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motive which prompted that step, nothing positive is known. The first of his immediate successors who collected any particulars of his life was the "inveterate gossip" Aubrey, who, writing about 1680, tells us that he was the son of a butcher; adding, "and I have been told heretofore by some of the neighbours that when he was a boy he exercised his fathers trade, but when he kill'd a calfe, he wold doe it in a high style, and make a speech."19 It is well ascertained that his father was not a butcher, but it is remarkable that the very next account we meet with says the son was. On April the 10th, 1693, one Dowdail addressed to Mr. Southwell a small treatise which the latter has endorsed, "Description of severall places in Warwickshire." In this, after describing the monumental inscription over the poet's grave, in Stratford Church, the writer observes: "The clarke that shew'd me this church is above 80 years old: he says that this Shakespear was formerly in this towne bound apprentice to a butcher but that ho run from his master to London and there was received into the play house as a serviture, and by this meancs had an opportunity to be what he afterwards prov'd."
Rowe's statement, that he was for some time sent to the Free-school,20 is probably true. There no doubt he acquired the general rudiments of education; comprising the "small Latin and less Greek," to his possession of which, in after life, Ben Jonson bears testimony.21
The most interesting known circumstance in connection with Shakespeare's youth, is the custom that then prevailed of encouraging theatrical representations in provincial towns. The accounts of the Stratford chamberlains contain several notices of official money having been paid for such performances; and Willis, a contemporary of Shakespeare, born in the same year, says in his Mount Tabor, "When players of enterludes come to towne, they first attend the mayor, to enform him what noblemans servants they are, and so to get licence for their publique playin"; and if the mayor like the actors, or would shew respect to their lord and master, he appoints them to play their first play before himself and the aldermen and common counsell of the city; and that is called the mayors play, where every one that will comes in without money, the mayor giving the players a reward as hee thinks fit, to shew respect unto them." It appears from the records which have been preserved, that this usage was of frequent observance at Stratford; and curiously enough, the first reference to it is in 1569, the year when John Shakespeare was bailiff; his son William being then five years of age, and probably a delighted spectator of the performance. The entries in the chamberlains' account that apply to the°period of his residence at Stratford are as follows :—" 1569. payed to the Quene's players £9. Item, for the Queues provysyon 3*. id. Item, to the Erie of Worcesters plecrs Is." Four years are 'then skipped over, when we meet with, "1573. paid Mr. Bayly for the Erie of Lecesters players 5s. 8rf." Then, after another interval of three years, "1576. Geven my Lord of Warwicke players 18s. Paid the Earle of Worceter players 5s. M." The entries then become more frequent, companies of performers having been retained at the public expense, twice in 1577 twice in 1579, once in 1580, twice in 1581, once each in 1582 and 3, and three times in 1584 These are all the items that relate to the present inquiry; but the whole are of interest as displaying the state of a country town in Shakespeare's time, and one of later date, 1622 "payd the Kinges players for not playing in the hall 6s." is of ominous significance, as sh'owin" into what straits the drama fell when Puritanism began to raise its shaven, dismal countenance. "We see in these numerous entries the means by which Shakespeare may have acquired his first taste for dramatic pursuits; and who shall say that it was not an acquaintance with one of these companies of players that first took him to London ]
19 Mr. Kaine conjectured that Aubrey was here alludmg to an old semi-dramatic entertainment called AMiny Ike Calf, in which the actor, behind a door or screen, by means of ventriloquism, went through a pretended performance
°f fttSA Stratford was founded by Thomas Jolyffe, in the reign of Edward IV., and subsequently chartered by Edward VI. The nucceanve masters from
1572 to 1578, the period during which it may be presumed that Shakespeare was a scholar there, were Thomas Hunt and Thomas Jenkins.
