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Then shalt thou see the dew-bedabbled wretch
Turn and return, indenting with the way;
Each shadow makes him stop, each murmur stay."
When Oberon observes,
“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine," we may in fancy see the young Londoner summoning up the remembrance of his boyhood strolls over hill and dale. So, too, when he writes,
“Full many a glorious morning have I seen
Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye,
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy,"
we believe he is thinking of the Warwickshire days.
Near by were two famous castles, Warwick and Kenilworth. Some one has called Warwick Castle " that fairest monument of ancient and chivalrous splendor which yet remains uninjured by time.” In Shakspere's day it was considered old. When in Macbeth we find
“ This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air
Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself
This guest of summer,
Hath made his pendent bed and procreant cradle," it is not too fanciful to suppose that Shakspere is thinking of Kenilworth Castle, “the most stupendous of similar structures that have fallen to decay.” These places must have appealed to the romantic imagination of the Stratford boy.
hud Marriage and London. + When Shakspere was eighteen and a half years old he married Anne Hathaway, a woman eight years older, if, according to the inscription upon her tomb, she was sixty-seven years old when she died in 1623. Anne lived in Shottery, a small hamlet within easy reach of Stratford. The old cottage was purchased by the Birthplace Trustees in 1892, and is now one of the showplaces that attract thousands to Stratford and vicinity.
“How often in the summer-tide,
As to the pipe of Pan,
Across the fields to Anne!” *
Just when Shakspere left Stratford and entered upon his London life is hard to determine with exactness, but we may say about 1586. There is a tradition that his departure was hastened by his deer-stealing from the estate of Sir Thomas Lucy. Much has been written concerning this youthful adventure. It is enough to say that poaching, although punished by law with imprisonment for three months and the payment of three times the amount of damage, was looked upon by the public with leniency. However, Sir Thomas Lucy and his fellow-owners of game-preserves, the men who also made the laws concerning poaching, looked upon the matter in a more serious light. Perhaps the unpleasantness connected with this incident did hasten Shakspere's departure from Stratford, but it is not necessary to fall back upon this tradition to account for his entrance into the larger and more stimulating life of London. He was now the head of a family consisting of a wife and three children; his father had met with reverses in business; there was little to do in Stratford; there was the ever-insistent call of the city.
London was then a city of about 150,000 inhabitants, small compared with the many-millioned metropolis of today, but rich in association and varied life even in the sixteenth century. It
*R. E. Burton, Century, 1889.
is estimated that ten thousand foreigners from all parts of the world thronged its streets. The Tower, the Cathedral, London Bridge, oftentimes decorated with the heads of those lately executed, its new tobacco shops where the art of smoking was taught, the two playhouses — The Theater, and The Curtain all must have stirred the imagination of the young man who had come up from Stratford to try his fortune.
Just what he did at first is not known. There are traditions that he worked in a printing office, was a lawyer's clerk, that he held horses in front of the theater, and that he at once found work within the theater. The one thing of which we are sure is that he did soon secure this last employment. He was an actor, and then became a dramatist.
Shakspere as Actor.- His knowledge of stagecraft was acquired by actual experience on the stage. This was a most valuable experience, for a man may be a good poet and easily fail to be a dramatist. There are traditions that he played the Ghost in Hamlet, and Adam in As You Like It. On the title page
of Ben Jonson's Every Man in his Humor occurs: "Every One in His Umor. This comedie was first acted in the yeere 1598 by the then L. Chamberleyne his servants. The principal comedians were Will. Shakspeare. Here his name occurs with a list of ten actors and his is placed first. In 1603, he occupies with Burbage the prominent place in the list of actors playing Jonson's Sejanus.
