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Shakespeare's Family By C. C. Stopes Characters: 45434

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William Shakespeare was thirty-seven when he became head of the family in 1601. His previous life must have been a stirring one, though we know only too little about it. Still, certain inferences may be soundly based on known facts. He must have been educated at the Stratford Grammar School, free to the sons of the burgesses, a high-class school for the time. Its head-master had a salary then double that of the Master of Eton. A taste for learning had certainly imbued William's spirit even in early years, but he doubtless warmly shared in the difficulties of his father's life, and knew the anxieties of debt, the oppression of the strong hand-the "cares of bread," as Mazzini calls it-and the sickening weariness of the law's uncertainty and delay. Most of his relatives were farmers, and his actions show that he would gladly have followed the same course of life, with the relaxation of field sports, of course, if he could have attained his desire. But the genius within him was to be welded by fiery trials, and he was driven on a course that seemed at discord with his nature, and yet led to its own fulfilment. In the enthusiasm of a first love, he married early, not, it must emphatically be noted, over-early for the custom of the period, when the means of support were assured, but over-early, as it would then have been considered, solely from a financial standpoint. He had no assured means of support. His hope of securing his inheritance of Asbies was fading. He did not marry an heiress. Many vials of wrath have been poured on the devoted head of Anne Hathaway by those who do not consider all sides of the question. Harrowing pictures of the relations of young Shakespeare and "his aged wife" are drawn, even by such writers as Dr. Furnivall. Now, it is a well-known fact that almost all very young men fancy girls older than themselves, and it is an artistic fact that a woman under thirty does look younger, and not older, than a man of the same age, if she has led a natural and simple life. It is much more than likely that the well-grown, responsible eldest son of anxious John Shakespeare looked quite as old as Anne Hathaway, seven years his senior, especially if she was slight and fair and delicate, as there is every reason to believe she was. And the masterful spirit marks its own age when it goes forth to woo, and determines to win the first real fancy of his life. It must not be forgotten, in association with the situation, that Richard Hathaway of Shottery (for whom John Shakespeare had stood surety in 1566) had made his will on September 1, 1581, and died between that time and July 9, 1582, when it was proved, leaving his daughter Agnes, or Anne, the small but very common marriage portion of £6 13s. 4d. A break had come into her home life; doubtless she went off to visit some friends, and the young lover felt he could not live without his betrothed, and determined to clinch the matter.

Much unnecessarily unfavourable comment has been made on the peculiar circumstances of the marriage. People forget the complexity of religious and social customs of the time, the binding force of betrothals, the oppression of Catholics. In Robert Arden's settlement of July 17, 1550, he speaks of his daughter Agnes as the wife of Thomas Stringer, though she did not marry him until October 15, 1550.[136] The perplexity is increased by the entry of the marriage license of a William Shakespeare and Anne Whately of Templegrafton, the day previous to that of William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway of Stratford, November 28, 1582.[137] It all seems possible to explain. Travelling was inconvenient on November roads; Will set out for the license alone, as bridegrooms were often wont to do, when they could afford the expense of a special license. He might give his own name, and that of his intended wife, at a temporary address. The clerk made an error in the spelling, which might have been corrected; but meanwhile discovered that Shakespeare was under age, was acting without his parents-that the bride was not in her own home, and that no marriage settlement was in the air. No risk might be run by an official in such a case; the license was stayed; sureties must be found for a penalty in case of error. So poor Will would have to find, in post-haste, the nearest friends he could find to trust him and his story. And who so likely to ask as Fulk Sandells and John Richardson, friends of the Hathaways-the one supervisor, and the other witness to the will of Anne's father Richard? They might have been at Worcester market with him.

They were both "good men" in the financial sense, and their bond for £40 was accepted at the Bishop of Worcester's Registry in support of the assertion that there was no impediment against this marriage by ground of consanguinity or pre-contract. If this were all right, and if the bride's friends were willing, by which must have been intended her mother and brothers, then the marriage might be solemnized. It was clearly a question in which the woman's friends were the proper parties to summon. The bond of John Shakespeare would not then have been good for £40, and the would-be bridegroom had nothing of his own. The place where they were married has not yet been discovered; it is quite possible to have been at "a private mass," as was the case in another marriage with a similar bond at the same registry.[138] But they were married somehow, and William probably brought home his fatherless bride to his father's house, and there her little portion of £6 13s. 4d. might go the further. But a wife and a family of three children sorely handicapped a penniless youth, not yet of age, bred to no trade, heir to no fortune, whose father was himself in trouble.

The after-date gossip of wild courses, deer-stealing, and combats with Sir Thomas Lucy, are, I think, quite unfounded on fact. I have discussed this fully in my article in the Athen?um[139] on "Sir Thomas Lucy," and in my chapter on "The Traditional Sir Thomas and the Real."[140] It is much more than likely Shakespeare was concerned in the religious turmoil of the times, was somewhat suspected, and was indignant at the cruel treatment of Edward Arden, head of the house, the first victim of the Royal Commission[141] in 1583.

