William Shakespear Biography Essay

SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM (1564—1616), English poet, player and playwright, was baptized in the parish church of Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire on the 26th of April. Birth 1564. The exact date of his birth is not known. 18th-century antiquaries, William Oldys and Joseph Greene, gave it as April 23, but without quoting authority for their statements, and the fact that April 23 was the day of Shakespeare’s death in 1616 suggests a possible source of error. In any case his birthday cannot have been later than April 23, since the inscription upon his monument is evidence that on April 23, 1616, he had already begun his fifty-third year.

His father, John Shakespeare, was a burgess of the recently constituted corporation of Stratford, and had already filled certain minor municipal offices. From 1561 to 1563 he had been one of the two chamberlains to whom the finance of the town was entrusted. By occupation he was a glover, but he also appears to have dealt from time to time in various kinds of agricultural produce, such as barley, timber and wool. Aubrey (Lives, 1680) spoke of him as a butcher, and it is quite possible that he bred and even killed the calves whose skins he manipulated.

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He is sometimes described in formal documents as a yeoman, and it is highly probable that he combined a certain amount of farming with the practice of his trade. He was living in Stratford as early as 1552, in which year he was fined for having a dunghill in Henley Street, but he does not appear to have been a native of the town, in whose records the name is not found before his time; and be may reasonably be identified with the John Shakespeare of Snitterfield, who administered the goods of his father, Richard Shakespeare, in 1561.

Snitterfield is a village in the immediate neighbourhood of Stratford, and here Richard Shakespeare had been settled as a farmer since 1529. It is possible that John Shakespeare carried on the farm for some time after his father’s death, and that by 1570 he had also acquired a small holding called Ingon in Hampton Lucy, the next village to Snitterfield. But both of these seem to have passed subsequently to his brother Henry, who was buried at Snitterfield in. 1596. There was also at Snitterfield a Thomas Shakespeare and an Anthony Shakespeare, who afterwards moved to Hampton Corley; and these may have been of the same family.

A John Shakespeare, -who dwelt at Clifford Chambers, another village close to Stratford, is clearly distinct. Strenuous efforts have been made to trace Shakespeare’s genealogy beyond Richard of Snitterfield, but so far without success. Certain drafts of heraldic exemplifications of the Shakespeare arms speak, in one case of John Shakespeare’s grandfather, in another of his great-grandfather, as having been rewarded with lands and tenements in Warwickshire for service to Henry VII.

No such grants, however, have been traced, and even in the 16th-century statements as to” antiquity and service “ in heraldic preambles were looked upon with suspicion. The name Shakespeare is extremely widespread, and is spelt in an astonishing variety of ways. That of John Shakespeare occurs 166 times in the Council Book of the Stratford corporation, and appears to take 16 different forms. The verdict, not altogether unanimous, of competent palaeographers is to the effect that Shakespeare himself, in the extant examples of his signature, always wrote “Shakspere. In the printed signatures to the dedications of his poems, on the title-pages of nearly all the contemporary editions of his plays that bear his name, and in many formal documents it appears as Shakespeare. This may be in part due to the martial derivation which the poet’s literary contemporaries were fond of assigning to his name, and which is acknowledged in the arms that he bore. The forms in use at Stratford, however, such as Shaxpeare, by far the commonest, suggest a short pronunciation of the first syllable, and thus tend to support Dr Henry Bradley’s derivation from the Anglo-Saxon personal name, Seaxberht.

It is interesting, and even amusing, to’ record that in 1487 Hugh Shakspere of Merton College, Oxford, changed his name to Sawndare, because his former name vile reputatum est. The earliest record of a Shakespeare that has yet been traced is in 1248 at Clapton in G]oucester~ shire, about seven miles from Stratford. The name also occurs during the ,3th century in Kent, Essex and Surrey, and durin~ the I4th in Cumberland, Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Essex, Warwickshire and as far away as Yougbal in Ireland.

Thereafter it is found in London and most of the English counties, particularly those of the midlands; and nowhere more freely than in Warwickshire. There were Shakespeares in Warwick and in Coventry, as well as around Stratford; and the clan appears to have been very numerous in a group of villages about twelve miles north of Stratford, which includes Baddesley Clinton, Wroxall, Rowington, I{aseley, Hatton, Lapworth, Packwood, Balsall and Knowle.

William was in common use as a personal name, and Williams from more than one other family have from time to time been confounded with the dramatist. Many Shakespeares are upon the register of the gild of St Anne at Knowle from about 1457 to about 1526. Amongst these were Isabella Shakespeare, prioress of the Benedictine convent of Wroxall, and Jane Shakespeare, a nun of the same convent. Shakespeares are also found as tenants on the manors belonging to the convent, and at the time of the Dissolution in 1534 one Richard Shakespeare was its bailiff and collector of rents.

Conjectural attempts have been made on the one hand to connect the ancestors of this Richard Shakespeare with ‘a family of the same name who held land by military tenure at Baddesley Clinton in the 14th and 15th centuries, and on usc other to ideniify him with the poet’s grandfather, Richard Shakespeare of’ Snitterfield. But Shakespeares are to be traced at Wroxall nearly as far back as at Baddesley Clinton, and there is no reason to suppose that Richard the bailiff, who was certainly still a tenant of Wroxall in 1556, had also since 1529 been farming land ten miles off at Snitterfield.

With the breaking of this link, the hope of giving Shakespeare anything more than a grandfather on the father’s side must be laid aside for the present. On the mother’s side he was connected with a family of some distinction. Part at least of Richard Shakespeare’s land at Snitterfield was held from Robert Arden of Wilmcote in the adjoining parish of Aston Cantlow, a cadet of the Ardens of Parkhall, who counted amongst the leading gentry of Warwickshire.

Robert Arden married his second wife, Agnes Hill, formerly Webbe, in 1548, and had then no less than. eight daughters by his first wife. To the youngest of these, Mary Arden, he left in 1556 a freehold in Aston Cantlow consisting of a farm of about fifty or sixty acres in extent, known as Asbies. At some date later than November 1556, and probably before the end of 1557, Mary Arden became the wife of John Shakespeare. In October 1556 John Shakespeare had bought two freehold houses, one in Greenhill Street, the other in Henley Street.

The latter, known as the wool shop, was the easternmost of the two tenements now combined in the so-called Shakespeare’s birthplace. The western tenement, the birthplace proper, was probably already in John Shakespeare’s hands, as he seems to have been living in Henley Street in 1552. It has sometimes been thought to have been one of two houses which formed a later purchase in 1575, but there is no evidence that these were in Henley Street at all. William Shakespeare was not the first child.

