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Nature that formed us of four elements,
Marlowe came to an early and singularly unhappy end. He was stabbed in an affray in a tavern at Deptford, and buried on the 1st of June 1593, the parish register recording that he was 'slain by Francis Archer.' Marlowe had raised his poniard against his antagonist-whom Meres and Anthony Wood describe as 'a serving-man, a rival of his lewd love'—when the other seized him by the wrist, and turned the dagger, so that it entered Marlowe's own head, 'in such sort that, notwithstanding all the means of surgery that could be brought, he shortly after died of his wound.' Thus, condemned by the serious and puritanical, and stained with follies, while his genius was rapidly maturing and developing its magnificent resources, Marlowe fell a victim to an obscure and disgraceful brawl. The last words of Greene's address to him a year or two before are somewhat ominous: Refuse not (with me) till this last point of extremity; for little knowest thou how in the end thou shalt be visited.' The warning was
Like the sad presaging raven, that tolls
The sick man's passport in her hollow beak,
The finest compliment paid to the genius of this unfortunate poet, was by his contemporary and fellow-dramatist, Michael Drayton :
Next Marlowe, bathed in the Thespian springs,
The great success of Marlowe's plays, and the popularity of Alleyn, the principal actor in them, must have influenced Shakspeare in no small degree; and he fortunately possessed in Burbage a tragic performer capable of embodying his finest conceptions and dividing the applause of the town. Marlowe's Jew was, in a certain sense, the prototype of Shylock, and his historical plays the foundation of Shakspeare's first efforts in the same popular walk of the drama. There could never have been any serious or continued rivalry between the poets, even if death had not prevented it; but there may have been a short period when Shakspeare looked with envy and admiration on the wild, irregular, and towering genius that, 'with no middle flight,' successfully soared
Above the Aonian mount, while it pursued Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.
Originality, that first attribute of genius, belongs, in an eminent degree, to the ill-fated Marlowe. We subjoin part of the death-scene of Edward II. in his historical drama, a scene which, Charles
Lamb says, 'moves pity and terror beyond any scene, ancient or modern.' It may challenge comparison with Shakspeare's death of Richard II.; but Marlowe could not interest us in his hero as the great dramatist does in the gentle Richard.
Scene from Marlowe's Edward II. Scene-Berkeley Castle. The KING is left alone with LIGHTBORN, a murderer.
Edward. Who's there? what light is that? wherefore com'st thou?
Lightborn. To comfort you, and bring you joyful news. Edw. Small comfort finds poor Edward in thy looks! Villain, I know thou com'st to murder me.
Light. To murder you, my most gracious lord! Far is it from my heart to do you harm. The queen sent me to see how you were used, And what eyes can refrain from shedding tears, For she relents at this your misery: To see a king in this most piteous state.
Edw. Weep'st thou already? list a while to me, And then thy heart, were it as Gurney's1 is, Or as Matrevis',1 hewn from the Caucasus, Yet will it melt, ere I have done my tale. This dungeon where they keep me is a sink Wherein the filth of all the castle falls. Light. O villains!
Edw. And there, in mire and puddle, have I stood
Light. O speak no more, my lord! this breaks my heart.
Lie on this bed, and rest yourself a while.
Edw. These looks of thine can harbour nought but death:
I see my tragedy written in thy brows.
Light. What means your highness to mistrust me thus?
Edw. What mean'st thou to dissemble with me thus? Light. These hands were never stained with innocent blood,
Nor shall they now be tainted with a king's.
Edw. Forgive my thought, for having such a thought. One jewel have I left, receive thou this. Still fear I, and I know not what's the cause, But every joint shakes as I give it thee. Oh, if thou harbour'st murder in thy heart, Let the gift change thy mind, and save thy soul. Know that I am a king: Oh, at that name I feel a hell of grief. Where is my crown? Gone, gone; and do I still remain alive?
Light. You're overwatched, my lord; lie down and
Edw. But that grief keeps me waken, I should sleep; For not these ten days have these eyelids closed. Now as I speak they fall, and yet with fear Open again. O wherefore sitt'st thou here?
Light. If you mistrust me, I'll be gone, my lord. Edw. No, no; for if thou mean'st to murder me, Thou wilt return again; and therefore stay.
