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ACCURATELY PRINTED FROM THE TEXT OF THE CORRECTED COPY
LEFT BY THE LATE
GEORGE STEEVENS, ESQ.
WITH A MEMOIR,
BY ALEXANDER CII ALMERS, A. M.
J. B. LIPPINCOTT & CO.
SKETCI Op tik LIFE OF SKAKSPEARE..
MERRY WIVES OF W:NDSOR ................. 43
MIDSUMMER's Night's DREAM ............. 119
Henry VI.-PART FIRHT ....
LLIAM BILAESPEARE was born at Stratford-upon-Avon, in Warwickshire, on the 23rd day of April, 1564. Of the rank of his family it is not easy to form an opinion. Mr. Rowe says thiut buy tho register and certain public writings relating to Stratford, it appears that his ancestors were of good figure and fashion," in that town, and are mentioned as "tiltlemen," un epithiet which was more determinate then than at present, when it has become an unlimited phrase of courtesy. Ilix tather,
was a considerable dealer in wool, and had been an officer and bailiff (probably high-built or mayor ) of the body corporate of Stratford. Ile held also the ottice of justice of the pence; and at one time, it is suid, possessed lands and tenements to the amount of £500, the reward of his grandfather's faithful and upproved services to king llenry VII. This, however, has been himself in Bosworth Field on the side of King llenry, and that he was rewarded for his military esserted upon very doubtful authority, Mr. Malone thinks it is briglily probable that he distinguished services loy the bounty of that parsimonious pince, though not withi a grant of lands. No such grunt appears in the Chapel of the Rolls, from the beginning to the end of llenty's reign." But whatever muy have bun bis fornter wealth, it appears to have been greutely reduced in ihe latter part of his lite, as w Bind. from the books of the Corporation, that, in 1579, Tic was excused the titling weekly tax of tourpence levied on all the aldermen; and that
, in 1556, anothier alderman was appointed in his room, in consequence of liis declining to attend on the business of that office. It is even said by Aubrey, a man sutliciently acenrate in facts, although credulous in xyperstitious narratives and traditions that lie followed for rome time the occupation of a butelier, which Mr. Malono thinks not inconsistent with probability. It nrust lave been, however, at this time, no inconsiderable addition to lis dilliculties What he had a family of ten children. Ilis' wito was the delighter und lieirens of Robert Arden of Wellingcote, in the county of Warwick, who is styled “a gentleman of worship.” The family of Arden is very ancient, kitart Arden of Bromich, Esq., being in the list of the gentry of this country returned by the Comisioners in the twelfth year of king Henry VI. A. D. 1433. Edward Arden was shurit of the county in livis. The wovllund part of this country wus anciently called Ardern, afterwards softened to Arden; and hence the name,
Our illustrious poct was the cllest son, and received his early adneation, however narrow or liberal, Atas cu mlvol, probably that fondul ut Stratford. From this hic appears to have been soon removed and ' lacul, uccording to Mr. Mulovic opinion, in the office of some country uttorney, or the senuseliui of a mie manor court, where it is highly probable he picked up those tecinicul law pliruses that no frequently becur in his plays, and could not have been in common iisc. unless among protessional wen. Alr. Cueil conjectures, that his early marriuge prevented his being sent to some university. It
lears. however, as Dr. Farmer observes, that his enrly life was incompatible with a course of cilveait, and it is certuin, that * lis contemporaries, friends and focs, nuy, and liimrelt likewise, agree in bis want of what is usually termed eru:ure." It is, indeed, a strong argument in favor of Shu kupacare's illiterature, thut it was maintained by all his contemporaries, many of whom have lett upon record overy merit they could bestow on him; and by his successors, who lived nearest to liis tiine, a borib tuis iuemnory was green;" and that it hus ixen lenici only by Gildon, Sewell, and others down
len. who could have no meuns of nsreiuining the truth. La loix eixlireenth your, or perhaps a litic xoner, he married Anne Ilathuway, who was eight years eller tun himself, the dargiter of one llatin way, who is said to have been a kubwtantiul yee måd in the neighborhood of Stratford. Of liis plomestic economy, or protexxional occupation at this time, we lave do information ; but it would apprur thut both were in a considerable duyrue poglected by his 1 M88. Aubrey, Mus. Asbmol. Oxon, examined by Mr. Malone.