A Joan was baptized in 1558 and a Margaret in 1562. The latter was buried in 1563 and the former must also have died young, although her burial is not recorded, as a second Joan was baptized in 1569. A Gilbert was baptized in 1566, an Anne in 1571, a Richard in ~ and a~ Edmunc~l 01 1580. e~nne died in ~7o; Edmund,who like his brother became an actor, in 1607; Richard in 1613. Tradition has it that one of Shakespeare’s brothers used to visit London in the 17th century as quite an old man. If so, this can only have been Gilbert.

During the years that followed his marriage, John Shakespeare became prominent in Stratford life. In 1565 he was chosen as an alderman, and in 1568 he held the chief municipal office, that of high bailiff. This carried with it the dignity of justice of the peace. John Shakespeare seems to have assumed arms, and thenceforward was always entered in corporation documents as “Mr” Shakespeare, whereby he may be distinguished from another John Shakespeare, a “corviser” or shoemaker, who dwelt in Stratford about 1584—1592.

In 1571 as an ex-bailiff be began another year of office as chief alderman . One may think, therefore, of Shakespeare in his boyhood as the son of one of the leading citizens of a not unimportant Youth provincial market-town, with a vigorous life of its own, which in spite of the dunghills was probably not much unlike the life of a similar town to-day, and with constant reminders of its past in the shape of the stately buildings formerly belonging to its college and its gild, both of which had been suppressed at the Reformation.

Stratford stands on the Avon, in the midst of an agricultural country, throughout which in those days enclosed orchards and meadows alternated with open fields for tillage, and not far from the wilder and wooded district known as the Forest of Arden. The middle ages had left it an heritage in the shape of a free grammar-school, and here it is natural to suppose that William Shakespeare obtained a sound enough education,i with a working knowledge of “Mantuan”2 and Ovid in the original, even though to such a thorough scholar as Ben Jonson it might seem no more than “small Latin and less Greek. In 1577, when Shakespeare was about thirteen, his father’s fortunes began to take a turn for the worse. He became irregular in his contributions to town levies, and had to give a mortgage on his wife’s property of Asbies as security for a loan from her brother-in-law, Edmund Lambert. Money was raised to pay this off, partly by the sale of a small interest in land at Snitterfield which had come to Mary Shakespeare from her sisters, partly perhaps by that of the Greenhill Street house and other property in Stratford outside Henley Street, none of which seems to have ever come into William Shakespeare’s hands.

Lambert, however, refused to surrender the mortgage on the plea of older debts, and an attempt to recover Asbies by litigation proved ineffectual. John Shakespeare’s difficulties increased. An action for debt was sustained against him in the local court, but no personal property could be found on which to distrain. He had long ceased to attend the meetings of the corporation, and as a consequence he was removed in 2586 from the list of aldermen. In this state of domestic affairs it is not likely that Shakespeare’s school life was unduly prolonged.

The chances are that he was apprenticed to some local trade. Aubrey says that he killed calves for his father, and “would do it in a high style, and make a speech. ” Whatever his circumstances, they did not deter him at the early age of eighteen from the adventure of marriage. Rowe Marriage recorded the name of Shakespeare’s wife as Hathaway, and Joseph Greene succeeded in tracing her to a family of that name dwelling in Shottery, one of the hamlets of Stratford. Her monument gives her first name as Anne, and her age as sixty-seven in 1623.

She must, therefore, have been about eight years older than Shakespeare. Various small trains of evidence point to her identification with the daughter Agnes mentioned in the will of a Richard Hathaway of Shottery, who died in 1581, being then in possession of the farm-house now known as “ Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. ” Agnes was legally a distinct name from Anne, but there can be no doubt that ordinary custom treated them as identical. The principal record of the i It is worth noting that Walter Roche, who in 1558 became fellow of Corpus Christi College,

Oxford, was master of the school in 1570—1572, so that its standard must have been good. 2 Baptista Mantuanus (1448—1516), whose Latin Eclogues were translated by Turberville in 1567. marriage is a bond dated on November 28, 2582, and executed by Fulk Sandells and John Richardson, two yeomen of Stratford who also figure in Richard Hathaway’s will, as a security to the bishop for the issue of a licence for the marriage of William Shakespeare and “Anne Hathwey of Stratford,” upon the consent of her friends, with one asking of the banns.

There is no reason to suppose, as has been suggested, that the procedure adopted was due to dislike of the marriage dn the part of John Shakespeare, since, the bridegroom being a minor, it would not have been in accordance with the practice of the bishop’s officials to issue the licence without evidence of the father’s consent. The explanation probably lies in the fact that Anne was already with child, and in the near neighbourhood of Advent within which marriages were prohibited, so that the ordinary procedure by banns would have entailed a delay until after Christmas.

A kindly sentiment has suggested that some form of civil marriage, or at least contract of espousals, had already taken place, so that a canonical marriage was really only required in order to enable Anne to secure the legacy left her by her father “at the day of her marriage. ” But such a theory is not rigidly required by the facts. It is singular that, upon the day before that on which the bond was executed, an entry was made in the bishop’s register of the issue of a licence for a marriage between William Shakespeare and” Annam Whateley de Temple Grafton. Of this it can only be said that the bond, as an original document, is infinitely the better authority, and that a scribal error of “ Whateley “ for “Hathaway “-is quite a possible solution. Temple Grafton may have been the nominal place of marriage indicated in the licence, which was not always the actual place of residence of either bride or bridegroom. There are no contemporary registers for Temple Grafton, and there is no entry of the marriage in those for Stratford-uponAvon.

There is a tradition that such a record was seen during the I9th century in the registers for Luddirigton, a chapelry within the parish, which are now destroyed. Shakespeare’s first child, Susanna, was baptized on the 26th of May 1583, and was followed on the 2nd of February 1585 by twins, Hamnet and Judith. In or after 1584 Shakespeare’s career in Stratford seems to have come to a tempestuous close. An 18th-century story of a drinking-bout in a neighbouring village is of no Obsce,~~ importance, except as indicating a local impression years, that a distinguished citizen had had a wildish youth. 584 But there is a tradition which comes from a double 1592, source and which there is no reason to reject in substance, to the effect that Shakespeare got into trouble through poaching on the estates of a considerable Warwickshire magnate, Sir Thomas Lucy, and found it necessary to leave Stratford in order to escape the results of his misdemeanour. It is added that he afterwards took his revenge on Lucy by satirizing him as the Justice Shallow, with the dozen white louses in his old coat, of The Merry Wives of Windsor.

From this event until he emerges as an actor and rising playwright in 1592 his history is a blank, and it is impossible to say what experience may not have helped to fill it. Much might indeed be done in eight years of crowded Elizabethan life. Conjecture has not been idle, and has assigned him in turns during this or some other period to the occupations of a scrivener, an apothecary, a dyer, a printer, a soldier, and the like. The suggestion that he saw military service rests largely on a confusion with another William Shakespeare of Rowington. Aubrey had heard that “he had been in his younger years a sthoolmaster in the country. The mention in Henry IV. of certain obscure yeomen families, Visor of Woncote and Perkes of Stinchcombe Hill, near Dursley in Gloucestershire, has been thought to suggest a sojourn in that district, where indeed Shakespeares were to be found from an early date. Ultimately, of course, he drifted to London and the theatre, where, according to the stage tradition, he found employment in a menial capacity, perhaps even as a holder of horses at the doors, before he was admitted into a company as an actor and so found his way to his true vocation as a writer of plays.

