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This extract is of striking importance in determining the chronology of Shakespeare's dramas, and it is of equal interest in a biographical sense. It shows to what a height of reputation he had risen at the early age of thirty-four, an age when many writers have hardly begun to put
forth their full powers.
The next literary allusion to our author is poetic, and occurs in a collection of Epigrams, published by Weever in 1599::
"Ad Gulielmum Shakespeare.
Honie-tongd Shakespeare, when I saw thine issue,
I sware Apollo got them, and none other;
Some heaven-born goddess said to be their mother.
Faire fire-hot Venus charming him to love her;
Proud lust-stung Tarquine seeking still to prove her;
Another memorial of this period, a letter addressed by Richard Quiney to the poet himself, is considered of inestimable value, as being the only one now known to exist of all the communications he must have received :
"Loveinge Contreyman, I am bolde of yow, as of a ffrende, craveinge yowr helpe with xxxli uppon Mr. Bushells and my securytee, or Mr. Myttons with me. Mr. Rosswell is nott come to London as yeate, and I have especiall cawse. Yow shall ffrende me muche in helpeinge me out of all the debettes I owe in London, I thanck God, and muche quiete my mynde, which wolde nott be indebeted. I am nowe towardes the Cowrte, in hope of answer for the dispatche of my buysenes. Yow shall nether loose creddytt nor monney by me, the Lorde wyllinge; and nowe butt perswade yowrselfe soe, as I hope, and yow shall nott need to feare butt with all heartie thanckefullnes I wyll holde my tyme, and content yowr ffreende, and yf we bargaine farther, yow shalbe the paie-master yowrselfe. My tyme biddes me hasten to an ende, ande soe I committ thys [to] yowr care and hope of yowr helpe. I feare I shall nott be backe thys night ffrom the Cowrte. Haste. The Lorde be with yow and with us all, Amen! ffrom the Bell in Carter Lane, the 25 October, 1598.
Yowrs in all kyndenes,
To my loveinge good ffrende and contreyman M. Wm. Shackespere deliver thees."
From a subsidy roll dated Oct. 1st, 1598, discovered in the Carlton Ride Record Office by the Rev. J. Hunter, Shakespeare, it appears, was then assessed at five pounds, and subjected to a rate of thirteen shillings and fourpence, in the parish of St. Helen's, Bishopsgate : "Affid. William Shakespeare, vli.—xiijs. iiijd." 69
68 Richard Quiney was the father of the Thomas Quiney who subsequently married Shakespeare's youngest daughter. He was at London when the above letter was written, on business connected with the Stratford corporation, that borough having solicited Lord Treasurer Burghley for exemption from the subsidies imposed by the last Parlia
ment, on account of the distress and poverty occasioned in the town by two recent fires.
69 The memorandum affid. attached to the name is supposed to signify that he had made an affidavit of nonresidence, or some ground of exemption.
On the 8th of September, 1601, is recorded the burial of the poet's father.70 He was born, according to Malone, in or before the year 1530, and had consequently outlived the allotted threescore and ten years."
In May of the succeeding year, the poet increased his property by the purchase of a hundred and seven acres of arable land, for three hundred and twenty pounds;72 in September of the same year, he purchased a house or cottage in Dead Lane, opposite New Place, and also a messuage with barns, gardens, and orchards, of Hercules Underhill, for sixty pounds.
On the 29th of March, 1602-3, died Queen Elizabeth;73 and Chettle in his Englandes Mourning Garment, complains, that Shakespeare, whom she had "graced," had not bewailed her loss in elegiac strains :
"Nor doth the silver-tongèd Melicert
Drop from his honied Muse one sable teare
To mourne her death that graced his desert,
Shepheard, remember our Elizabeth,
And sing her Rape done by that Tarquin, Death."
King James's partiality for the drama was manifested long before he ascended the English throne. In 1589, there is said to have been an English company, called "Her Majesties Players," at the Scottish Court. Ten years later, he licensed a company of English comedians to act at Edinburgh; and on the 9th of October, 1601, we find, from the registers of the town council of Aberdeen, that the English players received thirty-two marks as a gratuity; and on the 22d of the same month, that the freedom of the city was conferred upon "Laurence Fletcher Comedian to his Majestie."
On the 17th of May, 1603, a few days only after he reached London, the following warrant under the Privy Seal was issued :—
"BY THE KING.
