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counterbalance any exceptions that can be taken against the justice of the comparisons already made.
Many of the subjects of Shakspeare's dramas are foreign, and hence, and from the frequent knowledge he displays of classic history, mythology, and poetry, an idea has been indulged, that his knowledge of languages was extensive. Ben Jonson, however, laments that his friend was master of small Latin and less Greek." He acquired his Latin at the school at Stratford; for that language was taught in all the grammatical institutions in England: with the source of his Greek we are rot acquainted. Before the conclusion of the reign of Elizabeth, the most important works of the poets, historians, and philosophers of Greece and Rome were accessible to English readers; and though rude and uncritical, yet the early translations were sufficiently accurate for purposes of general information. Of these Shakspeare was an inquisitive and diligent reader. and hence he acquired that knowledge which has been sometimes hastily received as a proof of his classical attainments. With the languages of continental Europe his acquaintance did not perhaps extend beyond the French. His play of Henry V. proves his knowledge of that language, and all the tales whereon he grounded his plots existed either in French or English. Many of them were of Italian origin, and Italian literature was in high favour in his time; but as Shakspeare might have become acquainted with them through a French or English translation, we cannot absolutely infer his knowledge of the originals.
It happened to Shakspeare, as to many other eminent characters, to have. works assigned to him of which he was not the author: these it is necessary to mention, though not to dwell upon. It will be seen from the essay on Henry VI., why the play denominated the "first" of the three parts is omitted in the preceding list, though printed in the first folio. Titus Andronicus is also included in that collection, but the internal evidence of its spuriousness would outweigh the testimony of fifty Heminges and Condells in its favour, and the same remark would have been extended to Locrine, The London Prodigal, The Puritan, Sir John Oldcastle, Lord Cromwell, and the Yorkshire Tragedy, had they appeared in the first folio instead of the third, a book of no authority whatever. The first editors of Shakspeare denied Pericles a place among his works, though it is now usually printed with his undisputed productions. The honour of this association has not been granted from any conviction of the authenticity of the play, but in complaisance to some trifling amendments made in it by Shakspeare. His hand is visible in a few scenes of Pericles, but only in particular passages of the dialogue, not in the construction of the plot or the formation of the characters. Other dramas have been attributed to Shakspeare, but all on insufficient grounds. Besides his plays, he was indisputably the author of the poems of Venus and Adonis, the Rape of Lucrece, the Passionate Pilgrim, the Lover's Complaint, and 154 Sonnets.
The early-formed wish of the bard to pass the evening of his days on the spot of his nativity is intimated by his purchase of New Place in 1597. In the garden of that mansion he planted, with his own hand, a mulberry-tree which long flourished under the fame of such an honourable distinction 1); and thither in 1613, or the following year, he withdrew for the repose, and the calm enjoyments of a country life 2). We learn from Aubrey that it was Shakspeare's practice to visit Stratford once a year; but up to 1596 the place of his residence in London is not known. He then lived near the Bear-Garden in Southwark; and
1) The authority for the story of the mulberry-tree is that of Mr. Hugh Taylor, an alderman of Warwick, who was eighty-five years old at the end of the last century, and had lived, when a boy, at the next house to New Place. His family had resided there for three hundred years, and it was a tradition among them that the tree in question was planted by Shakspeare's hand Note M.
2) The period of Shakspeare's retirement is not exactly ascertained: Rowe's account runs, "he spent some years before his death at his native Stratford;" but the discovery of the mortgage on his house in Blackfriars proves that he was in London in March, 1612-13, and, consequently, makes it doubtful, whether he ceased to be a resident in the metropolis as early as had been supposed.
it is on presumptive evidence alone, that he is said to have continued in the same abode till he finally retired to the country 1).
