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friend could render him. All was gloom and uncertainty. It has been said, and we believe without any intention to depreciate the character of the great poet, that "There seems to have been a period of Shakspeare's life when his heart was ill at ease, and ill content with the world or his own conscience; the memory of hours mis-spent, the pang of affection misplaced or unrequited, the experience of man's worser nature, which intercourse with ill-chosen associates, by choice or circumstance, peculiarly teaches;-these, as they sank down into the depths of his great mind, seem not only to have inspired into it the conception of Lear and Timon, but that of one primary character, the censurer of mankind."* The genius of Shakspere was so essentially dramatic, that neither Lear, nor Timon, nor Jaques, nor the Duke in Measure for Measure, nor Hamlet, whatever censure of mankind they may express, can altogether be held to reflect "a period of Shakspeare's life when his heart was ill at ease, and ill content with the world." That period is referred to the beginning of the seventeenth century, to which the plays belong that are said to exhibit these attributes.† But from this period there is certainly a more solemn cast of thought in all the works of the great poet. We wholly reject the opinion that this tone of mind in the slightest degree partakes of "the memory of hours mis-spent, the pang of affection misplaced or unrequited, the experience of man's worser nature, which intercourse with ill-chosen associates, by choice or circumstance, peculiarly teaches." There is a strong but yet tolerant censure of the heartlessness of worldly men, and the delusions of friendship, such as we have pointed out, in As You Like It. There is the fierce misanthropy of Timon, so peculiar to his character and situation that it is quite lifted out of the range of a poet's selfconsciousness: "the experience of man's worser nature" was not to make of Shakspere one "who all the human sons doth hate." Measure for Measure was, we believe, a covert satire upon the extremes of weak and severe government it interprets nothing of unrequited affections and an evil conscience. The bitter denunciations of Lear are the natural reflections of his own disturbed thoughts, seeking to recover the balance of his feelings out of the vehemence of his passion. The Hamlet, such as we have it in its altered state, as compared with the earlier sketch, does indeed contain passages which have a peculiar fitness for Hamlet's utterance, but which, at the same time, might afford relief in their expression to the poet's own wrestlings with the problem of existence. An example or two of these new passages will suffice:
"How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seems to me all the uses of this world!
Fye on 't! O fye! 't is an unweeded garden
That grows to seed; things rank, and gross in nature,
"I have of late (but, wherefore, I know not) lost all my mirth, foregone all custom of exercises: and, indeed, it goes so heavily with my disposition, that this goodly frame, the earth, seems to me a
* Hallam's 'Literature of Europe,' vol. iii., p. 568.
steril promontory; this most excellent canopy, the air, look you,―this brave o'erhanging-this majestical roof fretted with golden fire, why, it appears no other thing to me than a foul and pestilent congregation of vapours."
We can conceive this train of thought to be in harmony with the temper in which Shakspere must have regarded the public events of 1600. We may even believe that those events might have directed his mind to a more passionate and solemn and earnest exercise of its power than had previously been called forth. We may fancy such tragic scenes having their influence in rendering the great master of comedy, unrivalled amidst his contemporaries for the brilliancy of his wit and the genuineness of his humour, turn to other and loftier themes :—
"I come no more to make you laugh; things now,
That bear a weighty and a serious brow,
But the influence of time in the formation and direction of the poetical power must also be taken into account. Shakspere was now thirty-seven years of age. He had attained to the consciousness of his own intellectual strength, and he had acquired by long practice the mastery of his own genius. He had already learnt to direct the stage to higher and nobler purposes than those of mere amusement. It might be carried farther into the teaching of the highest philosophy through the medium of the grandest poetry. The epoch which produced Othello, Lear, and Macbeth has been described as exhibiting the genius of Shakspere in full possession and habitual exercise of power, "at its very point of culmination."+
The year 1601 was also a year which brought to Shakspere a great domestic affliction. His father died on the 8th of September of that year. It is impossible not to feel that Shakspere's family arrangements, imperfectly as we know them, had especial reference to the comfort and honour of his parents. When he bought New Place in 1597, his occupations then demanding his presence in London through great part of the year, his wife and children, we may readily imagine, were under the same roof with his father and mother. They had sighed over the declining health of his little Hamnet,-they had watched over the growth of his Susanna and Judith. If restricted means had at any previous period assailed them, he had provided for the comforts of their advanced age. And now that father, the companion of his boyhood—he who had led him forth into the fields, and had taught him to look at nature with a practical eye-was gone. More materials for deep thought in the year 1601. The Register of Stratford thus attests the death of this earliest friend :
THE question which we set forth as a title to this chapter was first raised, in 1767, by William Guthrie, in his General History of Scotland;' "A.D. 1599. The King, to prove how thoroughly he was now emancipated from the tutelage of his clergy, desired Elizabeth to send him this year a company of English comedians. She complied, and James gave them a licence to act in his capital and in his court. I have great reason to think that the immortal Shakspere was of the number." Guthrie, a very loose and inaccurate compiler, gives no authority for his statement; but it is evidently founded upon the following passage in Archbishop Spottiswood's History of the Church of Scotland,' which the writer says was "penned at the command of King James the Sixth,
who bid the author write the truth and spare not:"-" In the end of the year  happened some new jars betwixt the King and the ministers of Edinburgh; because of a company of English comedians, whom the King had licensed to play within the burgh. The ministers, being offended with the liberty given them, did exclaim in their sermons against stage-players, their unruliness and immodest behaviour; and in their sessions made an act, prchibiting people to resort unto their plays, under pain of the church censures. The King, taking this to be a discharge of his licence, called the sessions before the council, and ordained them to annul their act, and not to restrain the people from going to these comedies; which they promised, and accordingly performed; whereof publication was made the day after, and all that pleased permitted to repair unto the same, to the great offence of the ministers." The assertion of Guthrie, that James "desired Elizabeth to send him this year a company of English comedians," rests upon no foundation; and his conjecture "that the immortal Shakspere was of the munber" is equally baseless. The end of the year 1599, the period mentioned by Spottiswood, must be taken to mean somewhere about the month of December; for by an alteration of style, exactly at this period, the legal year in Scotland commenced on the 1st of January, 1600. We find, both from the Registers of the Privy Council,* and the Office Books of the Treasurers of the Chamber, that the Lord Chamberlain's servants performed before Queen Elizabeth on St. Stephen's Day at night, the 26th of December, 1599. This is decisive evidence that the company of English comedians, who were licensed by James to play at Edinburgh at the end of the year 1599, was not Shakspere's company.
