William Shakespeare


Distribution of the name.

Shakespeare came of a family whose surname was borne through the middle
ages by residents in very many parts of England--at Penrith in
Cumberland, at Kirkland and Doncaster in Yorkshire, as well as in nearly
all the midland counties. The surname had originally a martial
significance, implying capacity in the wielding of the spear. {1a} Its
first recorded holder is John Shakespeare, who in 1279 was living at
'Freyndon,' perhaps Frittenden, Kent. {1b} The great mediaeval guild of
St. Anne at Knowle, whose members included the leading inhabitants of
Warwickshire, was joined by many Shakespeares in the fifteenth century.
{1c} In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the surname is found far
more frequently in Warwickshire than elsewhere. The archives of no less
than twenty-four towns and villages there contain notices of Shakespeare
families in the sixteenth century, and as many as thirty-four
Warwickshire towns or villages were inhabited by Shakespeare families in
the seventeenth century. Among them all William was a common Christian
name. At Rowington, twelve miles to the north of Stratford, and in the
same hundred of Barlichway, one of the most prolific Shakespeare families
of Warwickshire resided in the sixteenth century, and no less than three
Richard Shakespeares of Rowington, whose extant wills were proved
respectively in 1560, 1591, and 1614, were fathers of sons called
William. At least one other William Shakespeare was during the period a
resident in Rowington. As a consequence, the poet has been more than
once credited with achievements which rightly belong to one or other of
his numerous contemporaries who were identically named.

The poet's ancestry.

The poet's ancestry cannot be defined with absolute certainty. The
poet's father, when applying for a grant of arms in 1596, claimed that
his grandfather (the poet's great-grandfather) received for services
rendered in war a grant of land in Warwickshire from Henry VII. {2} No
precise confirmation of this pretension has been discovered, and it may
be, after the manner of heraldic genealogy, fictitious. But there is a
probability that the poet came of good yeoman stock, and that his
ancestors to the fourth or fifth generation were fairly substantial
landowners. {3a} Adam Shakespeare, a tenant by military service of land
at Baddesley Clinton in 1389, seems to have been great-grandfather of one
Richard Shakespeare who held land at Wroxhall in Warwickshire during the
first thirty-four years (at least) of the sixteenth century. Another
Richard Shakespeare who is conjectured to have been nearly akin to the
Wroxhall family was settled as a farmer at Snitterfield, a village four
miles to the north of Stratford-on-Avon, in 1528. {3b} It is probable
that he was the poet's grandfather. In 1550 he was renting a messuage
and land at Snitterfield of Robert Arden; he died at the close of 1560,
and on February 10 of the next year letters of administration of his
goods, chattels, and debts were issued to his son John by the Probate
Court at Worcester. His goods were valued at 35 pounds 17s. {3c}
Besides the son John, Richard of Snitterfield certainly had a son Henry;
while a Thomas Shakespeare, a considerable landholder at Snitterfield
between 1563 and 1583, whose parentage is undetermined, may have been a
third son. The son Henry remained all his life at Snitterfield, where he
engaged in farming with gradually diminishing success; he died in
embarrassed circumstances in December 1596. John, the son who
administered Richard's estate, was in all likelihood the poet's father.

The poet's father.

About 1551 John Shakespeare left Snitterfield, which was his birthplace,
to seek a career in the neighbouring borough of Stratford-on-Avon. There
he soon set up as a trader in all manner of agricultural produce. Corn,
wool, malt, meat, skins, and leather were among the commodities in which
he dealt. Documents of a somewhat later date often describe him as a
glover. Aubrey, Shakespeare's first biographer, reported the tradition
that he was a butcher. But though both designations doubtless indicated
important branches of his business, neither can be regarded as disclosing
its full extent. The land which his family farmed at Snitterfield
supplied him with his varied stock-in-trade. As long as his father lived
he seems to have been a frequent visitor to Snitterfield, and, like his
father and brothers, he was until the date of his father's death
occasionally designated a farmer or 'husbandman' of that place. But it
was with Stratford-on-Avon that his life was mainly identified.

His settlement at Stratford.

In April 1552 he was living there in Henley Street, a thoroughfare
leading to the market town of Henley-in-Arden, and he is first mentioned
in the borough records as paying in that month a fine of twelve-pence for
having a dirt-heap in front of his house. His frequent appearances in
the years that follow as either plaintiff or defendant in suits heard in
the local court of record for the recovery of small debts suggest that he
was a keen man of business. In early life he prospered in trade, and in
October 1556 purchased two freehold tenements at Stratford--one, with a
garden, in Henley Street (it adjoins that now known as the poet's
birthplace), and the other in Greenhill Street with a garden and croft.
Thenceforth he played a prominent part in municipal affairs. In 1557 he
was elected an ale-taster, whose duty it was to test the quality of malt
liquors and bread. About the same time he was elected a burgess or town
councillor, and in September 1558, and again on October 6, 1559, he was
appointed one of the four petty constables by a vote of the jury of the
court-leet. Twice--in 1559 and 1561--he was chosen one of the
affeerors--officers appointed to determine the fines for those offences
which were punishable arbitrarily, and for which no express penalties
were prescribed by statute. In 1561 he was elected one of the two
chamberlains of the borough, an office of responsibility which he held
for two years. He delivered his second statement of accounts to the
corporation in January 1564. When attesting documents he occasionally
made his mark, but there is evidence in the Stratford archives that he
could write with facility; and he was credited with financial aptitude.
The municipal accounts, which were checked by tallies and counters, were
audited by him after he ceased to be chamberlain, and he more than once
advanced small sums of money to the corporation.

The poet's mother.

With characteristic shrewdness he chose a wife of assured fortune--Mary,
youngest daughter of Robert Arden, a wealthy farmer of Wilmcote in the
parish of Aston Cantlowe, near Stratford. The Arden family in its chief
branch, which was settled at Parkhall, Warwickshire, ranked with the most
influential of the county. Robert Arden, a progenitor of that branch,
was sheriff of Warwickshire and Leicestershire in 1438 (16 Hen. VI), and
this sheriff's direct descendant, Edward Arden, who was himself high
sheriff of Warwickshire in 1575, was executed in 1583 for alleged
complicity in a Roman Catholic plot against the life of Queen Elizabeth.
{6} John Shakespeare's wife belonged to a humbler branch of the family,
and there is no trustworthy evidence to determine the exact degree of
kinship between the two branches. Her grandfather, Thomas Arden,
purchased in 1501 an estate at Snitterfield, which passed, with other
property, to her father Robert; John Shakespeare's father, Richard, was
one of this Robert Arden's Snitterfield tenants. By his first wife,
whose name is not known, Robert Arden had seven daughters, of whom all
but two married; John Shakespeare's wife seems to have been the youngest.
Robert Arden's second wife, Agnes or Anne, widow of John Hill (_d._
1545), a substantial farmer of Bearley, survived him; but by her he had
no issue. When he died at the end of 1556, he owned a farmhouse at
Wilmcote and many acres, besides some hundred acres at Snitterfield, with
two farmhouses which he let out to tenants. The post-mortem inventory of
his goods, which was made on December 9, 1556, shows that he had lived in
comfort; his house was adorned by as many as eleven 'painted cloths,'
which then did duty for tapestries among the middle class. The exordium
of his will, which was drawn up on November 24, 1556, and proved on
December 16 following, indicates that he was an observant Catholic. For
his two youngest daughters, Alice and Mary, he showed especial affection
by nominating them his executors. Mary received not only 6 pounds 13s.
4d. in money, but the fee-simple of Asbies, his chief property at
Wilmcote, consisting of a house with some fifty acres of land. She also
acquired, under an earlier settlement, an interest in two messuages at
Snitterfield. {7} But, although she was well provided with worldly
goods, she was apparently without education; several extant documents
bear her mark, and there is no proof that she could sign her name.

The poet's birth and baptism.

John Shakespeare's marriage with Mary Arden doubtless took place at Aston
Cantlowe, the parish church of Wilmcote, in the autumn of 1557 (the
church registers begin at a later date). On September 15, 1558, his
first child, a daughter, Joan, was baptised in the church of Stratford.
A second child, another daughter, Margaret, was baptised on December 2,
1562; but both these children died in infancy. The poet William, the
first son and third child, was born on April 22 or 23, 1564. The latter
date is generally accepted as his birthday, mainly (it would appear) on
the ground that it was the day of his death. There is no positive
evidence on the subject, but the Stratford parish registers attest that
he was baptised on April 26.

Alleged birthplace.

Some doubt is justifiable as to the ordinarily accepted scene of his
birth. Of two adjoining houses forming a detached building on the north
side of Henley Street, that to the east was purchased by John Shakespeare
in 1556, but there is no evidence that he owned or occupied the house to
the west before 1575. Yet this western house has been known since 1759
as the poet's birthplace, and a room on the first floor is claimed as
that in which he was born. {8} The two houses subsequently came by
bequest of the poet's granddaughter to the family of the poet's sister,
Joan Hart, and while the eastern tenement was let out to strangers for
more than two centuries, and by them converted into an inn, the
'birthplace' was until 1806 occupied by the Harts, who latterly carried
on there the trade of butcher. The fact of its long occupancy by the
poet's collateral descendants accounts for the identification of the
western rather than the eastern tenement with his birthplace. Both
houses were purchased in behalf of subscribers to a public fund on
September 16, 1847, and, after extensive restoration, were converted into
a single domicile for the purposes of a public museum. They were
presented under a deed of trust to the corporation of Stratford in 1866.
Much of the Elizabethan timber and stonework survives, but a cellar under
the 'birthplace' is the only portion which remains as it was at the date
of the poet's birth. {9}


The father in municipal office.

In July 1564, when William was three months old, the plague raged with
unwonted vehemence at Stratford, and his father liberally contributed to
the relief of its poverty-stricken victims. Fortune still favoured him.
On July 4, 1565, he reached the dignity of an alderman. From 1567
onwards he was accorded in the corporation archives the honourable prefix
of 'Mr.' At Michaelmas 1568 he attained the highest office in the
corporation gift, that of bailiff, and during his year of office the
corporation for the first time entertained actors at Stratford. The
Queen's Company and the Earl of Worcester's Company each received from
John Shakespeare an official welcome. {10} On September 5, 1571, he was
chief alderman, a post which he retained till September 30 the following
year. In 1573 Alexander Webbe, the husband of his wife's sister Agnes,
made him overseer of his will; in 1575 he bought two houses in Stratford,
one of them doubtless the alleged birthplace in Henley Street; in 1576 he
contributed twelvepence to the beadle's salary. But after Michaelmas
1572 he took a less active part in municipal affairs; he grew irregular
in his attendance at the council meetings, and signs were soon apparent
that his luck had turned. In 1578 he was unable to pay, with his
colleagues, either the sum of fourpence for the relief of the poor or his
contribution 'towards the furniture of three pikemen, two bellmen, and
one archer' who were sent by the corporation to attend a muster of the
trained bands of the county.

Brothers and sisters.

Meanwhile his family was increasing. Four children besides the
poet--three sons, Gilbert (baptised October 13, 1566), Richard (baptised
March 11, 1574), and Edmund (baptised May 3, 1580), with a daughter Joan
(baptised April 15, 1569)--reached maturity. A daughter Ann was baptised
September 28, 1571, and was buried on April 4, 1579. To meet his growing
liabilities, the father borrowed money from his wife's kinsfolk, and he
and his wife mortgaged, on November 14, 1578, Asbies, her valuable
property at Wilmcote, for 40 pounds to Edmund Lambert of
Barton-on-the-Heath, who had married her sister, Joan Arden. Lambert was
to receive no interest on his loan, but was to take the 'rents and
profits' of the estate. Asbies was thereby alienated for ever. Next
year, on October 15, 1579, John and his wife made over to Robert Webbe,
doubtless a relative of Alexander Webbe, for the sum apparently of 40
pounds, his wife's property at Snitterfield. {12a}

The father's financial difficulties.

John Shakespeare obviously chafed under the humiliation of having parted,
although as he hoped only temporarily, with his wife's property of
Asbies, and in the autumn of 1580 he offered to pay off the mortgage; but
his brother-in-law, Lambert, retorted that other sums were owing, and he
would accept all or none. The negotiation, which was the beginning of
much litigation, thus proved abortive. Through 1585 and 1586 a creditor,
John Brown, was embarrassingly importunate, and, after obtaining a writ
of distraint, Brown informed the local court that the debtor had no goods
on which distraint could be levied. {12b} On September 6, 1586, John was
deprived of his alderman's gown, on the ground of his long absence from
the council meetings. {12c}


Happily John Shakespeare was at no expense for the education of his four
sons. They were entitled to free tuition at the grammar school of
Stratford, which was reconstituted on a mediaeval foundation by Edward
VI. The eldest son, William, probably entered the school in 1571, when
Walter Roche was master, and perhaps he knew something of Thomas Hunt,
who succeeded Roche in 1577. The instruction that he received was mainly
confined to the Latin language and literature. From the Latin accidence,
boys of the period, at schools of the type of that at Stratford, were
led, through conversation books like the 'Sententiae Pueriles' and Lily's
grammar, to the perusal of such authors as Seneca Terence, Cicero,
Virgil, Plautus, Ovid, and Horace. The eclogues of the popular
renaissance poet, Mantuanus, were often preferred to Virgil's for
beginners. The rudiments of Greek were occasionally taught in
Elizabethan grammar schools to very promising pupils; but such
coincidences as have been detected between expressions in Greek plays and
in Shakespeare seem due to accident, and not to any study, either at
school or elsewhere, of the Athenian drama. {13}

Dr. Farmer enunciated in his 'Essay on Shakespeare's Learning' (1767) the
theory that Shakespeare knew no language but his own, and owed whatever
knowledge he displayed of the classics and of Italian and French
literature to English translations. But several of the books in French
and Italian whence Shakespeare derived the plots of his
dramas--Belleforest's 'Histoires Tragiques,' Ser Giovanni's 'Il
Pecorone,' and Cinthio's 'Hecatommithi,' for example--were not accessible
to him in English translations; and on more general grounds the theory of
his ignorance is adequately confuted. A boy with Shakespeare's
exceptional alertness of intellect, during whose schooldays a training in
Latin classics lay within reach, could hardly lack in future years all
means of access to the literature of France and Italy.

The poet's classical equipment.

With the Latin and French languages, indeed, and with many Latin poets of
the school curriculum, Shakespeare in his writings openly acknowledged
his acquaintance. In 'Henry V' the dialogue in many scenes is carried on
in French, which is grammatically accurate if not idiomatic. In the
mouth of his schoolmasters, Holofernes in 'Love's Labour's Lost' and Sir
Hugh Evans in 'Merry Wives of Windsor,' Shakespeare placed Latin phrases
drawn directly from Lily's grammar, from the 'Sententiae Pueriles,' and
from 'the good old Mantuan.' The influence of Ovid, especially the
'Metamorphoses,' was apparent throughout his earliest literary work, both
poetic and dramatic, and is discernible in the 'Tempest,' his latest play
(v. i. 33 seq.) In the Bodleian Library there is a copy of the Aldine
edition of Ovid's 'Metamorphoses' (1502), and on the title is the
signature Wm. She., which experts have declared--not quite
conclusively--to be a genuine autograph of the poet. {15} Ovid's Latin
text was certainly not unfamiliar to him, but his closest adaptations of
Ovid's 'Metamorphoses' often reflect the phraseology of the popular
English version by Arthur Golding, of which some seven editions were
issued between 1565 and 1597. From Plautus Shakespeare drew the plot of
the 'Comedy of Errors,' but it is just possible that Plautus's comedies,
too, were accessible in English. Shakespeare had no title to rank as a
classical scholar, and he did not disdain a liberal use of translations.
His lack of exact scholarship fully accounts for the 'small Latin and
less Greek' with which he was credited by his scholarly friend, Ben
Jonson. But Aubrey's report that 'he understood Latin pretty well' need
not be contested, and his knowledge of French may be estimated to have
equalled his knowledge of Latin, while he doubtless possessed just
sufficient acquaintance with Italian to enable him to discern the drift
of an Italian poem or novel. {16}

Shakespeare and the Bible.

Of the few English books accessible to him in his schooldays, the chief
was the English Bible, either in the popular Genevan version, first
issued in a complete form in 1560, or in the Bishops' revision of 1568,
which the Authorised Version of 1611 closely followed. References to
scriptural characters and incidents are not conspicuous in Shakespeare's
plays, but, such as they are, they are drawn from all parts of the Bible,
and indicate that general acquaintance with the narrative of both Old and
New Testaments which a clever boy would be certain to acquire either in
the schoolroom or at church on Sundays. Shakespeare quotes or adapts
biblical phrases with far greater frequency than he makes allusion to
episodes in biblical history. But many such phrases enjoyed proverbial
currency, and others, which were more recondite, were borrowed from
Holinshed's 'Chronicles' and secular works whence he drew his plots. As
a rule his use of scriptural phraseology, as of scriptural history,
suggests youthful reminiscence and the assimilative tendency of the mind
in a stage of early development rather than close and continuous study of
the Bible in adult life. {17a}

Withdrawal from school.

Shakespeare was a schoolboy in July 1575, when Queen Elizabeth made a
progress through Warwickshire on a visit to her favourite, the Earl of
Leicester, at his castle of Kenilworth. References have been detected in
Oberon's vision in Shakespeare's 'Midsummer Night's Dream' (II. ii.
148-68) to the fantastic pageants and masques with which the Queen during
her stay was entertained in Kenilworth Park. Leicester's residence was
only fifteen miles from Stratford, and it is possible that Shakespeare
went thither with his father to witness some of the open-air festivities;
but two full descriptions which were published in 1576, in pamphlet form,
gave Shakespeare knowledge of all that took place. {17b} Shakespeare's
opportunities of recreation outside Stratford were in any case restricted
during his schooldays. His father's financial difficulties grew
steadily, and they caused his removal from school at an unusually early
age. Probably in 1577, when he was thirteen, he was enlisted by his
father in an effort to restore his decaying fortunes. 'I have been told
heretofore,' wrote Aubrey, 'by some of the neighbours that when he was a
boy he exercised his father's trade,' which, according to the writer, was
that of a butcher. It is possible that John's ill-luck at the period
compelled him to confine himself to this occupation, which in happier
days formed only one branch of his business. His son may have been
formally apprenticed to him. An early Stratford tradition describes him
as 'a butcher's apprentice.' {18} 'When he kill'd a calf,' Aubrey
proceeds less convincingly, 'he would doe it in a high style and make a
speech. There was at that time another butcher's son in this towne, that
was held not at all inferior to him for a naturall witt, his
acquaintance, and coetanean, but dyed young.'

The poet's marriage.

At the end of 1582 Shakespeare, when little more than eighteen and a half
years old, took a step which was little calculated to lighten his
father's anxieties. He married. His wife, according to the inscription
on her tombstone, was his senior by eight years. Rowe states that she
'was the daughter of one Hathaway, said to have been a substantial yeoman
in the neighbourhood of Stratford.'

Richard Hathaway of Shottery. Anne Hathaway.

On September 1, 1581, Richard Hathaway, 'husbandman' of Shottery, a
hamlet in the parish of Old Stratford, made his will, which was proved on
July 9, 1582, and is now preserved at Somerset House. His house and
land, 'two and a half virgates,' had been long held in copyhold by his
family, and he died in fairly prosperous circumstances. His wife Joan,
the chief legatee, was directed to carry on the farm with the aid of her
eldest son, Bartholomew, to whom a share in its proceeds was assigned.
Six other children--three sons and three daughters--received sums of
money; Agnes, the eldest daughter, and Catherine, the second daughter,
were each allotted 6 pounds 13s. 4d, 'to be paid at the day of her
marriage,' a phrase common in wills of the period. Anne and Agnes were
in the sixteenth century alternative spellings of the same Christian
name; and there is little doubt that the daughter 'Agnes' of Richard
Hathaway's will became, within a few months of Richard Hathaway's death,
Shakespeare's wife.

Anne Hathaway's cottage.

The house at Shottery, now known as Anne Hathaway's cottage, and reached
from Stratford by field-paths, undoubtedly once formed part of Richard
Hathaway's farmhouse, and, despite numerous alterations and renovations,
still preserves many features of a thatched farmhouse of the Elizabethan
period. The house remained in the Hathaway family till 1838, although
the male line became extinct in 1746. It was purchased in behalf of the
public by the Birthplace trustees in 1892.

The bond against impediments.

No record of the solemnisation of Shakespeare's marriage survives.
Although the parish of Stratford included Shottery, and thus both bride
and bridegroom were parishioners, the Stratford parish register is silent
on the subject. A local tradition, which seems to have come into being
during the present century, assigns the ceremony to the neighbouring
hamlet or chapelry of Luddington, of which neither the chapel nor parish
registers now exist. But one important piece of documentary evidence
directly bearing on the poet's matrimonial venture is accessible. In the
registry of the bishop of the diocese (Worcester) a deed is extant
wherein Fulk Sandells and John Richardson, 'husbandmen of Stratford,'
bound themselves in the bishop's consistory court, on November 28, 1582,
in a surety of 40 pounds, to free the bishop of all liability should a
lawful impediment--'by reason of any precontract' [_i.e._ with a third
party] or consanguinity--be subsequently disclosed to imperil the
validity of the marriage, then in contemplation, of William Shakespeare
with Anne Hathaway. On the assumption that no such impediment was known
to exist, and provided that Anne obtained the consent of her 'friends,'
the marriage might proceed 'with once asking of the bannes of matrimony
betwene them.'

Bonds of similar purport, although differing in significant details, are
extant in all diocesan registries of the sixteenth century. They were
obtainable on the payment of a fee to the bishop's commissary, and had
the effect of expediting the marriage ceremony while protecting the
clergy from the consequences of any possible breach of canonical law.
But they were not common, and it was rare for persons in the
comparatively humble position in life of Anne Hathaway and young
Shakespeare to adopt such cumbrous formalities when there was always
available the simpler, less expensive, and more leisurely method of
marriage by 'thrice asking of the banns.' Moreover, the wording of the
bond which was drawn before Shakespeare's marriage differs in important
respects from that adopted in all other known examples. {21} In the
latter it is invariably provided that the marriage shall not take place
without the consent of the parents or governors of both bride and
bridegroom. In the case of the marriage of an 'infant' bridegroom the
formal consent of his parents was absolutely essential to strictly
regular procedure, although clergymen might be found who were ready to
shut their eyes to the facts of the situation and to run the risk of
solemnising the marriage of an 'infant' without inquiry as to the
parents' consent. The clergyman who united Shakespeare in wedlock to
Anne Hathaway was obviously of this easy temper. Despite the
circumstance that Shakespeare's bride was of full age and he himself was
by nearly three years a minor, the Shakespeare bond stipulated merely for
the consent of the bride's 'friends,' and ignored the bridegroom's
parents altogether. Nor was this the only irregularity in the document.
In other pre-matrimonial covenants of the kind the name either of the
bridegroom himself or of the bridegroom's father figures as one of the
two sureties, and is mentioned first of the two. Had the usual form been
followed, Shakespeare's father would have been the chief party to the
transaction in behalf of his 'infant' son. But in the Shakespeare bond
the sole sureties, Sandells and Richardson, were farmers of Shottery, the
bride's native place. Sandells was a 'supervisor' of the will of the
bride's father, who there describes him as 'my trustie friende and

Birth of a daughter.

The prominence of the Shottery husbandmen in the negotiations preceding
Shakespeare's marriage suggests the true position of affairs. Sandells
and Richardson, representing the lady's family, doubtless secured the
deed on their own initiative, so that Shakespeare might have small
opportunity of evading a step which his intimacy with their friend's
daughter had rendered essential to her reputation. The wedding probably
took place, without the consent of the bridegroom's parents--it may be
without their knowledge--soon after the signing of the deed. Within six
months--in May 1583--a daughter was born to the poet, and was baptised in
the name of Susanna at Stratford parish church on the 26th.

Formal betrothal probably dispensed with.

Shakespeare's apologists have endeavoured to show that the public
betrothal or formal 'troth-plight' which was at the time a common prelude
to a wedding carried with it all the privileges of marriage. But neither
Shakespeare's detailed description of a betrothal {23} nor of the solemn
verbal contract that ordinarily preceded marriage lends the contention
much support. Moreover, the whole circumstances of the case render it
highly improbable that Shakespeare and his bride submitted to the formal
preliminaries of a betrothal. In that ceremony the parents of both
contracting parties invariably played foremost parts, but the wording of
the bond precludes the assumption that the bridegroom's parents were
actors in any scene of the hurriedly planned drama of his marriage.

A difficulty has been imported into the narration of the poet's
matrimonial affairs by the assumption of his identity with one 'William
Shakespeare,' to whom, according to an entry in the Bishop of Worcester's
register, a license was issued on November 27, 1582 (the day _before_ the
signing of the Hathaway bond), authorising his marriage with Anne
Whateley of Temple Grafton. The theory that the maiden name of
Shakespeare's wife was Whateley is quite untenable, and it is unsafe to
assume that the bishop's clerk, when making a note of the grant of the
license in his register, erred so extensively as to write Anne Whateley
of Temple Grafton' for 'Anne Hathaway of Shottery.' The husband of Anne
Whateley cannot reasonably be identified with the poet. He was doubtless
another of the numerous William Shakespeares who abounded in the diocese
of Worcester. Had a license for the poet's marriage been secured on
November 27, {24} it is unlikely that the Shottery husbandmen would have
entered next day into a bond 'against impediments,' the execution of
which might well have been demanded as a preliminary to the grant of a
license but was wholly supererogatory after the grant was made.


Anne Hathaway's greater burden of years and the likelihood that the poet
was forced into marrying her by her friends were not circumstances of
happy augury. Although it is dangerous to read into Shakespeare's
dramatic utterances allusions to his personal experience, the emphasis
with which he insists that a woman should take in marriage 'an elder than
herself,' {25a} and that prenuptial intimacy is productive of 'barren
hate, sour-eyed disdain, and discord,' suggest a personal interpretation.
{25b} To both these unpromising features was added, in the poet's case,
the absence of a means of livelihood, and his course of life in the years
that immediately followed implies that he bore his domestic ties with
impatience. Early in 1585 twins were born to him, a son (Hamnet) and a
daughter (Judith); both were baptised on February 2. All the evidence
points to the conclusion, which the fact that he had no more children
confirms, that in the later months of the year (1585) he left Stratford,
and that, although he was never wholly estranged from his family, he saw
little of wife or children for eleven years. Between the winter of 1585
and the autumn of 1596--an interval which synchronises with his first
literary triumphs--there is only one shadowy mention of his name in
Stratford records. In April 1587 there died Edmund Lambert, who held
Asbies under the mortgage of 1578, and a few months later Shakespeare's
name, as owner of a contingent interest, was joined to that of his father
and mother in a formal assent given to an abortive proposal to confer on
Edmund's son and heir, John Lambert, an absolute title to the estate on
condition of his cancelling the mortgage and paying 20 pounds. But the
deed does not indicate that Shakespeare personally assisted at the
transaction. {26}

Poaching at Charlecote.

