Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

hundred years.

ninety years old, and is the relator of an anecdote which he remembered to have heard from many old people at-Stratford. Mr. Taylor, an alderman of Warwick, was eighty-five years old in 1790. When a boy he lived at the next house to New Place, which his family had occupied almost three

About 1680, Mr. Aubrey was engaged in the collection of anecdotes respecting the most eminent English writers. His work was never completed, but his manuscrñpts are now reposited in the Ashmolean Maseum at Oxford. Aubrey was on terms of intimacy with most literary men of his day, and acquainted with many of the players. His opportunities, therefore, for the collection of anecdotes were great; but, unhappily, all he heard he believed, and all he believed he itte to paper. As an authority for any thing relative to Shakspeare, he is by no means to be placed on a footing with Rowe. Rowe and Betterton, apparently, consulted their judgment, before they recorded the result of their enquiries : Aubrey had no judgment to consult.

Mr. William Oldys, Norry King at Arms, well known for the share he had in the compilation of the Biographia Britannia , lest several quires of paper cuvered with collections for a regular life of Shakspeare; but they present few circumstances either of novelty or information; and even these must be received with caution. Oldys was a very careful writer, and his insertion of any of these materials in a kife of Shakspeare by him, would have stamped them with the character of authenticity, for he would not so have used them without examination. At present they can only be received as evidence unwarranted by any opinion of his own upon their merits; that is, merely as indications of the belief or tradition of the time in which they were collected..

Note B. Many more varieties might be quoted; for the name of Shakspeare is an extremely apposite instance of the singular forms which sirnames assumed under the loose orthography of our ancestors, who appeared to have followed no guide but sound in their spelling. Shakspeare himself wrote his name variously: there are, altogether, five signatures, which some writers presume to be genuine autographs: three are indisputably so:- one to a mortgage deed executed in 1613,Wm. Shakspe; a second to a conveyance from Henry Walker to the poet, William Shaksper; and one upon each of the three briefs of his will, William Shackspere, William Shakspere, Williain Shakspeure. The contractions exhibited by the two first signatures neutralize their evidence, as it is with respect to the last syllable only that any doubt exists; and, in regard to the signatures to the will, a sort of doubt has been cast on the first and second, by the suggestion that they might be the handwriting of the notary employed on the occasion: the third signature to the will is clear and decisive; in deference to which, the poet's name will, throughout the pages of these volumes, be written Shakspeare.

Note C. Tire instrument which first assigned arms to John Shakspeare is no where to be found; but in a note at the bottom of the grant made in 1596 it is stated, that he then produced "a patent thereof under Clarence Cook’s hand;”. and, in the exemplification made in 1599, that he produced his ancient coat of arms assigned to him while he was bailiff of Stratford. The arms are thus described in the last document: “In a field of gould upon a bend sables a speare of the first, the point upward, bedded argent; and for his crest or cognizance, a falcon with his wyngs displayed, standing on a wrethe of his coullers, supporting a speare armed hedded, or steeled sylver, fyxed uppon a helmet with mantell and tassels.” In the same document (1599) the christian name of Mrs, Shakspeare is omitted, and her father erroneously designated ef IVellingeote. The instrument of 1596, calls her “ Mary, daughter and heyress of Robert Arden of Wilmecote.

Some explanation is necessary of the apparent neglect of the authorities of these grants or confirmations of arms, in the account which has been given of the Shakspeare family. The assertion of these instruments is, that the ancestors of John Shakspeare were advanced and rewarded for their services to Heory the Seventh, by a grant of lands in those parts of Warwickshire, where they had continued for some descents, in good reputation and credit. The grant of 1596 reads "whose parent and late antecessors,” which is corrected in another copy, by an interlineation, into “ whose grandfather:" the confirmation of 1599 says, “whose parent and great-grandfather.” 1 pass over

the contradictions of the heralds as immaterial, and not at all affecting the question as to the persons meant by the "antecessors” of Johu Shakspeare. I do not think that the actual father, grandfather, great-grandfather, or any actual ansestor of John Shakspeare was at all in the contemplation of the heralds; Ist, because there is no trace whatever of a grant to any of the lineal ancestors of John Shakspeare, in the chapel ef the rolls, during the whole reign of Henry the Seventh ; 2dły, because there is no trace of any person of the name of Shakspeare ever having been in possession of lands or tenements, said to have been granted by royal bounty; but, on the contrary, the whole family, wherever they appear, present an uniform appearance of respectability without wealth; Sdly, because that which is quite irreconcileable, when interpreted of the lineal ancestor of John Shakspeare, is almost literally true of the ancestors of his wife , whose grandfather, Robert Arden, was groom of the bed-chamber to Henry VII, keeper of the royal park called Aldercar, bailiff of the lordship of Codnore, and keeper of the park there. In 1507, he obtained a lease from the crown of the manor of Yoxsall , in Stafford, of above 4600 acres for twenty-oue years, at the low annual rent of forty-two pounds. I have no hesitation, therefore, to believe, that the Arden's, and not the Shakspeare's, were in the contemplation of the heralds when they spoke of the