Eventually he went to London, probably with introductions to many people supposed to be able and willing to help him. There were both Ardens and Shakespeares in London, and many Warwickshire men, and they thought that some place might be found even for him, the landless, unapprenticed, untrained son of a straitened father. But there were so many in a similar case. It is evident he succeeded in nothing that he hoped or wished for. His own works prove that. He was unable to act the gentleman, but was determined to play the man. He may have dwelt with, and certainly frequently visited, his old Stratford friend Richard Field, the apprentice, son-in-law, and successor of Vautrollier, the great printer. In his shop he learned not only much technical detail of his art, but refreshed his education-or, rather, went through another course, reading with a new inspiration and a kindled enthusiasm.

I have shown elsewhere how very much his mental development owed to books published by Vautrollier and Field,[142] sole publishers of many Latin works, including Ovid, of Puttenham's "Art of Poetrie," of Plutarch's "Lives," and many another book whose spirit has been transfused into Shakespeare's works. We know that he had tried his hand at altering plays, at rewriting them, and making them popular; we know that he had translated them upon the stage before 1592, because of Greene's notice then published by Chettle, of "the upstart crow."[143] And he probably had written some. But his first firm step on the staircase of fame was taken in the publication of his "Venus and Adonis" by his friend Richard Field in April, 1593, and his first grip of success in his dedication thereof to the young Earl of Southampton. The kindness of his patron between 1593 and 1594 had ripened his admiration into love; and the dedication of the "Rape of Lucrece" in the latter year placed the relations of the two men clearly before the world. A careful study of the two dedications leads to the conviction that the "Sonnets" could only have been addressed to the same[144] patron. A study of the poems and sonnets together shows much of the character, training, and culture of the author-love of nature, delight in open-air exercise and in the chase, sympathy with the Renaissance culture, and a moral standard of no common order.

In his first poem he shows how preoccupation preserves Adonis from temptation; in the second how the spiritual chastity of Lucrece is triumphant over evil. The one poem completes the conception of the other, and both lead into the sonnets. In these the author explains much of his thought and circumstance-

"Alas, 'tis true, I have gone here and there,

And made myself a motley to the view;

Gor'd mine own thoughts, sold cheap what is most dear,

Made old offences of affections new."

"Oh, for my sake do you with Fortune chide,

The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds,

That doth not better for my life provide

Than public means, which public manners breeds."[145]

Southampton did not only chide with Fortune, but took her place. Through his stepfather, Sir Thomas Henneage, who had succeeded Sir Christopher Hatton in 1589[146] as Vice-Chamberlain of the Royal Household, he was able to assist the players, and Shakespeare is for the first time recorded as having played twice before the Queen, at Greenwich on St. Stephen's Day, December 26, 1594, and on Innocents' Day, December 28 of the same year.[147] On the latter day at night, amid the turmoil of the Gray's Inn revels, Shakespeare's play of the "Comedy of Errors" was represented by his company, doubtless through the interest of the Earl of Southampton, then a student at Gray's Inn. At his coming of age in October, 1594, the young nobleman would be the better able to assist his poet. Tradition has reported that he gave Shakespeare a large sum of money, generally said to be £1,000.


To face p. 67.

However it was, the tide of Shakespeare's fortunes turned with his introduction to the Earl of Southampton, and his exertions during the remaining years of the century began to tell in financial returns. It is significant that the first known use to which he put his money was the application for the coat of arms. In that same year fortune gave him a cruel buffet in the death of his only son.[148] Nevertheless, he went on with his purchase of the largest house in his native town; so that, if the bride of his youth had waited long for a home of her own, he did what he could to make up for the delay by giving her the best he could find.[149] That he was cautious in his investments was evident. He had seen too much suffering through rashness in money affairs not to benefit by the experience. Thereby he made clear his desire for the rehabilitation of himself and family in the place where he was born. By 1598 we have irrefragable testimony to the position he had already taken, alike in the world of letters as in the social life of Stratford. In the autumn of that year appeared the perennial advertisement of Meres, the Professor of Rhetoric at Oxford, Master of Arts of both Universities, who ranks him among the first of his day, as an epic and lyric poet, and as a writer of both tragedy and comedy. "As the soule of Euphorbus was thought to live in Pythagoras, so the sweet wittie soul of Ovid lives in mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare.... As Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for Comedy and Tragedy among the Latins, so Shakespeare ... among the English is the most excellent in both kinds for the stage ... witness his 'Gentlemen of Verona,' his 'Errors,' his 'Love's Labour's Lost,' his 'Love's Labour Wonne,' his 'Midsummer Night's Dream,' and his 'Merchante of Venice'; for tragedy his 'Richard II.,' 'Richard III.,' 'Henry IV.,' 'King John,' 'Titus Andronicus,' and 'Romeo and Juliet.'"[150]

