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Francis Burbage was high bailiff of Stratford : he was probably a relative, perhaps a brother, of James. Another member of the same company in 1589, was Thomas Greene, also from Stratford; and Malone supposes that he, being older in the business than Shakespeare, may have introduced him to the theatre, 15 Among the players, also, with whom our Poet was afterwards associated, are found the names of Joli Heminge, William Slye, and Nicholas Tooley, all Warwickshire men.
We have just seen that after 1577 the chamberlain's accounts have no entry touching the Earl of Leicester's players, till 1587. Nevertheless, it is altogether likely that they were there many times during that interval. For, armed as they were with a patent under the great seal, they could perform independently of the corporation; which other companies could not do, an act having been passed in 1572 for restraining itinerant actors; whereby they became liable to he proceeded against as vagabonds, for performing without a licence from the local authorities. It may, we think, be safely presumed, that before 1586 Shakespeare was well acquainted with some of the players with whom, only three years after, he is found a joint sharer in a London theatre, In their exhibitions, rude as these probably were, he could not but have been a greedy spectator and an apt scholar
15 The Greenes appear to have been a numerous and respet able family at Stratford. One of them was a solicitor in London. The parish register has an entry, March 6, 1589, of the burial of “ Thomas Greene, alias Shakspere ;" from which it has been plausibly conjectured tjat there was some relationship between the Shakespeares and Greenes. The Thomas Greene mentioned in the text was a very popular comic actor, and became so famous in the part of Bubble, one of the characters in The City Gallanı, who is continually repeating the phrase, Tu quoque, that the play was afterwards named “Greene's Tu Quoque, or the City Gal. ant." The play was printed in 1614, with an epistle by Thomas Heywood prefixed, from which it appears that Greene was then derd. We shall hereafter find another Thomas Greene speaking of Shakespeare as “iny cozen.” He, also, was of Stratford.
Nor can there be any extravagance in supposing, that by 1586 he .nay have taken some part, as actor or writer, per haps both, in their performances. Greene, a fellow-towns man, perhaps a relative of his, was already one of their number. All this, to be sure, might not be, probably was not, enough to draw him away from Stratford; but it will readily be granted, that when other reasons came, if hers there were, for his leaving Stratferd, these circumatances would hold out to him an easy and natural access and invitation to the stage. There is, then, we think, very good ground for believing that he became a player before quitting Stratford, and that he quitted Stratford as a player.
What other inducements he had for embracing the op portunity thus presented, comes next to be considered. As to the deer-stealing matter, Rowe's account is as follows: “He had, by a misfortune common enough to young fellows, fallen into ill company; and among them some, that made a frequent practice of deer-stealing, engaged him more than once in robbing a park that belonged to Sir Thomas Lucy, of Charlecote, near Stratford. For this he was prosecuted by that gentleman, as he thought, somewhat too severely ; and, in order to revenge that ill-usage, he made a ballad upon him. And though this, probably the first essay of his poetry, be lost, yet it is said to have been so very bitter, that it redoubled the prosecution against him to that degree, that he was obliged to leave his business and family in Warwickshire for some time, and shelter himself in London.” 16
16 The account given by Oldys is so like this as to argue that be either drew it from Rowe or else from the same source as Rowe's. It is as follows : “ Our poet was the son of Mr. John Shakespeare, woolstapler. "Tis a tradition, descended from old Betterton, that he was concerned with a parcel of deer-stealers in robbing Sir Tho. Lucy's park at Charlecoi, which drove him to London among the players. The Queen bad his plays orien acied before her, and shewed bim some gracious marks of favour; and King James gave him and others a patent sor a company in 1603 See it in Rymers Fodera. Thomas [Heury] Wriothesley, E. of Southampton. ga'e him £1000 to complete a purchase.”
