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God, I have been so well brought up, that I can write my name.” A Free School had been founded at Stratford by Thomas Jolyffe in the reign of Edward IV. In 1553, King Edward the Sixth granted a charter, giving it a legal being, with legal rights and duties, and ordering it to be called “The King's New School of Stratford-upon-Avon." 5 What particular course or method of instruction was used in this school we have no certain knowledge; but it was probably much the same as that used in other like schools of that period; which included the elementary branches of English, and also the rudiments of classical, learning. The master of the school had a salary of £20 a year; and, sometimes at least, an assistant with £10 a year. 6 Latin was taught in all the free schools of any note in that period. Dr. Simon Forman, the dealer in occult science quoted in our Introductions to The Winter's Tale and Cymbeline, says of an ignorant minister, that “he could read English well, but he could no Latin more than the single accidence; and that he learned of his two sons that went daily to a free school.”
Here it was, no doubt, that Shakespeare acquired the
5 The following is part of the Charter : “We, by virtue of these presents, erect, ordain, and establish a certain free grammar school, in the said town of Stratford-upon-Avon, to consist of one master or teacher, hereafter for ever to endure, and so we will and command by these presents to be established and inviolably to be observed for ever; and that the said school shall for ever be commonly styled The King's New School of Stratford-upon-Avon ; and that in the same school there shall be a master or pedagogue to be named and appointed from time to time by the Lords of the Borough for the time being ; which master or pedagogue shall be called by the name of Master or Pedagogue of the Free School of Stratford-upon-Avon."
6 Mr. Halliwell gives the following from a manuscript at Cari. ton Ride : “ Memorandum, there is a vicare and a scolemaster that have a stipend of xx. li. by the yere granted by the King to eyther of them, and the bailief and burgesses of Stratford are to pay the same yerelie stipendes out of the landes that were geven ihem by the King." In 1585, Sir Williain Gilbert was assistant master at £10 a year.
of so great
- small Latin and less Greek” which Ben Jonson accords to him. What was “small” learning in the eye a scholar as Jonson, may yet have been something very handsome in itself; and his remark would seem to imply that the Poet had, at least, the regular free-school education of the time. His father being a member of the corporation, the tuition would cost him nothing. Honourably ambitious, as he seems to have been, of being somebody, it is not unlikely he may have prized learning the more for being himself without it. William was his oldest son; when his tide of fortune began to ebh, the Poet was in his fourteenth year; and from the native qualities of his mind, we cannot doubt that, up to that time at least, “ all the learnings that his town could make him the receiver of, he took, as we do air, fast as 'twas minister'd, and in his spring became a harvest.” Of his professional teachers, supposing him to have attended the school, nothing is known except the names: between 1570 and 1578, the place of master was held successively by Walter Roche, Thomas Hunt, and Thomas Jenkins.
The honest but credulous old gossip Aubrey, who died about the year 1700, states, on the authority of one Mr. Beeston, that Shakespeare “understood Latin pretty well, for he had been in his younger years a school-master in the country;" and Mr. Collier thinks it possible that, being a young man of abilities, and quick to acquire knowledge, he may have been employed by Jenkins to aid him in teaching the younger boys. He adds the following in reference to Aubrey's statement: “As persons of the name of Beeston were connected with the theatres before the death of Shakespeare, and long afterwards, we ought to treat the assertion with the more respect. Simon Forinan, according to his Diary, was employed in this way in the free school where he was educated, and was paid by the parents of the boys for his assistance. The same might be the case with Shake speare."
? The following is from his Diary : “Simon, percevinge his Possible this may indeed be, and that is perhaps the best can be said of it. Much more likely, it seems to us, is the account of Rowe, though there is no incompatibility between the two: “He had bred him, it is true, for some time at the free school, where it is probable he acquired what Latin he was master of ; but the narrowness of his circumstances, and the want of his assistance at home forced his father to withdraw him from thence, and unhappily prevented his further proficiency in that language." Rowe, to be sure, wrote, as we have seen, from tradition, and not till upwards of ninety years after the Poet's death; but he was evidently careful, his sources appear to have been good, and what he says is credible in itself, and accords perfectly with what later researches have established respecting John Shakespeare's course of fortune. He also tells us that the Poet's father “could give him no better education than his own employment.” It has been shown, that as early as 1579 his father was legally designated as “ John Shakespeare, of Stratfordupon-Avon in the county of Warwick, yeoman.” Nor are we sure but the ancient functions of an English yeoman's oldest son might be a better education for what the Poet afterwards accomplished, than was to be had in any free school or university in England. From his apt and frequent use of legal terms and phrases, Malone and Collier are strongly of the opinion that he must have spent some time as clerk or apprentice to some one of the seven attorneys then at Stratford. This, too, is doubtless possible enough: but such evidence cannot pass for much ; for he shows an
mother wold doe nothinge for him, was dryven to great extremity and hunger, gave off to be a scoller any longer for lacke of main. tenance, ana, at the priorie of St. Jilles wher he himself was firste a scoller, ther became be a scolmaster, and taught some thirty boies, and their parents among them gave him moste parte of his diet. And the money he gote he kept, to the some of som 40s., and after folowinge, when he had bin scolmaster som halfe yere, and had 40s. in bis purse, he wente to Oxford for lo get more lern. inge, and soe left off from being scolmaster.”
