« AnteriorContinuar »
corn and perhaps cattle. In 1557, he married Mary, daughter of Robert Arden, of Wilmecote, receiving with her an estate called Ashbies, estimated to have comprised about fifty-six acres of land, and the sum of £6 13s. 4d. ; together with the interest in two tenements at Snitterfield. Whatever cur uncertainty regarding the rank of the Shakespeares ; that of the Ardens is not doubtful. They had been landed proprietors in the parish of Aston Cantlowe for more than a century before the marriage of Shakespeare's father. They were connected with John Arden, Esquire for the Body to Henry VII.' On the maternal side, then, the poet was unquestionably descended from a family of long standing among that class,—the yeoman-squires of England,—who, cultivating their own estates, enjoyed perhaps a larger admixture of comfort and independence than any other of the population.
At the period of his marriage, the circumstances of John Shakespeare appear to have been prosperous. On the 2d of October, 1556, a year before he wedded Mary Arden, he purchased the copyhold of a house in Green-hill Street, and of another in Henley Street: the former having a garden and croft attached to it; the latter only a garden. He became a member of the Corporation in 1557, and in the same year was chosen Ale-taster, officer appointed in every court-leet, and sworn to look to the assize and goodness of bread, or ale, or beer, within the precincts of that lordship.” In 1558 he was appointed one of the four constables. In 1559 he was chosen one of the four affeerors, empowered to determine the fines for offences against the bye-laws of the corporation. elected one of the chamberlains in 1561, and in 1565 he became alderman. From Michaelmas, 1568, to the same period of 1569, he held the chief borough office of bailiff, and in 1571 he was elected chief alderman.
10 It is reasonable to suppose, that while attaining these successive municipal distinctions, his worldly condition was easy if not affluent; but subsequent to the year 1575, in which he purchased two other houses in Henley Street, his affairs appear to have declined. In 1578 he and his wife mortgaged the estate of Ashbies to Edmund Lambert ; 11 and shortly after their interest in the tenements at Snitterfield was parted with. About this time, too, John Shakespeare's attendance at the corporation became irregular. On the 19th of November, 1578, when it was required that every alderman should pay fourpence a week for the relief of the poor, John Shakespeare and Robert Bratt were exempted from the tax. In March 1578-9, when an amount of money was levied on the inhabitants of Stratford for the purchase of arms, his name occurs as a defaulter. On “ Jan. 19, 28 Eliz.” the return to a distringas, was— -"quod prædictus Johannes Shackspere nihil habet unde distringi potest. Ideo fiat capias versus eundem Johannem Shackspere,” &c. The following month, and again in March, a capias was issued against him ; and in the same year another person was chosen alderman in his stead, the reason assigned being, that he “dothe not come to the halles, nor hathe not done of longe tyme.” Nor are these the only indications of his faMen fortune. On “Mar. 29, 29 Eliz.” he produced a writ of habeas corpus in the Stratford Court of Record,—"Johannes Shakesper protulit breve dominæ reginæ de habeas corpus cum causa," &c. ; from which it is conjectured he was then in custody for debt.
8 "She was the youngest of the seven daughters ef John Arden, Esquire for the Body to Henry VII., whose Robert Arden by his first wife, whose maiden name is not will, dated in 1526, would appear to show that the King known. His second wife, Agnes Arden, was the widow of had honoured him with visits. - HALLIWELL's Life of a person named Hill: her maiden name was Webbe.” Shakespeare, p. 17, folio ed. -DYCE.
10 In 1570, he occupied a small farm called Ingon, or 9 "There is no good proof that the Robert Arden, Ington, Meadow, for which, with its appurtenances, he Groom of the Chamber to Henry VII., and rewarded by paid a rent of £8 yearly. The land was only fourteen that sovereign, a fact which appears from the Patent acres in extent, so that a house was probably included. Rolls of that reign, was related to the Ardens of Wilme- 11 Joan Arden, the sister of Mary Shakespeare, was cote ; but there can be little doubt, from the identity of married to an Edward Lambert. coat-armour, that the latter were connected with the
Reversing the customary order of things, John Shakespeare, in 1596, when nearly seventy years of age, and apparently in embarrassed circumstances, applied to the Herald's College for a grant of arms. His application was successful : Dethick, the Garter King of Arms made the grant in 1597; and a second grant, authorizing the arms of Arden to be impaled on the coat, was made by Dethick and Camden in 1599. Drafts of these two grants ar still preserved : that of 1597 says, “being therefore solicited, and by credible report informed that John Shakespeare of Stratford-upon-Avon in the counte of Warwick, whose parents and late antecessors were for their valeant and faithfull service advanced and rewarded by the most prudent prince King Henry the Seventh of famous memorie, sythence which time they have con tinewed at those parts in good reputacion and credit, and that the said John having maryed Mary daughter and one of the heyrs of Robert Arden of Wilmcote, in the said counte gent. In consideration whereof and for the encouragement of his posterite, to whom theyse achevments maie desend by the auncient custom and lawes of Armes, I have therefore assigned, graunted, &c. &c." This would be a gratifying piece of the family history were it trustworthy, but unfortunately it is of very doubtful credit. Such expressions as those respecting Shakespeare's antecessors are no guarantee that the valiant services rendered to Henry the Seventh, were any beyond the most menial offices. Independently too of this drawback, we have the evidence itself on the word of a very suspicious witness. Dethick was at a subsequent period charged, among various miscellaneous offences, with having granted arms to persons whose circumstances and position did not warrant the distinction ; and this grant to John Shakespeare was one of the cases cited against him. In reply to this particular portion of the charges, he and his colleague, in “The Answer of Garter and Clarencieux Kinges of Armes, to a libellous Scrawle against certain Arms supposed to be wrongfully given," say that “the persone to whom it was granted had borne magestracy, and was justice of peace at Stratford-upon-Avon ; he married the daughter and heire of Arderne, and was able to maintaine that estate.".
