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There was always music between the acts, and sometimes singing and dancing. And at the end of the play, after a prayer for the reigning monarch, offered by the actors on their knees,43 the clown would entertain the audience by descanting on any theme which the spectators might supply, or by performing what was called a jig, a farcical doggrel improvisation, accompanied by dancing and singing.
During the reign of Elizabeth, plays were acted every day in the week,44 but in the time of James I., though dramatic entertainments on Sundays were allowed at court, they were prohibited in the public theatres. As there were two sorts of theatres, there were two classes of actors. There were the regular companies, acting in the name and under the auspices of the Crown or of a man of rank and influence, such as the Queen's servants (of whom Shakespeare was one),45 the Earl of Leicester's players; those of Lord Warwick, Lord Worcester, Lord Pembroke, &c. There were also certain private adventurers who acted without official licence, and were the subjects of prohibitory enactments. The Act of the 14th of Elizabeth (1572) operated as a protective law to the authorized companies. It was entitled an act "for the punishment of vagabonds, and for the relief of the poor and impotent." One of its provisions extends the meaning of rogues and vagabonds to "all fencers, bearwards, common-players in interludes, and minstrels, not belonging to any Baron of this realm or towards any other honorable personage of greater degree; all jugglers, pedlars, tinkers, and petty chapmen, which said fencers, bearwards, common-players in interludes, minstrels, jugglers, pedlars, tinkers, and petty chapmen shall wander abroad, and not have licence of two justices of the peace at the least, whereof one to be of the quorum, where and in what shire they shall happen to wander." This act effected no material restriction on the number of actors, for, while its provisions were evaded by numerous jugglers, minstrels, and interlude players, various companies were enrolled in the service of the nobility. The growing Puritanism of the time occasioned many attempts to be mado at suppressing the drama on the part of civic authorities, both in London and elsewhere,46 but the theatre maintained its ground through the reign of Elizabeth and for many years afterwards.
• "At the end of the piece, the actors, in noblemen's houses and in taverns, where plays were frequently performed, prayed for the health and prosperity of their patrons; and in the publick theatres, for the king and queen. This prayer sometimes made part of the epilogue. Hence, probably, as Mr. Steevens has observed, the addition of Vivanl rex et regina to the modem playbills." —Malohe.
44 In 1580, the magistrates of the city of London obtained from the queen a prohibition against plays on the Sabbath, which seems, however, to have continued in force but a short time.
44 "Comedians and stage-players of former time were very poor and ignorant in respect of these of this time; but being now  growne very skilfull and exquisite actors for all matters, they were entertained into the service of divers great lords: out of which companies there were twelve of the best chosen, and, at the request of Sir Francis Walsingham, they were sworn tho queenes servants, and were allowed wages and liveries as groomes of the chamber: and until this year 1583, the quecno had no players. Among these twelve players, were two rare men, viz. Thomas Wilson, for a quicke, delicate, refined, extemporall witt, and Richard Tarleton, for a wondrous tJentifull pleasant extemporall wit, he was the wonder of his tyme. He lieth buried in Shoreditch Church."—Stow's Chronicle, rub 1583, ed. 1615.
48 A few years ago, Sir Frederic Madden published the following interesting illustration of the pertinacity with which the authorities of the city of London resisted the admission of stage-players within the city. It is an original letter, preserved among the Cottonian charters, from the Mayor and Alderman to the Earl of Sussex,
Lord Chamberlain, dated March 2d, 1573, refusing their consent to his lordship's request in favour of a Mr. Holmes, that he should be allowed to appoint places for plays and interludes within the city; and intimating that some previous applications of the same kind had met with a similar refusal.