equal, or nearly equal, familiarity with the technicalities of various callings; and it seems nowise unlikely that his skill in the law may have grown from the large part his father had, either as mag strate or as litigant, in legal transactions.
Knight has speculated rather copiously and romantically upon the idea of Shakespeare having been a spectator of the more-than-royal pomp and pagentry with which the Queen was entertained by Leicester at Kenilworth in 1575. Stratford was fourteen miles from Kenilworth, and the Poet was then eleven years old. That his ears were assailed and his imagination excited by the fame of that august and magnificent display, cannot be doubted; for all that part of the country was laid under contribution to supply it, and was resounding with the noise of it; but his father was not of a rank to be summoned or invited thither, nor was he of an age
thither without his father. Positive historical evidence either way on the point there is none; nor can we discover any thing in his plays but what he might have learned well enough without drinking in the splendour of that occasion, however the fierce attractions thereof may have haunted a mind so brimful of poetry and life. The whole subject is an apt field for speculation, and for nothing else.
The gleanings of tradition excepted, the first knowledge that has reached us of the Poet, after his baptism, has reference to his marriage. Rowe states that “he thought fit to
marry while he was yet very young,” and that “his wife was the daughter of one Hathaway, said to have been a substantial yeoman in the neighbourhood of Stratford ;” and later disclosures prove that Rowe must have had access to good sources of information. The marriage took place in the fall of 1582, when the Poet was in his nineteenth yea. On the 28th of November, that year, Fulk Sandels and John Richardson subscribed a bond whereby they became liable in the sum of £40, to be forfeited to the Bishop of Worcester, in case there should be found any lawful impediment to
the marriage of William Shakespeare and ANNE HATHAWAY, of Stratford ; the object being, to procure such a dispensation from the Bishop as would authorise the ceremony after once publishing the banns. The original bond is pre served at Worcester, with the marks and seals of the two bondsmen affixed, and also bearing a seal with the initials R. H., as if to show that the bride's father, Richard Hathaway, was present and consenting to the act.8 Mr. Collier says, “ It is not to be concealed, or denied, that the whole proceeding seems to indicate haste and secrecy ;” where
8 We subjoin the document from Mr. Halliwell, who says the copy was carefully made from the original :
“ Noverint universi per præsentes nos Fulconem Sandells de Stratford in comitalu Warwici, agricolam, et Johamem Rychardson ibidem, agricolam, teneri et firmiter obligari Ricardo Cosin, generoso, et Roberto Warınstry, notario publico, in quadraginta libris bonæ et legalis monetæ Angliæ solvendis eisdem Ricardo et Roberto, hæredibus, executoribus, vel assignatis suis, ad quam quidem solutionem bene et fideliter faciendam obligamus vos, et utrumque nostrum, per se pro toto et in solido, bæredes, executores, et administratores nostros firmiter per præsentes, sigillis nos. tris sigillatos. Datum 28 die Novembris, anno Regni Dominæ nostræ Eliz., &c., 25th.
“ The condicion of this obligacion ys suche, that if herafter there shall not appere any lawfull lett or impediment, &c., but that William Shagspere one thone partie, and Anne Hathwey, cf Stratford in the dioces of Worcester, maiden, may lawfully solemnize matrimony together, and the same afterwardes remaine and continew like man and wiffe, according unto the lawes in that be. half provided ; and moreover, if there be not at this present time any action, sute, quarrell, or demaund, moved or depending before any judge, ecclesiasticall or temporall, for and concerning any suche lawfull lett or impediment; and moreover, if the said William Shagspere do not proceed to solemnizacion of mariadg with the said Anne Hathwey without the consent of bir frindes ; and also, if the said William do, upon his owne proper costes and expenses, defend and save barmles the right reverend Father in God, Lord John Bushop of Worcester, and his offycers, for licencing them the said William and Anne to be maried together with once asking of the bannes of matrimony betweene them, and for all other causes wbich may ensue by reason or occasion thereof; that then the said obligacion to be voyd and of none effect, or els to stand and abide in full force und vertue.”