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sufficient means of deciding; but we apprehend that more attention was paid to it than has been generally supposed, or than was accomplished at a much later and more refined period. It is indisputable, that often in this department no outlay was spared : the most costly dresses were purchased, that characters might be consistently habited ; and, as a single proof, we may mention, that sometimes more than 201. were given for a cloak', an enormous price, when it is recollected that money was then four or five times as valuable as at present.
We have thus briefly stated all that seems absolutely required to give the reader a correct idea of the state of the English drama and stage at the period when, according to the best judgment we can form from such evidence as remains to us, Shakespeare advanced to a forward place among the dramatists of the day.
of the day. As long ago as 1679, Dryden gave currency to the notion, which we have shown to be mistaken, that Shakespeare “created first the stage," and he repeated it in 1692': it is not necessary to the just admiration of our noble dramatist, that we should do injustice to his predecessors or earlier contemporaries : on the contrary, his miraculous powers are best to be estimated by a comparison with his ablest rivals; and if he appear not greatest when his works are placed beside those of Marlowe, Greene, Peele, or Lodge, however distinguished their rank as dramatists, and however deserved their popularity, we shall be content to think, that for more than two centuries the world has been under a delusion as to his claims. He rose to eminence, and he maintained it, amid struggles for equality by men of high genius and varied talents; and with his example ever since before us, no poet of our own, or of any other country, has even approached his excellence. Shakespeare is greatest by comparison with greatness, or he is nothing.
9 See “ The Alleyn Papers," printed by the Shakespeare Society in 1843, p. 12.
1 In his Prologue to the alteration of “Troilus and Cressida," 1679, he puts these lines into the mouth of the Ghost of Shakespeare :
“ Untaught, unpractis’d, in a barbarous age,
I found not, but created first the stage.” In the dedication of the translation of Juvenal, thirteen years afterwards, Dryden repeats the same assertion in nearly the same words; “he created the stage among us." Shakespeare did not create the stage, and least of all did he create it such as it existed in the time of Dryden: “it was, in truth, created by no one man, and in no one age ; and whatever improvements Shakespeare introduced, when he began to write for the theatre our romantic drama was completely formed, and firmly established.”—Pref. to "The Hist. of Engl. Dram. Poetry and the Stage,” Vol. i. p. xi.
No Shakespeare advanced or rewarded by Henry VII. Antiquity of the Shake
speares in Warwickshire, &c. Richard Shakespeare of Rowington and his family. Earliest occurrence of the name at Stratford-upon-Avon. The Trade of John Shakespeare. Richard Shakespeare of Snitterfield, probably father to John Shakespeare, and certainly tenant to Robert Arden, father of John Shakespeare's wife. Robert Arden's seven daughters. Antiquity and property of the Arden family. Marriage of John Shakespeare and Mary Arden : their circumstances. Purchase of two houses in Stratford by John Shakespeare, His progress in the Corporation.
It has been supposed that some of the paternal ancestors of William Shakespeare were advanced, and rewarded with lands and tenements in Warwickshire, for services rendered to Henry VII.
The rolls of that reign have been recently most carefully searched, and the name of Shakespeare, according to any mode of spelling it, does not occur in them.
Many Shakespeares were resident in different parts of Warwickshire, as well as in some of the adjoining counties, at an early date. The register of the Guild of St. Anne of Knolle, or Knowle, beginning in 1407 and ending in 1535, when it was dissolved, contains various repetitions of the name, during the reigns of Henry VI., Edward IV., Richard III. , Henry VII., and Henry VIII.: we there find a Thomas Shakespere of Balishalle, or Balsal, Thomas Chacsper and John Shakespeyre of Rowington, Richard Shakspere of Woldiche, together with Joan, Jane, and William Shakespeare, of places not mentioned: an Isabella Shakspere is also there stated to have been priorissa de Wraxale in the 19th Henry VII.' The Shakespeares of Wroxal, of Rowington, and of Balsal, are mentioned by Malone, as well as other persons of the same name at Claverdon and Hampton. He carries back his information regarding the Shakespeares of Warwick no higher than 1602, but a William Shakespeare was drowned in the Avon near Warwick in 1574, a John Shakespeare was resident on “the High Pavement” in 1578, and a Thomas Shakespeare dwelt in the same place in 1585 *.
