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a mulberry-tree. New kespeare and his heirs urchased by the ClopGarrick, Macklin, and Hugh Clopton, under 2, the place was sold to -out with the Stratford lemolished the house, is memory has been

et's thrift about this er, dated January 24, ley, an alderman of rd Quiney, who was If and others. Sturntryman, Mr. Shakewas for having him ford, on the ground e him indeed, and ng of which is, that and were lookney,

tter written by the afterwards married r was dated, "From ber, 1598," and add countryman, Mr. the letter was to ood security. No s been found; and has come to light. we have no certain He the answer to day Quiney wrote November 4, 1598, es himself much yman, Mr. Wm.

The earliest printed copies of Shakespeare's plays, known in our time, are Romeo and Juliet, King Richard the Second, and King Richard the Third, which were published separately in 1597. Three years later there was another edition of Romeo and Juliet, "newly corrected, augmented, and amended." In 1598, two more, the First Part of King Henry the Fourth and Love's Labour's Lost, came from the press. The author's name was not given in any of these issues except Love's Labour's Lost, which was said to be "newly corrected and augmented." King Richard the Second and King Richard the Third were issued again in 1598, and the First Part of King Henry the Fourth in 1599; and in all these cases the author's name was printed in the titlepage. The Second Part of King Henry the Fourth was most likely written before 1598, but we hear of no edition of it till 1600.

Francis Meres has the honour of being the first critic of Shakespeare that appeared in print. In 1598, he put forth a book entitled Palladis Tamia, Wit's Treasury, which has the following: "As Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for comedy and tragedy among the Latins; so Shakespeare among the English is the most excellent in both kinds for the stage." The writer then instances twelve of the Poet's dramas by title, in proof of his point. His list, however, contains none but what I have already mentioned, except The Merchant of Venice. Taking all our sources of information together, we find at least eighteen of the plays written before 1598, when the Poet was thirty-four years of age, and had probably been in the theatre about twelve years.

Shakespeare was now decidedly at the head of the English Drama; moreover, he had found it a low, foul, disreputable thing, chiefly in the hands of profligate adventurers, and he had lifted it out of the mire, breathed strength and sweetness into it, and made it clean, fair, and honourable, a structure all alive with beauty and honest delectation. Such being the case, his standing was naturally firm



and secure; he had little cause to fear rivalry; he co well afford to be generous; and any play that had his proval would be likely to pass. Ben Jonson, whose na has a peculiar right to be coupled with his, was ten ye younger than he, and was working with that learned a sinewy diligence which marked his character. We have on the sound authority of Rowe, that Shakespeare lent helping hand to honest Ben, and on an occasion that do credit to them both. "Mr. Jonson," says he, "who was that time altogether unknown to the world, had offered of of his plays to the players, in order to have it acted; a the persons into whose hands it was put, after havi turned it carelessly and superciliously over, were just up returning it to him, with an ill-natured answer that would be of no service to their company, when Shak speare luckily cast his eye upon it, and found something it so well, as to engage him first to read it through, an afterwards to recommend Mr. Jonson and his writings the public."

Some attempts have been made to impugn this accoun but the result of them all has been rather to confirm i How nobly the Poet's gentle and judicious act of kindne was remembered, is shown by Jonson's superb verses, som of which I have quoted, prefixed to the folio of 1623 enough of themselves to confer an immortality both o the writer and on the subject of them.

In 1599, we find a coat of arms granted to John Shake speare, by the Herald's College, in London. The gran was made, no doubt, at the instance of his son William The matter is involved in a good deal of perplexity; th claims of the son being confounded with those of the father in order, apparently, that out of the two together might b made a good, or at least a plausible, case. Our Poet, the son of a glover, or a yeoman, had evidently set his heart on being heralded into a gentleman; and, as his profession of actor stood in the way, the application was made in his father's name. The thing was started as early as 1596, but



fear rivalry; he could play that had his apJonson, whose name Ith his, was ten years with that learned and aracter. We have it t Shakespeare lent a an occasion that does ays he, "who was at world, had offered one o have it acted; and s put, after having over, were just upon red answer that it pany, when Shakefound something in ead it through, and and his writings to pugn this account, ther to confirm it. us act of kindness uperb verses, some he folio of 1623; mortality both on

d to John Shakendon. The grant his son William. f perplexity; the hose of the father, ogether might be Our Poet, the tly set his heart as his profession was made in his rly as 1596, but

so much question was had, so many difficulties raised, con-
cerning it, that the Poet was three years in working it
through. To be sure, such heraldic gentry was of little
worth in itself, and the Poet knew this well enough; but
then it assured a certain very desirable social standing, and
therefore, as an aspiring member of society, he was right in
seeking it.

In the year 1600, five more of his plays were published
in as many quarto pamphlets. These were, A Midsummer-
Night's Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Much Ado about
Nothing, the Second Part of King Henry the Fourth, and
King Henry the Fifth. It appears, also, that As You Like
It was then written; for it was entered at the Stationers'
for publication, but was locked up from the press under a
"stay." The Merry Wives of Windsor was probably then
in being also, though not printed till 1602. And a recent
discovery ascertains that Twelfth Night was played in Feb-
ruary, 1602. The original form of Hamlet, too, is known
to have been written before 1603. Adding, then, the six
plays now heard of for the first time, to the eighteen men-
tioned before, we have twenty-four plays written before the
Poet had finished his thirty-eighth year.

