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The dramas written by Shakespeare up to 1594. Document relating to his
father, under the authority of Sir Thomas Lucy, Sir Fulk Greville, &c. Recusants in Stratford-upon-Avon. John Shakespeare employed to value the goods of H. Field. Publication of “Venus and Adonis" during the plague in 1593. Dedication of it, and of “Lucrece,” 1594, to the Earl of Southampton. Bounty of the Earl to Shakespeare, and coincidence between the date of his gift and the building of the Globe theatre on the Bankside. Probability of the story that Lord Southampton presented Shakespeare with 10001.
HAVING arrived at the year 1594, we may take this opportunity of stating which of Shakespeare's extant works, in our opinion, had by that date been produced. We have already mentioned the three parts of “ Henry VI.,” “Titus Andronicus,” “The Comedy of Errors," "The Two Gentlemen of Verona,” and “Love's Labour's Lost," as most likely in being in 1591; and in the interval between 1591 and 1594, we apprehend, he had added to them “Richard II.” and “Richard III.” Of these, the four last were entirely the work of our great dramatist : in the others he had more or less availed himself of previous dramas, or, possibly, of the assistance of contemporaries.
We must now return to Stratford-upon-Avon, in order to advert to a very different topic.
A document has been discovered in the State Paper Office, which is highly interesting with respect to the religious tenets, or worldly circumstances, of Shakespeare's father in 1592'. Sir Thomas Lucy, Sir Fulk Greville, Sir Henry Goodere, Sir John Harrington, and four others, having been appointed commissioners to make inquiries “touching all such persons" as were "jesuits, seminary priests, fugitives, or recusantes,” in the county of Warwick, sent to the Privy Council what they call their “second certificate," on the 25th Sept. 1592 '': it is divided into different heads, according to the respective hundreds, parishes, &c., and each page is signed by them. One of these divisions applies to Stratford-upon-Avon, and the return of names there is thus introduced :
9 We have to express our best thanks to Mr. Lemon for directing our attention to this MS., and for supplying us with an analysis of its contents.
10 The first certificate has not yet been found in the State Paper Office, after the most diligent search.
“ The names of all sutch Recusantes as have bene heartofore presented for
not cominge monethlie to the church, according to her Majesties lawes, and yet are thought to forbeare the church for debt, and for feare of processe, or for some other worse faultes, or for age, sicknes, or im. potencie of bodie."
The names which are appended to this introduction are the following :
“ Mr. John Wheeler,
and opposite to them, separated by a bracket, we read these words:
“ It is sayd, that these last nine coome not to churche for feare of processe of debte."
Here we find the name of “Mr. John Shakespeare" either as a recusant, or as “forbearing the Church," on account of the fear of process of debt, or on account of “age, sickness, , or impotency of body," mentioned in the introduction to the document. The question is, to which cause we are to attribute his absence; and with regard to process of debt, we are to recollect that it could not be served on Sunday', so that apprehension of that kind need not have kept him away from church on the Sabbath. Neither was it likely that his son, who was at this date profitably employed in London as an actor and author, and who three years earlier was a sharer in the Blackfriars theatre, would have allowed his father to continue so distressed for money, as not to be able to attend the usual place of divine worship’. Therefore, although John Shakespeare was certainly in great pecuniary difficulties at the time his son William quitted Stratford, we altogether reject the notion that that son had permitted his father to live in comparative want, while he himself possessed more than competence.
1 We thus see that Shakespeare took two names in his “ Henry V." from persons who bore them in his native town. Audrey (in “ As You Like It") was also a female appellation known in Stratford, as appears elsewhere in the same document.
2 Anterior to the statute 29 Car. II. cap. 7, any person arresting another on the Sabbath day, was liable to attachment; but that act provided not only that process so served should be void, but that the party serving it should be liable in damages as if he had done the same without any writ, process, warrant, order, judgment, or decree at all.” The coincidence of names and subject in the following, which we derive from the State Paper Office, is very remarkable, though it does not appear to what place or division of the country it applies, nor at what particular date the information was taken. It is indorsed merely “Roger Shaxpere agenst Cutbert Tempull."
“ The Information of Roger Shakespere for the behaviour of one Cutberd Temple in absentinge hime self from the church.
“The sayd Roger Shakespere saythe that the fornamed Cutberd Temple hath not this twelve monethe and a quarter comme to his parishe churche, and was much associate with one Mr. Aston, and one Mr. Dudley, and one Bedell, whiche is nowe in the Tower, and one Glover of Coventrye, whose brother of late was buried. Moreover there is a man that owyth unto the forsayd Cutberd Temple
“Age, sickness, and impotency of body,” may indeed have kept John Shakespeare from church, but upon this point we have no information beyond the fact, that if he were born, as Malone supposes, in 1530, he was at this date only sixty-two.