51 Aubrey, Mss. Mvs. Athmol. O-rore., states, on the authority of a Mr. "Beeston," that Shakespeare "understode Latine pretty well, for he had been in his younger yeares a schoolmaster in the countrey,"_
Another circumstance which may possibly have exercised an influence on his after life was Queen Elizabeth's celebrated visit to the Castle of Kenilworth. This took place in the summer of 1575, when Shakespeare was between eleven and twelve years of age. As Stratford is only thirteen miles from Kenilworth, it is by no means unlikely that the future poet was among the spectators of those "Princely pleasures." Some writers have supposed, indeed, there is a direct allusion to Leicester's entertainment in the exquisite compliment addressed to Elizabeth in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act Ii, Sc l.22
It was an opinion of Malone, an opinion subsequently adopted by several other critics, that some years of Shakespeare's youth were passed in an attorney's office. There can be no doubt that legal expressions are more frequent, and are used with more precision in his writings than in those of any other author of the period. If these do not prove him to have had professional training, they help to show with what masterly comprehensiveness he could deal with the peculiarities of this, as of nearly every other human pursuit. 23
Leaving such speculations, we now come to an authentic and important incident of Shakespeare's life—his marriage. Whether glover, wool-stapler, butcher, schoolmaster, or attorney's clerk, in the autumn of 1582, while under nineteen years of age, he took to wife Anne Hathaway, the daughter of a substantial yeoman of Shottery, a hamlet adjoining Stratford.24
Anne Hathaway, at the supposed time of the marriage, must have been nearly eight years the senior of her husband.55 Her father, in all probability, was Richard Hathaway,26 whose family have held property at Shottery from the middle of the sixteenth century to the present day.27
B "Thou remember'st
Since once I sat upon a promontory,
a A sarcastic passage printed by Thomas Nash, in Greene's Menapkon, 1589, has been thought to point at Shakespeare and his early professional occupation as a lawyer's clerk, "It is a common practice now-a-dayes, amongst a sort of shifting companions, that run through every art and thrive by none, to leave the trade of Wove. rixt whereto they were borne, and busied themselves with the indevours of art, that could scarcely Latinize their aeck-verse, if they should have neede : yet English Seneca, read by candle-light, yields many good sentences, as Bloud u * Berger, and so forth: and if you intreat him faire in a fnmie morning, he will affoord you whole Hamlets, I should "r handful*, of tragical speeches."
* Neither the date of the marriage, nor the church where the ceremony was performed, has yet transpired; bat the following bond was discovered a few years ago by Sr T. Phillipps, in the registry at Worcester, and leaves t» doubt that the marriage was celebrated sometime after November 2Sth, 15S2:—" Noverint universi per prsesentes ww Falconem SandeUs de Stratford in comitatu Warwici,
agricolam, et Johannem Rychardson ibidem agricolam, teneri et ftrmiter obligari Ricardo Cosin generoso, et Roberto Warmstry notario publico, in quadraginta libris bone et legalis monetae Anglise, solvend. eisdem Ricardo et Roberto, hiered. cxecut. vel assignat. suis, ad quam quidem solucionem bene et fideliter faciend. obligamus nos et utrumque nostrum per se pro toto et in solid, heered. executor, et administrator, nostros firmiter per prsesentes sigillis nostris sigillat Dat. 28 die Novem. anno regni dominae nostras Eliz. Dei gratia Angliae, Franc, et Hiberniae regime, fidei defensor. kc. 25°."
"The condition of this obligation ys suche, that if herafter there shall not appere any lawfull lett or impediment, by reason of any precontract, oonsanguinitie, affinities, or by any other lawfull meanes whatsoever, but that William Shagspere one thone partie, and Anne Hathwey of Stratford in the diocese of Worcester, maiden, may lawfully solemnize matrimony together, and in the same afterwardes remaine and continew like man and wine, according unto the laws in that behalfe provided: and moreover, if there be not at this present time any action, sute, quarrell, ordemaund, moved or depending before any Judge ecclesiasticall or temporall, for and concerning any suche lawfull lett or impediment: and moreover, if the said William Shagspere do not proceed to solemnisation of mariadg with the said Anne Hathwey without the consent of hir frindea: and also, if the said William do, upon his own proper costs and expenses, defend and save harmless the right reverend Father in God, Lord John Bushop of Worcester, and his officers, for licensing them the said William and Anne to be married together with once asking of the bannes of matrimony betwene them, and for all other causes which may ensue by reason or occasion therof, that then the said obligation to be voyd and of none effect or els to stand and abide in full force and vertue."—The marks and seals of Sandells and Richardson.