Jsse inting with a gang of deer-stealers. Being detected with them in robbing the park of Sir Thomas Lvey of Charlecote, near Stratford, he was so rigorously prosecuted by that gentleman, as to be obliged to leave his family and business, and take shelter in London. Sir Thomas, on this occasion, is said to have been exasperated by a bullud Shakspeare wrote, probably his first essay in poetry, of which the following stur zu wus conimunicated to Mr. Oldys :
A parliament member, a justice of peace,
lle thinks himself greate,
Yet an asse in his state
Sing lowaie Lucy, whatever befall it. These lines, it must be confessed, do no grent honor to our poet; and probably were unjust; for ai. though some of his admirers have recorded Sir Thomus as a **vain, weak, and i'indictive musistrato," he was certainly exerting no very violent act of oppression, in protecting his property against a mun who was degrding the commonest rank of life, and hud, at this time, bespoke no induigence by superior talents. The bullud, however, must lave made some noise at Sir Thomas's expense, as the author took caro it should be attixed to his park-galcs, and liberally circulated among his neighbors.
On his arrival in London, which was probably in 1.556, when he was twenty-two years old, he is baiid to have made his first acquaintance in the play-house, to which idleness or taste may bayc directed him, and where his necessities, iť tradition may be creditel, obliged liim to accept the office or call-boy, or prompter's attendant. This is a meniul whose employment it is to give the performers notice to be roudly to enter, as often as the business of the play requires their appearance on the stage, Pope, howerer, relates il story, communicated to him by Rowe, but which Rowe did not think deserving of a place in the life he wrote, that must a little retard the advancement of our poct to the office just menlioned. According to this story, Shakspeare's first employment was to wait at thu door of the playhouse, and hold the horses of those who had no servants, that they might be ready after the perform
But "I cannot," says his acute commentator, Mr. Steevens, " dismiss this anccdote without observing, that it seems to want every mark of probability. Though Shakspeare quitted Strat:rired on account of a juvenile irregularity, we have no reason to stippose that he had forfeited tho protection of his father, who was engaged in a lucrative business, or the love of his wife, who had already brought him two children, and was herself the daughter of a substantial yeoman. It is unlikely, therefore, when he was beyond the reach of his proscentor, that he should conceal his plan of lite. or place of resiilence, from those who, if he found himself distressol, could not fuil atford him such suppiics as would have set him above the necessity of building lures for subsistence.” Mr. Malone his romarkul, in his attempt to ascertain the order in which the lays of Shukspeare were written, that he miglit lave found an easy introduction to the stage: for Thomas Green, a celebrated comedian of that period, was luis townsman. and perhaps his relation. The genius of our author prompted him to write poetry; his connection with a player might have given his productions a dramatic turn: or his own sagacity migl. bave taught lini that fame was not incompatible with profit, and that the theatre was an urcnue to both. That it was once the general custom to ride on horsebuck to the play, I am likewine yet to learn. The most popular of the theatres were on the Bunkside ; and we are told by the Batirical pamphleteers of that time, that the usual modlu ot' conveyance to these places of uniusement wus by water, but not a single writer so much its hints at the custom of riding to them, or at the practice of having horses held during the hours of exhibition. Some allusion to this isugo ( if it hund exin!:) must, I think, have been discoveral in the course of our researches after contemporary fushions. Let it be remembered, too, that we receive this talo on no higher authority than that of Ciba ber's Lives of the Piuts, vol. i, p. 130. Sir William Davenant told it to Mr. Bettertou, who communicatel it to Mr. Rowo, who, according to Dr. Johnson, related it to Mr. Pope." Mr. Mulone concurs in opinion, thing this story stands on a very slender foundation, while he diiters from Mr. Steevens ag to the fact of gentlemen going to the theatre on borseback. With respect. likewise, to Shuk-peare's father being “engagul in a lucrative business," we may remark, that this could not have been the case at the time our author cume to London, if the preeeeling dutes be correct. lle is said to have arrived in London in 1550i, the yer in which liis father resigned the otfice of alderman, unless, iudeed, we are permittel to conjecture that lis resignation was not tlie consequence of his necessities.
