« AnteriorContinuar »
On the 25th of April, 92 all of Shakespeare that could perish was buried on the north side of the chancel of Stratford Church. A flat stone covering his grave bears the following inscription :
“ Good frend for Jesus sake forbeare,
To digg the dust encloased heare :
The monument erected to the great dramatist's memory against the north wall of the chancel, is too well known to require description. It is said to have been executed by Gerard Johnson soon after the poet's death, and is mentioned by Leonard Digges, in his verses prefixed to the folio edition of Shakespeare's plays published in 1623. The bust which forms part of the monument must therefore be regarded as the most authentic likeness of Shakespeare we possess. "4 The inscription below it is as follows :
“ Judicio Pylium, genio Socratem, arte Maronem,
Terra tegit, populus mæret [mæret,] Olympus habet."
Read, if thou canst, whom envious Death hath plast
Obiit Aio Do: 1616
The first folio is illustrated with a portrait, engraved by Martin Droeshout, which, though inferior as a work of art, bears a general resemblance to the bust at Stratford.95 Unless it were a copy therefrom, the similarity would indicate a certain fidelity in both. Accompanying this print are some verses by Ben Jonson, which of themselves attest in some degree the truthfulness of the portrait :
“ This figure, that thou here seest put,
It was for gentle Shakespeare cut;
The bequests of the poet's will have been often criticized. The interlineation, by which he leaves to his wife only the “second-best bed,” has occasioned especial speculation. But
92 The record in the burial-register is :
“1616. April 25. Wilt Shakspere, Gent." 93 Dowdall affirms that this epitaph was “made by himselfe, a little before his death."
34 “The bust is as large as life, and was originally coloured in imitation of nature : the eyes were light hazel ; the hair and beard auburn; the doublet was scarlet; the loose gown, without sleeves, black; the plain band round the neck, and the wrist-bands were white: the upper part of the cushion in front of the bust was green, the under half crimson : the cord running along the cushion
and the tassels were gilt. These colours were renewed in 1749; but Malone caused the whole to be covered over with one or more coats of white paint in 1793." -DYCE.
95 For particulars respecting the other portraits of Shakespeare, the reader is referred to,-An Inquiry into the Authenticity of various Pictures and Prints, which, from the decease of the Poet to our own times, have been offered to the Public as Portraits of Shakespeare, &c., by James Boaden, 1824: and to An Inquiry into the History, Authenticity, and Characteristics of the Shakespeare Portraits, &c., by Abraham Wivell, 1827.
the credit is due to Mr. Knight of having suggested that by the law of the land, Mrs. Shake speare had certain rights in her husband's property which required no provision in his will. The same writer has pointed out that even the express mention of the second-best bed, was anything but unkindness and insult; the best bed at that period being considered amongst the chattels which went by custom to the heir in chief.
I have now approached, not without a sense of relief, the limits apportioned to a record of the fow particulars in the personal history of Shakespeare which have been discovered. But, as everybody connected with so illustrious a man possesses interest, this imperfect memoir must not close without some account, however brief, of those members of his family who survived him. His widow outlived him seven years. She was buried at Stratford on the 8th of August, 1623.90 The inscription on the brass plate over her remains is as follows :-"Heere lyeth interred the body of Anne wife of William Shakespeare, who departed this life the 6th day of Aug. 1623, being of the age of 67 yeares.
