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himself. On this authority, it appears that if Shakespeare, as Rowe asserts, was not a brilliant actor, he was at any rate a skilful teacher of acting. But the testimony of Chettle, who must have seen him perform, is of far more weight than the hearsay evidence of Rowe and others; and he, in the preface to his Kind-Harts Dreame, which we shall have to notice presently, expressly declares that he was excellent in the quality he professed.”
The earliest conjectural allusion to Shakespeare as a dramatist which has yet been discovered in print, is contained in Spenser's Teares of the Muses, a poem forming part of a collection published in 1591.50 In this poem, the Muse Thalia is introduced, lamenting the decline of the drama. After reciting how “the sweete delights of learnings treasure" have disappeared from the stage; how “unseemly Sorrow," "ugly Barbarisme," and "brutish Ignorance" in the minds of men “now tyrannize," whereas “fine Counterfesaunce," "unhurtful Sport, Delight and Laughter” used to reign supreme, she says,
" And he, the man whom Nature selfe had made
To mock herselfe, and Truth to imitate
In the first edition of his Life of Shakspeare, Rowe tells us “Mr. Dryden was always of opinion that these verses were meant of Shakespear :" though in a subsequent impression of the memoir Rowe omitted the statement. Modern authorities are not agreed upon the point, but the prevailing opinion is that Shakespeare could not have been the writer referred to by Spenser. The reasons for this opinion are, firstly, that he had not at the time attained a rank such as would justify the encomiums ; secondly, because there is no probability of his having subsided into the condition of inertness described, and thirdly, because there are grounds for supposing the verses in question were composed before he even began to write. 52
Without entering into the last consideration, there appears to me sufficient evidence to prove that the expressions in this poem, however suitable to the character of Shakespeare, and accordant with those employed by his contemporaries when speaking of him, were intended for
50 Complaints. Containing sundrie small Poemes of the Worlds Vanitie, &c,
51 That is, to compose, to invent.
52 Todd, in his edition of Spenser's works, conjectures from the following address, prefixed to the collection of poems in question by the publisher, that The Teares of The Muses was composed about 1580 :-“Since my late setting foorth of the Faerie Queene, finding that it hath found a favourable passage amongst you ; I have sithence
endeavoured by all good meanes (for the better encrease and accomplishment of your delights), to get into my handes such smale poemes of the same authors, as I heard were disperst abroad in sundrie hands, and not easie to bee come by, by himselfe; some of them having bene diverslie imbeciled and purloyned from him since his departure over Sea. Of the which I have by good meanes gathered togeather these fewe parcels present, which I have caused to bee imprinted altogeather," &c.
some other Willy.53 The quotation from Chettle shows, in fact, that our poet was in the full tide of activity at the time when Spenser's hero is metaphorically described as “dead of late.”
Malone is of opinion that the term Willy had in this instance a more particular significance, and was intended to express Lyly the poet, and he supports this notion by adducing many examples of a similar play on names, as Lerinda for Ireland, Unio for Juno, Caliban for Cannibal, Ailgna for Anglia, &c., all derived from the literature of Spenser's age. Todd thinks, and Mr. Dyce seems to agree with him, that Willy means Sir Philip Sydney, “who was a writer of masks,—who is elsewhere styled by Spenser 'gentle shepherd of gentlest race,' and 'the right gentle minde,'—and who is lamented under the name of Willy in An Eclogue in Davison's Poetical Rhapsody." 54
In the following year, we have an indisputable and most important reference to Shakespeare. On the 3d of September, 1592, at a wretched lodging, in the house of a poor shoemaker, near Dowgate, and under circumstances of privation too dreadful to dwell on, expired Robert Greene, one of the most distinguished and favourite writers of his time. The last few days of this misguided and unhappy man's existence were devoted, it is said, to the production of a small pamphlet entitled A Groatsworth of Wit bought with a Million of Repentance, which was published not long after by Henry Chettle. In this tract, after a long and not remarkably lucid admonition to certain of his fellow dramatists, 55 we come upon the following striking passage :- “Base-minded men all three of you, if by my misery yee bee not warned ; for unto none of you (like me) sought those burs to cleave; those puppits (I meane) that speake from our mouths, those Anticks garnisht in our colours. Is it not strange that I, to whom they all have bin beholding, is it not like that you to whom they all have bin beholding, shall (were yee in that case that I am now) be both of them at once forsaken? Yes, trust them not; for there is an upstart crow beautified with our feathers, that, with his Tygres heart wrapt in a players hyde, supposes hee is as well able to bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you ; and beeing an absolute Johannes Fac-totum, is, in his owne conceyte, the only SHAKE-SCENE in a countrey. Oh, that I might intreat your rare wittes to bee imployed in more profitable courses, and let these apes imitate your past excellence, and never more acquaynte them with your admyred inventions. I knowe the best husband of you all will never proove an usurer, and the kindest of them all will never proove a kinde nurse ; yet whilst you may, seeke you better maisters; for it is pitty men of such rare wits should bee subject to the pleasures of such rude groomes."