On the other hand, the Quiney correspondence shows the estimation in which his fellow-townsmen held him-that he had money, that he wanted to invest, and was already styled "master." He was considering the policy of buying "an odd yard land or other" in Stratford, when Richard Quiney, who was in the Metropolis, was urged by his brother-in-law, Abraham Sturley, to induce Shakespeare to buy one of the tithe leases. "By the friends he can make therefore, we think it a fair mark for him to shoot at; it obtained, would advance him in deed, and would do us much good." Richard Quiney was in the Metropolis at the end of 1598 on affairs of the town, trying to secure the grant of a new charter, and relief from subsidy; but either on his own account, or the affairs of the town, he applied to Shakespeare for a loan. As there are no letters of Shakespeare's extant, and this is the only one addressed to him, it is worth noting very specially. It could hardly have been sent, as it was found among the Corporation Records. Mr. Halliwell-Phillipps suggests that Shakespeare may have called to see Quiney before the letter was sent off, and given his reply verbally.

"Loveinge contreyman, I am bolde of yow, as of a ffrende, craveinge yowr helpe with xxxli uppon Mr. Bushells and my securytee, or Mr. Myttons with me. Mr. Rosswell is nott come to London as yeate, and I have especiall cawse. Yow shall ffrende me muche in helpeing me out of all the debettes I owe in London, I thancke God, and muche quyet my mynde, which wolde nott be indebeted. I am nowe towardes the Cowrte, in hope of answer for the dispatch of my buysness. Yow shall nether loase creddytt nor monney by me, the Lord wyllinge; and nowe butt persuade yourselfe soe, as I hope, and you shall nott need to feare, butt, with all hartie thanckefullness, I wyll holde my tyme, and content yowr ffrende, and yf we bargaine farther, you shal be the paie-master yowrselfe. My tyme biddes me hastene to an ende, and soe I comitt thys (to) yowr care, and hope of yowr helpe. I feare I shall nott be backe thys night ffrom the Cowrte. Haste. The Lorde be with yow and with us all, Amen. From the Bell in Carter Lane the 25th October, 1598. Yowrs in all kyndeness Ryc. Quyney.

"To my loveinge good frend and contreymann Mr. Wm. Shackespere deliver thees."[151]

And Shakespeare then befriended the man whose son was to marry his daughter. The reply seems to have been as prompt as satisfactory, for on the very same day Quiney wrote to his brother-in-law Sturley, who replied on November 4: "Your letter of the 25th of October came to my hands, the last of the same at night per Greenway,[152] which imported that our Countryman Mr. William Shakespeare would procure us money; which I will like of, as I shall hear when and where and how; and I pray let not go that occasion, if it may sort to any indifferent conditions."

It is evident that Shakespeare had at some time or other associated himself with Burbage's company. Now, James Burbage, "was the first builder of playhouses" who had planned in 1576, and in spite of evil report and professional rivalry, of municipal and royal restrictions, legal and other expenses, had successfully carried on "The Theatre" in Finsbury Fields. In 1596 he had purchased the house in Blackfriars, against the use of which as a theatre was sent up to the Privy Council a petition, which Richard Field signed.[153] The Burbages let this house for a time to a company of "children," but eventually resumed it for their own use, and in it placed "men-players, which were Hemings, Condell, Shakespeare," etc. On Burbage's death in 1597, there was a dispute about "The Theater" lease, and his sons transferred the materials to Southwark, and built the Globe in 1599. On the rearing of the Globe at heavy cost, they joined to themselves "those deserving men Shakespeare, Hemings, Condell, Philips and others, partners in the Profits of what they call the House, but making the leases for twenty-one years hath been the destruction of ourselves and others, for they, dying at the expiration of three or four years of their lease, the subsequent yeares became dissolved to strangers, as by marrying with theire widdowes, and the like by their children." (See the papers concerning the shares in the Globe, 1535: 1. Petition of Benfield, Swanston and Pollard to the Lord Chamberlain Pembroke (April). 2. A further petition. 3. The answer of Shank. 4. The answer of C. Burbage, Winifred, his brother's widow, and William his son. 5. Pembroke's judgment thereon (July 12). 6. Shanke's petition (August 7). 7. Pembroke's final decision.)[154]

Burbage, Shakespeare, Condell, Hemings had been housekeepers with four shares each. These originally died with the owner, but in later years could be inherited. Shakespeare's income therefore arose from:

1. Possibly some small sum allowed him by Richard Field and the publishers for various editions of his poems, as well as the liberality of the Earl of Southampton on their account.

2. Direct payments by the proprietors for altering and writing plays. Shares in their publication he never seems to have had.