Ubera tu, mater, tu lac vitamque dedisti :
Clausa licet tumulo, mater et astra petet." Shakespeare's wife makes but a small figure in this memoir. From her having been older than her husband; from certain passages in his works ; from the slight notice of her in his will ; from none of her family being named in that instrument; and from her having apparently lived a great part of her married life in some measure separated from him; it has been inferred that the match was not felicitous. But we have no satisfactory means of forming a judgment on the subject, and in the absence of these it is not fair to conclude that there was unhappiness or estrangement between them.98
His eldest daughter, Susanna, who it has been mentioned was married to Dr. John Hall inherited the bulk of his property.99 Her daughter, and only child, Elizabeth, was born 21st of
96 The entry of her burial in the register is peculiar :
1623. "8 Mrs. Shakespeare.
| Anna wior Richardi James." The figure represents the day of the month, but what are we to understand by the bracket? Mr. Harness is of opinion that the two names represent one person ; that Mrs. Shakespeare, after the death of her husband, forgot her allegiance to his memory, and became Mrs. James. “ The book," he remarks, "affords no similar instance of his mode of entry. On every occasion, when two funerals have taken place on the same day, the date is either repeated, or left blank, but this bracketing the names together-supposing Mrs. Shakespeare and Mrs. James to be different people, is altogether without a parallel. What can be the meaning of this departure from the common rule, unless it was intended to show that the two names constitute one register? Again, with hardly an exception to the contrary, all the entries on the page are in Latin ; and it would not only be difficult to account for the deviation into the vulgar tongue in the case of the poet's widow, but to explain why. unless the whole register referred to one individual, the officiating minister, who described one Anna, at full length, as Uxor Richardi James,' should have been content without describing the other Anna at full length also, as Vidua Gulielmi Shakspeare."
97 In MS. this line no doubt originally read as it is commonly printed, “Exeat ut Christi," &c., --but the "ut" is omitted on the brass plate.
98 A memorial of Anne Shakespeare in connexion with the friends of her youth at Shottery, is found in the will of Thomas Whittington, a man who had been her father's shepherd. Whittington, who died in 1608, made one bequest as follows:
"Item, I geve and bequeth unt the poore of Stratfud 408., that is in the hand of Anne Shaxpere, wyfe unto Mr. Wyllyam Shaxpere, and is due debt unto me, beyng paid to mine executor by the sayd Wyllyam Sbaxpere or his assignes according t the true meanyng of this my will." The money in question bad probably been deposited in the hands of Mrs. Shakespeare for safe custody."
99 “New Place, the abode of the poet's later years, which is said to have been originally built by Sir Hugh Clopton in the reign of Henry the Seventh, and which was then known by the name of The Great House, ---came, on Shakespeare's death, to Mrs. Hall, and, on her decease, to her only child, Elizabeth Nash, afterwards Lady Barnard. In this mansion, while it belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Nash, Queen Henrietta Maria held her court for about three weeks, during the civil wars in 1643. As directed in Lady Barnard's will, New Place was sold after the death of herself and her husband. Subsequently we find it again in the possession of the Clopton family: and in 1742 Garrick, Macklin, anu Delane (the actor) were entertained by Sir Hugh Cílopton, in the garden of New Place, under what was called Shakespeare's mulberry-tree. The constant tradition of Stratford declared that this celebrated tree was planted by the poet's hand : probably about 1609, ag during that year an immense number of young mulberry trees was imported from France, and sent into different
February, 1607—8, and appears to have been a favourite of her grandfather, as testified by his will. Dr. Hall died in 1635, 100 leaving his property between his wife and daughter. Susanna survived him fourteen years, being buried on the 16th of July, 1649. The inscription on her tombstone, which adjoins her husband's in the chancel of Stratford Church, is as follows :
“Heere lyeth y® body of Susanna, wife of John Hall, gent ; yo daughter of William Shakespeare, gent: : shee deceased y® 11th of July, A° 1649, aged 66.