Malone thought that he might have left Stratford with one of the travelling companies of players which from time to time visited the town. Later biographers have fixed upon Leicester’s men, who were at Stratford in 1587, and have held that Shakespeare remained to the end in the same company, passing with it on Leicester’s death in 1588 under the patronage of Ferdinando, Lord Strange and afterwards earl of Derby, and on Derby’s death in 1594 under that of the lord chamberlain, Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon.

This theory perhaps hardly takes sufficient account of the shifting combinations and recombinations of actors, especially during the disastrous plague years of 1592 to 1594. The continuity of Strange’s company with Leicester’s is very disputable, and while the names of many members of Strange’s company in and about 1593 are on record, Shakespeare’s is not amongst them. It is at least possible, as will be seen later, that he had about this time relations with the earl of Pembroke’s men, or with the earl of Sussex’s men, or with both of these organizations. What is clear is that by the summer of 1592, when. e was twenty-eight, he had begun to emerge as a playwright, and had evoked the jealousy of one at least of the group of 1Y scholar poets who in recent years had claimed a f1, monopoly of the stage. This was Robert Greene, who, in an invective on behalf of the play-makers against the play-actors which forms part of his Groats-worth of Wit, speaks of” an upstart Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers heart wrapt in a Players hide, supposes he is as well able to bumbast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and being an absolute Johannes fac jotum, is in his owne conceit the onely Shake-scene in a countrie. The play upon Shakespeare’s name and the parody of a line from Henry VI. make the reference unmistakable. i The London theatres were closed, first through riots and then through plague, from June 1592 to April 1594, with the exception of about a month at each Christmas during that period; and the companies were dissolved or driven to the provinces. Even if Shakespeare had been connected with Strange’s men during their London seasons of 1592 and 1593, it does not seem that he travelled with them.

Other activities may have been sufficient to occupy the interval. The most important of these was probably an attempt to win a reputation in the world of non-dramatic poetry. Venus and Adonis was published about April 1593, and Lucrece about May 1594. The poems were printed by Richard Field, in whom Shakespeare would have found an old Stratford acquaintance; and each has a dedication to Henry Wriothesley, earl of Southampton, a brilliant and accomplished favourite of the court, still in his nonage.

A possibly super-subtle criticism discerns an increased warmth in the tone of the later dedication, which is supposed to argue a marked growth of intimacy. The fact of this intimacy is vouched for by the story handed down from Sir William Davenant to Rowe (who published in 1709 the first regular biography of Shakespeare) that Southampton gave Shakespeare a thousand pounds “to enable him to go through with a purchase which he’heard he had a mind to. The date of this generosity is not specified, and there is no known purchase by Shakespeare which can have cost anything like the sum named. The mention of Southampton leads naturally to the most difficult problem which a biographer has to handle, that of the Sonnets. But this will be more conveniently taken up at a later point, and it is only necessary here to put on record the probability that the earliest of the sonnets belong to the period now under discussion.

There is a surmise, which is not in itself other than plausible, and which has certainly been supported with a good deal of ingenious argument, that Shakespeare’s enforced leisure enabled him to make of 1593 a Wanderjahr, and in particular that the traces of a visit to northern Italy may clearly be seen in the local colouring of Lucrece as compared with Venus and Adonis, and in that of the group of plays which may be dated in or about 1594 and 1595 as compared with those that preceded.

It must, however, be borne in mind that, while Shakespeare may perfectly well, at this or at some earlier time, have voyaged i It is most improbable, however, that the apologetic reference in Chettle’s Kind-hart’s Dream (December 1592) refers to Shakespeare. to Italy, and possibly Denmark and even Germany as well, there is no direct evidence to rely upon, and that inference from internal evidence is a dangerous guide when a writer of so assimilative a temperament as that of Shakespeare is concerned.

From the reopening of the theatres in the summer of 1594 onwards Shakespeare’s status is in many ways clearer. He had certainly become a leading member of the Chamberlain’s company by the following winter, when his name appears for the first and only time in the treasurer Chamberof the chamber’s accounts as one of the recipients of lain’s payment for their performances at court; and there is every reason to suppose that he continued to act with and write for the same associates to the close of his areer. The history of the company may be briefly told. At the death of the lord chamberlain on the 22nd of July 1596, it passed under the protection of his successor, George, 2nd Lord Hunsdon, and once more became “the Lord Chamberlain’s men” when he was appointed to that office on. the 17th of March 1597. James I. on his accession took this company under his patronage as grooms of the chamber, and during the remainder of Shakespeare’s connexion with the stage they were “the King’s men. The records of performances at court show that they were by far the most favoured of th’e companies, their nearest rivals being the company known during the reign of Elizabeth as “the Admiral’s,” and afterwards as “Prince Henry’s men. ” From the summer of 1594 to March 1603 they appear to have played almost continuously in London, as the only provincial performances by them which are upon record were during the autumn of 1597, when the London theatres were for a short time closed owing to the interference of some of the players in politics.

They travelled again during 1603 when the plague was in London, and during at any rate portions of the summers or autumns of most years thereafter. In 1594 they were playing at Newington Butts, and probably also at the Rose on Bankside, and at the Cross Keys in the city. It is natural to suppose that in. later years they used the Theatre in Shoreditch, since this was the property of James Burbage, the father of their principal actor, Richard Burbage.

The Theatre was pulled down in 1598, and, after a short interval during which the company may have played at the Curtain, also in Shoreditch, Richard Burbage and his brother Cuthbert rehoused them in the Globe on Bankside, built in part out of the materials of the Theatre. Here the profits of the enterprise were divided between the members of the company as such and the owners of the building as “housekeepers,” and shares in the “house” were held in joint tenancy by Shakespeare and some of his leading “fellows. ” About I6o8 another playhouse became available for the company in. he “private” or winter house of the Black Friars. This was also the property of the Burbages, but had previously been leased to a company of boy players. A somewhat similar arrangement as to profits was made. Shakespeare is reported by Aubrey to have been a good actor, but Adam in As You Like It, and the Ghost in Hamlet indicate the type of part which he played. As a dramatist, however, he was the mainstay of the company for at least some fifteen years, during which Ben Jonson, Dekker, Beaumont and Fletcher, and Tourneur also contributed to their repertory.

