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apparently been the main object of many years of toil, anxiety, and deprivation.
Whatever doubt may prevail as to the day of the birth of Shakespeare, none can well exist as to the day of his death. The inscription on his monument in Stratford church tells us,
“ Obiit Anno Domini 1616.
Ætatis 53 die 23 Apr.” And it is remarkable that he was born and died on the same day of the same month, supposing him to have first seen the light on the 23rd April, 1564'. It was most usual about that period to mention the day of death in inscriptions upon tomb-stones, tablets, and monuments; and such was the case with other members of the Shakespeare family. We are thus informed that his wife, Anne Shakespeare, “departed this life the 6th day of Augu. 1623';" Dr. Hall “deceased Nove. 25. Ao. 1635* :" Thomas Nash, who married Hall's daughter,
2 Upon this point I cannot do better than subjoin a note with which I have been favoured by my triend Mr. W. W. Williams :
“There is a tradition, very generally received, that Shakespeare died on his birth-day. Some of his biographers treat it as an established fact; but the records which have come down to us do not justify such an inference. The Stratford register gives us the date of his baptism- April 26th, 1564. The inscription on his monument runs thus:
Obiit Ano Doi 1616
Ætatis 53 die 23 Apr.' If we are to give these lines credit for accuracy and consistency-viz. by supposing all the numbers to be ordinals, notwithstanding the omission of the small contracted terminations, which sometimes denote ordinals—they are susceptible of no other construction than that he died in the sixteen-hundred-and-sixteenth year of our Lord in the fifty-third year of his age-on the twenty-third of April. Had the 23rd of April been his birth-day, he would have been exactly fifty-two on the day on which he died, and it has been asserted (see “Malone's Shakspeare, by Boswell,” ii. p. 505) that this was the case. The inscription would, however, rather lead us to conclude, that he must have been born at an earlier date; and it seems improbable that, had he died on his birth-day, so remarkable a fact, in the instance of so remarkable a man, should not have been duly recorded, especially in an age when monuments were apt to be garrulous.”
3 The inscription, upon a brass plate, let into a stone, is in these terms :
“ Heere lyeth interred the Body of Anne, Wife of William Shakespeare, who departed this life the 6th day of Augu. 1623. being of the age of 67 yeares.
Ubera, tu mater, tu lac, vitamq; dedisti :
Væ mibi, pro tanto munere saxa dabo.
Exeat ut Christi corpus imago tua.
Clausa licet tumulo, mater, et astra petit.” 4 The following is the inscription commemorating him :“ Heere lyeth the Body of Iohn Hall, Gent: Hee marr: Susanna ye daughter and coheire of Will: Shakespeare, Gent. Hee deceased Nove. 25. Ao. 1635, aged 60.
“died April 4, A. 1647 5.” Susanna Hall “deceased the 11th of July, A°. 1649 6.” Therefore, although the Latin inscription on the monument of our great dramatist may, from its form and punctuation, appear not so decisive as those we have quoted in English, there is in fact no ground for disputing that he died on 23rd April, 1616. It is quite certain from the register of Stratford that he was interred on the 25th April, and the record of that event is placed among the burials in the following manner :
"1616. April 25, Will' Shakspere, Gent.” Whether from the frequent prevalence of infectious disorders of old, or from any other cause, the custom of keeping the bodies of relatives unburied, for a week or more after death, seems of comparatively modern origin; and we may illustrate this point also by reference to facts regarding some of the members of the Shakespeare family. Anne Shakespeare was buried two days after she died, viz. on the 8th Aug. 1623?: Dr. Hall and Thomas Nash were buried on the day after they diedo; and although it is true that there was an interval of five days between the death and burial of Mrs. Hall, in 1649, it is very possible that her corpse was conveyed from some distance, to be interred among her relations at Stratford'. Nothing would be easier than to accumulate instances to prove that in the time of Shakespeare, as well as before and afterwards, the custom was to bury persons very shortly subsequent to their decease. In the case of our poet, concluding that he expired on the 23rd April, there was, as in the instance of his wife, an interval of two days before his interment.
Hallius hic situs est, medica celeberrimus arte,
Expectans regni gaudia læta Dei.
In terris omnes sed rapit æqua dies.
Et vitæ comitem nunc quoq; mortis habet."
“ Heere resteth ye Body of Thomas Nashe, Esq. He mar. Elizabeth the daug. and heire of John Halle, Gent. He died Aprill 4. A. 1647, Aged 53.
Fata manent omnes hunc non virtute carentem,
Ut neque divitiis abstulit atra dies ;
Si peritura paras per male parta peris." 6 The inscription to her runs thus :
“ Heere lyeth ye body of Susanna, Wife to Iohn Hall, Gent: ye daughter of William Shakespeare, Gent. Shee deceased ye Jlth of July, Ao. 1649. aged 66."
Dugdale has handed down the following verses upon her, which were originally engraved on the stone, but are not now to be found, half of it having been cut away to make room for an inscription to Richard Watts, who died in 1707. " Witty above her sexe,
but that's not all;
To weepe with her that wept with all ?
Them up with comforts cordiall.
When thou hast ne're a teare to shed.”
Into the particular provisions of his will we need not enter, because we have printed it, at the end of the present memoir, from the original as it was filed in the Prerogative Court ', probate having been granted on the 22nd June following the date of it. His daughter Judith is there only called by her Christian name, although she had been married to Thomas Quiney considerably more than a month anterior to the actual date of the will, and although his eldest daughter Susanna is mentioned by her husband's patronymic. It seems evident, from the tenor of the whole instrument, that when it was prepared Judith was not married', although her speedy union
? The registration at Stratford is precisely in this form :
“ 1623 Mrs. Shakspeare.
