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The social position of Shakespere's father, as an active, trustworthy, intelligent man, in this year, may be inferred from the fact that he was one of “ the four credible men,” or more, who made an inventory of the goods of Ralph Shawe, “woll-dryver," on 24th July, 1592, and of Henry Fielde, “tanner,” on the 21st August of the same year.
1593. “Venus and Adonis” was entered by the publisher, Richard Field, “ at the sign of the White Greyhound in St. Paul's Churchyard,” in the books of the Stationers' Company as “licensed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Wardens," 18th April, 1593, and the first edition was printed in the same year. In the Epistle Dedicatory, to the Right Hon. Henry Wriothesley, Earl of Southampton and Baron of Lichfield, Shakespere speaks of this poem as “unpolished lines,” calls it “the first heir of my inven. tion,” and promises “to take advantage of all idle hours till I have honoured you with some graver labour.” It has been a matter of dispute whether this was really a first work, or a first published work; and therefore whether it had been composed early in life, or but a short time before its publication. It is probable that it was an early work, written in the heyday of his blood, which-while the theatres were closed on account of the plague, in the autumn of 1592–he touched off (at Stratford P) It is, however, equally probable that he did not look upon his dramas as works of literature, but as articles of trade, and that he did not reckon them " heirs of his invention" in the peculiar sense the words here seem to bear. Or he may really at that time have produced no play so thoroughly and irrefragably original as to justify his speaking of any of them as an " heir of my invention.” This would, to a certain extent, be a confession of Green's accuracy, or would at least be a confirmation of the implication it contains ; at the same time, it would show that poetry was not the main and chief object of his efforts the main. stay of his being.
“Titus Andronicus” was entered at Stationers' Hall for publication, 6th February, 1593.
1594. A second edition of “Venus and Adonis ” was entered at Stationers' Hall in this year by the same publisher. On May 9th, 1594, Mr. Harrison, senior, placed upon the Stationers' register “ A Booke intitled the Ravyshement of Lucrece.”* This poem was
* It is probable that the twenty-sixth Sonnet was sent, along with a presentation
also printed by Richard Field, and was sold by him at “the White Greyhound.” Drayton's "Matilda,” 1594, contains the following allusion to it, viz. :
“ Lucreece, of whom proud Rome hath boasted long,
Lately revived to live another age,
Her chaste denial, and the tyrant's rage,
Acting her passions on our stately stage ;
Yet I as fair and chaste as e'er was she.” The complimentary intention of these lines is very remarkably copy of the “Lucrece," to Lord Southampton; at least, there is a singular similarity between the ideas expressed and some of the turns of thought used in the Dedication to that work, and in that Sonnet. This may be best seen by a comparison. As they are both short, they may be given here. Dedication:-“ The love I dedicate to your Lordship is without end; whereof this pamphlet, without beginning, is but a supercilious moiety. The warrant I have of your honourable disposition,- not the worth of my uptutored lines,-makes it assured of acceptance. What I have done is yours; what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have, devoted yours. Were my worth greater, my duty would show greater. Meantime, as it is, it is bound to your Lordship, to whom I wish long life, still lengthened with happiness.” “Sonnet :- Lord of my love! to whom, in vassalage,
Thy merit hath my duty strongly knit;
Then may I dare to boast how I do love thee;
Till then not show my head where thon may'st prove me." [It has been conjectured by Mrs. Jameson, that many of Shakespere's sonnets were addressed, in Southampton's name, to Elizabeth Vernon, first cousin to Essex, whom, after a four years' inteuse and impatient courtship, he married, against the express injunctions of Queen Elizabeth, by which he lost her Majesty's favour, and ran great risk of losing his life. It may have been so.]
proven by this rather singular fact:-In 1608, Thomas Heywood published his “Rape of Lucrece: a True Roman Tragedy. .... Acted by Her Majesties Servants, at the Red Bull ;" and there being thus a possibility of the praise of Shakespere being understood as a commendation of Heywood's play, Drayton omitted the passage from the subsequent editions. The friendliness, not the envy of Drayton, suggested the deletion. To appear to praise his coadjutor Heywood's play, while his friend Shakespere's poem was extant, would have put him in a false position with all parties-his two friends, the public, and posterity. He could only escape by expressly mentioning Shakespere, which would have had the appearance, in 1608, of flattering a successful friend and author, and depreciating a struggling one. Drayton chose the nobler way, and withdrew the passage. Both Heywood and Shakespere would understand this, and appreciate the motive.