Shakspeare's associates were such as his connection with the theatre, and his literary pursuits led him into intimacy with. His fellows, Heminges, Burbage, and Condell, enjoyed a large portion of his affection 2). Augustine Phillips, whose name is included in King James's licence, marked his respect for the bard by a bequest of a thirty shilling piece of gold 3). With Fletcher, the literary associate of Beaumont, he was on terms of such friendly intimacy, that it has not been thought unreasonable to represent them as jointly concerned in the composition of the Two Noble Kinsmen. Though there is no proof of his having assisted Ben Jonson in the production of Sejanus, no doubt exists of the intimacy and friendship that subsisted between them. On the death of Shakspeare, Jonson composed an elegy on his friend; he inscribed his resemblance with his praise, and wrote (there is good ground for the belief,) the preface to the first edition of his works. Nor did time diminish his regard, or efface the remembrance of his companion from his mind. Many years afterwards, he, with warmth, exclaimed, "I loved the man, and do honour his memory, on this side idolatry, as nuch as any. Yel with these and other literary associates, in an age of free and generous expression of friendship, it is a remarkable fact, that, with one exception, Shakspeare has not left a commendatory line on any contemporary author or publication. He joined Jonson in some verses printed at the end of a little volume of poems by Robert Chester 4).
Shakspeare retired into the country at an age little past the prime of life. No hint is any where to be met with of the failure of his constitution, and the execution, in "perfect health and memory," of his will, on the 25th of March, 1616, raises no expectation of his speedy dissolution. He had then, however, reached the last stage of his existence. He died on the 23d of April, the anniversary of his birth, having exactly completed his fifty-second year.
On the 25th of April his body was consigned to its native earth under the north side of the chancel of the great church at Stratford. A flat stone, covering all that is mortal of the remains of Shakspeare, conveys his benediction to the respecter, and his curse to the violator, of the peace of the grave:
"Good frend, for Jesus sake forbeare
Blese be the man that spares these stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones."
Within seven years a monument, executed with no mean skill by an unknown artist, was erected to his memory 5). He is represented under an arch in a sitting posture; a cushion is spread before him, with a pen in his right hand, and his left resting on a scroll of paper. Immediately under the cushion is engraved the Latin distich,
"Judicio Pylium, genio Socratem, arte Maronem, Terra tegit, populus moeret, Olympus habet;" and, on a tablet underneath,
"Stay, passenger, why dost thou go so fast?
Of the family of Shakspeare something remains to be said. His wife survived him seven years, and died on the 6th of August, 1623, being sixty-seven years
1) What is advanced here rests on the authority of Malone, who asserted in 1796 (Inquiry, p. 213-14) that he was in possession of two documents establishing the above facts, and which he intended to adduce in his Life of Shakspeare. He lived till 1812, but never finished his work. In 1821 all that Malone had written on the subject was published by Boswell, with a large addition of illustrative papers, but without the documents in question.
3) Phillips's will.
2) Shakspeare's will.
4) A remark of the last editor of Jonson.
5) Leonard Digges published some encomiastic verses on Shakspeare before the expiration of, seven years from the poet's death, in which he speaks familiarly of the "Stratford Monument.”
of age 1). I fear that the marriage of the poet was not productive of that long continued bliss which he anticipated. His wife did not reside with him in London; their children were born within the first few years of their marriage; and in his will Shakspeare speaks of her with the cold and brief notice, "I give unto my wife my second-best bed, with the furniture" 2).
In connection with these circumstances I may mention the story of Shakspeare's gallantry at Oxford, which has been transmitted to us by authority as respectable as any that can be quoted for the traditionary part of the poet's history. In his journeys to and from Stratford and London, the dramatist often baited at the Crown Inn, in Oxford. Mine hostess was beautiful and witty; her husband a grave and discreet citizen, of a melancholy disposition, but a lover of plays and play-makers, especially of Shakspeare 3). The frequent visits of the bard, and the charms of the landlady, gave birth to the surmises which the succeeding anecdote embodies. Young William Davenant, afterwards Sir William, was then a little school-boy in the town, of about seven or eight years old, and so fond also of Shakspeare, that whenever he heard of his arrival, he would fly from school to see him. One day an old townsman observing the boy running homeward almost out of breath, asked him, whither he was posting in that heat and hurry. He answered, "to see his god-father Shakspeare. "There's a good boy," said the other, "but have a care you don't take God's name in vain"). The sonnets of Shakspeare proclaim it to have been the misfortune of their author to love where "loving he was much forsworn" 5). Scarcely less pains are taken to proclaim the worthlessness than the beauty of his enchantress; he
"Swore her fair, and thought her bright,
"While she was black as hell, and dark as night" 6).
