Графични страници
PDF файл
[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small][merged small]


[blocks in formation]



SHAKESPEARE, the greatest of dramatists and poets, was born at Stratford-upon-Avon, in the county of Warwick, on the 23rd April 1564. The Shakespeares were an old Warwickshire family of the middle class. The father, John Shakespeare, had settled in the town of Stratford, and had become a prosperous and substantial burgess therein, elevating his social position by his mar. riage with Mary Arden, a rustic heiress, and descended from an old family of Warwickshire gentry, from whose father he first rented some land, and then, at his death, came into possession of the property, worth about £120 per annum of our present money. He rose successively to be high-bailiff and chief alderman of the town, and carried on a lucrative business, in which young Shakespeare assisted. He afterwards, however, fell into comparative poverty, and had to mortgage his wife's inheritance. His son William got his education, it is supposed, at the Free Grammar School of the place, where he was taught English, some Latin, and perhaps a little Greek; but through his father's' decline in fortune, he was early cast upon the vicissitudes of the world. He was apprenticed to an attorney, and married, before he was nineteen, Anne Hathaway, the daughter of a yeoman in the neighbourhood, and his senior by about eight years, We do not know much of his employment between his early removal from school and his finally leaving Stratford, beyond the fact stated above, and that he also assisted his father in his business of wool. comber or glover.

Whether from his father's embarrassments, his own increasing necessities, or his ardent desire for a change from an uncongenial and irksome life, we find him leaving Stratford to seek his fortune in the great world of London, at the age of twenty-two. Here he soon rose to distinction in the theatre, as an actor, a manager, and a dramatic poet, for which his natural inclination seemed fitted, and began a career of brilliant success, becoming a man of substance and property, both in London and Stratford. We have reason to believe that, having acquired a competency, he returned for good to his native place, somewhere between the years 1610 and 1612, wearied with the bustle and turmoil of the great city, and anxious to spend his last years in quietude and retirement beside his own loved river, Avon. Here he died, as said, on the anniversary of his fifty-second birthday, the 23rd April 1616, the self-same day on which, in a remote corner of Europe, the great master of Spanish fiction, Cervantes, breathed his last. He lies buried in the church of Stratford, where a bust of him may still be seen; the stream that sounded on his ear in childhood, for ever flowing near.

The plays of Shakespeare-thirty-seven in number-consist of comedics, histories, and tragedies. In the tragedies of Othello, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, King Lear, and Macbeth, we have wonderful examples of his marvellous versatility, his rich dramatic power

« ПредишнаНапред »