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he married 18 Anne Hathaway, the daughter of a substantial yeoman in the neighbourhood of Stratford. 19 There was considerable disproportion in their ages, for the lady was in her twenty-sixth year; but Oldys 20 seems to have learned by tradition, that she was beautiful; and it is indeed unlikely that a woman devoid of personal charms should have won the youthful affections of so imaginative a being as Shakespeare. It is unfair to conclude (as some biographers have done) from certain passages in his plays concerning marriage, that he afterwards repented of this connexion; but when we find that during his almost constant residence in London, his wife remained at Stratford, and that he only remembers her slightly, and, as it were, casually in his will, we have some reason to suspect that their union was not productive of much domestic happiness. From some of Shakespeare's Sonnets, it has been supposed that, after he became a husband, he was by no means remarkable for purity of morals; but (as I shall have occasion to notice more particularly in a subsequent part of this essay) no inference respecting his conduct should be drawn from compositions, most of which appear to have been written under an assumed charac
18 Neither the day, nor the place of their union are known.
20 See note on our author's xciiid Sonnet, Malone's Shakespeare (by Boswell) xx.
ter. In May 1583, his wife bore a daughter, who was called Susanna; 22 and, about eighteen months afterwards, she was delivered of twins, a son and daughter, baptized 23 by the names of Hamnet and Judith. It does not appear that she again became a mother.
We are now arrived at an event in our author's history of great importance, inasmuch as it caused him to abandon his native town, and put forth the energies of his mighty genius. Having fallen into the company of some wild and disorderly young men, he was induced to assist them, on more than one occasion, in stealing deer from the park of Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, in the neighbourhood of Stratford. For this offence (which in those days used to be regarded as a venial frolic) he was treated, as he thought, too harshly; and he repaid the severity by ridiculing Sir Thomas in a ballad. So bitter was this satirical effusion, that the prosecution against its author was redoubled; and forsaking his family and occupation, he took shelter in the metropolis from his powerful enemy. Such is the story 24 which tradition has preserved; and that it
Baptized May 26.
February 2nd, 1584-5.
24 Rowe's account has been followed in the text.
In the archives of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, are the MS. collections of a learned antiquary, Mr. William Fulman, who died in 1688, with additional notes, by the friend to whom he bequeathed them, Mr. Richard Davies,
has some foundation in truth, cannot, surely, be doubted, notwithstanding what has been urged to the contrary by Malone, whose chief object in
archdeacon of Lichfield, who died in 1707. Among these papers is the following record concerning Shakespeare by the latter gentleman. "He was much given to all unluckinesse, in stealing venison and rabbits; particularly from SirLucy, who had him oft whipt, and sometimes imprisoned, and at last, made him fly his native country, to his great advancement. But his reveng was so great that he is his Justice Clodpate; and calls him a great man, and that, in allusion to his name, bore three lowses rampant for his arms." Fulman's MSS. vol. xv.
A Mr. Thomas Jones of Turbich, a village in Worcestershire, about eighteen miles from Stratford, who died aged upwards of ninety, in 1703, remembered to have heard from several very old people, the story of the deer-stealing, with this addition, that the ballad was fixed on Sir Thomas Lucy's park-gate, and could repeat a stanza of the said ballad, which Oldys and Capel have preserved.
Oldys tells us, (in a MS. note, which Steevens first printed) "he [Jones] could remember the first stanza of that bitter ballad, which repeating to one of his acquaintance, he preserved it in writing, and here it is, neither better nor worse, but faithfully transcribed from the copy which his relation very courteously communicated to me :
"A parliemente member, a justice of peace,
He thinks himself greate,,
We allowe by his ears but with asses to mate.
"Mr. Jones," says Capel, in his nebulous style, “had
writing the Life of our poet was, to shake the credibility of the facts brought forward by Rowe.
As an evidence that Shakespeare long retained a grudge against Sir Thomas Lucy, the opening scene of the Merry Wives of Windsor may be adduced: there, Justice Shallow complains that Falstaff had "killed his deer;" Slender informs us, that the arms of the Shallows are a "dozen white luces;"25 and Sir Hugh Evans plays upon the word " luce," in the same manner as the stanza of the ballad given in my note, plays upon the sur-name "Lucy."
Various sets of players,-the Queen's company, the servants of Lord Worcester, of Lord Leicester,
put down in writing the first stanza of this ballad, which was all he remembered of it, and Mr. Thomas Wilkes (my grandfather) transmitted it to my father by memory, who also took it down in writing, and his copy is this," &c.
These verses may be genuine; but not so, I fear, is the entire song said to have been found in a chest of drawers at Shottery, near Stratford, and several times printed.
In a MS. History of the Stage, (supposed to have been written by that mendacious personage Chetwood) are two stanzas of a different pasquinade on Sir Thomas Lucy, by Shakespeare, which we are informed Joshua Barnes (the editor of Homer and Euripides, &c.) recovered from the singing of an old woman, as he was baiting at an inn in Stratford.
25 The coat of Sir Thomas Lucy was "gules, three luces [i. e. pike-fishes] hariant, argent." Even Malone allows that passages of this scene "afford grounds for believing that our author, on some account or other, had not the most profound respect for Sir Thomas Lucy." Life of Shakespeure, p. 142. (Shak. by Boswell, ii.)
of Lord Warwick, and of other noblemen, had been in the habit of resorting to Stratford, and exhibiting their performances in its Guildhall. Before Shakespeare was compelled to forsake his home, he had doubtless seen the best theatrical productions (such as they were) represented by the best actors then alive; and it is probable that, his inclination for the theatre having early manifested itself, he had become known to the elder Burbage, to Heminge, and to Thomas Greene, all players of note. It has been supposed that the two first of these Thespian heroes were the countrymen of Shakespeare; the last was certainly his townsman, and perhaps his relation. It was natural, therefore, that under his present circumstances, Shakespeare should have had recourse to the theatre, as a means of subsistence, and in all probability he was "nothing loath" to exchange the dull monotony of his former occupation (whatever it may have been) for the more exciting profession of the stage.
His arrival in London cannot well be fixed earlier than the year 1586 or 1587. According to Rowe,26" he was received into the company, at first in a very mean rank:" it has also been said that he was employed as call-boy, whose business is to give notice to the performers, when their different entries on the stage are required; and 27
26 Life of Shakespeare.
27 In the time of Elizabeth," says Dr. Johnson, "coaches being yet uncommon, and hired coaches not at all in use,