On an average he must have written for them about two plays a year, although his rapidity of production seems to have been greatest during the opening years of the period. There was also no doubt a good deal of rewriting of his own earlier work, and also perhaps, at the beginning, of that of others. Occasionally he may have entered into collaboration, as, for example, at the end of his career, with Fletcher. In a worldly sense he clearly flourished, and about 1596, if not earlier, he was able to resume relations as a moneyed man with Stratford-on-Avon.

There is no evidence to show whether he had visited the town in the interval, or whether he had brought his wife and family to London. His son Hamnet died and was buried at Stratford in 1596. During the last ten years John Shakespeare’s affairs had remained unprosperous. He incurred fresh debt, partly through becoming surety for his brother Henry; and in 1592 his name was included in a list of recusants dwelling at or near Stratford-on-Avon,with a note by the commissioners that in his case the cause was believed to be the fear of process for debt.

There is no reason to doubt this explanation, or to seek a religious motive in John Shakespeare’s abstinence from church. William Shakespeare’s purse must have made a considerable difference. The prosecutions for debt ceased, and in 1597 a fresh action was brought in Chancery for the recovery of Asbies from the Lamberts. Like the last, it seems to have been without result. Another step was taken to secure the dignity of the family by an application in the course of 1596 to the heralds for the confirmation of a coat of arms said to have been granted to John Shakespeare while he was bailiff of Stratford.

The bearings were or on a bend sable a spear or steeled argent, the crest a falcon his wings displayed argent supporting a spear or steeled argent, and the motto Non sanz droict. The grant was duly made, and in 1599 there was a further application for leave to impale the arms of Arden, in right of Shakespeare’s mother. No use, however, of the Arden arms by the Shakespeares can be traced. In 1597 Shakespeare made an important purchase for ? 60 of the house and gardens of New Place in Chapel Street.

This was one of the largest houses in Stratford, and its acquisition an obvious triumph for the ex-poacher. Presumably John Shakespeare ended his days in peace. A visitor to his shop remembered him as” a merry-cheekt old man “ always ready to crack a jest with his son. He died in 1601, and his wife in 1608, and the Henley Street houses passed to Shakespeare. Aubrey records that he paid annual visits to Stratford, and there is evidence that he kept in touch with the life of the place.

The correspondence of his neighbours, the Quineys, in 1598 contains an application to him for a loan to Richard Quiney upon a visit to London, and a discussion of possible investments for him in the neighbourhood of Stratford. In 1602 he took, at a rent of 2S. 6d. a year, a copyhold cottage in Chapel Lane, perhaps for the use of his gardener. In the same year he invested ? 320 In the purchase of an estate consisting of 107 acres in the open fields of Old Stratford, together with a farm-house, garden and orchard, 20 acres of pasture and common rights; and in 1605 he spent another ? 40 in the outstanding term of a lease of certain great tithes in Stratford parish, which brought in an income of about ? 60 a year. Meanwhile London remained his headquarters. Here Malone thought that he had evidence, now lost, of his residence in Southwark as early as 1596, and as late as 1608. It is known that payments of subsidy were due from him tions. for 1597 and 1598 in the parish of St Helen’s, Bishopsgate, and that an arrear was ultimately collected in the liberty of the Clink. He had no doubt migrated from Bishopsgate when the Globe upon Bankside was opened by the Chamberlain’s men.

There is evidence that in 1604 he “lay,” temporarily or permanently, in the house of Christopher Mountjoy, a tire-maker of French extraction, at the corner of Silver Street and Monkwell Street in Cripplegate. A recently recovered note by Aubrey, if it really refers to Shakespeare (which is not quite certain), is of value as throwing light not only upon his abode, but upon his personality. Aubrey seems to have derived it from William Beeston the actor, and through him from John Lacy, an actor of the king’s company.

It is as follows: “The more to be admired q~uod} he was not a company-keeper, lived in Shoreditch, would not be debauched, & if invited to court, he was in paine. ” Against this testimony to the correctness of Shakespeare’s morals are to be placed an anecdote of a green-room amour picked up by a Middle Temple student in 1602 and a Restoration scandal which made him the father by the hostess of the Crown Inn at Oxford, where he baited on his visits to Stratford, of Sir William D~venant, who was born in February 1606.

His credit at court is implied by Ben Jonson’s references to his flights “ that so did take Eliza and our James,” and by stories of the courtesies which passed between him and Elizabeth while he was playing a kingly part in her presence, of the origin of The Merry Wives of Windsor in her desire to see Falstaff in love, and of an autograph letter written to honour him by King James. It was noticed with some surprise by Henry Chettle that his “honied muse “dropped no “sable tear” to celebrate the death of the queen.

Southampton’s patronage may have introduced him to the brilliant circle that gathered round the earl of Essex, but there is no reason to suppose that he or his company were held personally responsible for the performance of Richard II. at the command of some of the followers of Essex as a prelude to the disastrous rising 0± February 1601. The editors of the First Folio speak also of favours received by the author in his lifetime from William Herbert, earl of Pembroke, ‘and his brother Philip Herbert, earl of Montgomery.

He appears to have been on cordial terms with his fellows of the stage. One of them, Augustine Phillips, left him a small legacy in 1605, and in his own will he paid a F~tends. similar compliment to Richard Burbage, and to John Heminge and Henry Condeli, who afterwards edited his plays. His relations with Ben Jonson, whom he is said by Rowe to have introduced to the world as a playwright, have been much canvassed. Jests are preserved which, even if apocryphal, indicate considerable intimacy between ‘the two.

This is not inconsistent with occasional passages of arms. The anonymous author of The Return from Parnassus (2nd part; 1602), for example, makes Kempe, the actor, allude to a “purge” which Shakespeare gave Jonson, in return for his attack on some of his rivals in The Poetaster. i It has been conjectured that this purge was the description of Ajax and his humours in Troilus and Cressida. Jonson, on the other hand, who was criticism incarnate, did not spare Shakespeare either in his prologues or in his private conversation.

He told Drummond of Hawthornden that “ Shakspeer wanted arte. ” But the verses which he contributed to the First Folio are generous enough to make all amends, and in his Discoveries (pub. 164,; written c. 1624 and later), while regretting Shakespeare’s excessive facility and the fact that he often “fell into those things, could not escape laughter,” he declares him to have been “honest and of an open and free nature,” and says that, for his own part, “I lov’d the man and do honour his memory (on this side idolatry) as much as any. According to the memoranda-book (1661—1663) of the Rev. John Ward (who became vicar of Stratford in 1662), Jonson and Michael Drayton, himself a Warwickshire poet, had been drinking with Shakespeare when he caught the~ fever of which he died; and Thomas Fuller (1608—1661), whose Worthies was published in 1662, gives an imaginative description of the wit combats, of which many took place between the two mighty contemporaries.

