« ZurückWeiter »
was known by the name of Ashbies. The will afterwards refers to other property which he owned in Wilmecote by tenure of copyhold. On the whole, it is evident enough, that Robert Arden, though styling himself “ husbandman" in 1550, was a man of good landed estate. Both he and Richard Shakesprare appear to have been of that honest and substantial old English yeomanry, from whose betterthan-royal stock and lineage the great Poet of nature might most fitly fetch his life and being. Of William Shake speare's grandmother on either side, we know nothing whatsoever. His father, so far as we may judge from the name, was of Anglo-Saxon descent. Arden, on the other hand, sounds like a Norman name; its first original being, perhaps, from that old forest in France, which breathes so much of genial freshness and delectation into the scenes of As You Like It. So that those two choice bloods were probably mingled in the Poet's veins.
The exact time of Mary Arden's marriage is uncertain, no registry of it having been found. Of course it must have been after the date of her father's will. Joan, the first child of John and Mary Shakespeare, was baptized in the parish church of Stratford-on-Avon, September 15th, 1558. We have seen that at this time John Shakespeare was well established and thriving in business, and was making good headway in the confidence of the Stratfordians, being one of the constables of the borough. On the 2d of December, 1562, while he was chamberlain, his second child was chris tened Margaret. She was buried, April 30th, 1563. On the 26th of April, 1564, was baptized “WILLIAM, SON OF JOHN SHAKESPEARE.” The birth is commonly thought to have taken place on the 23d, it being then the usual custom to present infants at the Font three days after their birth : but the custom was often departed from, and we have no certain information whether it was observed on this august occasion. At this time the father was owner of two copyhold bouses, and was probably living in one of them; and until recently a house in Henley-street was pointed out by tradition as the Poet's place of birth. We have seen that throughout the following summer the destroyer was busy in Stratford, making fearful spoil of her sons and daughters; but it spared the babe on whose life hung the fate of English Literature. The year 1566 brought another son into the family, who was christened Gilbert on the 13th of October. We shall meet with him hereafter in connection with his brother Williams affairs. In 1569, when the father was high bailiff, a third daughter was born to him, and was christened Joan on the 15th of April. From this repetition of the name, it is presumed with good cause that the first child had died, though no entry of her burial appears in the register. The second Joan lived to be a wife and a mother, as will be seen hereafter. On the 28th of September, 1571, twenty-three days after the father became head alderman, the fourth daughter was baptized Anne. Hitherto the register has known him only as John Shakespeare: in this case it designates him as “ Master Shakespeare." Whether Master or Magister was a token of honour not extended to any thing under an ex-bailiff, does not appear; but in all cases after this the name is written in the register with that significant prefix. This Anne Shakespeare was buried, April 4th, 1579, and the sum of 8d, paid for the bell and pall at her funeral. “Richard, son to Mr. John Shakespeare,” was carried to the Font, March 11th, 1574, and to the grave, February 4th, 1613. The giving of this name yields some further evidence, if such be wanted, that the Richard Shakespeare mentioned before was the Poet's grandfather. The list closes with the baptism, May 3d, 1580, of “ Edmund, son to Mr. John Shakespeare."