1 His keepers.
Pale of complexion, wrought in him with passion,
Detached lines and passages in Edward II. possess much poetical beauty. Thus, in answer to Leicester, the king says:
The following is exactly like a scene from Shakspeare:
Leicester, if gentle words might comfort me,
Or Mortimer's device for the royal pageant:
A lofty cedar tree fair flourishing,
On whose top branches kingly eagles perch,
Y. Mor. And you shall ransom him, or else
Kent. What! Mortimer, you will not threaten him?
Lanc. Your minion, Gaveston, hath taught you this.
We never beg, but use such prayers as these.
The first day when he pitched down his tents,
While in the harbour ride thy ships unrigged.
Y. Mor. Thy court is naked, being bereft of those
That, satiate with spoil, refuseth blood:
Y. Mor. Nay, now you're here alone, I'll speak my mind.
Lane. And so will I, and then, my lord, farewell.
Lanc. Look for rebellion, look to be deposed;
Y. Mor. The haughty Dane commands the narrow
Lanc. The northern borderers seeing their houses
Their wives and children slain, run up and down
Y. Mor. When wert thou in the field with banners
But once; and then thy soldiers marched like players
Lanc. And therefore came it that the fleering Scots
added some excellent illustrative and explanatory
The taste of the public for the romantic drama, in preference to the classical, seems now to have been confirmed. An attempt was made, towards the close of Elizabeth's reign, to revive the forms of the classic stage, by DANIEL, who wrote two plays, Cleopatra and Philotas, which are smoothly versified, but undramatic in their character. LADY PEMBROKE Co-operated in a tragedy called Antony, written in 1590; and SAMUEL BRANDON produced, in 1598, a tame and feeble Roman play, Virtuous Octavia.
ANTHONY MUNDAY-HENRY CHETTLE.
In the throng of dramatic authors, the names of ANTHONY MUNDAY (1554-1633) and HENRY CHETTLE (known as author between 1592 and 1602) frequently occur. Munday was an author as early as 1579, and he was concerned in fourteen plays. Francis Meres, in 1598, calls him the 'best plotter' among the writers for the stage. One of his dramas, Sir John Oldcastle, was written in conjunction with Michael Drayton and others, and was printed in 1600, with the name of Shakspeare | on the title-page. The Death of Robert, Earl of Huntington, printed in 1601, was a popular play by Munday, assisted by Chettle, though sometimes ascribed to Thomas Heywood. The pranks of Robin Hood and Maid Marian in 'merry Sherwood are thus gaily set forth :
Sport in Sherwood.
Wind once more, jolly huntsmen, all your horns,
Chettle was engaged in no less than thirty-eight plays between the years 1597 and 1603, four of which have been printed. Mr Collier thinks he had written for the stage before 1592, when he published Greene's posthumous work, A Groat's Worth of Wit. Among his plays the names of which have descended to us, is one on the subject of Cardinal Wolsey, which probably was the original of Shakspeare's Henry VIII. The best drama of this prolific author which we now
possess is a comedy called Patient Grissell, taken from Boccaccio. The humble charms of the heroine are thus finely described :
See where my Grissell and her father is ;
The names of Haughton, Antony Brewer, Porter, Smith, Hathaway-probably some relation of Shakspeare's wife-Wilson, &c. also occur as dramatic writers. From the diary of Henslowe, it appears that, between 1591 and 1597, upwards of a hundred different plays were performed by four of the ten or eleven theatrical companies which then existed. Henslowe was originally a pawnbroker, who advanced money and dresses to the players, and he ultimately possessed a large share of the wardrobe and properties of the playhouses with which he was concerned. The name of Shakspeare does not once occur in his diary.
Several good dramas of this golden age have descended to us, the authors of which are unknown. A few of these possess merit enough to have been considered first sketches of Shakspeare, but this opinion has been gradually abandoned by all but one or two German critics. Most of them have been published in Dodsley's Collection of Old Plays. The best are-the Merry Devil of Edmonton, the London Prodigal, the Yorkshire Tragedy, Lord Cromwell, the Birth of Merlin, the Collier of Croydon, Mucedorus, Locrine, Arden of Feversham, the Misfortunes of Arthur, Edward III. &c. The most correct and regular of these anonymous dramas is Arden of Feversham, a domestic tragedy, founded on a murder which took place in 1551. Alice, the wife of Arden, proves unfaithful, and joins with her paramour Mosbie, and some assassins, in murdering her husband. Tieck has translated this play into German, as a genuine production of Shakspeare, but the style is different. In the earliest acknowledged works of the Warwickshire bard, there is a play of wit, and of what Hallam calls analogical imagery,' which is not seen in Arden of Feversham, though it exhibits a strong picture of the passions, and indicates freedom of versification and dramatic art. We subjoin one touching scene between Alice and her paramour-a scene of mutual recrimination, guilt, and tenderness :
Scene from Arden of Feversham. ALICE ARDEN.-MOSBIE.