Of Shakespeare’s literary reputation during his lifetime there is ample evidence. He is probably neither the “ Willy “ of Spenser’s Tears of the Muses, nor the “ Aetion “ of Coatemhis Cohn Clout’s Come Home Again. But from the porarj’ time of the publication of Venus and Adonis and i~~put~~ Lucrece honorific allusions to his work both as poet lou anddramatist, and often to himself by name, come thick and fast from writers of every kind and degree.

Perhaps the most interesting of these from the biographical point of view are those contained in the Palladis Tamia, a kind of literary handbook published by Francis Meres in 1598; for Meres not only extols him as “the most excellent in both kinds comedy and tragedyl for the stage,” and one of” the most passionate among us to bewaile and bemoane the perplexities of Love,” but also takes the trouble to give a list of twelve plays already written, which serves as a starting-point for all modern, attempts at a chronological arrangement of his work.

It is moreover from Meres that we first hear of “his sugred Sonnets among his private friends. ” Two of these sonnets were printed in 1599. I Kempe (speaking to Burbage), “Few of the university pen plays well. They smell too much of that writer Ovid and that writer (sic) Metamorphosis, and talk too much of Proserpina and Jupiter. Why here’s our fellow Shakespeare puts them all down; aye, and Ben Jonson too. 0 that Ben Jonson is a pestilent fellow.

He brought up Horace giving the Poets a pill, but our ‘fellow Shakespeare bath given him a purge that made him beray his credit. ” in a volume of miscellaneous verse called The Passionate Pilgrim. This was ascribed upon the title-page to Shakespeare, but probably, so far as most of its contents were concerned, without justification. The bulk of Shakespeare’s sonnets remained unpublished until 1609. About 1610 Shakespeare seems to have left London, and entered upon the definite occupation of his house at New Place, Stratford.

Here he lived the life of a retire gentleman, on friendly if satiricaJ terms with the richest of his neighbours, the Combes, and interested in local affairs, such as a bill for the improvement of the highways in 1611, or a proposed enclosure of the open fields at Welcombe in 1614, which might affect his income or his comfort. He had his garden with its mulberry-tree, and his farm in the immediate neighbourhood. His brothers Gilbert and Richard were still alive; the latter died in 1613. His sister Joan had married William Hart, a hatter, and in 1616 was dwelling in one of his houses in Henley Street.

Of his daughters, the eldest, Susanna, had married in 1607 John Hall (d. 1635), a physician of some reputation. They dwelt in Stratford, and had one child, Elizabeth, afterwards Lady Barnard (1608—1670). The younger, Judith, married Thomas Quiney, a vintner, also of Stratford, two months before her father’s death. At Stratford the last few of the plays may have been written, but it is reasonable to suppose that Shakespeare’s connexion with the King’s company ended when the Globe was burnt down during a performance of Henry VIII. n the 29th of June I6 13. Certainly his retirement did not imply an absolute break with London life. in 1613 he devised an impresa, or emblem, to be painted by Richard Burbage, and worn in the tilt on Accession day by the earl of Rutland, who had been one of the old circle of Southampton and Essex. In the same year he purchased for ? 140 a freehold house in the Blackfriars, near the Wardrobe. This was conveyed to trustees, apparently in order to bar the right which his widow would otherwise have had to dower.

In 1615 this purchase involved Shakespeare in a lawsuit for the surrender of the title-deeds. Richard Davies, a Gloucestershire clergyman of the end of the i7th century, reports that the poet “ died a papist,” and the statement deserves more attention than it has received from biographers. There is indeed little to corroborate it; for an alleged” spiritual testament “of John Shakespeare is of suspected origin, and Davies’s own words suggest a late conversion rather than an hereditary faith.

On the other hand, there is little to refute it beyond an entry in the accounts of Stratford corporation for drink given in 1614 to “a preacher at the Newe Place. ” Shakespeare made his will on the 25th of March 1616, apparently in some haste, as the executed deed is a draft with many erasures and interlineations. There were legacies to his daughter Judith Quiney and his sister Joan Hart, and remembrances to friends both in Warwickshire and in London; but the real estate was left to his sister Susanna Hall under a strict entail which points to a desire on the part of the testator to found a family.

Shakespeare’s wife, for whom other provision must have been made, is only mentioned in an interlineation, by which the “second best bed with the furniture” was bequeathed to her. Much nonsense has been written about this, but it seems quite natural. The best bed was an important chattel, which would go with the house. The estate was after all not a large one. Aubrey’s estimate of its annual value as ? 200 or ? 300 a year sounds reasonable enough, and John Ward’s statement that Shakespeare spent ? 1000 a year must surely be an exaggeration. The sum-total of his known investments amounts to ? 60. Mr Sidney Lee calculates that his theatrical income must have reached ? 600 a year; but it may be doubted whether this also is not a considerable overestimate. It must be remembered that the purchasing value of money in the 17th century is generally regarded as having been about eight times its present value. Shakespeare’s interest in the “ houses “of the Globe and Blackfriars probably determined on his death. A month after his will was signed, on the 23rd of April 1616, Shakespeare died, and as a tithe-owner was buried in the chancel of the parish church.

Some doggerel upon the stone that covers the grave has been assigned by local tradition to his own pen. A more elaborate monument, with a bust by the sculptor Gerard Johnson, was in due course set up on the chancel wall. D th Anne Shakespeare followed her husband on the 6th of August 1623. The family was never founded. Shakespeare’s grand-daughter, Elizabeth Hall, made two childless marriages, the first with Thomas Nash of Stratford, the second with John, afterwards Sir John, Barnard of Abington. Manor, Northants.

His daughter Judith Quiney had three sons, all of whom had died unmarried by 1639. There were, therefore, no direct descendants of Shakespeare in existence after Lady Barnard’s death in 1670. Those of his sister, Joan Hart, could however still be traced in 1864. On Lady Barnard’s death the Henley Street houses passed to the Harts, in’ whose family they remained until 1806. They were then sold, and in 1846 were bought for the public. They are now held with Anne Hathaway’s Cottage at Shottery as the Birthplace Trust. Lady Barnard had disposed of the Blackfriars house.

The rest of the property was sold under the terms of her will, and New Place passed, first to the Cloptons who rebuilt it, and then to the Rev. Francis Gastrell, who pulled it down in 1759. The site now forms a public recreation-ground, and hard by is a memorial building with a theatre in which performances of Shakespeare’s plays are given annually in April. Both the Memorial and the Birthplace contain museums, in which books, documents and portraits of Shakespearian interest, together with relics of greater or less authenticity, are stored.