Shakespeare's early literary work proves that while in the country he
eagerly studied birds, flowers, and trees, and gained a detailed
knowledge of horses and dogs. All his kinsfolk were farmers, and with
them he doubtless as a youth practised many field sports. Sympathetic
references to hawking, hunting, coursing, and angling abound in his early
plays and poems. {27} And his sporting experiences passed at times
beyond orthodox limits. A poaching adventure, according to a credible
tradition, was the immediate cause of his long severance from his native
place. 'He had,' wrote Rowe in 1709, 'by a misfortune common enough to
young fellows, fallen into ill company, and, among them, some, that made
a frequent practice of deer-stealing, engaged him with them more than
once in robbing a park that belonged to Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote
near Stratford. For this he was prosecuted by that gentleman, as he
thought, somewhat too severely; and, in order to revenge that ill-usage,
he made a ballad upon him, and though this, probably the first essay of
his poetry, be lost, yet it is said to have been so very bitter that it
redoubled the prosecution against him to that degree that he was obliged
to leave his business and family in Warwickshire and shelter himself in
London.' The independent testimony of Archdeacon Davies, who was vicar
of Saperton, Gloucestershire, late in the seventeenth century, is to the
effect that Shakespeare 'was much given to all unluckiness in stealing
venison and rabbits, particularly from Sir Thomas Lucy, who had him oft
whipt, and sometimes imprisoned, and at last made him fly his native
county to his great advancement.' The law of Shakespeare's day (5 Eliz.
cap. 21) punished deer-stealers with three months' imprisonment and the
payment of thrice the amount of the damage done.

Unwarranted doubts of the tradition.

The tradition has been challenged on the ground that the Charlecote
deer-park was of later date than the sixteenth century. But Sir Thomas
Lucy was an extensive game-preserver, and owned at Charlecote a warren in
which a few harts or does doubtless found an occasional home. Samuel
Ireland was informed in 1794 that Shakespeare stole the deer, not from
Charlecote, but from Fulbroke Park, a few miles off, and Ireland supplied
in his 'Views on the Warwickshire Avon,' 1795, an engraving of an old
farmhouse in the hamlet of Fulbroke, where he asserted that Shakespeare
was temporarily imprisoned after his arrest. An adjoining hovel was
locally known for some years as Shakespeare's 'deer-barn,' but no portion
of Fulbroke Park, which included the site of these buildings (now
removed), was Lucy's property in Elizabeth's reign, and the amended
legend, which was solemnly confided to Sir Walter Scott in 1828 by the
owner of Charlecote, seems pure invention. {28}

Justice Shallow

The ballad which Shakespeare is reported to have fastened on the park
gates of Charlecote does not, as Rowe acknowledged, survive. No
authenticity can be allowed the worthless lines beginning 'A parliament
member, a justice of peace,' which were represented to be Shakespeare's
on the authority of an old man who lived near Stratford and died in 1703.
But such an incident as the tradition reveals has left a distinct impress
on Shakespearean drama. Justice Shallow is beyond doubt a reminiscence
of the owner of Charlecote. According to Archdeacon Davies of Saperton,
Shakespeare's 'revenge was so great that' he caricatured Lucy as 'Justice
Clodpate,' who was (Davies adds) represented on the stage as 'a great
man,' and as bearing, in allusion to Lucy's name, 'three louses rampant
for his arms.' Justice Shallow, Davies's 'Justice Clodpate,' came to
birth in the 'Second Part of Henry IV' (1598), and he is represented in
the opening scene of the 'Merry Wives of Windsor' as having come from
Gloucestershire to Windsor to make a Star-Chamber matter of a poaching
raid on his estate. The 'three luces hauriant argent' were the arms
borne by the Charlecote Lucys, and the dramatist's prolonged reference in
this scene to the 'dozen white luces' on Justice Shallow's 'old coat'
fully establishes Shallow's identity with Lucy.

The flight from Stratford.

The poaching episode is best assigned to 1585, but it may be questioned
whether Shakespeare, on fleeing from Lucy's persecution, at once sought
an asylum in London. William Beeston, a seventeenth-century actor,
remembered hearing that he had been for a time a country schoolmaster 'in
his younger years,' and it seems possible that on first leaving Stratford
he found some such employment in a neighbouring village. The suggestion
that he joined, at the end of 1585, a band of youths of the district in
serving in the Low Countries under the Earl of Leicester, whose castle of
Kenilworth was within easy reach of Stratford, is based on an obvious
confusion between him and others of his name. {30} The knowledge of a
soldier's life which Shakespeare exhibited in his plays is no greater and
no less than that which he displayed of almost all other spheres of human
activity, and to assume that he wrote of all or of any from practical
experience, unless the evidence be conclusive, is to underrate his
intuitive power of realising life under almost every aspect by force of
his imagination.


The journey to London.

To London Shakespeare naturally drifted, doubtless trudging thither on
foot during 1586, by way of Oxford and High Wycombe. {31a} Tradition
points to that as Shakespeare's favoured route, rather than to the road
by Banbury and Aylesbury. Aubrey asserts that at Grendon near Oxford,
'he happened to take the humour of the constable in "Midsummer Night's
Dream"'--by which he meant, we may suppose, 'Much Ado about Nothing'--but
there were watchmen of the Dogberry type all over England, and probably
at Stratford itself. The Crown Inn, (formerly 3 Cornmarket Street) near
Carfax, at Oxford, was long pointed out as one of his resting-places.

Richard Field, his townsman.

To only one resident in London is Shakespeare likely to have been known
previously. {31b} Richard Field, a native of Stratford, and son of a
friend of Shakespeare's father, had left Stratford in 1579 to serve an
apprenticeship with Thomas Vautrollier, the London printer. Shakespeare
and Field, who was made free of the Stationers' Company in 1587, were
soon associated as author and publisher; but the theory that Field found
work for Shakespeare in Vautrollier's printing-office is fanciful. {32a}
No more can be said for the attempt to prove that he obtained employment
as a lawyer's clerk. In view of his general quickness of apprehension,
Shakespeare's accurate use of legal terms, which deserves all the
attention that has been paid it, may be attributable in part to his
observation of the many legal processes in which his father was involved,
and in part to early intercourse with members of the Inns of Court. {32b}

Theatrical employment.

Tradition and common-sense alike point to one of the only two theatres
(The Theatre or The Curtain) that existed in London at the date of his
arrival as an early scene of his regular occupation. The compiler of
'Lives of the Poets' (1753) {32c} was the first to relate the story that
his original connection with the playhouse was as holder of the horses of
visitors outside the doors. According to the same compiler, the story
was related by D'Avenant to Betterton; but Rowe, to whom Betterton
communicated it, made no use of it. The two regular theatres of the time
were both reached on horseback by men of fashion, and the owner of The
Theatre, James Burbage, kept a livery stable at Smithfield. There is no
inherent improbability in the tale. Dr. Johnson's amplified version, in
which Shakespeare was represented as organising a service of boys for the
purpose of tending visitors' horses, sounds apocryphal.

A playhouse servitor.

There is every indication that Shakespeare was speedily offered
employment inside the playhouse. In 1587 the two chief companies of
actors, claiming respectively the nominal patronage of the Queen and Lord
Leicester, returned to London from a provincial tour, during which they
visited Stratford. Two subordinate companies, one of which claimed the
patronage of the Earl of Essex and the other that of Lord Stafford, also
performed in the town during the same year. Shakespeare's friends may
have called the attention of the strolling players to the homeless youth,
rumours of whose search for employment about the London theatres had
doubtless reached Stratford. From such incidents seems to have sprung
the opportunity which offered Shakespeare fame and fortune. According to
Rowe's vague statement, 'he was received into the company then in being
at first in a very mean rank.' William Castle, the parish clerk of
Stratford at the end of the seventeenth century, was in the habit of
telling visitors that he entered the playhouse as a servitor. Malone
recorded in 1780 a stage tradition 'that his first office in the theatre
was that of prompter's attendant' or call-boy. His intellectual capacity
and the amiability with which he turned to account his versatile powers
were probably soon recognised, and thenceforth his promotion was assured.

The acting companies.

Shakespeare's earliest reputation was made as an actor, and, although his
work as a dramatist soon eclipsed his histrionic fame, he remained a
prominent member of the actor's profession till near the end of his life.
By an Act of Parliament of 1571 (14 Eliz. cap. 2), which was re-enacted
in 1596 (39 Eliz. cap. 4), players were under the necessity of procuring
a license to pursue their calling from a peer of the realm or 'personage
of higher degree;' otherwise they were adjudged to be of the status of
rogues and vagabonds. The Queen herself and many Elizabethan peers were
liberal in the exercise of their licensing powers, and few actors failed
to secure a statutory license, which gave them a rank of respectability,
and relieved them of all risk of identification with vagrants or 'sturdy
beggars.' From an early period in Elizabeth's reign licensed actors were
organised into permanent companies. In 1587 and following years, besides
three companies of duly licensed boy-actors that were formed from the
choristers of St. Paul's Cathedral and the Chapel Royal and from
Westminster scholars, there were in London at least six companies of
fully licensed adult actors; five of these were called after the noblemen
to whom their members respectively owed their licenses (viz. the Earls of
Leicester, Oxford, Sussex, and Worcester, and the Lord Admiral, Charles,
lord Howard of Effingham), and one of them whose actors derived their
license from the Queen was called the Queen's Company.

The Lord Chamberlain's company.

The patron's functions in relation to the companies seem to have been
mainly confined to the grant or renewal of the actors' licenses.
Constant alterations of name, owing to the death or change from other
causes of the patrons, render it difficult to trace with certainty each
company's history. But there seems no doubt that the most influential of
the companies named--that under the nominal patronage of the Earl of
Leicester--passed on his death in September 1588 to the patronage of
Ferdinando Stanley, lord Strange, who became Earl of Derby on September
25, 1592. When the Earl of Derby died on April 16, 1594, his place as
patron and licenser was successively filled by Henry Carey, first lord
Hunsdon, Lord Chamberlain (_d._ July 23, 1596), and by his son and heir,
George Carey, second lord Hunsdon, who himself became Lord Chamberlain in
March 1597. After King James's succession in May 1603 the company was
promoted to be the King's players, and, thus advanced in dignity, it
fully maintained the supremacy which, under its successive titles, it had
already long enjoyed.

A member of the Lord Chamberlain's.

It is fair to infer that this was the company that Shakespeare originally
joined and adhered to through life. Documentary evidence proves that he
was a member of it in December 1594; in May, 1603 he was one of its
leaders. Four of its chief members--Richard Burbage, the greatest tragic
actor of the day, John Heming, Henry Condell, and Augustine Phillips were
among Shakespeare's lifelong friends. Under this company's auspices,
moreover, Shakespeare's plays first saw the light. Only two of the plays
claimed for him--'Titus Andronicus' and '3 Henry VI'--seem to have been
performed by other companies (the Earl of Sussex's men in the one case,
and the Earl of Pembroke's in the other).

The London theatres.

When Shakespeare became a member of the company it was doubtless
performing at The Theatre, the playhouse in Shoreditch which James
Burbage, the father of the great actor, Richard Burbage, had constructed
in 1576; it abutted on the Finsbury Fields, and stood outside the City's
boundaries. The only other London playhouse then in existence--the
Curtain in Moorfields--was near at hand; its name survives in Curtain
Road, Shoreditch. But at an early date in his acting career
Shakespeare's company sought and found new quarters. While known as Lord
Strange's men, they opened on February 19, 1592, a third London theatre,
called the Rose, which Philip Henslowe, the speculative theatrical
manager, had erected on the Bankside, Southwark. At the date of the
inauguration of the Rose Theatre Shakespeare's company was temporarily
allied with another company, the Admiral's men, who numbered the great
actor Edward Alleyn among them. Alleyn for a few months undertook the
direction of the amalgamated companies, but they quickly parted, and no
further opportunity was offered Shakespeare of enjoying professional
relations with Alleyn. The Rose Theatre was doubtless the earliest scene
of Shakespeare's pronounced successes alike as actor and dramatist.
Subsequently for a short time in 1594 he frequented the stage of another
new theatre at Newington Butts, and between 1595 and 1599 the older
stages of the Curtain and of The Theatre in Shoreditch. The Curtain
remained open till the Civil Wars, although its vogue after 1600 was
eclipsed by that of younger rivals. In 1599 Richard Burbage and his
brother Cuthbert demolished the old building of The Theatre and built,
mainly out of the materials of the dismantled fabric, the famous theatre
called the Globe on the Bankside. It was octagonal in shape, and built
of wood, and doubtless Shakespeare described it (rather than the Curtain)
as 'this wooden O' in the opening chorus of 'Henry V' (1. 13). After
1599 the Globe was mainly occupied by Shakespeare's company, and in its
profits he acquired an important share. From the date of its
inauguration until the poet's retirement, the Globe--which quickly won
the first place among London theatres--seems to have been the sole
playhouse with which Shakespeare was professionally associated. The
equally familiar Blackfriars Theatre, which was created out of a
dwelling-house by James Burbage, the actor's father, at the end of 1596,
was for many years afterwards leased out to the company of boy-actors
known as 'the Queen's Children of the Chapel;' it was not occupied by
Shakespeare's company until December 1609 or January 1610, when his
acting days were nearing their end. {38a}

Place of residence in London.

In London Shakespeare resided near the theatres. According to a
memorandum by Alleyn (which Malone quoted), he lodged in 1596 near 'the
Bear Garden in Southwark.' In 1598 one William Shakespeare, who was
assessed by the collectors of a subsidy in the sum of 13s. 4d. upon goods
valued at 5 pounds, was a resident in St. Helen's parish, Bishopsgate,
but it is not certain that this taxpayer was the dramatist. {38b}

Shakespeare's alleged travels. In Scotland.

The chief differences between the methods of theatrical representation in
Shakespeare's day and our own lay in the fact that neither scenery nor
scenic costume nor women-actors were known to the Elizabethan stage. All
female _roles_ were, until the Restoration in 1660, assumed in the public
theatres by men or boys. {38c} Consequently the skill needed to rouse in
the audience the requisite illusions was far greater then than at later
periods. But the professional customs of Elizabethan actors approximated
in other respects more closely to those of their modern successors than
is usually recognised. The practice of touring in the provinces was
followed with even greater regularity then than now. Few companies
remained in London during the summer or early autumn, and every country
town with two thousand or more inhabitants could reckon on at least one
visit from travelling actors between May and October. A rapid
examination of the extant archives of some seventy municipalities
selected at random shows that Shakespeare's company between 1594 and 1614
frequently performed in such towns as Barnstaple, Bath, Bristol,
Coventry, Dover, Faversham, Folkestone, Hythe, Leicester, Maidstone,
Marlborough, New Romney, Oxford, Rye in Sussex, Saffron Walden, and
Shrewsbury. {40a} Shakespeare may be credited with faithfully fulfilling
all his professional functions, and some of the references to travel in
his sonnets were doubtless reminiscences of early acting tours. It has
been repeatedly urged, moreover, that Shakespeare's company visited
Scotland, and that he went with it. {40b} In November 1599 English
actors arrived in Scotland under the leadership of Lawrence Fletcher and
one Martin, and were welcomed with enthusiasm by the king. {41a}
Fletcher was a colleague of Shakespeare in 1603, but is not known to have
been one earlier. Shakespeare's company never included an actor named
Martin. Fletcher repeated the visit in October 1601. {41b} There is
nothing to indicate that any of his companions belonged to Shakespeare's
company. In like manner, Shakespeare's accurate reference in 'Macbeth'
to the 'nimble' but 'sweet' climate of Inverness, {41c} and the vivid
impression he conveys of the aspects of wild Highland heaths, have been
judged to be the certain fruits of a personal experience; but the
passages in question, into which a more definite significance has
possibly been read than Shakespeare intended, can be satisfactorily
accounted for by his inevitable intercourse with Scotsmen in London and
the theatres after James I's accession.

In Italy.

A few English actors in Shakespeare's day occasionally combined to make
professional tours through foreign lands, where Court society invariably
gave them a hospitable reception. In Denmark, Germany, Austria, Holland,
and France, many dramatic performances were given before royal audiences
by English actors between 1580 and 1630. {42a} That Shakespeare joined
any of these expeditions is highly improbable. Actors of small account
at home mainly took part in them, and Shakespeare's name appears in no
extant list of those who paid professional visits abroad. It is, in
fact, unlikely that Shakespeare ever set foot on the continent of Europe
in either a private or professional capacity. He repeatedly ridicules
the craze for foreign travel. {42b} To Italy, it is true, and especially
to cities of Northern Italy, like Venice, Padua, Verona, Mantua, and
Milan, he makes frequent and familiar reference, and he supplied many a
realistic portrayal of Italian life and sentiment. But the fact that he
represents Valentine in the 'Two Gentlemen of Verona' (I. i. 71) as
travelling from Verona to Milan by sea, and Prospero in 'The Tempest' as
embarking on a ship at the gates of Milan (I. ii. 129-44), renders it
almost impossible that he could have gathered his knowledge of Northern
Italy from personal observation. {43a} He doubtless owed all to the
verbal reports of travelled friends or to books, the contents of which he
had a rare power of assimilating and vitalising.

Shakespeare's roles.

The publisher Chettle wrote in 1592 that Shakespeare was 'exelent in the
qualitie {43b} he professes,' and the old actor William Beeston asserted
in the next century that Shakespeare 'did act exceedingly well.' {43c}
But the _roles_ in which he distinguished himself are imperfectly
recorded. Few surviving documents refer directly to performances by him.
At Christmas 1594 he joined the popular actors William Kemp, the chief
comedian of the day, and Richard Burbage, the greatest tragic actor, in
'two several comedies or interludes' which were acted on St. Stephen's
Day and on Innocents' Day (December 27 and 28) at Greenwich Palace before
the Queen. The players received 'xiii_li_. vj_s_. viii_d_. and by waye
of her Majesties rewarde vi_li_. xiii_s_. iiij_d_., in all xx_li_. {44a}
Neither plays nor parts are named. Shakespeare's name stands first on
the list of those who took part in the original performances of Ben
Jonson's 'Every Man in his Humour' (1598). In the original edition of
Jonson's 'Sejanus' (1603) the actors' names are arranged in two columns,
and Shakespeare's name heads the second column, standing parallel with
Burbage's, which heads the first. But here again the character allotted
to each actor is not stated. Rowe identified only one of Shakespeare's
parts, 'the Ghost in his own "Hamlet,"' and Rowe asserted his assumption
of that character to be 'the top of his performance.' John Davies of
Hereford noted that he 'played some kingly parts in sport.' {44b} One of
Shakespeare's younger brothers, presumably Gilbert, often came, wrote
Oldys, to London in his younger days to see his brother act in his own
plays; and in his old age, when his memory was failing, he recalled his
brother's performance of Adam in 'As you like it.' In the 1623 folio
edition of Shakespeare's 'Works' his name heads the prefatory list 'of
the principall actors in all these playes.'

Alleged scorn of an actor's calling.

That Shakespeare chafed under some of the conditions of the actor's
calling is commonly inferred from the 'Sonnets.' There he reproaches
himself with becoming 'a motley to the view' (cx. 2), and chides fortune
for having provided for his livelihood nothing better than 'public means
that public manners breed,' whence his name received a brand (cxi. 4-5).
If such self-pity is to be literally interpreted, it only reflected an
evanescent mood. His interest in all that touched the efficiency of his
profession was permanently active. He was a keen critic of actors'
elocution, and in 'Hamlet' shrewdly denounced their common failings, but
clearly and hopefully pointed out the road to improvement. His highest
ambitions lay, it is true, elsewhere than in acting, and at an early
period of his theatrical career he undertook, with triumphant success,
the labours of a playwright. But he pursued the profession of an actor
loyally and uninterruptedly until he resigned all connection with the
theatre within a few years of his death.


Dramatic work.

The whole of Shakespeare's dramatic work was probably begun and ended
within two decades (1591-1611), between his twenty-seventh and
forty-seventh year. If the works traditionally assigned to him include
some contributions from other pens, he was perhaps responsible, on the
other hand, for portions of a few plays that are traditionally claimed
for others. When the account is balanced, Shakespeare must be credited
with the production, during these twenty years, of a yearly average of
two plays, nearly all of which belong to the supreme rank of literature.
Three volumes of poems must be added to the total. Ben Jonson was often
told by the players that 'whatsoever he penned he never blotted out
(_i.e._ erased) a line.' The editors of the First Folio attested that
'what he thought he uttered with that easinesse that we have scarce
received from him a blot in his papers.' Signs of hasty workmanship are
not lacking, but they are few when it is considered how rapidly his
numerous compositions came from his pen, and they are in the aggregate

His borrowed plots.

By borrowing his plots he to some extent economised his energy, but he
transformed most of them, and it was not probably with the object of
conserving his strength that he systematically levied loans on popular
current literature like Holinshed's 'Chronicles,' North's translation of
'Plutarch,' widely read romances, and successful plays. In this regard
he betrayed something of the practical temperament which is traceable in
the conduct of the affairs of his later life. It was doubtless with the
calculated aim of ministering to the public taste that he unceasingly
adapted, as his genius dictated, themes which had already, in the hands
of inferior writers or dramatists, proved capable of arresting public

The revision of plays.

The professional playwrights sold their plays outright to one or other of
the acting companies, and they retained no legal interest in them after
the manuscript had passed into the hands of the theatrical manager. {47}
It was not unusual for the manager to invite extensive revision of a play
at the hands of others than its author before it was produced on the
stage, and again whenever it was revived. Shakespeare gained his
earliest experience as a dramatist by revising or rewriting behind the
scenes plays that had become the property of his manager. It is possible
that some of his labours in this direction remain unidentified. In a few
cases his alterations were slight, but as a rule his fund of originality
was too abundant to restrict him, when working as an adapter, to mere
recension, and the results of most of his labours in that capacity are
entitled to rank among original compositions.

Chronology of the plays. Metrical tests.

The determination of the exact order in which Shakespeare's plays were
written depends largely on conjecture. External evidence is accessible
in only a few cases, and, although always worthy of the utmost
consideration, is not invariably conclusive. The date of publication
rarely indicates the date of composition. Only sixteen of the
thirty-seven plays commonly assigned to Shakespeare were published in his
lifetime, and it is questionable whether any were published under his
supervision. {48} But subject-matter and metre both afford rough clues
to the period in his career to which each play may be referred. In his
early plays the spirit of comedy or tragedy appears in its simplicity; as
his powers gradually matured he depicted life in its most complex
involutions, and portrayed with masterly insight the subtle gradations of
human sentiment and the mysterious workings of human passion. Comedy and
tragedy are gradually blended; and his work finally developed a pathos
such as could only come of ripe experience. Similarly the metre
undergoes emancipation from the hampering restraints of fixed rule and
becomes flexible enough to respond to every phase of human feeling. In
the blank verse of the early plays a pause is strictly observed at the
close of each line, and rhyming couplets are frequent. Gradually the
poet overrides such artificial restrictions; rhyme largely disappears;
recourse is more frequently made to prose; the pause is varied
indefinitely; extra syllables are, contrary to strict metrical law,
introduced at the end of lines, and at times in the middle; the last word
of the line is often a weak and unemphatic conjunction or preposition.
{49} To the latest plays fantastic and punning conceits which abound in
early work are rarely accorded admission. But, while Shakespeare's
achievement from the beginning to the end of his career offers clearer
evidence than that of any other writer of genius of the steady and
orderly growth of his poetic faculty, some allowance must be made for ebb
and flow in the current of his artistic progress. Early work
occasionally anticipates features that become habitual to late work, and
late work at times embodies traits that are mainly identified with early
work. No exclusive reliance in determining the precise chronology can be
placed on the merely mechanical tests afforded by tables of metrical
statistics. The chronological order can only be deduced with any
confidence from a consideration of all the internal characteristics as
well as the known external history of each play. The premisses are often
vague and conflicting, and no chronology hitherto suggested receives at
all points universal assent.

'Love's Labour's Lost.'

There is no external evidence to prove that any piece in which
Shakespeare had a hand was produced before the spring of 1592. No play
by him was published before 1597, and none bore his name on the
title-page till 1598. But his first essays have been with confidence
allotted to 1591. To 'Love's Labour's Lost' may reasonably be assigned
priority in point of time of all Shakespeare's dramatic productions.
Internal evidence alone indicates the date of composition, and proves
that it was an early effort; but the subject-matter suggests that its
author had already enjoyed extended opportunities of surveying London
life and manners, such as were hardly open to him in the very first years
of his settlement in the metropolis. 'Love's Labour's Lost' embodies
keen observation of contemporary life in many ranks of society, both in
town and country, while the speeches of the hero Biron clothe much sound
philosophy in masterly rhetoric. Its slender plot stands almost alone
among Shakespeare's plots in that it is not known to have been borrowed,
and stands quite alone in openly travestying known traits and incidents
of current social and political life. The names of the chief characters
are drawn from the leaders in the civil war in France, which was in
progress between 1589 and 1594, and was anxiously watched by the English
public. {51} Contemporary projects of academies for disciplining young
men; fashions of speech and dress current in fashionable circles; recent
attempts on the part of Elizabeth's government to negotiate with the Tsar
of Russia; the inefficiency of rural constables and the pedantry of
village schoolmasters and curates are all satirised with good humour.
The play was revised in 1597, probably for a performance at Court. It
was first published next year, and on the title-page, which described the
piece as 'newly corrected and augmented,' Shakespeare's name first
appeared in print as that of author of a play.

'Two Gentlemen of Verona.'

