« AnteriorContinuar »
to use and exercise the arte and faculty of playing comedies, tragedies, histories, enterludes, nioralls, pastorals, stage-plaies, and such other like, as thei have already studied, or hereafter shall use or studie, as well for tho recreation of our loving subjects, as for our solaco and pleasure, when wo shall thinke good to see them, during our pleasure; and the said comedies, trajedies, histories, enterludes, moralls, pastoralls, stage-plaies, and such like, to shew and exercise publiquely to their best commoditie, when the infection of the plague shall decrease, as well within theire now usuall howse called the Globe, within our county of Surrey, as also within anio towne halls, or mout halls, or other convenient places within the liberties and freedome of any other citie, universitie, towne, or borough whatsoever within our said realmes and dominions: willing and commaunding you, and every of you, as you tender our pleasure, not only to permit and suffer them heerin, without any your letts, hinderanccs, or molestations, during our said pleasure, but also to be ayding or assisting to them yf any wrong be to them offered; and to allowe them such former courtesies, as hathe bene given to men of their place and qualitie; and also what further favour you shall shew to these our servants for our sake, we shall take kindly at your hands. And these our letters shall be your sufficient warrant and dischargein this behalfe.
"Given under our signet at our mannor of Greenewiche, the seavententh day of Hay in tho first yeere of our raigne of England, France, and Ireland, and of Scotland the six and thirtieth."
Of the precise period when Shakespeare ceased to act we know no more than of the time when he began.75 His name last appears in a printed list of tho characters attached to Jonson's "Sejanus," published in 1603, and it is thought that he relinquished a profession to which, if the lines in Sonnet cxi.76 express his real sentiments, he was never partial, shortly after tho King's Patent was issued.77
In 1604, we find the poet bringing an action in tho Court of Record at Stratford against Phillip Rogers for the sum of £1 15s. 10c/., the consideration being for "malt" sold and
"Among the various contributions purporting to throw light on Shakespeare's career which we owe to Mr. Collier, are two that claim attention at this stage of the biography. The first is a new reading of a letter still preserved at Dulwieh College, from Mrs. Alleyn to her husband tho actor, then absent on a professional expedition. The letter in question is dated October 20, 1603, and towards the end, where tho paper is somewhat decayed, occurs a postscript, one paragraph of which reads thus :—
"Aboute a weeke ago* there [cam]e a youthe who »alde ho waa Mr. Frannda Chelo[ner]a man .... Id ha»o borrow[c]d x* to
eight hate ^ thing* for (h]U Mr t hym
Coming* without . . . token d
I wouM hare
a 1 bene mi
and inquire after the fellow and aaid he had lent hym a hoi *e. I a* feare me he gulled hym, thoughe ho gulled not . The youthe what waa a prety youthe and banaom In appayrell, we know not ^ became of hym.Mr.Broralfrildcomroendee hym: bewaa hearr yerterdaye. Nick* and Jeamee be well, and commend them, fro dothe Mr. Cooke and Ma
in the kyndeat frorte, and 10 once more In the hartlent manner farwelle."
In Mr. Collier's transcript of the letter, as published in his Memoirs of Edward Alleyn, 1841, and in his Life of Skaiespeare, 1858, the above extract is exhibited as follows :—
"About* a weeke a go* there came a youthe who aald he waa Mr. Frauncia CUaloner who would hare borrowed X. 11 to have bought thing" for * a a and said he waa known ante you, and Mr Shakespeare of the globe, who ranie • a ej . aaid he knewe hym not, only he herde of hym that he-raa a rog* a • • ao he waa glade we did not lend him the moruiey a • a Richard Johne* [went] to **eko and inquire n-'er the feili'w, and raid he had lent hym a horre. I fear* me be gulled hym, thoughe be gulled not oa. The youthe waa a prety youthe, and hai.eom In appayrell: we know© uot what became
of hym. Mr Bcnfleld commendo* hym; ho wa* beare ycaterdaye. Nlrlto
By what oversight, or from what motive, certain words which by no possibility could ever have formed part of the original wero interpolated, and others which are plainly visible wero omitted, I will not attempt to conjecture, but as Mr. Collier has deduced from tho assumed mention of Mr. Shakespeare of the globe that our poet was in London at the date when this letter was written, it is proper to show that the assumption is unfounded. The other document professes to be a letter, found in the Ellesmero collection, from Daniel the poet to Sir Thomas Egerton, thanking him for his advancement to the office of Master of the Queen's Revels, and which, if genuine, would be of singular interest in relation to the life of Shakespeare (See A ppendix). But this letter, long suspected, is now proclaimed to bo a forgery.
76 " O, for my sake do you with Fortune chide,
The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds,
That did not better for my life provide
Than public means which public manners breeds.