The allusion to Shakespeare is not to be mistaken ; and the imputation is evidently, that he had remodelled pieces originally produced by Greene, Marlowe, Lodge, and Peele, and brought them upon the stage as his own composition. It seems probable, too, by the words, “his Tygres heart wrapt in a players hyde," which is a parody upon a well-known line introduced by Shakespeare into Henry V1.56 from The True Tragedie of Richard Duke of Yorke, that Greene refers particularly to that piece and The First Part of the Contention betwixt the two famous Houses of Yorke and Lancaster, on which our poet based The Second and Third Parts of King Henry the Sixth.
Greene's address, we learn from Chettle's epistle “To the Gentlemen Readers,” prefixed to his tract called Kind-Harts Dreame, was resented not alone by Shakespeare, at whom the attack was levelled, but by Marlowe also, whom it charged with atheism.57 “About three moneths since,"
63 Willy was a mere Arcadianism for any shepherd, i.e. poet.
54 Dyce's Life of Shakespeare.
50 It is addressed “To those gentlemen his quondam acquaintance, that spend their wits in making playes, R. G. wisheth a better exercise, and wisedome to prevent his extremities," and there can be little doubt was intended
for Marlowe, Lodge, and Peele.
“Oh, tygers hart wrapt in a woman's hide !"
are Chettle's words, " died M. Robert Greene, leaving many papers in sundry bookesellers hands ; among other, his Groatsworth of Wit, in which a letter written to divers play-makers is offensively by one or two of them taken ; and because on the dead they cannot be avenged, they wilfully forge in their conceites a living author; and after tossing it to and fro, no remedy but it must light on me. How I have, all the time of my conversing in printing, hindred the bitter inveying against schollers, it hath been very well knowne, and how in that I dealt I can sufficiently proove. With neither of them that take offence was I acquainted, and with one of them I care not if I never be : the other whome at that time I did not so much spare as since I wish I had, for that, as I have moderated the heate of living writers, and might have usde my owne discretion, especially in such a case, the author beeing dead, that I did not, I am as sorry as if the originall fault had beene my fault, because myselfe have seene his demeanor no lesse civill than he exclent in the qualitie he professes ; Besides, divers of worship have reported his uprightness of dealing, which argues his honesty, and his facetious grace in writting that approoves his art. For the first, whose learning I reverence, and, at the perusing of Greenes booke, stroke out what then in conscience I thought he in some displeasure writ, or, had it beene true, yet to publish it was intollerable ; him I would wish to use me no worse than I deserve. I had onely in the copy this share ; it was ilwritten, as sometime Greenes hand was none of the best ; licensd it must be ere it could bee printed, which could never be if it might not be read: to be briefe, I writ it over, and, as neare as I could, followed the copy, onely in that letter I put something out, but in the whole booke not a worde in ; for I protest it was all Greenes, not mine nor Maister Nashes, as some unjustly have affirmed.”
The “first” person to whom this apology is directed, and for whose learning Chettle expresses his reverence, though with a disparaging qualification as to his character in general, could have been none other than Marlowe. "The other” was certainly Shakespeare, and the reference is an interesting testimony to his high reputation as a dramatist and an actor, and to his urbanity and rectitude as a man.
In 1593 our author's Venus and Adonis, and in 1594 his Lucrece, appeared, each dedicated to Henry Wriothesly, Earl of Southampton. It is impossible now to determine whether the dedication of the former work first led to the friendly intercourse which appears to have subsisted so many years between Shakespeare and this generous and amiable nobleman, or whether their acquaintance began at an earlier period of the poet's career. Mr. Collier expresses an opinion, that it was shortly after the publication of the latter poem that Lord Southampton afforded that extraordinary proof of his esteem and admiration of the poet which Rowe was the first to relate : "There is one instance so singular in the magnificence of this patron of Shakespear's, that if I had not been assured that the story was handed down by Sir William Davenant, who was probably very well acquainted with his affairs, I should not have ventured to have inserted ; that my Lord Southampton, at one time, gave him a thousand pounds to enable him to go through with a purchase which he heard he had a mind to.” Looking at the difference in the value of money at that time and the present, we may reasonably presume that Lord Southampton's bounty on this occasion has been magnified; but the fact that Shakespeare in little more than ten years after he quitted Stratford was in circumstances to purchase New Place, one of the best houses in his native town, very strongly confirms the general truth of the anecdote.
