« PreviousContinue »
be printed; which could never be, if it might not be read. To be brief, I writ it over, and, as near as I could, followed the copy ; only in that letter I put something out, but in the whole book not a word in; for I protest it was all Greene's, not mine, nor Master Nash's, as some have unjustly affirmed.”
It is evident enough from this, that Shakespeare was als ready beginning to attract liberal notice from that circle of brave and accomplished gentlemen which adorned the state of Elizabeth. Among the “ divers of worship" referred to by Chettle, first and foremost, doubtless, stood the highsouled, the generous Southampton, then in his twentieth year. Henry Wriothesley the third Earl of Southampton was but eight years old when his father died: the Southampton estates were large; during the young Earl's minority, his interests were in good hands, and the revenues accumulated; so that on coming of age he had means answerable to his dispositions. Moreover, he was a young man of good parts, of studious habits, of cultivated tastes, and,
6 That it should have been attributed to Nash seems strange enough: but we have his own testimony, in addition to Chettle's, that such was the case. « Other newes," he says, “I am adver tised of, that a scald, triviall, lying pamphlet, cald Greens Groats-worth of Wit, is given out to be of my doing. God never have care of my soule, but utterly renounce me, if the least word or sillible in it proceeded from my pen, or if I were any way privie to the writing or printing of it." - " Possibly," observes Mr. Collier, “one of the "lying' portions of it, in the opinion of Nash, was that in which the attack was made on Shakespeare," - a remark which somewhat surprises me. Nothing can be plainer than that Greene wrote the passage in question with a perfect knowl. edge that those whom he addressed, viz., Marlowe, Lodge, and Peele, were no less jealous of the “ Sbake-scene” than himself; and that they would relish the sneering allusion to one who had given evidence of possessing a dramatic power which in its full" development might reduce the whole band of earlier play-wrights to comparative insignificance. There is, iberefore, no likelihood Inat Nash, the companion of Greene, Marlowe, Lodge, and Peele, - and he too a writer for the stage, - would have beheld the pright dawn of Shakespeare's genius with feelings more liberal than theirs. — DYCE.
withal, of a highly chivalrous and romantic spirit; to al which he added the still nobler title to honour, that he was the early and munificent patron of Shakespeare. In 1593, the Poet published his Venus and Adonis, with a modest and manly dedication to this nobleman, very different from the usual high-flown style of literary adulation then in vogue; telling him, -" If your Honour seem but pleased, I account myself highly praised, and vow to take advantage of all idle hours, till I have honoured you with some graver labour.” Ir. the dedication, he calls the poem “ the first heir of my invention : ” whether he dated its birth from the writing or the publishing, does not appear: probably it had been written some time; possibly, before he left Stratford. This was followed, the next year, by his Lucrece, dedicated to the same nobleman in a strain of more open and assured friendship: “The warrant I have of your honourable disposition, not the worth of my untutored lines, makes it assured of acceptance. What I have done is yours, what I have to do is yours.” Of these poems enough is said in our Introductions to them ; so that their merits need not be canvassed here.
It was probably about this time, perhaps in the interval of these two publications, that Shakespeare had that experience of the Earl's bounty, which is recorded by Rowe: “There is one instance so singular in the munificence of this patron of Shakespeare's, that if I had not been assured that the story was handed down by Sir William Davenant, who was probably well acquainted with his affairs, I should not have ventured to have inserted, that my Lord Southampton at one time gave him a thousand pounds, to enable him to gì through with a purchase which he heard he had a nind to." Rowe might well scruple the story of so large a gift; but the fact of his scruples being overruled shows that he had strong grounds for the statement. Possibly enough the amount may have been exaggerated : but all that we know of the Earl assures us that he could not but wish to
niake a handsome return for the Venus and Adonis, and that whatsoever of the kind he did was bound to be “something rich and rare;” and it was but of a piece with his nobleness of character, that he should feel more the honour he was receiving than that he was conferring by such an act of generosity. Might not this be what the Poet meant by “the warrant I have of your honourable disposition ? " Mr. Collier credits the whole amount. There needs no doubt on the score either of the Earl's disposition or his ability: the only question has reference to the Poet's occasions. These Mr. Collier thinks he has found in what will now be related.