Thence comes it that my name receives a brand;
And almost thence my nature is subdu'd
To what it works in, like the dyer's hand."
77 To show "that he continued a member of the company until April 9, 1604," Mr. Collier prints a list of tho King's players, appended to a letter from tho council to the Lord Mayor of London, where tho names are thus enumerated: "Burbadge, Shakespeare, Fletcher, Phillips, Condell, Hcminge, Armvn, Slye, Cowley, Hostler, Day." This list, however, though muled on to a genuine dorymeid, hns lately been pronounced a modern fiction. Sec A ppendix.
delivered at several times. The following year, he made the most considerahle purchase he is known to have effected, in buying the tithes of Stratford, Old Stratford, Bishopton and Welcome. Not long subsequently, we are told King James wrote to the poet with his own hand "an amicable letter," 78 and, as Mr. Dyce remarks, "the tradition is, perhaps, indirectly supported by the following entries in the Accounts of the Revels, which prove how highly the dramas of Shakespeare were relished at the court of James :—
The Players. The Poets which
mayd the plaia.
By the Kings Hallamas day being
A play in the Banketinge
House att Whithall
called the Moor of
Venis. [Nov. 1st, 1604.]
By his Ma"" The Sunday ffollowinge,
plaiers. A Play of the Merry Wives
of Winsor. [Nov. 4th, 1604.]
By his Ma"' On St. Stivens night in Shaxberd.
plaiers. the Hall a Play called
Mesur for Mesur. [Dec. 26th, 1604.]
By his Malls On Inosents Night The Plaio Shaxberd.
plaiers. of Errors. [Dec. 28th, 1604.]
By his Mao Betwin Newers day and
players. Twelfe day a Play of Loves
Labours Lost. [1605.]
By his Maris On the 7 of January was played
plaiers. the play of Henry the
By his Ma"* On Shrovsunday A play of Shaxberd.
plaiers. the Marchant of Venis.
[Mar. 24th, 1605.]
By his Ma1"' On Shrovtusday A Play Shaxberd.
plaiers. cauled the Martchant of
Venis againe commaunded
[Accounts from Oct. 31st, 1611, to Nov. 1st, 1612.]
By the Kings Hallomas nyght was
players. presented att Whithall
before y° Kinges Ma"°
The Kings The 5th of November : A
players. play called y" winters
nightes Tayie. [1611.] m
79 "That most learned prince, and great patron of learning, King James the First, was pleased with his own hand to write an amicable letter to Mr. Shakespeare; which letter, though now lost, remained long in the hands of Sir William D'Avenant, as a credible person, now living, can testify."—Advertisement to Lintot's edition of Shakespeare't Poems, 1710. In a manuscript note on his copy of Fuller's Worthies, Oldys states that Sheffield, Duke of J
Buckingham, told Lintot that he had seen the letter in the possession of Sir William Davenant. Farmer conjectures that the letter was in acknowledgment of the compliment conveyed in the passage of Macbeth, Act IV. Sc. 1, where James is indicated as carrying "two-fold balls and treble sceptres."
78 Cunningham's Extracts from the Accounts of the Revets at Court, &c.
The titles of several plays of Shakespeare occur in the Accounts of Lord Harrington, Treasurer of the Chamber to James L among performances given before Prince Charles, the Lady Elizabeth, and the Prince Palatine Elector, in 1613:
"Paid to John Heminges uppon the councels warr*. dated at Whitehall, xx° die Maii 1613, for presentinge before the Princes Hignes, the La. Elizabeth, and the Prince Pallatyne Elector, fowerteene several! playes, viz. one playe called Master, one other call'd the Knotte of Fooles, one other Much Adoe abowte Nothinge, the Mayed's Tragedie, the Merye Dyvell of Edmonton, the Tempest, a Kinge and no Kinge, the Twin's Tragedie, the Winter's Tale, Sir John Falstafe [The Merry Wives of Windsor], the Moore of Venice, the Nobleman, Caesars Tragedye, and one other called Love lyes a Bleedinge, all w€h playes weare played wtbin the tyme of this accompte, viz. pd. the some of iiij. (xx.) xiij. K. vj». viijd."80
From a retrospect of the few materials available for tracing the dramatist's career from the time when he is presumed to have left Stratford, we may conjecture him to have arrived in London about the year 1586, and to have joined some theatrical company, to which he remained permanently attached as playwright and actor until 1604. How often and in what characters he performed ;81 where he lived in London; who were his personal friends; what were his habits; what intercourse he maintained with his family; and to what degree he partook of the provincial excursions of his fellows during this period, are points on which it has been shown we have scarcely any reliable information. In about the year just named, his history, I think, reverts to Stratford; where, from the records of the town, he would appear to have then finally retired, and engaged himself actively in agricultural pursuits.82
On June 5th, 1607, Shakespeare's eldest daughter, Susanna, was married to John Hall, a medical practitioner at Stratford. In December of the same year his brother Edmund died, and on the 31st of that month was buried at St. Saviour's, Southwark. As he is entered in the burial register as "a player," he probably belonged to the same company as the poet.