[Cart. Cott. xxvi. 41.] "To the right honorable our lingular good Lord the Erie
of .Sussex, Lord Chamberlan of the Queues Ma''" most
honorable household. Our dutie to yor good L. humbly done, where yor L. hath made request in favor of Mr. Holmes, for our assent that he might have the apointement of places for playes and entreludes within the citie. It may please yor L. to receive undouted assurance of or redinesse to gratifie in any thing that we reasonably may, any persone whome yof L. shal favor and comend. Howbeit this case is such and so nere touching the governance of this citie in one of the greatest maters therof, namely the assemblies of multitudes of the Queues people; and in regard to be had to sondry inconveniences wherof tho peril is continually upon everie occasion to be foreseen by the rulers of this citie, that we can not with our duties, byside the president farr extending to the hart of our liberties, well assent that the sayd apointement of places be comitted to any private persone. For which and other resonable consiaeracons, it hath long since pleased yor good L., among the rest of her Ma"84 most honorable counsell, to rest satisfied with our not graunting the like to'such persone as by their most honorable lettres was heretofore in like case comended unto us. Byside that if it might with reasonable convenience be graunted, great offr3s have ben and be made for the same, to the relefe of the
The "fellowship" which Shakespeare is supposed to have joined was originally attached to the Earl of Leicester. In 1574, it was distinguished by more illustrious patronage, a writ being issued that year to the Keeper of the Great Seal,47 commanding him to set forth letters patent addressed to all justices of the peace, licensing and authorizing James Burbadge, John Perkyn, John Lanham, William Johnson, and Robert Wylson, servants of the Earl of Leicester, "to use, exercise, and occupie the art and faculty of playeing comedies, tragedies, enterludes, stageplayes, and such other like as they have alredy used and studied, as well for the recreation of our loving subjects, as for our solace and pleasure, when wo shall think good to see them as well within our Cyty of London and the liberties of the same as throughout the realm of England" This admonition was opposed by those charged with the liberties of the City of London, and in 1575 the Common Council passed what in civic language was called an "Act," in which they saddled their licence with a condition, that the players should contribute half their receipts to charitable purposes. But in the same year Burbadge and his fellow-servants of the Earl of Leicester, through the powerful influence of their patron, obtained a patent for the erection of a theatre at Blackfriars; close to the city wall, though beyond the jurisdiction of the city authorities. Shortly afterwards they took some large premises in the precinct of the dissolved Black-friars monastery, and in spite of a vigorous opposition on the part of the inhabitants in the neighbourhood, converted them into the very theatre of which it is presumed Shakespeare became a fellow, not long after his arrival in London.
Shakespeare's first connexion with the company in the Blackfriars was probably as an actor. Of his qualifications and line of performance in this art, scarcely anything is known, though, according to Aubrey, "he did act exceedingly well."48 Rowe says, "His name is printed, as the custom was in those times, amongst those of the other players, before some old plays, but without any particular account of what sort of parts he used to play; and though I have inquired, I could never meet with any further account of him this way, than that the top of his performance was the Ghost in his own Hamlet."49
Downes, the writer of the Roscius Anglieanus, who was prompter at one of the London theatres in 1662, speaking of Sir William Davenant's theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields, between 1662 and 1665, remarks, "The tragedy of Hamlet, Hamlet being performed by Mr. Betterton. Sir William having seen Mr. Taylor of the Blackfryars company act it, who being instructed by the author, Mr. Shakespear, taught Mr. Betterton in every particle of it; which, by his exact performance of it, gained him esteem and reputation superlative to all other players."
In like manner he speaks of Betterton's having been instructed by Sir William to play Henry VIII., after the fashion of "old Mr. Lowen," who had been taught by Shakespeare
and liberties of the same, as elsewhere; but the latter
49 Life of Shakspeare. Capell, 1779, relates that "a traditional story was current some years ago about Stratford, that a very old man of that place, of weak intellects, being asked by some of his neighbours what he remember'd about him, answer'd that he saw him once brought on the stage upon another man's back, which answer was applied by the hearers to his having performed in this scene [Sc. 7, Act II. of As You Like It] in the part of Adam." For a more circumstantial account of the same legend, see the Introduction to As You Like It, Vol. II. p. li'6.
himself. On this authority, it appears that if Shakespeare, as Rowe asserts, was not a brilliant actor, he was at any rate a skilful teacher of acting. But the testimony of Chettle, who must have seen him perform, is of far more weight than the hearsay evidence of Rowe and others; and he, in the preface to his Kind-IIarU Dreame, which we shall have to notice presently, expressly declares that he was " excellent in the quality he professed."
