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of 1603-4 at Hampton Court, were followed at the succeeding Christmas by performances "at the Banqueting-House at Whitehall," in which the plays of Shakspere were preferred above those of every other competitor. There were eleven performances by the King's players, of which eight were plays of Shakspere. Jonson shared this honour with him in the representation of Every One in his Humour,' and 'Every One out of his Humour.' A single play by Heywood, another by Chapman, and a tragedy by an unknown author, completed the list of these revels at Whitehall. It is told, Malone says, "upon authority which there is no reason to doubt, that King James bestowed especial honour upon Shakspere." The story is told in the Advertisement to Lintot's edition of Shakpere's Poems-"That most learned Prince, and great Patron of learning, King James the First, was pleased with his own hand to write an amicable letter to Mr. Shakespeare; which letter, though now lost, remained long in the hands of Sir William Davenant, as a credible person now living can testify." Was the honour bestowed as a reward for the compliment to the King in Macbeth, or was the compliment to the King a tribute of gratitude for the honour?
The Accompte of the Office of the Reuelles of this whole yeres Charge, in An° 1604,' which was discovered through the zealous industry of Mr. Peter Cunningham, is a most interesting document: first, as giving the names of the plays which were performed at Court, and showing how pre-eminently attractive were those of Shakspere; secondly, as exhibiting the undiminished charm of Shakspere's early plays, such as The Comedy of Errors, and Love's Labour's Lost; and, thirdly, as fixing the date of one of our poets dramas,
which has generally been assigned to a later period-Measure for Measure. The worthy scribe who keeps the accounts has no very exact acquaintance with the poets wch mayd the plaies," as he heads the margin of his entries: for he adds another variety to the modes of spelling the name of the greatest of those poets" Shaxberd." The list gives us no information as to the actors which acted the plays, in addition to the poets which made them. We learn, indeed, from the corresponding accounts in the Office Books of the Treasurer of the Chamber, that on the 21st of January, 1605, sixty pounds were paid "To John Hemynges, one of his Mats players, for the paines and expences of himselfe and the reste of his companie, in playinge and presentinge of sixe EnterJudes, or plaies, before his Matie." The name of Shakspere is found amongst the names of the performers of Ben Jonson's Sejanus,' which was first acted at the Globe in 1603. Burbage, Lowin, Hemings, Condell, Phillipps, 'Cooke, and Sly had also parts in it. In Jonson's Volpone,' brought out at the Globe in 1605, the name of Shakspere does not occur amongst the performers. It has been conjectured, therefore, that he retired from the stage between 1603 and 1605. But, appended to the letter from the Council to the Lord Mayor and other Justices, dated April the 9th, 1604 (which we have already noticed) there has been found the following list of the " King's Company :"*
It is thus seen that in the spring of 1604 Shakspere was still an actor, and still held the same place in the company which he held in the patent of the previous year. Lawrence Fletcher, the first named in that patent, has changed places with Burbage. The probable explanation of these changes is, that the shareholders periodically chose one of their number as their chairman, or official head; that Lawrence Fletcher filled this office at Aberdeen in 1601, and at London in 1603, Burbage succeeding to his rank and office in 1604. In the mean time the reputation of Shakspere as a dramatic poet must have secured to him something higher than the fame of an actor, and something better than courtly honours and pecuniary advantages. He must have commanded the respect and admiration of the most distinguished amongst his contemporaries for taste and genius. Few, indeed, comparatively of his plays were printed. The author of Othello, for example, must have been content with the fame which the theatre afforded him. But in 1604, probably to vindicate his reputation from the charge of having, in his mature years, written his Hamlet, such as it appeared in the imperfect edition of 1603, was published The Tragicall Historie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke. By William Shakespeare. Newly imprinted and enlarged to almost as much againe as it was, according to the true and perfect coppie.' Edition after edition was
*Collier's 'Memoirs of Alleyn,' p. 68.
