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11th, Hamnet, filius William Shakespere.” We cannot be far wrong in assuming that Shakespere was in Stratford at the funeral, and that he, with a heavy-hearted sorrow, laid the youthful head of his son in the cold grave,—" gorged with the dearest morsel of the earth."
“How many a holy and obsequious tear
Hath dear, religious love stolen from his eye,
As interest of the dead!" In the same year, a third edition of “ Venus and Adonis,” and a second of the “Rape of Lucrece,” were published; and John Shakespere, in all probability, " at the instance of his son,” says Dyce, applied to the Herald's College for a grant of arms.
A draft of a grant of arms to John Shakespere, 1596, is preserved in the College of Arms, and is quoted by Halliwell, in his “Life of Shakespere," p. 76.
On the 26th of January, 1596, John Shakespere, yeoman, sold a portion of the ground attached to his Henley Street houses, to George Badger, with whom he had a transaction in 1591, for £2.
The uncle of Shakespere, “Henrey Saxspere, was bureyd the 29th day of Dec., Anno 1596," at Snitterfield, and his wife Margret was buried on the 9th of the February following—1596-7.
1597. Dethick, the Garter King of Arms, granted the application for arms made in the previous year, and they were accordingly blazoned (according to a pattern by Clarence Cooke in 1576?)
“Romeo and Juliet,” “ as it hath been often (with great applause) played publicly,” &c., was printed by John Danter, 1597.
“ King Richard the Second,” “as it bath been publicly acted,” &c., and “ King Richard the Third,” “as it hath been laiely acted," &c., were printed separately by V. Sims for Andrew Wise, in 1597. “The First Part of Henry IV.” was also entered at Stationers' Hall.
“At the term of Easter, in the 39th year of the reign of Elizabeth,” &c., i, e., 1597, by “ a plea of covenant,” between “William Shakespere, gentleman,” and “William Underhill, gentleman,” the former became possessed of “one messuage, two barns, two gardens, and two orchards, with appurtenances, in Stratford-upon-Avon," and for this he gave “to the aforesaid William sixty pounds ster. ling.” The house on this property had been built by Sir Hugh Clopton, in the reign of Henry VII., and was called the great house,
but Shakespere (@tate 33), a novus homo, called it New Place. He used it a short time afterwards as his residence.
In this same year, John Shakespere and his wife filed a bill in Chancery-the most expensive court in the country-against John Lambert, son of the Edmund Lambert to whom, nineteen years before, they had mortgaged the estate of Asbies, for the recovery of that estate, unjustly, as they averred, withheld from them, although the money in release had, according to agreement, as they say, been duly tendered. It is believed that this was done at the instance and by the help of their son William Shakespere.
It may be doubted whether the most exquisite theatrical triumph gained by the exercise of dramatic talents could have gratified Shakespere so much as this year's successes at Stratford-the enrolment of his father's name among the enheralded squires of England, and the settlement of himself as a landowner in his native town, among his old friends, and beside his old haunts, in the best house in the town too.
"Perseverance, dear my lord,
“Oh! his desert speaks loud; and I should wrong it
To lock it in the ward of covert bosom,
1598. The most direct, trustworthy, and unimpeachable evidence of Shakespere's position in the literary world appears in “A Comparative Discourse of our English Poets with the Greek, Latin, and Italian Poets,"contained in eight pages of a thick little 12mo., entitled “Palladis Tamia; Wit's Treasury ; being the Second Part of Wit's Commonwealth : by Francis Meres, Maister of Artes of both Universities. London: Printed by P. Short, for Cuthbert Burbie, 1598.” Meres was born in Lincolnshire; was a clergyman, schoolmaster, and compiler of school-books ; and Heywood calls him “an approved good scholar.” In this work—which contains an enumeration and classification of the most celebrated poets up to and at the time when it was written, not only in the judgment of the author, but by general repute-Shakespere is ranked among the most esteemed contemporary poets in different branches of art; as alone and unrivalled in tragedy and comedy; and is specially marked out as an improver of the English tongue. No fewer than nine times does the name of Shakespere flow to the pen-point of the writer, as worthy of mention and praise. No other poet is noted so frequently. Spenser and Drayton stand next; but at a considerable distance. Though no play had as yet been published with Shakespere's name, Meres speaks of them as matters of public notoriety, and indicates by special mention several, as instances in proof of his assertions regarding his merit. Lest, however, our account be held to be too favourable, we shall show, in the author's own words, the opinion of Shakespere entertained
and published in 1593. We quote as briefly as possible, but vere batim, the allusions Meres makes to the great dramatist, viz. :
“The English tongue is mightily enriched and gorgeouslie invested in rare ornaments and resplendent (h)abiliments by Sir Philip Sidney, Spenser, Daniel, Drayton, Warner, Shakespeare, Marlow, and Chapman.”