August 8 | Anna Uxor Ricardi James." The probability seems to be, that Mrs. Shakespeare and Mrs. James were buried on the same day; but the Rev. Mr. Harness in a letter in “The Shakespeare Society's Papers," Vol. ii. p. 107, has suggested a doubt whether Mrs. Shakespeare had not been a second time married, her last husband's name having been Richard James. His reasons are ingenious, but not convincing. 8 Their registrations of burial are in these terms:
“1635. Nov. 26. Johannes Hall, medicus peritissimus."
“ 1647. Aprill 5. Thomas Nash, Gent.” 9 The register contains as follows:
“ 1649. July 16. Mrs. Susanna Hall, widow." 1 We are indebted to Sir F. Madden, Keeper of the MSS. in the British Museum, for the use of a most exact collation of Shakespeare's will; in addition to which we have several times gone over every line and word of it. We have printed it as nearly as possible as it appears in the original.
2 Another trifling circumstance leading to the conclusion that the will was prepared in January, though not executed until March, is that Shakespeare's sister is called Jone Hart, and not Jone Hart, widow. Her husband had died a few days before Shakespeare, and he was buried on 17 April, 1616, as " Will. Hart, hatter.” She was buried on 4 Nov. 1646. Both entries are contained in the parish registers of Stratford.
with Thomas Quiney was contemplated : the attorney or scrivener, who drew it, had first written “son and daughter," (meaning Judith and her intended husband) but erased the words "son and ” afterwards, as the parties were not yet married, and were not “son and daughter” to the testator. It is true that Thomas Quiney would not have been Shakespeare's son, only his son-in-law; but the degrees of consanguinity were not at that time strictly marked and attended to, and in the same will Elizabeth Hall is called the testator's “niece," when she was, in fact, his granddaughter.
The bequest which has attracted most attention is an interlineation in the following words, “ Itm I gyve unto my wief my second best bed with the furniture. ” Upon this passage has been founded, by Malone and others, a charge against Shakespeare, that he only remembered his wife as an afterthought, and then merely gave her “ an old bed.”. As to the last part of the accusation, it may be answered, that the “second best bed” was probably that in which the husband and wife had slept, when he was in Stratford earlier in life, and every night since his retirement from the metropolis: the best bed was doubtless reserved for visitors : if, therefore, he were to leave his wife any express legacy of the kind, it was most natural and considerate that he should give her that piece of furniture, which for many years they had jointly occupied. With regard to the second part of the charge, our great dramatist has of late years been relieved from the stigma, thus attempted to be thrown upon him, by the mere remark, that Shakespeare's property being principally freehold, the widow by the ordinary operation of the law of England would be entitled to, what is legally known by the term, dower'. It is extraordinary that this explanation should never have occurred to Malone, who was educated to the legal profession; but that many others should have followed him in his unjust imputation is not remarkable, recollecting how prone most of Shakespeare's biographers have been to repeat errors, rather than to sift truth.
3 This vindication of Shakespeare's memory from the supposed neglect of his wife we owe to Mr. Knight, in his “ Pictorial Shakspere.” See the Postscript to “Twelfth Night.” When the explanation is once given, it seems so easy, that we wonder it was never before mentioned; but like many discoveries of different kinds, it is not less simple than important, and it is just that Mr. Knight should have full credit for it.
Monument to Shakespeare at Stratford-upon-Avon erected before 1623; probably
under the superintendence of Dr. Hall, and Shakespeare's daughter Susanna. Difference between the bust on the monument and the portrait on the title-page of the folio of 1623. Ben Jonson's testimony in favour of the likeness of the latter. Dowdell, Southwell's correspondent in 1693. Shakespeare's personal appearance. His social and convivial qualities.
" Wit-combats mentioned by Fuller in his “ Worthies.” Epitaphs upon Sir Thomas Stanley and Elias James. Conclusion. Hallam's character of Shakespeare.
A MONUMENT to Shakespeare was erected anterior to the publication of the folio edition of his “Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies" in 1623, because it is thus distinctly mentioned by Leonard Digges, in the earliest copy of commendatory verses prefixed to that volume, which he states shall outlive the poet's tomb :
" when that stone is rent, And time dissolves thy Stratford Monument,
Here we alive shall view thee still." This is the most ancient notice of it; but how long before 1623 it had been placed in the church of Stratford-uponAvon, we have no means of deciding. It represents the poet sitting under an arch, with a cushion before him, a pen in his right hand (the pen, originally of lead, has long disappeared), and his left resting upon a sheet of paper : it has been the opinion of the best judges that it was cut by an English sculptor, and we may conclude, without much hesitation, that the artist was employed by Dr. Hall and his wife, and that the resemblance was as faithful as a bust, not modelled from the life, but probably, under living instructions, from some picture or cast, could be expected to be '. Shake
4 Probably the son of Gerard Johnson, but Dugdale in his “ Diary," p. 99, gives both it and the monument to John Combe to “one Gerard Johnson.” The father must have been a very old man in 1623.
5 Sir F. Chantry told the Rev. W. Harness, that he was quite convinced” that the bust was modelled from a cast taken after death ; and Mr. R. B. Haydon recorded in the album kept at the church of Stratford these words :- :-“ The more the bust of Shakespeare is studied, the more every one must be convinced of its truth of form, feature, and expression." See the Letter of the Re W. Harness in “ The Shakespeare Society's Papers," i. p. 9, where it is remarked, that “the value of the bust, both as a likeness of the poet, and as a work of art, is not, perhaps, so well known as it ought to be : as a likeness, we have every reason to give it our most undoubting confidence."