The earliest conjectural allusion to Shakespeare as a dramatist which has yet been discovered in print, is contained in Spenser's Teares of the Muses, a poem forming part of a collection published in 1591.50 In this poem, the Muse Thalia is introduced, lamenting the decline of the drama. After reciting how "the sweete delights of learnings treasure" have disappeared from the stage; how "unseemly Sorrow," "ugly Barbarisme," and "brutish Ignorance" in the minds of men "now tyrannize," whereas "fine Counterfesaunce," "imhurtful Sport, Delight and Laughter" used to reign supreme, she says,—
"And he, the man whom Nature selfo had made
In stead thereof, scoffing Scurrilitio,
But that same gentle Spirit, from whose pen
In the first edition of his Life of Shakspeare, Rowe tells us "Mr. Dryden was always of opinion that these verses were meant of Shakespear:" though in a subsequent impression of the memoir Rowe omitted the statement. Modern authorities are not agreed upon the point, but the prevailing opinion is that Shakespeare could not have been the writer referred to by Spenser. The reasons for this opinion are, firstly, that he had not at the time attained a rank such as would justify the encomiums; secondly, because there is no probability of his having subsided into the condition of inertness described, and thirdly, because there are grounds for supposing the verses in question were composed before he even began to write.52
Without entering into the last consideration, there appears to me sufficient evidence to prove that the expressions in this poem, however suitable to the character of Shakespeare, and accordant with those employed by his contemporaries when speaking of him, were intended for
w Complaints. Containing sundrie small Poemcs of the Worlds Vanitie, &c, 51 That is, to compose, to invent.
53 Todd, in his edition of Spenser's works, conjectures from the following address, prefixed to the collection of poems in question by the publisher, that The Teares of the Muses was composed about 1580:—"Since my late setting foorth of the Faerie Queene, finding that it hath found a favourable passage amongst you ; 1 hare sithence
endeavoured by all good meanes (for the better oncrease and accomplishment of your delights), to get into my handes such smale poemes of the same authors, as I heard wore disperst abroad in sundrie hands, and not easie to bee come by, by himselfe; some of Hum having bene diverslie imbesiled and purloinedfrom him since his departure over Sea. Of the which I have by good meanes gathered togeather these feice parcels present, which I have caused to bee imprinted altogeathor," 4tc,
some other Willy?3 The quotation from Chettle shows, in fact, that our poet was in the full tide of activity at the time when Spenser's hero is metaphorically described as "dead of late."
Malone is of opinion that the term Willy had in this instance a more particular significance, and was intended to express Lyly the poet, and he supports this notion by adducing many examples of a similar play on names, as Lerinda for Ireland, Unio for Juno, Caliban for Cannibal, Ailgna for Anglia, &c, all derived from the literature of Spenser's age. Todd thinks, and Mr. Dyce seems to agree with him, that Willy means Sir Philip Sydney, "who was a writer of masks,—who is elsewhere styled by Spenser 'gentle shepherd of gentlest race,' and 'the right gentle minde,'—and who is lamented under the name of Willy in An Eclogue in Davison's Poetical Rhapsody."1*
In the following year, we have an indisputable and most important reference to Shakespeare. On the 3d of September, 1592, at a wretched lodging, in the house of a poor shoemaker, near Dowgate, and under circumstances of privation too dreadful to dwell on, expired Robert Greene, one of the most distinguished and favourite writers of his tima The last few days of this misguided and unhappy man's existence were devoted, it is said, to the production of a small pamphlet entitled A Groatsworth of Wit bought with a Million of Repentance, which was published not long after by Henry Chettle. In this tract, after a long and not remarkably lucid admonition to certain of his fellow dramatists,65 we come upon the following striking passage :—" Base-minded men all three of you, if by my misery yee bee not warned; for unto none of you (like me) sought those burs to cleave; those puppies (I meane) that speaks from our mouths, those Anticks garnisht in our colours. Is it not strange that I, to whom they all have bin beholding, is it not like that you to whom they all have bin beholding, shall (were yee in that case that I am now) be both of them at once forsaken 1 Yes, trust them not; for there is an upstart crow beautified with our feathers, that, with his Tygres heart wrapt in a players hyde, supposes hee is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you; and beeing an absolute Johannes Fac-totum, is, in his owne conceyte, the only Shake-scene in a countrey. Oh, that I might intreat your rare wittes to bee imployed in more profitable courses, and let these apes imitate your past excellence, and never more acquaynte them with your admyred inventions. I knowe the best husband of you all will never proove an usurer, and the kindest of them all will never proove a kinde nurse; yet whilst you may, seeke you better maisters; for it is pitty men of such rare wits should bee subject to the pleasures of such rude groomes."
The allusion to Shakespeare is not to be mistaken; and the imputation is, evidently, that he had remodelled pieces originally produced by Greene, Marlowe, Lodge, and Peele, and brought them upon the stage as his own composition. It seems probable, too, by the words, "his Tygres heart wrapt in a players hyde," which is a parody upon a well-known line introduced by Shakespeare into Henry VI.16 from The True Tragedie of Richard Duke of Yorke, that Greene refers particularly to that piece and The First Part of the Contention betwixt the two famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster, on which our poet based The Second and Third Parts of King Henry the Sixth.