Mosbie. How now, Alice? What! sad and passionate? Make me partaker of thy pensiveness; Fire divided burns with lesser force.
Alice. But I will dam that fire in my breast,
Till by the force thereof my part consume.
Mos. Such deep pathaires, like to a cannon's burst,
Al. It is not love that loves to murder love.
Al. Thou know'st how dearly Arden loved me. Mos. And then
Al. And then-conceal the rest, for 'tis too bad, Lest that my words be carried to the wind, And published in the world to both our shames. I pray thee, Mosbie, let our spring-time wither; Our harvest else will yield but loathsome weeds. Forget, I pray thee, what has passed betwixt us: For now I blush and tremble at the thoughts.
Mos. What are you changed?
Al. Ay, to my former happy life again;
I was bewitched; woe-worth the hapless hour
Mos. Nay, if thou ban, let me breathe curses forth;
I have neglected matters of import,
I left the marriage of an honest maid,
I was bewitched; that is no theme of thine;
Al. Ay, now I see, and too soon find it true,
And hold no other sect but such devotion.
Make love to you; why, 'tis unpardonable.
Mos. Ah, how you women can insinuate,
Arden of Feversham was first printed in 1592. The Yorkshire Tragedy, another play of the same kind, but apparently more hastily written, was performed in 1604, and four years afterwards printed with Shakspeare's name. Both Dyce and Collier, able dramatic antiquaries and students, are inclined to the opinion that this drama contains passages which only Shakspeare could have written. But in lines like the following-though smooth and natural, and quoted as the most Shakspearian in the play-we miss the music of the great dramatist's thoughts and numbers. It is, however, a forcible picture of a luckless, reckless gambler:
Picture of a Gambler.
What will become of us? All will away!
We have seen that Greene, Peele, and Marlowe prepared in some degree the way for Shakspeare. They had given a more settled and scholastic form to the drama, and assigned it a permanent place in the national literature. They adorned the stage with more variety of character and action, with deep passion, and true poetry. The latter, indeed, was tinged with incoherence and extravagance, but the sterling ore of genius was, in Marlowe at least, abundant. Above all, they had familiarised the public ear to the use of blank verse. The last improvement was the greatest; for even the genius of Shakspeare would have been cramped and confined, if it had been condemned to move only in the fetters of rhyme. The quick interchange of dialogue, and the various nice shades and alternations of character and feeling, could not have been evolved in dramatic action, except in that admirable form of verse which unites rhythmical harmony with the utmost freedom, grace, and flexibility.
When Shakspeare, therefore, appeared conspicuously on the horizon, the scene may be said to have been prepared for his reception. The Genius of the Drama had accumulated materials for the use of the great poet, who was to extend her empire over limits not yet recognised, and invest it with a splendour which the world had never seen before.
The few incidents known of Shakspeare's life are chiefly derived from legal documents. The fond idolatry with which he is now regarded was only turned to his personal history at a late period, when little could be gathered even by the most enthusiastic collector. WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE was born at Stratford-on-Avon, in the county of Warwick, in April 1564. There is a pleasant and poetical tradition, that he was born on the 23d of the month, the anniversary of St George, the tutelar saint of England; but all we know with certainty is, that he was baptised on the 26th. His father, John Shakspeare, is traced to a family occupying land at Snitterfield, near Warwick. He settled in the town of Stratford, became a wool-comber or glover, and elevated his social position by marriage with a rustic heiress, Mary Arden, possessed of an estate worth about £120 per annum of our present money. The poet's father rose to be high-bailiff and chief alderman of Stratford; but in 1578, he is found mortgaging his wife's inheritance, and, from entries in the town-books, is supposed to have fallen into comparative poverty. William was the eldest of six surviving children, and after some education at the grammar-school, he is said to have been brought home to assist at his father's business. There is a blank in his history for some years; but doubtless he was engaged, whatever might be his circumstances or employment, in treasuring up materials for his future poetry. The study of man and of nature, facts in natural history, the country, the fields, and the woods, would be gleaned by familiar intercourse and observation among his fellow-townsmen, and in rambling over the beautiful valley of the Avon. It has been conjectured that he was some time in a lawyer's office, as his works abound in technical legal phrases and illustrations. This has always seemed to us highly probable. The London players were also then in the habit of visiting Stratford; Thomas Green, an actor, was a native