Less gaiety characterised another comedy of the same date, 'The Two
Gentlemen of Verona,' which dramatises a romantic story of love and
friendship. There is every likelihood that it was an
adaptation--amounting to a reformation--of a lost 'History of Felix and
Philomena,' which had been acted at Court in 1584. The story is the same
as that of 'The Shepardess Felismena' in the Spanish pastoral romance of
'Diana' by George de Montemayor, which long enjoyed popularity in
England. No complete English translation of 'Diana' was published before
that of Bartholomew Yonge in 1598, but a manuscript version by Thomas
Wilson, which was dedicated to the Earl of Southampton in 1596, was
possibly circulated far earlier. Some verses from 'Diana' were
translated by Sir Philip Sidney and were printed with his poems as early
as 1591. Barnabe Rich's story of 'Apollonius and Silla' (from Cinthio's
'Hecatommithi'), which Shakespeare employed again in 'Twelfth Night,'
also gave him some hints. Trifling and irritating conceits abound in the
'Two Gentlemen,' but passages of high poetic spirit are not wanting, and
the speeches of the clowns, Launce and Speed--the precursors of a long
line of whimsical serving-men--overflow with farcical drollery. The 'Two
Gentlemen' was not published in Shakespeare's lifetime; it first appeared
in the folio of 1623, after having, in all probability, undergone some
revision. {53}

'Comedy of Errors.'

Shakespeare next tried his hand, in the 'Comedy of Errors' (commonly
known at the time as 'Errors'), at boisterous farce. It also was first
published in 1623. Again, as in 'Love's Labour's Lost,' allusion was
made to the civil war in France. France was described as 'making war
against her heir' (III. ii. 125). Shakespeare's farcical comedy, which
is by far the shortest of all his dramas, may have been founded on a
play, no longer extant, called 'The Historie of Error,' which was acted
in 1576 at Hampton Court. In subject-matter it resembles the 'Menaechmi'
of Plautus, and treats of mistakes of identity arising from the likeness
of twin-born children. The scene (act iii. sc. i.) in which Antipholus
of Ephesus is shut out from his own house, while his brother and wife are
at dinner within, recalls one in the 'Amphitruo' of Plautus. Shakespeare
doubtless had direct recourse to Plautus as well as to the old play, and
he may have read Plautus in English. The earliest translation of the
'Menaechmi' was not licensed for publication before June 10, 1594, and
was not published until the following year. No translation of any other
play of Plautus appeared before. But it was stated in the preface to
this first published translation of the 'Menaechmi' that the translator,
W. W., doubtless William Warner, a veteran of the Elizabethan world of
letters, had some time previously 'Englished' that and 'divers' others of
Plautus's comedies, and had circulated them in manuscript 'for the use of
and delight of his private friends, who, in Plautus's own words, are not
able to understand them.'

'Romeo and Juliet.'

Such plays as these, although each gave promise of a dramatic capacity
out of the common way, cannot be with certainty pronounced to be beyond
the ability of other men. It was in 'Romeo and Juliet,' Shakespeare's
first tragedy, that he proved himself the possessor of a poetic and
dramatic instinct of unprecedented quality. In 'Romeo and Juliet' he
turned to account a tragic romance of Italian origin, {55a} which was
already popular in English versions. Arthur Broke rendered it into
English verse from the Italian of Bandello in 1562, and William Painter
had published it in prose in his 'Palace of Pleasure' in 1567.
Shakespeare made little change in the plot as drawn from Bandello by
Broke, but he impregnated it with poetic fervour, and relieved the tragic
intensity by developing the humour of Mercutio, and by grafting on the
story the new comic character of the Nurse. {55b} The ecstasy of
youthful passion is portrayed by Shakespeare in language of the highest
lyric beauty, and although a predilection for quibbles and conceits
occasionally passes beyond the author's control, 'Romeo and Juliet,' as a
tragic poem on the theme of love, has no rival in any literature. If the
Nurse's remark, ''Tis since the earthquake now eleven years' (I. iii.
23), be taken literally, the composition of the play must be referred to
1591, for no earthquake in the sixteenth century was experienced in
England after 1580. There are a few parallelisms with Daniel's
'Complainte of Rosamond,' published in 1592, and it is probable that
Shakespeare completed the piece in that year. It was first printed
anonymously and surreptitiously by John Danter in 1597 from an imperfect
acting copy. A second quarto of 1599 (by T. Creede for Cuthbert Burbie)
was printed from an authentic version, but the piece had probably
undergone revision since its first production. {56}

Of the original representation on the stage of three other pieces of the
period we have more explicit information. These reveal Shakespeare
undisguisedly as an adapter of plays by other hands. Though they lack
the interest attaching to his unaided work, they throw invaluable light
on some of his early methods of composition and his early relations with
other dramatists.

'Henry VI.'

On March 3, 1592, a new piece, called 'Henry VI,' was acted at the Rose
Theatre by Lord Strange's men. It was no doubt the play which was
subsequently known as Shakespeare's 'The First Part of Henry VI.' On its
first performance it won a popular triumph. 'How would it have joyed
brave Talbot (the terror of the French),' wrote Nash in his 'Pierce
Pennilesse' (1592, licensed August 8), in reference to the striking
scenes of Talbot's death (act iv. sc. vi. and vii.), 'to thinke that
after he had lyne two hundred yeares in his Tombe, hee should triumphe
againe on the Stage, and have his bones newe embalmed with the teares of
ten thousand spectators at least (at severall times) who, in the
Tragedian that represents his person, imagine they behold him fresh
bleeding!' There is no categorical record of the production of a second
piece in continuation of the theme, but such a play quickly followed; for
a third piece, treating of the concluding incidents of Henry VI's reign,
attracted much attention on the stage early in the following autumn.

Greene's attack. Chettle's apology.

The applause attending the completion of this historical trilogy caused
bewilderment in the theatrical profession. The older dramatists awoke to
the fact that their popularity was endangered by the young stranger who
had set up his tent in their midst, and one veteran uttered without delay
a rancorous protest. Robert Greene, who died on September 3, 1592, wrote
on his deathbed an ill-natured farewell to life, entitled 'A Groats-worth
of Wit bought with a Million of Repentance.' Addressing three brother
dramatists--Marlowe, Nash, and Peele or Lodge--he bade them beware of
puppets 'that speak from our mouths,' and of 'antics garnished in our
colours.' 'There is,' he continued, 'an upstart Crow, beautified with
our feathers, that with his _Tygers heart wrapt in a players hide_
supposes he is as well able to bumbast out a blanke verse as the best of
you; and being an absolute _Johannes factotum_ is, in his owne conceit,
the only Shake-scene in a countrie. . . . Never more acquaint [those
apes] with your admired inventions, for it is pity men of such rare wits
should be subject to the pleasures of such rude groomes.' The 'only
Shake-scene' is a punning denunciation of Shakespeare. The tirade was
probably inspired by an established author's resentment at the energy of
a young actor--the theatre's factotum--in revising the dramatic work of
his seniors with such masterly effect as to imperil their hold on the
esteem of manager and playgoer. The italicised quotation travesties a
line from the third piece in the trilogy of Shakespeare's 'Henry VI:'

Oh Tiger's heart wrapt in a woman's hide.

But Shakespeare's amiability of character and versatile ability had
already won him admirers, and his successes excited the sympathetic
regard of colleagues more kindly than Greene. In December 1592 Greene's
publisher, Henry Chettle, prefixed an apology for Greene's attack on the
young actor to his 'Kind Hartes Dreame,' a tract reflecting on phases of
contemporary social life. 'I am as sory,' Chettle wrote, 'as if the
originall fault had beene my fault, because myselfe have seene his
[_i.e._ Shakespeare's] demeanour no lesse civill than he [is] exelent in
the qualitie he professes, besides divers of worship have reported his
uprightnes of dealing, which argues his honesty, and his facetious grace
in writing that aprooves his art.'

Divided authorship of 'Henry VI.'

The first of the three plays dealing with the reign of Henry VI was
originally published in the collected edition of Shakespeare's works; the
second and third plays were previously printed in a form very different
from that which they subsequently assumed when they followed the first
part in the folio. Criticism has proved beyond doubt that in these plays
Shakespeare did no more than add, revise, and correct other men's work.
In 'The First Part of Henry VI' the scene in the Temple Gardens, where
white and red roses are plucked as emblems by the rival political parties
(act ii. sc. iv.), the dying speech of Mortimer, and perhaps the wooing
of Margaret by Suffolk, alone bear the impress of his style. A play
dealing with the second part of Henry VI's reign was published
anonymously from a rough stage copy in 1594, with the title 'The first
part of the Contention betwixt the two famous houses of Yorke and
Lancaster.' A play dealing with the third part was published with
greater care next year under the title 'The True Tragedie of Richard,
Duke of Yorke, and the death of good King Henry the Sixt, as it was
sundrie times acted by the Earl of Pembroke his servants.' In both these
plays Shakespeare's revising hand can be traced. The humours of Jack
Cade in 'The Contention' can owe their savour to him alone. After he had
hastily revised the original drafts of the three pieces, perhaps with
another's aid, they were put on the stage in 1592, the first two parts by
his own company (Lord Strange's men), and the third, under some
exceptional arrangement, by Lord Pembroke's men. But Shakespeare was not
content to leave them thus. Within a brief interval, possibly for a
revival, he undertook a more thorough revision, still in conjunction with
another writer. 'The First Part of The Contention' was thoroughly
overhauled, and was converted into what was entitled in the folio 'The
Second Part of Henry VI;' there more than half the lines are new. 'The
True Tragedie,' which became 'The Third Part of Henry VI,' was less
drastically handled; two-thirds of it was left practically untouched;
only a third was thoroughly remodelled. {60}

Shakespeare's coadjutors.

Who Shakespeare's coadjutors were in the two successive revisions of
'Henry VI' is matter for conjecture. The theory that Greene and Peele
produced the original draft of the three parts of 'Henry VI,' which
Shakespeare recast, may help to account for Greene's indignant
denunciation of Shakespeare as 'an upstart crow, beautified with the
feathers' of himself and his fellow dramatists. Much can be said, too,
in behalf of the suggestion that Shakespeare joined Marlowe, the greatest
of his predecessors, in the first revision of which 'The Contention' and
the 'True Tragedie' were the outcome. Most of the new passages in the
second recension seem assignable to Shakespeare alone, but a few suggest
a partnership resembling that of the first revision. It is probable that
Marlowe began the final revision, but his task was interrupted by his
death, and the lion's share of the work fell to his younger coadjutor.

Shakespeare's assimilative power.

Shakespeare shared with other men of genius that receptivity of mind
which impels them to assimilate much of the intellectual effort of their
contemporaries and to transmute it in the process from unvalued ore into
pure gold. Had Shakespeare not been professionally employed in recasting
old plays by contemporaries, he would doubtless have shown in his
writings traces of a study of their work. The verses of Thomas Watson,
Samuel Daniel, Michael Drayton, Sir Philip Sidney, and Thomas Lodge were
certainly among the rills which fed the mighty river of his poetic and
lyric invention. Kyd and Greene, among rival writers of tragedy, left
more or less definite impression on all Shakespeare's early efforts in
tragedy. It was, however, only to two of his fellow dramatists that his
indebtedness as a writer of either comedy or tragedy was material or
emphatically defined. Superior as Shakespeare's powers were to those of
Marlowe, his coadjutor in 'Henry VI,' his early tragedies often reveal
him in the character of a faithful disciple of that vehement delineator
of tragic passion. Shakespeare's early comedies disclose a like
relationship between him and Lyly.

Lyly's influence in comedy.

Lyly is best known as the author of the affected romance of 'Euphues,'
but between 1580 and 1592 he produced eight trivial and insubstantial
comedies, of which six were written in prose, one was in blank verse, and
one was in rhyme. Much of the dialogue in Shakespeare's comedies, from
'Love's Labour's Lost' to 'Much Ado about Nothing,' consists in thrusting
and parrying fantastic conceits, puns, or antitheses. This is the style
of intercourse in which most of Lyly's characters exclusively indulge.
Three-fourths of Lyly's comedies lightly revolve about topics of
classical or fairy mythology--in the very manner which Shakespeare first
brought to a triumphant issue in his 'Midsummer Night's Dream.'
Shakespeare's treatment of eccentric character like Don Armado in 'Love's
Labour's Lost' and his boy Moth reads like a reminiscence of Lyly's
portrayal of Sir Thopas, a fat vainglorious knight, and his boy Epiton in
the comedy of 'Endymion,' while the watchmen in the same play clearly
adumbrate Shakespeare's Dogberry and Verges. The device of masculine
disguise for love-sick maidens was characteristic of Lyly's method before
Shakespeare ventured on it for the first of many times in 'Two Gentlemen
of Verona,' and the dispersal through Lyly's comedies of songs possessing
every lyrical charm is not the least interesting of the many striking
features which Shakespeare's achievements in comedy seem to borrow from
Lyly's comparatively insignificant experiments. {62}

Marlowe's influence in tragedy. 'Richard III.'

Marlowe, who alone of Shakespeare's contemporaries can be credited with
exerting on his efforts in tragedy a really substantial influence, was in
1592 and 1593 at the zenith of his fame. Two of Shakespeare's earliest
historical tragedies, 'Richard III' and 'Richard II,' with the story of
Shylock in his somewhat later comedy of the 'Merchant of Venice,' plainly
disclose a conscious resolve to follow in Marlowe's footsteps. In
'Richard III' Shakespeare, working single-handed, takes up the history of
England near the point at which Marlowe and he, apparently working in
partnership, left it in the third part of 'Henry VI.' The subject was
already familiar to dramatists, but Shakespeare sought his materials in
the 'Chronicle' of Holinshed. A Latin piece, by Dr. Thomas Legge, had
been in favour with academic audiences since 1579, and in 1594 the 'True
Tragedie of Richard III' from some other pen was published anonymously;
but Shakespeare's piece bears little resemblance to either. Throughout
Shakespeare's 'Richard III' the effort to emulate Marlowe is undeniable.
The tragedy is, says Mr. Swinburne, 'as fiery in passion, as single in
purpose, as rhetorical often, though never so inflated in expression, as
Marlowe's "Tamburlaine" itself.' The turbulent piece was naturally
popular. Burbage's impersonation of the hero was one of his most
effective performances, and his vigorous enunciation of 'A horse, a
horse! my kingdom for a horse!' gave the line proverbial currency.

'Richard II.'

'Richard II' seems to have followed 'Richard III' without delay.
Subsequently both were published anonymously in the same year (1597) as
they had 'been publikely acted by the right Honorable the Lorde
Chamberlaine his servants;' but the deposition scene in 'Richard II,'
which dealt with a topic distasteful to the Queen, was omitted from the
early impressions. Prose is avoided throughout the play, a certain sign
of early work. The piece was probably composed very early in 1593.
Marlowe's tempestuous vein is less apparent in 'Richard II' than in
'Richard III.' But if 'Richard II' be in style and treatment less deeply
indebted to Marlowe than its predecessor, it was clearly suggested by
Marlowe's 'Edward II.' Throughout its exposition of the leading
theme--the development and collapse of the weak king's
character--Shakespeare's historical tragedy closely imitates Marlowe's.
Shakespeare drew the facts from Holinshed, but his embellishments are
numerous, and include the magnificently eloquent eulogy of England which
is set in the mouth of John of Gaunt.

Acknowledgments to Marlowe.

In 'As you like it' (III. v. 80) Shakespeare parenthetically commemorated
his acquaintance with, and his general indebtedness to, the elder
dramatist by apostrophising him in the lines:

Dead Shepherd! now I find thy saw of might:
'Who ever loved that loved not at first sight?'

The second line is a quotation from Marlowe's poem 'Hero and Leander'
(line 76). In the 'Merry Wives of Windsor' (III. i. 17-21) Shakespeare
places in the mouth of Sir Hugh Evans snatches of verse from Marlowe's
charming lyric, 'Come live with me and be my love.'

Between February 1593 and the end of the year the London theatres were
closed, owing to the prevalence of the plague, and Shakespeare doubtless
travelled with his company in the country. But his pen was busily
employed, and before the close of 1594 he gave marvellous proofs of his
rapid powers of production.

'Titus Andronicus.'

'Titus Andronicus' was in his own lifetime claimed for Shakespeare, but
Edward Ravenscroft, who prepared a new version in 1678, wrote of it: 'I
have been told by some anciently conversant with the stage that it was
not originally his, but brought by a private author to be acted, and he
only gave some master-touches to one or two of the principal parts or
characters.' Ravenscroft's assertion deserves acceptance. The tragedy,
a sanguinary picture of the decadence of Imperial Rome, contains powerful
lines and situations, but is far too repulsive in plot and treatment, and
too ostentatious in classical allusions, to take rank with Shakespeare's
acknowledged work. Ben Jonson credits 'Titus Andronicus' with a
popularity equalling Kyd's 'Spanish Tragedy,' and internal evidence shows
that Kyd was capable of writing much of 'Titus.' It was suggested by a
piece called 'Titus and Vespasian,' which Lord Strange's men played on
April 11, 1592; {65} this is only extant in a German version acted by
English players in Germany, and published in 1620. {66a} 'Titus
Andronicus' was obviously taken in hand soon after the production of
'Titus and Vespasian' in order to exploit popular interest in the topic.
It was acted by the Earl of Sussex's men on January 23, 1593-4, when it
was described as a new piece; but that it was also acted subsequently by
Shakespeare's company is shown by the title-page of the first extant
edition of 1600, which describes it as having been performed by the Earl
of Derby's and the Lord Chamberlain's servants (successive titles of
Shakespeare's company), as well as by those of the Earls of Pembroke and
Sussex. It was entered on the 'Stationers' Register' to John Danter on
February 6, 1594. {66b} Langbaine claims to have seen an edition of this
date, but none earlier than that of 1600 is now known.

'Merchant of Venice.'

For part of the plot of 'The Merchant of Venice,' in which two romantic
love stories are skilfully blended with a theme of tragic import,
Shakespeare had recourse to 'Il Pecorone,' a fourteenth-century
collection of Italian novels by Ser Giovanni Fiorentino. {66c} There a
Jewish creditor demands a pound of flesh of a defaulting Christian
debtor, and the latter is rescued through the advocacy of 'the lady of
Belmont,' who is wife of the debtor's friend. The management of the plot
in the Italian novel is closely followed by Shakespeare. A similar story
is slenderly outlined in the popular medieval collection of anecdotes
called 'Gesta Romanorum,' while the tale of the caskets, which
Shakespeare combined with it in the 'Merchant,' is told independently in
another portion of the same work. But Shakespeare's 'Merchant' owes much
to other sources, including more than one old play. Stephen Gosson
describes in his 'Schoole of Abuse' (1579) a lost play called 'the Jew . . .
showne at the Bull [inn]. . . representing the greedinesse of worldly
chusers and bloody mindes of usurers.' This description suggests that
the two stories of the pound of flesh and the caskets had been combined
before for purposes of dramatic representation. The scenes in
Shakespeare's play in which Antonio negotiates with Shylock are roughly
anticipated, too, by dialogues between a Jewish creditor Gerontus and a
Christian debtor in the extant play of 'The Three Ladies of London,' by
R[obert] W[ilson], 1584. There the Jew opens the attack on his Christian
debtor with the lines:

Signor Mercatore, why do you not pay me? Think you I will be mocked
in this sort?
This three times you have flouted me--it seems you make thereat a
Truly pay me my money, and that even now presently,
Or by mighty Mahomet, I swear I will forthwith arrest thee.

Subsequently, when the judge is passing judgment in favour of the debtor,
the Jew interrupts:

Stay, there, most puissant judge. Signor Mercatore consider what you
Pay me the principal, as for the interest I forgive it you.

Shylock and Roderigo Lopez.

Above all is it of interest to note that Shakespeare in 'The Merchant of
Venice' betrays the last definable traces of his discipleship to Marlowe.
Although the delicate comedy which lightens the serious interest of
Shakespeare's play sets it in a wholly different category from that of
Marlowe's 'Jew of Malta', the humanised portrait of the Jew Shylock
embodies distinct reminiscences of Marlowe's caricature of the Jew
Barabbas. But Shakespeare soon outpaced his master, and the inspiration
that he drew from Marlowe in the 'Merchant' touches only the general
conception of the central figure. Doubtless the popular interest aroused
by the trial in February 1594 and the execution in June of the Queen's
Jewish physician, Roderigo Lopez, incited Shakespeare to a new and
subtler study of Jewish character. {68} For Shylock (not the merchant
Antonio) is the hero of the play, and the main interest culminates in the
Jew's trial and discomfiture. The bold transition from that solemn scene
which trembles on the brink of tragedy to the gently poetic and humorous
incidents of the concluding act attests a mastery of stagecraft; but the
interest, although it is sustained to the end, is, after Shylock's final
exit, pitched in a lower key. The 'Venesyon Comedy,' which Henslowe, the
manager, produced at the Rose on August 25, 1594, was probably the
earliest version of 'The Merchant of Venice,' and it was revised later.
It was not published till 1600, when two editions appeared, each printed
from a different stage copy.

'King John.'

To 1594 must also be assigned 'King John,' which, like the 'Comedy of
Errors' and 'Richard II,' altogether eschews prose. The piece, which was
not printed till 1623, was directly adapted from a worthless play called
'The Troublesome Raigne of King John' (1591), which was fraudulently
reissued in 1611 as 'written by W. Sh.,' and in 1622 as by 'W.
Shakespeare.' There is very small ground for associating Marlowe's name
with the old play. Into the adaptation Shakespeare flung all his energy,
and the theme grew under his hand into genuine tragedy. The three chief
characters--the mean and cruel king, the noblehearted and desperately
wronged Constance, and the soldierly humourist, Faulconbridge--are in all
essentials of his own invention, and are portrayed with the same sureness
of touch that marked in Shylock his rapidly maturing strength. The
scene, in which the gentle boy Arthur learns from Hubert that the king
has ordered his eyes to be put out, is as affecting as any passage in
tragic literature.

'Comedy of Errors' in Gray's Inn Hall.

At the close of 1594 a performance of Shakespeare's early farce, 'The
Comedy of Errors,' gave him a passing notoriety that he could well have
spared. The piece was played on the evening of Innocents' Day (December
28), 1594, in the hall of Gray's Inn, before a crowded audience of
benchers, students, and their friends. There was some disturbance during
the evening on the part of guests from the Inner Temple, who,
dissatisfied with the accommodation afforded them, retired in dudgeon.
'So that night,' the contemporary chronicler states, 'was begun and
continued to the end in nothing but confusion and errors, whereupon it
was ever afterwards called the "Night of Errors."' {70} Shakespeare was
acting on the same day before the Queen at Greenwich, and it is doubtful
if he were present. On the morrow a commission of oyer and terminer
inquired into the causes of the tumult, which was attributed to a
sorcerer having 'foisted a company of base and common fellows to make up
our disorders with a play of errors and confusions.'

Early plays doubtfully assigned to Shakespeare.

Two plays of uncertain authorship attracted public attention during the
period under review (1591-4)--'Arden of Feversham' (licensed for
publication April 3, 1592, and published in 1592) and 'Edward III'
(licensed for publication December 1, 1595, and published in 1596).
Shakespeare's hand has been traced in both, mainly on the ground that
their dramatic energy is of a quality not to be discerned in the work of
any contemporary whose writings are extant. There is no external
evidence in favour of Shakespeare's authorship in either case. 'Arden of
Feversham' dramatises with intensity and insight a sordid murder of a
husband by a wife which took place at Faversham in 1551, and was fully
reported by Holinshed. The subject is of a different type from any which
Shakespeare is known to have treated, and although the play may be, as
Mr. Swinburne insists, 'a young man's work,' it bears no relation either
in topic or style to the work on which young Shakespeare was engaged at a
period so early as 1591 or 1592. 'Edward III' is a play in Marlowe's
vein, and has been assigned to Shakespeare on even more shadowy grounds.
Capell reprinted it in his 'Prolusions' in 1760, and described it as
'thought to be writ by Shakespeare.' Many speeches scattered through the
drama, and one whole scene--that in which the Countess of Salisbury
repulses the advances of Edward III--show the hand of a master (act ii.
sc. ii.) But there is even in the style of these contributions much to
dissociate them from Shakespeare's acknowledged productions, and to
justify their ascription to some less gifted disciple of Marlowe. {72a}
A line in act ii. sc. i. ('Lilies that fester smell far worse than
weeds') reappears in Shakespeare's Sonnets' (xciv. l. 14). {72b} It was
contrary to his practice to literally plagiarise himself. The line in
the play was doubtless borrowed from a manuscript copy of the 'Sonnets.'


Two other popular plays of the period, 'Mucedorus' and 'Faire Em,' have
also been assigned to Shakespeare on slighter provocation. In Charles
II.'s library they were bound together in a volume labelled 'Shakespeare,
Vol. I.,' and bold speculators have occasionally sought to justify the

'Mucedorus,' an elementary effort in romantic comedy, dates from the
early years of Elizabeth's reign; it was first published, doubtless after
undergoing revision, in 1595, and was reissued, 'amplified with new
additions,' in 1610. Mr. Payne Collier, who included it in his privately
printed edition of Shakespeare in 1878, was confident that a scene
interpolated in the 1610 version (in which the King of Valentia laments
the supposed loss of his son) displayed genius which Shakespeare alone
could compass. However readily critics may admit the superiority in
literary value of the interpolated scene to anything else in the piece,
few will accept Mr. Collier's extravagant estimate. The scene was
probably from the pen of an admiring but faltering imitator of
Shakespeare. {73}

'Faire Em.'

'Faire Em,' although not published till 1631, was acted by Shakespeare's
company while Lord Strange was its patron, and some lines from it are
quoted for purposes of ridicule by Robert Greene in his 'Farewell to
Folly' in 1592. It is another rudimentary endeavour in romantic comedy,
and has not even the pretension of 'Mucedorus' to one short scene of
conspicuous literary merit.


Publication of 'Venus and Adonis.'

During the busy years (1591-4) that witnessed his first pronounced
successes as a dramatist, Shakespeare came before the public in yet
another literary capacity. On April 18, 1593, Richard Field, the
printer, who was his fellow-townsman, obtained a license for the
publication of 'Venus and Adonis,' a metrical version of a classical tale
of love. It was published a month or two later, without an author's name
on the title-page, but Shakespeare appended his full name to the
dedication, which he addressed in conventional style to Henry
Wriothesley, third earl of Southampton. The Earl, who was in his
twentieth year, was reckoned the handsomest man at Court, with a
pronounced disposition to gallantry. He had vast possessions, was well
educated, loved literature, and through life extended to men of letters a
generous patronage. {74} 'I know not how I shall offend,' Shakespeare
now wrote to him, 'in dedicating my unpolished lines to your lordship,
nor how the world will censure me for choosing so strong a prop to
support so weak a burden. . . . But if the first heir of my invention
prove deformed, I shall be sorry it had so noble a godfather.' 'The
first heir of my invention' implies that the poem was written, or at
least designed, before Shakespeare's dramatic work. It is affluent in
beautiful imagery and metrical sweetness, but imbued with a tone of
license which may be held either to justify the theory that it was a
precocious product of the author's youth, or to show that Shakespeare was
not unready in mature years to write with a view to gratifying a patron's
somewhat lascivious tastes. The title-page bears a beautiful Latin motto
from Ovid's 'Amores:' {75a}

Vilia miretur vulgus; mihi flavus Apollo
Pocula Castalia plena ministret aqua.