Moreover, at the bottom of the first draft, made in 1597, Dethick had attached the following memorandum :-“This John hath a patierne thereof [i.e. a blazon of the arms] under Clarenc Cookes hand in paper xx years past. A justice of peace, and was baylife, officer and cheffe of the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, xv or xvI years past. That he hathe landes and tenementes of good wealth and substance, £500. That he married a daughter and heyre of Arden, a Gent. of Worship.” The most curious part of this note is the reference to a prior grant twenty years before, in the time of Clarence Cooke. But no confirmation of Dethick's statement on this point has ever been found, and the story is generally regarded as fabulous. The received opinion, indeed, now is, that John Shakespeare had no hand in the business, beyond lending his name; that no arms were either sought or obtained in 1576, and that they were applied for in 1596 by, or at least for, the then opulent poet, William Shakespeare. 12
In 1597, John Shakespeare and his wife filed a bill in Chancery, to recover the estate of Ashbies, against John Lambert, son of Edmund Lambert, to whom we have seen they mortgaged the property for the sum of £40 in 1578, conditionally, that it should revert te them if they repaid the money advanced on or before Michaelmas day, 1580. The money in discharge was duly tendered, according to the declaration of the plaintiffs, but was refused unless other monies in which they were indebted to the mortgagee were also paid. In answer to the bill, John Lambert denied that the £40 had been tendered ; and maintained, that by the death of his father, he was legally entitled to the estate. This answer was followed by a replication on the part of John and Mary Shakespeare, reiterating their former declaration of the tender and refusal of the £40 within the period specified. In what way the suit terminated is not known, but it is supposed to have been settled by private arrangement.
12 “ In all probability John Shakespeare sought this distinction at the instance of his son William, whose profession of actor prohibited him from directly soliciting it for himself: and we certainly need not doubt that
before 1599 the prosperity of the son had secured the father, during the remainder of his days, against any recurrence of those difficulties which had so long beset him.”—DYCE, Life of Shakespeare.
According to Rowe, John and Mary Shakespeare had ten children, and to this circumstance he ascribes the father's incapability of giving the poet a “better education than his own employment."13 The register of Stratford makes the number only eight. Rowe's error probably arose from the fact of there being another John Shakespeare at Stratford, who in November, 1584, married Margery Roberts, and had three children, born respectively in 1588, 1590 and 1591.4 Adopting the baptismal register as our guide, the following are found to have been the offspring of John and Mary Shakespeare :
Of these children, the first Joan is supposed to have lived but a few months. Margaret and Anne are known to have died young ; Gilbert, the second Joan, Richard, and Edmund I shall have occasion to mention hereafter.
From the defective manner in which ancient registers were kept—an imperfection not completely remedied until the passing of the present Registration Act we have no certain knowledge of the day when William Shakespeare was born. The record of his baptism in the register stands as follows,—" 1564, April 26, Gulielmus filius Johannes [sic] Shakspere ;' and tradition tells us he first saw the light on the 23d of the month, three days before he was baptized. 15 A house in Henley Street has always been regarded as that in which he was born, and the legend is supported by evidence of considerable weight. His father appears to have resided in Henley Street nearly if not all his Stratford life.16 His descendants, the Harts, lived there after him. 17 It is probable that they successively occupied the same house.
