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applicable are his " thoughts that live" even to our own day; so true
is it that
"He was not of an age, but for all time."
All the facts we know regarding Shakespeare may be thrown into a very brief table :—
April 23 (?). Born at Stratford-on-Avon, where his father was a wool-comber.
1571. 7. At school at Stratford.
1578. 14. Withdrawn from school, probably owing to his father's misfortunes, and put to wool-combing with his father. Married Anne Hathaway, seven or eight years his senior, the daughter of a neighbouring farmer.
1582. 18. 1586. 22.
1592. 28. 1595. 31.
Went to London, having probably met with itinerant players at Stratford, and thereby had his dramatic genius kindled. In London he joined the Blackfriar's Theatre, at first, it is said, in a very humble capacity. We have absolutely no information regarding this part of his career. A tract, published by Greene, the dramatist, in
Is believed to refer to Shakespeare, and the reference indicates that his success had already excited the jealousy of rivals. The Globe Theatre built, to which the Blackfriar's company, with Shakespeare, was transferred. Here he must have prospered; for we find that in
1597. 33. He purchased New Place, one of the best houses in his native town, to which he appears already to have had thoughts of retiring.
1598. 34. Francis Meres published his Wit's Fancy, from which we learn the names of the works of Shakespeare, written and known to the public before this date. The list includes The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Richard the Third, etc., etc. In the same year we find his name at the head of the "cast" for Ben Jonson's Every Man in his Humour.
Death of his father.
Purchased an extensive piece of land in Old Stratford. 1603. 39. Last mention of his name as an actor, in Ben Jonson's Sejanus. 1605. 41. Purchased a large property at Stratford. 1609. 45. His sonnets published. 1613. 49.
Bought a house near the Blackfriar's Theatre. Shortly thereafter he appears to have retired to Stratford, and to have ceased to have any connexion with the stage, occupying himself with the supervision of his property, and the affairs of his native town.
1616. 52. April 23d, Shakespeare died, and was buried on the 25th
in Stratford Church.
Shakespeare's literary life, extending from his arrival in London in 1586 till his return to Stratford in 1613, has been divided into three periods, each marked by a certain well-defined character. The first period, which closes with 1593, Shakespeare's 29th year, may be called the probationary period in his career; and as compared with his subsequent works, those produced in it, which are chiefly Comedies, indicate the partial maturity of his still youthful mind.
The works belonging to this period are :—
1. Love's Labour Lost (afterwards altered).
2. Comedy of Errors
3. Two Gentlemen of Verona.
First sketches, afterwards rewritten.
In the second period, consisting of the succeeding seven years, the dramatist's genius was prolific to a degree which is almost incredible, especially when we consider the magnificent and enduring qualities of the productions. In these few years he produced fifteen original plays, including all his great English Histories, and the eight most famous Comedies, besides altering and adapting four other plays that bear his name. The extraordinary activity of this period in Shakespeare's life, is its most striking feature; viewed, however, in connexion with the development of his mind, it may be termed the objective stage, for it is that in which character is exhibited most generally in action, and in which the feelings and passions operate towards certain results rather than as indications of specific mental moods.
In this period he produced :--
4. King Richard 11.
5. King Richard 111.
6. King John.
7. King Henry IV., Part i.
10. King Henry VI., Part i.
But if this is the time of the predominant objectivity of Shakespeare's mind, that which succeeds is pre-eminently its subjective period. It is noteworthy that all the three periods are linked together by the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, which having been first sketched towards the close of the first, was re-written at the end of the second, and indeed marks the transition from the mirthful and active tone of that period to the thoughtful and serious vein of the concluding stage. To that period, which began with the first year of the seventeenth century, belong the noblest of Shakespeare's works: there the Poet's imagination takes its loftiest
flights, and at the same time attains to the greatest depth of quiet, powerful, philosophic thought. They are :—
The tragedy of Macbeth (written, according to Malone, in 1606), with which we are at present more immediately concerned, belongs to this latest and most reflective period. It is important to remember this, in estimating the character of that work. It has, no doubt, a historical basis, as may be seen by comparing it with the following chapter of Hollinshed; but it is not as a history, in the same sense as Richard III. or Henry IV. is a history, that Macbeth is to be regarded and studied. Unless we view it as a skilful and wonderful development of character, indicating close acquaintance with the workings and tendencies of the human heart, it will appear to be little else than an accumulation of horrors. In the words of Steevens, a picture of conscience encroaching on fortitude, of magnanimity once animated by virtue, and afterwards extinguished by guilt, was what Shakespeare meant to display in the character and conduct of Macbeth."
