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9. From what you have read of the “Faery Queene” do you consider it
worth reading? Will it make you a better money-maker? Will it make you more moral? Will it make you happier ? In what way will
it enrich your life? 10. If you had knowledge of Chaucer only through the “Canterbury Tales”
and of Spenser only through the “ Faery Queene,” how would you compare the outlook upon life of the respective authors? Did they
see life through glasses of the same color ?
Suggested Readings.—Read Book I, Canto I, of the “Faery Queene"; it will probably appeal deeply and tempt you to read more. For further knowledge of the author read “Spenser,” by Dean R. W. Church, in the "English Men of Letters Series.'
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WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE (1564-1616)
erbus WW В. rs:
“The man whom Nature self had made
“I confess they writings to be such
Soul of the age!
How far thou didst our Lyly outshine
He was baptized at Stratford-on-Avon, April 26, 1564, probably three days after his birth. His father, John Shakespeare, was a dealer in farm produce, held several village offices, and, like the father of Robert Burns, indulged largely in the pastime of suing his fellowcitizens. At one period of his career, this unamiable weakness would have reduced him to poverty had it not been for William's aid. John Shakespeare, in short, appears to have been not overwise; perhaps some of his peculiarities have been preserved for us in the character of Polonius in “Hamlet,” just as Dickens's father perhaps lives in that of Mr. Micawber in “ David Copperfield.” Shakespeare's mother, Mary Arden, on the other hand, seems to have been of gentle blood; her pedigree has been traced back to Alfred the Great; and her son's innate respect for women and sure touch in depicting high-born ladies indicate that he was to the manner born.
William's education was gained largely in the open air. In “A Midsummer Night's Dream," "As You Like It," the “Sonnets,” and “Venus and Adonis" there are descriptions of the fields about Stratford and of scenes that he must have witnessed as a boy in the forest of Arden, which at that time stretched away to the west of the Avon. He also attended the Stratford grammar school, where, like Falstaff, he probably " played truant," " knew what 'twas to be beaten," and, to quote Ben Jonson, learned “small Latin and less Greek.” At all events he learned little enough of geography to believe that there are seaports in Bohemia, little enough of history to think that there were cannon in Hamlet's time, and little enough of philosophy to make Hector quote Aristotle at the siege of Troy. In the
Merry Wives of Windsor " Sir Hugh Evans examines little William in Lilly's Latin Grammar in a fashion to which the real William doubtless had been subjected.
Mrs. Page. Sir Hugh, my husband says my son profits nothing in the world at his book. I pray you, ask him some questions in his accidence.
Evans. William, how many numbers is in nouns?
E. That is a good William. Show me now, William, some declensions of your pronouns.
W. Forsooth, I have forgot.
E. It is qui, quae, quod; if you forget your quies, your quaes, and your quods you must be preeches. Go your ways and play. Go.
Mrs. Page. He is a better scholar than I thought he was.
Shakespeare probably was a better scholar than Ben Jonson thought he was, but also glad enough, like little William, to go his ways and play. At all events, his schooling came quickly to an end,
probably on account of the hard times due to his father's money troubles. One tradition says that William began his breadwinning career as an assistant to John Shakespeare in his meat-market, turning even this occupation to poetic account by addressing the animals he was about to kill in the style of tragedy. According to another story, he taught school for a while. At all events, he was a close observer of the ways of schoolmasters, as is evident to anyone who has studied the characters of Sir Hugh Evans, of Pinch in the “Comedy of Errors," and of Holofernes in "Love's Labour's Lost," though far too irrepressible to remain long in that occupation.
Indeed, in his early days, he seems to have had a capacity for getting into trouble that marks him as the true son of John Shakespeare. The first authentic instance of this occurred November 27, 1582, when a license was granted for his marriage to Anne Hathaway, a young woman eight years his senior. From this union, the next year, was born his eldest daughter, Susanna, and in 1585 the twins, Hamnet and Judith. He appears to have been a chronic poacher, “much given to all unluckiness in stealing venison and rabbits.” The upshot of this habit was that he was caught robbing a park belonging to Sir Thomas Lucy, was prosecuted, revenged himself by writing some scurrilous verses, and was compelled in consequence to leave Stratford. Sir Thomas, it may be added, lives for us in “ The Merry Wives of Windsor ” and “Henry IV," Part 2, as Justice Shallow.
In this dilemma, William made his way, probably on foot, to London, which was then a small town, enclosed by walls. On its south side it was bounded by the Thames, which was spanned by a single bridge. Inside all was surge and struggle; without, in the green fields, the people disported themselves on holidays; and here, in order to escape the rigor of the puritanical city fathers, two theatres had recently been constructed. In comparison with modern playhouses, these were crude affairs. Previous to their construction plays had usually been presented in the open courtyard of an inn, where a platform erected at one end served as stage and the rabble, hence called groundlings, stood in the mud, while the gentry sat at the windows. Upon these conditions the Elizabethan theatre builders had made a few, but only a few, improvements, chiefly in the stage. It was not,
s nothing : his accide
Our quod 1. GO.
Ben ji am, to aly to 22
as now, sunk in the wall, with a frame, so as to present a picture, but projected into the auditorium. On each side a door was cut into the back wall. Between these doors was a kind of roofed porch, about ten feet high, with a raised dais below, a railing above, and curtains that could be drawn when necessary. This served a variety of purposes: the king's throne, the stage in “Hamlet,” Juliet's tomb. Its top was the balcony in “Romeo and Juliet” and the battlements in "Henry V.” When the curtains were drawn, an actor entering at one door could not see an actor entering at the other until they met at the front of the stage, which accounts for some familiar but otherwise inexplicable stage directions. The lack of a curtain made it necessary to carry out the slain. The absence of scenery forced the playwright to be explicit in regard to time and place, and to rely for his subtlest and grandest effects not on paint but on poetry. There were no actresses, the parts of women being taken by boys, a fact which may have tempted Shakespeare to disguise Rosalind and Portia as youths and caused him to make Cleopatra express disgust at the idea of having some" squeaking Cleopatra " of the stage "boy "her greatness. In costuming alone did the stage, as Shakespeare found it, equal the magnificence of later times.
The drama which was presented in these theatres had been no sudden growth. Its first faint beginnings have been traced back to the Saxon scop, the Norman minstrel, and several popular festivals of immemorial antiquity. In the Middle Ages the churchmen, taking advantage of the popular interest in these instituticns, like Caedmon in an earlier generation, had developed two types of plays called mysteries and miracles, the former dealing with stories taken from the Bible, the latter with the lives of the saints and the miracles associated with their names. As early as 1258, owing partly to opposition from within the church and partly to popular pressure from without, the representation of these plays had begun to be transferred from the clergy to amateur actors from the various guilds or trades.
These productions reached their zenith in the great church festival of Corpus Christi, which was instituted in 1264 for the purpose of celebrating, by means of a sort of triumphal procession, the full victory of Christianity. The method of this ceremonial was in a series