The influence of Ovid, who told the story in his 'Metamorphoses,' is
apparent in many of the details. But the theme was doubtless first
suggested to Shakespeare by a contemporary effort. Lodge's 'Scillaes
Metamorphosis,' which appeared in 1589, is not only written in the same
metre (six-line stanzas rhyming _a b a b c c_), but narrates in the
exordium the same incidents in the same spirit. There is little doubt
that Shakespeare drew from Lodge some of his inspiration. {75b}


A year after the issue of 'Venus and Adonis,' in 1594, Shakespeare
published another poem in like vein, but far more mature in temper and
execution. The digression (ll. 939-59) on the destroying power of Time,
especially, is in an exalted key of meditation which is not sounded in
the earlier poem. The metre, too, is changed; seven-line stanzas
(Chaucer's rhyme royal, _a b a b b c c_) take the place of six-line
stanzas. The second poem was entered in the 'Stationers' Registers' on
May 9, 1594, under the title of 'A Booke intitled the Ravyshement of
Lucrece,' and was published in the same year under the title 'Lucrece.'
Richard Field printed it, and John Harrison published and sold it at the
sign of the White Greyhound in St. Paul's Churchyard. The classical
story of Lucretia's ravishment and suicide is briefly recorded in Ovid's
'Fasti,' but Chaucer had retold it in his 'Legend of Good Women,' and
Shakespeare must have read it there. Again, in topic and metre, the poem
reflected a contemporary poet's work. Samuel Daniel's 'Complaint of
Rosamond,' with its seven-line stanza (1592), stood to 'Lucrece' in even
closer relation than Lodge's 'Scilla,' with its six-line stanza, to
'Venus and Adonis.' The pathetic accents of Shakespeare's heroine are
those of Daniel's heroine purified and glorified. {77a} The passage on
Time is elaborated from one in Watson's 'Passionate Centurie of Love'
(No. lxxvii.) {77b} Shakespeare dedicated his second volume of poetry to
the Earl of Southampton, the patron of his first. He addressed him in
terms of devoted friendship, which were not uncommon at the time in
communications between patrons and poets, but suggest that Shakespeare's
relations with the brilliant young nobleman had grown closer since he
dedicated 'Venus and Adonis' to him in colder language a year before.
'The love I dedicate to your lordship,' Shakespeare wrote in the opening
pages of 'Lucrece,' 'is without end, whereof this pamphlet without
beginning is but a superfluous moiety. . . What I have done is yours;
what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have, devoted yours.'

Enthusiastic reception of the poems.

In these poems Shakespeare made his earliest appeal to the world of
readers, and the reading public welcomed his addresses with unqualified
enthusiasm. The London playgoer already knew Shakespeare's name as that
of a promising actor and playwright, but his dramatic efforts had
hitherto been consigned in manuscript, as soon as the theatrical
representation ceased, to the coffers of their owner, the playhouse
manager. His early plays brought him at the outset little reputation as
a man of letters. It was not as the myriad-minded dramatist, but in the
restricted role of adapter for English readers of familiar Ovidian
fables, that he first impressed a wide circle of his contemporaries with
the fact of his mighty genius. The perfect sweetness of the verse, and
the poetical imagery in 'Venus and Adonis' and 'Lucrece' practically
silenced censure of the licentious treatment of the themes on the part of
the seriously minded. Critics vied with each other in the exuberance of
the eulogies in which they proclaimed that the fortunate author had
gained a place in permanence on the summit of Parnassus. 'Lucrece,'
wrote Michael Drayton in his 'Legend of Matilda' (1594), was 'revived to
live another age.' In 1595 William Clerke in his 'Polimanteia' gave 'all
praise' to 'sweet Shakespeare' for his 'Lucrecia.' John Weever, in a
sonnet addressed to 'honey-tongued Shakespeare' in his 'Epigramms'
(1595), eulogised the two poems as an unmatchable achievement, although
he mentioned the plays 'Romeo' and 'Richard' and 'more whose names I know
not.' Richard Carew at the same time classed him with Marlowe as
deserving the praises of an English Catullus. {79} Printers and
publishers of the poems strained their resources to satisfy the demands
of eager purchasers. No fewer than seven editions of 'Venus' appeared
between 1594 and 1602; an eighth followed in 1617. 'Lucrece' achieved a
fifth edition in the year of Shakespeare's death.

Shakespeare and Spenser.

There is a likelihood, too, that Spenser, the greatest of Shakespeare's
poetic contemporaries, was first drawn by the poems into the ranks of
Shakespeare's admirers. It is hardly doubtful that Spenser described
Shakespeare in 'Colin Clouts come home againe' (completed in 1594), under
the name of 'Aetion'--a familiar Greek proper name derived from [Greek
text], an eagle:

And there, though last not least is Aetion;
A gentler Shepheard may no where be found,
Whose muse, full of high thought's invention,
Doth, like himselfe, heroically sound.

The last line seems to allude to Shakespeare's surname. We may assume
that the admiration was mutual. At any rate Shakespeare acknowledged
acquaintance with Spenser's work in a plain reference to his 'Teares of
the Muses' (1591) in 'Midsummer Night's Dream' (v. i. 52-3).

The thrice three Muses, mourning for the death
Of learning, late deceased in beggary,

is stated to be the theme of one of the dramatic entertainments wherewith
it is proposed to celebrate Theseus's marriage. In Spenser's 'Teares of
the Muses' each of the Nine laments in turn her declining influence on
the literary and dramatic effort of the age. Theseus dismisses the
suggestion with the not inappropriate comment:

That is some satire keen and critical,
Not sorting with a nuptial ceremony.

But there is no ground for assuming that Spenser in the same poem
referred figuratively to Shakespeare when he made Thalia deplore the
recent death of 'our pleasant Willy.' {80} The name Willy was frequently
used in contemporary literature as a term of familiarity without relation
to the baptismal name of the person referred to. Sir Philip Sidney was
addressed as 'Willy' by some of his elegists. A comic actor, 'dead of
late' in a literal sense, was clearly intended by Spenser, and there is
no reason to dispute the view of an early seventeenth-century commentator
that Spenser was paying a tribute to the loss English comedy had lately
sustained by the death of the comedian, Richard Tarleton. {81a}
Similarly the 'gentle spirit' who is described by Spenser in a later
stanza as sitting 'in idle cell' rather than turn his pen to base uses
cannot be reasonably identified with Shakespeare. {81b}

Patrons at court.

Meanwhile Shakespeare was gaining personal esteem outside the circles of
actors and men of letters. His genius and 'civil demeanour' of which
Chettle wrote arrested the notice not only of Southampton but of other
noble patrons of literature and the drama. His summons to act at Court
with the most famous actors of the day at the Christmas of 1594 was
possibly due in part to personal interest in himself. Elizabeth quickly
showed him special favour. Until the end of her reign his plays were
repeatedly acted in her presence. The revised version of 'Love's
Labour's Lost' was given at Whitehall at Christmas 1597, and tradition
credits the Queen with unconcealed enthusiasm for Falstaff, who came into
being a little later. Under Elizabeth's successor he greatly
strengthened his hold on royal favour, but Ben Jonson claimed that the
Queen's appreciation equalled that of James I. When Jonson wrote in his
elegy on Shakespeare of

Those flights upon the banks of Thames
That so did take Eliza and our James,

he was mindful of many representations of Shakespeare's plays by the poet
and his fellow-actors at the palaces of Whitehall, Richmond, or Greenwich
during the last decade of Elizabeth's reign.


The vogue of the Elizabethan sonnet.

It was doubtless to Shakespeare's personal relations with men and women
of the Court that his sonnets owed their existence. In Italy and France,
the practice of writing and circulating series of sonnets inscribed to
great men and women flourished continuously throughout the sixteenth
century. In England, until the last decade of that century, the vogue
was intermittent. Wyatt and Surrey inaugurated sonnetteering in the
English language under Henry VIII, and Thomas Watson devoted much energy
to the pursuit when Shakespeare was a boy. But it was not until 1591,
when Sir Philip Sidney's collection of sonnets entitled 'Astrophel and
Stella' was first published, that the sonnet enjoyed in England any
conspicuous or continuous favour. For the half-dozen years following the
appearance of Sir Philip Sidney's volume the writing of sonnets, both
singly and in connected sequences, engaged more literary activity in this
country than it engaged at any period here or elsewhere. {83} Men and
women of the cultivated Elizabethan nobility encouraged poets to
celebrate in single sonnets their virtues and graces, and under the same
patronage there were produced multitudes of sonnet-sequences which more
or less fancifully narrated, after the manner of Petrarch and his
successors, the pleasures and pains of love. Between 1591 and 1597 no
aspirant to poetic fame in the country failed to seek a patron's ears by
a trial of skill on the popular poetic instrument, and Shakespeare, who
habitually kept abreast of the currents of contemporary literary taste,
applied himself to sonnetteering with all the force of his poetic genius
when the fashion was at its height.

Shakespeare's first experiments.

Shakespeare had lightly experimented with the sonnet from the outset of
his literary career. Three well-turned examples figure in 'Love's
Labour's Lost,' probably his earliest play; two of the choruses in 'Romeo
and Juliet' are couched in the sonnet form; and a letter of the heroine
Helen, in 'All's Well that Ends Well,' which bears traces of very early
composition, takes the same shape. It has, too, been argued ingeniously,
if not convincingly, that he was author of the somewhat clumsy sonnet,
'Phaeton to his friend Florio,' which prefaced in 1591 Florio's 'Second
Frutes,' a series of Italian-English dialogues for students. {84}

Majority of Shakespeare's sonnets composed in 1594.

But these were sporadic efforts. It was not till the spring of 1593,
after Shakespeare had secured a nobleman's patronage for his earliest
publication, 'Venus and Adonis,' that he became a sonnetteer on an
extended scale. Of the hundred and fifty-four sonnets that survive
outside his plays, the greater number were in all likelihood composed
between that date and the autumn of 1594, during his thirtieth and
thirty-first years. His occasional reference in the sonnets to his
growing age was a conventional device--traceable to Petrarch--of all
sonnetteers of the day, and admits of no literal interpretation. {86} In
matter and in manner the bulk of the poems suggest that they came from
the pen of a man not much more than thirty. Doubtless he renewed his
sonnetteering efforts occasionally and at irregular intervals during the
nine years which elapsed between 1594 and the accession of James I in
1603. But to very few of the extant examples can a date later than 1594
be allotted with confidence. Sonnet cvii., in which plain reference is
made to Queen Elizabeth's death, may be fairly regarded as a belated and
a final act of homage on Shakespeare's part to the importunate vogue of
the Elizabethan sonnet. All the evidence, whether internal or external,
points to the conclusion that the sonnet exhausted such fascination as it
exerted on Shakespeare before his dramatic genius attained its full

Their literary value.

In literary value Shakespeare's sonnets are notably unequal. Many reach
levels of lyric melody and meditative energy that are hardly to be
matched elsewhere in poetry. The best examples are charged with the
mellowed sweetness of rhythm and metre, the depth of thought and feeling,
the vividness of imagery and the stimulating fervour of expression which
are the finest fruits of poetic power. On the other hand, many sink
almost into inanity beneath the burden of quibbles and conceits. In both
their excellences and their defects Shakespeare's sonnets betray near
kinship to his early dramatic work, in which passages of the highest
poetic temper at times alternate with unimpressive displays of verbal
jugglery. In phraseology the sonnets often closely resemble such early
dramatic efforts as 'Love's Labour's Lost' and 'Romeo and Juliet.' There
is far more concentration in the sonnets than in 'Venus and Adonis' or in
'Lucrece,' although occasional utterances of Shakespeare's Roman heroine
show traces of the intensity that characterises the best of them. The
superior and more evenly sustained energy of the sonnets is to be
attributed, not to the accession of power that comes with increase of
years, but to the innate principles of the poetic form, and to metrical
exigencies, which impelled the sonnetteer to aim at a uniform
condensation of thought and language.

Circulation in manuscript.

In accordance with a custom that was not uncommon, Shakespeare did not
publish his sonnets; he circulated them in manuscript. {88} But their
reputation grew, and public interest was aroused in them in spite of his
unreadiness to give them publicity. A line from one of them:

Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds (xciv. 14), {89a}

was quoted in the play of 'Edward III,' which was probably written before
1595. Meres, writing in 1598, enthusiastically commends Shakespeare's
'sugred {89b} sonnets among his private friends,' and mentions them in
close conjunction with his two narrative poems. William Jaggard
piratically inserted in 1599 two of the most mature of the series (Nos.
cxxxviii. and cxliv.) in his 'Passionate Pilgrim.'

Their piratical publication in 1609. 'A Lover's Complaint.'

At length, in 1609, the sonnets were surreptitiously sent to press.
Thomas Thorpe, the moving spirit in the design of their publication, was
a camp-follower of the regular publishing army. He was professionally
engaged in procuring for publication literary works which had been widely
disseminated in written copies, and had thus passed beyond their authors'
control; for the law then recognised no natural right in an author to the
creations of his brain, and the full owner of a manuscript copy of any
literary composition was entitled to reproduce it, or to treat it as he
pleased, without reference to the author's wishes. Thorpe's career as a
procurer of neglected 'copy' had begun well. He made, in 1600, his
earliest hit by bringing to light Marlowe's translation of the 'First
Book of Lucan.' On May 20, 1609, he obtained a license for the
publication of 'Shakespeares Sonnets,' and this tradesman-like form of
title figured not only on the 'Stationers' Company's Registers,' but on
the title-page. Thorpe employed George Eld to print the manuscript, and
two booksellers, William Aspley and John Wright, to distribute it to the
public. On half the edition Aspley's name figured as that of the seller,
and on the other half that of Wright. The book was issued in June, {90}
and the owner of the 'copy' left the public under no misapprehension as
to his share in the production by printing above his initials a
dedicatory preface from his own pen. The appearance in a book of a
dedication from the publisher's (instead of from the author's) pen was,
unless the substitution was specifically accounted for on other grounds,
an accepted sign that the author had no hand in the publication. Except
in the case of his two narrative poems, which were published in 1593 and
1594 respectively, Shakespeare made no effort to publish any of his
works, and uncomplainingly submitted to the wholesale piracies of his
plays and the ascription to him of books by other hands. Such practices
were encouraged by his passive indifference and the contemporary
condition of the law of copyright. He cannot be credited with any
responsibility for the publication of Thorpe's collection of his sonnets
in 1609. With characteristic insolence Thorpe took the added liberty of
appending a previously unprinted poem of forty-nine seven-line stanzas
(the metre of 'Lucrece') entitled 'A Lover's Complaint,' in which a girl
laments her betrayal by a deceitful youth. The poem, in a gentle
Spenserian vein, has no connection with the 'Sonnets.' If, as is
possible, it be by Shakespeare, it must have been written in very early

Thomas Thorpe and 'Mr. W. H.'

A misunderstanding respecting Thorpe's preface and his part in the
publication has led many critics into a serious misinterpretation of
Shakespeare's poems. {91} Thorpe's dedication was couched in the
bombastic language which was habitual to him. He advertised Shakespeare
as 'our ever-living poet.' As the chief promoter of the undertaking, he
called himself 'the well-wishing adventurer in setting forth,' and in
resonant phrase designated as the patron of the venture a partner in the
speculation, 'Mr. W. H.' In the conventional dedicatory formula of the
day he wished 'Mr. W. H.' 'all happiness' and 'eternity,' such eternity
as Shakespeare in the text of the sonnets conventionally foretold for his
own verse. When Thorpe was organising the issue of Marlowe's 'First Book
of Lucan' in 1600, he sought the patronage of Edward Blount, a friend in
the trade. 'W. H.' was doubtless in a like position. He is best
identified with a stationer's assistant, William Hall, who was
professionally engaged, like Thorpe, in procuring 'copy.' In 1606 'W.
H.' won a conspicuous success in that direction, and conducted his
operations under cover of the familiar initials. In that year 'W. H.'
announced that he had procured a neglected manuscript poem--'A
Foure-fould Meditation'--by the Jesuit Robert Southwell who had been
executed in 1595, and he published it with a dedication (signed 'W. H.')
vaunting his good fortune in meeting with such treasure-trove. When
Thorpe dubbed 'Mr. W. H.,' with characteristic magniloquence, 'the onlie
begetter [_i.e._ obtainer or procurer] of these ensuing sonnets,' he
merely indicated that that personage was the first of the
pirate-publisher fraternity to procure a manuscript of Shakespeare's
sonnets and recommend its surreptitious issue. In accordance with
custom, Thorpe gave Hall's initials only, because he was an intimate
associate who was known by those initials to their common circle of
friends. Hall was not a man of sufficiently wide public reputation to
render it probable that the printing of his full name would excite
additional interest in the book or attract buyers.

The common assumption that Thorpe in this boastful preface was covertly
addressing, under the initials 'Mr. W. H.,' a young nobleman, to whom the
sonnets were originally addressed by Shakespeare, ignores the elementary
principles of publishing transactions of the day, and especially of those
of the type to which Thorpe's efforts were confined. {93} There was
nothing mysterious or fantastic, although from a modern point of view
there was much that lacked principle, in Thorpe's methods of business.
His choice of patron for this, like all his volumes, was dictated solely
by his mercantile interests. He was under no inducement and in no
position to take into consideration the affairs of Shakespeare's private
life. Shakespeare, through all but the earliest stages of his career,
belonged socially to a world that was cut off by impassable barriers from
that in which Thorpe pursued his calling. It was wholly outside Thorpe's
aims in life to seek to mystify his customers by investing a dedication
with any cryptic significance.

No peer of the day, moreover, bore a name which could be represented by
the initials 'Mr. W. H.' Shakespeare was never on terms of intimacy
(although the contrary has often been recklessly assumed) with William,
third Earl of Pembroke, when a youth. {94} But were complete proofs of
the acquaintanceship forthcoming, they would throw no light on Thorpe's
'Mr. W. H.' The Earl of Pembroke was, from his birth to the date of his
succession to the earldom in 1601, known by the courtesy title of Lord
Herbert and by no other name, and he could not have been designated at
any period of his life by the symbols 'Mr. W. H.' In 1609 Pembroke was a
high officer of state, and numerous books were dedicated to him in all
the splendour of his many titles. Star-Chamber penalties would have been
exacted of any publisher or author who denied him in print his titular
distinctions. Thorpe had occasion to dedicate two books to the earl in
later years, and he there showed not merely that he was fully acquainted
with the compulsory etiquette, but that his sycophantic temperament
rendered him only eager to improve on the conventional formulas of
servility. Any further consideration of Thorpe's address to 'Mr. W. H.'
belongs to the biographies of Thorpe and his friend; it lies outside the
scope of Shakespeare's biography. {95a}

The form of Shakespeare's Sonnets.

Shakespeare's 'Sonnets' ignore the somewhat complex scheme of rhyme
adopted by Petrarch, whom the Elizabethan sonnetteers, like the French
sonnetteers of the sixteenth century, recognised to be in most respects
their master. Following the example originally set by Surrey and Wyatt,
and generally pursued by Shakespeare's contemporaries, his sonnets aim at
far greater metrical simplicity than the Italian or the French. They
consist of three decasyllabic quatrains with a concluding couplet, and
the quatrains rhyme alternately. {95b} A single sonnet does not always
form an independent poem. As in the French and Italian sonnets of the
period, and in those of Spenser, Sidney, Daniel, and Drayton, the same
train of thought is at times pursued continuously through two or more.
The collection of Shakespeare's 154 sonnets thus presents the appearance
of an extended series of independent poems, many in a varying number of
fourteen-line stanzas. The longest sequence (i.-xvii.) numbers seventeen
sonnets, and in Thorpe's edition opens the volume.

Want of continuity. The two 'groups.'

It is unlikely that the order in which the poems were printed follows the
order in which they were written. Fantastic endeavours have been made to
detect in the original arrangement of the poems a closely connected
narrative, but the thread is on any showing constantly interrupted. {96}
It is usual to divide the sonnets into two groups, and to represent that
all those numbered i.-cxxvi. by Thorpe were addressed to a young man, and
all those numbered cxxvii.-cliv. were addressed to a woman. This
division cannot be literally justified. In the first group some eighty
of the sonnets can be proved to be addressed to a man by the use of the
masculine pronoun or some other unequivocal sign; but among the remaining
forty there is no clear indication of the kind. Many of these forty are
meditative soliloquies which address no person at all (cf. cv. cxvi.
cxix. cxxi.) A few invoke abstractions like Death (lxvi.) or Time
(cxxiii.), or 'benefit of ill' (cxix.) The twelve-lined poem (cxxvi.),
the last of the first 'group,' does little more than sound a variation on
the conventional poetic invocations of Cupid or Love personified as a
boy. {97} And there is no valid objection to the assumption that the
poet inscribed the rest of these forty sonnets to a woman (cf. xxi. xlvi.
xlvii.) Similarly, the sonnets in the second 'group' (cxxvii.-cliv.)
have no uniform superscription. Six invoke no person at all. No.
cxxviii. is an overstrained compliment on a lady playing on the
virginals. No. cxxix. is a metaphysical disquisition on lust. No. cxlv.
is a playful lyric in octosyllabics, like Lyly's song of 'Cupid and
Campaspe,' and its tone has close affinity to that and other of Lyly's
songs. No. cxlvi. invokes the soul of man. Nos. cliii. and cliv.
soliloquise on an ancient Greek apologue on the force of Cupid's fire.

Main topics of the first 'group.'

The choice and succession of topics in each 'group' give to neither
genuine cohesion. In the first 'group' the long opening sequence
(i.-xvii.) forms the poet's appeal to a young man to marry so that his
youth and beauty may survive in children. There is almost a
contradiction in terms between the poet's handling of that topic and his
emphatic boast in the two following sonnets (xviii.-xix.) that his verse
alone is fully equal to the task of immortalising his friend's youth and
accomplishments. The same asseveration is repeated in many later sonnets
(cf. lv. lx. lxiii. lxxiv. lxxxi. ci. cvii.) These alternate with
conventional adulation of the beauty of the object of the poet's
affections (cf. xxi. liii. lxviii.) and descriptions of the effects of
absence in intensifying devotion (cf. xlviii. l. cxiii.) There are many
reflections on the nocturnal torments of a lover (cf. xxvii. xxviii.
xliii. lxi.) and on his blindness to the beauty of spring or summer when
he is separated from his love (cf. xcvii. xcviii.) At times a youth is
rebuked for sensual indulgences; he has sought and won the favour of the
poet's mistress in the poet's absence, but the poet is forgiving
(xxxii.-xxxv. xl.-xlii. lxix. xcv.-xcvi.) In Sonnet lxx. the young man
whom the poet addresses is credited with a different disposition and

And thou present'st a pure unstained prime.
Thou hast pass'd by the ambush of young days,
Either not assail'd, or victor being charg'd!

At times melancholy overwhelms the writer: he despairs of the corruptions
of the age (lxvi.), reproaches himself with carnal sin (cxix.), declares
himself weary of his profession of acting (cxi. cxii.), and foretells his
approaching death (lxxi.-lxxiv.) Throughout are dispersed obsequious
addresses to the youth in his capacity of sole patron of the poet's verse
(cf. xxiii. xxxvii. c. ci. ciii. civ.) But in one sequence the friend is
sorrowfully reproved for bestowing his patronage on rival poets
(lxxviii.-lxxxvi.) In three sonnets near the close of the first group in
the original edition, the writer gives varied assurances of his constancy
in love or friendship which apply indifferently to man or woman (cf.
cxxii. cxxiv. cxxv.)

Main topics of the second 'group.'

In two sonnets of the second 'group' (cxxvi.-clii.) the poet compliments
his mistress on her black complexion and raven-black hair and eyes. In
twelve sonnets he hotly denounces his 'dark' mistress for her proud
disdain of his affection, and for her manifold infidelities with other
men. Apparently continuing a theme of the first 'group,' the poet
rebukes the woman, whom he addresses, for having beguiled his friend to
yield himself to her seductions (cxxxiii.-cxxxvi.) Elsewhere he makes
satiric reflections on the extravagant compliments paid to the fair sex
by other sonnetteers (No. cxxx.) or lightly quibbles on his name of
'Will' (cxxx.-vi.) In tone and subject-matter numerous sonnets in the
second as in the first 'group' lack visible sign of coherence with those
they immediately precede or follow.

It is not merely a close study of the text that confutes the theory, for
which recent writers have fought hard, of a logical continuity in
Thorpe's arrangement of the poems in 1609. There remains the historic
fact that readers and publishers of the seventeenth century acknowledged
no sort of significance in the order in which the poems first saw the
light. When the sonnets were printed for a second time in
1640--thirty-one years after their first appearance--they were presented
in a completely different order. The short descriptive titles which were
then supplied to single sonnets or to short sequences proved that the
collection was regarded as a disconnected series of occasional poems in
more or less amorous vein.

Lack of genuine sentiment in Elizabethan sonnets. Their dependence on
French and Italian models.