No letter or other writing in Shakespeare’s hand can be proved to exist, with the exception of three signatures upon his will, one upon a deposition (May II, 1612) in a lawsuit with which he was remotely concerned, and two upon deeds (March io and II, 1613) ~fl connexion with the purchase of his Blackfriars house. A copy of Florio’s translation of Montaigne (1603) in the British Museum, a copy of the Aldine edition of Ovid’s Metamorphoses (1502) in the Bodleian, and a copy of the 1612 edition of Sir Thomas North’s translation of Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romaines in. he Greenock Library, have all been put forward with some plausibility as bearing his autograph name or initials, and, in the third case, a marginal note by him. A passage in the manuscript of the play of Sir Thomas More has been ascribed to him (vide infra), and, if the play is his, might be in his handwriting. Aubrey records that he was “a handsome, well-shap’t man,” and the lameness attributed to him by some writers has its origin only in a too literal interpretation of certain references to spiritual disabilities in the Sonnets. A collection. f Mr William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories and Tragedies was printed at the press of William and Isaac Jaggard, and issued by a group of booksellers in I6a3. Dr s This volume is known as the First Folio. It has “a” dedications to the earls of Pembroke and Montgomery, and to “the great Variety of Readers,” both of which are signed by two of Shakespeare’s “fellows” at the Globe, John Heminge and Henry Condell, and commendatory verses by Ben Jonson, Hugh Holland, Leonard Digges and an unidentified I. M. The Droeshout engraving forms part of the title-page.

The contents include, with the exception of Pericles, all of the thirtyseven plays now ordinarily printed in editions of Shakespeare’s works. Of these eighteen were here published for the first time. The other eighteen bad already appeared in one or more separate editions, known as the Quartos. The following list gives the date of the First Quarto of each such play, and also that of any later Quarto which differs materially from the First. The Quarto Editions. Titus Andronicus (1594). A Midsummer Night’s Dream 2 Henry VI. (1594). (1600). 3 Henry VI. (1595).

The Merchant of Venice (1600). Richard II. (1597, ,6o8). Much Ado About Nothing (1600). Richard III. (15~7). The Merry Wives of Windsor Romeo and Juliet (,5~7, 1599). (1602). Love’s Labour’s Lost (1598). Hamlet (4603, 1604). I Henry IV. (1598). King Lear (1608). 2 Henry IV. ~16oo). Troilus and Cressida (1609). Henry V. (1600). Othello (1622). Entries in the Register of copyrights kept by the Company of Stationers indicate that editions of As You Like II and Anthony awl Cleopatra were contemplated but not published in 1600 and 1608 respectively. The Quartos differ very much in character.

Some of them contain texts which are practically identical with those of the First Folio; others show variations so material as to suggest that some revision, either by rewriting or by shortening for stage purposes, took place. Amongst the latter are 2, 3 Henry VI. , Richard III. , Romeo and Juliet, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Hamlet and King Lear. Many scholars doubt whether the Quarto versions of 2, 3 Henry VI. , which appeared under the titles of The First Part of the Contention betwixt the two famous Houses of York and Lancaster and The True

Tragedy of Richard Duke of York, are Shakespeare’s work at all. It seems clear that the Quartos of The Troublesome Reign of Jo/zn King of England (1591) and Tile Taming of A Shrew (1594),although treated forcopyright purposes as identical with the plays of King John and The Taming of the Shrew, which he founded upon them, are not his. The First Quartos of Romeo and Juliet, Henry V. , The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Hamlet seem to be mainly based, not upon written texts of the plays, but upon versions largely made up out of shorthand notes taken at the theatre by the agents of a piratical bookseller.

A similar desire to exploit the commercial value of Shakespeare’s reputation probably led to the appearance of his name or initials upon the title-pages of Locr-ine (15~5), Sir John Oldcastle (1600), Thomas Lord Cromwell (1602), The London Prodigal (1605), The Puritan (1607), A Yorkshire Tragedy (1608), and Pericles (I 609). It is not likely that, with the exception of the last three acts of Pericles, he wrote any part of these plays, some of which were not even produced by his company.

They were not included in the First Folio of 1623, nor in a reprint of it in 1632, known as the Second Folio; but all seven were appended to the second issue (1664) of the Third Folio (1663), and to the Fourth Folio of 1685. Shakespeare is named as joint author with John Fletcher on the title-page of The Two Noble Kinsmen (1634), and with William Rowley on that of The Birth of Merlin (1662); there is no reason for rejecting the former ascription or for accepting the latter.

Late entries in the Stationers’ Register assign to him Cardenio (with Fletcher), Henry I. and Henry II. (both with Robert Davenport), King Stephen, Duke Humphrey, and Iphis and lanthe; but none of these plays is now extant. Modern conjecture has attempted to trace his hand in other plays, of which Arden of Feversham (1592), Edward III. (1596), Mucedorus (1598), and The Merry Devil of Edmonton (1608) are the most important; it is quite possible that he may have had a share in Edward III.

A play on Sir Thomas More, which has been handed down in manuscript, contains a number of passages, interpolated in various handwritings, to meet requirements of the censor; and there are those who assign one of these (ii. 4~ 1-17 2) to Shakespeare. Unfortunately the First Folio does not give the’ dates at which the plays contained i,n it were written or produced; and the endeavour to supply this deficiency has been one of the Dates, main preoccupations of more than a century of Shakespearian scholarship, since he pioneer essay of Edmund Malone in his An Attempt to Ascertain the Order in which the Plays of Shakespeare were Written (1778). The investigation is not a mere piece of barren antiquarianism, for on it depends the possibility of appreciating the work of the world’s greatest poet, not as if it were an articulated whole like a philosophical system, but in its true aspect as the reflex of a vital and constantly developing personality.

A starting-point is afforded by the dates of the Quartos and the entries in the Stationers’ Register which refer to them, and by the list of plays already in existence in 1598 which is inserted by Francis Meres in his Palladis Tamia of that year, and which, while not necessarily exhaustive of Shakespeare’s pre-1598 writing, includes The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Comedy of Errors, Love’s Labour’s Lost, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Merchant of Venice, Richard II. , Richard III. , Henry IV. King John, Titus Andronicus and Romeo and Juliet, as well as a mysterious Love’s Labour’s Won, which has been conjecturally identified with several plays, but most plausibly with The Taming of the Shrew. There is a mass of supplementary evidence, drawn partly from definite notices in other writings or in diaries, letters, account-books, and similar records, partly from allusions to contemporary persons and events in the plays themselves, partly from parallels of thought and expression. etween each play and those near to it in point of time, and partly from considerations of style, including the so-called metrical tests, which depend upon an. analysis of Shakespeare’s varying feeling for rhythm at different stages of his career. The total result is certainly not a demonstration, but in the logical sense an hypothesis which serves to colligate the facts and is consistent with itself and with the known events of Shakespeare’s external life.