antecessors” of the poet's father. Nor is any difficulty involved in this belief, it being usual in, and long after, the sixteenth century, for a husband to speak of the relatives of his wife in the same terms as he did of his own. Edward Alleyn, the player, constantly styles Philip

Henslow his father, though he was only his wife's step-father. Thomas Nash, who married the poet's grand-daughter, Elizabeth Hall, calls Mrs. Hall in his will

, his mother. Malone has produced a variety of instances of the lax application of the terms of relationship. (Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 29. 31-2. note.). The inaccuracy and confusion of the heralds in these instruments, is a proof that they were not masters of the subject before them, which renders it little surprising that the grant of lands which they say was in Warwick, should turn out to have been in Statford. To those who believe them incapable of the commission of such an error, the foregoing reasoning will be inconclusive, and consequently, in their estimation, fatal to the account given of John Shakspeare in the text.

Note D. CONSIDERABLE obscurity has, from the days of Rowe, hung over the accounts of John Shakspeare's family, originating in the unhesitating application to the father of the poet of every circumstance recorded in the parish register of John Shakspeare.. After having eight children ascribed to him between 1558 and 1580, John Shakspeare is said, in 1584, to have married Margery Roberts, who died 1587. The register, however, goes on to record the birth of three children of John Shakspeare between March 1588-9, and September 1591. Whence it was inferred, that the poet's mother, Mary, though the register is silent, died shortly after 1580 : that his father re-married in 1584, and that, on the death of his second wife, was still so enamoured of the matrimonial yoke as a third time to subject himself to its endurance, and became the father of the three children born from 1588 to 1591, he himself dying in 1601, and his third wife surviving him till 1608, when the death of Mary Shakspeare, widow, occurs. As there were no positive contradictions in this account, it was generally acquiesced in, though not as perfectly satisfactory. Malone has cleared the way for a much more natural statement, by observing, that throughout the register the father of the poet is invariably called John Shakspeare, without any distinction whatever, previous to his filling the office of high bailiff; but subsequently, wherever the baptisms or deaths of his children are recorded, he is denominated Mr. John Shakspeare (filius aut filia Magistri Shakspeare), a distinction ever afterwards conferred upon him, as upon every other bailitl', in all the records of the proceedings of the corporation. Now the person who married Margery Roberts fifteen years after the poet's father had been chief magistrate of Stratford, is simply called John Shakspeare, and the ihree children, Ursula, Humphrey, and Philip, born between 1588 and 1591, are described as the children of John Shakspeare, without any distinction or addition to the name whatever. It admits not, therefore, of the slightest doubt, that the husband of Margery Roberts, and the father of the three children, was not the quondam bailiff of the borough. In answer to the question, who then was he? it is replied, in all probability, John Shakspeare, a shoe-maker, who, not being a native of the town; paid, in 1585-6, thirty shillings for his freedom in the Shoe-makers' Company: served as constable iu 1586 and 1587 : who had money advanced him by the corporation in 1590; was accepted in two cases as a security for the re-payment of money advanced by them in other individuals, and who was master.of the Shoemakers’ Compauy 1592." (Regist. Burg. Strat.)

Note E. The ingenuity of commentators will be tasked anew by the discovery that Shakspeare's father was a glover. The scenes of the dramatist must be ransacked for allusions to that indispensable feature in a gentleman's apparel, a pair of gloves. Passages must now be tortured to furnish evidence of the poet's intimate knowledge of the details of the business of a glove-maker. How much his own works countenance the tradition that he was a wool-dealer, may be seen in the notes on “Let me see:- Every 'leven wether - tods; every tod yields — pound and odd shilling; fifteen hundred shorn, - What comes the wool to ?" (Winter's Tale, Act IV. sc. 2.) The reader may consult also, though he would hardly have guessed it, the notes on.

“There's a divinity that shapes our ends,
Pough-hew them how we will."

Hamlet, Act V. sc. 2. Shakspeare is reported to have been a butcher-"Pat, like the catastrophe of the old comedy."