Witty above her sexe, but that's not all,
Elizabeth, the poet's grand-daughter, was married on the 22d of April, 1626, to Thomas Nash, son of Anthony Nash, who had an estate at Welcombe. Thomas Nash was born in 1593, he was therefore fifteen years older than his wife. He died in April, 102 1647, leaving no issue. 103 His widow married her second husband John, afterwards Sir John, Bernard, of Abington, near Northampton. He was created a knight by Charles II., on the 25th of November, 1661. He was himself a widower, having married for his first wife a daughter of Sir Clement Edmonds, of Preston, in Northamptonshire. The Bernards were a respectable county family, having held the manor and advowson of Abington for more than two hundred years. Lady Bernard died at Abington, and was buried there on the 17th of February, 1669–70,104 and with her passed away the last of the poet's immediate descendants, as she left no issue by her marriage with Sir John Bernard.105 By her will, preserved in the Prerogative Court of London, Lady Bernard bequeathed legacies of forty and fifty pounds each, to six members of the Hathaway family, testifying thereby, to an affectionate regard for the memory of her grandmother, Anne Shakespeare.106 She left the inn called the Maidenhead, and the next house
counties of England, by order of King James, with a view to the encouragement of the silk manufacture. Sir Hugh Clopton modernized the house by internal and external alterations. His son-in-law, Henry Talbot, Esq., sold New Place to the Rev. Francis Gastrell, Vicar of Frodsham, in Cheshire. This wealthy and unamiable clergyman, conceiving a dislike to the mulberry-tree, because it subjected him to the importunities of travellers, whose veneration for Shakespeare induced them to visit it, caused it to be cut down and cleft into pieces for fire-wood, in 1756: the greater part of it, however, was bought by a watchmaker of Stratford, who converted every fragment into small boxes, goblets, toothpick-cases, tobacco-stoppers, &c., for which he found eager purchasers. Mr. Gastrell having quarrelled with the magistrates about parochial assessments, razed the mansion to the ground in 1759, and quitted Stratford amidst the rage and execrations of the inhabitants."-DYCE.
100 The inscription on his tombstone reads thus :-
Hallius hic situs est, medica coleberrimus arte,
Ne tumulo quid desit, adest fidissima conjux,
Et vitæ comitem nunc quoque mortis habet." 101 This inscription was removed to make room for another to the memory of one Richard Watts, who died in 1707 ; but it was restored a few years ago at the expense of the Rev. William Harness.
102 He was buried with the Shakespeares in the chancel
Fata manent omnes: hunc non virtute carentem,
Si peritura paras, per male parta peris."
104 The following is the record of her burial from the Abington register:
“Anno Dmi. No, J. C. 1669. Madam Elizabeth Bernard wife of Sir John Bernard Knt, was buried 17th Febr. 1669."
105 The representatives of the poet are now the Harts, descendants from his sister Joan, who was buried at Stratford, Nov. 4, 1646.
106 See Appendix.
honest and of auth. From what has to his having
adjoining (in Henley Street, Stratford) to Thomas Hart, grandson of Shakespeare's brother-in-law, William Hart; and to her kinsman, Edward Bagley, citizen of London, she bequeathed the residue of her property. Sir John Bernard survived his wife about four years, and was buried with her at Abington.107
Shakespeare's second daughter, Judith, a twin with Hamnet, was married on the 10th of February, 1616, to Thomas Quiney. She died in February, 1661-2, and was buried at Stratford ; the issue of this marriage consisted of three sons, Shakespeare, Richard and Thomas, born respectively in November, 1616, February, 1617–18, and August, 1619. Of these children, Shakespeare died in May, 1617, Thomas in January, 1638, and Richard in February of the same year; no one of them having attained to man's estate ; and thus absolutely terminated the poet's family in the Quiney branch.
Regarding the character and disposition of Shakespeare, the testimony of his contemporaries and the traditional accounts which have reached us, concur in extolling his integrity, ingenuousness, amiability, and lively wit. Chettle, as has been shown, acknowledges “his uprightness of dealing."108 Jonson, in a generous burst of enthusiasm, declares him to have been “indeed honest and of an open and free nature.”109 Fuler 110 has preserved for us a pleasant tradition of his social mirth. From what has been gathered of his history, and from what we know of his works, we can ourselves attest to his having been a man of rare industry, of sedulous attention to business, of unusual skill in the direction of affairs, of the right personal ambition, of admirable judgment, and to have been pre-eminently endowed with those indefinable, but well appreciated qualities, which go to make up what Englishmen understand by the term “Gentleman." His writings prove that he was exempt from the despicable weakness of sectarian animosity, since it is left for modern Papists and Protestants to dispute whether he belonged to the one denomination or the other. That he took extended views of public affairs, is manifest by the words of universal, not of temporary application, which he has put into the mouths of his kings and statesmen, and by the felicity with which he combined great freedom of expression with abstinence from giving umbrage to the ruling authorities of his time.
