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and of the magnificent entertainment, there can be no doubt : it was an event calculated to create a strong sensation in the whole of that part of the country; and if the celebrated passage in "A Midsummer Night's Dream” (Act ii. sc. 1), had any reference to it, it did not require that Shakespeare should have been present in order to have written it, especially when, if necessary, he had Gascoigne's “ Princely Pleasures of Kenilworth," and Laneham's descriptive “Letter” to assist his memory.
John Shakespeare removed from his situation as alderman of Stratford, and its
possible connexion with William Shakespeare's departure for London in the latter end of 1586. William Shakespeare a sharer in the Blackfriars Theatre in 1589. Complaints against actors: two companies silenced for bringing Martin Mar-prelate on the stage. Certificate of the sharers in the Blackfriars. Shakespeare, in all probability, a good actor; our older dramatists often players, Shakespeare's earliest compositions for the stage. His “Venus and Adonis," 1593, and “ Lucrece," 1594, perhaps written before he came to London.
In reference to the period when our great dramatist abandoned his native town for London, we think that sufficient attention has not been paid to an important incident in the life of his father. John Shakespeare was deprived of his gown as alderman of Stratford in the autumn of 1586 : we say that he was deprived of his gown, not because any resolution precisely warranting those terms was come to by the rest of the corporation, but because it is quite evident that such was the fact, from the tenor of the entry in the records of the borough. On the 6th Sept. 1586, the following memorandum was made in the register by the town clerk ':
adopted by Dr. Drake: nevertheless, he afterwards seriously argues the matter, and arrives at the conclusion that Shakespeare was present in right of his gentry on both sides of the family. This appears to us even a more "pleasant conceit" than that of Percy, Malone, and Drake, who suppose Shakespeare to have gone to Kenilworth“ under the wing” of Thomas Greene.
9 Gascoigne's “ Princely Pleasures,” &c. was printed in 1576, and Laneham's “ Letter" from Kenilworth is dated in the preceding year. Gascoigne was himself a performer in the shows, and, according to Laneham, represented "a Savage Man," who made a speech to the Queen as she came from hunting. Robert Laneham, the affected but clever writer of the “ Letter," was most likely (as suggested in the " Bridgewater Catalogue," privately printed for the late Earl of Ellesmere, 4to, 1837, p. 162) related to John Laneham, the actor, who was one of the Earl of Leicester's players, and is named in the royal licence of 1574. “Robert Laneham,” observes the compiler of that Catalogue, “ seems to have been quite as much a comedian upon paper, as John Laneham could be upon the stage."
“At this hall William Smythe and Richard Courte are chosen to be aldermen, in the place of John Wheler, and John Shaxspere; for that Mr. Wheler doth desyer to be put out of the companye, and Mr. Shaxspere doth not come to the halles, when they be warned, nor hath not done of a long tyme.”
According to this note, it was Wheler's wish to be removed from his situation of alderman, and had such also been the desire of John Shakespeare, we should, no doubt, have been told so: therefore, we must presume that he was not a consenting, or at all events not a willing, party to this proceeding; but there is no doubt, as Malone ascertained from an inspection of the ancient books of the borough, that he had ceased to attend the halls, when “warned” or summoned, from the year 1579 downwards. This date of 1579 is the more important, although Malone was not aware of the fact, because it was the very year in which John Shakespeare was so distressed for money, that he disposed of his wife's small interest in property in Snitterfield for 41.
We have thus additional reason for thinking, that the unprosperous state of John Shakespeare's pecuniary circuma stances had induced him to abstain from attending the ordinary meetings of the corporation, and finally led to his removal from the office of alderman. What connexion this last event may have had with William Shakespeare's determination to quit Stratford cannot be known from any circumstances that have since come to light, but it will not fail to be remarked that, in point of date, the events seem to have been coincident”.
Malone "supposed that our great poet left Stratford “about the year 1586 or 15873," but it seems to us more
1 William Tyler was the bailiff of the year : see “Malone's Shakspeare, by Boswell,” Vol. ii. p. 164.
2 We do not imagine that one event, or the other, was influenced in any way by the execution of Edward Arden, a maternal relative of the family, at the close of 1583. According to Dugdale, it was more than suspected that he came to his end through the power of Leicester, who was exasperated against him, " for galling him by certain harsh expressions, touching his private accesses to the Countess of Essex," while she was still the wife of Walter Devereux. See also " Stow's Chronicle," edit. 1615, p. 1176. It does not appear that there had been any intercourse whatever between Edward Arden, then the head of his family, and Mary Shakespeare, the youngest daughter of the junior branch.
3 " Shakspeare, by Boswell," Vol. ii. p. 157.
likely that the event happened in the former, than in the latter year. His twins, Hamnet and Judith, were baptized, as we have shown, early in February, 1585, and his father did not cease to be an alderman until about a year and seven months afterwards. The fact, that his son had become a player, may have had something to do with the lower rank his brethren of the bench thought he ought to hold in the corporation; or the resolution of the son to abandon his home may have arisen partly out of the degradation of the father in his native town; but we cannot help thinking that the two circumstances were in some way connected, and that the period of the departure of William Shakespeare, to seek his fortune in a company of players in the metropolis, may be fixed in the latter end of 1586.
Nevertheless, we do not hear of him in London until three years afterwards, when we find him a sharer in the Blackfriars theatre. It had been constructed (or, possibly, if not an entirely new building, some large edifice had been adapted to the purpose) upon part of the site of the dissolved monastery, because it was beyond the jurisdiction of the lord mayor and corporation of London, who had always evinced decided hostility to dramatic representations *.