But in whatever situation lie was tirst employed at the theatre, he uppears to have soon discovered those talents which uttrwurds made him
Th' applause, delight, the wonder of our stage! Some distinction he probably first acquired as an actor, although Mr. Rowe has not been nt le 1.0 discover any character in which he appeared to more advantage than thut of the ghout in Ilamlet. The instructions given to the player in that tragcily, and other passiges of his works, show an intimate acquaintance with the skillot' acting, and such as is scarcely surpassed in our own days. lle appears to halia pruulied nature in acting as much as in writing. But all this might have been mere theory. Mr. Malone is of opinion lie was no great actor. The listinction, however, which he might obtain as un actor conld only be in leis own plays, in which he would be assisted by the norel appearan«e of author and actor combined. Before his time, it does not aplicar thut any actor could avail himself of the wretched pieces representel on the stage.
Mr. Rowo regrets that he cannot inform us which was the first play he wrote. More skilful rescarch has since Sound, that Romico und Juict, and Richard II and 11! were printed in 1597, when he was thirty-three years old ; there is also some renson to think that he commenced as a dramatic writer in 1392. and Mr. Malone even places his first play, “ First Part of Henry VI," in 1589. His plays, howerer. Dust have been not owly popular, but approved by fursons of tlic lligher order, as we are certuin, thut he enjoyal thio gracious livor of Queen Elizubeth, who was very fond of the stage and the particular and affectionate patronage of the Earl of Sunthumpton, to whom he dedicated his poems of " Venus and Adonis," and his - Turquin und Lucrece.” On Sir William Davenant's authority, it has been asserted, that this nobleman at olie time gave him a thousand pounds to enable him to complete a purchase. At the conclusion of the advertisement prefixed to Lintot's cdition of Shukspeure's poenis, It is said, “ Thut most leurned prince, and great patron of learning. King James the Firsi, pus pleased, with his own liund, to write an umicuble let:er to Mr. Shakspeure ; which letter thougb now lost remained long in the hands of Sir William D'Avenant, as a credible person now living can testify." Dr. Farmer with great probability supposes, that this letter was written by King James, in return for the compliment puid to him in Macbeth. The relator of this anocávte wis Sheifield, Duke of Buck ingham. These brief notices, meagre as they are, may show that our author enjoyed high favor is. his day. Whatever we may think of King James as a " learned prince,” his patronage, as well as that of his pre leccssor, was sufficient to give celebrity to the founder of a new stuge. It may be added, that his uncommon merit, his candor, and good nature, are supposed to have procured hin the admira: tion and acquaintance of every person distinguished for such qualities. It is not dillicult, invloed, to Rappose, that Shakspeare was a man of humor, and a social compunion, and probably excelled in that speeies of minor wit not ill adapted to conversation, of which it could have been wišlied he hud been more sparing in his writings.
llow long he acted has not been discovered, but he continued to write till the year 1614. During his dramatic carcer ho acquired a property in the theatre,s which he must have disposed of when he retiral, as no mention of it occurs in Liis will., llis connection with Ben Jonson his been variously related. It is said, that when Jonson was unknown to the world, he offered a play to the theatre, which was rejected after a very cureless perusul, but that Shakspeare having accidently cast his eye on it, conceived a favorable opivion of it, and afterwards recommended Jonson and his writings to the public. For this candor he was repaid by Jonson, when the latter became a poet of noto, with in enjious disrespect. Jonson acquired reputation by the variety of his pieces, and endeavored to arro. gate the supremacy in dramatic genius: Like a French critic, he insinuatul Shakspeare's incorrectness, bis careless manner of writing, and his want of judgment; and, as he was a remarkably slow writer himself, he could not endure the praise frequently bestowed on Shakspeare, of seldom altering or blotting out what lie had written. Mr. Mulone says, " that not long after the year 1600. a coolness arose between Shakspeare and him, which, however he may talk of his almost idolatrous affection, produced on his part, from that time to the death of our author, and for many years afterwards, mucli clumsy sarcasm, and many malevolent reflections." But from these, which are the commonly received opinions on this subject, Dr. Farmer is inclined to depart, and to think Jonson's hostility of Slukspeure absolutely groundless; so uncertain is every circumstance we attempt to recover of our great poet's life. Junson had only one advantage over Shak-peare, that of superior learning, which inight in certain situations give him a superior rank, but could never promote bis rivalship with a man who attuined the highest excellence without it. Nor will Shakspeare suffer by its being known, that all the dramatic pocis before he appeared were scholars. Greene, Lodge, Peclc, Marlowe, Nashe, Lily, and Kyd, had all, says Mr. Malone, a regular university cducation ; and, as scholars in our universities, frequently composed and acted plays on historicul subjects."
