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fulemn letrothment had or had not taken place between William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway, it is certain from the parish register, that they had a daughter, Susanna, baptized on the 26th of May, 1583, not quite six months after the date of the marriage-bond.
Some of the Poet's later biographers and critics have taken it upon them to suppose that he was not happy in his marriage. Certain passages in his plays, especially the charming dialogue between the Duke and the disguised Viola in Act ï. sc. 4, of Twelfth Night, have been cited as involving some reference to the Poet's own case, or as suggested by what himself had experienced of the evils resulting from the wedlock of persons "misgraffed in respect of years." There was never any thing but mere conjecture for this notion. Rowe mentions nothing of the kind, and we may be sure that his candour would not have spared the Poet, had tradition offered him any such matter. As for the passages in his plays, we cannot discover the slightest reason for supposing that the Poet had any other than a purely dramatic purpose in them. That Shakespeare was more or less separated from his wife for a number of years, cannot indeed be questioned; but that he ever found or sought any relief or comfort in such separation, is what we have no warrant for believing. It was simply forced upon him by the necessities of his condition. The darling object of his London fe evidently was, as will be seen hereafter, that he might return to his native town with a handsome competence, and dwell in the bosom of his family; and the yearly visits, which tradition reports him to have made to Stratford, look like any thing but a wish to forget them or be forgotten by them. From what is known of his subsequent course, it is certain that he nad in large measure that honourable ambition, so natural to an English gentle man, of becoming the founder of a family; and as soon as he had reached the hope of doing so, he retired to his old home, and there set up his rest, as if his best sunshine of life still waited on the presence of her from whose society he is alleged to have fled away in disappointment and disgust.
erally, where the inhabitants seldom or never intermarry with any on the mainland, and where the young women, selecting lovers of ibe same place, account it no disgrace to allow ihem every favour, and that, too, from the fullest confidence of being made wives the inoment such consequences of their stolen embraces begin to be too visible to be any longer concealed.” And he adds the follow ing from the Christian State of Matrimony, 1543 : “ Yet in thys thynge also must I warve everye reasonable and honest parson to beware, that in contractyng of maryage they dyssemble not, nor set forthe any lye. Every man lykewyse must esteme the parson to whom he is hand-fasted, none otherwyse than for his owne spouse, Though as yet it be not done in the church ner in the streale. Afier the band-fastynge and makyng of the contracte, the churchgoyng and weddyng shuld not be differred too longe, lest the wyckedde sowe hys ungracious scde in the meane season.”
To Anne Hathaway, we have little doubt, were addressed, in his early morn of love, the three Sonnets playing on the author's name, numbered cxxxv., cxxxvi., and cxliii. as origi nally printed. These have indeed very little merit; they are framed with too much art, or else with too little, to express any real passion; in short, both the matter and the style of them are hardly good enough to have been his at any time, certainly none too good to have been the work of his boyhood. And we have seen no conjecture on the point that bears greater likelihoods of truth, than that another three, far different in merit, the xcvii., xcviii., and xcix., were addressed, much later in life, to the same object. The prevailing tone and imagery of them are such as he would hardly have used but with a woman in his thoughts ; they are full-fraught with deep personal feeling as distinguished from mere exercises of fancy; and they speak, with unsurpassable tenderness, of frequent absences, such as, before the Sonnets were first printed, the Poet had experienced from the wife of his bosom. We feel morally certain that she was the inspirer of them. And we are scarcely less per. suaded, that a third cluster, from the cix, to the cxvii., in
clusive, had the same source. These, too, are clearly concerned with the deeper interests and regards of private life; they carry a homefelt energy and fulness of pathos, such as argue them to have had a far other origin than in trials of art; they speak of compelled absences from the object that inspired them, and are charged with regrets and confessions, such as could only have sprung from the Poet's own breast. and when he says,
" Accuse me thus : That I have scanted all
it will take more than has yet appeared, to persuade us that his thoughts were travelling anywhere but home to the bride of his youth and mother of his children.
On the 2d of February, 1585, two more children, twins, were christened in the parish church as “ Hamnet and Judith, son and daughter to William Shakespeare.” Malone conjectured that Hamnet Sadler and Judith his wife, who were neighbours and friends of the Poet, may have stood sponsors to the infants, and hence the names. The conjecture is not improbable. Tradition apart, this is the last we hear of the Poet, till he is found a sharer in the Blackfriars theatre in London.
