« ZurückWeiter »
There is a passage in Dugdale which shows how the revels at the Inns of Court gradually changed their character according to the prevailing opinions: -"When the last measure is dancing, the Reader at the Cupboard calls to one of the Gentlemen of the Bar, as he is walking or dancing with the rest, to give the Judges a song: who forthwith begins the first line of any psalm as he thinks fittest; after which all the rest of the company follow, and sing with him." This is very like the edifying practice of the Court of Francis I., where the psalms of Clement Marot were sung to a fashionable jig, or a dance of Poitou.* Shakspere had good authority when he made the clown say of his three-man song-men, "They are most of them means and basses: but one Puritan amongst them, and he sings psalms to hornpipes." This is one of the few allusions which Shakspere has to that rising sect, which in a few years was to become the dominant power in the state. Ben Jonson attacks them again and again with the most bitter indignation and the coarsest satire.‡ The very hardest gird which Shakspere has at them is contained in the gentle reproof of Sir Toby to the steward, "Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?" In this very scene of Twelfth Night he ridicules the unreasoning hostility with which the Puritans themselves were assailed by the ignorant multitude. Sir Toby asks to be told something of the steward :
* See Warton's ' History of English Poetry,' Section xlv.
+ Winter's Tale, Act IV. Scene II. I See 'The Alchymist,' and 'Bartholomew Fair.'
"Mar. Marry, sir, sometimes he is a kind of Puritan.
Sir And. O, if I thought that, I'd beat him like a dog.
Sir Toby. What, for being a Puritan? thy exquisite reason, dear knight?
Sir And. I have no exquisite reason for 't, but I have reason good enough."
This is in the best spirit of toleration, which cannot endure that any body of men should be persecuted for their opinions, and especially by those who will show no reason for their persecution but that they "have reason good enough."
In May, 1602, Shakspere made a large addition to his property at Stratford by the purchase, from William and John Combe, for the sum of three hundred and twenty pounds, of one hundred and seven acres of arable land in the town of Old Stratford. The indenture, which was in the possession of the late Mr. Wheler of Stratford, but is now in the Stratford Museum, is dated the 1st of May, 1602.* The conveyance bears the signatures of the vendors of the property, of which the following are fac-similes. But although it concludes in the usual
form, "The parties to these presents having interchangeably set to their hands and seals," the counterpart has not the hand and seal of the purchaser of the property described in the deed as "William Shakespere, of Stratford-upon-Avon, in the countie aforesaid, Gentleman." The counterpart is not signed, and the piece of wax which is affixed to it is unimpressed with any seal. The acknowledgment of possession is, however, thus recorded:
Souled and dohned po to Gilbert Shakespere to the wake of the with in named william Shakesporo in ko preforms of
* The document, which contains nothing remarkable in its clauses, is given in Mr. Wheler's History
The property is delivered to Gilbert Shakspere to the use of William. Gilbert was two years and a half younger than William, and in all likelihood was the cultivator of the land which the poet thus bought, or assisted their father in the cultivation.
We collect from this document that William Shakspere was not at Stratford on the 1st of May, 1602, and that his brother Gilbert was his agent for the payment of the three hundred and twenty pounds paid "at and before the sealing" of the conveyance. In the following August the Lord Chamberlain's company performed Othello in the house of the Lord Keeper at Harefield. The accounts of the large expenditure on this occasion, in the handwriting of Sir Arthur Mainwaring, were discovered by Mr. Collier amongst the Egerton Papers, and they contain the following entry :
"6 August, 1602. Rewardes to the vaulters, players, and dauncers. Of
The Queen came to Harefield on the 31st of July, and remained there during the 1st and 2nd of August. In those days Harefield Place was "a fair house standing on the edge of the hill, the river Coln passing near the same through the pleasant meadows and sweet pastures yielding both delight and profit." This is Norden's description, a little before the period of Elizabeth's visit. The Queen was received, after the usual quaint fashion of such entertainments, with a silly dialogue between a bailiff and a dairymaid, as she entered the domain; and the house welcomed her with an equally silly colloquy between Place and Time. The Queen must have been somewhat better pleased when a copy of verses was delivered to her in the morning, beginning
"Beauty's rose, and virtue's book,
The weather, we learn from the same verses, was unpropitious:
"Only poor St. Swithin now
Doth hear you blame his cloudy brow."
Some great poet was certainly at work upon this occasion, but not Shakspere. It was enough for him to present the sad story of
"The gentle lady married to the Moor."
Another was to come within some thirty years who should sing of Harefield
This important entry was first published by Mr. Collier in his 'New Particulars regarding the Works of Shakespeare,' 1836. Mr. Collier in the same tract publishes "a poetical relic," of which he says, "Although I believe it to be his, I have some hesitation in assigning it to Shakespeare." This copy of verses, without date or title, found amongst the same papers, bears the signature W. Sh. or W. Sk. (Mr. Collier is doubtful which). If the verses contained a single line which could not be produced by any one of the "mob of gentlemen who write with ease," we would venture to borrow a specimen.
These verses, with other particulars of the entertainment, were first published from an original manuscript in Nicholls's Progresses of Queen Elizabeth.'
with the power of a rare fancy working upon classical models, and who thus makes the Genius of the Wood address a noble audience in that sylvan
"For know, by lot from Jove I am the Power
With puissant words, and murmurs made to bless."
Doubly honoured Harefield! Though thy mansion has perished, yet are thy groves still beautiful. Still thy summit looks out upon a fertile valley, where the gentle river wanders in silent beauty. But thy woods and lawns have a charm which are wholly their own.-Here the Othello of William Shakspere
was acted by his own company; here is the scene of the Arcades of John Milton.
Amongst the few papers rescued from "time's devouring maw" which enable us to trace Shakspere's career with any exactness, there is another which relates to the acquisition of property in the same year. It is a copy of Court Roll for the Manor of Rowington, dated the 28th of September, 1602, containing the surrender by Walter Getley to the use of William Shakspere of a house in Stratford, situated in Walker Street. This tenement was opposite Shakspere's house of New Place. It is now taken down; it was in existence a few years ago.
This document, which was in the possession of Mr. Hunt, the worthy town-clerk of Stratford, but has been presented by him to the Museum formed at the Shakspere House, shows that at the latter end of September, 1602, William Shakspere, the purchaser of this property, was not at Stratford. It could not legally pass to him, being a copyhold, till he had done suit and service in the Lord's Court; and the surrender, therefore, provides that it should remain in the possession of the lord till he, the purchaser, should appear.
In the September of 1602 the Earl of Worcester, writing to the Earl of Shrewsbury, says, "We are frolic here in Court, much dancing in the Privy Chamber of country-dances before the Queen's Majesty, who is exceedingly pleased therewith." In the December she was entertained at Sir Robert Cecil's house in the Strand, and some of the usual devices of flattering mummery were exhibited before her. A few months saw a period to the frolic and the flattery. The last entry in the books of the Treasurer of the Chamber during the reign of Elizabeth, which pertains to Shakspere, is the following ;-melancholy in the contrast between the Candlemas-Day of 1603, the 2nd of February, and the following 24th of March, when Elizabeth died:-"To John Hemynges and the rest of his companie, servaunts to the Lorde Chamberleyne, uppon the Councells Warraunte, dated at Whitehall the xxth of Aprill, 1603, for their paines and expences in presentinge before the late Queenes Mtie twoe playes, the one uppon St. Stephens day at nighte, and thother upon Candlemas day at night, for ech of which they were allowed, by way of her Mats rewarde,