On the 22d of December, 1593, Richard Burbage, who, his father having died or retired, was then the leader of the Blackfriars company, signed a bond to a builder named Peter Street for the building of the Globe theatre. The work was in progress, most likely, through the following year. The Blackfriars was not large enough for the company's purpose, but was entirely covered in, and furnished suitably for winter use. The Globe, made larger, and designed for use in summer, was a round wooden building, open to the sky, with the stage protected by an overhanging roof. Considering, then, the warm interest Southampton is known to have taken in all matters touching the stage, together with the strong personal motives which he had in the case of Shakespeare, it is by no means impossible that he may have bestowed even as large a sum as £1000, to enable him to furnish his share of money towards building the new theatre,
The Globe was probably opened in the spring of 1595 though we have no notice of the fact. No sooner was this enterprise carried through, than the company set on foot a design of repairing and enlarging their old establishment. Some of the people residing thereabouts not only opposed them in this design, but undertook to oust them altogether from that part of the town. To offset their remonstrance in this behalf, the company, early in 1596, sent in the following:
:' TO THE RIGHT HONOURABLE THE LORDS OF HER MAJES
TY'S MOST HONOURABLE PRIVY COUNCIL. “The humble petition of Thomas Pope, Richard Burbage John Heminge, Augustine Phillips, William Shakespeare, William Kempe, William Slye, Nicholas Tooley, and others, servants to the Right Honourable the Lord Chamberlain to her Majesty.
“Sheweth most humbly, that your petitioners are owners and players of the private house, or theatre, in the precinct and liberty of the Blackfriars, which hath been for many years used and occupied for the playing of tragedies, comedies, histories, interludes, and plays. That the same, by reason of its having been so long built, hath fallen into great decay; and that, besides the reparation thereof, it has been found necessary to make the same more convenient for the entertainment of auditories coming thereunto. That to this end your petitioners have all and each of them put down sums of money, according to their shares in the said theatre, and which they have justly and honestly gained by the exercise of their quality of stage-players ; but that certain persons, (some of them of honour,) inhabitants of the said precinct and liberty of Blackfriars, have, as your petitioners are informed, besought your honourable lordships not to permit the said private house any longer to remain open, but hereafter to be shut up and closed, to the manifest and great injury of your petitioners, who have no other means whereby to maintain their wives and families, but by the exercise of their quality, as they have heretofore done. Furthermore: that in the summer season your petitioners are able to play at their new-built house on the Bankside call'd the Globe, but that in the winter they are compelled to come to the Blackfriars ; and, if your honourable lordships give consent unto that which is pray'd against your petitioners, they will not only, while the winter endures, lose the means whereby they now support themselves and their families, but be un
able to practise themselves in any plays or interludes, when callid upon to perform for the recreation and solace of her Majesty and her honourable Court, as they have been heretofore accustomed.
“The humble prayer of your petitioners therefore is, that your honourable lordships will grant permission to finish the reparations and alterations they have begun; and, as your petitioners have hitherto been well order'd in their behaviour, and just in their dealings, that your honourable lordships will not inhibit them from acting at their abovenam'd private house in the precinct and liberty of Blackfriars; and your petitioners, as in duty most bounden, will ever pray for the increasing honour and happiness of your honourable lordships.”
The issue of the thing is ascertained by a note written from the Office of the Rerels on the 3d of May, 1596, to Henslowe, and found among his papers preserved at Dulwich College. It appears by this note, that the Master of the Revels received from the Privy Council an order “that the Lord Chamberlain's servants should not be disturbed at the Blackfriars ;” and that “ leave should be given unto them to make good the decay of the said house, but not to make the same larger than in former time hath been."
In 1589, we found Shakespeare the twelfth in a list of sixteen sharers of the Blackfriars : now he is found the fifth among eight persons, who style themselves “owners and players" of the same theatre, and allege that they “have put down sums of money, according to their shares in the said theatre.” Owner and sharer were different, the one having reference to the property, the other only to the profits, of the establishment. The practical talent and rectitude of the Poet are well shown by his having reached such a business position in a period of not more than ten years.
We learn, also, from this petition that the company at that date had been “accustomed to perform for the recreation and solace of her Majesty and her honourable Court."