Obrázky stránek
[ocr errors]




Dramatir and Purtical Works, Complete :






Glossary and Notes,








[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE was born at Stratford- which Mr. Malone thinks not inconsistent with upon-Avon, in Warwickshire, on the 230 day probability. It must have been, however, at of April, 1564. Of the rank of his family it this time, no inconsiderable addition to his is not easy to form an opinion. Mr. Rowe says difficulties that he ba? 3 family of ten chilthat by the register and certain public writings dren. His wife was the daughter and heiress relating to Stratford, it appears that his an- of Robert Arden of Wellingcote, in the county cestors were “ of good figure and fashion," in of Warwick, who is styled “a gentleman of that town, and are mentioned as “gentlemen," worship.” The family of Arden is very an an epithet which was more determinate then cient, Robert Arden of Bromich, Esq., being than at present, when it has become an un- in the list of the gentry of this county relimited phrase of courtesy. His father, John turned by the commissioners in the welfth Shakspeare, was a considerable dealer in wool, year of King Henry VI., A. D. 1433. Edward and had been an officer and bailiff (probably Arden was sheriff of the county in 1568. The high-bailiff or mayor) of the body corporate woodland part of this county was anciently of Stratford. He held also the office of justice called Ardern, afterwards softened to Arden; of the peace; and at one time, it is said, pos- and hence the name. sessed lands and tenements to the amount of Our illustrious poet was the eldest son, and £500, the reward of his grandfather's faithful received his early education, however narrow and approved services to King Henry VII. or liberal, at a free school, probably tha: This, however, has been asserted upon very founded at Stratford. From this he appears doubtful authority. Mr. Malone thinks “it is to have been soon removed, and placed, achighly probable that he distinguished himself cording to Mr. Malone's opinion, in the office in Bosworth Field on the side of King Henry, of some country attorney, or the seneschal of and that he was rewarded for his military some manor court, where it is highly probable services by the bounty of that parsimonious he picked up those technical law phrases that prince, though not with a grant of lands. No so frequently occur in his plays, and could such grant appears in the Chapel of the Rolls, not have been in common use, unless among from the beginning to the end of Henry's professional men. Mr. Capell conjectures, that reign." But whatever may have been his his early marriage prevented his being sent to lormer wealth, it appears to have been greatly some university. It appears, however, as Dr. reduced in the latter part of his life, as we Farmer observes, that his life was incompatiAnd, from the books of the Corporation, that, ble with a course of education; and it is cerin 1579, he was excused the trifling weekly tain, that “his contemporaries, friends and tax of fourpence levied on all the aldermen; foes, nay, and himself likewise, agree in his and that, in 1586, another alderman was ap-want of what is usually termed literature." It pointed in his room, in consequence of his de- is, indeed, a strong argument in favor of Shaks. clining to attend on the business of that office. peare's illiterature, that it was maintained by It is even said by Aubrey,' a man sufficiently all his contemporaries, many of whom have left accurate in facts, although credulous in super- upon record every merit they could bestow or stitious narratives and traditions, that he fol- him; and by his successors, who lived nearest lowed for some time the occupation of a butcher, to his time, when “his memory was green;"

and that it has been denied only by Gildon, • MSS. Aubrey, Mus. Ashmol. Oxon, examined by Mr. Sewell, and others down to Upton, who could

have no means of ascertaining the truth





In his eighteenth year, or perhaps a little ness, or the love of his wife, who had already pooner, he married Anne Hathaway, who was brought him two children, and was herself eight years older than himself, the daughter the daughter of a substantial yeoman. It is of one Hathaway, who is said to have been unlikely, therefore, when he was beyond the a substantial yeoman in the neighbourhood of reach of his prosecutor, that he should conStratford. Of his domestic economy, or pro- ceal his plan of life, or place of residence, fessional occupation at this time, we have no from those who, if he found himself distressed, information; but it would appear that both could not fail to afford him such supplies as were in a considerabile degree neglected by his would have set him above the necessity of holdassociating with a gang of deer-stealers. Being horses for subsistence.” Mr. Malone has ing detected with them in robbing the park of remarked, in his attempt to ascertain the Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, near Stratford, order in which the Plays of Shakspeare were he was so rigorously prosecuted by that gen- written, that he might have found an easy intleman, as to be obliged to leave his family troduction to the stage: for Thomas Green, a and business, and take shelter in London. Sir celebrated comedian of that period, was his Thomas, on this occasion, is said to have been townsman, and perhaps his relation. The geexasperated by a ballad Shakspeare wrote, nius of our author prompted him to write probably his first essay in poetry, of which poetry; his connection with a player might the following stanza was communicated to Mr. have given his productions a dramatic turn: Oldys:-