The first offspring of this union, Susanna, was born in May 1583.28 The only other issue were Hamnet and Judith, twins, who were baptized Feb. 2d. 1584-5.29
Shortly after the birth of these children, it seems to be agreed, that Shakespeare quitted his home and family; and there is a well-known tradition, that this important step was owing to his being detected, with other young men, in stealing deer from the park of Sir Thomas Lucy, of Charlecote. For this indiscretion,30 he is said to have been severely punished, and to have retorted with a lampoon so bitter, that Sir Thomas redoubled his persecution and compelled him to fly.31
What degree of authenticity the story possesses will never probably be known. Lowe derived his version of it no doubt through Betterton; but Davies makes no allusion to the source from which he drew his information, and we are left to grope our way, so far as this important incident is concerned, mainly by the light of collateral circumstances. These, it must be admitted, serve in some respects to confirm the tradition. Shakespeare certainly quitted Stratford-upon-Avon when a young man, and it could have been no ordinary impulse which drove him to leave wife, children, friends, and occupation, to take up his abode among strangers in a distant place. Then there is the pasquinade,33 and the unmistakeable identification of Sir Thomas Lucy as Justice Shallow in the Second Part of Henry IV, and in the opening
58 She died, according to the brass plate over her grave in Stratford church, on "the 6th day of August, 1623, being of the age of 67 years."
J« Two precepts of the Stratford Court of Record exhibit John Shakespeare as the surety of Richard Hathaway in 1566; and prove an early connexion between the two families.
47 A house still existing in the hamlet, though now divided into three cottages, has always passed as that in which the poet's wife resided in her maiden years. Having no evidence to the contrary, we may still look upon that habitation as the scene of Shakespeare's courtship.
28 The record of her baptism is as follows:—"1583, May 26. Susanna daughter to William Shaispere."
M The record in the register runs thus:—" 1581. Feb. 2. Hamnet and Judeth sonno and daughter to Will it Shaispere."
They were doubtless christened after Hamnet Sadler, and Judith his wife; the former a baker at Stratford, to whom the poet bequeathed 36a. and 8ci. to purchase a
Deer stealing, in Shakespeare's day, was regarded only as a youthful frolic Antony Wood (Allien. Oxon. i. 371), speaking of Dr. John Thornborough, who was admitted a member of Magdalen College, Oxford, 1570, at the age of eighteen, and was successively Bishop of Limerick in Ireland, and Bishop of Bristol and Worcester in England, informs us, that he and his kinsman, Robert Pinkney, "seldom studied or gave themselves to their books, but spent their time in the fencing-schools and dancing-schools, in stealing deer and conies, in hunting the hare, and wooing girls."
81 The story is first told in print by Rowe, Life of Shakespeare :—" He had, by a misfortune common enough to young fellows, fallen into ill company, and, amongst them, some that made a frequent practice of deer-stealing, engaged him more than once in robbing a park that belonged to Sir Thomas Lucy, of Charlecote, near Stratford. For this he was prosecuted by that gentleman, as he thought, somewhat too severoly; and, in order to revenge that ill usage, ho made a ballad upon him. And though this, probably the first essay of his poetry, be lost, yet it is said to have been so very bitter, that it
redoubled the prosecution against him to that degree, that he was obliged to leave his business and family in Warwickshire, for some time, and shelter himself in London."
Aubrey is silent on the subject. He only says, "This William, being inclined naturally to poetry and acting, came to London, I guess about eighteen." But the deerstealing freak and its consequences are narrated more specifically than by Rowe, in an article headed Shakespeare among the MS. collections of the Rev. William Fulman, who died in 1688. This learned antiquary bequeathed his papers to the Rev. Richard Davies, rector of Sapperton and Archdeacon of Litchfield, upon whose death they were presented to Corpus Christi College, Oxford. To Dr. Fulman's notes under the article Shakespeare, Davies has added the following:—" Much given to all unluckinesso
in stealing venison and rabbits, particularly from Sr
Lucy, who had him oft ichiiit and sometimes imprisoned, and at last made him fly his native country to his great advancement: but his revenge was so great, mat he is his Justice Clodpate nnd calls him a great man, and that, in allvjtion to/us name, borethree lousesrampantforhis arms."
32 According to Rowe, the ballad on Sir Thomas Lucy was lost. According to Oldys, as quoted by Stevens : "There was a very aged gentleman living in the neighbourhood of Stratford (where he died fifty years since) who had not only heard from several old people in that town of Shakspere's transgression, but could remember the first stanza of that bitter ballad, which, repeating to one of his acquaintances, he preserved it in writing, and here it is, neither better nor worse, but faithfully transcribed from tho copy which his relation very courteously communicated to me:—1
A parliament member, a justice of peace,"
He thinks himself greate,
Yet an asset in his state
scene of The Merry Wives of Windsor. The genuineness of the former may be doubted; but the ridicule in the plays betokens a latent hostility to the Lucy family which is unaccountable except upon the supposition that the deer-stealing foray is founded on facts.