3. His share as a player of the money taken at the doors.

4. His share as a partner in the house of the money taken in the galleries, etc.

5. His share of royal largesse in performances before the Queen, or similar gifts from noblemen.[155]

6. His share of performances in various performing tours.

And thence he acquired money enough to buy New Place; to appeal to the heralds for his father's coat of arms, and to pay the costs; to contest the Lamberts' claim through successive applications for Asbies; and to buy land and tithe leases. The death of his only son Hamnet did not deter him in his earnest efforts to regain social position, and to restore the fortunes of his family. An almost exact parallel may be found in the efforts and aims of Sir Walter Scott. But Shakespeare, having borne the yoke in youth, had acquired the experience and prudence necessary to steer himself past the dangers of speculation and the rashness of exceeding his assured income, which proved fatal to the less severely-trained novelist.

In May, 1602, he purchased from the Combes for £320 about 107 acres of land near Stratford-on-Avon, of which, as he was not in the town, seisin was granted to his brother Gilbert. On September 28, 1602, Walter Getley transferred to him a cottage and garden situated in Chapel Lane, opposite the lower gardens of New Place, quite possibly intended for the use of his brothers. It appears from the roll that he did not appear at the Manorial Court in person,[156] then held at Rowington, there being a stipulation that the estate should remain in the hands of the lady of the manor, the Countess of Warwick, until he appeared to complete the transaction with the usual formalities. On completing these, he surrendered the property to his own use for life, with remainder to his two daughters, a settlement rearranged afterwards in his will. It is mentioned as in his possession in a subsequent subsidy roll of the town.[157]

The only time in which he touched politics and State affairs he was unfortunate. There is no doubt he must have trembled at the time of the Essex Conspiracy, not only for his friend Southampton's life, but even for his own; for Philips, the manager of his company, was called before the Privy Council to account for the performances of the obnoxious play of "Richard II."

The danger passed. Probably the Privy Council thought it futile to attack the "Puppets." Nevertheless, after fulfilling their engagements they hastened from the Metropolis.[158] Some of his company went to play in Scotland, as far north as Aberdeen.[159] I am inclined to think Shakespeare went with them. The scenery in "Macbeth"[160] suggests vivid visual impressions, and the favour of James VI. must have been secured before his accession to the throne of England, for almost the first act the King did on his arrival at the Metropolis, May 7, 1603, was to execute a series of Acts that practically gave his company a monopoly.

"Pat. I., Jac. I., p. 2, m. 4. Pro Laurentio Fletcher et Willielmo Shakespeare et aliis.[161]

"James by the grace of God, etc., to all Justices, Maiors, Sheriffs, Constables, Hedboroughs, and other our Officers and lovinge Subjects, Greetinge. Knowe ye that wee, of our Speciall Grace, certeine knowledge and mere motion, have licensed and authorized, and by these presentes doe license and authorize theise our Servaunts, Laurence Fletcher, William Shakespeare, Richard Burbage, Augustyne Philippes, John Hemings, Henrie Condell, William Sly, Robert Armyn, Richard Cowly, and the rest of their Associates Freely to use and exercise the Arte and Facultie of playing Comedies, Tragedies, Histories, Enterludes, Morals, Pastoralls, Stage-plaies, and such others like as theie have alreadie studied or hereafter shall use or studie, as well for the Recreation of our loveinge Subjects as for our Solace and Pleasure, when wee shall thincke good to see them, during our pleasure; and the said Commedies, Tragedies, Histories, Enterludes, Moralls, Pastoralls, Stage-playes, and suchelike, to shewe and exercise publiquely to their best Commoditie, when the Infection of the Plague shall decrease, as well within theire nowe usuall House called the Globe within our Countie of Surrey, as also within anie Toune Halls or Moute Halls, or other convenient Places within the Liberties and Freedom of anie other Cittie, Universitie, Toune or Boroughe whatsoever, within our said Realmes and Dominions.

"Willing and commanding you and everie of you, as you tender our Pleasure, not onelie to permit and suffer them herein, without anie your Letts, Hindrances, or Molestations, during our said Pleasure, but also to be aiding and assistinge to them if anie Wrong be to them offered, and to allow them such former Curtesies as hath been given to men of their Place and Qualitie; and also what further Favour you shall shewe to theise our Servaunts for our sake, Wee shall take Kindlie at your Handes. In witnesse whereof, etc.

"Witnesse our selfe at Westminster the nynetenth Daye of Maye.

"Per Breve de Privato Sigillo."

[The privy seal for this issued on May 17.]

As James made more stringent the laws concerning "vagabonds," as he took from the nobles the power of patronage of players, reserving it only for the Royal Family, this passport gave enormous power to the players, favoured by the

King in Scotland.