In some laudatory verses prefixed to a curious and now rather scarce volume of poems, entitled, “ Willobie his Avisa ; or the True Picture of a Modest Maide, and of a Chaste and Constant Wife,” 1594, the undergiven lines are found:
“ Though Collatine have deerely bought
To high renown a lasting life,
To have—a fair and constant wile,
And Shakespeare paincts poore Lucreece rape." “The First Part of the Contention betwixt the two Famous Houses of York and Lancaster" (now the Second Part of “Henry VI.”P) was published in 1594; as was also “ The Taming of a Shrew" (either a first draft by Shakespere, or an old play by Kyd, Greene, Marlowe, Haughton, or some other early dramatist, on which to fix the critics are divided), if not an early outline, then the source of the chief plot of “The Taming of the Shrew."
“The Comedy of Errors," says Hallam, in bis “Literature of Europe," vol. ii. p. 177,“ may be presumed, by an allusion it contains, to have been written before the submission of Paris to Henry IV., in 1594, which nearly put an end to the Civil War;" and in a note he indicates act iii., scene 2, and adds, “Some have judged the play from this passage to have been written as early as 1591, but on precarious grounds."
A “Historie” called “Titus Andronicus,” presumed to be the play afterwards published as Shakespere’s, was entered for publication at Stationers' Hall in 1593; and critics have assented to the probability of its having been published in 1594, although the earliest edition of which any copy is now known is dated 1600. In 1614, Ben Jonson, in the “Induction to his Bartholomew Fair,” says: “He that will swear 'Jeronimo' or ‘Andronicus' are the best plays yet, shall pass unexcepted at here, as a man whose judgment shows it is constant, and hath stood still these twenty-five or thirty years.” “Jeronimo” was first produced in 1588, i. e., twentysix years before Jonson's notice of it; and if we allow of a like exaggeration of time for “Andronicus," it will bring us very nearly to 1594, so that we may regard this date as approximately correct. If, as many critics think, “Titus Andronicus” is not a play of Shakespere's, the above calculations, &c., are of little or no importance to us.* The Globe Theatre was built in 1594.
1595. “ The True Tragedy of Richard Duke of York” (now the Third Part of “Henry VI.”) was published in 1595. In a note to a work entitled “Polimanteia,” 1595, it is said, “All praise the • Lucrece of sweet Shakespere ;” and it is believed by most critics now that in Spenser’s “ Colin Clout's come again,” 1595, Shakespere is alluded to in the following lines, viz. :
"And there, though last not least, is Aetion:
A gentler shepherd may nowhere be found;
Doth like himself heroically sound.” The lines have been applied to Michael Drayton (and to Warner !), but evidently in error. The characteristics are Shakespere's alone.
“The Return from Parnassus ”—a play first publicly acted by the students in St. John's College, Cambridge, which contains remarks on contemporary authors—is adjudged by critics to have been produced about 1595. Spenser, Constable, Lodge, Daniel, Watson, Drayton, Davis, Marston, Marlowe, Shakespere, and Churchyard, are the authors specially noticed in it. Of Shakespere, the following is said :
* See the question argued in Knight's “Studies of Shakespere," book ii. chap. 1; Hallam’s “Literature of Europe," vol. ii. p. 176; &c.
“Who loves Adonis' love or Lucrece' rape,
Without love's lazy foolish languishment." While in a prose dialogue between the actors, Burbadge and Kempe, Kempe says, “Why, here's our fellow Shakespere puts them all down-aye, and Ben Jonson, too. 0! that Ben Jonson is a pestilent fellow, he brought up Horace, giving the poets a pill; but our fellow Shakespeare hath given him a purge that made him betray his credit ;” and Burbadge replies, “He is a shrewd fellow, indeed.” If, however, as we think, the allusion here made is to “ The Poetaster," the assigned date will be too early—or this is an addition; or “ The Poetaster" is older than is usually supposed; or this being the work of a university pen, its author was not read up to the time in the theatrical literature of his age. Yet, if the poetical, like the prose opinion, is to be dated 1600, we cannot account for the writer's seeming ignorance of Shakespere's then published dramatic works!
1596. It has been customary, since 1831, in reliance on Mr. J. Payne Collier's “History of English Dramatic Poetry," then published, to quote, in reference to this date, a reply of the players of the Globe and the Blackfriars, to a representation from certain inhabitants of the precincts of the Blackfriars, against the repair and enlargement of that theatre, and the continuance of performances therein, in which Shakespere's name holds the fourth place; but on the 30th of January of the year 1860, several eminent palæographers, Francis Palgrave, Frederick Madden, &c., have delivered, at the request of the Master of the Rolls, an opiniou on the matter, and they have declared "that the document in question is spurious.”
Malone inferred, from a paper that had belonged to Alleyn the player, that Shakespere lived in Southwark, near the Bear Garden, in 1596, but the paper has not been found. One, said to be it, in which Shakespere's name appears, has been declared to be “an evident modern forgery."
One melancholy entry gives this year a sad importance in our Shakespere chronicle. Death first, in that year, invaded the poet's own household, and bereft him of his eldest and only son. The burial entry in the Stratford register reads thus :-"1596, August