From acting he soon turned to the re-writing of old plays, and then to the making of new. That he must have made rapid progress is seen in the famous passage from the bitter pen of Robert Greene, who died in 1592. Greene had a hard struggle and became violently jealous of the young dramatist who was succeeding. He warns his contemporaries to guard against this upstart:
“Yes, trust them not; for there is an upstart crow beautified with our feathers that, with his Tygers heart wrapt in a Players hide, supposes he is well able to bumbast out a blank verse as the best of you; and being an absolute Johannes Factotum, is in his own conceit the onely Shakescene in a countrie ... but it is pittie men of such rare wit should be subject to the pleasures of such rude grooms.”
Business Interests. Our poet was more than dramatist and actor: he was also a good business man. In addition to what he earned as actor and writer of plays, he owned shares in the Blackfriars and Globe theaters. What his income from his interests in these theaters was, is a matter of dispute. Professor Wallace thinks his share in Blackfriars, which originally cost him nothing but the yearly rental of nearly £6, was worth on the market about £100 and produced an income of between one-third and one-half that amount. A Mr. Witter, who owned the same amount of stock, one-fourteenth of the entire, of the Globe, places his income at from £30 to £40 a year.* This refers to the years before 1613. Money in those days had a far greater purchasing power than today. Some scholars multiply by 8 to get the present equivalent. This, with his income from the selling of his plays, sometimes placed at £25, and his salary as actor, estimated by some at £100, would give him a yearly income of about $6,000 in our money. Others have estimated it as high as $25,000 for the best years. However, as Professor C. W. Wallace, an American scholar, well characterizes the latter estimate, this is "a large fancy." It is enough to know that Shakspere was a better business man than his father; that he prospered in his London life; that as early as 1597 he was enabled to purchase New Place, a handsome house in the best part of Stratford. In 1602 he purchased 107 acres of land for £320; in 1605 the right to farm the Stratford tithes for £440, and in 1610 an estate of the Combe family. All this indicates the prosperity of a successful man.
The Bellot-Mountjoy Suit. — Professor Wallace has discovered twenty-six documents bearing on a case in which Shakspere is mentioned twenty-four times. One of the documents is Shakspere's own deposition, signed by his hand. This signature is the sixth now in existence. To find these documents, the professor and his wife ransacked the records of the Public Record House, the great national archive of England, handling over a million documents in their search for anything having to do with
* Century Magazine, August, 1910. † Harper's Magazine, March, 1910.
the name of Shakspere. In 1612 Stephen Bellot brought suit against Mountjoy, a fashionable French wig and head-dress maker, with whom Shakspere had probably been a lodger since 1598. Upon finishing his apprenticeship to Mountjoy, Bellot had married his master's daughter Mary. Upon the request of Madam Mountjoy, Shakspere had acted as an intermediary in arranging the marriage, as he admits in his signed deposition; he also says a dower was to go with the marriage, but forgets what the amount was, and denies that a legacy of £200 had been promised. Bellot was suing to recover the dowry; the case is referred for settlement to the French church in London,
The interest in this case lies in the possession of a new signature of Shakspere's, and in the light it throws upon Shakspere's residence and associates in London. Mountjoy's house was situated in a respectable neighborhood, on the corner of Muggle and Silver Streets. St. Paul's Cathedral, the center of the social life and gossip of the city, was within five minutes' walk. It is probable that Shakspere's greatest plays were written while he was a lodger in the house of the French Huguenot. In reading Henry V we can easily understand that Katharine and Alice and Henry, in their amusing attempts at learning a new language, are a reflection of what occurred frequently in the house of Mountjoy, when Mary and her father and mother were exchanging impromptu lessons with the gentle and quick-witted poet, who has fepaid them by associating their names with his three hundred years after, insuring them an immortality. The Elizabethan Age. — A great man is partly the product of
The Age of Pericles has a group of men such as Æschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Phidias, Miltiades, to mark it as one of the world's great epochs. So, too, at the time of the Italian Renaissance we have Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, and a dozen other distinguished men, to add luster to that period. In both instances the men were nourished by the stirring age in which they lived. Shakspere cannot be explained, for genius is inexplicable, but we know that he was profoundly influenced by the age in which he lived.