“And as the butcher takes away the calf
And binds the wretch, aud beats it when it strays,
Bearing it to the bloody slaughter-house;
Even so, remorseless, have they borne him hence.
And as the dam ruos lowing up and down,
Looking the way her harmless young one went,
And can do nought but wail her darling's loss;
Even so," etc.

Henry VI. part 2. Act III. sc. 1. So these cases, however, there is a matter of reliance — the voice of tradition. But it is straining for consequences to argue from the dramatist's technical accuracy in the use of legal phrases, that he was a clerk in the office of a country attorney; and Malone is more than usually reprehensible in endeavouring to support so bold a conjectare, by the suggestion that the schoolmaster story of Aubrey is a mere adumbration of the truth. Aubrey's evidence is positive, — " he understood Latin pretty well, for he had been iu his younger years a school-master in the country;” and is entitled to as much credit as any other tradition he has preserved, neither involving in itself improbability, standing in opposition to any recorded fact.

Note F. SHAKSPEARE's wife was not of “Shottery,” as has been affirmed by the anthor of the “Picturesque Tour to the Bauks of the Avon,” and his blundering followers. What then becomes of the

cottage at Shottery, where the wife of the poet and her parents dwelt, and in which their descendants, who are poor and numerous, still continue to reside? Here the credulous have been gratified by the display of undoubted relics of the poet. Very particular mention is made of a bed, which an old woman of seventy had slept in from her childhood, and had always been told it had been there since the house was built. Her absolute refusal to part with this treasure, is adduced as a proof that the purchasers of the Shakspearian relics had not listened with a too easy credulity to whatever they had been told. At the time of the Jubilee, George, the brother of David Garrick, purchased an ink-stand, and a pair of fringed gloves, said to have been worn by Shakspeare; but David's enthusiasm for Shakspeare was tempered by judgment, and he purchased nothing.

NOTE G. MALONE has laboured to refute the whole of this account. His arguments may be reduced to two: Ist, the Sir Thomas Lucy alleged to have been Shakespeare's prosecutor, never had a park, it being universally acknowledged that there was none at Charlecote, and Fulbroke was not purchased by the family till the reign of James I.: nó theft of deer, therefore, could have been made from Sir Thomas Lucy, it not being possible to produce an example of the keeping of deer in grounds not recognised as parks, in the legal meaning of that word; 2dly, such grounds only were protected by the common law, and by the fifth of Elizabeth, cap. 21.

Without the latter part of the first objection be as incontrovertibly true as the former, the argument avails nothing; for it is alleged that Shakspeare stole deer from Sir Thomas Lucy, not that he stole it either from Chalecote or Fulbroke. That no deer were ever kept in private grounds, because the practice was not so universal as to have forced itself into notice, is what cannot,

in contradiction to probability, be conceded. Gentlemen of the 16th century would derive as much pleasure from the preservation of a few head of deer in grounds contiguous to their dwellings, as we know they do in the present day. The passage quoted from Blackstone might have engendered a suspicion, even in the mind of Malone, that the practice was no novelty many years ago. “It is not every field or common which a gentleman chooses to surround with a wall or paling, and stock with a herd of deer, that is thereby constituted a legal park.” As it is admitted that Sir Thomas Lucy had no park, in its legal sense, we will just review our authorities for believing, that he at least had deer, and, if that be proved, I care not where he kept them. The first evidence, in point of date, is that furnished by Malone himself, who quotes some notes made by Archdeacon Davies, to the manuscript notices of Mr. William Fulman, on the most eminent English poets. Davies died in 1707, and the papers of himself and Fulman are preserved in Corpus College, Oxon. Davies relates, that Shakspeare stole venison and rabbits from the knight. (Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 121 – 3.) Rowe's account has been given in the text. We next come to Jones of Tarbick, whose facts are nearly the same as Rowe's, with the added particular, that the offensive ballad was fixed on Sir Thomas' park gate, and such confirmation of the whole story as the repetition of the first starza of the ballad alleged to have been written afforded. The value of Jones' evidence has been already estimated; it is only necessary here to show, that the stanza repeated by Jones has descended in an uncorrupted state. Jones recited the lines to an acquaintance, who committed them to writing, and a relative of Jones' acquaintance communicated them to Oldys: from him the lines in the text are copied. Capel's account is this: Jones himself wrote down the stanza; this stanza was repeated from memory, by Capel's maternal grandfather, Mr. Thomas Wilkes, to Capel's father, who committed it to writing. The two copies of the stanza derived from the same source, but transmitted through different channels, agree precisely with each other. The story, thus authenticated, is surely conclusive as to Sir Thomas Lucy having had deer, and as to some of those deer having been purloined by Shakspeare. I have forborne to cite Chetwood, because his authority is suspicious; the stanzas he produces are not in the discovered song, with which, moreover, they are at variance in the mode of attack upon Sir Thomas Lucy, and the measure of verse in which they are constructed. It is not too much to believe of Chetwood, that presuming on the irrecoverable loss of all but the first stanza of the ballad, he forged what he thought an appropriate continuation of it. As to Malone's second objection, he partly avswers it himself, admitting that Shakspeare might have been proceeded against by an action of trespass. He dismisses the supposition, however, of such having been the case, because it has never been alleged that any civil suit was instituted against Shakspeare on this ground. Rowe's account is much too loose and general to warrant a decision respecting the nature of the proceeding against Shakspeare, but he states positively enough, that the poet was prosecuted in consequence of his depredation on Sir Thomas Lucy's property; and, from all that appears, he might as well have been prosecuted for the trespass as any thing else. But even allowing Malone to have succeeded in the interposition of a legal impossibility against the prosecution of the poet, does the whole story necessarily fall to the ground ? Was prosecution the only evil to be apprehended from the anger of so powerful an enemy as Sir Thomas ? certainly not; and this Malone well knew when he said, a few pages before, "íf our author was so unfortunate as to offend him, he certainly could afterwards find no safe or comfortable abiding in his native town, where he could pot escape the constant notice of his prosecutor.” (Shakspeare, vol. ii. p. 132.) The story then, on Malone's own statement, will stand well enough without the prosecution. And here let me ask, why the same licence of interpretation is not allowed to the words prosecuted and prosecution, in Rowe's narrative, as we are compelled to give to that of prosecutor in the sentence quoted from Malone? The word there can only be understood to mean persecutor, and no difficulty remains to contend with, if we read persecuted and persecution in Rowe's sentence.

