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pleasure, in that they have brought into theire playes maters of state and Religion, vnfitt to bee handled by them or to bee presented before lewde spectators: neither hath anie complaynte in that kinde ever bene preferrde against them or anie of them. Wherefore they trust moste humblie in your Lordships' consideration of their former good behaviour, being at all tymes readie and willing to yeelde obedience to any command whatsoever your Lordships in your wisdome
thinke in such case meete,” &c. " Novr. 1589."
A brief reference to the circumstances of the time will show how this certificate became necessary. In consequence of the license taken by several companies of players in London to introduce upon the stage religion and politics, by dramas having reference to the Martin-Marprelate controversy, Lord Burghley wrote to the lord mayor, in the beginning of November, 1589, directing him to make inquiry what companies of players had offended; and on the 12th of November of the same year, the privy council addressed letters to the archbishop of Canterbury, the lord mayor, and the master of the revels, for the appointment of three persons to examine into and to remedy the abuse. Upon this occasion it was that the preceding certificate was sent to the privy council, to exonerate the Queen's Players at the Blackfriars from the charge. These facts are given in detail in the “ History of Dramatic Poetry," i., 271, &c.; and I wish I could there have added the very curious document I have above quoted.
Thus we see that, in 1589, Shakspeare's name is placed twelfth in the list of the sixteen members of the company. In 1596, he had so far advanced that it was inserted fifth, when only eight of the association were named: in 1603, he was second in the new patent granted by King James on his accession. How much weight is due to these locations, and what inferences we may fairly draw from them, it is not easy to decide, but they certainly show that Shakspeare, from the first, was gradually making his way to greater prominence of station.
James Burbage was buried in February, 1596–7, leaving to his son Richard (who had then risen to the highest eminence as an actor) his property in the Blackfriars theatre. This seems to have been thought a good opportunity for again endeavoring to dislodge the players; but, although it is indisputable that some of the principal inhabitants of the exempted precinct petitioned the privy council for the removal of what they represented as a nuisance, there is no direct evidence to show that the corporation of London interfered upon this occasion. The attempt again failed, on the counter-petition of the company, the general good conduct of which, as asserted in the preceding certificate, added to the partiality of the queen and court for theatrical amusements, having enabled it to withstand the representations of very powerful opponents. At this date, her “Majesty's Servants" not only exhibited at the Blackfriars, but at the Globe in Southwark, which had been open for about two years. From the residence of Richard Burbage in Shoreditch, and from the possession of shares in the Curtain theatre by one or more of the chief actors associated with him and Shakspeare, it seems probable that, before the erection of the Globe, in 1594, they had occasionally used the Curtain theatre as well as the Blackfriars, perhaps in conjunction with the Lord Admiral's Servants.
The enmity between the corporation of London and the actors at the Blackfriars, seems never to have abated, but to have been constantly kept alive by the exertions of the civic authorities to remove the players, and by the endeavors of the players, now and then, to retaliate: the proverbial wisdom of the citizens, and the immaculate fidelity of their wives, are constant themes in many of our old plays; and, when Leonard Haliday was lord mayor, in 1605, a formal complaint was sent to the privy council, that some of the aldermen had been brought upon the stage by the company performing within the privileged precinct. Upon this point I have met with the following singular memorandum, which is worth preserving, though it does not directly illustrate the personal history of Shakspeare, and though, as his dramas are remarkably free from attacks of the kind, it is very improbable that he had any concern in the transaction.
“ LENARD HALIDAY Maior 1605. Whereas Kempe, Armyn and others, Plaiers at the Blacke Fryers, have again not forborne to bring vpon their stage one or more of the worshipfull Aldermen of the City of London, to their great scandall and to the lessening of their authority, the Lords of the right honorable the Privy Counsell are besought to call the said Players before them and to enquire into the same, that order may be taken to remedy the abuse, either by putting down or removing the said Theatre."
Hence it is clear that this was not the first offence of the kind. Kempe and Armin were the low comedians of the company, and perhaps made what was then technically called “a Merriment,” or “a Jig," of which the actors were usually the authors, at the expense of some members of the corporation : sometimes these comic sallies were dialogues, but usually monologues and songs.
Perhaps the impunity of the actors in this respect, which encouraged fresh insults, induced the city authorities, in 1608, again to endeavor to establish their right to the superintendence of the precinct of the Blackfriars. Certain it is, as appears by other documents I discovered at Bridgewater House, that the question was then revived; and, besides adducing the certificate of the two chief justices in 1579, the corporation procured the opinion of Sir Henry Montagu in its favor, and laid it before Lord Ellesmere, with a view to the final determination of the dispute. He endorsed it with his own hand, and the endorsement is material, as it furnishes the date" 23 July 1608. Sr. Henry Mountagu, for the Blackfrears.” Sir Henry Montagu seems to have relied chiefly on the decision of the chief justices, Wray and Dyer; but Lord Ellesmere called for proofs of the exercise by the city of a jurisdiction within the privileged precinct. Whether he obtained them, does not appear -probably not, or they would have been found with the other documents, particularly as one of those remaining is thus headed : -"Prooffs by record that the Citie of London hath not any jurisdiction within the Blacke Fryars, but that it is a place exempted from it.” This evidence had, of course, been supplied by the opposite party, the players, but it applies only to the reigns of Edward the First and his son : judging, however, from the result, the "proofs.” were satisfactory, and the company was not disturbed.
