Imagens da página

word, or passage from any other source, always showing the folio reading in a note, I have trusted sometimes to the judgment of my predecessors, and occasionally to the dictates of my own. As a general rule it may be affirmed, that as in the folios, the first is freer from errors than the second, the second than the third, &c., so the earlier quartos exhibit a better text than the later ones, and, since the folio often prints from these later ones, of course in such cases a better one than the folio. When everything has been done in the shape of comparison which time, unwearied industry, and commodious access to old editions will allow, and when the labour of selecting from so many authorities in so many thousand instances has been fully accomplished, it is surprising how much remains to do. Dr. Johnson, after enumerating the various circumstances which tended to the corruption of Shakespeare's text, observes, “It is not easy for invention to bring together so many causes concurring to vitiate a text. No other author ever gave up his works to fortune and time with so little care ; no books could be left in hands so likely to injure them, as plays frequently acted, yet continued in manuscript ; no other transcribers were likely to be so little qualified for their task, as those who copied for the stage, at a time when the lower ranks of the people were universally illiterate; no other editions were made from fragments so minutely broken, and so fortuitously re-united; and in no other age was the art of printing in such unskilful hands.” With a text thus pitiably depraved, it is not surprising that when collation is exhausted there should hardly be a page which does not present passages either dubious or positively corrupt. In those of the former category my rule has been to give the original lection in the text, but, as old Fuller well says, that “conjectures, if mannerly observing their distance, and not imprudently intruding themselves for certainties, deserve, if not to be received, to be considered,”I have subjoined the emendations proposed by other commentators with my own, in the margin. The remedy for those of the latter class, I sought firstly in the modern editions, and did not often seek in vain. When they failed to rectify the error, recourse was had to my own sagacity. In no instance, however, has any deviation from the authentic copies been adopted without the change being notified. Mindful, too, of the Roman sentiment quoted by Johnson, “that it is more honourable to save a citizen than to destroy an enemy,” I have in most cases, unless the emendation is indisputable on the ground of internal evidence, retained the ancient reading, and placed the proposed correction in a note. On the same principle, I have in some important instances, by citing examples of the disputed expression from Shakespeare himself, or from the authors he read, succeeded in restoring words found in the original, but which have been banished from all subsequent editions.

After exhibiting what Shakespeare wrote, according to the ancient copies, and the best modern glosses thereon, I have endeavoured, with the aid of those who have preceded me in the same task, and to the extent of a long familiarity with the literature and customs of his day, to explain his obscurities, to disentangle his intricacies, and to illustrate his allusions. In this attempt, the amount of reference and quotation will be seen to have been very great. It has, however, been much greater than it appears, since, with a few

exceptions where the books or MSS. were unattainable, every extract throughout the work has been made at first hand. This is a circumstance I should have thought undeserving notice, but that in a standard edition of Shakespeare, like the Variorum of 1821, I have not found one quotation in ten without an error.

For the rest, it may suffice in this brief sketch of my plan to add, that by a careful regulation of the pointing, in some passages the lost sense has been retrieved, and in others the meaning has been rendered more conspicuous.

H. STAUNTON". April, I860.8

8 Suum euique. As some few of my readings havo received the honour of adoption by more than one editor of Shakespeare, lately, the date above without explanation might expose me to the censure of plagiarism. I shall be

forgiven therefore for stating that the present work was begun in Nov. 1857, anil has been published month by month in parts up to the first of May, 1860.



For such of the information on Shakespeare's personal history as can bo deemed authentic, we are chiefly indehted to modern research. No memoir of him was published in his own time, nor do the several "Commendatory" effusions of which his contemporaries and immediate successors made him the object, imply that their writers knew aught of him except as a poet. Writing nearly a century after Shakespeare's death, Eowe was only able to fill six or seven pages with personal matter; a great portion of his "Life" being devoted to criticism. Ho derived his memorials from the famous actor, Betterton, who was born in 1635 ;l and what he did was serviceable as a nucleus for more extended treatises; but Betterton ought to have known Shakespeare's private history better, than from Rowe's meagre and questionable narrative lie appears to have done, since he was intimately associated with Sir "William Pavcnant (born in 1605), and was apprenticed to a bookseller named Rhodes, who in his younger days was wardrobe-keeper to the theatre in Blackfriars.

From the time of Rowo to that of ^ralone, great part of another century, though editions of Shakespeare's works were issued by the most distinguished literary characters of the period, and much was done to increase our knowledge of the poet, very little was added to our enlightenment respecting the man. A few odd scraps and memoranda picked out of Aubrey, Oldys, Wood and others, spring up hero and there among their notes and illustrations; but of a comprehensive biography we find no trace.2 In 1790, however, Mulone published a Life of Shakespeare, for which, although the time for collecting accounts of private occurrences in the poet's career had passed away, every available source of intelligence regarding his public course was industriously and profitably examined. Guided by this luminary, whoso services, whether as biographer or commentator, have never been adequately acknowledged, other inquirers, as Messrs. Dycc, ITalliwell, Collier, and Knight, have gone over the same field, each adding something to our scanty store of information on the subject. With materials derived from these authorities, the, following sketch, containing an abstract of the most essential particulars really ascertained concerning his origin, family, life, property, and character, has Vjen compiled.

