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to the "Virgin Queen!" That's what they called "Bess."
William and myself took part in several of the joint circus and theatrical performances, and at the conclusion of one of the plays "Virtue Victorious," Queen Elizabeth called up William and a purple page named Francis Bacon, patted them on the head with her royal digits, and said they would soon be great men!
I must acknowledge that I felt a little envious at the encomium, not so much to William, as to the proud peacock, Bacon, who came in the train of the Queen.
At sunrise of the 27th of July, 1575, the festivities closed, and the royal cavalcade with a following of ten thousand loyal subjects, accompanied the ruling monarch to the borders of Warwickshire, with universal shouts and ovations on her triumphal march to London.
"I would applaud thee to the very echo,
"All that glitters is not gold,
APPRENTICE BOY. AMBITION.
"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our Stars, But in ourselves that we are underlings."
WILL SHAKSPERE and myself left school when we were fourteen years of age. Our parents being reduced in worldly circumstances, needed the financial fruits of our labor.
Shakspere was bound to a butcher named John Bull, for a term of three years, while I was put at the trade of stone-cutting with Sam Granite for the same period.
Will was one of the finest looking boys in the town of Stratford, aristocratic by nature, large and noble in appearance, and the pride of all the girls in the county of Warwick; for his fame as a runner, boxer, drinker, dancer, reciter, speaker, hunter, swimmer and singer was well known in the surrounding farms and villages, where he had occasion to drive, purchase and sell meat animals for his butcher boss, John Bull. Shakspere's father assisted Bull in selling hides and buying wool.
In the winter of 1580, Will and myself joined a new thespian society, organized by the boys and
girls of Stratford, with a contingent of theatrical talent from Shottery, Snitterfield, Leicester, Kenilworth and Coventry.
Strolling players, chartered by Queen Elizabeth and the Earl of Leicester, often visited Stratford and the surrounding towns, infusing into the young, and even the old, a desire for that innocent fun of tragic or comic philosophy that wandering minstrels and circus exhibitions generate in the human heart.
Plays of Roman, Spanish and German origin, as well as those of Old Albion, were enacted on our rural stage, and although we had not the paraphernalia and scenery of the London actors, we made up in frantic enthusiasm what we lacked in artistic finish, and often in our amateur exhibitions at balls, fairs, races and May Day Morris dances, we "astonished the natives," who paid from a penny to sixpence to see and hear the "Stratford Oriental Theatrical Company."
Shakspere always took a leading part in every play, poem and declamation, but when an encore was given and a demand for a recitation on love, Will was in his natural element and gave the eager audience dashes from Ovid's Metamorphoses or Petrarch's Sonnets.
The local company had a large assortment of poetic and theatrical translations, and many of the boys and girls who had passed through the Latin school, could "spout" the rhythmic lines of Ovid, Virgil, Horace or Petrarch in the original language. And strange to say the Warwickshire audience would cheer the Latin more than the English rendition, on the principle that the least you know
about a thing the more you enjoy it! Thus pretense and ignorance make a stagger at information, and while fooling themselves, imagine that they fool their elbow neighbor!
Shakspere had a most marvelous memory, and his sense of taste, smell, feeling, hearing and particularly seeing was abnormally developed, and constant practice in talking and copying verses and philosophic sentences made him almost perfect in his deductions and conclusions. He was a natural orator, and impressed the beholder with his superiority.
He had a habit of copying the best verses, dramatic phrases and orations of ancient authors, and then to show his superiority of epigrammatic, incisive style, he could paraphrase the poems of other writers into his own divine sentences, using the crude ore of Homeric and Platonic philosophy, resolving their thoughts into the best form of classic English, lucid, brave and blunt!
I have often tested his powers of lightning observation with each of us running by shop windows in Stratford, Oxford or London, and betting a dinner as to who could name the greatest number of objects, and he invariably could name correctly three to my one. In visiting country farmers in search of cattle, sheep or pigs he could mount a stone fence or climb a hedge row gate, and by a glance over the field or meadow, give the correct number of animals in sight.
He was a wonder to the yeomanry of Warwickshire and the surrounding counties, and when he had occasion to rest for the night at farm houses or taverns, he was the prime favorite of the rural
flames or bouncing, beaming barmaid. The girls went wild about him. The physical development of Shakspere was as noticeable as his mental superiority. Often when he ploughed the placid waters of the Avon, or buffeted the breakers of the moaning sea, have I gazed in rapture at his manly, Adonis form, standing on the sands, like a Grecian wrestler, waiting for the laurel crown of the Olympic games.
Great Shakspere was endowed with heavenly light;
My family and the Hathaway household were on familiar terms, for my father at times worked an adjoining estate at the edge of the village of Shottery, a straggling community of farmers and tradesmen, with the usual wheelwright, blacksmith shop, corn and meat store and alehouse attachments.
William, in his rural perambulations, often put up for the night at our cottage, and as there was generally some fun going on in the neighborhood after dark, I led him into many frolics with the boys and girls; and I can assure you he was a rusher with the fair sex, capturing the plums that fell from the tree of beauty and passion.
On a certain moonlight night, in the month of May, 1581, a large concourse of rural belles and