The following table, which is an attempt to arrange the original dates of production of the plays without regard to possible revisions, may be taken as fairly representing the common results of recent scholarship. It is framed on the ~assumption that, as indeed John Ward tells us was the case, Shakespeare ordinarily wrote two plays a year; but it will be understood that neither the order in which the plays are given nor the distribution of them over the years lays claim to more than approximate accuracy. Chronology of the Plays. 1591. 1600. (I, 2) The Contention of York and (21) The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Lancaster (2, 3 Henry VI). (22) As You Like It. 1592. 160!. (3) 1 Henry VI. (23) Hamlet. (The theatres were closed for riot (24) Twelfth Night. and plague from June to the end 1602. of December. ) (25) Troilus and Cressida. 1593. (26) All’s Well that Ends Well. (~) Richard III. (5) Edward III. (part only). 1603. (6) The Comedy of Errors. (The theatres were closed on (The theatres were closed for Elizabeth’s death in March, and plague from the beginning of remained closed for plague February to the end of December. ) throughout the year. ) 1594. 1604. (7) Titus Andronicus. 27) Measure for Measure. (The theatres were closed for (28) Othello. plague during February and 1605. March. ) (29) Macbeth. (8) Taming of the Shrew. (30) King Lear. (g) Love’s Labour’s Lost. 1606. (1 o) Romeo and Juliet. (31) Anthony and Cleopatra. ‘595. (32) Coriolanus. (ii) A Midsummer Night’s 1607. Dream. (~~) Timon of Athens (un (12) The Two Gentlemen of Verona. finished). (13) King John. 1608. 1596. (14) Richard II. (~~) Pericles (part only). (15) The Merchant of Venice. 1609. 1597. (35) Cymbeline. (The theatres were closed for 1610. misdemeanour froth the end of (36) The Winter’s Tale.

July to October. ) 1611. (16) I Henry IV. (37) The Tempest. 1598. 1612. (17) 2 Henry IV. . – (18) Much Ado About Nothing. 1613. 1599. (38) The Two Noble Kinsmen (io) Henry V. (part only). , (20) Julius Caesar. (ag) Henry VIII. (part only). A more detailed account of the individual plays may now be attempted. The figures here prefixed correspond to those in the table above. 1, 2. The relation of The Contention of York and 1~ancaster to 2, 3 Henry VI. and the extent of Shakespeare’s responsibility for either or both works have long been subjects of Composicontroversy.

The extremes of critical opinion are to be found in a theory which regards Shakespeare as the sole author of 2, 3 Henry VI. and The Contention as a shortened and piratical version of the original plays, and in a theory which regards The Contention as written in collaboration by Marlowe, Greene and possibly Peele, and a, 3 Henry VI. as a revision of The Contention written, also in collaboration, by Marlowe and Shakespeare. A comparison of the two texts leaves it hardly possible to doubt that the differences between them are to be explained by revision rather than by piracy; but the question of authorship is more difficult.

Greene’s parody, in the” Shakescene “ passage of his Groats-worth of Wit (1592), of a line which occurs both in The Contention and in 3 Henry VI. , while it clearly suggests Shakespeare’s connexion with the plays, is evidence neither for nor against the participation of other men, and no sufficient criterion exists for distinguishing between Shakespeare’s earliest writing and that of possible collaborators on grounds of style. But there is nothing inconsistent between the reviser’s work in 2, 3 Henry VI. and on the one hand Richard III. r on the other the original matter of The Contention, which the reviser follows and elaborates scene by scene. It is difficult to assign to any one except Shakespeare the humour of the Jack Cade scenes, the whole substance of which is in The Contention as well as in Henry VI. Views which exclude Shakespeare altogether may be left out of account. Hen-ry VI. is not in Meres’s list of his plays, but its inclusion in the First Folio is an almost certain ground for assigning to him some share, if only as reviser, in the completed work. . A very similar problem is afforded by 1 Henry VI. , and here also it is natural, in the absence of tangible evidence to the contrary, to hold by Shakespeare’s substantial responsibility for the play as it stands. It is quite possible that it also may be a revised version, although in this case no earlier version exists; and if so the Talbot scenes (iv. 2-7) and perhaps also the Temple Gardens scene (ii. 4), which are distinguished by certain qualities of style from the rest of the play, may date from the period of revision.

Thomas Nash refers to the representation of Talbot on the stage in his Pierce Penilesse, his Supplication to the Divell (1592), and it is probable that I Henry VI. is to be identified with the “Harey the vj” recorded in Henslowe’s Diary to have been acted as a new play by Lord Strange’s men, probably at the Rose, on the 3rd of March 1592. If so, it is a reasonable conjecture that the two parts of The Contention were originally written at some date before the beginning of Henslowe’s record in the previous February, and were revised so as to fall into a series with I Henry VI. n the latter end of 1592. 4. The series as revised can only be intended to lead directly up to Richard III. , and this relationship, together with its style as compared with that of the plays belonging to the autumn of 1594, suggest the short winter season of 159 2—1593 as the most likely time for the production of Richard III. There is a difficulty in that it is not included in Henslowe’s list of the plays acted by Lord Strange’s men during that season. But it may quite well have been produced by the only other company which appeared at court during the Christmas festivities, Lord Pembroke’s.

The mere fact that Shakespeare wrote a play, or more than one play, for Lord Strange’s men during 1592—1594 does not prove that he never wrote for any other company during the same period; and indeed there is plenty of room for guess-work as to the relations between Strange’s and Pembroke’s men. The latter are not known to have existed before 1592, and many difficulties would be solved by the assumption that they originated out of a division of Strange’s, whose numbers, since their amalgamation with the Admiral’s, may have been too much inflated to enable them to undertake as a whole the summer tour of that year.

If so, Pembroke’s probably took over the Henry VI. series of plays, since The Contention, or at least the True Tragedy, -was published as performed by them, and completed it with Richard III. on their return to London at Christmas. It will be necessary to return to this theory in connexion with the discussion of Titus A ndroni. cus and The Taming of the Shrew. The principal historical source for Henry VI. was Edward Hall’s The Union of the Noble and Illustre Families of Lancaster and York (1542), and for Richard III. -as for all Shakespeare’s later historical plays, the second edition (1587) of Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland (i5l’~i). An earlier play, The True Tragedy of Richard the Third (i5~4), seems to have contributed little if anything to Richard III. 5. Many scholars think that at any rate the greater part of the first two acts of Edward III. , containing the story of Edward’s wooing of the countess of Salisbury, are by Shakespeare; and, if so, it is to about the time of Richard III. that the style of his contribution seems to belong. The play was entered in the Stationer~’ Registei on December 1, 1595.

The Shakespearian scenes are based on the 46th Novel in William Paynter’s Palace of Pleasure (1566). The line, “ Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds” (ii. 1. 451), is repeated verbatim in the 94th sonnet. 6. To the winter season of 1592—1593 may also be assigned with fair probability Shakespeare’s first experimental comedy, The Comedy of Errors, and if his writing at one and the same time for Pembroke’s and for another company is not regarded as beyond the bounds of conjecture, it becomes tempting to identify this with “the gelyous comodey” produced, probably by Strange’s men, for Henslowe as a new play on January 5, 1593.