1 "I must own a particular obligation to him [Betterton], for the most considerable part of the passages relating to this life, which I have here transmitted to the publick; his veneration for the memory of Shakspearo having engaged him to make a journey into Warwickshire on purpose to gather up what remains he could of a name for which he had so great a veneration."—Rowe's Life nf Sltaktptare.

2 " All that insatiable curiosity and unwearied diligenco havo hitherto detected about Shakespeare, serves rather to disappoint and perplex us, than to furnish the slightest illustration of his ehnmcter. Tt is not the register of his baptism, or the draft of his will, or the orthography of his name that we sock. No letter of his writing, no record of his conversation, no character of him dniwn with any fullness by a contemporary, has been produced."—Hallam'8 Introduction to the Literature of Europe, ii. 17*3. 1813.

The family of Shakespeare, Rowe says, “as appears by the register and publick writings relating to that town (Stratford-upon-Avon), were of good figure and fashion there, and are mentioned as gentlemen.” This is an error. The register styles none of the family “gentleman” except the poet himself, and even he is so distinguished only after he had returned to his native place with the glory and fortune acquired by his genius and talents. Nor is it probable that his father was originally a Stratford man. Many families of the name had long been settled in different parts of Warwickshire; as at Warwick, Knowle, Rowington, Wroxhall, Hampton, Lapworth, Nuneaton and Kineton. To which of these branches the dramatist belonged, was until recently an insoluble problem. It has now been pretty clearly established, by the researches of Mr. Collier and Mr. Halliwell, that his father, John Shakespeare, was a son of Richard Shakespeare, of Snitterfield, a village three or four miles from Stratford. The evidence in favour of this descent consists in the facts, that the said Richard was a tenant of Robert Arden, whose daughter John Shakespeare married, and that the poet's uncle, Henry Shakespeare, resided at Snitterfield ; but this discovery, if such it may be termed, throws little light upon the family itself, and affords no assistance in our endeavours to ascertain from which particular stock the poet's branch descended. With reference to the status of the family, it appears to have been of the class of small farmers in the villages, and of respectable shopkeepers in the towns; no proof having been found, that any public honour or private fortune was ever acquired by its members."

About 1551, John Shakespeare, the father of William, settled in some kind of occupation at Stratford-upon-Avon. There is clear proof that he lived in Henley Street, where the dramatist is supposed to have been born, as early as 1552. In 1556, we find him in the registers of the bailiff's court described as a glover; at the same time he was evidently engaged in agricultural pursuits, since he is mentioned in a deed bearing that date as “John Shakespeare, of Stratford-upon-Avon, in the county of Warwick, yeoman." Aubrey says he was a butcher: 6 according to Rowe, he was “a considerable dealer in wool.”? It would be a material addition to our knowledge of William Shakespeare, if the standing and means of his father could be accurately determined. We could then understand, in some degree, what is now extremely doubtful, the manner in which the dramatist was bred and educated. From the slender facts before

can only suppose, that John Shakespeare was the son of a respectable farmer at Snitterfield ; that he came into the borough of Stratford with a moderate inheritance at his command, and then entered into business as a local merchant ; dealing in wool, gloves, timber,

3 From the Survey book of the Manor of Warwick, and Ben Jonson having said of him, from the Muniments at Warwick Castle, we know that a

“Look how the father's face Thomas Shakespeare was possessed of lands and tenements Lives in his issue ; even so the race in Warwick, in 1594.

Of Shakespeare's mind and manners brightly shines 4 The word Shakespeare has been made a subject of In his well-torned and true-filed lines; some discussion, perhaps more than it deserves. Guided

In each of which he seems to shake a lance, by fac-similes of original signatures, in some cases wrongly As brandish'd at the eyes of ignorance." traced, certain editors have endeavoured to give the name

Using an authority as ancient as the human imagination, in the poet's own fashion. The old familiar Shakespeare has thuis become converted into Shackspeare, Shakspeare,

Verstegan, in his Restitution of Decayed Intelligence, and Shakspere. This seems a purely idle fancy. The art

explains the word in the following grave sentence :

• Breakspear, Shakspear and the lyke have byn surof spelling was in a very primitive condition at the time

names imposed upon the first bearers of them for valour of Shakespeare's signing his name, and, if he had wished

and feates of armes.” to attain great accuracy in his own signature, as some of

Without implicitly assenting to this doctrine, as conhis literary sponsors have done since, he would not have

cerns the name in question, we may fairly act upon it so found it an object very easy of accomplishment. In the different records of Warwickshire, the word is spelt in

far as to spell the word in accor lance with its asserted

root, -Shakespeare-which seems the least affected as innumerable ways, appearing for instance, as Shaxper, Shaxpeer, Shakspere, Schakespere, Schakespeiro, Chacsper,

well as most correct practice that can be followed.