Shakespeare's early patron, the Earl of Southampton, had been released from the Tower on April 10, and had gone to meet his new Sovereign, doubtless speaking a good word for the company of players. His later patron, the Earl of Pembroke, was recalled to Court favour. The King visited him in his royal progress August 30 and 31, 1603, and held his Court at Wilton, Winchester,[162] and Basing during most of October, November,[163] and December, during which time the players were summoned on December 2. "To John Hemyngs on 3rd December, for a play before the King, by the King's men at Wilton, and for coming from Mortlake in Surrey, £30."[164]

On March 15, 1603-1604, the King's players were summoned to the Triumphant Royal Procession, received robes for the occasion, and took rank at Court[165] with the Grooms of the Chamber. Henceforth Shakespeare's genius revelled in the opportunities fortune had made for him, and in the taste he had himself educated. The world appreciated his work the better "that so did take Eliza and our James."[166] The snarls of envy witnessed his success; the eulogiums of admirers perpetuated his appreciation. On May 4, 1605, Augustine Phillips died, leaving by will "to my fellow William Shakespeare a thirty-shilling piece in gold." In July of that year (July 24, 1605) Shakespeare completed his largest purchase, in buying for £440 the unexpired term of the moiety of the tithe-lease of Stratford, Old Stratford, Bishopton, and Welcombe.

In that year John Davenant took out the lease of the Crown Inn at Oxford, where the following year his son William was born. Gossip, supported, if not originated, by himself, suggests that William Davenant was the son rather than the godson of Shakespeare, an unfounded slander disposed of by Halliwell-Phillipps.

On June 5, 1607, Susanna Shakespeare married Dr. Hall. Elizabeth, their only child, and the only grandchild Shakespeare saw, was born in February, 1607-1608, and in September of that year John Shakespeare's widow-Shakespeare's mother-died.

It is probable Shakespeare returned home to his mother's funeral, as he was chief godfather on October 16 to the William Walker of Stratford to whom he bequeathed 20s. in gold in 1616. In 1608 and 1609 Shakespeare instituted a process for debt against John Addenbroke and his security Hornebie. His attorney was his cousin, Thomas Greene, then residing, under unknown conditions, at New Place. In the latter year he instituted more important proceedings concerning the tithes. The papers of the complaint by Lane, Green, and Shakespeare to Lord Ellesmere in 1612, concerning other lessees, give details of the income he derived therefrom.[167]

In 1610 he purchased 20 acres of pasture-land from the Combes to add to his freeholds. The concord of the fine is dated April 13, 1610, and, as it was acknowledged before the Commissioners, he is believed to have been in Stratford at the time. In a subscription list drawn up at Stratford September 11, 1611, his name is the only one entered on the margin, as if it were a later insertion, "towards the charge of prosecuting the Bill in Parliament for the better repair of Highways." A Parliament was then expected to meet, but it was not summoned till long afterwards. In 1612 Lane, Green, and Shakespeare filed a new bill of complaint concerning the tithes before Lord Ellesmere.

In March, 1613, he made a curious purchase of a tenement and yard, one or two hundred yards to the east of the Blackfriars Theatre. The lower part had long been in use as a haberdasher's shop. The vendor was Henry Walker, a musician, who had paid £100 for it in 1604, and who asked then the price of £140. Shakespeare, however, at this raised price secured it, leaving £60 of it on mortgage. The date of the conveyance deed is March 10, 1613,[168] probably signed on the 11th, on which day it was enrolled in the Court of Chancery. Besides the witnesses to this document, there was present Henry Lawrence, the scrivener who had drawn it up, who unfortunately lent his seal to the poet, which still exists, bearing the initials "H. L."

Shakespeare is believed to have written two plays a year while he was a shareholder. On June 29, 1613, the Globe Theatre was destroyed by fire while the history of Henry VIII. was being enacted. Burbage, Hemings, Condell, and the Fool were so long in leaving the theatre that the spectators feared for their safety. It is not known whether this fire would prove a loss to him. In June of that year a malicious piece of gossip was circulating in Stratford against the good name of Shakespeare's daughter, Susanna Hall. The rumour was traced to a man called Lane, who was summoned to appear before the Ecclesiastical Court at Worcester on July 15, 1613. He did not venture to appear, and he was duly excommunicated for perjury.

It was the custom for the Corporation then to make complimentary offerings of wine to those whom they wished to honour, and thus they honoured an itinerant preacher, quartered at New Place, in the spring of 1614, with a quart of sack and another of claret, and this has been supposed to prove that the poet had turned Puritan. John Combe, one of the chief men of the neighbourhood, died in July, 1614, leaving Shakespeare £5. Shakespeare would probably never receive it. The will, dated January 28, 1612-13, was not proved till November, 1616. It is clear, however, that these men were friendly at that time, and that the mock elegy, attributed to Shakespeare, could not then have been written, or, if written, was only laughed at. The Globe Theatre was rebuilt at great cost that year. Chamberlain, writing to a lady in Venice, said: "I hear much speech of this new playhouse, which is sayde to be the fayrest that ever was in England" (June 30, 1614).