Of William Shakespeare's boyhood, 18 of his pursuits up to leaving Stratford, or of the motive which prompted that step, nothing positive is known. The first of his immediat successors who collected any particulars of his life was the “inveterate gossip” Aubrey, who writing about 1680, tells us that he was the son of a butcher; adding, “and I have beei told heretofore by some of the neighbours that when he was a boy he exercised his father trade, but when he kill'd a calfe, he wold doe it in a high style, and make a speech.”19 It i well ascertained that his father was not a butcher, but it is remarkable that the very nex account we meet with says the son was. On April the 10th, 1693, one Dowdall addressed t Mr. Southwell a small treatise which the latter has endorsed, “Description of severall place in Warwickshire.” In this, after describing the monumental inscription over the poet's grave in Stratford Church, the writer observes : “ The clarke that shew'd me this church is abov 80 years old : he says that this Shakespear was formerly in this towne bound apprentice t a butcher, but that he run from his master to London and there was received into the pla house as a serviture, and by this meanes had an opportunity to be what he afterwards provid."
13 Life of Shakspeare.
14 It has been ascertained that the second John Shakespeare was a shoemaker, and no way related to the father of the dramatist. He is always mentioned in the parish records as plain John Shakespeare, whereas the poet's father is designated Mr. John Shakespeare, a title due to his municipal standing, if not to his position in other respects. There is also evidence to prove that the shoemaker was much the younger man of the two.
15 “ The Rev. Joseph Greene, who was master of the free-school at Stratford, several years ago made some extracts from the register of that parish, which he afterwards gave to the late James West, Esq. They were imperfect, and in other respects not quite accurate. In the margin of this paper Mr. Greene has written, opposite the entry relative to our poet's baptism, "Born on the 230;' but for this, as I conceive, his only authority was the inscription on Shakespeare's tomb—- Obiit ano Do. 1616, Ætates 53, die 23 Ap.' which, however, renders the date here assigned for his birth sufficiently probable."MALONE.
16 It is proved by a deed bearing date 14 August, 1591, that John Shakespeare then lived in Henley Street. This
is a deed of conveyance from George Badger to John Couch of a messuage or tenement situate in a certain street called Henley Street, “between the house of Robert Johnson on the one part and the house of 'John Shakespeare on the other.”
17 Another deed, dated 1647, mentions “ all that messuage or tenement with thappurtenances scituate and beicze in Stratford upon Avon aforesaid in a certen streete there called Henley Streete commonly called or knowne by the name of the Maidenhead, and now or late in the tenure of John Rutter or his assignes; and all that other messuage or tenements scituate and beinge in Henley Streete aforesaid now or late in the tenure of Thomas Hart, and adjoyninge unto the said messuage or tenement colled the Maidenhead."
18 When Shakespeare was only nine weeks' old, the plague broke out at Stratford, and raged with such malignity, that in half a year, two hundred and thirtyeight deaths were recorded in population that did not then reach fifteen hundred. Happily, the part of the town where Shakespeare's family resided escaped the visitation of this destructive epidemic.
Rowe's statement, that he was for some time sent to the Free-school,20 is probably true There no doubt he acquired the general rudiments of education; comprising the “small Latin an less Greek,” to his possession of which, in after life, Ben Jonson bears testimony. 21
The most interesting known circumstance in connection with Shakespeare's youth, is th custom that then prevailed of encouraging theatrical representations in provincial towns. accounts of the Stratford chamberlains contain several notices of official money having beei paid for such performances; and Willis, a contemporary of Shakespeare, born in the same year says, in his Mount Tabor, “When players of enterludes come to towne, they first attend th mayor, to enform him what noblemans servants they are, and so to get licence for their publiqu playing; and if the mayor like the actors, or would shew respect to their lord and master he appoints them to play their first play before himself and the aldermen and common counsel of the city ; and that is called the mayors play, where every one that will comes in withou money, the mayor giving the players a reward as hee thinks fit, to shew respect unto them. It appears from the records which have been preserved, that this usage was of frequen observance at Stratford ; and curiously enough, the first reference to it is in 1569, the yea when John Shakespeare was bailiff ; his son William being then five years
and probabl a delighted spectator of the performance. The entries in the chamberlains' account that app! to the period of his residence at Stratford are as follows :—“1569. payed to the Quene's player £9. Item, for the Quenes provysyon 38. 4d. Item, to the Erle of Worcesters pleers ls.” Fou years are then skipped over, when we meet with, “1573. paid Mr. Bayly for the Erle o Lecesters players 58. 8d.” Then, after another interval of three years, “ 1576. Geven my Lory of Warwicke players 188. Paid the Earle of Worceter players 58. 8d.” The entries then becom more frequent, companies of performers having been retained at the public expense, twic in 1577, twice in 1579, once in 1580, twice in 1581, once each in 1582 and 3, and three time in 1584. These are all the items that relate to the present inquiry ; but the whole are o interest as displaying the state of a country town in Shakespeare's time, and one of later date 1622, “payd the Kinges players for not playing in the hall 6s.” is of ominous significance as showing into what straits the drama fell when Puritanism began to raise its shaven, disma
19 Mr. Raine conjectured that Aubrey was here alluding to an old semi-dramatic entertainment called Killing the Calf, in which the actor, behind a door or screen, by means of ventriloquism, went through a pretended performance of slaughtering a calf.