The undertaking seems to have been prosperous from the commencement; and in 1589 no fewer than sixteen performers were sharers in it, including, besides Shakespeare and R. Burbadge, Thomas Greene of Stratford-upon-Avon, and N. Tooley, and Thomas Pope of Warwickshire : the association was probably thus numerous on account of the flourishing state of the concern, many being desirous to obtain an interest in its receipts. In 1589 some general complaints seem to have been made, that improper matters were introduced into plays; and it is quite certain that "the children of Paul's," as the acting choir-boys of that cathedral were called) and the company of regular professional performers occupying the Theatre in Shoreditch at this date, had introduced Martin Mar-prelate upon their stages, in a manner that had given great offence to the Puritans. Tylney, the master of the revels, had interposed, and having brought the matter to the knowledge of Lord Burghley, two bodies of players, those of the Lord Admiral and Lord Strange, (the latter by this time having advanced from tumblers to actors) had been summoned before the lord mayor, and ordered to desist from all performances. The silencing of other associations would probably be beneficial to that exhibiting at Blackfriars; and if no proceeding of any kind were instituted against James Burbadge and his fifteen partners, we may presume that they would continue quietly to reap their augmented harvest. We are led to infer, however, that they also apprehended, and perhaps experienced, some measure of restraint; and feeling conscious that they had given no just ground of offence, they transmitted to the privy council a sort of certificate of their good conduct, asserting that they had never introduced into their representations matters of state and religion, and that no complaint of that kind had ever been preferred against them. This certificate passed into the hands of Lord Ellesmere, then attorneygeneral, and it has been preserved among his papers. We subjoin a copy of it in a note
4 The excess to which the enmity between the corporation of London and the players was carried may be judged by the following quotation from “a Jig,” or humorous theatrical ballad, called “The Horse-load of Fools," which, in the MS. in which it has been handed down to us, is stated to have been written by Richard Tarlton, and in all probability was delivered by him before applauding audiences at the Theatre in Shoreditch. Tarlton introduces to the spectators a number of puppets, accompanying the exhibition by satirical stanzas upon each, and he thus speaks of one of them :
“ This foole comes from the citizens;
Nay, prithee doe not frowne;
Of a rare horne-mad familie.
“ He is a foole by prenticeship
And servitude, he sayes,
Of a verie obstinate familie.
You have him in his liverie gowne,
But presentlie he can
With a golde chaine in his familie.
“Being borne and bred for a foole,
Why should he be wise,
Of a verie long earde familie.” Possibly the lord mayor and aldermen complained of this very composition, and it may have been one of the causes which, soon afterwards, led to the silencing of the company at the Theatre; at all events, it was not likely to conciliate the members of the corporation.
5 All the known details of these transactions may be seen in “ The History of English Dramatic Poetry and the Stage,” Vol. i. p. 271, &c.
It seems rather strange that this testimonial should have come from the players themselves : we should rather have expected that they would have procured a certificate from some disinterested parties ; and we are to take it merely as a statement on their own authority, and possibly as a sort of challenge for inquiry. When they say that no “complaint of the kind had ever been preferred against them,” we are of course to understand, that the assertion applies to a time previous to some general representation against theatres, which had been made in 1589, and in which the sharers at the Blackfriars thought themselves unjustly included. In this document we see the important fact, as regards the biography of Shakespeare, that in 1589 he was, not only an actor, but a sharer in the undertaking at Blackfriars; and, whatever inference may be drawn from it, we find that his name, following eleven others, precedes those of Kempe, Johnson, Goodale, and Armyn. Kempe, we know, was the successor of Tarlton (who died in 1588) in comic parts', and he must have been an actor of great value and eminence in the com
6 It is on a long slip of paper, neatly written, and as usual without any names appended.
“ These are to certifie your right Hoñble Lordships, that her Majesty's poore Playeres, James Burbadge, Richard Burbadge, John Laneham, Thomas Greene, Robert Wilson, John Taylor, Anth. Wadeson, Thomas Pope, George Peele, Augustine Phillipps, Nicholas Towley, William Shakespeare, William Kempe, William Johnson, Baptiste Goodale, and Robert Armyn, being all of them sharers in the blacke Fryers playehouse, have never given cause of displeasure, in that they have brought into their playes maters of state and Religion, unfitt to be handled by them, or to be presented before lewde spectators : neither hath anie complaynte in that kinde ever bene preferrde against them, or anie of them. Wherefore, they trust most humblie in your Lordships consideration of their former good behaviour, being at all tymes readie, and willing, to yeelde obedience to any command wbatsoever your Lordships in your wisdome may thinke in such case meete, &c.
“ Nov. 1589."
Here we see that Shakespeare's name stands twelfth in the enumeration of the members of the company; but we do not rest much on the succession in which they are inserted, because among the four names which follow that of our great dramatist are certainly two performers, one of them of the highest reputation, and the other of long standing in the profession.
? In the dedication of his “ Almond for a Parrot,” printed without date, but not later than 1589 (the year of which we are now speaking), Thomas Nash calls Kempe “ Jestmonger and Vice-gerent general to the ghost of Dick Tarlton.” Heywood, in his “ Apology for Actors," 1612 (Shakespeare Society's reprint, p. 43), tells us that Kempe succeeded Tarlton “as well in the favour of her Majesty, as in the opinion and good thoughts of the general audience.”