In whatever order Shakespeare's sonnets be studied, the claim that has
been advanced in their behalf to rank as autobiographical documents can
only be accepted with many qualifications. Elizabethan sonnets were
commonly the artificial products of the poet's fancy. A strain of
personal emotion is occasionally discernible in a detached effort, and is
vaguely traceable in a few sequences; but autobiographical confessions
were very rarely the stuff of which the Elizabethan sonnet was made. The
typical collection of Elizabethan sonnets was a mosaic of plagiarisms, a
medley of imitative studies. Echoes of the French or of the Italian
sonnetteers, with their Platonic idealism, are usually the dominant
notes. The echoes often have a musical quality peculiar to themselves.
Daniel's fine sonnet (xlix.) on 'Care-charmer, sleep,' although directly
inspired by the French, breathes a finer melody than the sonnet of Pierre
de Brach {101a} apostrophising 'le sommeil chasse-soin' (in the
collection entitled 'Les Amours d'Aymee'), or the sonnet of Philippe
Desportes invoking 'Sommeil, paisible fils de la nuit solitaire' (in the
collection entitled 'Amours d'Hippolyte'). {101b} But, throughout
Elizabethan sonnet literature, the heavy debt to Italian and French
effort is unmistakable. {101c} Spenser, in 1569, at the outset of his
literary career, avowedly translated numerous sonnets from Du Bellay and
from Petrarch, and his friend Gabriel Harvey bestowed on him the title of
'an English Petrarch'--the highest praise that the critic conceived it
possible to bestow on an English sonnetteer. {101d} Thomas Watson in
1582, in his collection of metrically irregular sonnets which he entitled
'[Greek text], or A Passionate Century of Love,' prefaced each poem,
which he termed a 'passion,' with a prose note of its origin and
intention. Watson frankly informed his readers that one 'passion' was
'wholly translated out of Petrarch;' that in another passion 'he did very
busily imitate and augment a certain ode of Ronsard;' while 'the sense or
matter of "a third" was taken out of Serafino in his "Strambotti."' In
every case Watson gave the exact reference to his foreign original, and
frequently appended a quotation. {103a} Drayton in 1594, in the
dedicatory sonnet of his collection of sonnets entitled 'Idea,' declared
that it was 'a fault too common in this latter time' 'to filch from
Desportes or from Petrarch's pen.' {103b} Lodge did not acknowledge his
borrowings more specifically than his colleagues, but he made a plain
profession of indebtedness to Desportes when he wrote: 'Few men are able
to second the sweet conceits of Philippe Desportes, whose poetical
writings are ordinarily in everybody's hand.' {103c} Giles Fletcher, who
in his collection of sonnets called 'Licia' (1593) simulated the varying
moods of a lover under the sway of a great passion as successfully as
most of his rivals, stated on his title-page that his poems were all
written in 'imitation of the best Latin poets and others.' Very many of
the love-sonnets in the series of sixty-eight penned ten years later by
William Drummond of Hawthornden have been traced to their sources in the
Italian sonnets not merely of Petrarch, but of the sixteenth-century
poets Guarini, Bembo, Giovanni Battista Marino, Tasso, and Sannazzaro.
{104a} The Elizabethans usually gave the fictitious mistresses after
whom their volumes of sonnets were called the names that had recently
served the like purpose in France. Daniel followed Maurice Seve {104b}
in christening his collection 'Delia;' Constable followed Desportes in
christening his collection 'Diana;' while Drayton not only applied to his
sonnets on his title-page in 1594 the French term 'amours,' but bestowed
on his imaginary heroine the title of Idea, which seems to have been the
invention of Claude de Pontoux, {104c} although it was employed by other
French contemporaries.

Sonnetteers' admission of insincerity.

With good reason Sir Philip Sidney warned the public that 'no inward
touch' was to be expected from sonnetteers of his day, whom he describes

'[Men] that do dictionary's method bring
Into their rhymes running in rattling rows;
[Men] that poor Petrarch's long deceased woes
With newborn sighs and denizened wit do sing.'

Sidney unconvincingly claimed greater sincerity for his own experiments.
But 'even amorous sonnets in the gallantest and sweetest civil vein,'
wrote Gabriel Harvey in 'Pierces Supererogation' in 1593, 'are but
dainties of a pleasurable wit.' Drayton's sonnets more nearly approached
Shakespeare's in quality than those of any contemporary. Yet Drayton
told the readers of his collection entitled 'Idea' {105} (after the
French) that if any sought genuine passion in them, they had better go
elsewhere. 'In all humours _sportively_ he ranged,' he declared. Giles
Fletcher, in 1593, introduced his collection of imitative sonnets
entitled 'Licia, or Poems of Love,' with the warning, 'Now in that I have
written love sonnets, if any man measure my affection by my style, let
him say I am in love. . . . Here, take this by the way . . . a man may
write of love and not be in love, as well as of husbandry and not go to
the plough, or of witches and be none, or of holiness and be profane.'

Contemporary censure of sonnetteers' false sentiment. 'Gulling Sonnets.'

The dissemination of false sentiment by the sonnetteers, and their
monotonous and mechanical treatment of 'the pangs of despised love' or
the joys of requited affection, did not escape the censure of
contemporary criticism. The air soon rang with sarcastic protests from
the most respected writers of the day. In early life Gabriel Harvey
wittily parodied the mingling of adulation and vituperation in the
conventional sonnet-sequence in his 'Amorous Odious Sonnet intituled The
Student's Loove or Hatrid.' {106b} Chapman in 1595, in a series of
sonnets entitled 'A Coronet for his mistress Philosophy,' appealed to his
literary comrades to abandon 'the painted cabinet' of the love-sonnet for
a coffer of genuine worth. But the most resolute of the censors of the
sonnetteering vogue was the poet and lawyer, Sir John Davies. In a
sonnet addressed about 1596 to his friend, Sir Anthony Cooke (the patron
of Drayton's 'Idea'), he inveighed against the 'bastard sonnets' which
'base rhymers' 'daily' begot 'to their own shames and poetry's disgrace.'
In his anxiety to stamp out the folly he wrote and circulated in
manuscript a specimen series of nine 'gulling sonnets' or parodies of the
conventional efforts. {107a} Even Shakespeare does not seem to have
escaped Davies's condemnation. Sir John is especially severe on the
sonnetteers who handled conceits based on legal technicalities, and his
eighth 'gulling sonnet,' in which he ridicules the application of law
terms to affairs of the heart, may well have been suggested by
Shakespeare's legal phraseology in his Sonnets lxxxvii. and cxxiv.;
{107b} while Davies's Sonnet ix., beginning:

'To love, my lord, I do knight's service owe'

must have parodied Shakespeare's Sonnet xxvi., beginning:

'Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage,' etc. {107c}

Shakespeare's scornful allusion to sonnets in his plays.

Echoes of the critical hostility are heard, it is curious to note, in
nearly all the references that Shakespeare himself makes to sonnetteering
in his plays. 'Tush, none but minstrels like of sonnetting,' exclaims
Biron in 'Love's Labour's Lost' (IV. iii. 158). In the 'Two Gentlemen of
Verona' (III. ii. 68 seq.) there is a satiric touch in the recipe for the
conventional love-sonnet which Proteus offers the amorous Duke:

You must lay lime to tangle her desires
By wailful sonnets whose composed rime
Should be full fraught with serviceable vows . . .
Say that upon the altar of her beauty
You sacrifice your sighs, your tears, your heart.

Mercutio treats Elizabethan sonnetteers even less respectfully when
alluding to them in his flouts at Romeo: 'Now is he for the numbers that
Petrarch flowed in: Laura, to his lady, was but a kitchen-wench. Marry,
she had a better love to be-rhyme her.' {108} In later plays
Shakespeare's disdain of the sonnet is still more pronounced. In 'Henry
V' (III. vii. 33 et seq.) the Dauphin, after bestowing ridiculously
magniloquent commendation on his charger, remarks, 'I once writ a sonnet
in his praise, and begun thus: "Wonder of nature!"' The Duke of Orleans
retorts: 'I have heard a sonnet begin so to one's mistress.' The Dauphin
replies: 'Then did they imitate that which I composed to my courser; for
my horse is my mistress.' In 'Much Ado about Nothing' (V. ii. 4-7)
Margaret, Hero's waiting-woman, mockingly asks Benedick to 'write her a
sonnet in praise of her beauty.' Benedick jestingly promises one so 'in
high a style that no man living shall come over it.' Subsequently (V.
iv. 87) Benedick is convicted, to the amusement of his friends, of
penning 'a halting sonnet of his own pure brain' in praise of Beatrice.


Slender autobiographical element in Shakespeare's sonnets. The imitative

At a first glance a far larger proportion of Shakespeare's sonnets give
the reader the illusion of personal confessions than those of any
contemporary, but when allowance has been made for the current
conventions of Elizabethan sonnetteering, as well as for Shakespeare's
unapproached affluence in dramatic instinct and invention--an affluence
which enabled him to identify himself with every phase of emotion--the
autobiographic element in his sonnets, although it may not be dismissed
altogether, is seen to shrink to slender proportions. As soon as the
collection is studied comparatively with the many thousand sonnets that
the printing presses of England, France, and Italy poured forth during
the last years of the sixteenth century, a vast number of Shakespeare's
performances prove to be little more than professional trials of skill,
often of superlative merit, to which he deemed himself challenged by the
efforts of contemporary practitioners. The thoughts and words of the
sonnets of Daniel, Drayton, Watson, Barnabe Barnes, Constable, and Sidney
were assimilated by Shakespeare in his poems as consciously and with as
little compunction as the plays and novels of contemporaries in his
dramatic work. To Drayton he was especially indebted. {110} Such
resemblances as are visible between Shakespeare's sonnets and those of
Petrarch or Desportes seem due to his study of the English imitators of
those sonnetteers. Most of Ronsard's nine hundred sonnets and many of
his numerous odes were accessible to Shakespeare in English adaptations,
but there are a few signs that Shakespeare had recourse to Ronsard

Adapted or imitated conceits are scattered over the whole of
Shakespeare's collection. They are usually manipulated with consummate
skill, but Shakespeare's indebtedness is not thereby obscured.
Shakespeare in many beautiful sonnets describes spring and summer, night
and sleep and their influence on amorous emotion. Such topics are common
themes of the poetry of the Renaissance, and they figure in Shakespeare's
pages clad in the identical livery that clothed them in the sonnets of
Petrarch, Ronsard, De Baif, and Desportes, or of English disciples of the
Italian and French masters. {111} In Sonnet xxiv. Shakespeare develops
Ronsard's conceit that his love's portrait is painted on his heart; and
in Sonnet cxxii. he repeats something of Ronsard's phraseology in
describing how his friend, who has just made him a gift of 'tables,' is
'character'd' in his brain. {112a} Sonnet xcix., which reproaches the
flowers with stealing their charms from the features of his love, is
adapted from Constable's sonnet to Diana (No. ix.), and may be matched in
other collections. Elsewhere Shakespeare meditates on the theory that
man is an amalgam of the four elements, earth, water, air, and fire
(xl.-xlv.) {112b} In all these he reproduces, with such embellishments
as his genius dictated, phrases and sentiments of Daniel, Drayton,
Barnes, and Watson, who imported them direct from France and Italy. In
two or three instances Shakespeare showed his reader that he was engaged
in a mere literary exercise by offering him alternative renderings of the
same conventional conceit. In Sonnets xlvi. and xlvii. he paraphrases
twice over--appropriating many of Watson's words--the unexhilarating
notion that the eye and heart are in perpetual dispute as to which has
the greater influence on lovers. {113a} In the concluding sonnets,
cliii. and cliv., he gives alternative versions of an apologue
illustrating the potency of love which first figured in the Greek
anthology, had been translated into Latin, and subsequently won the
notice of English, French, and Italian sonnetteers. {113b}

Shakespeare's claims of immortality for his sonnets a borrowed conceit.

In the numerous sonnets in which Shakespeare boasted that his verse was
so certain of immortality that it was capable of immortalising the person
to whom it was addressed, he gave voice to no conviction that was
peculiar to his mental constitution, to no involuntary exaltation of
spirit, or spontaneous ebullition of feeling. He was merely proving that
he could at will, and with superior effect, handle a theme that Ronsard
and Desportes, emulating Pindar, Horace, Ovid, and other classical poets,
had lately made a commonplace of the poetry of Europe. {114a} Sir Philip
Sidney, in his 'Apologie for Poetrie' (1595) wrote that it was the common
habit of poets to tell you that they will make you immortal by their
verses. {114b} 'Men of great calling,' Nash wrote in his 'Pierce
Pennilesse,' 1593, 'take it of merit to have their names eternised by
poets.' {114c} In the hands of Elizabethan sonnetteers the 'eternising'
faculty of their verse became a staple and indeed an inevitable topic.
Spenser wrote in his 'Amoretti' (1595, Sonnet lxxv.)

My verse your virtues rare shall eternize,
And in the heavens write your glorious name.

Drayton and Daniel developed the conceit with unblushing iteration.
Drayton, who spoke of his efforts as 'my immortal song' (_Idea_, vi. 14)
and 'my world-out-wearing rhymes' (xliv. 7), embodied the vaunt in such
lines as:

While thus my pen strives to eternize thee (_Idea_ xliv. 1).
Ensuing ages yet my rhymes shall cherish (_ib._ xliv. 11).
My name shall mount unto eternity (_ib._ xliv. 14).
All that I seek is to eternize thee (_ib._ xlvii. 54).

Daniel was no less explicit

This [_sc._ verse] may remain thy lasting monument (_Delia_, xxxvii.
Thou mayst in after ages live esteemed,
Unburied in these lines (_ib._ xxxix. 9-10).
These [_sc._ my verses] are the arks, the trophies I erect
That fortify thy name against old age;
And these [_sc._ verses] thy sacred virtues must protect
Against the dark and time's consuming rage (_ib._ l. 9-12).

Conceits in sonnets addressed to a woman.

Shakespeare, in his references to his 'eternal lines' (xviii. 12) and in
the assurances that he gives the subject of his addresses that the
sonnets are, in Daniel's exact phrase, his 'monument' (lxxxi. 9, cvii.
13), was merely accommodating himself to the prevailing taste.
Characteristically in Sonnet lv. he invested the topic with a splendour
that was not approached by any other poet: {115}

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme; {116}
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone besmear'd with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword nor war's quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
'Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So, till the judgement that yourself arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lovers' eyes.

The imitative element is no less conspicuous in the sonnets that
Shakespeare distinctively addresses to a woman. In two of the latter
(cxxxv.-vi.), where he quibbles over the fact of the identity of his own
name of Will with a lady's 'will' (the synonym in Elizabethan English of
both 'lust' and 'obstinacy'), he derisively challenges comparison with
wire-drawn conceits of rival sonnetteers, especially of Barnabe Barnes,
who had enlarged on his disdainful mistress's 'wills,' and had turned the
word 'grace' to the same punning account as Shakespeare turned the word
'will.' {118a} Similarly in Sonnet cxxx. beginning

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red . . .
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head, {118b}

he satirises the conventional lists of precious stones, metals, and
flowers, to which the sonnetteers likened their mistresses' features.

The praise of 'blackness.'

In two sonnets (cxxvii. and cxxxii.) Shakespeare amiably notices the
black complexion, hair, and eyes of his mistress, and expresses a
preference for features of that hue over those of the fair hue which was,
he tells us, more often associated in poetry with beauty. He commends
the 'dark lady' for refusing to practise those arts by which other women
of the day gave their hair and faces colours denied them by Nature. Here
Shakespeare repeats almost verbatim his own lines in 'Love's Labour's
Lost'(IV. iii. 241-7), where the heroine Rosaline is described as 'black
as ebony,' with 'brows decked in black,' and in 'mourning' for her
fashionable sisters' indulgence in the disguising arts of the toilet.
'No face is fair that is not full so black,' exclaims Rosaline's lover.
But neither in the sonnets nor in the play can Shakespeare's praise of
'blackness' claim the merit of being his own invention. Sir Philip
Sidney, in sonnet vii. of his 'Astrophel and Stella,' had anticipated it.
The 'beams' of the eyes of Sidney's mistress were 'wrapt in colour black'
and wore 'this mourning weed,' so

That whereas black seems beauty's contrary,
She even in black doth make all beauties flow. {119a}

To his praise of 'blackness' in 'Love's Labour's Lost' Shakespeare
appends a playful but caustic comment on the paradox that he detects in
the conceit. {119b} Similarly, the sonnets, in which a dark complexion
is pronounced to be a mark of beauty, are followed by others in which the
poet argues in self-confutation that blackness of feature is hideous in a
woman, and invariably indicates moral turpitude or blackness of heart.
Twice, in much the same language as had already served a like purpose in
the play, does he mock his 'dark lady' with this uncomplimentary
interpretation of dark-coloured hair and eyes.

The sonnets of vituperation.

The two sonnets, in which this view of 'blackness' is developed, form
part of a series of twelve, which belongs to a special category of
sonnetteering effort. In them Shakespeare abandons the sugared sentiment
which characterises most of his hundred and forty-two remaining sonnets.
He grows vituperative and pours a volley of passionate abuse upon a woman
whom he represents as disdaining his advances. The genuine anguish of a
rejected lover often expresses itself in curses both loud and deep, but
the mood of blinding wrath which the rejection of a lovesuit may rouse in
a passionate nature does not seem from the internal evidence to be
reflected genuinely in Shakespeare's sonnets of vituperation. It was
inherent in Shakespeare's genius that he should import more dramatic
intensity than any other poet into sonnets of a vituperative type; but
there is also in his vituperative sonnets a declamatory parade of
figurative extravagance which suggests that the emotion is feigned and
that the poet is striking an attitude. He cannot have been in earnest in
seeking to conciliate his disdainful mistress--a result at which the
vituperative sonnets purport to aim--when he tells her that she is 'black
as hell, as dark as night,' and with 'so foul a face' is 'the bay where
all men ride.'

Gabriel Harvey's 'Amorous Odious Sonnet.'

But external evidence is more conclusive as to the artificial
construction of the vituperative sonnets. Again a comparison of this
series with the efforts of the modish sonnetteers assigns to it its true
character. Every sonnetteer of the sixteenth century, at some point in
his career, devoted his energies to vituperation of a cruel siren.
Ronsard in his sonnets celebrated in language quite as furious as
Shakespeare's a 'fierce tigress,' a 'murderess,' a 'Medusa.' Barnabe
Barnes affected to contend in his sonnets with a female 'tyrant,' a
'Medusa,' a 'rock.' 'Women' (Barnes laments) 'are by nature proud as
devils.' The monotonous and artificial regularity with which the
sonnetteers sounded the vituperative stop, whenever they had exhausted
their notes of adulation, excited ridicule in both England and France.
In Shakespeare's early life the convention was wittily parodied by
Gabriel Harvey in 'An Amorous Odious sonnet intituled The Student's Loove
or Hatrid, or both or neither, or what shall please the looving or hating
reader, either in sport or earnest, to make of such contrary passions as
are here discoursed.' {121} After extolling the beauty and virtue of his
mistress above that of Aretino's Angelica, Petrarch's Laura, Catullus's
Lesbia, and eight other far-famed objects of poetic adoration, Harvey
suddenly denounces her in burlesque rhyme as 'a serpent in brood,' 'a
poisonous toad,' 'a heart of marble,' and 'a stony mind as passionless as
a block.' Finally he tells her,

If ever there were she-devils incarnate,
They are altogether in thee incorporate.

Jodelle's 'Contr' Amours.'

In France Etienne Jodelle, a professional sonnetteer although he is best
known as a dramatist, made late in the second half of the sixteenth
century an independent endeavour of like kind to stifle by means of
parody the vogue of the vituperative sonnet. Jodelle designed a
collection of three hundred sonnets which he inscribed to 'hate of a
woman,' and he appropriately entitled them 'Contr' Amours' in distinction
from 'Amours,' the term applied to sonnets in the honeyed vein. Only
seven of Jodelle's 'Contr' Amours' are extant, but there is sufficient
identity of tone between them and Shakespeare's vituperative efforts
almost to discover in Shakespeare's invectives a spark of Jodelle's
satiric fire. {122} The dark lady of Shakespeare's 'sonnets' may
therefore be relegated to the ranks of the creatures of his fancy. It is
quite possible that he may have met in real life a dark-complexioned
siren, and it is possible that he may have fared ill at her disdainful
hands. But no such incident is needed to account for the presence of
'the dark lady' in the sonnets. It was the exacting conventions of the
sonnetteering contagion, and not his personal experiences or emotions,
that impelled Shakespeare to give 'the dark lady' of his sonnets a poetic
being. {123} She has been compared, not very justly, with Shakespeare's
splendid creation of Cleopatra in his play of 'Antony and Cleopatra.'
From one point of view the same criticism may be passed on both. There
is no greater and no less ground for seeking in Shakespeare's personal
environment the original of 'the dark lady' of his sonnets than for
seeking there the original of his Queen of Egypt.


Biographic fact in the 'dedicatory' sonnets.

Amid the borrowed conceits and poetic figures of Shakespeare's sonnets
there lurk suggestive references to the circumstances in his external
life that attended their composition. If few can be safely regarded as
autobiographic revelations of sentiment, many of them offer evidence of
the relations in which he stood to a patron, and to the position that he
sought to fill in the circle of that patron's literary retainers. Twenty
sonnets, which may for purposes of exposition be entitled 'dedicatory'
sonnets, are addressed to one who is declared without periphrasis and
without disguise to be a patron of the poet's verse (Nos. xxiii., xxvi.,
xxxii., xxxvii., xxxviii., lxix., lxxvii.-lxxxvi., c., ci., cvi.) In one
of these--Sonnet lxxviii.--Shakespeare asserted:

So oft have I invoked thee for my Muse
And found such fair assistance in my verse
As every alien pen hath got my use
And under thee their poesy disperse.

Subsequently he regretfully pointed out how his patron's readiness to
accept the homage of other poets seemed to be thrusting him from the
enviable place of pre-eminence in his patron's esteem.

The Earl of Southampton the poet's sole patron.

Shakespeare's biographer is under an obligation to attempt an
identification of the persons whose relations with the poet are defined
so explicitly. The problem presented by the patron is simple.
Shakespeare states unequivocally that he has no patron but one.

Sing [_sc._ O Muse!] to the ear that doth thy lays esteem,
And gives thy pen both skill and argument (c. 7-8).
For to no other pass my verses tend
Than of your graces and your gifts to tell (ciii. 11-12).

The Earl of Southampton, the patron of his narrative poems, is the only
patron of Shakespeare that is known to biographical research. No
contemporary document or tradition gives the faintest suggestion that
Shakespeare was the friend or dependent of any other man of rank. A
trustworthy tradition corroborates the testimony respecting Shakespeare's
close intimacy with the Earl that is given in the dedicatory epistles of
his 'Venus and Adonis' and 'Lucrece', penned respectively in 1593 and
1594. According to Nicholas Rowe, Shakespeare's first adequate
biographer, 'there is one instance so singular in its magnificence of
this patron of Shakespeare's that if I had not been assured that the
story was handed down by Sir William D'Avenant, who was probably very
well acquainted with his affairs, I should not venture to have inserted;
that my Lord Southampton at one time gave him a thousand pounds to enable
him to go through with a purchase which he heard he had a mind to. A
bounty very great and very rare at any time.'

There is no difficulty in detecting the lineaments of the Earl of
Southampton in those of the man who is distinctively greeted in the
sonnets as the poet's patron. Three of the twenty 'dedicatory' sonnets
merely translate into the language of poetry the expressions of devotion
which had already done duty in the dedicatory epistle in prose that
prefaces 'Lucrece.' That epistle to Southampton runs:

The love {127} I dedicate to your lordship is without end; whereof
this pamphlet, without beginning, is but a superfluous moiety. The
warrant I have of your honourable disposition, not the worth of my
untutored lines, makes it assured of acceptance. What I have done is
yours; what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have, devoted
yours. Were my worth greater, my duty would show greater; meantime,
as it is, it is bound to your lordship, to whom I wish long life,
still lengthened with all happiness.

Your lordship's in all duty,

Sonnet xxvi. is a gorgeous rendering of these sentences:--

Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage
Thy merit hath my duty strongly knit,
To thee I send this written ambassage,
To witness duty, not to show my wit:
Duty so great, which wit so poor as mine
May make seem bare, in wanting words to show it,
But that I hope some good conceit of thine
In thy soul's thought, all naked, will bestow it;
Till whatsoever star that guides my moving,
Points on me graciously with fair aspect,
And puts apparel on my tatter'd loving
To show me worthy of thy sweet respect
Then may I dare to boast how I do love thee;
Till then not show my head where thou may'st prove me. {128}

The 'Lucrece' epistle's intimation that the patron's love alone gives
value to the poet's 'untutored lines' is repeated in Sonnet xxxii., which
doubtless reflected a moment of depression:

If thou survive my well-contented day,
When that churl Death my bones with dust shall cover,
And shalt by fortune once more re-survey
These poor rude lines of thy deceased lover,
Compare them with the bettering of the time,
And though they be outstripp'd by every pen,
Reserve them for my love, not for their rhyme,
Exceeded by the height of happier men.
O, then vouchsafe me but this loving thought:
'Had my friend's Muse grown with this growing age,
A dearer birth than this his love had brought,
To march in ranks of better equipage; {129}
But since he died and poets better prove,
Theirs for their style I'll read, his for his love.'

A like vein is pursued in greater exaltation of spirit in Sonnet

How can my Muse want subject to invent,
While thou dost breathe, that pour'st into my verse
Thine own sweet argument, too excellent
For every vulgar paper to rehearse?
O give thyself the thanks, if aught in me
Worthy perusal stand against thy sight;
For who's so dumb that cannot write to thee,
When thou thyself dost give invention light?
Be thou the tenth Muse, ten times more in worth
Than those old nine which rhymers invocate;
And he that calls on thee, let him bring forth
Eternal numbers to outlive long date.
If my slight Muse do please these curious days,
The pain be mine, but thine shall be the praise.

The central conceit here so finely developed--that the patron may claim
as his own handiwork the _protege's_ verse because he inspires
it--belongs to the most conventional schemes of dedicatory adulation.
When Daniel, in 1592, inscribed his volume of sonnets entitled 'Delia' to
the Countess of Pembroke, he played in the prefatory sonnet on the same
note, and used in the concluding couplet almost the same words as
Shakespeare. Daniel wrote:

Great patroness of these my humble rhymes,
Which thou from out thy greatness dost inspire . . .
O leave [_i.e._ cease] not still to grace thy work in me . . .
Whereof the travail I may challenge mine,
But yet the glory, madam, must be thine.

Elsewhere in the Sonnets we hear fainter echoes of the 'Lucrece' epistle.
Repeatedly does the sonnetteer renew the assurance given there that his
patron is 'part of all' he has or is. Frequently do we meet in the
Sonnets with such expressions as these:--

[I] by a _part of all_ your glory live (xxxvii. 12);
Thou art _all the better part of me_ (xxxix. 2);
My spirit is thine, _the better part of me_ (lxxiv. 8);

while 'the love without end' which Shakespeare had vowed to Southampton
in the light of day reappears in sonnets addressed to the youth as
'eternal love' (cviii. 9), and a devotion 'what shall have no end' (cx.

Rivals in Southampton's favour.

The identification of the rival poets whose 'richly compiled' 'comments'
of his patron's 'praise' excited Shakespeare's jealousy is a more
difficult inquiry than the identification of the patron. The rival poets
with their 'precious phrase by all the Muses filed' (lxxxv. 4) must be
sought among the writers who eulogised Southampton and are known to have
shared his patronage. The field of choice is not small. Southampton
from boyhood cultivated literature and the society of literary men. In
1594 no nobleman received so abundant a measure of adulation from the
contemporary world of letters. {131a} Thomas Nash justly described the
Earl, when dedicating to him his 'Life of Jack Wilton' in 1594, as 'a
dear lover and cherisher as well of the lovers of poets as of the poets
themselves.' Nash addressed to him many affectionately phrased sonnets.
The prolific sonnetteer Barnabe Barnes and the miscellaneous literary
practitioner Gervase Markham confessed, respectively in 1593 and 1595,
yearnings for Southampton's countenance in sonnets which glow hardly less
ardently than Shakespeare's with admiration for his personal charm.
Similarly John Florio, the Earl's Italian tutor, who is traditionally
reckoned among Shakespeare's literary acquaintances, {131b} wrote to
Southampton in 1598, in his dedicatory epistle before his 'Worlde of
Wordes' (an Italian-English dictionary), 'as to me and many more, the
glorious and gracious sunshine of your honour hath infused light and

Shakespeare's fear of a rival poet.

