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usual house), and in any town-hall in the provinces; and he was still a member of the company on March 15, 1604, the date of King James' formal entry into London,being named first in the list of members of the company who each received a grant of scarlet cloth for use as a cloak in the procession. He probably ceased to act between that date (March 15, 1604) and the purchase of the tithes (July, 1605). As it is certain that he continued to write for the theatre until 1610-1611, this agrees with the statement of the Rev. John Ward, vicar of Stratford in 1662, in his diary written in the latter year: 'He frequented the plays all his younger time, but in his elder days lived at Stratford, and supplied the stage with two plays every year.'
The only evidence against this theory is contained in a document which was written in 1635. In that year some of the actors in the company of which Shakespeare had been a member, thought that the shareholders in the Blackfriars theatre took more than an equitable share of the profit, and, being King's Servants, they appealed to the Lord Chamberlain to compel certain of the shareholders to sell them a number of shares at a specified rate. Cuthbert Burbage (Richard's brother) and Richard's widow and son, sent a counter petition in which they endeavoured to show that they ought not to be compelled to sell any of their shares to these 'men soe soone shott up.' They tell of the high price paid for the building, and of the great expense of converting it into a theatre, and continue, which after was leased out to one Evans that first sett up the boyes commonly called the Queenes Majesties Children of the Chappell. In processe of time,
the boyes growing up to bee men, which were Underwood, Field, Ostler, and were taken to strengthen the King's Service; and the more to strengthen the service, the boyes dayly wearing out, it was considered that house would bee as fitt for ourselves, and soe purchased the lease remaining from Evans with our money, and placed men players, which were Hemings, Condall, Shakespeare, &c. And Richard Burbage, who for thirty-five yeeres paines, cost and labour, made meanes to leave his wife and children some estate . . . '1
The purchase of the remaining term of the lease was made at the end of 1609 or the beginning of 1610, so that the Burbages were speaking of a transaction which had taken place twenty-five years before, and in which two of them would not have taken part. Who the actors were, too, mattered not the least; and that fact and the loose way in which they are mentioned, make it evident that the names were inserted rashly, and for the sake of effect. Moreover there is other evidence of the unreliability of the statements in that document. Mr. Fleay, discussing them in his Chronicle History of Shakespeare' (p. 63), says that among the Revels boys taken over in 1610 were Underwood and Ostler, 'but,' he continues, as C. Burbage also names Field, who did not join the King's men till 1615 or 1616, his subsequent statement that they set up men-players, Shakespeare, Hemings, Condell, &c., at Blackfriars at that date, is not to be taken as necessarily exact. The King's men undoubtedly took possession of Blackfriars for their own performances in 1614 or 1615, after the Globe had been 1 Halliwell-Phillipps, Outlines, i. 317.
burned and rebuilt; but there is not a trace of them until then in connection with this private house except this ex parte statement of C. Burbage, made for a special purpose, in a plea which is studiously ambiguous. . There is no proof that Shakespeare ever acted at Blackfriars.'
Sonnet 124 marks the state of the times as distinctly as did Sonnet 107. But the times had changed. Sonnet 124 was written not in a 'balmy time,' but in the time of 'thralled discontent' when the expectations entertained at the accession of King James had been disappointed:
SON. 124. 'If my dear love were but the child of state,
Weeds among weeds, or flowers with flowers gathered.
It suffers not in smiling pomp, nor falls
It fears not policy, that heretic,
Which works on leases of short-numbered hours,
That it nor grows with heat nor drowns with showers.
Which die for goodness, who have lived for crime.'
So soon did the sense of a 'balmy time' come to an end, that in the following year (1604) Parliament was addressing the King on the subject of abuses: 'Let your Majesty be pleased to receive public information from your Commons in Parliament, as well of the abuses in the Church as in the civil state and government.' 'Your Majesty would be misinformed if any man should deliver
that the Kings of England have any absolute power in themselves either to alter religion, or to make any laws concerning the same, otherwise than in temporal causes, by consent of Parliament.” What fashion did Shakespeare mean by ‘our fashion'? As regards the Church, the puritans and the catholics formed two great fashions of thralled discontent': early in 1605, the stricter observance of rites and ceremonies required by the bishops (encouraged by the King) had forced three hundred of the puritan clergy from their livings. Later, the episcopal King and the puritan Parliament joined in increasing the oppression of the catholics, who in consequence tried to make both fall under the blow of thralled discontent' when they plotted to blow up the Houses of Parliament at the re-opening by the King, November 5, 1605. What were Shakespeare's religious opinions we shall not discuss further than to say that the evidence is very conflicting, and that to us as to J. R. Green it is impossible to discover whether his faith, if faith there were, was Catholic or Protestant. It is hard, indeed, to say whether he had any religious belief or no.' 2 'Our fashion' probably meant the fashion of the people in general, opposed to an oppressive and would-beabsolute King. But the time referred to is unmistakably that after the accession of James; and the gunpowder plot is such a remarkable instance of a plot to strike a 'blow of thralled discontent,' and the object of the conspirators was, as far as was seen, so much more to strike a blow than to bring about a rising or revolution, being in that
1 Green's Short History, p. 482.
exceptional, that in all probability the gunpowder plot supplied Shakespeare with his figure the sonnet being written after November 5, 1605, but at what point between that date and the publication of the Sonnets in 1609 we have no means of judging.1
The Sonnets form two main groups: the first of one hundred and twenty-six (1-126), and the other of twenty-eight (127-154). The poet is careful to mark the close of the first group by a poem of twelve lines rhyming in couplets, as against the fourteen lines of the others (except one) of the group, in the regulation scheme of rhyme of the English sonnet; it summarizes the poet's idea of the relations of Love, Beauty, and the World. As a close to the second group are two sonnets that summarize it.
In the first group there are three sonnets (40, 41, 42) that link it to the second by referring to his other love and showing a relation between the two; and in the second group there are three sonnets (133, 134, 144) that link it in the same way to the first.
The two groups being devoted respectively to the figuring of his better and worse parts, his Love of Beauty and his Lust of Fame, he would naturally write from the first sonnets for each group; and so it comes that No. 107, one of the first group, was written, as we have seen, after March 24, 1603; No. 110 between March, 1604, and July,
'In Gresham's letter to Lord Monteagle warning him to absent himself from parliament, which letter probably caused the discovery of the plot, is the sentence: "For though there be no appearance of any stir, yet, I say, they will receive a terrible blow this parliament, and yet they shall not see who hurts them." (Hume).
The gunpowder plot made a great sensation at Stratford, near which place some of the chief conspirators lived. Rookwood lived in the town itself. (See Lee, Stratford-on-Avon to the death of Shakespeare, p. 272.)