' On the authority of a grant of arms from the Heralds' College to John Shakespeare, which circumstance is considered hereafter.
2 It may be regarded as a singular coincidence, and we can consider it as nothing more, that there was a person of the name of Peter Shakespere (so the name is spelt) who was probably a resident in the very scene of our poet's glory, Southwark, as early as the first year of Richard III. The Cordwainers' Company of London is in possession of a deed, dated 16 Feb. anno regni Regis Ricardi tertii post conquestum primo, by which John Freeman granted to Richard Elderton and others the hospicium vocatum le Greyhounde situated in Horseshoe Alley, Bankside, Southwark. This document is witnessed, among others, by Peter Shakespere, but his place of abode is not given, though we may, perhaps, presume that it was not far from the spot in question. The date is of course more than a hundred years anterior to the known residence of our poet on the Bankside, and we are not disposed to advance any speculation founded upon possible relationship. For a knowledge of the circumstance we gladly admit our obligations to G. R. Corner, Esq. F.S.A., and to Mr. Millard, Clerk of the Cordwainers' Company, through whom we have been kindly furnished with a copy of the deed. The identity of names and locality is remarkable.
Respecting the Shakespeares of Rowington we have some ad
nal information, which proves that there was a Richard Shakespeare resident there before 1591: on the 6th of September in that year he made his will, which was proved in the court of the Bishop of Worcester on the 31st March, 1592, and from it we learn that his youngest son was named William, and that he had other sons of the names of John, Roger, and Thomas, and a daughter Dorothy, married to a person of the name of Jenkes : the Christian name of his wife was Johane or Joan. The total value of his property, according to the inventory at the end of his will, was only 191. 6s. 8d. and the smallness of the legacies to his children, viz. 6d. and 4d. each, serves to show that his circumstances were by no means affluents.
3 For this information we are indebted to Mr. Staunton, of Longbridge House, near Warwick, the owner of the original Registerium Fratrum et Sororum Gilde Sancte Anne de Knolle, a MS. upon vellum.
4 The circumstance of the drowning of the namesake of our poet was discovered by the Rev. Joseph Hunter. Mr. Charles Dickens was good enough to be the medium of the information respecting the Shakespeares of Warwick, transmitted from Mr. Sandys, who derived it from the land-revenue records of the respective periods.
The earliest date at which we hear of a Shakespeare in the borough of Stratford-upon-Avon is 17th June, 1555, when Thomas Siche instituted a proceeding in the court of the bailiff, for the recovery of the sum of 81. from John Shakespeare, who has always been taken to be the father of our great dramatist. Thomas Siche was of Arlescote, or Arscotte, in Worcestershire, and in the Latin record of the suit John Shakespeare is called “glover,” in English. Taking it for granted, as we have every reason to do, that this John Shakespeare was the father of the poet, the document satisfied Malone that he was a glover, and not a butcher, as Aubrey had affirmed, nor a dealer in wool, as Rowe had stated ?. We think that Malone was right, and the testimony is unquestionably more positive and authentic than the traditions to which we have referred. As it is also the most ancient piece of direct evidence connected with the establishment of the Shakespeare family at Stratford, and as Malone did not copy it quite accurately from the register of the bailiff's court, we quote it as it there stands :
“Stretford, ss. Cur. Phi. et Mariæ Dei grā, &c. secundo et tercio, ibm tent. die Marcurii videlicet xvij die Junij ann. predict. coram Johne Burbage Balliuo, &c.