The play contains a reference to the wars of succession in France which would fit any date from 1589 to ‘594. The plot is taken from the Menaethmi, and to a smaller extent from the Amphitruo of Plautus. William Warner’s translation of the Menaech,ni was entered in the Stationers’ Register on June 10, 1594. A performance of The Comedy of Errors by “a company of base and common fellows” (including Shakespeare? ) is recorded in the Gesta Grayorum as taking place in Gray’s Inn hail on December 28, 1594. 7.

Titus Andronicus is another play in which many scholars have refused to see the hand of Shakespeare, but the double testimony of its inclusion in Meres’s list and in the First Folio makes it unreasonable to deny him some part in it. This may, however, only have been the part of a reviser, working, like the reviser of The Contention, upon the dialogue rather than the structure of a crude tragedy of the school of Kyd. In fact a stage tradition is reported by Edward Ravenscroft, a late 17th-century adapter of the play, to the effect that Shakespeare did no more than give a few “ master-touches” to the work of a “private author. The play was entered in the Stationers’ Register on February 6, 1594, and was published in the same year with a title-page setting out that it had been acted by the companies of Lords Derby (i. e. Strange, who had succeeded to his father’s title on September 25, 1593), Pembroke and Sussex. It is natural to take this list as indicating the order in which the three companies named had to do with it, but it is probable that only Sussex’s had played Shakespeare’s version. Henslowe records the production by this company of Titus and A ndronicus as a new play on January 23, 1594, only a few days before the theatres were closed by plague.

For the purposes of Henslowe’s financial arrangements with the company a rewritten play may have been classed as new. Two years earlier he had appended the same description to a play of Tittus and Vespacia, produced by Strange’s men on April II, I592. At first sight the title suggests a piece founded on the lives of the emperor Titus and Vespasian, but the identification of the play with an early version of Titus Andronicus is justified by the existence of a rough German adaptation, which follows the general outlines of Shakespeare’s play, but in which one of the sons of Titus is named Vespasian instead of Lucius.

The ultimate source of the plot is unknown. It cannot be traced in any of the Byzantine chroniclers. Strange’s men seem to have been still playing Titus in January 1593, and it was probably not transferred to Pembroke’s until the companies were driven from London by the plague of that year. Pembroke’s are known from a letter of Henslowe’s to have been ruined by August, and it is to be suspected that Sussex’s, who appeared in London for the first time at the Christmas of I5c13, acquired their stock of plays and transferred these to the Chamberlain’s men, when the companies were again reconstituted in the summer of 1594.

The revision of Titus and Vespasian into Titus Andronicus by Shakespeare may have been accomplished in the interval between these two transactions. The Chamberlain’s men were apparently playing Andronicus in June. The stock of Pembroke’s men probably included, as well as Titus and Vespas’ian, both Henry VI. and Richard III. , which also thus passed to the Chamberlain’s company. 8. In the same way was probably also acquired an old play of The Taming of A Shrew. This, which can be traced back as far as 1589, was published as acted by Pembroke’s men in 1594.

In June of that year it was being acted by the Chamberlain’s, but more probably in the revised version by Shakespeare, which bears the slightly altered title of The Taming of The Shrew. This is a much more free adaptation of its original than had been attempted in the case of Henry VI. , and the Warwicksbire allusions in the Induction are noteworthy. Some critics have doubted whether Shakespeare was the sole author of The Shrew, and others have assigned him a share in A Shrew, but neither theory has any very substantial foundation.

The origins of the play, which is to be classed as a farce rather than a comedy, are to be found ultimately in widely distributed folk-tales, and more immediately in Ariosto’s I Suppositi (1509) as translated in George Gascoigne’s The Supposes (1566). It may have been Shakespeare’s first task for the newly established Chamberlain’s company of 1594 to furbish up the old farce. Thenceforward there is no reason to think that he ever wrote for any other company. . Love’s Labour’s Lost has often been regarded as the first of Shakespeare’s plays, and has sometimes been placed as early as 1589. There is, however, no proof that Shakespeare was writing before 1592 or thereabouts. The characters of Love’s Labour’s Lost are evidently suggested by Henry of Navarre, his followers Biron and Longaville, and the Catholic League leader, the duc de Maine. These personages would have been familiar at any time from 1585 onwards.

The absence of the play from the lists in Henslowe’s Diary does not leave it impossible that it should have preceded the formation of the Chamberlain’s company, but certainly renders this less likely; and its lyric character perhaps justifies its being grouped with the series of plays that began in the autumn of 1594. No entry of the play is found in the Stationers’Register, and it is quite possible that the present First Quarto of 1598 was not really the first edition. The title-page professes to give the play as it was” corrected and augmented” for the Christmas either of 1597 or of 1598.

It was again revived for that of 1604. No literary source is known for its incidents. 10. Romeo and Juliet, which was published in 159l’ as played by Lord Hunsdon’s men, was probably produced somewhat before A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as its incidents seem to have suggested the parody of the Pyramus and Thisbe interlude. An attempt to date it in 1591 is hardly justified by the Nurse’s references to an earthquake eleven years before and the fact that there was a real earthquake in London in i 580. The text seems to have been partly revised before the issue of the Second Quarto in 1599.

There had been an earlier play on the subject, but the immediate source ‘used by Shakespeare was Arthur Brooke’s narrative poem Romeus and Juliet (1562). 11. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with its masque-like scenes of fairydom and the epithalamium at its close, has all the air of having been written less for the public stage than for some courtly wedding; and the compliment paid by Oberon to the “fair vestal throned by the west” makes it probable that it was a wedding at which Elizabeth was present. Two fairly plausible occasions have been suggested.

The wedding of Mary countess of Southampton with Sir Thomas Heneage on the 2nd of May 1594 would fit the May-day setting of the plot; but a widowed countess hardly answers to the “little western flower “ of the allegory, and there are allusions to events later in 1594 and in particular to the raihy weather of June and July, which indicate a somewhat later date. The wedding of William Stanley, earl of Derby, brother of the lord Strange for whose players Shakespeare had written, and Elizabeth Vere, daughter of the earl of Oxford, which took place at Greenwich on the 26th of January 1595, perhaps fits the conditions best.

It has been fancied that Shakespeare was present when “certain stars shot madly from their spheres” in the Kenilworth fireworks of 1575, but if he had any such entertainment in mind it is more likely to have been the more recent one given to Elizabeth by the earl of Hertford at Elvetham in 1591. There appears to be no special source for the play beyond Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale and the widespread fairy lore of western Europe. 12. No very definite evidence exists for the date of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, other than the mention of it in Palladis Tamia.

It is evidently a more rudimentary essay in the genre of romantic comedy than The Merchant of Venice, with which it has other affinities in its I


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