20 The free-school of Stratford was founded by Thomas Jolyffe, in the reign of Edward IV., and subsequently chartered by Edward VI. The successive masters from
1572 to 1578, the period during which it may be presumed that Shakespeare was a scholar there, were Thomas Hun and Thomas Jenkins.
21 Aubrey, Mss. Mus. Ashmol. Oxon, states, on thi authority of a Mr. “Beeston,” that Shakespeare “under stode Latine pretty well, for he had been in his younger yeares a schoolmaster in the countrey."
countenance. We see in these numerous entries the means by which Shakespeare may have acquired his first taste for dramatic pursuits ; and who shall say that it was not an acquaintance with one of these companies of players that first took him to London ?
Another circumstance which may possibly have exercised an influence on his after life was Queen Elizabeth's celebrated visit to the Castle of Kenilworth. This took place in the summer of 1575, when Shakespeare was between eleven and twelve years of age. As Stratford is only thirteen miles from Kenilworth, it is by no means unlikely that the future poet was among the spectators of those “Princely pleasures." Some writers have supposed, indeed, there is a direct allusion to Leicester's entertainment in the exquisite compliment addressed to Elizabeth in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act II. Sc. 1.22
It was an opinion of Malone, an opinion subsequently adopted by several other critics, that some years of Shakespeare's youth were passed in an attorney's office. There can be no doubt that legal expressions are more frequent, and are used with more precision in his writings than in those of any other author of the period. If these do not prove him to have had professional training, they help to show with what masterly comprehensiveness he could deal with the peculiarities of this, as of nearly every other human pursuit. Leaving such speculations, we now come
come to an authentic and important incident of Shakespeare's life—his marriage. Whether glover, wool-stapler, butcher, schoolmaster, or attorney's clerk, in the autumn of 1582, while under nineteen years of age, he took to wife Anne Hathaway, the daughter of a substantial yeoman of Shottery, a hamlet adjoining Stratford. 24
Anne Hathaway, at the supposed time of the marriage, must have been nearly eight years
In maiden meditation, fancy-free."
morning, he will affoord you whole Hamlets, I should say handfuls, of tragical speeches.".
24 Neither the date of the marriage, nor the church where the ceremony was performed, has yet transpired ; but the following bond was discovered a few years ago by Sir T. Phillipps, in the registry at Worcester, and leaves no doubt that the marriage was celebrated sometime after November 28th, 1582:-"Noverint universi per præsentes nos Fulconem Sandells de Stratford in comitatu Warwici,
agricolam, et Johannem Rychardson ibidem agricolam, teneri et firmiter obligari Ricardo Cosin generoso, et Roberto Warmstry notario publico, in quadraginta libris bonæ et legalis moneta Angliæ, solvend. eisdem Ricardo et Roberto, hæred. execut. vel assignat. suis, ad quam qui. dem solucionem bene et fideliter faciend. obligamus nos et utrumque nostrum per se pro toto et in solid. hæred. executor. et administrator, nostros firmiter per præsentes sigillis nostris sigillat. Dat. 28 die Novem, anno regni dominæ nostræ Eliz. Dei gratia Angliæ, Franc. et Hibernia reginæ, fidei defensor. &c. 250."
* The condicion of this obligacion ys suche, that if herafter there shall not appere any lawfull lett or impediment, by reason of any precontract, consanguinitie, affinitie, or by any other lawfull meanes whatsoever, but that William Shagspere one thone partie, and Anne Hathwey of Stratford in the dioces of Worcester, maiden, may lawfully solennize matrimony together, and in the same afterwardes remaine and continew like man and wiffe, according unto the lawes in that behalfe provided : and moreover, if there be not at this present time any action, sute, quarrell, or demaund, moved or depending before any Judge ecclesiasticall or temporall, for and concerning any suche lawfull lett or impediment: and moreover, if the said William Shagspere do not proceed to solemnizacion of mariadg with the said Anne Hathwey without the consent of hir frindes : and also, if the said William do, upon his owne proper costes and expences, defend and save harmles the right reverend Father in God, Lord John Bushop of Worcester, and his offycers, for licensing them the said William and Anne to be maried together with once asking of the bannes of matrimony betwene them, and for all other causes which may ensue by reason or occasion therof, that then the said obligacion to be voyd and of pone effect or els to stand and abide in full force and vertue.”—The marks and seals of Sandells and Richardson.