On the 21st of Feb. 1607-8, Elizabeth Hall, the only daughter of John Hall and the poet's daughter Susanna, was baptized at Stratford. A few months later, Shakespeare lost his mother.83
In June of 1609, the records of Stratford show him to have brought an action, and obtained a verdict, against one John Addenbroke, for a debt of £6 and costs. Addenbroke not being forthcoming, the suit was afterwards prosecuted against Thomas Horneby, the defendant's bail; but with what result is not shown. But the sharpness of the satire is said to have stung the man so severely, that he never forgave it"
» Rawlinson's Coll. A. 239, Bodleian Lib. B The following verses by Davies in bis Scourge of Folly, hare been thought to afford some countenance to a shadowy tradition that Shakespeare not unfrequently played in kingly characters:—
"To our English Terence, Mr. Will Shakespeare. "Some say, good Will, which Fin sport do sing, Had rt thou not plaid some kingly parts in sport, Thou hadst bin a companion for a king, And beene a king among the meaner sort. ** Some others raile; but raile as they thinke fit, Thou hast no rayling, but a raigning wit: And honesty thou sow'st, which they do reape, So to increase their stocke, which they do keepe." The natural interpretation of the second line is that Sakespeare had on some occasions acted royalty in a way to provoke the displeasure of the king. Possibly he had represented James himself upon the stage, and by so dii*, git-en offence. In a letter from John Chamberlaine to Sir R. Winwood, dated Dec. 18th, 1604, the writer jttiai that the king's company had much annoyed the eoort by acting a P"»y on the subject of the Gowry consorter: "The Tragedy of Gowry, with all the action ud titan, hath been twice represented by the King's f&jers, with exceeding concourse of all sorts of people.
But whether the matter or manner be not well handled, or taat it be thought unfit that princes should be played on, Oct stage in their life-time, I hear that some groat councellors are much displeased with it, and so 'tis thought shall be forbidden."—Winwood's Memorials, &c. 11.41.
82 The copy of a letter discovered by Mr. Collier among the Kllesmere manuscripts, which begins, "My verie honored lord. The manic good offices I have received at your Lordships hands, which ought to make me backward in asking further favors," &c. and is signed with the initials of Lord Southampton, can no longer be admitted as evidence to the contrary, since it is now declared to be a fabrication. See Appendix.
Another document found by Mr. Collier in the same collection, and professing to be the draft of a warrant, January 4th, 1609-10, empowering Daborne, Shakespeare, Field, and Kirkman, to train up a company of juvenile performers ; and a third found by him at Dulwich College: "A brief noat taken out of the poores booke, &c, 1609," wherein Shakespeare is assessed for tho relief of tho poor in Southwark, at 6d. per week, are equally invalid as proof of the poet's continued residence in the metropolis, both being condemned as modem inventions. See Appendix.
■ Her burial is entered in the register as follows:— "1608, Septemb. 9. Mayry Shaxpere, Wydowe."
At the beginning of 1613, died Richard Shakespeare, the brother to the dramatist, in his fortieth year; of his history we know even less than of the other brother's, Gilbert, whom we have seen effecting a purchase for the poet, and whose signature as witness to a deed is still extant.
In the month of March, 1612-13, Shakespeare bought a house with ground attached, near to the Blackfriars Theatre, "abutting upon a streete leading downe to Pudle Wharffe on the east part, right against the Kinges Majesties Wardrobe." The indenture of conveyance dated the 10th of March, is "Betweene Henry Walker citizein and Minstrel of London, on thone partie, and William Shakespeare of Stratford upon Avon in the counties of Warwick, gentleman, William Johnson citizein and vintener of London, John Jackson and John Hemmyng of London gentlemen, on thother partie."
Local patronage of the drama we find was neither a cause nor a consequence of Shakespeare's retirement to Stratford; on the contrary, theatrical entertainments had f<*r some years been discouraged by the municipal authorities of that borough. So early as 1602, it was ordered 'that there shall be no plays or enterlewedes played in the chamber, the guildhalle, nor in any parte of the home or courte, thorn hensforward upon payne that whosooever of the baylief, aldermen, and burgesses of this boroughe shall gyve leave or licence thereunto, shall forfeyt for everie offence xs." But this penalty does not seem to have been efficacious, for, on the 7th of February, 1612, the corporation made the following stringent order:—
"The inconvenience of plaies being verie seriouslio considered of, with the unlawfullnes, and howe contrarie the sufferance of them is against the orders hearetofore made, and againste the examples of other well-governed citties and burrowes. the companie heare are contented and theie conclude that the penalty of xs. imposed in Mr. Baker's yeare for breakinge the order, shall from henceforth be xli. upon the breakers of that order, and this to holde untill the nexte commen councell, and from thenceforth for ever, excepted, that be then finally revokd and made voide."
