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of Stratford") assert that JOHN Shakspeare, the presumed father of the poet, was thrice married: 1st. to Arden, daughter and co-heir of Robert Arden, of Wellingcote, in Warwickshire, before 1558, by whom he had eight children; 2d. to Margery Roberts, Nov. 25, 1584, no issue; and 3dly, to Mary whose maiden name
is not specified, in 1588, by whom there were issue, three children. Of these marriages there are no other particulars recorded, than the entries of their names, and that of their issue, in the parish register. Hence some doubts arise, and we have no clue to solve them. Malone, and Dr. Drake, suggest as a probability, that Shakspeare's father might have had a son, named John, who was baptised before the Stratford register commences, (Sept. 15, 1558) and that some of the baptismal and marriage entries, refer to John, the younger, and not the elder. Admitting this to be probable and true, we have some difficulties removed. The grant of arms has no allusion to a second or third wife, or to the name of the heir. The armorial shield on the Poet's tomb, has only one bearing, that of Arden. Thus, is it not extremely probable, that there were two or more persons named John Shakspeare, living at the same time at Stratford, or in its immediate vicinity?
WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE, the pride of England and of nature, first drew breath in the town of Stratford-uponAvon, in the county of Warwick, on the 23d day of April, 1564. His juvenile habits and early associations are unknown; but it has been inferred from his writings, that he did not receive a very liberal, or as it is commonly called "learned education." Rowe states, that he was "for some time at a free school, where it is probable he acquired what Latin he was master of; but that the narrowness of his circumstances, and the want of his assistance at home, forced his father to withdraw him from thence, and unhappily prevented his further proficiency in that language." On this statement Malone remarks, in a note, "I believe that on leaving school, Shakspeare was placed in the office of some country attorney, or the seneschal of some manor court." The principal reason which this commentator urges for his opinion, is the appearance of "legal technical skill," which is manifested in our poet's plays. But whatever doubts there may be
as to his employment on leaving school, it is certain that he early entered into the matrimonial condition, for an entry in the Stratford register mentions, that "Susanna, daughter of William Shakspeare, was baptised May 26, 1583," when he was only nineteen years of age. His wife was Anne Hathaway, who is said to have been the "daughter of a substantial yeoman, then residing at the village of Shottery," which is distant about a mile from the town of Stratford. From the inscription (quoted in the sequel) on her tombstone in the church, she was eight years older than her husband, to whom she brought three children, Susanna, Judith, and Hamnet: the two last were twins, and were baptised February 2, 1584-5.
Concerning the domestic economy of Shakspeare after his marriage, and the means by which he maintained his family, neither tradition nor record furnish the most distant hint. Nor is the date of his leaving Stratford better ascertained; but it is conjectured, with much plausibility, that it did not take place till after the birth of his twin children. As to the cause of his flight to the metropolis, the common story is, that being detected in robbing the deer-park of Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, that gentleman, who was one of the county magistrates, prosecuted him with so much rigour, that he found it necessary to escape beyond the boundaries of his influence and jurisdiction. Sir Thomas's spirit of justice, or, as some call it, revenge, is said, on this occasion, to have been stimulated by a ballad written by Shakspeare, of which the following stanza was communicated to Steevens by Mr. Oldys, Norroy King at Arms:
"A parliemente member, a justice of peace,
At home a poor scare-crowe, at London an asse;
He thinks himself greate,
Yet an asse in his state
We allowe by his ears but with asses to mate.
This story of Sir Thomas, and the deer, is not very well substantiated, and it comes" in a questionable shape.' Without dwelling on it, or crediting another story of Shakspeare being employed to hold horses at the doors of the theatre, we shall rather be inclined to attribute his
removal to London to domestic differences, combined with the persuasion of Thomas Green, a relation and townsman, who had been settled in the metropolis, and was noted as 66 a celebrated comedian." That there was an estrangement from his wife, may be inferred from the fact of his having no progeny, by her, after the twins of 1584; from an entry of burial in the register, of " Thomas Greene, alias Shakspeare," in 1589-90; and from his neglect of her in his will, wherein her name is interlined, and with a legacy of the "second best bed" only.
"Had not poverty and prosecution," remarks Dr. Drake, "united in driving Shakspeare from his humble occupation in Warwickshire, how many matchless lessons of wisdom and morality, how many unparalleled displays of wit and imagination, of pathos and sublimity, had been buried in oblivion; pictures of emotion, of character, of passion, more profound than philosophy had ever conceived, more impressive than poetry had ever yet embodied; strains, which shall now sound through distant posterity with increasing energy and interest, and which shall powerfully and beneficially continue to influence and to mould both national and individual feeling."
The inducement of Shakspeare to resort to the theatre, and his first employment after his arrival in London, are matters no less clouded with obscurity, than the previous incidents of his life. "No era in the Annals of Literary History," justly observes. Dr. Drake, ever perhaps occurred of greater importance than that which witnessed the entrance of Shakspeare into the metropolis of his native country. The office which he first held in the theatre, according to stage tradition, was that of call-boy, or prompter's attendant, but this statement is almost as questionable as the legendary tale of Pope, of his taking charge of horses. At all events, his continuance in that capacity was of very short duration. Talents like his could not remain long unnoticed or unemployed; but we are inclined to think that he was earlier distinguished as a player than as a dramatic writer. He must have made himself conversant with the machinery of the stage, its language, &c. before he composed his plays."
We now come to that era in the life of Shakspeare, when he began to write his immortal dramas, and to develope those powers which have rendered him the delight
and wonder of successive ages. At the time of his becoming in some degree a public character, we naturally expected to find many anecdotes recorded of his literary history: but, by a strange fatality, the same want of authentic record, the same absence of all contemporary anecdote marks every stage of his life. Even the date at which his first play appeared is unknown; and the greatest uncertainty prevails with respect to the chronological order in which the whole series was exhibited or published. As this subject was justly considered by Malone to be both curious and interesting, he has appropriated to its examination a long and laborious essay. Chalmers, in his "Supplemental Apology," however, endeavours to controvert Malone's dates, and assigns them to other eras. Dr. Drake suggests a new chronological arrangement, and assigns very plausible arguments in support of his opinions. He thinks that the first drama, "either wholly, or in great part," written by him, was Pericles, which was produced in 1590. Malone says, the "First Part of King Henry VI." published in 1589, and commonly attributed to Shakspeare, was not written by him, though it might receive some corrections from his pen at a subsequent period, in order to fit it for representation. The "Second Part of King Henry VI." this writer contends, ought therefore to be considered as Shakspeare's first dramatic piece; and he thinks that it might be composed about the year 1591, but certainly not earlier than 1590.
Much has been said by different commentators on certain plays, ascribed to Shakspeare, but which are of such a doubtful class, that it is almost impossible to identify their authors; and it is quite impossible to prove them "to be, or not to be" the writings of the bard of Avon. Titus Andronicus is generally classed with his plays, but all the critics, except Capell and Schlegel, consider it to be unworthy of Shakspeare. The editors of the first folio edition, however, have included it in that volume; which, combined with other circumstances, implies that they considered the play as his production. George Meres, a contemporary and admirer of Shakspeare, enumerates it among his works in 1598, and Meres was personally acquainted with, and consulted by our Poet. "I cannot conceive," says Schlegel, "that all the critical scep