In the same year, William Combe, the new Squire of Welcombe, attempted enclosure of some of the common fields, a design resisted by the Corporation. This scheme materially affected Shakespeare through his tithes, and much discussion has been waged over the true meaning of the entries of his cousin, Thomas Green, the Town Clerk of Stratford-on-Avon, and his attorney. Unfortunately, these are badly written, and the composition is dubious; but to my mind it seems clear that Green meant to say that Mr. Shakespeare could not bear the enclosing of Welcombe.[169]

In the opening of 1615-16 Shakespeare found himself "in perfect healthe and memorie-God be praised"; and yet, for some reason, he wished to make a new will, "revoking all other wills," and his solicitor, Francis Collins of Warwick, drew up a draft. Halliwell-Phillipps thinks this was done in January, and that it was intended to have been signed on the 25th of that month. I own that the date, erased to be replaced by "March," looks to me more like "February." An important difference it would be, because in January he might not have known that his daughter, Judith Shakespeare, aged 32, had made up her mind to marry Thomas Quiney, aged 28. By February 25 she had already done it. On February 10, 1616, Thomas Quiney was married, at Stratford-on-Avon, to Judith Shakespeare without a license, an irregularity for which both the parties were summoned to appear[170] before the Ecclesiastical Courts some weeks afterwards, and threatened with excommunication, but probably the fact of Shakespeare's illness and death would act as an excuse in high quarters.

Though it seems to me that the will must have been drawn up before Judith's marriage, the possibility of such a change of state is clearly considered. There is no sign of indignation at the later date of the signing of the will, and £300 was a large portion; and there are no alterations in his bequests to her, except a curious one. The first bequest was originally intended to have been in favour of "my sonne and daughter Judith," but the "sonne" was erased. Of course, this possibly arose from the scrivener intending to start with the Halls. But the less important bequests came first. One hundred and fifty pounds was to be paid to Judith within a year, in two instalments, the £100 in discharge of her marriage portion, and the £50 on her surrendering her share in the copyhold tenement in Stratford-on-Avon (once Getley's) to her sister, Susanna Hall. Another £150[171] was to be paid Judith, or any of her heirs alive at the date of three years after the testator's death. If she had died without issue at that date, £100 thereof was to go to Elizabeth Hall, and £50 to his sister Joan and her children. If Judith were alive, the stock was to be invested by the executors, and only the interest paid her as long as she was married, unless her husband had "assured her in lands answerable to her portion."

Sister Joan was to have £20, the testator's wearing apparel, and a life-rent in the Henley Street house, under the yearly payment of one shilling. Five pounds a piece were left to her sons. Elizabeth Hall was to have all the plate, except his broad silver-gilt bowl, which he left to Judith. Ten pounds he left to the poor, his sword to Mr. Thomas Combe, £5 to Thomas Russell, £13 6s. 8d. to Francis Collins. Rings of the value of 26s. 8d. each were left to Hamnet Sadler, William Reynolds, gent., Antony Marsh, gent., Mr. John Marsh; and in interpolation "to my fellows, John Heming, Richard Burbage, and Henry Condell," and to William Walker, his godson, 20s. in gold.

To enable his daughter Susanna to perform all this, she received "the Capital Messuage called New Place, wherein I now dwell, two messuages in Henley Street, and all my Barns, Stables, Orchards, Gardens, Lands, Tenements and hereditaments whatsoever lying in Stratford-upon-Avon, Old Stratford, Bishopton, and Welcombe, in the County of Warwick"; and "that Messuage in Blackfriars in London near the Wardrobe wherein one John Robinson now dwelleth."

The descent was to be to her sons if she had any, failing whom to the sons of his grand-daughter Elizabeth, failing whom to the sons of his daughter Judith, failing whom "to the right heires of me William Shakespeare for ever."

Item interpolated: "I give unto my wife my second-best bed, with the furniture."

Everything else to his "sonne-in-law John Hall, gent., and to his daughter Susanna, his wife," whom he made executors.

Thomas Russell, Esq., and Francis Collins, gent., were to be overseers. There were several witnesses. It was proved June 22, 1616, by John Hall, at Westminster, but the inventory is unfortunately lost.

Much discussion has taken place over Shakespeare's legacy to his wife. It may very simply and naturally have arisen from some conversation in which a reference had been made to giving her "the best bed." But that was the visitor's couch. "The second-best" would have been her own, that which she had used through the years, and he wished her to feel that that was not included in the "residue." That was to be her very own. As to any provision for her, it must have taken the form of a settlement, a jointure, or a dower. There is no trace of the first or second. But the English law then assured a widow in a third of her husband's property for life and the use of the capital messuage, if another was not provided her. The absence of all special provision for Mrs. Shakespeare seems to have arisen from her husband's knowledge of this and his trust in the honour of Mr. John Hall, and the love of his daughters for their mother. It also supports my opinion of her extreme delicacy of constitution. She was not to be overweighted by mournful responsibilities.

The indefiniteness of the residuary inheritance leaves room for surmise. A curious reference, not, it seems to me, hitherto sufficiently noted, occurs in the Burbage Case of 1635. Cuthbert, Winifred, the widow of Richard, and William his son, recite facts concerning their father James, who was the first builder of playhouses. "And to ourselves we joined those deserving men, Shakspere, Hemings, Condell, Phillips, and others, partners[172] in the profittes of that they call the House; but makeing the leases for twenty-one yeares hath been the destruction of ourselves and others, for they dying at the expiration of three or four yeares of their lease, the subsequent yeeres became dissolved to strangers, as by marrying with their widdowes and the like by their children."