Shakespeare magnanimously and modestly described that _protege_ of
Southampton, whom he deemed a specially dangerous rival, as an 'able' and
a 'better' 'spirit,' 'a worthier pen,' a vessel of 'tall building and of
goodly pride,' compared with whom he was himself 'a worthless boat.' He
detected a touch of magic in the man's writing. His 'spirit,'
Shakespeare hyperbolically declared, had been 'by spirits taught to write
above a mortal pitch,' and 'an affable familiar ghost' nightly gulled him
with intelligence. Shakespeare's dismay at the fascination exerted on
his patron by 'the proud full sail of his [rival's] great verse' sealed
for a time, he declared, the springs of his own invention (lxxxvi.)

Barnabe Barnes probably the rival.

There is no need to insist too curiously on the justice of Shakespeare's
laudation of the other poet's' powers. He was presumably a new-comer in
the literary field who surprised older men of benevolent tendency into
admiration by his promise rather than by his achievement. 'Eloquence and
courtesy,' wrote Gabriel Harvey at the time, 'are ever bountiful in the
amplifying vein;' and writers of amiability, Harvey adds, habitually
blazoned the perfections that they hoped to see their young friends
achieve, in language implying that they had already achieved them. All
the conditions of the problem are satisfied by the rival's identification
with the young poet and scholar Barnabe Barnes, a poetic panegyrist of
Southampton and a prolific sonnetteer, who was deemed by contemporary
critics certain to prove a great poet. His first collection of sonnets,
'Parthenophil and Parthenophe,' with many odes and madrigals
interspersed, was printed in 1593; and his second, 'A Centurie of
Spiritual Sonnets,' in 1595. Loud applause greeted the first book, which
included numerous adaptations from the classical, Italian, and French
poets, and disclosed, among many crudities, some fascinating lyrics and
at least one almost perfect sonnet (No. lxvi. 'Ah, sweet content, where
is thy mild abode?') Thomas Churchyard called Barnes 'Petrarch's
scholar;' the learned Gabriel Harvey bade him 'go forward in maturity as
he had begun in pregnancy,' and 'be the gallant poet, like Spenser;'
Campion judged his verse to be 'heady and strong.' In a sonnet that
Barnes addressed in this earliest volume to the 'virtuous' Earl of
Southampton he declared that his patron's eyes were 'the heavenly lamps
that give the Muses light,' and that his sole ambition was 'by flight to
rise' to a height worthy of his patron's 'virtues.' Shakespeare
sorrowfully pointed out in Sonnet lxxviii. that his lord's eyes

that taught the dumb on high to sing,
And heavy ignorance aloft to fly,
Have added feathers to the learned's wing,
And given grace a double majesty;

while in the following sonnet he asserted that the 'worthier pen' of his
dreaded rival when lending his patron 'virtue' was guilty of plagiarism,
for he 'stole that word' from his patron's 'behaviour.' The emphasis
laid by Barnes on the inspiration that he sought from Southampton's
'gracious eyes' on the one hand, and his reiterated references to his
patron's 'virtue' on the other, suggest that Shakespeare in these sonnets
directly alluded to Barnes as his chief competitor in the hotly contested
race for Southampton's favour. In Sonnet lxxxv. Shakespeare declares
that 'he cries Amen to every hymn that able spirit [_i.e._ his rival]
affords.' Very few poets of the day in England followed Ronsard's
practice of bestowing the title of hymn on miscellaneous poems, but
Barnes twice applies the word to his poems of love. {134a} When, too,
Shakespeare in Sonnet lxxx. employs nautical metaphors to indicate the
relations of himself and his rival with his patron--

My saucy bark inferior far to his . . .
Your shallowest help will hold me up afloat,

he seems to write with an eye on Barnes's identical choice of metaphor:

My fancy's ship tossed here and there by these [_sc._ sorrow's
Still floats in danger ranging to and fro.
How fears my thoughts' swift pinnace thine hard rock! {134b}

Other theories as to the rival's identity.

Gervase Markham is equally emphatic in his sonnet to Southampton on the
potent influence of his patron's 'eyes,' which, he says, crown 'the most
victorious pen'--a possible reference to Shakespeare. Nash's poetic
praises of the Earl are no less enthusiastic, and are of a finer literary
temper than Markham's. But Shakespeare's description of his rival's
literary work fits far less closely the verse of Markham and Nash than
the verse of their fellow aspirant Barnes.

Many critics argue that the numbing fear of his rival's genius and of its
influence on his patron to which Shakespeare confessed in the sonnets was
more likely to be evoked by the work of George Chapman than by that of
any other contemporary poet. But Chapman had produced no conspicuously
'great verse' till he began his translation of Homer in 1598; and
although he appended in 1610 to a complete edition of his translation a
sonnet to Southampton, it was couched in the coldest terms of formality,
and it was one of a series of sixteen sonnets each addressed to a
distinguished nobleman with whom the writer implies that he had no
previous relations. {135} Drayton, Ben Jonson, and Marston have also
been identified by various critics with 'the rival poet,' but none of
these shared Southampton's bounty, nor are the terms which Shakespeare
applies to his rival's verse specially applicable to the productions of
any of them.

Sonnets of friendship.

Many besides the 'dedicatory' sonnets are addressed to a handsome youth
of wealth and rank, for whom the poet avows 'love,' in the Elizabethan
sense of friendship. {136} Although no specific reference is made
outside the twenty 'dedicatory' sonnets to the youth as a literary
patron, and the clues to his identity are elsewhere vaguer, there is good
ground for the conclusion that the sonnets of disinterested love or
friendship also have Southampton for their subject. The sincerity of the
poet's sentiment is often open to doubt in these poems, but they seem to
illustrate a real intimacy subsisting between Shakespeare and a young

Extravagances of literary compliment.

Extravagant compliment--'gross painting' Shakespeare calls it--was more
conspicuous in the intercourse of patron and client during the last years
of Elizabeth's reign than in any other epoch. For this result the
sovereign herself was in part responsible. Contemporary schemes of
literary compliment seemed infected by the feigned accents of amorous
passion and false rhapsodies on her physical beauty with which men of
letters servilely sought to satisfy the old Queen's incurable greed of
flattery. {137} Sir Philip Sidney described with admirable point the
adulatory excesses to which less exalted patrons were habituated by
literary dependents. He gave the warning that as soon as a man showed
interest in poetry or its producers, poets straightway pronounced him 'to
be most fair, most rich, most wise, most all.' 'You shall dwell upon
superlatives . . . Your soule shall be placed with Dante's Beatrice.'
{138a} The warmth of colouring which distinguishes many of the sonnets
that Shakespeare, under the guise of disinterested friendship, addressed
to the youth can be matched at nearly all points in the adulation that
patrons were in the habit of receiving from literary dependents in the
style that Sidney described. {138b}

Patrons habitually addressed in affectionate terms.

Shakespeare assured his friend that he could never grow old (civ.), that
the finest types of beauty and chivalry in mediaeval romance lived again
in him (cvi.), that absence from him was misery, and that his affection
for him was unalterable. Hundreds of poets openly gave the like
assurances to their patrons. Southampton was only one of a crowd of
Maecenases whose panegyrists, writing without concealment in their own
names, credited them with every perfection of mind and body, and 'placed
them,' in Sidney's apt phrase, 'with Dante's "Beatrice."'

Illustrations of the practice abound. Matthew Roydon wrote of his
patron, Sir Philip Sidney:

His personage seemed most divine,
A thousand graces one might count
Upon his lovely cheerful eyne.
To heare him speak and sweetly smile
You were in Paradise the while.

Edmund Spenser in a fine sonnet told his patron, Admiral Lord Charles
Howard, that 'his good personage and noble deeds' made him the pattern to
the present age of the old heroes of whom 'the antique poets' were 'wont
so much to sing.' This compliment, which Shakespeare turns to splendid
account in Sonnet cvi., recurs constantly in contemporary sonnets of
adulation. {140a} Ben Jonson apostrophised the Earl of Desmond as 'my
best-best lov'd.' Campion told Lord Walden, the Earl of Suffolk's
undistinguished heir, that although his muse sought to express his love,
'the admired virtues' of the patron's youth

Bred such despairing to his daunted Muse
That it could scarcely utter naked truth. {140b}

Dr. John Donne includes among his 'Verse Letters' to patrons and
patronesses several sonnets of similar temper, one of which,
acknowledging a letter of news from a patron abroad, concludes thus:

And now thy alms is given, thy letter's read,
The body risen again, the which was dead,
And thy poor starveling bountifully fed.
After this banquet my soul doth say grace,
And praise thee for it and zealously embrace
Thy love, though I think thy love in this case
To be as gluttons', which say 'midst their meat
They love that best of which they most do eat. {141}

The tone of yearning for a man's affection is sounded by Donne and
Campion almost as plaintively in their sonnets to patrons as it was
sounded by Shakespeare. There is nothing, therefore, in the vocabulary
of affection which Shakespeare employed in his sonnets of friendship to
conflict with the theory that they were inscribed to a literary patron
with whom his intimacy was of the kind normally subsisting at the time
between literary clients and their patrons.

Direct references to Southampton in the sonnets of friendship.

We know Shakespeare had only one literary patron, the Earl of
Southampton, and the view that that nobleman is the hero of the sonnets
of 'friendship' is strongly corroborated by such definite details as can
be deduced from the vague eulogies in those poems of the youth's gifts
and graces. Every compliment, in fact, paid by Shakespeare to the youth,
whether it be vaguely or definitely phrased, applies to Southampton
without the least straining of the words. In real life beauty, birth,
wealth, and wit sat 'crowned' in the Earl, whom poets acclaimed the
handsomest of Elizabethan courtiers, as plainly as in the hero of the
poet's verse. Southampton has left in his correspondence ample proofs of
his literary learning and taste, and, like the hero of the sonnets, was
'as fair in knowledge as in hue.' The opening sequence of seventeen
sonnets, in which a youth of rank and wealth is admonished to marry and
beget a son so that 'his fair house' may not fall into decay, can only
have been addressed to a young peer like Southampton, who was as yet
unmarried, had vast possessions, and was the sole male representative of
his family. The sonnetteer's exclamation, 'You had a father, let your
son say so,' had pertinence to Southampton at any period between his
father's death in his boyhood and the close of his bachelorhood in 1598.
To no other peer of the day are the words exactly applicable. The
'lascivious comment' on his 'wanton sport' which pursues the young friend
through the sonnets, and is so adroitly contrived as to add point to the
picture of his fascinating youth and beauty, obviously associates itself
with the reputation for sensual indulgence that Southampton acquired both
at Court and, according to Nash, among men of letters. {142}

His youthfulness.

There is no force in the objection that the young man of the sonnets of
'friendship' must have been another than Southampton because the terms in
which he is often addressed imply extreme youth. In 1594, a date to
which I refer most of the sonnets Southampton was barely twenty-one, and
the young man had obviously reached manhood. In Sonnet civ. Shakespeare
notes that the first meeting between him and his friend took place three
years before that poem was written, so that, if the words are to be taken
literally, the poet may have at times embodied reminiscences of
Southampton when he was only seventeen or eighteen. {143a} But
Shakespeare, already worn in worldly experience, passed his thirtieth
birthday in 1594, and he probably tended, when on the threshold of middle
life, to exaggerate the youthfulness of the nobleman almost ten years his
junior, who even later impressed his acquaintances by his boyish
appearance and disposition. {143b} 'Young' was the epithet invariably
applied to Southampton by all who knew anything of him even when he was
twenty-eight. In 1601 Sir Robert Cecil referred to him as the 'poor
young Earl.'

The evidence of portraits.

But the most striking evidence of the identity of the youth of the
sonnets of 'friendship' with Southampton is found in the likeness of
feature and complexion which characterises the poet's description of the
youth's outward appearance and the extant pictures of Southampton as a
young man. Shakespeare's many references to his youth's 'painted
counterfeit' (xvi., xxiv., xlvii., lxvii.) suggest that his hero often
sat for his portrait. Southampton's countenance survives in probably
more canvases than that of any of his contemporaries. At least fourteen
extant portraits have been identified on good authority--nine paintings,
three miniatures (two by Peter Oliver and one by Isaac Oliver), and two
contemporary prints. {144} Most of these, it is true, portray their
subject in middle age, when the roses of youth had faded, and they
contribute nothing to the present argument. But the two portraits that
are now at Welbeck, the property of the Duke of Portland, give all the
information that can be desired of Southampton's aspect 'in his youthful
morn.' {145} One of these pictures represents the Earl at twenty-one,
and the other at twenty-five or twenty-six. The earlier portrait, which
is reproduced on the opposite page, shows a young man resplendently
attired. His doublet is of white satin; a broad collar, edged with lace,
half covers a pointed gorget of red leather, embroidered with silver
thread; the white trunks and knee-breeches are laced with gold; the
sword-belt, embroidered in red and gold, is decorated at intervals with
white silk bows; the hilt of the rapier is overlaid with gold; purple
garters, embroidered in silver thread, fasten the white stockings below
the knee. Light body armour, richly damascened, lies on the ground to
the right of the figure; and a white-plumed helmet stands to the left on
a table covered with a cloth of purple velvet embroidered in gold. Such
gorgeous raiment suggests that its wearer bestowed much attention on his
personal equipment. But the head is more interesting than the body. The
eyes are blue, the cheeks pink, the complexion clear, and the expression
sedate; rings are in the ears; beard and moustache are at an incipient
stage, and are of the same, bright auburn hue as the hair in a picture of
Southampton's mother that is also at Welbeck. {146a} But, however scanty
is the down on the youth's cheek, the hair on his head is luxuriant. It
is worn very long, and falls over and below the shoulder. The colour is
now of walnut, but was originally of lighter tint.

[Picture: Henry Wriothesley]

The portrait depicting Southampton five or six years later shows him in
prison, to which he was committed after his secret marriage in 1598. A
cat and a book in a jewelled binding are on a desk at his right hand.
Here the hair falls over both his shoulders in even greater profusion,
and is distinctly blonde. The beard and thin upturned moustache are of
brighter auburn and fuller than before, although still slight. The blue
eyes and colouring of the cheeks show signs of ill-health, but differ
little from those features in the earlier portrait.

From either of the two Welbeck portraits of Southampton might Shakespeare
have drawn his picture of the youth in the Sonnets. Many times does he
tell us that the youth is fair in complexion, and that his eyes are fair.
In Sonnet lxviii., when he points to the youth's face as a map of what
beauty was 'without all ornament, itself and true'--before fashion
sanctioned the use of artificial 'golden tresses'--there can be little
doubt that he had in mind the wealth of locks that fell about
Southampton's neck. {146b}

Sonnet cvii. the last of the series.

A few only of the sonnets that Shakespeare addressed to the youth can be
allotted to a date subsequent to 1594; only two bear on the surface signs
of a later composition. In Sonnet lxx. the poet no longer credits his
hero with juvenile wantonness, but with a 'pure, unstained prime,' which
has 'passed by the ambush of young days.' Sonnet cvii., apparently the
last of the series, was penned almost a decade after the mass of its
companions, for it makes references that cannot be mistaken to three
events that took place in 1603--to Queen Elizabeth's death, to the
accession of James I, and to the release of the Earl of Southampton, who
had been in prison since he was convicted in 1601 of complicity in the
rebellion of the Earl of Essex. The first two events are thus described:

The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured
And the sad augurs mock their own presage;
Incertainties now crown themselves assured
And peace proclaims olives of endless age.

Allusion to Elizabeth's death.

It is in almost identical phrase that every pen in the spring of 1603 was
felicitating the nation on the unexpected turn of events, by which
Elizabeth's crown had passed, without civil war, to the Scottish King,
and thus the revolution that had been foretold as the inevitable
consequence of Elizabeth's demise was happily averted. Cynthia (_i.e._
the moon) was the Queen's recognised poetic appellation. It is thus that
she figures in the verse of Barnfield, Spenser, Fulke Greville, and
Ralegh, and her elegists involuntarily followed the same fashion. 'Fair
Cynthia's dead' sang one.

Luna's extinct; and now beholde the sunne
Whose beames soake up the moysture of all teares,

wrote Henry Petowe in his 'A Fewe Aprill Drops Showered on the Hearse of
Dead Eliza,' 1603. There was hardly a verse-writer who mourned her loss
that did not typify it, moreover, as the eclipse of a heavenly body. One
poet asserted that death 'veiled her glory in a cloud of night.' Another
argued: 'Naught can eclipse her light, but that her star will shine in
darkest night.' A third varied the formula thus:

When winter had cast off her weed
Our sun eclipsed did set. Oh! light most fair. {148a}

At the same time James was constantly said to have entered on his
inheritance 'not with an olive branch in his hand, but with a whole
forest of olives round about him, for he brought not peace to this
kingdom alone' but to all Europe. {148b}

Allusions to Southampton's release from prison.

'The drops of this most balmy time,' in this same sonnet, cvii., is an
echo of another current strain of fancy. James came to England in a
springtide of rarely rivalled clemency, which was reckoned of the
happiest augury. 'All things look fresh,' one poet sang, 'to greet his
excellence.' 'The air, the seasons, and the earth' were represented as
in sympathy with the general joy in 'this sweetest of all sweet springs.'
One source of grief alone was acknowledged: Southampton was still a
prisoner in the Tower, 'supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.' All
men, wrote Manningham, the diarist, on the day following the Queen's
death, wished him at liberty. {149a} The wish was fulfilled quickly. On
April 10, 1603, his prison gates were opened by 'a warrant from the
king.' So bountiful a beginning of the new era, wrote John Chamberlain
to Dudley Carleton two days later, 'raised all men's spirits . . . and
the very poets with their idle pamphlets promised themselves' great
things. {149b} Samuel Daniel and John Davies celebrated Southampton's
release in buoyant verse. {149c} It is improbable that Shakespeare
remained silent. 'My love looks fresh,' he wrote in the concluding lines
of Sonnet cvii., and he repeated the conventional promise that he had so
often made before, that his friend should live in his 'poor rhyme,' 'when
tyrants' crests and tombs of brass are spent.' It is impossible to
resist the inference that Shakespeare thus saluted his patron on the
close of his days of tribulation. Shakespeare's genius had then won for
him a public reputation that rendered him independent of any private
patron's favour, and he made no further reference in his writings to the
patronage that Southampton had extended to him in earlier years. But the
terms in which he greeted his former protector for the last time in verse
justify the belief that, during his remaining thirteen years of life, the
poet cultivated friendly relations with the Earl of Southampton, and was
mindful to the last of the encouragement that the young peer offered him
while he was still on the threshold of the temple of fame.


It is hardly possible to doubt that had Shakespeare, who was more
prolific in invention than any other poet, poured out in his sonnets his
personal passions and emotions, he would have been carried by his
imagination, at every stage, far beyond the beaten tracks of the
conventional sonnetteers of his day. The imitative element in his
sonnets is large enough to refute the assertion that in them as a whole
he sought to 'unlock his heart.' It is likely enough that beneath all
the conventional adulation bestowed by Shakespeare on Southampton there
lay a genuine affection, but his sonnets to the Earl were no involuntary
ebullitions of a devoted and disinterested friendship; they were
celebrations of a patron's favour in the terminology--often raised by
Shakespeare's genius to the loftiest heights of poetry--that was
invariably consecrated to such a purpose by a current literary
convention. Very few of Shakespeare's 'sugared sonnets' have a
substantial right to be regarded as untutored cries of the soul. It is
true that the sonnets in which the writer reproaches himself with sin, or
gives expression to a sense of melancholy, offer at times a convincing
illusion of autobiographic confessions; and it is just possible that they
stand apart from the rest, and reveal the writer's inner consciousness,
in which case they are not to be matched in any other of Shakespeare's
literary compositions. But they may be, on the other hand, merely
literary meditations, conceived by the greatest of dramatists, on
infirmities incident to all human nature, and only attempted after the
cue had been given by rival sonnetteers. At any rate, their energetic
lines are often adapted from the less forcible and less coherent
utterances of contemporary poets, and the themes are common to almost all
Elizabethan collections of sonnets. {152} Shakespeare's noble sonnet on
the ravages of lust (cxxix.), for example, treats with marvellous force
and insight a stereotyped theme of sonnetteers, and it may have owed its
whole existence to Sir Philip Sidney's sonnet on 'Desire.' {153a}

The youth's relations with the poet's mistress.

Only in one group, composed of six sonnets scattered through the
collection, is there traceable a strand of wholly original sentiment, not
to be readily defined and boldly projecting from the web into which it is
wrought. This series of six sonnets deals with a love adventure of no
normal type. Sonnet cxliv. opens with the lines:

Two loves I have of comfort and despair
Which like two angels do suggest (_i.e._ tempt) me still:
The better angel is a man right fair,
The worser spirit a woman colour'd ill. {153b}

The woman, the sonnetteer continues, has corrupted the man and has drawn
him from his 'side.' Five other sonnets treat the same theme. In three
addressed to the man (xl., xli., and xlii.) the poet mildly reproaches
his youthful friend for having sought and won the favours of a woman whom
he himself loved 'dearly,' but the trespass is forgiven on account of the
friend's youth and beauty. In the two remaining sonnets Shakespeare
addresses the woman (cxxxiii. and cxxxiv.), and he rebukes her for having
enslaved not only himself but 'his next self'--his friend. Shakespeare,
in his denunciation elsewhere of a mistress's disdain of his advances,
assigns her blindness, like all the professional sonnetteers, to no
better defined cause than the perversity and depravity of womankind. In
these six sonnets alone does he categorically assign his mistress's
alienation to the fascinations of a dear friend or hint at such a cause
for his mistress's infidelity. The definite element of intrigue that is
developed here is not found anywhere else in the range of Elizabethan
sonnet-literature. The character of the innovation and its treatment
seem only capable of explanation by regarding the topic as a reflection
of Shakespeare's personal experience. But how far he is sincere in his
accounts of his sorrow in yielding his mistress to his friend in order to
retain the friendship of the latter must be decided by each reader for
himself. If all the words be taken literally, there is disclosed an act
of self-sacrifice that it is difficult to parallel or explain. But it
remains very doubtful if the affair does not rightly belong to the annals
of gallantry. The sonnetteer's complacent condonation of the young man's
offence chiefly suggests the deference that was essential to the
maintenance by a dependent of peaceful relations with a self-willed and
self-indulgent patron. Southampton's sportive and lascivious temperament
might easily impel him to divert to himself the attention of an
attractive woman by whom he saw that his poet was fascinated, and he was
unlikely to tolerate any outspoken protest on the part of his _protege_.
There is no clue to the lady's identity, and speculation on the topic is
useless. She may have given Shakespeare hints for his pictures of the
'dark lady,' but he treats that lady's obduracy conventionally, and his
vituperation of her sheds no light on the personal history of the
mistress who left him for his friend.

'Willobie his Avisa.'

The emotions roused in Shakespeare by the episode, even if potent at the
moment, were not likely to be deep-seated or enduring. And it is
possible that a half-jesting reference, which would deprive Shakespeare's
amorous adventure of serious import, was made to it by a literary comrade
in a poem that was licensed for publication on September 3, 1594, and was
published immediately under the title of 'Willobie his Avisa, or the True
Picture of a Modest Maid and of a Chaste and Constant Wife.' {155} In
this volume, which mainly consists of seventy-two cantos in varying
numbers of six-line stanzas, the chaste heroine, Avisa, holds
converse--in the opening section as a maid, and in the later section as a
wife--with a series of passionate adorers. In every case she firmly
repulses their advances. Midway through the book its alleged
author--Henry Willobie--is introduced in his own person as an ardent
admirer, and the last twenty-nine of the cantos rehearse his woes and
Avisa's obduracy. To this section there is prefixed an argument in prose
(canto xliv.) It is there stated that Willobie, 'being suddenly affected
with the contagion of a fantastical wit at the first sight of Avisa,
pineth a while in secret grief. At length, not able any longer to endure
the burning heat of so fervent a humour, [he] bewrayeth the secrecy of
his disease unto his familiar friend _W. S._, _who not long before had
tried the courtesy of the like passion and was now newly recovered of the
like infection_. Yet [W. S.], finding his friend let blood in the same
vein, took pleasure for a time to see him bleed, and instead of stopping
the issue, he enlargeth the wound with the sharp razor of willing
conceit,' encouraging Willobie to believe that Avisa would ultimately
yield 'with pains, diligence, and some cost in time.' 'The miserable
comforter' [W. S.], the passage continues, was moved to comfort his
friend 'with an impossibility,' for one of two reasons. Either 'he now
would secretly laugh at his friend's folly' because he 'had given
occasion not long before unto others to laugh at his own.' Or 'he would
see whether another could play his part better than himself, and, in
viewing after the course of this loving comedy,' would 'see whether it
would sort to a happier end for this new actor than it did for _the old
player_. But at length this comedy was like to have grown to a tragedy
by the weak and feeble estate that H. W. was brought unto,' owing to
Avisa's unflinching rectitude. Happily, 'time and necessity' effected a
cure. In two succeeding cantos in verse W. S. is introduced in dialogue
with Willobie, and he gives him, in _oratio recta_, light-hearted and
mocking counsel which Willobie accepts with results disastrous to his
mental health.

Identity of initials, on which the theory of Shakespeare's identity with
H. W.'s unfeeling adviser mainly rests, is not a strong foundation, {157}
and doubt is justifiable as to whether the story of 'Avisa' and her
lovers is not fictitious. In a preface signed Hadrian Dorell, the
writer, after mentioning that the alleged author (Willobie) was dead,
discusses somewhat enigmatically whether or no the work is 'a poetical
fiction.' In a new edition of 1596 the same editor decides the question
in the affirmative. But Dorell, while making this admission, leaves
untouched the curious episode of 'W. S.' The mention of 'W. S.' as 'the
old player,' and the employment of theatrical imagery in discussing his
relations with Willobie, must be coupled with the fact that Shakespeare,
at a date when mentions of him in print were rare, was eulogised by name
as the author of 'Lucrece' in some prefatory verses to the volume. From
such considerations the theory of 'W. S.'s' identity with Willobie's
acquaintance acquires substance. If we assume that it was Shakespeare
who took a roguish delight in watching his friend Willobie suffer the
disdain of 'chaste Avisa' because he had 'newly recovered' from the
effects of a like experience, it is clear that the theft of Shakespeare's
mistress by another friend did not cause him deep or lasting distress.
The allusions that were presumably made to the episode by the author of
'Avisa' bring it, in fact, nearer the confines of comedy than of tragedy.