“ As the soul of Euphorbus was thought to live in Pythagoras, so the sweete, wittie soul of Ovid lives in mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare. Witness his 'Venus and Adonis,' his ‘Lucreece,' his sugred sonnets among his private friends,"&c.
“Shakespeare, among the English, is the most excellent in both kinds (i.e., tragedy and comedy) for the stage. For comedy, witness' Ge[n]tleme[n] of Verona ;' his ' [Comedy of ] Errors;' bis ‘Loves Labours Lost;' his ‘Loves Labours Wonne;' his 'Midsummer's Night Dream;' and his “Merchant of Venice.' For tragedy, his ‘Richard the II.;' " Richard the III.;' • Henry the IV.;''King John;' • Titus Andronicus; and his 'Romeo and Juliet.'”.
“ The Muses would speak with Shakespeare's fine-filed phrase, if they would speak English.” “As Ovid saith of his work,
". Opus exegi, quod nec Jovis ira, nec ignis
Nec poterit ferrum, nec edax abolere vetustas;' and as Horace saith of bis, ' Exegi monumentu[m] aere perennius; et fuga temporum;' so I say severally of Sir Philip Sidney's, Spenser's, Daniel's, Drayton's, Shakespeare's, and Warner's workes,
“Non Jovis ira, imbres, Mars, ferrum, flamma senectus,
Hoc opus anda, lues turbo, venena ruent.'” “As Pindarus, Anacreon, and Call[imachus] among the Greekes, and Horace and Catullus among the Latines, are the Lyrick poets, so in this faculty the best amo[n]g our poets are Spenser, who excelleth in all kinds, Daniel, Drayton, Shake. speare, Bretto."
Again, after naming the chief "tragicke poets” of Greece, and “among the Latines,” and some of the earlier English dramatists, he enumerates “ Marlow, Peele, Watson, Kyd, Shakespeare, Drayton, Decker, and Beniamin Jonson ;” and having done the same for “the best poets for comedy,” he mentions “ Lillie, Lodge, Gascoyne, Greene, Shakespeare, Thomas Nash, Thomas Heywood, Anthony Mundye, our best plotter, Chapman, Porter, Wilson, Hathway, and Henry Chettle:" again, having spoken of those famous “for elegies," he says, “. These are the most passionate among us to bewaile and bemoane the perplexities of love, Henrie Howard, Earl of Surrey, Sir Thomas Wyat the elder, Sir Francis Brian, Sir Philip Sidney, Sir Walter Rawley, Sir Edwarde Dyer, Spenser,
Daniel, Drayton, Shakespeare, Whetstone, Gascoyne, Samuel Page, sometime fellow of Balliol College, Oxford, Churchyard, Bretton.”
Some discussion has arisen as to the period at which the landlord of New Place began to write for the stage. In leisure and affluence he is reported, by tradition, to have produced two plays a year. That seems to have been about the average of Ben Jonson and of Philip Massinger; nor do Beaumont and Fletcher seem to have done more than four, on an average, between them. Unless, there. fore, we assume an extraordinary speed and productivity in Shakespeare, and that, too, while he had the duties of an actor and theatrical proprietor, as well as probably some other business in relation to his sales and purchases, we ought to have a good means of inferring, with some approximation to truth, the age at which the dramatist began his career. Meres' book was probably written some time before it was published – but let that pass—and he men. tions, besides “Venus and Adonis,” “ Lucrece,” and “Sonnets," no fewer than twelve plays, exclusive of “Pericles," if it was Shakespeare's, and of the three parts of “Henry VI.” We have, then, in 1598, sixteen plays, two lengthy poems, besides (some) sonnets attributed to Shakespere at tbe age of thirty-four. If we average the production of plays to two each year (intercalating two years for the production of his other poems), we find a probable commencement about 1588; though it is likely to have reached even farther back, for we can scarcely believe Greene's jealousy of a four years' old playwright to have been so speedily aroused, so soon intensified, or its occasion to have flashed so suddenly into fame. Knight begins his chronology of Shakespere's plays in 1585 ; Malone in 1589; and between those periods the truth seems to lie.
The publisher of Meres' “Palladis Tamia," when the anonymity had been dispelled, issued “ Love's Labour Lost”—“as it was presented before Her Highness this last Christmas "-"newly corrected and augmented by William Shakespere" in 1598; and Andrew Wise re-issued “Richard II.” and “Richard III.” with the author's name on their title-pages immediately thereafter, though he had but a short time previously published “The Historie of Henrie the Fourth, with the humourous conceits of Sir John Falstaffe,” in “ Paule's Churchyard, at the sign of the Angell,” without mentioning the author. Richard Field laid the third edition of “Lucrece" before the public in the same year.