The latter part of Shakspeare's life was spent in ense, retirement, and the conversation of his friends. lle had acumulated considerable property, which Gildon (in his " Letters and Essays," 1694 ) stated to amount to £300 per annum, a rum ut luast equal to £1000 in our days; bnt Mr. Malone doubts whether sil diis property amounted to much more than £200 per annum, which yet was a considerable fortune in those times, and it is supposed that he might have derived £200 per annum from the theatre while he contidaed on the stage.
lle retired some years before bis death to a house in Stratford, of which it has been thought importaut to give the history. It was built by Sir Hugh Clopton, a younger brother of an ancient family in thae ncigliborhood. Sir Ingh was Sheriff of London in the reign of Richard III, undi Lord Muyor in the reign of llenry VII. By his will, he bequeathed to his elder brother's son, his manor of Clopton, &c., and his house by the name of the Greut Hirise in Stratford. A good part of the estate was in possession of Edward Clopton, Esq., und Sir Hugh Clopton, Knight, in 1733. The principal estate hud been sold out of the Clopion family for above a century, at the time when Shakspeare became the purchaser; who having repaired and modelled it to his own mind, changed the name to New Place, which the mansion-house, afterwards crected in the room of the poet's house, retained for many years. The house and lanıls belonging to it continued in the possession of Shakspeare's descendants to the time of the Restoration, when they were re-purchased by the Clopton family. llcre, in Muy, 1742, when Mr. Garrick, Mr. Macklin, and Mr. Delane, visited Stratford, they were hospitably entertained under Shakspeare's mulberry tree by Sir Hugh Clopton. He was a barrister at law, was knighted by King Gwrge I, and died in the 80th year of his age, in December, 1751. His executor, about the year 1752, sol View Place to the Rev. Mr. Gastrell, a man of large fortune, who resided in it but a few years, in consequence of a disagreement with the inhabitants of Stratford. As he resided part of the year at Litehitichel, he thought he was assessed too highly in the monthly rate towards the inaintenance of the poor; but being very properly compelled by the magistrates of Stratford to pay the whole of what was losied on liim, on the principle that this house was occupied by his servants in his absence, he poesislıly declared that that house should never be assessed again; and soon afterwards pulled it down, sold the materials, and left the town. He had some time before cut down Shakspeare's mulberry tree, to save himself the trouble of showing it to those whose admiration of our great poet led them io visit the classic ground on which it stood. That Shukspeare planted this tree appears to be sufficiently aul'enticated. Where New Place stood is now a garden. Before concluding this listory, it iniy bo Decessary to mention, that the poet's house was once lionored by the temporary residence of llenrietta Maria, queen to Charles I. Theobald has given an inaccurate account of this, as if she had been obligea to take refuge in Stratford from the rebels; but that was not the case. She marched from Newark, June 18, 1643, and entered Stratford triumphantly about the 22d of the same month, at the heard of three thousand foot, and fiftoen hundred horse, with one hundred and fifty wagons, and a train of artillery. Here she was met by Prince Rupert, accompanied by a large body of troops. She resided about three weeks at our poet's house, which was then possessed by his grand-daugliter, Mrs. Nusle, and her husband.
*Note hy Mr. Malone to "Additional Anecdotes of William Shakspeare."
lo 1603, he and several others obtained a licence from King James to exhibit comedies, tragedies, histories, &c., at the Globe Theatre and elsewhere * This was the practice in Milton's days. "One of his objections to academical education, as it was then con docted, is, that men designed for orders in the Church were permitted to act plays," &c. Johnson's Life of Milton.
$"As the curiosity of this house and tree brought much fame, and more company and profit to the town, a cer. min man, on some disgust, has pulled the house down, so as not to leave one stone uron another, and cut down the tree. and piled it as a stock of firewood, to the great vexation, loss, and disappointment of the inhabitants, lowever, an honest silversmith bought the whole stock of wood, and makes many odd things of this wood for the curious. Letter in Annual Register, 1700. Or Mr Gastrell and his lady, see Boswell's Life om Mr. John sou, vol. ii, p. 356. Edit. 1793.