A good deal of argument has been expended with the view to determine the extent of his “ learning.” Gildon, Sewell, Upton, Whalley and others, contend that he was a man of extensive literary attainments. Dr. Farmer, on the other hand, having shown conclusively that his plays are full of historical and other errors, and that in all cases where he had the option of resorting to ancient authors in the original or to translations, he had recourse to the latter, represents him as positively illiterate, though allowing that he “remembered, perhaps, enough of his school-boy learning to put the Hig, hag, hog, into the mouth of Sir Hugh Evans; and might pick up in the writers of the time, or the course of his conversation, a familiar phrase or two of French or Italian.” The truth is probably between these extremes. Ben Jonson's evidence admits him to have had some portion of Latin, if not a smattering of Greek; and although I think he had little acquaintance either with French or Italian, there is nothing to show that he had not an average amount of “schooling." A man who wrote thirty-seven plays in twenty-five years, who acted in most of them, who took a prominent part in the business of an extensive theatrical enterprise, who laboured assiduously for the improvement of his private affairs, and who by these means raised himself from a lowly position to one of wealth and influence, was not likely to prosecute a laborious study of dead or foreign languages. But that Shakespeare was intimately conversant with most branches of knowledge, that he had both read diligently and pondered deeply, that he was “an exact surveyor of the inanimate world,” while he was familiar with all the varied pursuits of human-kind, cannot for a moment be denied. And if the stores of “learning” were not at his command, we have the testimony of a ripe scholar that his native force enabled him to soar far above
107 The entry of his burial stands thus in the register, as much as any. He was indeed) honest, and of an open
and free nature; had an excellent phantasy, brave notions, "A. D. 1673.
and gentle expressions ; wherein he flowed with that Si John Bernard, Knight my noble and ever honoured facility, that sometimes it was necessary he should be Patron, was buried 5th of March 1673."
stopped: Sufflaminandus erat ; as Augustus said of 103 See page xxix.
Haterius. His wit was in his own power :' would the 109 “ I remember, the players have often mentioned it rule of it have been so too ! Many times he fell into those as an honour to Shakespeare, that in his writing (what things could not escape laughter : as when he said in the soever he penned), he never blotted out a line. My answer person of Cæsar, one speaking to him, Cæsar, thou dost hath been, Would he bad blotted a thousand / Which me wrong,' he replied, Cæsar did never wrong but with they thought a malevolent speech. I had not told pos just cause,' and such like; which were ridiculous. But he terity this, but for their ignorance, who chose that cir redeemed his vices with his virtues. There was ever more cumstance to commend their friend by, wherein he most in him to be praised than to be pardoned."-Discoveries, faulted ; and to justify mine own candour; for I loved -Jonson's Works, ix. 175, Gifford's ed. the man, and do honour his memory, on this side idolatry, 110 See paye xxxii.
He found, as we know, the stage scarce emerged from barbarism ; and by the vigour of his own genius, unaided by the models of the ancient theatre, he “expanded the magic circle of the drama beyond the limits that belonged to it in antiquity, made it embrace more time and locality, filled it with larger business and action, with vicissitudes of gay and serious emotion, which classical taste had kept divided ; with characters which developed humanity in stronger light and subtler movements, and with a language more wildly, more playfully diversified by fancy and passion, than was ever spoken on any stage.” 111
111 Campbell's Specimens' of the British Poets, Vol. I. p. 48.