Whatever the motive,—fear, distress, or ambition,—Shakespeare, it is believed, left Stratford about 1586, and found employment at some theatre in London;33 but we have no direct proof of the year when he left his home, or of that in which he took up his abode in the metropolis. According to a document introduced by Mr. Collier, as discovered in Lord Ellesmere's muniments, he was a sharer in the Blackfriars Theatre in 1589, but this memorial, like the rest of the Shakesperian papers from the same collection, has been shown to be a rank fabrication.34 In fact, from the baptism of his twins in 1584-5, to the latter end of the year 1592, when Green alludes to him in A Groatsworth of Wit, &c. his history is a blank.
It does not come within the scope of this brief memoir to enter at large into the subject of the Elizabethan theatre, but a few words respecting it are indispensable. Shakespeare in all likelihood originally joined the company playing at the Blackfriars Theatre. This company afterwards (in 1594) built another theatre, called The Globe, on the south bank of the Thames; using the latter, which was partially open to the air, in summer; and the former, which was a private or enclosed house, for winter performances. The Blackfriars playhouse stood in an opening still called Playhouse Yard, between Apothecaries' Hall and Printing-house Square. Besides these two, there were several theatres in London during Shakespeare's residence there. The principal appear to have been, The Theatre (so denominated probably from being the first building erected specially for scenic performances) and The Curtain, in Shoreditch; The Pari* Garden, The Rose, The Hope, The Swan, on the Bankside, Southwark; The Fortune, in Golden Lane, Cripplegate; The Red Bull, St. John Street, Smithfield; The Whitefriars, near to where the gas works now stand, between the Temple and Blackfriars Bridge; and a summer theatre at Newington Butts.3*
13 Rowe says, "Ho was received into the company then in being, at first in a very mean rank;" and this tallies with the statement made by Dowdall in 1693 (See
In a work entitled, Lives of the Poets of Great Britain and Ireland, 1753, there is a life of Shakespeare, in which, for the first time, we meet with the incredible tradition of his having held the horses of gentlemen who visited the play :—
"I cannot forbear relating a story which Sir William Davenant told Mr. Betterton, who communicated it to Mr. Rowe ; Howe told it to Mr. Pope, and Mr. Pope told it to Dr. Newton, the late editor of Milton, and from a gentleman who heard it from him, 'tis here related. Concerning Shakespear's first appearance in the playhouse. When he came to London, he was without money and friends, and being a stranger, he knew not to whom to apply, nor by what means to support himself. At that timo, coaches not being in use, and as gentlemen were accustomed to ride to the playhouse, Shakespear, driven to the last necessity, went to the playhouse door, and pick'd up a little money, by taking care of the gentlemen's horses who came to the play: he became eminent even in that profession, and was taken notice of for his diligence and skill in it; he had soon more business than he himself could manage, and at last hired boys under him, who were known by the name of Shakespear's boys. Some of the players, accidentally conversing with him, found him to acute, and master of so fine a conversation, that, struck therewith, they [introduced] and recommended him to the house, in which he was first admitted in a very low station, but he did not long remain so, for he soon distinguished himself, if not as an extraordinary actor, at least as a fine writer."
84 It is as follows:—" These are to sertifie yo' right honorable LI that he Mater poore plaveres, James Burbidge, Richard Burbidge, John Laneham, Thomas Greene, Robert Wilson, John Taylor, Anth. Wadoson, Thomas Pope, George Peele," Augustine Phillippes, Nicholas Towley, William Shakespeare, William Kempe, William Johnson, Baptiste Goodale, and Robert Armyn, being all of them sharers in the blacke Fryers playehouse, have never giuen cause of displeasure, in that they haue brought into their playes mates of state and Religion, vnfitt to be handled by tbem or to be presented before lewde spectators; neither hath anio complainte in that kinde ever beene preferred against them, or anie of them. Wherefore they trusto nioste humblie in yor LI consideracon of their former good belmiuour, bcinge at all tymes readie and willing to yeelde obedience to anie coinaund whatsoever your LI in your wisedome maye thinko in such case mode, &c.
35 The Phoenix, which had formerly been a Cockpit, in Drury Lane, was not converted into a playhouse until after Shakespeare's retirement from London.