If Shakespeare's "lease" had not then expired, which seems to me implied, it would have been "dissolved to a stranger" in the person of Dr. Hall.

Some ready money would be required for the carrying out of the will. Three hundred pounds left to Judith, and £73 13s. 4d. in smaller bequests, would certainly run up to £400 by the payment of debts and funeral expenses. The eagerness to leave all land to his own children is another proof of Shakespeare's earnest desire to found a family.

Shakespeare did not immediately die after the signing of his will. Probably the devoted care of his wife and daughters and the skill of his son-in-law soothed his dying moments. But one cannot but have a lurking suspicion of maltreatment through the crude medical notions of the time: of bleeding when there should have been feeding; of vile medicines when Nature should have been supported and not undermined by art. At all events, Dr. John Hall had not the happiness and honour to record the name of his illustrious father-in-law in his book of "Cures."[173] This was the one great failure of his life.


To face p. 83.

The April 23 on which Shakespeare closed his eyes completed his cycle of fifty-two years, according to ordinary reckoning. But strangely enough there is entered on his tombstone "?tatis 53," and this suggests that he had been born on April 22. No records of his funeral have come down to us, but it must have made a stir in his native place. He was a native of the town, known to all in his youth, and loved by many. Yet, on the other hand, he had offended all the traditions of the borough. He had descended from the safe levels of trade to the vagabond life of a "common player," especially detested in Stratford-on-Avon (see notes); he had made money somehow in the city, and had returned to spend it in his native town, but he had never taken office, and had never been "one of them." And at the end he was to be buried in the Chancel, the select spot for nobles and prelates and "great men." Verily the tongues of the gossips of Stratford would wag on April 25, 1616. The authorship of the doggerel lines on his tomb has been attributed to various people. Probably they were a part of the stock-in-trade of the stone-cutter, that satisfied Shakespeare's widow as expressing a known wish of her "dear departed." Rude as they are, they have fulfilled their end:

"Good Frend, for Jesus' sake forbeare

To digg the dust encloased here;

Bleste be the man that spares thes stones,

And curst be he that moves my bones."

Meanwhile Shakespeare's friends had been planning a monument to be placed on the northern wall of the Chancel. The bust is said to have been prepared from a death-mask, and to have been sculptured by one Gerard Johnson, son and successor of the Amsterdam tomb-maker, whose place of business lay between St. Saviour's Church and the Globe Theatre. He may be presumed to have frequently seen Shakespeare in his lifetime. The exact date of its erection is not known, but it would seem to have been some time before 1623, as Leonard Digges refers to it in his poem prefixed to the First Folio, "To the Memorie of the deceased Authour, Maister W. Shakespeare":

"Shakespeare, at length thy pious fellowes give

The World thy Workes-thy Workes, by which outlive

Thy touche thy name must; when that stone is rent,

And Time dissolves thy Stratford monument,

Here we alive shall view thee still."

Crude and inartistic as it is, the bust must have had some likeness in its earlier days to have satisfied critical eyes; but it has passed through so many vicissitudes, and suffered so much restoration, that the likeness may have entirely vanished by this time. Nevertheless, it remains a witness to the affection of the surviving, and a witness, Puritans though they were, that it was on account of the power of his pen that he deserved special remembrance.

Upon a mural tablet are other verses, which would seem not to have been composed by his own friends, as they speak of Shakespeare's lying "within this monument." Whoever wrote them, the family accepted them, and the world has endorsed them:

William Camden had finished his "Britannia" by 1617 (commenced in 1597), printed in 1625. He says of Stratford Church: "In the chancel lies William Shakespeare, a native of this place, who has given ample proof of his genius and great abilities in the forty-eight plays he has left behind him."

It is evident that the First Folio, 1623, was intended by his "fellows" at the Globe to stand as their monument to his memory, built of the plays that had become their private property by purchase. The verses that preface it, written by W. Basse, suggest that Shakespeare should have been buried by Chaucer, Spenser, Beaumont, in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey. But the author withdraws his wish.

"Sleep, Brave Tragedian, Shakspere, sleep alone

Thy unmolested rest, unshared cave

Possess as Lord, not tenant to thy grave," etc.

Archy's "Banquet of Jests," printed in 1630, tells of one travelling through Stratford, "a town most remarkable for the birth of famous William Shakespeare." In the same year is said to have been written Milton's memorable epitaph (printed 1632), a noble testimony from the Puritan genius to the power of his play-acting brother:

"What needs my Shakspere for his honoured bones,

The labour of an age in pilèd stones?

Or that his hallowed reliques should be hid

Under a star y-pointing pyramid?

Dear son of memory, great heir of fame,

What needst thou such weak witness of thy fame?

Thou, in our wonder and astonishment,

Hast built thyself a live-long monument," etc.