Thomas Siche de Arscotte in com. Wigorn. queritr versus John Shakyspere de Stretford in com. Warwick. Glou in plac. quod reddat ei oct. libras &c.”
John Shakespeare's trade, “ glover,” is expressed by the common contraction for the termination of the word; and it
5 These new particulars regarding the Shakespeares of Rowington, were kindly communicated by Mr. Markham Thorpe.
6 Aubrey's words, in his MS. in the Ashmolean Museum, at Oxford, are these :
" William Shakespeare's 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 killed a calf, he would do it in a high style, and make a speech.” This tradition certainly does not read like truth, and at what date Aubrey obtained his information has not been ascertained : Malone conjectured that Aubrey was in Stratford about 1680 : he died about 1700, and, in all probability, obtained his knowledge from the same source as the writer of a letter, dated April 10, 1693, to Mr. Edward Southwell, printed in 1838. It appears from hence that the parish clerk of Stratford, who was “above eighty years old " in 1693, had told Mr. Edward Southwell's correspondent that William Shakespeare had been “bound apprentice to a butcher;" but he did not say that his father was a butcher, nor did he add any thing as absurd as Aubrey subjoins, respecting the killing of a calf “ in a high style.”
7 “Some Account,” &c. 1709, p. ii. Rowe is supposed to have derived his materials from Betterton, who died in 1710, and who went to Stratford to collect such particulars as could be obtained : the date of his visit is not known.
is, as usual at the time, spelt with the letter u instead of v. It deserves remark also, that although John Shakespeare is often subsequently mentioned in the records of the corporation of Stratford, no addition ever accompanies his name. presume that in 1556, he was established in his business, because on the 30th April of that year he was one of twelve jurymen of a court-leet. His name in the list was at first struck through with a pen, but underneath it the word stet was written, probably by the town-clerk. Thus we find him in 1556 acting as a regular trading inhabitant of the borough of Stratford-upon-Avon.
Little doubt can be entertained that he came from Snitterfield, three miles from Stratford; and upon this point we have several new documents before us. It appears from them, that a person of the name of Richard Shakespeare (no where before mentioned, though the same names have occurred as of Rowington) was resident at Snitterfield in 15508: he was tenant of a house and land belonging to Robert Arden (or Ardern, as the name was anciently spelt, and as it stands in the papers in our hands) of Wilmecote, in the parish of Aston Cantlowe. By a conveyance, dated 21st Dec., 11th Henry VIII., we find that Robert Arden then became possessed of houses and land in Snitterfield, from Richard Rushby and his wife: from Robert Arden the property descended to his
son, and it was part of this estate which was occupied by Richard Shakespeare in 1550. We have no distinct evidence upon the point; but if we suppose Richard Shakespeare of Snitterfield to have been the father of John Shakespeare of Stratford', who married Mary Arden, the youngest daughter of
8 In 1569, a person of the name of Antony Shakespeare lived at Snitterfield, and, as we learn from the Muster-book of the county of Warwick for that year in the State Paper office, he was appointed a “billman."
9 Richard Shakespeare, who, upon this supposition, was the grandfather of the poet, was living in 1560, when Agnes Arden, widow, granted a lease for forty years to Alexander Webbe (probably some member of her own family) of two houses and a cottage in Snitterfield, in the occupation of Richard Shakespeare and two others. Malone discovered that there was also a Henry Shakespeare resident at Snitterfield in 1586, and he apprehended (there is little doubt of the fact) that he was the brother of John Shakespeare. Henry Shakespeare was buried Dec. 29th, 1596. There was also a Thomas Shakespeare in the same village in 1582, and he may have been another brother of John Shakespeare, and all three sons to Richard Shakespeare. The Richard Shakespeare of Snitterfield in 1550 and 1560, may have been the same person as the Richard Shakespeare of Rowington, who died there in 1591. Perhaps he had removed to Rowington.
1 This is rendered the more probable by the fact that John Shakespeare