Edmund Howes, in his Continuation of StoVs chroniclo, gives a curious summary of playhouse incidents extending over the whole of Shakespeare's time. After describing the burning of the Globe, in 1613, the destruction of the Fortune by a like accident four years after, the rebuilding of both, and the erection of " a new fair playhouse near the Whitefriars," he says, writing in 1631, "And this is the seventeenth stage, or common playhouse, which hath been now made within the space of three score years within London and the suburbs, viz. five inns, or common liostelries turned to playhouses, onecoekpit. St. Paul's singing school, one in tho Blackfriars, one in the Whitefriars, which was built last of all, in the year one
Before the erection of established theatres, and long afterwards, plays were also acted in the yards of certain inns, such as the The Bell Savage, on Ludgate Hill; The Crots Keys, in Gracechurch Street; and The Bull, in Bishopsgate Street.
"With respect to the regular theatre we are not very intimately acquainted with the details of its structure, but the interior economy appears to have resembled that of the old inn yards, and it was evidently provided with different accommodation to suit different classes of visitors. There were tiers of galleries or scaffolds, and small rooms beneath, answering to the modern boxes. There was the pit, as it was called in the private theatres, or yard, as it was named at the public ones. In the former, spectators were provided with seats; in the latter they were obliged to stand throughout the performance.96 The critics, wits, and gallants were allowed stools upon the stage, for which the price was sixpence or a shilling each,37 according to the eligibility of the situation, and they were attended by pages, who supplied them with pipes and tobacco; smoking, drinking ale, playing cards, and eating nuts and apples, always forming a portion of the entertainment at our early theatres.
The stage appliances were extremely simple. At the back of the stage there was a permanent balcony, about eight feet from the platform, in which scenes supposed to take place on towers or upper chambers were represented.38 Suspended in front of it were curtains, and these were opened or closed as the performance required39 The sides and back of the stage, with the exception of that part occupied by the balcony, were hung with arras tapestry, and sometimes pictures, and the internal roof with blue drapery, except on the performance of tragedy, when the sides, back, and roof of the stage were covered with black.40 The stage was commonly strewed with rushes, though on particular occasions it was matted over,
The performance commenced at three o'clock, in the public theatres, the signal for beginning being the third sounding or flourish of trumpets.41 It was customary for the actor who spoke the prologue to be dressed in a long velvet cloak. In the early part of Shakespeare's theatrical career, the want of scenery appears to have been supplied by the primitive expedient of hanging out a board, on which was written the place where the action was to be understood as taking place. Sometimes when a change of scene was requisite, the audience were left to imagine that the actors, who still remained on the stage, had removed to the spot mentioned.42 During the performance, the clown would frequently indulge in extemporaneous buffoonery.
thousand six hundred and twenty nine. All the rest not named were erected only for common playhouses, besides the new-built Bear Garden, which was built as well for plays, and fencer's prizes, as bull-baiting; besides one in former time at Newington Butts. Before the space of three score years above said [i.e. before 1671, when Shakospeare was seven years of age] I neither knew, heard, nor read of any such theatres, set stages, or playhouses, as have been purposely built within man's memory."
38 Hence they are termed groundlings by Shakespeare, and understanding gentlemen of the ground by Ben Jonson.
17 According to Malone, but there is much uncertainty on the point, the prices of admission to the best rooms, or boxes, was, in Shakespeare's day, a shilling; that to the galleries and pit, in the chief theatres, sixpence, in the inferior ones, twopence, and sometimes only a penny.
38 "It appears," says Malone, "from the stagedirections given in The Spanish Tragedy, that when a play was exhibited within a play (if I may so express myself), as is the case in that piece and in Hamlet, the court or audience before whom the interlude was performed sat in the balcony, or upper stage already described; and a curtain or traverse being hung across the stage, for the nonce, the performers entered between that curtain and the general audience, and on its being drawn, began their
piece, addressing themselves to the balcony, and regardless of the spectators in the theatre, to whom their backs must have been turned during the whole of the performance."—Historical Account of the English Stage, p. 108.
89 I am of opinion that during Shakespeare's time there were no curtains across the proscenium.
40 The covering of the internal roof, or the roof itself, was technically termed Qie heavens. See note (1), p. 332. Vol. II.
41 There was an interval of some minutes between each sounding. See the Induction to Ben Jonson's Poetaster and Cynthia's Revels.
45 "The simplicity of the old stage in this respect, may also be clearly shown by a reference to R. Greene's Pinner of Wakefield, printed in 1599, where Jenkin is struck by the Shoe-maker in the street. Jenkin challenges him to come to the towns-end to fight it out; and, after some farther parley, the professor of 'the gentle craft' reminds Jenkin of his challenge:—
'Come, sir, will you come to the town's-end now? 1 Jenkin. Aye, Sir, come.'— and in the very next line he adds,
'Now we are at the town's-end.' History of English Dramatie Poetry, &c. iii. 68