Divers attempts have been made, to impeach this account Whether, indeed, all its circumstances were true, may wel. be doubted; but the main substance of it stands approved by too much strength of credible tradition to be overthrown. The earliest confirmation of it comes in this wise: The Rev. William Fulman died in 1688, leaving certain manuscripts to his friend the Rev. Richard Davies, rector of Sapperton, Gloucestershire. Davies made several additions to them; and on his death, in 1708, the whole were presented to the library of Corpus Christi College, Oxford. On the subject of Shakespeare, Fulman's notes are very few and unimportant; but what was added by Davies very clearly confirms the substance of the deer-stealing story." In 1779, Capel. gave another statement of the matter, which also bears credibility in its countenance. It is as follows: “A Mr. Jones, who lived at Turbich in Worcestershire, about eignteen miles from Stratford, and died in 1703 at the age of ninety, remembered to have heard from several old people at Stratford the story of Shakespeare's robbing Sir Thomas Lucy's park; and their account of it agreed with Rowe's, with this addition, that the ballad written against Sir Thomas by Shakespeare was stuck upon his park-gate; which exasperated the knight to apply to a lawyer at Warwick to
17 « William Shakespeare was born at Stratford upon Avon in Warwickshire, about 15634. From an actor of playes he becaine a composer. He dyed Apr. 23, 1616, ætat. 53, probably at Stratford, for there he is buryed, and bath a monument." This ii all that Fulman says on the subject. Davies adds the following “ Much given to all unlockinesse in stealing venison and rabbits, particularly from Sir Lucy, who had him oft whipt, and sometimes imprisoned, and at last made him fiy his native country to his great advancement; but bis reveng was so great, that he is his Justice Clodpate, and calls him a great man; and that in allusion to his name bore tbree louses rampant for his arms." Mr. Collier has made it necessary to remark that Clodpate is bere used, apparent. ly, as a generic name for a blockhead. For an explanation of the " three louses iampant on his arms," see the first scene of The Merry Wives of Windsor, note 5.
proceed against him. Mr. Jones had put down in writing the first stanza of this ballad, which was all he remembered of it; and Mr. Thomas Wilkes, my grandfather, transmitted it to my father by memory, who also took it in writing." A few years later, Steevens printed the stanza from Oldys' manuscripts, which are also referred to by Capell as containing it. And, though the genuineness of the fragment seems questionable enough, the whole thing may be taken. * proving that the tradition was generally believed at Stratford in the latter part of the seventeenth century. 18
Mr. Halliwell has the following curious matter, which appears to throw some light on the question in hand: “The Lucys possessed great power at Stratford, and were, besides, not unfrequently engaged in disputes with the corporation of that town. Records of one such dispute respecting common of pasture in Henry VIII.'s reign are still preserved in the Chapter House; and amongst the miscellaneous papers at the Roll House, I met with an early paper bearing the attractive title of the names of them that made the riot upon Master Thomas Lucy, Esquire.' This list contains the names
18 Collier mistakenly attributes Capell's account to Oldys, thus making one authority out of two. At a later period, one Jordan of Stratford palmed off upon his friends what he termed « a complete copy of the verses, professing to have found them in an old chest in a cottage at Shottery. The thing is a palpable forgery, yet several have printed it as genuine. We subjoin the stanza given by Sieevens, though ourselves doubting very much, in the first place, whether there ever were any such ballad, and still more, in the second place, whether, if there were, this formed any pan of it :
“ A parliamente member, a justice of peace,
He thinkes himselfe grcato.
Yet an asse in his state
of thirty-five inhabitants of Stratford, mostly tradespeople, but none of the Shakespeares were amongst the number. We may safely accept the deer-stealing story, not in all its minute particulars, but in its outline, to be essentially true, until more decisive evidence can be produced.”
Malone fell upon this story, and thought he had finished it, on the ground that Sir Thomas Lucy had no park and that he never seems to have sent the corporation of Stratford a buck, such compliments being usual from persons of rank and wealth in the vicinity. This argument is disposed of by Mr. Collier thus : “That the Sir Thomas Lucy who succeeded his father in 1600 made such gifts, though not per haps to the corporation of Stratford, is very certain. When Lord Keeper Egerton entertained Queen Elizabeth at Harefield, in August, 1602, many of the nobility and gentry, in nearly all parts of the kingdom, sent him an abundance of presents, to be used or consumed in the entertainment; and on that occasion Sir Thomas Lucy contributed .a buck,' for which a reward of 6s. 8d. was given to the bringer. This single circumstance shows that, if he had no park, he had deer; and it is most likely that he inherited them from his father.” 19
We will dismiss the subject with another passage from Halliwell.“ Mr. Knight," says he, “ has attacked the deer stealing anecdote with peculiar ingenuity, yet his refutation is not supported by evidence of weight. Traditions generally do not improve in certainty with age, and so many little
19 Mr. Collier, in a note, quotes the following from the Editor of the Egerton Papers, 1840 : “ Many of these presents reserve notice, but especially one of the items, where it is stated that Sir Thomas Lucy, against whom Shakespeare is said to have written a ballad, sent a present of a “buck. Malone discredits the whole story of the deer-stealing, because Sir Thomas Lucy had no park at Charlecote : I conceive,' he says, it will very readily be granted that Sir Thomas Lucy could not lose that of wbich he was never possessed. We find, however, from what follows, that he was possessed of deer, for he sent a present of a buck to Lord Ellesmere, in 1602.”