Whatever doubt there may be as to Spenser's referring to Shakespeare, in his Teares of the Muses, no one will deny the extreme probability of his doing so in another poem, entitled Colin Clouts come Home again, written during 1594. After enumerating under fanciful titles various poets whose real names can in ma instances be determined, and respecting whom the indefatigable Malone has accumulated a mass of interesting particulars, Spenser writes :
“ And there, though last not least, is Ætion ;
A gentler shepheard may no where be found ;
Doth, like himselfe, heroically sound.” The applicability of the expression “heroically sound," to the name of Shake-spear, as well as to the subject of his Muse, he having then produced upon the stage both Richard II. and Richard III., is not to be gainsaid.
In what year the Globe Theatre on the Bankside was completed has not been ascertained. Malone thought it was not built long before 1596. After the opening of this house, the Lord Chamberlain's servants—the company to which Shakespeare belonged,—were in the practice of performing there in the summer, and at the Blackfriars during the winter. About the period when the former was opened, the company appear to have undertaken the task of repairing and enlarging the Blackfriars. Mr. Collier was the first to call attention to three documents professing to have connexion with this circumstance in Shakespeare's life, which, if authentic, would be important, but upon which not the slightest reliance can be placed. The first of these papers, described by Mr. Collier as in the State Paper Office, and as being “a representation from certain inhabitants of the precinct in which the playhouse was situated, not only against the completion of the work of repair and enlargement, then commenced, but against all farther performances in the theatre,"58 is not only undiscoverable, but no record of its existence can be found in the Office mentioned. The second instrument,69 purporting to be an answer to the former, would, if authentic, have been what Mr. Collier describes it, "a very valuable relic,” inasmuch as it would have proved that Shakespeare, about the year 1596, was an "owner” of the Blackfriars Theatre, but on examination by several of the most skilled paleographers, it has been denounced as spurious. The third of these papers, represented to be a note from “ a person of the name of Veale” to Henslowe, and found by Mr. Collier among the Alleyn collection at Dulwich, has been sought for in vain, 60 and, I fear, like nine-tenths of the so-called “New Facts” relative to the life of Shakespeare, is not entitled to the smallest credence.
68 In his recent “Inquiry into the Genuineness of the Manuscript Corrections in Mr. J. Payne Collier's Annotated Shakspere, folio, 1632; and of certain Shaksperian Documents likewise published by Mr. Collier," Mr. Hamilton remarks, with reference to this paper, "I endeavoured, but unsuccessfully, to see this ' petition of the inhabitants. In reply to an official request for the production of the document, Charles Lechmere, Esq., Assistant Keeper of State Papers, writes, “I have referred to the Calendar of 1596, but I do not find any entry of the Petition from the inhabitants of the Blackfriars.''
59 Appended is a copy of this extraordinary figment, which, if only upon the credit of the place where it was deposited, has been received without hesitation by every one as a genuine document, until the recent disclosures relative to Mr. Collier's annotated folio threw suspicion upon every Shakespearian discovery of the last forty years. It was first printed by Mr. Collier, in his History of English Dram. Poet. (1831), where it is preceded by tho following observations :-" This remarkable paper has, perhaps, never seen the light from the moment it was presented, until it was very recently discovered. It is seven years anterior to the date of any other authentic record, which contains the name of our great dramatist," and it may warrant various conjectures as to the rank he held in the company in 1596, as a poet and as a player. “ To the right honorable the Ll of her Malios most honorable
privie Counsell. “ The humble petition of Thomas Pope Richard Bur. badge John Hemings Augustine Phillips Willi Shakespeare Will n Kempe Will Slye Nicholas Tooley and others servantes to the right honorable the L. Chamberlaine to her Matie
“Sheweth niost humbly, that yr petitioners are owners and players of the private house or theater in the precinct and libertie of the Blackfriers, wch hath beene for manie yeares used and occupied for the playing of tragedies commedies histories enterludes and playes. That the same, by reason of having beene soe long built hath falne into great decaye, and that besides the reparation thereof, it has beene found necessarie to make the same
more convenient for the entertainement of auditories comming thereto That to this end yor petitioners have all and eache of them putt down somes of money according to their shares in the saide theater, and wch they have justly and honestlie gained by the exercise of their qualitie of Stage players: but that certaine persons, (some of them of honour) inhabitantes of the precinct and libertie of the Blackfriers, have, as yor petitioners are enfourmed, besought yor honorable Lps not to permitt the saide private house anie longer to remaine open, but hereafter to be shutt upp and closed to the manifest and great injurie of yor petitioners, who have no other meanes whereby to mainteine their wives and families but by the exercise of their qualitie, as they have heretofore done. Furthermore, that in the summer season yor petitioners are able to playe at their newe-built house on the Bankside callde the Globe, but that in the winter they are compelled to come to the Blackfriers, and if yor honorable Lps give consent unto that wch is prayde against yor petitioners, they will not onely while the winter endureth loose the meanes whereby they nowe support them selves and their families, but be unable to practise them selves in anie playes or enterluds when calde upon to performe for the recreation and solace of her Matie and her honorable Court as they have beene hertofore accustomed. The humble prayer of yor petitioners therefore is, that yor honble Lps will graunt permission to finishe the reparations and alterations they have begunne, and as yor petitioners have hitherto beene well ordred in their behaviour, and just in their dealinges, that yor honourable Lps will not inhibit them from acting at their above named private house, in the precinct and libertie of the Blackfriers, and yok petitioners as in dutie most bounden will ever praye for the encreasing honour and happinesse of your honorable Lps."