Greene's address, we learn from Chettle's epistle "To the Gentlemen Readers," prefixed to his tract called Kind-Harts Dreame, was resented not alone by Shakespeare, at whom the attack was levelled, but by Marlowe also, whom it charged with atheism.57 "About three months since," are Chettle's words, "died M. Robert Greene, leaving many papers in sundry bookesellers hands; among other, his Groatsworth of Wit, in which a letter written to divers play-makers is offensively by one or two of them taken ; and because on the dead they cannot be avenged, they wilfully forge in their conceites a living author; and after tossing it to and fro, no remedy but it must light on me. How I have, all the time of my conversing in printing, hindred the bitter inveying against schollers, it hath been very well knowne, and how in that I dealt I can sufficiently prove. With neither of them that take offence was I acquainted, and with one of them I care not if I never be: the other whome at that time I did not so much spare as since I wish I had, for that, as I have moderated the heate of living writers, and might have use my own discretion, especially in such a case, the author beeing dead, that I did not, I am as sorry as if the original fault had beene my fault, because myselfe have seene his demeanor no lesse civill than he (relent in the qualities he professes; Besides, divers of worship have reported his uprightness of dealing, which argues his honesty, and his facetious grace in writting that approoves his art. For the first, whose learning I reverence, and, at the perusing of Greenes booke, stroke out what then in conscience I thought he in some displeasure writ, or, had it beene true, yet to publish it was intolerable ; him I would wish to use me no worse than I deserve. I had onely in the copy this share; it was ilwritten, as sometime Greenes hand was none of the best; licensed it must be ere it could bee printed, which could never be if it might not be read: to be briefe, I writ it over, and, as neare as I could, followed the copy, onely in that letter I put something out, but in the whole booke not a worde in; for I protest it was all Greenes, not mine nor Maister Xashes, as some unjustly have affirmed."
a Willy was a mere Arcadianism for any shepherd, i.e. poet.
54 Dyce's Life of Shatapeare.
B It is addressed "To those gentlemen his quondam acquaintance, that spend their wits in making playes, R. G. wiaheth a better exercise, and wisedome to prevent his extremities," and there can be little doubt was intended
for Marlowe, Lodge, and Peele.
«• Third Part, Act I. Sc. 4,—
"Oh, tygors hart wrapt in a woman's hide!"
57 "Wonder not (for with thee will I first beginne), thou famous grocer of tragedians (Marlowe), that Green, who hath said with thee, like the foole in his hearte, There u no find, should now give glories unto his jrrentnesse," ku.
The "first" person to whom this apology is directed, and for whose learning Chettle expresses his reverence, though with a disparaging qualification as to his character in general, could have been none other than Marlowe. "The other" was certainly Shakespeare, and the reference is an interesting testimony to his high reputation as a dramatist and an actor, and to his urbanity and rectitude as a man.
In 1593 our author's Venus and Adonis, and in 1594 his Lucrece, appeared, each dedicated to Henry Wriothesly, Earl of Southampton. It is impossible now to determine whether the dedication of the former work first led to the friendly intercourse which appears to have subsisted so many years between Shakespeare and this generous and amiable nobleman, or whether their acquaintance began at an earlier period of the poet's career. Mr. Collier expresses an opinion, that it was shortly after the publication of the latter poem that Lord Southampton afforded that extraordinary proof of his esteem and admiration of the poet which Rowe was the first to relate: "There is one instance so singular in the magnificence of this patron of Shakespear's, that if I had not been assured that the story was handed down by Sir William I>avenant, who was probably very well acquainted with his affairs, I should not have ventured to have inserted ; that my Lord Southampton, at one time, gave him a thousand pounds to enable him to go through with a purchase which he heard he had a mind to." Looking at the difference in the value of money at that time and the present, we may reasonably presume that Lord Southampton's bounty on this occasion has been magnified; but the fact that Shakespeare in little more than ten years after he quitted Stratford was in circumstances to purchase New Place, one of the best houses in his native town, very strongly confirms the general truth of the anecdote.
Whatever doubt there may be as to Spenser's referring to Shakespeare, in his Teares of the Muses, no one will deny the extreme probability of his doing so in another poem, "entitled Colin Clouts come Home again, written during 1594. After enumerating under fanciful tides various poets whose real names can in many instances be determined, and respecting