or his own sagacity might have taught him

that fame was not incompatible with profit, A parliemente member, a justice of peace, At home a poor scare-crowe, at London an asse,

and that the theatre was an avenue to both. If lowrie is Lucy, as some volke miscalle it, That it was once the general custom to ride Then Lucy is lowee whatever befall it: He thinks himrelf greate,

on horseback to the play, I am likewise yet to Yet an asse in his state

learn. The most popular of the theatres were We allowe by his ears but with asses to mate. on the Bankside: and we are told by the sati. If Lucy be lowsie, as some volke niscalle it,

rical pamphleteers of that time, that the usual Sing lowrie Lucy, whatever befall it.

mode of conveyance to these places of amuseThese lines, it must be confessed, do no great ment was by water, but not a single writer so nonor to our poet; and probably were unjust; much as hints at the custom of riding to them, for although some of his admirers have re- or at the practice of having horses held durcorded Sir Thomas as a “vain, weak, and vin- ing the hours of exhibition. Some allusion to dictive magistrate,” he was certainly exerting this usage (if it had existed) must, I think, no very violent act of oppression, in protect- have been discovered in the course of our reing his property against a man who was de- searches after contemporary fashions. Let it grading the commonest rank of life, and had, be remembered, too, that we receive this tale at this time, bespoke no indulgence by supe- on no higher authority than that of Cibber's rior talents. The ballad, however, must have Lives of the Poets, vol. i. p. 130. Sir William made some noise at Sir Thomas's expense, as Davenant told it to Mr. Betterton, who comthe author took care it should be affixed to his municated it to Mr. Rowe, who, according to park-gates, and liberally circulated among his Dr. Johnson, related it to Mr. Pope." Mr. ne-ghbors.

Malone concurs in opinion, that this story On his arrival in London, which was proba- stands on a very slender foundation, while he bly in 1586, when he was twenty-two years differs from Mr. Steevens as to the fact of genold, he is said to have made his first acquaint- tlemen going to the theatre on horseback. ance in the play-house, to which idleness or With respect, likewise, to Shakspeare's father taste may have directed him, and where his being "engaged in a lucrative business," we necessities, if tradition may be credited, obliged may remark, that this could not have been the him to accept the office of call-boy, or prompter's case at the time our author came to London, attendant. This is a menial whose employ- | if the preceding dates be correct, He is said ment it is to give the performers notice to be to have arrived in London in 1586, the year in ready to enter, so often as the business of the which his father resigned the office of alder play requires their appearance on the stage. man, unless, indeed, we are permitted to con Pope, however, relates a story, communicated jecture that his resignation was not the conse to him by Rowe, but which Rowe did not think quence of his necessities. deserving of a place in the life he wrote, that But in whatever situation he was first emmust a little retard the advancement of our ployed at the theatre, he appears to have soon poet to the office just mentioned. According discovered those talents which afterwards made is this story, Shakspeare's first employment him was to wait at the door of the play-house, and Th' applause, delight, the wonder of our stage! bold the horses of those who had no servants, that they might be ready after the perform- Some distinction he probably first acquired ance. But “I cannot,” says his acute com- as an actor, although Mr. Rowe has not been mentator, Mr. Steevens, “dismiss the anecdote able to discover any character in which he apwithout observing, that it seems to want every peared to more advantage than that of the mark of prɔbability. Though Shakspeare ghost in Hamlet. The instructions given to quitted Stratford on acccunt of a juvenile the player in that tragedy, and other passages irregularity, we have no reason to suppose of his works, show an intimate acquaintance that he had forfeited the protection of his with the skill of acting, and such as is scarceiy fatter, who was engaged in a lucrative busi- surpassed in our own days. He appears te

« PředchozíPokračovat »