But it has been conjectured that Shakspere visited Scotland at a much earlier period. In Sir John Sinclair's Statistical Account of Scotland,' there is a description of the parish of Perth, by the Rev. James Scott, in which, speaking of modern plays at Perth, the writer says, "It may afford what may be reckoned a curious piece of information to relate how plays were regulated in Perth more than two hundred years ago. It appears from the old records that a company of players were in Perth, June 3, 1589. In obedience to an act of the General Assembly, which had been made in the year 1574-5, they applied to the consistory of the church for a licence, and showed a copy of the play which they proposed to exhibit." The words of the record, some of them a little modernized, are, “Perth, June 3, 1589-The minister and elders give licence to play the play, with conditions that no swearing, banning, nor ane scurrility shall be spoken, which would be a scandal to our religion which we profess, and for an evil example unto others. Also that nothing shall be added to what is in the register of the play itself. If any one who plays shall do in the contrary, he shall be warded, and make his public repentance." Mr. Scott then alludes to Guthrie's statement, and says of Shakspere, "that actor and writer of plays most probably began his excursions before the year 1589. If, therefore, they were English actors who were at Perth that year, he might perhaps be one of them.”
* See Chalmers's 'Apology,' p. 401.
The conjectures of Guthrie and of Scott are so manifestly loose and untenable, that we can easily understand why they attracted no regard amongst the English writers on Shakspere. Sir John Sinclair, as stated by Drake, "when speaking of the local traditions respecting Macbeth's castle at Dunsinane, infers from their coincidence with the drama, that Shakspere, in his capacity of actor, travelled to Scotland in 1599, and collected on the spot materials for the exercise of his imagination.'"* Drake doubts the validity of the inference; and Stoddart holds that here "conjecture seems to have gone its full length, if not to have overstepped the modesty of nature." Chalmers, although he notices at some length the state of the drama in Scotland previous to the accession of James to the English crown, has no mention of the opinion that Shakspere had visited Scotland. Malone gives the statement and the conjecture of Guthrie, adding, "If the writer had any ground for this assertion, why was it not stated? It is extremely improbable that Shakspeare should have left London at this period. In 1599 his King Henry V. was produced, and without doubt acted with great applause." Mr. Collier, mentioning that "Towards the close of the year 1599 a company of English players arrived in Edinburgh," says in a note, "It has been supposed by some, that Shakespeare was a member of this company, and that he even took his description of Macbeth's castle from local observation. No evidence can be produced either way, excepting Malone's conjecture, that Shakespeare could not have left London in 1599, in consequence of the production of his Henry V. in that year."§ Mr. Collier does not notice a subsequent visit of a company of English players to Scotland, as detailed in a bulky local history published in London in 1818,-the Annals of Aberdeen,' by William Kennedy. This writer does not print the document upon which he founds his statement; but his narrative is so circumstantial as to leave little doubt that the company of players to which Shakspere belonged visited Aberdeen in 1601. The account of Mr. Kennedy has since been commented upon in a paper published in the Transactions of the Society of Antiquaries in Scotland in 1830 (to which we shall presently further allude); and in a most lively, instructive, and learned volumea model of guide-books- The Book of Bon Accord, or a Guide to the City of Aberdeen,' 1839.
Before we proceed to state the additional evidence which we have collected upon this question, we would briefly direct the attention of our readers to the bearings of the subject upon Shakspere's life, in connection with his writings. Macbeth is altogether one of the most remarkable of the plays of Shakspere, not only as displaying the highest power, but as presenting a story and a machinery altogether different in character from any other of his works. If it can be proved, or reasonably inferred, that this story was suggested, or its local details established, or the materials for the machinery collected, through the presence of the great poet upon Scottish ground, a new interest is created in Macbeth, not only for the people of Scotland, but for every one to whom Shak
* 'Chronological Order,' Boswell's Edition, p. 41.