One of the best known though least authentic anecdotes of Shakespeare, is that relating to his epitaph on a gentleman named Combe. This story has been variously told; Rowe's version is as follows :—" The latter part of his life was spent, as all men of good sense will wish theirs may be, in ease, retirement, and the conversation of his friends. He had the good fortune to gather an estate equal to his occasion, and, in that, to his wish; and is said to have spent some years before his death at his native Stratford. His pleasurable wit and good nature engaged him in the acquaintance, and entitled him to the friendship, of the gentlemen of the neighbourhood. Amongst them it is a story almost still remembered in that country, that he had a particular intimacy with Mr. Combe, an old gentleman noted thereabouts for his wealth and usury. It happened that in a pleasant conversation amongst their common friends, Mr. Combe told Shakespear in a laughing manner, that he fancied he intended to write his epitaph, if he happened to outlive him; and since he could not know what might be said of him when dead, he desired it might be done immediately. Upon which, Shakespear gave him these four verses :—
That the tale is not altogether destitute of foundation we may believe; but Rowe's version is certainly inaccurate. So far from Shakespeare having done what Combe "never forgave," we have the conclusive evidence of Doctors' Commons that Combe testified his cordial feelings towards the poet by a legacy in his will, and that the latter reciprocated the kindness by bequeathing his sword to Thomas Combe, the nephew of John.85 As an act of justice to the memory of John Combe, it should be mentioned that in his will he bequeathed one hundred pounds (equal to five hundred in present money) to be lent to poor tradesmen of Stratford, and in addition, as an immediate legacy, twenty pounds to the poor of that place, together with legacies of five pounds each to the poor of Warwick and of Alcester.
About this period, we find the poet engaged in the unenviable proceedings of a Chancery suit. The action grew out of the share he had purchased of the tithes payable by the land of Stratford, and some other places. The draft of a bill presented by him, Lane, and Greene, is still in existence, but nothing further is known of the litigation. The bill alleges that these three plaintiffs had a joint interest with William Combo and various other persons in the tithes, &c. the whole being held for a term of 87 years, at a reserved rent of £27 13s. 4d. a year, but that the other parties refused to pay their proportion of this annual sum, to the injury of Shakespeare and his fellow-suitors. The draft bill is of interest in one respect; it recites that Shakespeare's income from this portion of his property was "threescore pounds" (equivalent to three hundred in our time) a year.
The same year, 1613, is memorable from the destruction of the Globe Theatre, which was burnt down on the 29th of June.86 Whether Shakespeare was a loser by the calamity is not known; but it is conjectured that when he finally retired to his native home, he parted with all his interest in theatrical property.
During the next year, Shakespeare was concerned with the corporation of Stratford in opposing a projected enclosure of some common lands. A memorandum relating to this subject, dated 5th Sept 1614, and headed "Auncient ffreholders in the ffields of old Stratford and Welcombe," contains, among sundry entries, the following item :—" Mr. Shakspeare 4 yard land, noe common nor grownd beyond Gospell-bushe, nor grownd in Sandfield, nor none in Slow-hill
"Here lyes 10 with 100, under this stone, And 100 to one, but to th' divel bees gone."
AL*Sloant, 1489,/. 11.
"Who is this lyes under this hearse?
M»- Sloane, 14. 89, /. 11.
A double epitaph, said to have been his composition, is preserved in Dugdale's Visitation of Salop, a MS. in the Heralds' College. Describing a monument in Tong Church to the memory of Sir Thomas Stanley, Knight, Dugdale states that "these following verses were made by William Shakespeare, the late famous tragedian:
Written upon the east end of this tombe.
"Aske who lyes here, but do not weepe;
Written upon the west end thereof,
"Not monumental stone preserves our fame, Nor skye-aspiring pirazmda cur name.
The memory of him for whom this stands
85 Another tradition, of perhaps equal veracity with that of John Combe's epitaph, was communicated to Malone by a native of Stratford, Life of Shakespeare, p. 500 sqq. to the effect that Shakespeare and some of his companions having accepted the challenge of a party calling themselves the Bedford topers and slippers, to a bout of ale-bibbing, whereat the Stratfordians were overcome, Shakespeare on the occasion composed these lines:
"Piping Pebworth, Dancing Marston,
86 According to some MS. notes in a copy of Stew's Annates (formerly in the possession of Mr. Pickering the bookseller): "The Globe play house on the Bank side in Southwarke was burnt downe to the ground in the year 1612 ; and newe built up again in the year 1613 , at the great charge of King James and many noble men and others." For an account of this accident, see p. 643, Vol. II.