of the town; and Burbage, the greatest performer of his day-the future Richard, Hamlet, and Othello -was originally from Warwickshire. Who can doubt, then, that the high-bailiff's son, from the years of twelve to twenty, was a frequent and welcome visitant behind the scenes-that he there imbibed the tastes and feelings which coloured all his future life-and that he there felt the first stirrings of his immortal dramatic genius. We are persuaded that he had begun to write long before he left Stratford, and had most probably sketched, if not completed, his Venus and Adonis, and the Lucrece. The amount of his education at the grammar-school has been made a question of eager scrutiny and controversy. Ben Jonson says he had little Latin, and less Greek.' This is not denying that he had some. Many Latinised idioms and expressions are to be found in his plays. The choice of two classical subjects for his early poetry, and the numerous felicitous allusions in his dramas to the mythology of the
ancients, shew that he was imbued with the spirit and taste of classical literature, and was a happy student, if not a critical scholar. His mind was too comprehensive to degenerate into pedantry; but when, at the age of four or five and twenty, he took the field of original dramatic composition, in company with the university-bred authors and wits of his times, he soon distanced them all, in correctness as well as facility, in the intellectual richness of his thoughts and diction, and in the wide range of his acquired knowledge. It may be safely assumed, therefore, that at Stratford he was a hard, though perhaps an irregular student. The precocious maturity of Shakspeare's passions hurried him into a premature marriage. On the 28th of November 1582, he obtained a licence at Worcester, legalising his union with Anne Hathaway, with once asking of the bans. Two of his neighbours became security in the sum of £40, that the poet would fulfil his matrimonial engagement, he being a minor, and unable, legally, to contract for himself. Anne Hathaway was seven years older than her husband. She was the daughter of a 'substantial yeoman' of the village of Shottery, about a mile from Stratford. The poet's daughter, Susanna, was christened on the 26th of May 1583, six months after the marriage. In a year and a half, two other children, twins, were born to Shakspeare, who had no family afterwards. We may readily suppose that the small town of Stratford did not offer scope for the ambition of the poet, now arrived at early manhood, and feeling the ties of a husband and a father. He removed to London in 1586 or 1587. It has been said that his departure was hastened by the effects of a lampoon he had written on a neighbouring squire, Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, in revenge for Sir Thomas prosecuting him for deer-stealing. The story is inconsistent in its details. Part of it must be untrue; it was never recorded against him in his lifetime; and the whole may have been built upon the opening scene in the Merry Wives of Windsor-not written till after Sir Thomas Lucy's death-in which there is some wanton wit on the armorial bearings of the Lucy family.* As an actor, Shakspeare is spoken favourably of by Lodge; and in
*Mr Washington Irving, in his Sketch-book, thus adverts to Charlecote and the deer-stealing affair:
'I had a desire to see the old family seat of the Lucys at Charlecote, and to ramble through the park where Shakspeare, in company with some of the roysters of Stratford, committed his youthful offence of deer-stealing. In this hare-brained exploit, we are told that he was taken prisoner, and carried to the keeper's lodge, where he remained all night in doleful captivity. When brought into the presence of Sir Thomas Lucy, his treatment must have been galling and humiliating; for it so wrought upon his spirit, as to produce a rough pasquinade, which was affixed to the park-gate at Charlecote.
him, that he applied to a lawyer at Warwick to put the severity This flagitious attack upon the dignity of the knight so incensed of the laws in force against the rhyming deer-stalker. Shakspeare did not wait to brave the united puissance of a knight of the shire
and a country attorney.
'I now found myself among noble avenues of oaks and elms, It was
whose vast size bespoke the growth of centuries. the romantic solitudes of the adjoining park of Fulbroke, which from wandering in early life among this rich scenery, and about then formed a part of the Lucy estate, that some of Shakspeare's tations of Jaques, and the enchanting woodland pictures in As commentators have supposed he derived his noble forest mediYou Like It.... [The house] is a large building of brick, with stone quoins, and is in the Gothic style of Queen Elizabeth's day, having been built in the first year of her reign. The exterior remains very nearly in its original state, and may be considered a fair specimen of the residence of a wealthy country gentleman The front of the house is completely in the of those days. old style-with stone-shafted casements, a great bow-window of heavy stone-work, and a portal with armorial bearings over it,