The great Queen died on the 24th of March, 1603. We have abundant proof that she was, both by her presence and her purse, a frequent and steady patron of the Drama, especially as its interests were represented by "the Lord Chamberlain's servants." Everybody, no doubt, has heard the tradition of her having been so taken with Falstaff in King Henry the Fourth, that she requested the Poet to continue the character through another play, and to represent him in love; whereupon he wrote The Merry Wives of Windsor. Whatever embellishments may have been added, there is nothing incredible in the substance of the tradition; while the approved taste and judgment of this female king, in matters of literature and art, give it strong likelihoods of truth.

Elizabeth knew how to unbend in such noble delecta



tions without abating her dignity as a queen, or forge her duty as the mother of her people. If the patronag King James fell below hers in wisdom, it was certainly lacking in warmth. One of his first acts, after read London, was to order out a warrant from the Privy for the issuing of a patent under the Great Seal, whe the Lord Chamberlain's players were taken into his in diate patronage under the title of "The King's Serva The instrument names nine players, and Shakespeare st second in the list. Nor did the King's patent prove a barren honour: many instances of the company's playin the Court, and being well paid for it, are on record.

The Poet evidently was, as indeed from the nature o position he could not but be, very desirous of withdraw from the stage; and had long cherished, apparently, a sign of doing so. In several passages of his Sonnets, of which I have already quoted, he expresses, in very st and even pathetic language, his intense dislike of the b ness, and his grief at being compelled to pursue it. what time he carried into effect his purpose of retiren is not precisely known; nor can I stay to trace out argument on that point. The probability is, that he ce to be an actor in the Summer of 1604. The preceding y 1603, Ben Jonson's Sejanus was brought out at the Bl friars, and one of the parts was sustained by Shakespe After this we have no note of his appearance on the sta and there are certain traditions inferring the contrary.

In 1603, an edition of Hamlet was published, though w different from the present form of the play. The next y 1604, the finished Hamlet was published; the title-p containing the words, "enlarged to almost as much ag as it was." Of Measure for Measure we have no wellthenticated notice during the Poet's life; though there record, which has been received as authentic, of its hav been acted at Court on the 26th of December, 1604. T record, however, has lately been discredited. Of Timon Athens and Julius Caesar we have no express contempor


notice at all, authentic or otherwise. Nor have we any of
Troilus and Cressida till 1609, in which year a stolen edi-
tion of it was published. Nevertheless, I have no doubt
that these plays were all written, though perhaps not all in
their present shape, before the close of 1604. Reckoning,
then, the four last named, we have twenty-eight of the
plays written when the Poet was forty years of age, and
had probably been at the work about eighteen years. Time
has indeed left few traces of the process; but what a mag-
nificent treasure of results! If Shakespeare had done no
more, he would have stood the greatest intellect of the
world. How all alive must those eighteen years have been
with intense and varied exertion! His quick discernment,
his masterly tact, his grace of manners, his practical judg
ment, and his fertility of expedients, would needs make him.
the soul of the establishment; doubtless the light of his eye
and the life of his hand were in all its movements and plans.
Besides, the compass and accuracy of information displayed
in his writings prove him to have been, for that age, a care-
ful and voluminous student of books. Portions of classical
and of continental literature were accessible to him in trans-
lations. Nor are we without strong reasons for believing
that, in addition to his "small Latin and less Greek," he
found or made time to form a tolerable reading acquaint-
ance with Italian and French. Chaucer, too," the day-star,"
and Spenser, "the sunrise," of English poetry, were pouring
their beauty round his walks. From all these, and from
the growing richness and abundance of contemporary liter-
ature, his all-gifted and all-grasping mind no doubt greedily
took in and quickly digested whatever was adapted to please
his taste, or enrich his intellect, or assist his art.

a queen, or forgetting If the patronage of , it was certainly not acts, after reaching from the Privy Sea! Great Seal, whereby taken into his imme'he King's Servants." Shakespeare stands patent prove a mere company's playing at e on record. om the nature of his ous of withdrawing ed, apparently, a de of his Sonnets, two esses, in very strong dislike of the busito pursue it. At pose of retirement y to trace out the ty is, that he ceased The preceding year, t out at the Blacked by Shakespeare. rance on the stage; the contrary. lished, though very ay. The next year, ed; the title-page ost as much again e have no well-authough there is a ntic, of its having nber, 1604. That ed. Of Timon of ress contemporary

I have mentioned the Poet's purchase of New Place at Stratford in 1597. Thenceforward he kept making other investments from time to time, some of them pretty large, the records of which have lately come to light. It appears by a subsidy roll of 1598, that he was assessed on property valued at £5 13 s. 4 d., in the parish of St. Helen's, Bishops


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