« AnteriorContinuar »
Chappell to have passage there throwe his house. Mr. Willson is to have no profitt nor stipend out of the Church-yarde in respect of the injurious bill exhibited against the Baliffe and burgisses.'1
A number of other resolutions show the course of the dispute, which came to an end on the death of Mr. Wilson in 1638. Shortly before that event the town council were trying to compromise with him on the basis of an annual payment by them in consideration of a withdrawal of all legal proceedings against them.
Of Dr. Hall, the Dictionary of National Biography says, 'he gave to the church a costly new pulpit, and in 1628 he was appointed a borough churchwarden, in 1629 a sidesman, and in 1633 the vicar's churchwarden.' It is noteworthy that, though Thomas Wilson became vicar in 1619, the actions against the corporation begin fifteen years later, immediately after Dr. Hall's appointment to the office of vicar's churchwarden. Halliwell-Phillipps says of Dr. Hall and Mr. Wilson, 'they were such great friends that the vicarial courts were sometimes held at New Place.'2
In his son-in-law and daughter Shakespeare would have executors perfectly fitted to carry out such wishes as we suggest that he expressed to them. Both were at home at
1 These resolutions are taken from A descriptive calendar of the ancient manuscripts and records in the possession of the Corporation of Stratford-upon-Avon, 1863; and, Stratford-upon-Avon in the times of the Shakespeares, illustrated by extracts from the council books of the Corporation, 1864, both published by HalliwellPhillipps.
2 Outlines, ii. 322.
Stratford, and both might be trusted not to cause
'With arms encumber'd thus, or this head-shake,
Or by pronouncing of some doubtful phrase,
As "Well, well, we know," or "We could, an if we would,"
And Shakespeare would have had ample time to make final arrangements, for he knew, three months before it occurred, that his death was imminent. Shakespeare's will is not a document engrossed at leisure, but consists of the original draft with erasures and interlinear additions. It was first drafted on January 25, 1616, and as amended it was signed on March 25 following. On April 23 he died. Soon after the will was first drafted, i.e., on the 10th of February, the younger of Shakespeare's daughters, Judith, was married at Stratford, and married in such haste that a license was not procured. So serious an omission was this that shortly afterwards she and her husband were summoned to the ecclesiastical court at Worcester, threatened with excommunication, and fined. Such a conjunction of circumstances as the above would alone make it probable that when the will was first drafted Shakespeare's early death was thought to be almost inevitable, and that his daughter was married hastily because of his wish to leave her settled in life.2 But there is proof in the will itself that when it was first drafted his early death was considered not probable merely, but certain; for he then spoke of the date of his
1 Hamlet, I. v. 74-8.
2 She married Thomas Quiney, four years her junior, the son of an old friend of Shakespeare's.
will and the date of his death as though it were a matter of course that for all practical purposes they would be one and the same.
He makes a bequest of money to his daughter Judith, to be paid, 'within one yeare after my deceas'; and afterwards he says, '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.' Later on still he refers again to this second bequest, and this time uses the words, 'she lyving the saied terme after my deceas.' He also makes a bequest to his granddaughter in the following terms: 'Item, I gyve and bequeath unto the saied Elizabeth Hall, all my plate, except my brod silver and gilt bole, that I now have att the date of this my will.' He evidently had the will drafted knowing of his certain early death, and kept it by him unsigned so that he might make emendations and additions as they occurred to him and be able to sign it at any moment.
The will opens with a statement of his 'perfect health,' and of his religious belief; but this exordium was of course conventional, and supplied by the lawyer.1
As to the conventionality of the exordium as regards the statement of religious belief, see Lee, Life, p. 273, and Halliwell-Phillipps, Outlines, i. 263; also Outlines, ii, 390, where is quoted an extract from what is set down as the "forme of a will' in a book published in 1605.
As to the reference to health, Steevens says (Variorum ed., 1821, xx. 307) “The perfect health mentioned in the will. . . was introduced as a thing of course by the attorney who drew it up."
About fifty years after Shakespeare's death (i.e., 1661-3), the then vicar of Stratford wrote in his diary, Shakespear, Drayton, and Ben Jonson, had a merie meeting, and itt seems drank too hard, for Shakespear died of a feavour there contracted.' We have long known however that Shakespeare did not die of a fever;1 and as he knew of the imminence of his death three months before he died, it is reasonable to assume that if Drayton and Jonson visited him so near the date of his death as to give rise to the tradition that the death was a consequence of the visit, they were summoned by him to take final leave of him. This view is supported by the fact that Shakespeare made no mention of Drayton and Jonson in his will, although he mentioned, in an interlinear addition, his fellow-actors Burbage, Heming, and Condell, bequeathing to them 'xxvis. viiid. a peece to buy them ringes.'
Though Jonson understood Shakespeare's Sonnets, we know of nothing to show that he connected the Sonnets with the Phoenix and Turtle.' But re some ground for the suspicion that Shakespeare had at one time definitely asked Jonson not to mention him. Among Jonson's Epigrams' (first published in 1616 but registered in 1612) is the following:
We refer to the evidence of his will (compare Halliwell-Phillipps, Outlines, i. 253); and to the evidence of the face of the bust in the church (see Lee, Life, pp. 286 and 296).
'TO ONE THAT DESIRED ME NOT TO NAME HIM.'
This could not possibly refer to some retiring individual among Jonson's many aristocratic acquaintance, who were largely the subjects of his epigrams, as there could have been no question of one of them being thought his foe. But, considering the many quarrels among the poets, it has every appearance of having been meant for a fellowpoet. And there was only one contemporary poet to be suspected of having whose enmity would have so concerned the self-appreciating and by no means over-sensitive Jonson; and that same poet was one of whom Jonson was suspected of being jealous; and one who shrank from notice; and one who, after Jonson's notice in the 'Poetaster,' had reason to fear that Jonson might refer to him in such a way as to interfere with his plans. And Jonson, in afterwards 'speaking the name' of that same poet in his verses to Shakespeare in the First Folio, was careful to show in his opening lines that he was aware of that poet's sensitiveness in this matter. If this epigram refer to Shakespeare, perhaps he renewed his caution to Jonson shortly before his death when Jonson visited him.
'Enter Autolycus and a Gentleman
Aut. Beseech you, sir, were you present at this relation?
First Gent. I was by at the opening of the fardel, heard the old shepherd deliver the manner how he found it: whereupon,
1 Epigram 77