarch, Demosthenes, Plato, Petrarch and Dante, while William drank