By 1651 had already been suggested an annual commemoration of his life in Samuel Sheppard's "Epigram on Shakspere," verse 6:

"Where thy honoured bones do lie,

As Statius once to Maro's urn,

Thither every year will I

Slowly tread and sadly turn."

The State Papers even show the appreciation of his age.[174] But I was pleased to find that the first recorded student of Shakespeare was a woman. On January 21, 1638,[175] Madam Anne Merrick, in the country, wrote to a friend in London that she could not come to town, but "must content herself with the study of Shakespeare and the 'History of Women,'" which seem to have constituted all her country library. The Judges of King Charles I. reproached him with the study of Shakespeare's Plays.[176]

These records also contain a bookseller's (Mr. Moseley's) account[177] for books, probably provided to Lord Conway, among which are "Ben Jonson's poems, 6d., Beaumont's poems, 6d., Shakespeare's poems, 1/-," etc.

Other references to Shakespeare's works occur in the same records. But as this is not intended as a literary biography, I forbear to reproduce them now.


[136] Bearley Registers.

[137] Worcester Marriage Licenses.

[138] Francis Throgmorton, son and heir of Sir John Throgmorton, of Feckenham, to Anne Sutton, alias Dudley, daughter of Sir Edward Sutton, June 3, 1571. See my "Shakespeare's Warwickshire Contemporaries," p. 111.

[139] See July 13, 1895, p. 67.

[140] "Shakespeare's Warwickshire Contemporaries," ii., p. 12. Sir Thomas had no park, and Justice Shallow bore no resemblance to him, etc.

[141] Ibid., vi., p. 48; also Athen?um, February 8, 1896, p. 190.

[142] "Shakespeare's Warwickshire Contemporaries," i. Richard Field, Stratford-on-Avon Press.

[143] Greene's "Groatsworth of Wit."

[144] See my articles "The Date of the Sonnets," Athen?um, March 19 and 26, 1898, pp. 374, 403, and "Mr. W. H.," August 4, 1900, p. 154.

[145] Sonnets CX. and CXI.

[146] See my English article (reprinted) "The Earliest Official Record of Shakespeare's Name," "Shakespeare Jahrbuch," vol. xxxii., Berlin, 1896.

[147] Declared Accounts, Treasury Chamber, Pipe Office, 542.

[148] August 11, 1596 (Stratford Burial Register).

[149] William Underhill, the Lord of Idlicote (by Barton-on-the-Heath), conveyed New Place to Shakespeare at Easter, 1597, and died in July of that year. His son Fulke died without issue, and his brother Hercules, who succeeded, being under age, did not complete the transfer till 1602.

[150] Meres' "Wit's Treasury," second part of "Wit's Commonwealth."

[151] From the original at the birthplace, Stratford-on-Avon.

[152] Greenway was the Stratford carrier.

[153] State Papers, Dom. Ser., Eliz., cclx. 116.

[154] The Burbage and Benfield Case, the Lord Chamberlain's Papers, 1635, P.R.O. See also Halliwell-Phillipps, "Outlines," i. 312, and Fleay, "Hist. of Stage," p. 325.

[155] See Accounts of Treasurer of the Chamber, etc.

[156] Halliwell-Phillipps, "Outlines," i. 205; ii. 19. Court Rolls of Rowington.

[157] State Papers, Dom. Ser., Eliz., Subsidy List., 1605.

[158] The title-page of "Hamlet" (Stat. Reg., July 26, 1602) implies that the company had been travelling to Oxford and Cambridge.

[159] See Dibden's "History of the Edinburgh Stage."

[160] See my own paper on "The Scottish and English Macbeth."-"Transactions of the Royal Society of Literature," 1897.

[161] Rymer's "F?dera," V. xvi. 505.

[162] Nichols's "Progresses of James I.," vol. i.

[163] See Letters and Proclamations in State Papers, Domestic Series, of the time.

[164] Dec. Acc. Treasurer of the Chamber (November, 1603-4).

[165] Halliwell-Phillipps, "Outlines," i. 212.

[166] Ben Jonson's verses, 1623, folio.

[167] Fleay's "Life of Shakespeare," p. 7.

[168] This deed is preserved in the Guildhall Library, and an account of it appears in the Antiquary, New Series, iv. 204.

[169] See Dr. Ingleby, "Shakespeare and the Welcombe Enclosures."

[170] Worcester Bishops' Books.

[171] Justice Shallow tells Anne Page that his cousin Slender will maintain her as a gentlewoman: "He will make you a hundred and fifty pounds jointure."-The Merry Wives of Windsor, III., 4.

[172] See Halliwell-Phillipps, "Outlines," i. 312.

[173] See next chapter, p. 98.

[174] See Dr. Ingleby's "Century of Praise," and my own "Bacon-Shakespeare Question Answered."

[175] State Papers, Domestic Series, Charles I., 409 (167).

[176] J. Cooke's appeal to all rational men, 1649.

[177] Ibid., 478 (16).

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