"Right trusty and welbeloved Counsellor, we greete you well, and will and commaund you, that under our privie seale in your custody for the time being, you cause our letters to be derected to the keeper of our greate seale of England, commaunding him under our said greate seale, he cause our letters to be made patent in forme following. James, by the grace of God, King of England, Scotland, Fraunce, and Irland, defender of the faith, &c. To all justices, maiors, sheriffs, constables, headboroughes, and other, our officers and loving subjects greeting. Know ye, that we of our speciall grace, certaine knowledge and meere motion, have licenced and authorized, and by these presentes doe licence and authorize, these our servants, Laurence Fletcher, William Shakespeare, Richard Burbage, Augustine Phillippes, John Hemmings, Henrie Condell, William Sly, Robert Armyn, Richard Cowlye, and the rest of their associats, freely
70 The entry in the Stratford register is as follows:"1601, Septemb. 8, Mr. Johanes Shakspeare."
71 The latest notice of John Shakespeare hitherto met with occurs in a paper in the Council Chamber at Stratford, containing notes respecting an action of trespass brought by Edward Grevil against several burgesses of Stratford, in 1601. His name is in a list that appears amongst memoranda of the defendant's case, perhaps of the witnesses intended to be called,- Mr. Ihon Sackesper.'"-Halliwell's Life of Shakespeare, p. 73, fol.
72 The indenture is "Between William Combe, of Warrwicke, in the countie of Warrwick, esquier, and John Combe, of Olde Stretford, in the countie aforesaid, gentleman, on the one partie, and William Shakespere, of Stretford-uppon-Avon, in the countie aforesaide, gentleman, on thother partye," and is dated 1st of May. The dramatist being at this time absent from Stratford, the conveyance was executed by his brother Gilbert. In the fine levied
on this property in 1611, "twenty acres of pasture land" are mentioned, in addition to the hundred and seven acres of arable land. See Appendix.
73 One of the latest visits she paid to any of her nobility, we are told, was to Sir Thomas Egerton, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, at Harefield, at the beginning of August, 1602, and on that occasion, according to an interlined memorandum first printed by Mr. Collier from the Egerton papers, Othello was acted for her entertainment:
"6 August, 1602. Rewardes to the vaulters, players, and dauncers, (of this xli. to Burbidges players for Othello), lxiiijl. xviijs. xd."
It is proper to state, however, that there is ground for believing this interlineation to be a modern fabrication. See the Introduction to Othello, p. 645, Vol. III.
74 In the Chapter House.-The patent under the Great Seal is dated May 19th.
to use and exercise the arte and faculty of playing comedies, tragedies, histories, enterludes, moralls, pastorals, stage-plaies, and such other like, as thei have already studied, or hereafter shall use or studie, as well for the recreation of our loving subjects, as for our solace and pleasure, when we shall thinke good to see them, during our pleasure; and the said comedies, trajedies, histories, enterludes, moralls, pastoralls, stage-plaies, and such like, to shew and exercise publiquely to their best commoditie, when the infection of the plague shall decrease, as well within theire now usuall howse called the Globe, within our county of Surrey, as also within anie towne halls, or mout halls, or other convenient places within the liberties and freedome of any other citie, universitie, towne, or borough whatsoever within our said realmes and dominions: willing and commaunding you, and every of you, as you tender our pleasure, not only to permit and suffer them heerin, without any your letts, hinderances, or molestations, during our said pleasure, but also to be ayding or assisting to them yf any wrong be to them offered; and to allowe them such former courtesies, as hathe bene given to men of their place and qualitie; and also what further favour you shall shew to these our servants for our sake, we shall take kindly at your hands. And these our letters shall be your sufficient warrant and discharge in this behalfe.
"Given under our signet at our mannor of Greenewiche, the seavententh day of May in the first yeere of our raigne of England, France, and Ireland, and of Scotland the six and thirtieth."
Of the precise period when Shakespeare ceased to act we know no more than of the time when he began.75 His name last appears in a printed list of the characters attached to Jonson's "Sejanus," published in 1603, and it is thought that he relinquished a profession to which, if the lines in Sonnet cx1.76 express his real sentiments, he was never partial, shortly after the King's Patent was issued.77
In 1604, we find the poet bringing an action in the Court of Record at Stratford against Phillip Rogers for the sum of £1 158. 10d., the consideration being for "malt" sold and
of hym. Mr. Benfield commendes hym; he was heare yesterdaye. Nicke
By what oversight, or from what motive, certain words which by no possibility could ever have formed part of the original were interpolated, and others which are plainly visible were omitted, I will not attempt to conjecture, but as Mr. Collier has deduced from the assumed mention of Mr. Shakespeare of the globe that our poet was in London at the date when this letter was written, it is proper to show that the assumption is unfounded. The other document professes to be a letter, found in the Ellesmere collection, from Daniel the poet to Sir Thomas Egerton, thanking him for his advancement to the office of Master of the Queen's Revels, and which, if genuine, would be of singular interest in relation to the life of Shakespeare (See Appendix). But this letter, long suspected, is now proclaimed to be a forgery.
760, for my sake do you with Fortune chide,
Than public means which public manners breeds.