The collateral proofs of the tradition are, that Sir Thomas Lucy was very active in the preservation of game, consequently an extremely likely man to act with severity against a depredator on his manor. It has always been believed that Sir Thomas Lncy was ridiculed under the portrait of Justice Shallow, who complains of Falstaff for beating his men, killing his deer, and breaking open his

[ocr errors]

lodge. Sir Hugh Evans also plays upon the word luce in the same manner as the ballad does upon Lucy. Lucies are little fish, and the arms of the Lucy family “three lucies hariaut.

Note H. “THOMAS Greexe, alias Shakspeare, was buried 6th March, 1589 - 90." (Strat. Regist.) What the alias, in the Register, means, I do not know. If the Greens were related to any family of the name of Shakspeare I believe they were the connections of John, the shoemaker. In 1565 Philip Greene married Ursula Burbadge. Ursula will be remembered as the name of one of the shoemaker's children. (Note D.) The shoemaker was security for Philip Greene in 1592. Though I express a doubt of the relationship of Green, the actor, to the Greens of Stratford, I am not ignorant of the four lines adduced as a proof of that relationship; they are quoted by Chetwood, from a play in which they do not exist. If the lines were genuine, they would certainly prove all that is required of them: but I am not so infatuated with Chetwood, as to assert the relationship between the Greens, in the text, on his authority alone, though I admit the extreme probability of the fact.

Note S. I Believe the text to be a fair representation of the truth. My rejection of the tale of Shakspeare having held horses at the play-house door follows of course, it being impossible that of two stories, so inconsistent with each other, both should be true. The narrative in the text is natural and consistent; the other abounds with difficulty and improbability. There is yet another objection against it. Rowe knew the story, but omitted to insert it in his life of our author, which I agree with Steevens in believing he would not have done, had he thought it true. Its genealogy is respectable: had it merely rested on the authority of Cibber's Lives of the Poets, it would not have merited the notice it has received.

Note J. The materials made use of in the account here given of the theatre and theatrical usages of Shakspeare's time, are principally those collected by Malone, whose Historical Account of the English Stage is an invaluable repository of facts on the subject. In their arrangement, however, he was particularly unfortunate; for po principle of the difference of the importance of his collections guided him in dividing them between text and notes. I have concerned myself with his facts alone, and from them I have deduced my own conclusions. They are frequently at variance with those of my predecessor: that our coincidences are numerous, is attributable to the circumstance, that some facts speak too plainly to admit of diversity of opinions. Many matters in the text are not Malone's; for in a long indulgence of a predilection for the subject of theatrical history, I have sometimes gleaned trifles which appeared to have escaped him.

Note K. Tue Globe was a hexagonal wooden building. Henslow and Allen's contract for the building of the Fortune playhouse in 1599, gives us a pretty accurate idea of its dimensions; for that "Indenture” again and again insists on the Fortune being built, though somewhat larger, yet like the Globe. The contract for the Fortune stipulates for the erection of a building of four equal external sides of eighty feet, reduced by necessary arrangements to an internal area of fifty-five feet square. The length of the stage from side to side was to be forty-three feet, and in depth it was to extend over half the space of the internal area.