The attention of the Rt. Hon. the Master of the Rolls having been called to some questionable peculiarities in this petition, he directed that an official enquiry into its authenticity should be made. The gentlemen chosen for the investigation were Sir Frederic Madden, Keeper of the MSS. at the British Museum ; Sir Francis Palgrave,
Referring to some document in his possession at the time when he wrote his “ Inquiry into the Authenticity of certain Papers,” &c., Malone remarks, “From a paper now before me, which formerly belonged to Edward Alleyn the player, our poet appears to have lived in Southwark, near the Bear Garden, in 1596."61 The paper in question is now perhaps irrecoverable, but its loss is not momentous. If we have no authentic trace of Shakespeare's abode during his residence in London, we have the pleasant tradition, that once a year he made his native place his home.62 There his family continued to reside, and it is delightful to reflect that amidst all the triumphs and temptations of his career, he kept steadily in view the prospect of one day returning, honourably independent, to spend the remainder of his life with them and the humble friends of his youth. In the year we are dwelling on, that of 1596, there was a melancholy necessity for his visiting Stratford, the loss of his only son, Hamnet, who died in his twelfth year, and was buried August 11th, 1596.62
From his incomings as a dramatist, an actor, and perhaps a proprietor in two prosperous theatres, Shakespeare must now have been in easy circumstances. One proof of this is, that early in 1597 he bought for sixty pounds (about £300 according to the present value of money), of William Underhill, the house called New Place, in Stratford; a house originally built by Sir Hugh Clopton in the reign of Henry VII.64 Another proof is, that in this year John Shakespeare was enabled to tender the redemption money, £40, to recover the estate of Ashbies, for which there can be little doubt he was indebted to his son. Additional evidence of his prosperity at
Deputy Keeper of Public Records ; T. Duffus Hardy, Esq., Assistant Keeper of Public Records ; Professor Brewer, Reader at the Rolls, and Mr. Hamilton. After a minute examination of the document, these gentlemen were unanimously of the opinion recorded in the following certificate :
“We, the undersigned, at the desire of the Master of the Rolls, have carefully examined the document hereunto annexed, purporting to be a petition to the Lords of Her Majesty's Privy Council, from Thomas Pope, Richard Burbadge, John Hemings, Augustine Phillips, William Shakespeare, William Kempe, William Slye, Nicholas Tooley, and others, in answer to a petition from the Inhabitants of the Liberty of the Blackfriars; and we are of opinion that the document in question is spurious.
30th January, 1860. FRANCIS PALGRAVE, K.H., Deputy Keeper of H. M. Public
“Mr. Hinslowe. This is to enfourme you that my Mr., the Maister of the revelles, hath rec.from the Ll.of the counsell order that the L. Chamberlen's servauntes shall not be distourbed at the Blackefryars, according with their petition in that behalfe, but leave shall be given unto theym to
make good the decaye of the saide House, butt not to make the same larger then in former tyme hath bene. From thoffice of the Revelles, this 3 of maie, 1596.
Rich, Veale." 61 This paper Mr. Collier presumes to have been a small slip which he discovered in Dulwich College, containing the following memorandurn :
“Inhabitantes of Sowtherk as have complaned, this — of Jully, 1596.
Fillpott and no more,and soe well ended." But I have the authority of two most eminent paleographers, who have recently examined some of the manuscripts in the Alleyn collection, for saying that this fragment, so far from being the veritable document alluded to by Malone, is “an evident modern forgery."
62"“He was wont to go to his native countrey once a yeare." Aubrey's Mss. Mus. Ashmol. Oxon.
63 The record of the burial in the register of Stratford Church is as follows:“1596, August 11, Hamnet filius William Shakspere.”
64 The note of the fine levied will be found in the Appendix.