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-as heavy lead or stage manager? If the traditions alleged anything different from what they do affirm, there would be reason to doubt them; as it
is, though necessarily unprovable, they are entirely Position ten probable. What we do know is that by the end of years later.
those ten years Shakespeare was universally recognized as an actor and playwright, as the author of two long poems (published by himself and dedicated to the Earl of Southampton) and of a number of sonnets, which were circulating in MS., after the fashion of the day, among his friends and acquaintances. Already in the year 1598, at the age of thirty-four, he was acclaimed by Francis Meres as the best dramatic writer then in England.?
At this period we find Shakespeare in a position to rehabilitate the fallen fortunes of his family, and to aspire for himself after a position in the social world, by seeking from the Heralds' College a
grant of arms, for which, as was customary, he Shake- applied in the name of his father.
His income, from this time onwards, was comparatively large. income.
By 1597 it was probably not less than £500 a year, the purchasing power of which was equal to that of
? References to Meres appear in many works dealing with Shakespeare. As his volume is somewhat rare, it may be advantageous to cite his actual words. His book is entitled “Palladis Tamia: Wits Treasury: Being the Second Part of Wits Commonwealth. By Francis Meres, Maister of Artes of both Vniuersities.” (London, 1598.) One section of this work is called “A Comparative Discourse of our English Poets, with the Greeke, Latine, and Italian Poets." The chief passages in this section referring to Shakespeare are the following (though there are several others):
“As the Greeke tongue is made famous and eloquent by Homer, Hesiod, . . . so the English tongue is mightily enriched, and gorgeouslie inuested in rare ornaments and resplendent abiliments by sir Philip Sidney, Spencer, Daniel, Drayton, Warner, Shakespeare, Marlow, and Chapman.
$20,000 in America at the present day. There is conclusive evidence that after 1599, in which year he became a shareholder in the Globe Theatre Company, it increased considerably. Moreover, his various expenditures at Stratford were all investments, and as such were more or less productive. He let his house and farmed his land by proxy, spending most of the year in London down till 1611.
During the last five years of his life, he is traceable as living in retirement in his native town, whilst keeping up business connections with his old professional associates in London. His will shows him His will. to have been, like several others who stood at the head of their profession, a person of comparative affluence. He has considerable landed and house property to devise, and quite a large sum of money, besides a lengthy list of "goodes” and “chattells." His theatrical shareholdings are not mentioned in his will; but neither does Burbage in his will refer to his holdings. Both Burbage and Condell also left considerable sums. Alleyn, who died in 1626, had during his lifetime acquired for £10,000 (equiva
“As the soule of Euphorbus was thought to liue in Pythagoras: so the sweete wittie soule of Quid lives in mellifluous & hony-tongued Shakespeare, witnes his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece, his sugred Sonnets among his priuate friends, &c.
"As Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for Comedy and Tragedy among the Latines: so Shakespeare, among ye English is the most excellent in both kinds for the stage; for Comedy, witnes his Gentlemen of Verona, his Errors, his Loue labors lost, his Loue labors wonne, his Midsummers night dreame, & his Merchant of Venice: for Tragedy, his Richard the 2. Richard the 3. Henry the 4. King lohn, Titus Andronicus and his Romeo and Juliet.
“As Epius Stolo said, that the Muses would speak with Plautus tongue, if they would speak Latin : so I say that the Muses would speak with Shakespeares fine filed phrase, if they would speake English.”
lent in purchasing power to $400,000) the estate at Dulwich on which he built the college which has ever since borne his name. By his will he disposes also of nearly £2,000 in money, and provides for the building and endowment of thirty almshouses. Compared with Alleyn, Shakespeare was a poor man; but the testaments of Condell, Pope, Burbage, Alleyn and others corroborate the independently established fact that it was possible for a successful actor, whether playwright or not, to acquire a fair competency by his profession.
Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616, this being, according to tradition, his fifty-second birthday. It is not absolutely certain, however, that he was born on April 23, 1564, though it is certain that his birth took place within a day or two of that date.
SHAKESPEARE'S APPRENTICESHIP: TYPICAL
HE conditions of dramatic authorship in the How plays
Shakespearean period make it extremely diffi- were made, cult in many cases, and sometimes impossible, to assign a play, in whole or in part, to any particular author. The MS. became the absolute property of the theatrical company that purchased it. If, upon production, any part of the play did not take, it would be handed over to another dramatist, or to the literary man of the company, to be cobbled. Upon a revival, new scenes might be inserted, or a whole new part vamped up to suit some particular actor. The liberties thus taken with the text of plays must often have been as extensive as those perpetrated at a later date by Mr. Vincent Crummles.
It was, however, to these conditions that Shakespeare owed his apprenticeship. As Emerson puts it, he "esteemed the mass of old plays waste stock, in which any experiment could be freely tried." To them also we owe those delightful difficulties about the composition of the various parts of the early works of Shakespeare which have provided copy for generations of commentators, and which, being insurmountable, will, by the grace of Providence, furnish a harmless and delightful occupation to the Shakespeare Societies of generations yet unborn.
I have already mentioned the fact that the theatrical published.
companies objected to the publication of their plays. In the absence, however, of any law securing the author's copyright, they had no legal redress against piratical printers or publishers who chose to put forward any sort of version or perversion of a drama, and ascribe it to any author whose name was likely to take with the public. Thus it came about that several plays were at various times ascribed to Shakespeare, in which he had no hand at all; and several collections of poems were fathered upon him, without authority and without truth. Many of the quarto editions of authentic plays present a text extensively corrupted. The first quarto of Hamlet is a glaring instance of this. Sometimes the printer would purchase a stage copy from some
venal actor or hanger-on of the theatre. At other Plays taken times he would employ a shorthand-writer to take by“ brachy. down a piece from the lips of the performers. It graphy."
is well-nigh impossible even for the most expert modern shorthand-writer to get a correct rendering of a play in this manner. The delivery of the actors is invariably too rapid, and the poetic vocabulary constitutes in itself an enormous strain upon the skill of any stenographer. The piratical printers, however, cared nothing for accuracy; they were merely tradesmen anxious to get the market.
Sixteen of Shakespeare's plays were published in these cheap quartos during his lifetime. There is no evidence that his sanction was obtained to the
1"Many times ... the Lord Chamberlain in behalf of the acting companies warned the Stationers' Company against 'procuring, publishing and printing plays,' 'by means whereof not only they (the actors) themselves had much prejudice, but the books much corruption, to the injury and disgrace of the authors.'"- Lee, Life, ed. 1916, p. 546.