77 To show that he continued a member of the company until April 9, 1604," Mr. Collier prints a list of the King's players, appended to a letter from the council to the Lord Mayor of London, where the names are thus enumerated: (6 Burbadge, Shakespeare, Fletcher, Phillips, Condell, Heminge, Armyn, Slye, Cowley, Hostler, Day." This list, however, though added on to a genuine document, has lately been pronounced a modern fiction. See Appendix.
delivered at several times. The following year, he made the most considerable purchase he is known to have effected, in buying the tithes of Stratford, Old Stratford, Bishopton and Welcome. Not long subsequently, we are told King James wrote to the poet with his own hand "an amicable letter," 78 and, as Mr. Dyce remarks, "the tradition is, perhaps, indirectly supported by the following entries in the Accounts of the Revels, which prove how highly the dramas of Shakespeare were relished at the court of James :
The titles of several plays of Shakespeare occur in the Accounts of Lord Harrington, Treasurer of the Chamber to James I. among performances given before Prince Charles, the Lady Elizabeth, and the Prince Palatine Elector, in 1613:
"Paid to John Heminges uppon the councels warr*. dated at Whitehall, xx° die Maii 1613, for presentinge before the Princes Hignes, the La. Elizabeth, and the Prince Pallatyne Elector, fowerteene severall playes, viz. one playe called Filaster, one other call'd the Knotte of Fooles, one other Much Adoe abowte Nothinge, the Mayed's Tragedie, the Merye Dyvell of Edmonton, the Tempest, a Kinge and no Kinge, the Twin's Tragedie, the Winter's Tale, Sir John Falstafe [The Merry Wives of Windsor], the Moore of Venice, the Nobleman, Cæsars Tragedye, and one other called Love lyes a Bleedinge, all wch playes weare played wthin the tyme of this accompte, viz. p. the some of iiij. (xx.) xiij. li. vjs. viijd." 80
From a retrospect of the few materials available for tracing the dramatist's career from the time when he is presumed to have left Stratford, we may conjecture him to have arrived in London about the year 1586, and to have joined some theatrical company, to which he remained permanently attached as playwright and actor until 1604. How often and in what characters he performed; 81 where he lived in London; who were his personal friends; what were his habits; what intercourse he maintained with his family; and to what degree he partook of the provincial excursions of his fellows during this period, are points on which it has been shown we have scarcely any reliable information. In about the year just named, his history, I think, reverts to Stratford; where, from the records of the town, he would appear to have then finally retired, and engaged himself actively in agricultural pursuits.82
On June 5th, 1607, Shakespeare's eldest daughter, Susanna, was married to John Hall, a medical practitioner at Stratford. In December of the same year his brother Edmund died, and on the 31st of that month was buried at St. Saviour's, Southwark. As he is entered in the burial register as "a player," he probably belonged to the same company as the poet.
On the 21st of Feb. 1607-8, Elizabeth Hall, the only daughter of John Hall and the poet's daughter Susanna, was baptized at Stratford. A few months later, Shakespeare lost his mother. 83
In June of 1609, the records of Stratford show him to have brought an action, and obtained a verdict, against one John Addenbroke, for a debt of £6 and costs. Addenbroke not being
80 Rawlinson's Coll. A. 239, Bodleian Lib.
The following verses by Davies in his Scourge of Folly, have been thought to afford some countenance to a shadowy tradition that Shakespeare not unfrequently played in kingly characters:
"To our English Terence, Mr. Will Shakespeare. "Some say, good Will, which I'in sport do sing, Had'st thou not plaid some kingly parts in sport, Thou hadst bin a companion for a king, And beene a king among the meaner sort. "Some others raile; but raile as they thinke fit, Thou hast no rayling, but a raigning wit: And honesty thou sow'st, which they do reape, So to increase their stocke, which they do keepe." The natural interpretation of the second line is that Shakespeare had on some occasions acted royalty in a way to provoke the displeasure of the king. Possibly he had represented James himself upon the stage, and by so doing, given offence. In a letter from John Chamberlaine to Sir R. Winwood, dated Dec. 18th, 1604, the writer states that the king's company had much annoyed the court by acting a play on the subject of the Gowry conspiracy: "The Tragedy of Gowry, with all the action and actors, hath been twice represented by the King's players, with exceeding concourse of all sorts of people.
But whether the matter or manner be not well handled, or that it be thought unfit that princes should be played on the stage in their life-time, I hear that some great councellors are much displeased with it, and so 'tis thought shall be forbidden."-Winwood's Memorials, &c. 11.41.
82 The copy of a letter discovered by Mr. Collier among the Ellesmere manuscripts, which begins, "My verie honored lord. The manie good offices I have received at your Lordships hands, which ought to make me backward in asking further favors," &c. and is signed with the initials of Lord Southampton, can no longer be admitted as evidence to the contrary, since it is now declared to be a fabrication. See Appendix.
Another document found by Mr. Collier in the same collection, and professing to be the draft of a warrant, January 4th, 1609-10, empowering Daborne, Shakespeare, Field, and Kirkman, to train up a company of juvenile performers; and a third found by him at Dulwich College: A brief noat taken out of the poores booke, &c., 1609," wherein Shakespeare is assessed for the relief of the poor in Southwark, at 6d. per week, are equally invalid as proof of the poet's continued residence in the metropolis, both being condemned as modern inventions. See Appendix.
83 Her burial is entered in the register as follows:"1608, Septemb. 9. Mayry Shaxpere, Wydowe."