5 From a Court Roll, dated April 29th, 1552, preserved Shakespeyre, and Shakespeere. Whatever may have been

in the Record Office, by which we learn that he with the root and original meaning of the word (a point perhaps less obvious than the multitude suppose), it

others incurred a fine of xijd. for a sterquinarium before

his elling “ in Hendley Strete contra ordinationen has always been held to signify a race of speare shakers,

curia." or warriors. That the poet's contemporaries interpreted

6 “ His William Shakespeare's] father was a butcher." it in this sense, is shown in Greene having sarcastically

-AUBREY'S Mss. Mus. Ashmol. O.con. designated Shakespeare the only “Shake-scene," and in

7 Rowe's Lije of Shakspeare.

us, we

He was

corn and perhaps cattle. In 1557, he married Mary, daughter of Robert Arden, of Wilmecote,8 receiving with her an estate called Ashbies, estimated to have comprised about fifty-six acres of land, and the sum of £6 13s. 4d. ; together with the interest in two tenements at Snitterfield. Whatever our uncertainty regarding the rank of the Shakespeares ; that of the Ardens is not doubtful. They had been landed proprietors in the parish of Aston Cantlowe for more than a century before the marriage of Shakespeare's father. They were connected with John Arden, Esquire for the Body to Henry VII. On the maternal side, then, the poet was unquestionably descended from a family of long standing among that class,—the yeoman-squires of England,—who, cultivating their own estates, enjoyed perhaps a larger admixture of comfort and independence than any other of the population.

At the period of his marriage, the circumstances of John Shakespeare appear to have been prosperous.

On the 2d of October, 1556, a year before he wedded Mary Arden, he purchased the copyhold of a house in Green-hill Street, and of another in Henley Street: the former having a garden and croft attached to it; the latter only a garden. He became a member of the Corporation in 1557, and in the same year was chosen Ale-taster, “an officer appointed in every court-leet, and sworn to look to the assize and goodness of bread, or ale, or beer, within the precincts of that lordship.” In 1558 he was appointed one of the four constables. In 1559 he was chosen one of the four affeerors, empowered to determine the fines for offences against the bye-laws of the corporation. elected one of the chamberlains in 1561, and in 1565 he became alderman. From Michaelmas, 1568, to the same period of 1569, he held the chief borough office of bailiff, and in 1571 he was elected chief alderman.10 It is reasonable to suppose, that while attaining these successive municipal distinctions, his worldly condition was easy if not affluent; but subsequent to the year 1575, in which he purchased two other houses in Henley Street, his affairs appear to have declined. In 1578 he and his wife mortgaged the estate of Ashbies to Edmund Lambert ; 11 and shortly after their interest in the tenements at Snitterfield was parted with. About this time, too, John Shakespeare's attendance at the corporation became irregular. On the 19th of November, 1578, when it was required that every alderman should pay fourpence a week for the relief of the poor, John Shakespeare and Robert Bratt were exempted from the tax. In March 1578-9, when an amount of money was levied on the inhabitants of Stratford for the purchase of arms, his name occurs as a defaulter. On “ Jan. 19, 28 Eliz." the return to a distringas, was—“quod prædictus Johannes Shackspere nihil habet unde distringi potest. Ideo fiat capias versus eundem Johannem Shackspere,” &c. The following month, and again in March, a capias was issued against him; and in the same year another person was chosen alderman in his stead, the reason assigned being, that he “ dothe not come to the halles, nor hathe not done of longe tyme.” Nor are these the only indications of his fallen fortune. On “Mar. 29, 29 Eliz.” he produced a writ of habeas corpus in the Stratford Court of Record,—“Johannes Shakesper protulit breve dominæ reginæ de habeas corpus cum causa,” &c. ; from which it is conjectured he was then in custody for debt.

& “She was the youngest of the seven daughters of Robert Arden by his first wife, whose maiden name is not known. His second wife, Agnes Arden, was the widow of a person named Hill: her maiden name was Webbe.” -DYCE.

9 “ There is no good proof that the Robert Arden, Groom of the Chamber to Henry VII., and rewarded by that sovereign, a fact which appears from the Patent Rolls of that reign, was related to the Ardens of Wilmecote ; but there can be little doubt, from the identity of coat-armour, that the latter were connected with the

John Arden, Esquire for the Body to Henry VII., whose will, dated in 1526, would appear to show that the King had honoured him with visits." — HALLIWELL'S Life of Slukespeare, p. 17, folio ed.

10 In 1570, he occupied a small farm called Ingon, or Ington, Meadow, for which, with its appurtenances, he paid a rent of £8 yearly. The land was only fourteen acres in extent, so that a house was probably included.

11 Joan Arden, the sister of Mary Shakespeare, was married to an Edward Lambert.

« AnteriorContinuar »