Summary of conclusions respecting the sonnets.

The processes of construction which are discernible in Shakespeare's
sonnets are thus seen to be identical with those that are discernible in
the rest of his literary work. They present one more proof of his
punctilious regard for the demands of public taste, and of his marvellous
genius and skill in adapting and transmuting for his own purposes the
labours of other workers in the field that for the moment engaged his
attention. Most of Shakespeare's sonnets were produced in 1594 under the
incitement of that freakish rage for sonnetteering which, taking its rise
in Italy and sweeping over France on its way to England, absorbed for
some half-dozen years in this country a greater volume of literary energy
than has been applied to sonnetteering within the same space of time here
or elsewhere before or since. The thousands of sonnets that were
circulated in England between 1591 and 1597 were of every literary
quality, from sublimity to inanity, and they illustrated in form and
topic every known phase of sonnetteering activity. Shakespeare's
collection, which was put together at haphazard and published
surreptitiously many years after the poems were written, was a medley, at
times reaching heights of literary excellence that none other scaled, but
as a whole reflecting the varied features of the sonnetteering vogue.
Apostrophes to metaphysical abstractions, vivid picturings of the
beauties of nature, adulation of a patron, idealisation of a _protege's_
regard for a nobleman in the figurative language of amorous passion,
amiable compliments on a woman's hair or touch on the virginals, and
vehement denunciation of the falseness and frailty of womankind--all
appear as frequently in contemporary collections of sonnets as in
Shakespeare's. He borrows very many of his competitors' words and
thoughts, but he so fused them with his fancy as often to transfigure
them. Genuine emotion or the writer's personal experience very rarely
inspired the Elizabethan sonnet, and Shakespeare's sonnets proved no
exception to the rule. A personal note may have escaped him
involuntarily in the sonnets in which he gives voice to a sense of
melancholy and self-remorse, but his dramatic instinct never slept, and
there is no proof that he is doing more in those sonnets than produce
dramatically the illusion of a personal confession. Only in one
scattered series of six sonnets, where he introduced a topic, unknown to
other sonnetteers, of a lover's supersession by his friend in a
mistress's graces, does he seem to show independence of his comrades and
draw directly on an incident in his own life, but even there the emotion
is wanting in seriousness. The sole biographical inference deducible
from the sonnets is that at one time in his career Shakespeare disdained
no weapon of flattery in an endeavour to monopolise the bountiful
patronage of a young man of rank. External evidence agrees with internal
evidence in identifying the belauded patron with the Earl of Southampton,
and the real value to a biographer of Shakespeare's sonnets is the
corroboration they offer of the ancient tradition that the Earl of
Southampton, to whom his two narrative poems were openly dedicated, gave
Shakespeare at an early period of his literary career help and
encouragement, which entitles the Earl to a place in the poet's biography
resembling that filled by the Duke Alfonso d'Este in the biography of
Ariosto, or like that filled by Margaret, duchess of Savoy, in the
biography of Ronsard.


'Midsummer Night's Dream.'

But, all the while that Shakespeare was fancifully assuring his patron

[How] to no other pass my verses tend
Than of your graces and your gifts to tell,

his dramatic work was steadily advancing. To the winter season of 1595
probably belongs 'Midsummer Night's Dream.' {161} The comedy may well
have been written to celebrate a marriage--perhaps the marriage of the
universal patroness of poets, Lucy Harington, to Edward Russell, third
earl of Bedford, on December 12, 1594; or that of William Stanley, earl
of Derby, at Greenwich on January 24, 1594-5. The elaborate compliment
to the Queen, 'a fair vestal throned by the west' (II. i. 157 _seq._),
was at once an acknowledgment of past marks of royal favour and an
invitation for their extension to the future. Oberon's fanciful
description (II. ii. 148-68) of the spot where he saw the little western
flower called 'Love-in-idleness' that he bids Puck fetch for him, has
been interpreted as a reminiscence of one of the scenic pageants with
which the Earl of Leicester entertained Queen Elizabeth on her visit to
Kenilworth in 1575. {162} The whole play is in the airiest and most
graceful vein of comedy. Hints for the story can be traced to a variety
of sources--to Chaucer's 'Knight's Tale,' to Plutarch's 'Life of
Theseus,' to Ovid's 'Metamorphoses' (bk. iv.), and to the story of
Oberon, the fairy-king, in the French mediaeval romance of 'Huon of
Bordeaux,' of which an English translation by Lord Berners was first
printed in 1534. The influence of John Lyly is perceptible in the
raillery in which both mortals and immortals indulge. In the humorous
presentation of the play of 'Pyramus and Thisbe' by the 'rude
mechanicals' of Athens, Shakespeare improved upon a theme which he had
already employed in 'Love's Labour's Lost.' But the final scheme of the
'Midsummer Night's Dream' is of the author's freshest invention, and by
endowing--practically for the first time in literature--the phantoms of
the fairy world with a genuine and a sustained dramatic interest,
Shakespeare may be said to have conquered a new realm for art.

'All's Well.'

More sombre topics engaged him in the comedy of 'All's Well that Ends
Well,' which may be tentatively assigned to 1595. Meres, writing three
years later, attributed to Shakespeare a piece called 'Love's Labour's
Won.' This title, which is not otherwise known, may well be applied to
'All's Well.' 'The Taming of The Shrew,' which has also been identified
with 'Love's Labour's Won,' has far slighter claim to the designation.
The plot of 'All's Well,' like that of 'Romeo and Juliet,' was drawn from
Painter's 'Palace of Pleasure' (No. xxxviii.) The original source is
Boccaccio's 'Decamerone' (giorn. iii. nov. 9). Shakespeare, after his
wont, grafted on the touching story of Helena's love for the unworthy
Bertram the comic characters of the braggart Parolles, the pompous Lafeu,
and a clown (Lavache) less witty than his compeers. Another original
creation, Bertram's mother, Countess of Roussillon, is a charming
portrait of old age. In frequency of rhyme and other metrical
characteristics the piece closely resembles 'The Two Gentlemen,' but the
characterisation betrays far greater power, and there are fewer conceits
or crudities of style. The pathetic element predominates. The heroine
Helena, whose 'pangs of despised love' are expressed with touching
tenderness, ranks with the greatest of Shakespeare's female creations.

'Taming of the Shrew.'

'The Taming of The Shrew'--which, like 'All's Well,' was first printed in
the folio--was probably composed soon after the completion of that solemn
comedy. It is a revision of an old play on lines somewhat differing from
those which Shakespeare had followed previously. From 'The Taming of A
Shrew,' a comedy first published in 1594, {163} Shakespeare drew the
Induction and the scenes in which the hero Petruchio conquers Catherine
the Shrew. He first infused into them the genuine spirit of comedy. But
while following the old play in its general outlines, Shakespeare's
revised version added an entirely new underplot--the story of Bianca and
her lovers, which owes something to the 'Supposes' of George Gascoigne,
an adaptation of Ariosto's comedy called 'I Suppositi.' Evidence of
style--the liberal introduction of tags of Latin and the exceptional beat
of the doggerel--makes it difficult to allot the Bianca scenes to
Shakespeare; those scenes were probably due to a coadjutor.

Stratford allusions in the Induction.

The Induction to 'The Taming of The Shrew' has a direct bearing on
Shakespeare's biography, for the poet admits into it a number of literal
references to Stratford and his native county. Such personalities are
rare in Shakespeare's plays, and can only be paralleled in two of
slightly later date--the 'Second Part of Henry IV' and the 'Merry Wives
of Windsor.' All these local allusions may well be attributed to such a
renewal of Shakespeare's personal relations with the town, as is
indicated by external facts in his history of the same period. In the
Induction the tinker, Christopher Sly, describes himself as 'Old Sly's
son of Burton Heath.' Burton Heath is Barton-on-the-Heath, the home of
Shakespeare's aunt, Edmund Lambert's wife, and of her sons. The tinker
in like vein confesses that he has run up a score with Marian Hacket, the
fat alewife of Wincot. {164} The references to Wincot and the Hackets
are singularly precise. The name of the maid of the inn is given as
Cicely Hacket, and the alehouse is described in the stage direction as
'on a heath.'


Wincot was the familiar designation of three small Warwickshire villages,
and a good claim has been set up on behalf of each to be the scene of
Sly's drunken exploits. There is a very small hamlet named Wincot within
four miles of Stratford now consisting of a single farmhouse which was
once an Elizabethan mansion; it is situated on what was doubtless in
Shakespeare's day, before the land there was enclosed, an open heath.
This Wincot forms part of the parish of Quinton, where, according to the
parochial registers, a Hacket family resided in Shakespeare's day. On
November 21, 1591, 'Sara Hacket, the daughter of Robert Hacket,' was
baptised in Quinton church. {165} Yet by Warwickshire contemporaries the
Wincot of 'The Taming of The Shrew' was unhesitatingly identified with
Wilnecote, near Tamworth, on the Staffordshire border of Warwickshire, at
some distance from Stratford. That village, whose name was pronounced
'Wincot,' was celebrated for its ale in the seventeenth century, a
distinction which is not shown by contemporary evidence to have belonged
to any place of like name. The Warwickshire poet, Sir Aston Cokain,
within half a century of the production of Shakespeare's 'Taming of The
Shrew,' addressed to 'Mr. Clement Fisher of Wincott' (a well-known
resident at Wilnecote) verses which begin

_Shakspeare_ your _Wincot_ ale hath much renowned,
That fox'd a Beggar so (by chance was found
Sleeping) that there needed not many a word
To make him to believe he was a Lord.

In the succeeding lines the writer promises to visit 'Wincot' (_i.e._
Wilnecote) to drink

Such ale as _Shakspeare_ fancies
Did put Kit Sly into such lordly trances.

It is therefore probable that Shakespeare consciously invested the home
of Kit Sly and of Kit's hostess with characteristics of Wilnecote as well
as of the hamlet near Stratford.

Wilmcote, the native place of Shakespeare's mother, is also said to have
been popularly pronounced 'Wincot.' A tradition which was first recorded
by Capell as late as 1780 in his notes to the 'Taming of The Shrew' (p.
26) is to the effect that Shakespeare often visited an inn at 'Wincot' to
enjoy the society of a 'fool who belonged to a neighbouring mill,' and
the Wincot of this story is, we are told, locally associated with the
village of Wilmcote. But the links that connect Shakespeare's tinker
with Wilmcote are far slighter than those which connect him with Wincot
and Wilnecote.

The mention of Kit Sly's tavern comrades--

Stephen Sly and old John Naps of Greece,
And Peter Turf and Henry Pimpernell--

was in all likelihood a reminiscence of contemporary Warwickshire life as
literal as the name of the hamlet where the drunkard dwelt. There was a
genuine Stephen Sly who was in the dramatist's day a self-assertive
citizen of Stratford; and 'Greece,' whence 'old John Naps' derived his
cognomen, is an obvious misreading of Greet, a hamlet by Winchcombe in
Gloucestershire, not far removed from Shakespeare's native town.

'Henry IV.'

In 1597 Shakespeare turned once more to English history. From
Holinshed's 'Chronicle,' and from a valueless but very popular piece,
'The Famous Victories of Henry V,' which was repeatedly acted between
1588 and 1595, {167} he worked up with splendid energy two plays on the
reign of Henry IV. They form one continuous whole, but are known
respectively as parts i. and ii. of 'Henry IV.' The 'Second Part of
Henry IV' is almost as rich as the Induction to 'The Taming of The Shrew'
in direct references to persons and districts familiar to Shakespeare.
Two amusing scenes pass at the house of Justice Shallow in
Gloucestershire, a county which touched the boundaries of Stratford (III.
ii. and V. i.) When, in the second of these scenes, the justice's
factotum, Davy, asked his master 'to countenance William Visor of Woncot
{168a} against Clement Perkes of the Hill,' the local references are
unmistakable. Woodmancote, where the family of Visor or Vizard has
flourished since the sixteenth century, is still pronounced Woncot. The
adjoining Stinchcombe Hill (still familiarly known to natives as 'The
Hill') was in the sixteenth century the home of the family of Perkes.
Very precise too are the allusions to the region of the Cotswold Hills,
which were easily accessible from Stratford. 'Will Squele, a Cotswold
man,' is noticed as one of Shallow's friends in youth (III. ii. 23); and
when Shallow's servant Davy receives his master's instructions to sow
'the headland' 'with red wheat,' in the early autumn, there is an obvious
reference to the custom almost peculiar to the Cotswolds of sowing 'red
lammas' wheat at an unusually early season of the agricultural year.

The kingly hero of the two plays of 'Henry IV' had figured as a spirited
young man in 'Richard II;' he was now represented as weighed down by care
and age. With him are contrasted (in part i.) his impetuous and
ambitious subject Hotspur and (in both parts) his son and heir Prince
Hal, whose boisterous disposition drives him from Court to seek
adventures among the haunters of taverns. Hotspur is a vivid and
fascinating portrait of a hot-headed soldier, courageous to the point of
rashness, and sacrificing his life to his impetuous sense of honour.
Prince Hal, despite his vagaries, is endowed by the dramatist with far
more self-control and common sense.


On the first, as on every subsequent, production of 'Henry IV' the main
public interest was concentrated neither on the King nor on his son, nor
on Hotspur, but on the chief of Prince Hal's riotous companions. At the
outset the propriety of that great creation was questioned on a political
or historical ground of doubtful relevance. Shakespeare in both parts of
'Henry IV' originally named the chief of the prince's associates after
Sir John Oldcastle, a character in the old play. But Henry Brooke,
eighth lord Cobham, who succeeded to the title early in 1597, and claimed
descent from the historical Sir John Oldcastle, the Lollard leader,
raised objection; and when the first part of the play was printed by the
acting-company's authority in 1598 ('newly corrected' in 1599),
Shakespeare bestowed on Prince Hal's tun-bellied follower the new and
deathless name of Falstaff. A trustworthy edition of the second part of
'Henry IV' also appeared with Falstaff's name substituted for that of
Oldcastle in 1600. There the epilogue expressly denied that Falstaff had
any characteristic in common with the martyr Oldcastle. Oldcastle died a
martyr, and this is not the man. But the substitution of the name
'Falstaff' did not pass without protest. It hazily recalled Sir John
Fastolf, an historical warrior who had already figured in 'Henry VI' and
was owner at one time of the Boar's Head Tavern in Southwark; according
to traditional stage directions, {170} the prince and his companions in
'Henry IV' frequent the Boar's Head, Eastcheap. Fuller in his
'Worthies,' first published in 1662, while expressing satisfaction that
Shakespeare had 'put out' of the play Sir John Oldcastle, was eloquent in
his avowal of regret that 'Sir John Fastolf' was 'put in,' on the ground
that it was making overbold with a great warrior's memory to make him a
'Thrasonical puff and emblem of mock-valour.'

The offending introduction and withdrawal of Oldcastle's name left a
curious mark on literary history. Humbler dramatists (Munday, Wilson,
Drayton, and Hathaway), seeking to profit by the attention drawn by
Shakespeare to the historical Oldcastle, produced a poor dramatic version
of Oldcastle's genuine history; and of two editions of 'Sir John
Oldcastle' published in 1600, one printed for T[homas] P[avier] was
impudently described on the title-page as by Shakespeare.

But it is not the historical traditions which are connected with Falstaff
that give him his perennial attraction. It is the personality that owes
nothing to history with which Shakespeare's imaginative power clothed
him. The knight's unfettered indulgence in sensual pleasures, his
exuberant mendacity, and his love of his own ease are purged of offence
by his colossal wit and jollity, while the contrast between his old age
and his unreverend way of life supplies that tinge of melancholy which is
inseparable from the highest manifestations of humour. The Elizabethan
public recognised the triumphant success of the effort, and many of
Falstaff's telling phrases, with the names of his foils, Justice Shallow
and Silence, at once took root in popular speech. Shakespeare's purely
comic power culminated in Falstaff; he may be claimed as the most
humorous figure in literature.

'Merry Wives of Windsor.'

In all probability 'The Merry Wives of Windsor,' a comedy inclining to
farce, and unqualified by any pathetic interest, followed close upon
'Henry IV.' In the epilogue to the 'Second Part of Henry IV' Shakespeare
had written: 'If you be not too much cloyed with fat meat, our humble
author will continue the story with Sir John in it . . . where for
anything I know Falstaff shall die of a sweat, unless already a' be
killed with your hard opinions.' Rowe asserts that 'Queen Elizabeth was
so well pleased with that admirable character of Falstaff in the two
parts of "Henry IV" that she commanded him to continue it for one play
more, and to show him in love.' Dennis, in the dedication of 'The
Comical Gallant' (1702), noted that the 'Merry Wives' was written at the
Queen's 'command and by her direction; and she was so eager to see it
acted that she commanded it to be finished in fourteen days, and was
afterwards, as tradition tells us, very well pleased with the
representation.' In his 'Letters' (1721, p. 232) Dennis reduces the
period of composition to ten days--'a prodigious thing,' added Gildon,
{172a} 'where all is so well contrived and carried on without the least
confusion.' The localisation of the scene at Windsor, and the
complimentary references to Windsor Castle, corroborate the tradition
that the comedy was prepared to meet a royal command. An imperfect draft
of the play was printed by Thomas Creede in 1602; {172b} the folio of
1623 first supplied a complete version. The plot was probably suggested
by an Italian novel. A tale from Straparola's 'Notti' (iv. 4), of which
an adaptation figured in the miscellany of novels called Tarleton's
'Newes out of Purgatorie' (1590), another Italian tale from the
'Pecorone' of Ser Giovanni Fiorentino (i. 2), and a third romance, the
Fishwife's tale of Brainford in the collection of stories called
'Westward for Smelts,' {172c} supply incidents distantly resembling
episodes in the play. Nowhere has Shakespeare so vividly reflected the
bluff temper of contemporary middle-class society. The presentment of
the buoyant domestic life of an Elizabethan country town bears distinct
impress of Shakespeare's own experience. Again, there are literal
references to the neighbourhood of Stratford. Justice Shallow, whose
coat-of-arms is described as consisting of 'luces,' is thereby openly
identified with Shakespeare's early foe, Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote.
When Shakespeare makes Master Slender repeat the report that Master
Page's fallow greyhound was 'outrun on Cotsall' (I. i. 93), he testifies
to his interest in the coursing matches for which the Cotswold district
was famed.

'Henry V.'

The spirited character of Prince Hal was peculiarly congenial to its
creator, and in 'Henry V' Shakespeare, during 1598, brought his career to
its close. The play was performed early in 1599, probably in the newly
built Globe Theatre. Again Thomas Creede printed, in 1600, an imperfect
draft, which was thrice reissued before a complete version was supplied
in the First Folio of 1623. The dramatic interest of 'Henry V' is
slender. There is abundance of comic element, but death has removed
Falstaff, whose last moments are described with the simple pathos that
comes of a matchless art, and, though Falstaff's companions survive, they
are thin shadows of his substantial figure. New comic characters are
introduced in the persons of three soldiers respectively of Welsh,
Scottish, and Irish nationality, whose racial traits are contrasted with
telling effect. The irascible Irishman, Captain MacMorris, is the only
representative of his nation who figures in the long list of
Shakespeare's _dramatis personae_. The scene in which the pedantic but
patriotic Welshman, Fluellen, avenges the sneers of the braggart Pistol
at his nation's emblem, by forcing him to eat the leek, overflows in
vivacious humour. The piece in its main current presents a series of
loosely connected episodes in which the hero's manliness is displayed as
soldier, ruler, and lover. The topic reached its climax in the victory
of the English at Agincourt, which powerfully appealed to patriotic
sentiment. Besides the 'Famous Victories,' {174} there was another lost
piece on the subject, which Henslowe produced for the first time on
November 28, 1595. 'Henry V' may be regarded as Shakespeare's final
experiment in the dramatisation of English history, and it artistically
rounds off the series of his 'histories' which form collectively a kind
of national epic. For 'Henry VIII,' which was produced very late in his
career, he was only in part responsible, and that 'history' consequently
belongs to a different category.

Essex and the rebellion of 1601.

A glimpse of autobiography may be discerned in the direct mention by
Shakespeare in 'Henry V' of an exciting episode in current history. In
the prologue to act v. Shakespeare foretold for Robert Devereux, second
earl of Essex, the close friend of his patron Southampton, an
enthusiastic reception by the people of London when he should come home
after 'broaching' rebellion in Ireland.

Were now the general of our gracious empress,
As in good time he may, from Ireland coming,
Bringing rebellion broached on his sword,
How many would the peaceful city quit
To welcome him!--(Act v. Chorus, ll. 30-4.)

Essex had set out on his disastrous mission as the would-be pacificator
of Ireland on March 27, 1599. The fact that Southampton went with him
probably accounts for Shakespeare's avowal of sympathy. But Essex's
effort failed. He was charged, soon after 'Henry V' was produced, with
treasonable neglect of duty, and he sought in 1601, again with the
support of Southampton, to recover his position by stirring up rebellion
in London. Then Shakespeare's reference to Essex's popularity with
Londoners bore perilous fruit. The friends of the rebel leaders sought
the dramatist's countenance. They paid 40s. to Augustine Phillips, a
leading member of Shakespeare's company, to induce him to revive at the
Globe Theatre 'Richard II' (beyond doubt Shakespeare's play), in the hope
that its scene of the killing of a king might encourage a popular
outbreak. Phillips subsequently deposed that he prudently told the
conspirators who bespoke the piece that 'that play of Kyng Richard' was
'so old and so long out of use as that they should have small or no
company at it.' None the less the performance took place on Saturday
(February 7, 1601), the day preceding that fixed by Essex for the rising.
The Queen, in a later conversation with William Lambarde (on August 4,
1601), complained that 'this tragedie' of 'Richard II,' which she had
always viewed with suspicion, was played at the period with seditious
intent 'forty times in open streets and houses.' {175} At the trial of
Essex and his friends, Phillips gave evidence of the circumstances under
which the tragedy was revived at the Globe Theatre. Essex was executed
and Southampton was imprisoned until the Queen's death. No proceedings
were taken against the players, {176a} but Shakespeare wisely abstained,
for the time, from any public reference to the fate either of Essex or of
his patron Southampton.

Shakespeare's popularity and influence.

Such incidents served to accentuate Shakespeare's growing reputation.
For several years his genius as dramatist and poet had been acknowledged
by critics and playgoers alike, and his social and professional position
had become considerable. Inside the theatre his influence was supreme.
When, in 1598, the manager of the company rejected Ben Jonson's first
comedy--his 'Every Man in his Humour'--Shakespeare intervened, according
to a credible tradition (reported by Rowe but denounced by Gifford), and
procured a reversal of the decision in the interest of the unknown
dramatist who was his junior by nine years. He took a part when the
piece was performed. Jonson was of a difficult and jealous temper, and
subsequently he gave vent to an occasional expression of scorn at
Shakespeare's expense, but, despite passing manifestations of his
unconquerable surliness, there can be no doubt that Jonson cherished
genuine esteem and affection for Shakespeare till death. {176b} Within a
very few years of Shakespeare's death Sir Nicholas L'Estrange, an
industrious collector of anecdotes, put into writing an anecdote for
which he made Dr. Donne responsible, attesting the amicable relations
that habitually subsisted between Shakespeare and Jonson. 'Shakespeare,'
ran the story, 'was godfather to one of Ben Jonson's children, and after
the christening, being in a deep study, Jonson came to cheer him up and
asked him why he was so melancholy. "No, faith, Ben," says he, "not I,
but I have been considering a great while what should be the fittest gift
for me to bestow upon my godchild, and I have resolv'd at last." "I
pr'ythee, what?" sayes he. "I' faith, Ben, I'll e'en give him a dozen
good Lattin spoons, and thou shalt translate them."' {177}

The Mermaid meetings.

The creator of Falstaff could have been no stranger to tavern life, and
he doubtless took part with zest in the convivialities of men of letters.
Tradition reports that Shakespeare joined, at the Mermaid Tavern in Bread
Street, those meetings of Jonson and his associates which Beaumont
described in his poetical 'Letter' to Jonson:

'What things have we seen
Done at the Mermaid? heard words that have been
So nimble, and so full of subtle flame,
As if that every one from whence they came
Had meant to put his whole wit in a jest,
And had resolved to live a fool the rest
Of his dull life.'

'Many were the wit-combats,' wrote Fuller of Shakespeare in his
'Worthies' (1662), 'betwixt him and Ben Jonson, which two I behold like a
Spanish great galleon and an English man of war; Master Jonson (like the
former) was built far higher in learning, solid but slow in his
performances. Shakespear, with the Englishman of war, lesser in bulk,
but lighter in sailing, could turn with all tides, tack about, and take
advantage of all winds by the quickness of his wit and invention.'

Mere's eulogy, 1598.

Of the many testimonies paid to Shakespeare's literary reputation at this
period of his career, the most striking was that of Francis Meres. Meres
was a learned graduate of Cambridge University, a divine and
schoolmaster, who brought out in 1598 a collection of apophthegms on
morals, religion, and literature which he entitled 'Palladis Tamia.' In
the book he interpolated 'A comparative discourse of our English poets
with the Greek, Latin, and Italian poets,' and there exhaustively
surveyed contemporary literary effort in England. Shakespeare figured in
Meres's pages as the greatest man of letters of the day. 'The Muses
would speak Shakespeare's fine filed phrase,' Meres asserted, 'if they
could speak English.' 'Among the English,' he declared, 'he was the most
excellent in both kinds for the stage' (_i.e._ tragedy and comedy). The
titles of six comedies ('Two Gentlemen of Verona, 'Errors,' 'Love's
Labour's Lost,' 'Love's Labour's Won,' 'Midsummer Night's Dream,' and
'Merchant of Venice') and of six tragedies ('Richard II,' 'Richard III,'
'Henry IV,' 'King John,' 'Titus,' and 'Romeo and Juliet') were set forth,
and mention followed of his 'Venus and Adonis,' his 'Lucrece,' and his
'sugred {179} sonnets among his private friends.' These were cited as
proof 'that the sweet witty soul of Ovid lives in mellifluous and
honey-tongued Shakespeare.' In the same year a rival poet, Richard
Barnfield, in 'Poems in divers Humors,' predicted immortality for
Shakespeare with no less confidence.