Three tiers of galleries occupied three sides of the house. The height of the first from the ground is not named. The second is stated at twelve feet above the lower tier; the third eleven feet from the second, and the height above the third, nine feet. There were four convenient rooms, or what are now called boxes, for the accommodation of gentlemen, partitioned off from the lower gallery; and other divisions, for company of an inferior order, in the upper. The lower galleries measured twelve feet and a half from the back to the front; the upper stories had an additional projection of ten inches.

The space between the outward wall of the theatre and the front of the galleries was completely roofed in with thatch, as was likewise all that part of the theatre occupied by the stage; so that the stage, galleries, passages, and stair-cases, were entirely protected from the weather, whilst the open area, or pit, was exposed.

I do not profess to understand this document. It is, in fact, inconsistent with itself. A square of eighty feet every way, reduced on each side by galleries of twelve feet and a half, would certainI ly leave a square area of fifty-five on every side. But as the stage would necessarily occupy one side

of the square, and the depth of the stage was to be exactly half of the remaining area, nothing like the area spoken of could be left open. Again, the length of the stage is expressly defined fortythree feet, which leaves it six feet too short at each side to form a junction with the ends of the galleries next the stage. I have no doubt, therefore, of an error in the document, which I take to be the omission to calculate the space occupied by the passages and stair-cases. A passage of six feet wide behind the galleries, added to their width, would make a deduction of eighteen feet and a half from each side of the theatre, and leave a space between the front of one gallery to the front of the other of forty-three feet, which is the exact width assigned to the stage.

The description of the ground plot of the house would then run thus: a square of eighty feet reduced on three sides by a passage of six feet, and a gallery of twelve feet and a half in breadth, leaving an area of forty-three feet wide, and sixty-one feet and a half Jong: the width of the area the width of the stage; half the length of the area thirty feet and three quarters, the depth of the stage.

To make myself better understood, a plan of this conjecture is sketched below. The height of the theatre was probably thirty-eight feet, allowing six feet for the height of the stage and undermost gallery, or row of boxes, which would, I suppose, be on a level with each other.

80 feet.

[blocks in formation]

NOTE L. A SCENE has been defined as “a painting in perspective, on a cloth fastened to a wooden frame or roller 1);” and the want of this simple contrivance at the public theatres is singular, when the account books of the Revel Office prove, even to satiety, that the use of such paintings was an every day

"One hundred and ifty elis of canvass for the houses and properties made for the players.”

A painted cloth and two frames." “Wm. Lyzarde for syze, cullers, pottes, nayles, and pensills used and occupied upon the paynting of vii cities, one villadge, one countrey-house, one battlement, etc."

“One citty, and one battlement of canvas.
“Wm. Lyzarde for paynting by greate cox yards of canvas."

Six plays “ furnished, perfected and garnished necessarely and answerable to the matter, person and parte to be played; having apt howeses inade of canvass, framed, fashioned, and paynted accordiogly, as might best serve their several purposes."

Note M. Rowe's testimony is positive, and corroborated by the fact adduced for its illustration. Oldys' fact yields a similar inference; and then follows the testimony of Wright, which is perfectly clear also : “Shakspeare was a much better poet than player.” (Historia Histrionica.) I cannot extract from Aubrey's account that Shakspeare " did act exceedingly well,” any stronger meaning than that those parts which he did play he played well : in favour of his being a first-rate actor, which has been contended for, it testifies nothing. As for the contemporary evidence of Chettle, so much relied on in sopport of the latter position, it is enough to say, that his address "to the Gentlemen Readers,” is apologetical to Shakspeare ; and apologies are so apt to be complimentary, that it will be long before their literal meaning will be received as authentic historical testimony.

Note N. I must here enter a protest against Malone's unwarrantable conjectures. Oldys' story is this: “One of Shakspeare's younger brothers, who lived to a good old age, cven some years, as I compute, after the restoration of King Charles the Second, would, in his younger days, come to visit his brother Will, as he called him, and be a spectator of him as an actor in some of his own plays.” Oldys then mentions circumstances which leave no doubt that As You Like It was one of the plays seen, and Adam the character represented by Shakspeare.

Now for Malone's remarks. “Mr. Oldys seems to have studied the art of ‘marring a plain tale in the telling of it. From Shakspeare's not taking notice of any of his brothers or sisters in his will,

1) Malone.

« ZurückWeiter »