Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

1753, to the Rev. Francis Gastrell, vicar of Frodsham in Cheshire. In the garden belonging to this mansion was a mulberry-tree, called Shakespeare's mulberrytree; the constant tradition of Stratford declaring that it was planted by the poet's hand;—probably about 1609, as during that year an immense number of young mulberry-trees was imported from France, and sent into different counties of England, by order of King James, with a view to the encouragement of the silk manufacture. Under this celebrated mulberrytree, Garrick, Macklin, and Delane (the actor) had been entertained in 1742: but the wealthy and unamiable Mr. Gastrell, conceiving a dislike to it, because it subjected him to the importunities of travellers, whose veneration for Shakespeare induced them to visit it, caused it to be cut down and cleft into pieces for firewood, in 1756 : the greater part of it, however, was bought by a watchmaker of Stratford, who converted every fragment into small boxes, goblets, toothpickcases, tobacco-stoppers, &c., for which he found eager purchasers. Mr. Gastrell having quarrelled with the magistrates about parochial assessments, razed the mansion to the ground in 1759, and quitted Stratford amidst the rage and execrations of the inhabitants.

Any attempt at a critical analysis of the plays of Shakespeare, after the many volumes they have called forth, is superfluous here ; and luckily so,-for I would not willingly engage in the task. A few words more,

[blocks in formation]

therefore, must bring this slight Memoir to a close. In several publications are to be found essays on the old English theatre, the writers of which seem desirous of conveying to their readers the idea, that Shakespeare had dramatic contemporaries nearly equal to himself; and for criticism of such a tendency two distinguished men are perhaps answerable,--Lamb and Hazlitt, who have, on the whole, exaggerated the general merits of the dramatists of Elizabeth and James's days. “Shakespeare,” says Hazlitt, “towered above his fellows, 'in shape and gesture proudly eminent,' but he was one of a race of giants, the tallest, the strongest, the most graceful and beautiful of them ; but it was a common and a noble brood.18 A falser remark, I conceive, has seldom been made by critic. Shakespeare is not only immeasurably superior to the dramatists of his time in creative

power, in insight into the human heart, and in profound thought; but he is moreover utterly unlike them in almost every respect, —unlike them in his method of developing character, in his diction, in his versification : nor should it be forgotten that some of those scenes19 which have been most admired in the

18 Lectures on the Dram. Lit. of the age of Elizabeth, p. 12, ed. 1840.

19 Take for instance the scene of the Revels in Ford's Broken Heart, where Calantha continues dancing, in spite of the dreadful tidings brought to her in quick succession,-a scene of sheer extravagance, yet praised by Lamb with a fervour which ends in blasphemy. (“The expression of this transcendent scene almost bears me in imagination to Calvary and the Cross,” &c. Spec. of English Dram. Poets, p. 264, ed. 1808.)-The Broken Heart was not brought out till after the death of Shakespeare: but Ford is certainly to be considered as one of his dramatic contemporaries, since he was writing for the stage as early as 1613 (see Gifford's Introd. to Ford's Works, p. xiii.).

works of his contemporaries were intended to affect the audience at the expense of nature and probability, and therefore stand in marked contrast to all that we possess as unquestionably from the pen of Shakespeare.

SHAKESPEARE'S WILL,20

IN THE PREROGATIVE OFFICE, LONDON.

Vicesimo quinto die [Januarii] Martii, anno regni do

mini nostri Jacobi, nunc regis Angliæ, &c. decimo quarto, et Scotiæ xlix', annoque Domini 1616.

T. Wmi Shackspeare. In the name of God, amen! I William Shackspeare, of Stratford upon Avon in the countie of Warr., gent., in perfect health and memorie, God be praysed, doe make and ordayne this my last will and testament in manner and forme followeing, that ys to saye, ffirst, I comend my soule into the handes of God my Creator, hoping and assuredlie beleeving, through thonelie me

20 6 The will is written in the clerical hand of that age on three small (moderately sized] sheets, fastened (together) at top like a lawyer's brief. Shakspeare's name is signed at the bottom of the first and second sheet, and his final signature, 'By me William Shakspeare,' is in [about] the middle of the third sheet. The name, however, at the bottom of the first sheet is not in the usual place, but in the margin at the left hand.

I suspect he signed his name at the end of the will first, and so went backwards, which will account for that in the first page being worse written than the rest, the hand growing gradually weaker.Ms. Notes by Malone in the Bodleian Library.—Mr. Halliwell's method of marking the erasures and interlineations of the original is now adopted : -the words which have been erased are put between square brackets ; those which have been interlined are printed in italics.

.

rites of Jesus Christe my Saviour, to be made partaker of lyfe everlastinge, and my bodye to the earth whereof yt ys made. Item, I gyve and bequeath unto my [sonne and] daughter Judyth one hundred and fyftie poundes of lawfull English money, to be paied unto her in manner and forme foloweing, that ys to saye, one hundred poundes in discharge of her marriage porcion within one yeare after my deceas, with consideracion after the rate of twoe shillinges in the pound for soe long tyme as the same shalbe unpaied unto her after my deceas, and the fyftie poundes residewe thereof upon her surrendring of, or gyving of such sufficient securitie as the overseers of this my will shall like of, to surrender or graunte all her estate and right that shall discend or come unto her after my deceas, or that shee nowe hath, of, in, or to, one copiehold tenemente, with thappurtenaunces, lyeing and being in Stratford upon

Avon aforesaied in the saied countye of Warr., being parcell or holden of the mannour of Rowington, unto my daughter Susanna Hall and her heires for ever. Item, I gyve and bequeath unto my saied daughter Judith one hundred and fyftie poundes more, if shee or anie issue of her bodie be lyvinge att thend of three yeares next ensueing the daie of the date of this my will, during which tyme my executours are to paie her consideracion from my deceas according to the rate aforesaied; and if she dye within the saied tearme without issue of her bodye, then my

will

ys, and bequeath one hundred poundes thereof to my neece

and I doe gyve

« AnteriorContinuar »