THE REIGNS OF DUNCAN AND MACBETH.
EXTRACTED FROM RAPHAELL HOLLINSHED'S
"" HISTORIE OF SCOTLAND.
1. After Malcolme succeeded his nephue Duncane, the son of his daughter Beatrice; for Malcolme had two daughters, the one which was this Beatrice being giuen in mariage vnto one Abbanath Crinen, a man of great nobilitie, and Thane of the Iles and west parts of Scotland, bare of that mariage the foresaid Duncane; the other, called Doada, was maried unto Sinell, the Thane of Glammis, by whom she had issue one Makbeth, a valiant gentleman, and one that, if he had not beene somewhat cruell of nature, might haue beene thought most worthie the gouernment of a realme. On the other part, Duncane was so soft and gentle of nature, that the people wished the inclinations and manners of these two cousins to haue beene so tempered and interchangeablie bestowed betwixt them, that where the one had too much of clemencie, and the other of crueltie, the meane vertue betwixt these two extremities might haue reigned by indifferent partition in them both, so should Duncane haue proued a woorthie king, and Makbeth an excellent capteine. The beginning of Duncanes reigne was verie quiet and peaceable, without anie notable trouble; but after it was perceiued how negligent he was in punishing offendors, manie misruled persons tooke occasion thereof to trouble the peace and quiet state of the common-wealth, by seditious commotions, which first had their beginnings in this wise.
2. Banquho the thane of Lochquhaber, of whom the house of the Stewards is descended, the which by order of linage hath now for a long time inioied the crowne of Scotland, euen till these our daies, as he gathered the finances due to the king, and further punished somewhat sharpelie such as were notorious offendors, being assailed by a number of rebels inhabiting in that countrie, and spoiled of the monie and all other things, had much a doo to get awaie with life, after he had receiued sundrie grieuous wounds amongst them. Yet escaping their hands, after hee was somewhat recouered of his hurts, and was able to ride, he repaired to the court, where making his complaint to the king in most earnest wise, he purchased at length that the offendors were sent for by a sergeant at armes,
to appeare to make answer vnto such matters as should be laid to their charge; but they augmenting their mischiefous act with a more wicked deed, after they had misused the messenger with sundrie kinds of reproches, they finallie slue him also.
3. Then doubting not but for such contemptuous demeanor against the kings regall authoritie, they should be inuaded with all the power the king could make, Makdowald, one of great estimation among them, making first a confederacie with his neerest friends and kinsmen, tooke vpon him to be chiefe capteine of all such rebels as would stand against the king, in maintenance of their grieuous offenses latelie committed against him. Manie slanderous words also, and railing tants this Makdowald vttered against his prince, calling him a faint-hearted milkesop, more meet to gouerne a sort of idle moonks in some cloister, than to haue the rule of such valiant and hardie men of warre as the Scots were. He vsed also such subtill persuasions and forged allurements, that in a small time he had gotten togither a mightie power of men; for out of the westerne Iles there came vnto him a great multitude of people, offering themselues to assist him in that rebellious quarell, and out of Ireland in hope of the spoile came no small number of Kernes and Galloglasses, offering gladlie to serue vnder him, whither it should please him to lead them.
4. [Narrates how at the first Makdowald discomfited the king's power: how the king, in his perplexity, called a council of his nobles; and how sundry advices were proffered to him.] At length Makbeth speaking much against the kings softnes, and ouermuch slacknesse in punishing offendors, whereby they had such time to assemble togither, he promised notwithstanding, if the charge were committed vnto him and vnto Banquho, so to order the matter, that the rebels should be shortly vanquished & quite put downe, and that not so much as one of them should be found to make resistance within the countrie,
5. And euen so it came to passe: for being sent foorth with a new power, at his entering into Lochquhaber, the fame of his comming put the enimies in such feare, that a great number of them stale secretlie awaie from their capteine Makdowald, who neuerthelesse inforced thereto, gaue battell vnto Makbeth, with the residue which remained with him but being ouercome, and fleeing for refuge into a castell (within the which his wife & children were inclosed) at length when he saw how he could neither defend the hold anie longer against his enimies, nor yet vpon surrender be suffered to depart with life saued, hee first slue his wife and children, and lastlie himselfe, least if he had yeelded simplie, he should haue beene executed in most cruell wise for an example to other. Makbeth entring into the castell by the gates, as then set open, found the carcasse of Makdowald lieng dead there amongst the residue of the slaine bodies, which when he beheld, remitting no peece of his cruell nature with that pitifull sight, he caused the head to be cut off, and set vpon a poles end, and so sent it as a present to the king, who as then laie at Ber