As might be expected, tradition has been busy with the probable causes of his betaking himself to the stage. Sevcral reasons have been assigned for the act, such as, first, a natural inclination to poetry and acting; second, a deer. stealing frolic, which resulted in making Stratford too hot for him; third, the pecuniary embarrassments of his father. It is not unlikely that all these causes, and perhaps others, may have concurred in putting him upon the step.
For the first, we have the clear and credible testimony of Aubrey, whom Malone supposes to have been in Stratford
about 1580. Aubrey was an arrant and inveterate hunter after anecdotes, and seems to have caught up and noted down, without sifting or scrutiny, whatever quaint or curious matter came in his way. Of course, therefore, no great reliance can attach to what he says, unless it be sustained by other strength than his authority. In this case, his words sound like truth, and are supported by all the likelihoods that can grow from what we must presume to have been the Poets natural complexion of mind. “This William," says he, “ being inclined naturally to poetry and acting, came to London, I guess about eighteen, and was an actor at one of the play-houses, and did act exceedingly well. He began early to make essays at dramatic poetry, which at that time was very low, and his plays took well. He was a handsome, well-shap'd man, very good company, and of a very ready and pleasant smoothe wit. The humour of the constable, in Midsummer-Night's Dream, he happened to take at Grendon in Bucks, which is the road from London to Stratford ; and there was living that constable about 1642, when I first came to Oxford. I think it was midsummer-night that he happened to lie there. Mr. Jos. Howe is of that parish, and knew him. Ben Jonson and he did gather humours of men daily, wherever they came.” 14
14 As to certain other parts of what Aubrey so gossipingly narrates, we make no account of them whatever. Such is the follow. ing, which bears fable written on its face: “Mr. William Shakespeare was horne at Stratford upon Avon in the county of War. wick : bis father was a butcher; and I have been told heretofore by some of the neighbours, that when he was a boy he exercised his father's trade, but when he kill'd a calfe, he would doe it in a high style, and make a speech. There was at that time another butcher's son in this towne, that was held not at all inferior to him for a naturall witt, his acquaintance and coetanean, but dyed young.” It is remarkable that Aubrey makes Michael Drayton, also from Warwickshire, to have been likewise “ a butcher's son," which is known not to have been the case. However, perhaps we ought to add another version of the story from a small treatise, writien in April, 1693, by one Dowdall, and addressed 10 Edward Southwell. The writer is giving an account of a visit he made to
This natural inclination, fed, as in all likelihood it was, by the frequent theatrical performances which took place at Stratford all through the Poet's boyhood, would go far, if not suffice of itself, to account for his subsequent course of life. We have already seen that before 1577 four several companies, the Queen's, the Earl of Worcester's, the Earl of Leicester's, and the Earl of Warwick's, acted there under the patronage of the corporation. And the chamberlain's accounts show that between 1569 and 1587 no less than ten distinct companies exhibited under the same auspices, including, besides those just named, the Earl of Derby's, the Earl of Berkley's, the Lord Chandos', the Earl of Oxford's. the Earl of Essex', and the Earl of Stafford's. In 1587, five of these companies are found performing there; and within the period mentioned the Earl of Leicester's men are noted on three several occasions as receiving money from the corporation, namely, in 1573, 1577, and 1587. In May, 1574, the Earl of Leicester obtained a patent under the great seal, enabling his players, James Burbage, John Perkyn, John Laneham, William Johnson, and Robert Wilson, to exercise their art in any part of the kingdom except London. In 1587, this company became “ The Lord Chamberlain's Servants ;” and we shall find that in 1589 Shakespeare was a member of it. James Burbage was the father of Richard Burbage, the greatest actor of that age; and we learn from the Earl of Southampton, in a letter to be given hereafter, that Richard Burbage and William Shakespeare were “both of one county, and indeed almost of one town." In 1558,
the Stratford church : “ The clarke that shew'd me this church is abuve 80 years old; he says that this Shakespear was formerly in this towne bound apprentice to a butcher, but that he run from his master to London, and there was received into the playhouse as a serviture, and by ibis meanes had an oppertunity to be what he afterwards prov'd." Probably Aubrey's and Dowdall's stories grew both from the same source, the matter being varied from time to time in the telling. Malone discovered that there was a butcher named John Shakespeare living at Warwick in 1610. Hence, perhaps, the stories in question.