called for; and assuredly that wonderful tragedy, whose true power can only be adequately felt by repeated study, must have carried its wonderful philosophy into the depths of the heart of many a reader who was no haunter of play-houses, and have most effectually vindicated plays and play-books from the charge of being nothing but "unprofitable pleasures of sin," to be denounced in common with "Love-locks, periwigs, women's curling, powdering and cutting of the hair, bonfires, New-year's gifts, May-games, amorous pastorals, . lascivious effeminate music, excessive laughter, luxurious disorderly Christmas keeping, mummeries."* From the hour of the publication of Hamlet, in 1604, to these our days, many a solitary student must have closed that wonderful book with the application to its author of something like the thought that Hamlet himself expresses," What a piece of work is man! How noble in
reason, how infinite in faculty!"
* Prynne's 'Histrio-Mastix.'
NOTE ON THE PATENT TO THE COMPANY ACTING AT
MALONE, in his 'Historical Account of the English Stage,' prints the "licence to the company at the Globe, which is found in Rymer's 'Fœdera.'" Mr. Collier, in his 'Annals of the Stage,' publishes the document "from the Privy Seal, preserved in the Chapter House, Westminster, and not from Rymer's Fœdera,' whence it has hitherto been inaccurately quoted." The Patent as given in Rymer, and the Privy Seal as given by Mr. Collier, do not differ in the slightest particular, except in the orthography, and the use of capital letters. These matters in Rymer are so wholly arbitrary, that in printing the document we modernize the orthography. Malone adheres to it only partially, and this possibly constitutes the principal charge of inaccuracy brought against him. He has, however, three errors of transcription, but not of any consequence to the sense. At line 9 he has "like other" instead of “others like;" at line 18 "our pleasure" instead of “our said pleasure ;" and at the same line, "aiding or assisting" instead of "aiding and assisting."
"Pro Laurentio Fletcher & Willielmo Shakespeare & aliis. A.D. 1603. Pat.
"1 Jac. p. 2, m. 4. James by the grace of God, &c., to all justices, mayors, sheriffs, constables, headboroughs, and other our officers and loving subjects, greeting. Know you that we, of our special grace, certain knowledge, and mere motion, have licensed and authorised, and by these presents do license and authorise, these our servants, Laurence Fletcher, William Shakespeare, Richard Burbage, Augustine Philippes, John Hemings, Henry Condel, William Sly, Robert Armyn, Richard Cowly, and the rest of their associates, freely to use and exercise the art and faculty of playing comedies, tragedies, histories, interludes, morals, pastorals, stage-plays, and such others like as they have already studied, or hereafter shall use or study, as well for the recreation of our loving subjects, as for our solace and pleasure when we shall think good to see them, during our pleasure: and the said comedies, tragedies, histories, interludes, morals, pastorals, stageplays, and such like, to show and exercise publicly to their best commodity, when the infection of the plague shall decrease, as well within their now usual house, called the Globe, within our county of Surrey, as also within any town-halls or moot-halls, or other convenient places within the liberties and freedom of any other city, university, town, or borough whatsoever within our said realms and dominions. Willing and commanding you and every of you, as you tender our pleasure, not only to permit and suffer them herein, without any your lets, hindrances, or molestations, during our said pleasure, but also to be aiding and assisting to them if any wrong be to them offered, and to allow them such former courtesies as hath been given to men of their place and quality; and also what further favour you shall show to these our servants for our sake, we shall take kindly at your hands. In witness whereof, &c.
"Witness ourself at Westminster, the nineteenth day of May. "Per Breve de privato sigillo."
WE have seen that in the year 1602 Shakspere was investing the gains of his profession in the purchase of property at Stratford. It appears from the original Fines of the Court of King's Bench, preserved in the Chapter-house, that a little before the accession of James, in 1603, Shakspere had also purchased a messuage at Stratford, with barns, gardens, and orchards, of Hercules Underhill, for the sum of sixty pounds.* There can be little doubt that this continued acquisition of property in his native place had reference to the ruling desire of the poet to retire to his quiet fields and the placid intercourse of society at Stratford, out of the turmoil of his professional life and the excitement of the * The document was first published in Mr. Collier's New Facts.' 21