Rowe, as may be seen in our Introduction, and some others after him, make the Poet to have been of a family of ten children, whereas our list numbers but eight. This arose, no doubt, from there having been another John Shakespeare ir Stratford, who was a shoemaker. Rowe's
reckoning includes but one Joan, and adds three others, Ursula, Humphrey, and Philip, thus making the number ten. · John Shakespeare the shoemaker is first met with in the corporation books as a burgess present at a hall in March 1580. In September, 1585, he was elected one of the constables, and in October following was sworn as one of the ale-tasters. The chamberlain's accounts for 1586 have the entry,—“ Received of Shakespeare the shoemaker for his freedom, the 19th day of January, 30s." In 1587 he is found availing himself of what was known as Oken's Charity, a loan of £5, to be employed in his business; which shows him to have been both poor and young, these being conditions required by Oken's will.26 Divers other instances of his name are found, but generally with “shoemaker” added, and never with the handle Master attached to it. Margery his wife, to whom he was married in November, 1584, was buried in October, 1587. It appears, however, that he was not long in “ taking to himself another mate," the following baptisms being noted in the parish-register : March 11th, 1589, “Ursula, daughter to John Shake
28 The Stratford records furnish the following: “At a hall there holden the xvü.th daie of Febuarie, anno xxix.ih dominæ reginæ Elizabeth, &c., Thomas Okens money was delivered to the per. sonnes whose names are underwritten, to be emploied accordinge to the last will and testament of the saide Thomas.” In the list of names underwritten we have this : “ John Shaxpere v.li., his suerties Richard Sponer et Roberte Yonge.” — From the Black Book in the Corporation Archives, Warwick, it appears that Thomas Oken, of Warwick, in bis will dated Nov. 24th, 1570, gave £40 to Stratford-on-Avon, “ to bestow and deliver the said somme of fourtie poundes to divers yong occupiers of the same towne of Stretford upon Avon in lone, in maner and forme following; That is to say, unto eight such honest yorg men dwelling within the same towne, that be of some honest mistery or craft, and householders within the same town, being also of good name, fame, and conversacion with their neighbors in the same towne; That is to say, to every such one of the said eight yong men the somine of five poundes, by the waye of loane, to be occupied by him and ibem in their said craftes or mysteries during the space of foure
speare;” May 24th, 1590, “Humphrey, son to John Shakespeare;" September 21st, 1591, “Philip, son to John Shakespeare." And so his name “is condemned to everlasting redemption,” the fault of his parents making it ne cessary thus to immortalize the worthy man.
Nothing further is heard of MRS. MARY SHAKESPEARE till her death in 1608. On the 9th of September, that year, the parish-register notes the burial of “ Mary Shakespeare, widow," her husband having died seven years before. That she had in a special degree the confidence and affection of her father, is apparent from the treatment she received in his will. There are few chapters in human history, the loss of which were more to be regretted, than that which should have let us into the domestic life and character of the great Poet's mother. Both the mother's nature and the mother's discipline must, no doubt, have entered largely into his composition, and had a principal share in making him what he was. Whatsoever of woman's beauty and sweetness and wisdom were expressed in her life and manners, could not but be caught and repeated in his most susceptive and most fertile nature. At the time of her death, the Poet was in his forty-fifth year, and had already produced those mighty works that were to fill the world with his fame. For some years, she must, in all likelihood, have been more or less under his care and protection, as her age, at the time of her death, could not well have been less than seventy. She probably never realized that she had given birth to the greatest of men: she must have been a remarkable woman indeed, to have understood at that time what a miracle of wisdom and wit had issued from her. The world is un:ler great, very great obligation to her. There is little danger of her being ever forgotten. All the kings and queens that have lived are but dust in the balance, compared to the MOCHER of WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.
FROM THE BJRTH OF SHAKESPEARE TILL HE
ENTERED THE THEATRE.
In the preceding chapter we have dwelt somewhat mibutely, perhaps too much so, on the history of John Shakespeare, as gathered from legal documents and public records, with the view of throwing whatsoever light were possible to be thrown on the circumstances and opportunities of the Poet's boyhood and youth. We have seen him springing from what may be justly termed the best vein of old English life. At the time of his birth, his parents, considering the purchases previously made by the father, and the fortune inherited by the mother, must have been tolerably well to do in the world. The “ land in Wilmecote called Ashbies” was an estate in fee, consisting of a messuage, fifty acres of arable land, six acres of meadow and pasture, and a right of common for all kinds of cattle. Malone, reckoning only the bequests specified in her father's will, estimated Mary Shakespeare's fortune to be not less than £110, which Mr. Collier deems " an under calculation of its actual value." Later researches, as we have seen, have brought to light considerable sources of income that were unknown to Malone. Supposing her fortune to have been as good as £150 then, it would go nearly if not quite as far as $5000 in our time. So that the Poet must have passed his boyhood ir. just about that medium state between poverty and riches, but, of the two, rather verging towards its upper limit, which is accounted most favourable to health of body and mind.
At the time of his father's becoming high bailiff of Stratford, William was in his fifth year; old enough, no doubt,