With regard to his religious opinions, it is certain that after he became alderman of Stratford, on 4th July 1565, he must have taken the usual oath required from all protestants ; but according to the records of the borough, it was not administered to him until the 12th September following his election. This trifling circumstance perhaps hardly deserves notice, as it may have been usual to choose the corporate officers at one court, and to swear them in at the next. So far John Shakespeare may have conformed to the requirements of the law, but it is still possible that he may not have adopted all the new protestant tenets, or that having adopted them, like various other conscientious men, he saw reason afterwards to return to the faith he had abandoned. We have no evidence on this point as regards him; but we have evidence, as regards a person of the name of Thomas Greene,
the somme of vijc pounds, to be payd yerely a cli for the space of vij. yeres, and nowe would take iiijc to have it payd imediately: for what occasion he doeth it I cannot tell.” The mention of Coventry of course carries us into Warwickshire,
By an account of rents received by Thomas Rogers, Chamberlain of Stratford, in 1589, it appears that “John Shakespeare" occupied a house in Bridge-street, at an annual rent of twelve shillings, nine shillings of which had been paid. Perhaps (as Malone thought) this was John Shakespeare, the shoemaker; because the father of the poet, having been bailiff and head alderman, was usually styled Mr. John Shakespeare, as we have before remarked. However, it is a circumstance to be noted, that the name of John Shakespeare immediately follows that of Henry Fylde or Field, whose goods Mr. John Shakespeare was subsequently employed to value : they were therefore in all probability neighbours.
(who, although it seems very unlikely, may have been the same man who was an actor in the company to which Shakespeare belonged, and who was a co-sharer in the Blackfriars Theatre in 1589) who is described in the certificate of the commissioners as then of a different parish, and who, it is added, had confessed that he had been “reconciled to the Romish religion.” The memorandum is in these terms :
“ It is here to be remembered that one Thomas Greene, of this parisshe, heretofore presented and indicted for a recusante, hath confessed to Mr. Robt. Burgoyn, one of the commissioners for this service, that an ould Preest reconciled him to the Romishe religion, while he was prisoner in Worcester goale. This Greene is not everie day to be founde.”
On the same authority we learn that the wife of Thomas Greene was “a most wilful recusant;" and although we are by no means warranted in forming even an opinion on the question, whether Mary Shakespeare adhered to the ancient faith, it is indisputable, if we may rely upon the representation of the commissioners, that some of her family continued Roman Catholics. In the document under consideration it is stated, that Mrs. Mary Arden and her servant John Browne had been presented to the commissioners as recusants, and that they had been so prior to the date of the former return by the same official persons.
Many years anterior to the date of which we are now speaking the town and neighbourhood of Stratford-uponAvon was remarkable for discord on the subject of religion. As early as 1537 commissioners had been appointed by the crown to investigate a dispute respecting the sermon of a clergyman of the name of Large, on the marriage of an inhabitant of Stratford with a young woman of Hampton, one of the commissioners being William Lucy of Charlcote, the ancestor of Sir Thomas Lucy. The sermon, from a disciple of the new school of faith, was interrupted by an inhabitant of Stratford, who adhered to the ancient tenets; and we need not doubt that the Roman Catholic faith long lingered in the birth place of our poet, though we are without any positive evidence on the question, whether his father did or did not, in 1592, continue to profess the religious opinions of his ancestors".
In considering the subject of the faith of our poet's father, we ought to put entirely out of view the paper upon which Dr. Drake lays some stress'; we mean the sort of religious will, or confession of faith, supposed to have been found, about the year 1770, concealed in the tiling of the house John Shakespeare is conjectured to have inhabited. It was printed by Malone in 1790, but it obviously merits no attention, and there are many reasons for believing it to be spurious. Malone once looked upon it as authentic, but he corrected his judgment respecting it afterwards.
4 See a valuable paper upon this dispute at Stratford, subscribed by Mr. Hepworth Dixon, F.S.A., in “The Athenæum” of the 18th April, 1857. We rejoice when we see able names illustrating points of our great poet's biography.
Upon the new matter we have here been able to produce, we shall leave the reader to draw his own conclusion, and to decide for himself, whether John Shakespeare forbore church in 1592, because he was in fear of arrest, because he was “aged, sick, and impotent of body,” or because he did not accord in protestant doctrines.
We ought not, however, to omit to add, that if John Shakespeare were infirm in 1592, or if he were harassed and threatened by creditors, neither the one circumstance nor the other prevented him from being employed in August 1592 (in what particular capacity, or for what precise purpose is not stated) to assist “Thomas Trussell, gentleman," and “Richard Spooner and others,” in taking an inventory of the goods and chattels of Henry Field of Stratford, tanner, after his decease. A contemporary copy of the original document was formerly placed in the hands of the Shakespeare Society for publication, but the fact, and not the details, is all that seems of importance here. In the heading
5 “ Shakspeare and his Times," Vol. i. p. 8. Dr. Drake seems to be of opinion that John Shakespeare may have refrained from attending the corporation halls previous to 1586, on account of his religious opinions.
6 It has the following title :
“A true and perfect Inventory of the Goodes and Cattells, which were the Goodes and Cattells of Henry Feelde, late of Stretford-uppon-Avon in the County of Warwyke, tanner, now decessed, beynge in Stretford aforesayd, the 21st daye of Auguste, Anno Domini 1592. By Thomas Trussell, Gentleman, Mr. John Shaksper, Richard Sponer and others.”
The items of the inventory consist of nothing but an enumeration of old bedsteads, painted cloths, andirons, &c., of no curiosity and of little value. It is to be observed that Thomas Trussel was an attorney of Stratford, and it seems very likely that the valuation was made in relation to Field's will. The whole sum at which the goods were estimated was 141. 14s. Od., and the total, with the names of the persons making the appraisement, is thus stated at the end of the account:
“ Some totall - 141. 148. Od.