The affair is worth pursuing to its sequel. With a perversity common in the history of love, the lady slighted the poet, and fixed her affections on a youth of singular beauty, the dear and intimate companion of Shakspeare himself. The participation of the young man in this outrage on love and friendship, is somewhat doubtful, as appears from many passages 7), and particularly from the hundred and forty-fourth sonnet, which pretty nearly epitomizes the whole of the hapless tale.
"Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
Yet this shall I ne'er know, but live in doubt,
A breach nevertheless ensued between the hard and his better angel. But the pangs of alicnation were intolerable, and, in defiance of suspicion and perplexity, Shakspeare received his friend to his bosom, with an attachment, apparently strengthened by its temporary abruption 8).
But to resume our account of the family of the bard. Hamnet, his only son, died in 1596, when he was twelve years old 9).
Judith, the twin child with Hamnet, was married in February, 1615-16, the year of her father's death, to Thomas Queeny, a vintner in Stratford. Their children were Shakspeare, who died an infant, and Richard and Thomas, both
4) Oldys, on the authority of Pope, who quoted Betterton. 5) Sonnets 142 151, 152.
6) Sonnet 147.
7) Sonnets 40. 42. 132-4. 137-145. 8) Note Q.
9) Parish Register.
buried in 1638-9; the former in the twenty-first, the latter in the nineteenth year of his age, without leaving any issue. Their mother, Judith, survived till February 1661-2, when she had attained the advanced age of seventy-seven 1).
The legacies of the dramatist to this, his youngest, daughter, are extremely inconsiderable. One hundred pounds in discharge of her marriage portion; one hundred and fifty vested in trustees, for the benefit of her and her issue; his "broad silver gilt bowl;" and fifty pounds, as a compensation for the surrender of her interest in a copyhold estate to her sister Susanna.
Susanna, the eldest of the poet's family, married, in June, 1607, Dr. John Hall, a physician settled in Stratford, whom she survived fourteen years 2).
The causes which led to the marked distinction, made in Shakspeare's will, between his two surviving children, are buried in oblivion. The fact alone remains, that while Judith is only remembered by legacies to the amount of three hundred pounds, Susanna is invested with the entire remainder of her father's ample property, excepting a few legacies. His capital dwelling-house in Stratford, called New Place; two houses in Henley Street; various lands and tenements in, and in the neighbourhood of, Stratford; and his house in Blackfriars; are all specifically given to her. The residue of his estate, after the discharge of his funeral and testamentary expences, is devised to her and her husband, who are likewise nominated the executors of the will.
This favorite daughter of Shakspeare died in July, 1649, aged sixty-six, and her tomb-stone recorded her wit, her piety, and her humanity 3).
"Witty above her sexe, but that's not all,
Her love shall live, her mercy spread,
It is not to be presumed that the art of writing was among the accomplishments of this lady, as the mark of her sister Judith appears to a deed still extant, accompanied by the explanatory appendage of "Signum Judith Shakspeare" 4).
The only child of Dr. and Mrs. Hall was a daughter named Elizabeth. At the time of her grandfather's death, she was eight years of age. His remembrances of her in his will are, a contingent interest in a hundred pounds bequeathed to his daughter Judith and her heirs, and "all his plate, "5) with the exception of the broad silver and gilt bowl given to her aunt Judith.