The inquiry instituted at this date throws a strong and certain light upon the interesting question of the amount of Shakspeare's property about five years before he retired to his native town, to enjoy in tranquillity the fruits of his genius and industry during the busy period of his life, extending from 1586 or 1587, when he probably first came to London, to 1612 or 1613, when he quitted it.
Defeated in the attempt to expel “the King's Servants” (for this was the title the actors at the Blackfriars and Globe theatres acquired by the privy seal of 1603), by force of law, the corporation seems to have endeavored to come to terms with them, with a view of buying them out; and among the papers of Lord Ellesmere is a minute and curious account, showing the precise interest of all the principal persons connected with the company in 1608, and among the rest of Shakspeare himself. It is evident that it was drawn up in order to ascertain what sum it would be necessary for the corporation to pay to the players for removal; and it must have been laid before the lord chancellor, with other documents connected with the inquiry. Hence we learn that Shakspeare's property in the Blackfriars theatre, including the wardrobe and properties, which were exclusively his, was estimated at more than 14001., which would be equal to between 6000l. and 70001. of our present money. Burbage was even richer, as the owner of what is called “the fee" of the playhouse; and perhaps he, or his father, had bought the ground on which it stood, as well as the building. However, it will be better first to insert a literal copy of the account, and afterwards to offer some remarks upon it. The paper is entitled
“ FOR AVOIDING OF THE PLAYHOUSE IN THE PRECINCT OF
THE BLACKE FRIERS.
Imp. Richard Burbidge oweth the Fee, and is alsoe a sharer
therein. His interest he rateth at the grosse summe of
1933. 64. 8d. Item Laz Fletcher owith three shares which he rateth at 700'i,
that is at 7 yeares purchase for each share or 33li. 6. 8d.
7001i. Item W. Shakespeare asketh for the Wardrobe and properties
of the same play house 500li and for his 4 shares, the same
as his fellowes Burbidge and Fletcher viz 933li. 68. 8d.... 1433li. 6s. 8d. Item Heminges and Condell eche 2 shares..
933li. 68. 8d. Item Joseph Taylor 1 share and an halfe...
350li. Item Lowing also one share and an halfe.....
350l. Item Foure more playeres with one halfe share to eche of them....
466li. 136. 4d.
Suma totalis...... 6166. 13. 4
“ Moreover, the hired men of the Companie demaund some recompense for their great losse, and the Widowes and Orphanes of Playeres, who are paide
by the Sharers at diuers rates and proportions, so as in the whole it will coste the Lo. Mayor and the Citizens at the least 7000li.”
This, you will own at once, is a very singular, as well as a very valuable document, considering how scanty has hitherto been all our information regarding the pecuniary circumstances of our great Poet. Till now, all has depended upon conjecture, both as to the value of theatrical property generally in the time of Shakspeare, and as to the particular sum he may be supposed to have realized as an author of plays and as an actor of them. Malone “suspected that the whole clear receipt of a theatre was divided into forty shares ” (Shakspeare by Boswell, iii., 170), and proceeds to guess at the mode in which the money was distributed. Here we have positive proof, that, at the Blackfriars at least the profits were divided into twenty shares: of these Burbage had
4 Shares. Fletcher
3 Shares. Shakspeare
4 Shares. Hemmings
2 Shares. Condell
2 Shares. Taylor and Lowen
3 Shares. Four other Actors
2 Shares. Burbage and Shakspeare, therefore, in the number of their shares, were upon equal terms : the former, as the owner of “the fee,” was probably paid the rent of the theatre, which, I shall hereafter show, from a document of a subsequent date, was then 501. per annum; and the latter, as the owner of the wardrobe and properties, no doubt obtained as large a sum for the use of them. Though they are only estimated at half the value of “the fee,” yet wear and tear is to be taken into the account. We are to presume that the materials for this statement were derived from the actors, and that they made out their loss as large as it could well be shown to be, with a view to gaining full compensation; but if each share produced on an average, or (to use the terms of the document) “one year with another," 331. 6s. 8d., the twenty shares would net an annual sum of 6661. 13s. 4d., or somewhat less than 3,4001. of oui present money. Shakspeare's annual income from the receipts at the Blackfriars theatre, without the amount paid him for the use of the wardrobe and properties, would therefore be 1331. 6s. 8d. It is possible, however, that there might be a deduction for his proportion of the rent to Burbage, and of the salaries to the “ hired men,"