Elizabeth Hall married a Mr. Thomas Nash. He died in April, 1647; and his widow, after the expiration of two years, was united to Sir John Barnard, of Abington, Northamptonshire, where she was buried in 1669-70. She left no children, and thus the family of Shakspeare became extinct. "Worthy," gentle," and "beloved," are the epithets uniformly connected with the contemporary mention of Shakspeare's name. He is also described as a man of a ready, smooth, and pleasant wit 6). "Many were the wit-combates,' says Fuller, "between Shakspeare and Ben Jonson. I behold them like a Spanish great galleon, and an English man of war. Master Jonson, like the former, was built far higher in learning, solid, but slow in his performances; Shakspeare, like the latter, lesser in bulk, but lighter in sailing, could turn with all tides,
1) Rowe, Strat. Regist.
2) Strat. Regist.
3) Strat. Regist. The verses are not now remaining on the stone, but have been preserved by Dugdale.
4) Wheeler's Guide to Stratford.
5) Shakspeare bequeathed his plate twice: in the last item of the will, which constitutes Dr. and Mrs. Hall residuary legatees, he gives "all the rest of his goods, chattels, leases, plate, jowels, etc.
6) Rowe and Aubrey.
tack about, and take advantage of all winds by the quickness of his wit and invention." This farfetched simile of the quaint biographer is no very happy illustration of conversational powers rich in variety, and astonishing in versatility. A few anecdotes have been transmitted as specimens of Shakspeare's talent at repartee, but they are really unworthy of transcription, and must be deemed most unfortunate specimens of the colloquial brilliancy of a man who was not the meanest nember of a club of which Jonson, Beaumont, Fletcher, Selden, Cotton, Carew, Martin, and Donne were members, and whose meetings furnished matter for retrospective delight in so competent a judge as Beaumont.
"What things have we seen
Done at the Mermaid! heard words that have been
So nimble, and so full of subtle flame,
As if that every one from whom they came
Had meant to put his whole wit in a jest" 1).
The best specimen of Shakspeare's extemporary wit is his jocular epitaph on Mr. John Combe, who had amassed great wealth by the practice of usury. In the gaiety of conversation, Combe told the poet, that he fancied he intended to furnish his epitaph; and since whatever might be said of him after he was dead must be unknown to him, he requested that it might be written forthwith: Shakspeare immediately gave him the following verses:
Ten in the hundred lies here ingrav'd;
If any man ask, Who lies in this tomb,
Oh! oh! quoth the devil, 'tis my John-a-Combe" 2).
It is asserted of Shakspeare, that he was a handsome, well-shaped man 3); but as it is not known that any authentic likeness of him exists, fancy is left at liberty to imagine the peculiar conformation of his features. Pictures, indeed, are not wanting whose claims to authenticity have been confidently asserted; but their merits so generally fade before the test of examination, that the pretensions of few are worthy of consideration.
If the positive testimony of a contemporary, and an associate, could authenticate a portrait, the verses of Ben Jonson on the engraving by Droeshout, attached to the first folio edition of Shakspeare's works, its exact resemblance to the immortal dramatist ought to be considered as established.
"This figure that thou here seest put,
But since he cannot, reader, look
Without the reader has had the misfortune to behold this much eulogised specimen of the graphic art, he will be surprised to learn, that the plate is not only at variance with the tradition of Shakspeare's appearance having been prepossessing; but irreconcileable with the belief of its ever having borne a striking resemblance to any human being. Its defects, indeed, are so obvious, that it has been thought necessary to apologise for Jonson by the production of instances of similar prostitutions of compliment; and, also, by the supposition, that he never saw the engraving, but wrote his lines from his recollection of the picture from which it was made, confiding in the ability of Drocshout to execute a faithful copy.
Not many years ago, an old painting was produced, and loudly proclaimed, as that long lost treasure the original of Droeshout's engraving. The history of its purchase out of the Boar's Head, in Eastcheap, "where Shakspeare and his friends used to resort," was advanced with becoming diffidence; but the authenticity of the portrait was confidently urged, on the ground of its near resemblance to the head of Shakspeare in the first folio, and the inscription on its back, “Guil.