And Shakespeare, thou whose honey-flowing vein
(Pleasing the world) thy Praises doth obtain,
Whose _Venus_ and whose _Lucrece_ (sweet and chaste)
Thy name in Fame's immortal Book have placed,
Live ever you, at least in fame live ever:
Well may the Body die, but Fame dies never.

Value of his name to publishers.

Shakespeare's name was thenceforth of value to unprincipled publishers,
and they sought to palm off on their customers as his work the
productions of inferior pens. As early as 1595, Thomas Creede, the
surreptitious printer of 'Henry V' and the 'Merry Wives,' had issued the
crude 'Tragedie of Locrine, as 'newly set foorth, overseene and
corrected. By W. S.' It appropriated many passages from an older piece
called 'Selimus,' which was possibly by Greene and certainly came into
being long before Shakespeare had written a line of blank verse. The
same initials--'W.S.' {180}--figured on the title-page of 'The True
Chronicle Historie of Thomas, Lord Cromwell,' which was licensed on
August 11, 1602, was printed for William Jones in that year, and was
reprinted verbatim by Thomas Snodham in 1613. On the title-page of the
comedy entitled 'The Puritaine, or the Widdow of Watling Streete,' which
George Eld printed in 1607, 'W.S.' was again stated to be the author.
Shakespeare's full name appeared on the title-pages of 'The Life of
Old-castle' in 1600 (printed for T[homas] P[avier]), of 'The London
Prodigall' in 1605 (printed by T. C. for Nathaniel Butter), and of 'The
Yorkshire Tragedy' in 1608 (by R. B. for Thomas Pavier). None of these
six plays have any internal claim to Shakespeare's authorship;
nevertheless all were uncritically included in the third folio of his
collected works,(1664). Schlegel and a few other critics of repute have,
on no grounds that merit acceptance, detected signs of Shakespeare's
genuine work in one of the six, 'The Yorkshire Tragedy;' it is 'a coarse,
crude, and vigorous impromptu,' which is clearly by a far less
experienced hand.

The fraudulent practice of crediting Shakespeare with valueless plays
from the pens of comparatively dull-witted contemporaries was in vogue
among enterprising traders in literature both early and late in the
seventeenth century. The worthless old play on the subject of King John
was attributed to Shakespeare in the reissues of 1611 and 1622. Humphrey
Moseley, a reckless publisher of a later period, fraudulently entered on
the 'Stationers' Register' on September 9, 1653, two pieces which he
represented to be in whole or in part by Shakespeare, viz. 'The Merry
Devill of Edmonton' and the 'History of Cardenio,' a share in which was
assigned to Fletcher. 'The Merry Devill of Edmonton,' which was produced
on the stage before the close of the sixteenth century, was entered on
the 'Stationers' Register,' October 22, 1607, and was first published
anonymously in 1608; it is a delightful comedy, abounding in both humour
and romantic sentiment; at times it recalls scenes of the 'Merry Wives of
Windsor,' but no sign of Shakespeare's workmanship is apparent. The
'History of Cardenio' is not extant. {181} Francis Kirkman, another
active London publisher, who first printed William Rowley's 'Birth of
Merlin' in 1662, described it on the title-page as 'written by William
Shakespeare and William Rowley;' it was reprinted at Halle in a so-called
'Collection of pseudo-Shakespearean plays' in 1887.

'The Passionate Pilgrim.'

But poems no less than plays, in which Shakespeare had no hand, were
deceptively placed to his credit as soon as his fame was established. In
1599 William Jaggard, a well-known pirate publisher, issued a poetic
anthology which he entitled 'The Passionate Pilgrim, by W. Shakespeare.'
The volume opened with two sonnets by Shakespeare which were not
previously in print, and there followed three poems drawn from the
already published 'Love's Labour's Lost;' but the bulk of the volume was
by Richard Barnfield and others. {182} A third edition of the
'Passionate Pilgrim' was printed in 1612 with unaltered title-page,
although the incorrigible Jaggard had added two new poems which he
silently filched from Thomas Heywood's 'Troia Britannica.' Heywood
called attention to his own grievance in the dedicatory epistle before
his 'Apology for Actors' (1612), and he added that Shakespeare resented
the more substantial injury which the publisher had done him. 'I know,'
wrote Heywood of Shakespeare, '[he was] much offended with M. Jaggard
that (altogether unknown to him) presumed to make so bold with his name.'
In the result the publisher seems to have removed Shakespeare's name from
the title-page of a few copies. This is the only instance on record of a
protest on Shakespeare's part against the many injuries which he suffered
at the hands of contemporary publishers.

'The Phoenix and the Turtle.'

In 1601 Shakespeare's full name was appended to 'a poetical essaie on the
Phoenix and the Turtle,' which was published by Edward Blount in an
appendix to Robert Chester's 'Love's Martyr, or Rosalins complaint,
allegorically shadowing the Truth of Love in the Constant Fate of the
Phoenix and Turtle.' The drift of Chester's crabbed verse is not clear,
nor can the praise of perspicuity be allowed to the appendix to which
Shakespeare contributed, together with Marston, Chapman, Ben Jonson, and
'Ignoto.' The appendix is introduced by a new title-page running thus:
'Hereafter follow diverse poeticall Essaies on the former subject, viz:
the Turtle and Phoenix. Done by the best and chiefest of our modern
writers, with their names subscribed to their particular workes: never
before extant.' Shakespeare's alleged contribution consists of thirteen
four-lined stanzas in trochaics, each line being of seven syllables, with
the rhymes disposed as in Tennyson's 'In Memoriam.' The concluding
'threnos' is in five three-lined stanzas, also in trochaics, each stanza
having a single rhyme. The poet describes in enigmatic language the
obsequies of the Phoenix and the Turtle-dove, who had been united in life
by the ties of a purely spiritual love. The poem may be a mere play of
fancy without recondite intention, or it may be of allegorical import;
but whether it bear relation to pending ecclesiastical, political, or
metaphysical controversy, or whether it interpret popular grief for the
death of some leaders of contemporary society, is not easily determined.
{184} Happily Shakespeare wrote nothing else of like character.


Shakespeare's practical temperament.

Shakespeare, in middle life, brought to practical affairs a singularly
sane and sober temperament. In 'Ratseis Ghost' (1605), an anecdotal
biography of Gamaliel Ratsey, a notorious highwayman, who was hanged at
Bedford on March 26, 1605, the highwayman is represented as compelling a
troop of actors whom he met by chance on the road to perform in his
presence. At the close of the performance Ratsey, according to the
memoir, addressed himself to a leader of the company, and cynically urged
him to practise the utmost frugality in London. 'When thou feelest thy
purse well lined (the counsellor proceeded), buy thee some place or
lordship in the country that, growing weary of playing, thy money may
there bring thee to dignity and reputation.' Whether or no Ratsey's
biographer consciously identified the highwayman's auditor with
Shakespeare, it was the prosaic course of conduct marked out by Ratsey
that Shakespeare literally followed. As soon as his position in his
profession was assured, he devoted his energies to re-establishing the
fallen fortunes of his family in his native place, and to acquiring for
himself and his successors the status of gentlefolk.

His father's difficulties.

His father's pecuniary embarrassments had steadily increased since his
son's departure. Creditors harassed him unceasingly. In 1587 one
Nicholas Lane pursued him for a debt for which he had become liable as
surety for his brother Henry, who was still farming their father's lands
at Snitterfield. Through 1588 and 1589 John Shakespeare retaliated with
pertinacity on a debtor named John Tompson. But in 1591 a creditor,
Adrian Quiney, obtained a writ of distraint against him, and although in
1592 he attested inventories taken on the death of two neighbours, Ralph
Shaw and Henry Field, father of the London printer, he was on December 25
of the same year 'presented' as a recusant for absenting himself from
church. The commissioners reported that his absence was probably due to
'fear of process for debt.' He figures for the last time in the
proceedings of the local court, in his customary _role_ of defendant, on
March 9, 1595. He was then joined with two fellow traders--Philip Green,
a chandler, and Henry Rogers, a butcher--as defendant in a suit brought
by Adrian Quiney and Thomas Barker for the recovery of the sum of five
pounds. Unlike his partners in the litigation, his name is not followed
in the record by a mention of his calling, and when the suit reached a
later stage his name was omitted altogether. These may be viewed as
indications that in the course of the proceedings he finally retired from
trade, which had been of late prolific in disasters for him. In January
1596-7 he conveyed a slip of land attached to his dwelling in Henley
Street to one George Badger.

His wife's debt.

There is a likelihood that the poet's wife fared, in the poet's absence,
no better than his father. The only contemporary mention made of her
between her marriage in 1582 and her husband's death in 1616 is as the
borrower at an unascertained date (evidently before 1595) of forty
shillings from Thomas Whittington, who had formerly been her father's
shepherd. The money was unpaid when Whittington died in 1601, and he
directed his executor to recover the sum from the poet and distribute it
among the poor of Stratford. {187}

It was probably in 1596 that Shakespeare returned, after nearly eleven
years' absence, to his native town, and worked a revolution in the
affairs of his family. The prosecutions of his father in the local court
ceased. Thenceforth the poet's relations with Stratford were
uninterrupted. He still resided in London for most of the year; but
until the close of his professional career he paid the town at least one
annual visit, and he was always formally described as 'of
Stratford-on-Avon, gentleman.' He was no doubt there on August 11, 1596,
when his only son, Hamnet, was buried in the parish church; the boy was
eleven and a half years old.

The coat-of-arms.

At the same date the poet's father, despite his pecuniary embarrassments,
took a step, by way of regaining his prestige, which must be assigned to
the poet's intervention. {188a} He made application to the College of
Heralds for a coat-of-arms. {188b} Then, as now, the heralds when
bestowing new coats-of-arms commonly credited the applicant's family with
an imaginary antiquity, and little reliance need be placed on the
biographical or genealogical statements alleged in grants of arms. The
poet's father or the poet himself when first applying to the College
stated that John Shakespeare, in 1568, while he was bailiff of Stratford,
and while he was by virtue of that office a justice of the peace, had
obtained from Robert Cook, then Clarenceux herald, a 'pattern' or sketch
of an armorial coat. This allegation is not noticed in the records of
the College, and may be a formal fiction designed by John Shakespeare and
his son to recommend their claim to the notice of the heralds. The
negotiations of 1568, if they were not apocryphal, were certainly
abortive; otherwise there would have been no necessity for the further
action of 1596. In any case, on October 20, 1596, a draft, which remains
in the College of Arms, was prepared under the direction of William
Dethick, Garter King-of-Arms, granting John's request for a coat-of-arms.
Garter stated, with characteristic vagueness, that he had been 'by
credible report' informed that the applicant's 'parentes and late
antecessors were for theire valeant and faithfull service advanced and
rewarded by the most prudent prince King Henry the Seventh of famous
memories sythence whiche tyme they have continewed at those partes
[_i.e._ Warwickshire] in good reputacion and credit;' and that 'the said
John [had] maryed Mary, daughter and heiress of Robert Arden, of
Wilmcote, gent.' In consideration of these titles to honour, Garter
declared that he assigned to Shakespeare this shield, viz.: 'Gold, on a
bend sable, a spear of the first, and for his crest or cognizance a
falcon, his wings displayed argent, standing on a wreath of his colours,
supporting a spear gold steeled as aforesaid.' In the margin of this
draft-grant there is a pen sketch of the arms and crest, and above them
is written the motto, 'Non Sans Droict.' {189} A second copy of the
draft, also dated in 1596, is extant at the College. The only
alterations are the substitution of the word 'grandfather' for
'antecessors' in the account of John Shakespeare's ancestry, and the
substitution of the word 'esquire' for 'gent' in the description of his
wife's father, Robert Arden. At the foot of this draft, however,
appeared some disconnected and unverifiable memoranda which John
Shakespeare or his son had supplied to the heralds, to the effect that
John had been bailiff of Stratford, had received a 'pattern' of a shield
from Clarenceux Cook, was a man of substance, and had married into a
worshipful family. {190}

[Picture: Coat-of-arms]

Neither of these drafts was fully executed. It may have been that the
unduly favourable representations made to the College respecting John
Shakespeare's social and pecuniary position excited suspicion even in the
habitually credulous minds of the heralds, or those officers may have
deemed the profession of the son, who was conducting the negotiation, a
bar to completing the transaction. At any rate, Shakespeare and his
father allowed three years to elapse before (as far as extant documents
show) they made a further endeavour to secure the coveted distinction.
In 1599 their efforts were crowned with success. Changes in the interval
among the officials at the College may have facilitated the proceedings.
In 1597 the Earl of Essex had become Earl Marshal and chief of the
Heralds' College (the office had been in commission in 1596); while the
great scholar and antiquary, William Camden, had joined the College, also
in 1597, as Clarenceux King-of-Arms. The poet was favourably known to
both Camden and the Earl of Essex, the close friend of the Earl of
Southampton. His father's application now took a new form. No grant of
arms was asked for. It was asserted without qualification that the coat,
as set out in the draft-grants of 1596, had been _assigned_ to John
Shakespeare while he was bailiff, and the heralds were merely invited to
give him a 'recognition' or 'exemplification' of it. {191} At the same
time he asked permission for himself to impale, and his eldest son and
other children to quarter, on 'his ancient coat-of-arms' that of the
Ardens of Wilmcote, his wife's family. The College officers were
characteristically complacent. A draft was prepared under the hands of
Dethick, the Garter King, and of Camden, the Clarenceux King, granting
the required 'exemplification' and authorising the required impalement
and quartering. On one point only did Dethick and Camden betray
conscientious scruples. Shakespeare and his father obviously desired the
heralds to recognise the title of Mary Shakespeare (the poet's mother) to
bear the arms of the great Warwickshire family of Arden, then seated at
Park Hall. But the relationship, if it existed, was undetermined; the
Warwickshire Ardens were gentry of influence in the county, and were
certain to protest against any hasty assumption of identity between their
line and that of the humble farmer of Wilmcote. After tricking the
Warwickshire Arden coat in the margin of the draft-grant for the purpose
of indicating the manner of its impalement, the heralds on second
thoughts erased it. They substituted in their sketch the arms of an
Arden family living at Alvanley in the distant county of Cheshire. With
that stock there was no pretence that Robert Arden of Wilmcote was
lineally connected; but the bearers of the Alvanley coat were unlikely to
learn of its suggested impalement with the Shakespeare shield, and the
heralds were less liable to the risk of litigation. But the Shakespeares
wisely relieved the College of all anxiety by omitting to assume the
Arden coat. The Shakespeare arms alone are displayed with full heraldic
elaboration on the monument above the poet's grave in Stratford Church;
they alone appear on the seal and on the tombstone of his elder daughter,
Mrs. Susanna Hall, impaled with the arms of her husband; {192a} and they
alone were quartered by Thomas Nash, the first husband of the poet's
granddaughter, Elizabeth Hall. {192b}

Some objection was taken a few years later to the grant even of the
Shakespeare shield, but it was based on vexatious grounds that could not
be upheld. Early in the seventeenth century Ralph Brooke, who was York
herald from 1593 till his death in 1625, and was long engaged in a bitter
quarrel with his fellow officers at the College, complained that the arms
'exemplified' to Shakespeare usurped the coat of Lord Mauley, on whose
shield 'a bend sable' also figured. Dethick and Camden, who were
responsible for any breach of heraldic etiquette in the matter, answered
that the Shakespeare shield bore no more resemblance to the Mauley coat
than it did to that of the Harley and the Ferrers families, which also
bore 'a bend sable,' but that in point of fact it differed conspicuously
from all three by the presence of a spear on the 'bend.' Dethick and
Camden added, with customary want of precision, that the person to whom
the grant was made had 'borne magistracy and was justice of peace at
Stratford-on-Avon; he maried the daughter and heire of Arderne, and was
able to maintain that Estate.' {193}

Purchase of New Place.

Meanwhile, in 1597, the poet had taken openly in his own person a more
effective step in the way of rehabilitating himself and his family in the
eyes of his fellow townsmen. On May 4 he purchased the largest house in
the town, known as New Place. It had been built by Sir Hugh Clopton more
than a century before, and seems to have fallen into a ruinous condition.
But Shakespeare paid for it, with two barns and two gardens, the then
substantial sum of 60 pounds. Owing to the sudden death of the vendor,
William Underhill, on July 7, 1597, the original transfer of the property
was left at the time incomplete. Underhill's son Fulk died a felon, and
he was succeeded in the family estates by his brother Hercules, who on
coming of age, May 1602, completed in a new deed the transfer of New
Place to Shakespeare. {194a} On February 4, 1597-8, Shakespeare was
described as a householder in Chapel Street ward, in which New Place was
situated, and as the owner of ten quarters of corn. The inventory was
made owing to the presence of famine in the town, and only two
inhabitants were credited with a larger holding. In the same year (1598)
he procured stone for the repair of the house, and before 1602 had
planted a fruit orchard. He is traditionally said to have interested
himself in the garden, and to have planted with his own hands a
mulberry-tree, which was long a prominent feature of it. When this was
cut down, in 1758, numerous relics were made from it, and were treated
with an almost superstitious veneration. {194b} Shakespeare does not
appear to have permanently settled at New Place till 1611. In 1609 the
house, or part of it, was occupied by the town clerk, Thomas Greene,
'alias Shakespeare,' who claimed to be the poet's cousin. His
grandmother seems to have been a Shakespeare. He often acted as the
poet's legal adviser.

It was doubtless under their son's guidance that Shakespeare's father and
mother set on foot in November 1597--six months after his acquisition of
New Place--a lawsuit against John Lambert for the recovery of the
mortgaged estate of Asbies in Wilmcote. The litigation dragged on for
some years without result.

Appeals for aid from his fellow-townsmen.

Three letters written during 1598 by leading men at Stratford are still
extant among the Corporation's archives, and leave no doubt of the
reputation for wealth and influence with which the purchase of New Place
invested the poet in his fellow-townsmen's eyes. Abraham Sturley, who
was once bailiff, writing early in 1598, apparently to a brother in
London, says: 'This is one special remembrance from our father's motion.
It seemeth by him that our countryman, Mr. Shakspere, is willing to
disburse some money upon some odd yardland or other at Shottery, or near
about us: he thinketh it a very fit pattern to move him to deal in the
matter of our tithes. By the instructions you can give him thereof, and
by the friends he can make therefor, we think it a fair mark for him to
shoot at, and would do us much good.' Richard Quiney, another townsman,
father of Thomas (afterwards one of Shakespeare's two sons-in-law), was,
in the autumn of the same year, harassed by debt, and on October 25
appealed to Shakespeare for a loan of money. 'Loving countryman,' the
application ran, 'I am bold of you as of a friend craving your help with
xxx_li_.' Quiney was staying at the Bell Inn in Carter Lane, London, and
his main business in the metropolis was to procure exemption for the town
of Stratford from the payment of a subsidy. Abraham Sturley, writing to
Quiney from Stratford ten days later (on November 4, 1598), pointed out
to him that since the town was wholly unable, in consequence of the
dearth of corn, to pay the tax, he hoped 'that our countryman, Mr. Wm.
Shak., would procure us money, which I will like of, as I shall hear when
and where, and how.'

Financial position before 1599.

The financial prosperity to which this correspondence and the
transactions immediately preceding it point has been treated as one of
the chief mysteries of Shakespeare's career, but the difficulties are
gratuitous. There is practically nothing in Shakespeare's financial
position that a study of the contemporary conditions of theatrical life
does not fully explain. It was not until 1599, when the Globe Theatre
was built, that he acquired any share in the profits of a playhouse. But
his revenues as a successful dramatist and actor were by no means
contemptible at an earlier date. His gains in the capacity of dramatist
formed the smaller source of income. The highest price known to have
been paid before 1599 to an author for a play by the manager of an acting
company was 11 pounds; 6 pounds was the lowest rate. {197a} A small
additional gratuity--rarely apparently exceeding ten shillings--was
bestowed on a dramatist whose piece on its first production was
especially well received; and the author was by custom allotted, by way
of 'benefit,' a certain proportion of the receipts of the theatre on the
production of a play for the second time. {197b} Other sums, amounting
at times to as much as 4 pounds, were bestowed on the author for revising
and altering an old play for a revival. The nineteen plays which may be
set to Shakespeare's credit between 1591 and 1599, combined with such
revising work as fell to his lot during those eight years, cannot
consequently have brought him less than 200 pounds, or some 20 pounds a
year. Eight or nine of these plays were published during the period, but
the publishers operated independently of the author, taking all the risks
and, at the same time, all the receipts. The publication of
Shakespeare's plays in no way affected his monetary resources, although
his friendly relations with the printer Field doubtless secured him,
despite the absence of any copyright law, some part of the profits in the
large and continuous sale of his poems.

But it was as an actor that at an early date he acquired a genuinely
substantial and secure income. There is abundance of contemporary
evidence to show that the stage was for an efficient actor an assured
avenue to comparative wealth. In 1590 Robert Greene describes in his
tract entitled 'Never too Late' a meeting with a player whom he took by
his 'outward habit' to be 'a gentleman of great living' and a
'substantial man.' The player informed Greene that he had at the
beginning of his career travelled on foot, bearing his theatrical
properties on his back, but he prospered so rapidly that at the time of
speaking 'his very share in playing apparel would not be sold for 200
pounds.' Among his neighbours 'where he dwelt' he was reputed able 'at
his proper cost to build a windmill.' In the university play, 'The
Return from Parnassus' (1601?), a poor student enviously complains of the
wealth and position which a successful actor derived from his calling.

England affords those glorious vagabonds,
That carried erst their fardles on their backs,
Coursers to ride on through the gazing streets,
Sweeping it in their glaring satin suits,
And pages to attend their masterships;
With mouthing words that better wits had framed,
They purchase lands and now esquires are made. {199a}

The travelling actors, from whom the highwayman Gamaliel Ratsey extorted
a free performance in 1604, were represented as men with the certainty of
a rich competency in prospect. {199b} An efficient actor received in
1635 as large a regular salary as 180 pounds. The lowest known valuation
set an actor's wages at 3s. a day, or about 45 pounds a year.
Shakespeare's emoluments as an actor before 1599 are not likely to have
fallen below 100 pounds; while the remuneration due to performances at
Court or in noblemen's houses, if the accounts of 1594 be accepted as the
basis of reckoning, added some 15 pounds.

Thus over 130 pounds (equal to 1,040 pounds of to-day) would be
Shakespeare's average annual revenue before 1599. Such a sum would be
regarded as a very large income in a country town. According to the
author of 'Ratseis Ghost,' the actor, who may well have been meant for
Shakespeare, practised in London a strict frugality, and there seems no
reason why Shakespeare should not have been able in 1597 to draw from his
savings 60 pounds wherewith to buy New Place. His resources might well
justify his fellow-townsmen's opinion of his wealth in 1598, and suffice
between 1597 and 1599 to meet his expenses, in rebuilding the house,
stocking the barns with grain, and conducting various legal proceedings.
But, according to tradition, he had in the Earl of Southampton a wealthy
and generous friend who on one occasion gave him a large gift of money to
enable 'him to go through with' a purchase to which he had a mind. A
munificent gift, added to professional gains, leaves nothing unaccounted
for in Shakespeare's financial position before 1599.

Financial position after 1599.

After 1599 his sources of income from the theatre greatly increased. In
1635 the heirs of the actor Richard Burbage were engaged in litigation
respecting their proprietary rights in the two playhouses, the Globe and
the Blackfriars theatres. The documents relating to this litigation
supply authentic, although not very detailed, information of
Shakespeare's interest in theatrical property. {200} Richard Burbage,
with his brother Cuthbert, erected at their sole cost the Globe Theatre
in the winter of 1598-9, and the Blackfriars Theatre, which their father
was building at the time of his death in 1597, was also their property.
After completing the Globe they leased out, for twenty-one years, shares
in the receipts of the theatre to 'those deserving men Shakespeare,
Hemings, Condell, Philips, and others.' All the shareholders named were,
like Burbage, active members of Shakespeare's company of players. The
shares, which numbered sixteen in all, carried with them the obligation
of providing for the expenses of the playhouse, and were doubtless in the
first instance freely bestowed. Hamlet claims, in the play scene (III.
ii. 293), that the success of his improvised tragedy deserved to get him
'a fellowship in a cry of players'--a proof that a successful dramatist
might reasonably expect such a reward for a conspicuous effort. In
'Hamlet,' moreover, both a share and a half-share of 'a fellowship in a
cry of players' are described as assets of enviable value (III. ii.
294-6). How many shares originally fell to Shakespeare there is no means
of determining. Records of later subdivisions suggest that they did not
exceed two. The Globe was an exceptionally large and popular playhouse.
It would accommodate some two thousand spectators, whose places cost them
sums varying between twopence and half a crown. The receipts were
therefore considerable, hardly less than 25 pounds daily, or some 8,000
pounds a year. According to the documents of 1635, an actor-sharer at
the Globe received above 200 pounds a year on each share, besides his
actor's salary of 180 pounds. Thus Shakespeare drew from the Globe
Theatre, at the lowest estimate, more than 500 pounds a year in all.

His interest in the Blackfriars Theatre was comparatively unimportant,
and is less easy to estimate. The often quoted documents on which
Collier depended to prove him a substantial shareholder in that playhouse
have long been proved to be forgeries. The pleas in the lawsuit of 1635
show that the Burbages, the owners, leased the Blackfriars Theatre after
its establishment in 1597 for a long term of years to the master of the
Children of the Chapel, but bought out the lessee at the end of 1609, and
then 'placed' in it 'men-players which were Hemings, Condell,
Shakespeare, etc.' To these and other actors they allotted shares in the
receipts, the shares numbering eight in all. The profits were far
smaller than at the Globe, and if Shakespeare held one share (certainty
on the point is impossible), it added not more than 100 pounds a year to
his income, and that not until 1610.

Later income.

His remuneration as dramatist between 1599 and 1611 was also by no means
contemptible. Prices paid to dramatists for plays rose rapidly in the
early years of the seventeenth century, {202} while the value of the
author's 'benefits' grew with the growing vogue of the theatre. The
exceptional popularity of Shakespeare's plays after 1599 gave him the
full advantage of higher rates of pecuniary reward in all directions, and
the seventeen plays which were produced by him between that year and the
close of his professional career in 1611 probably brought him an average
return of 20 pounds each or 340 pounds in all--nearly 30 pounds a year.
At the same time the increase in the number of Court performances under
James I, and the additional favour bestowed on Shakespeare's company, may
well have given that source of income the enhanced value of 20 pounds a
year. {203}

Thus Shakespeare in the later period of his life was earning above 600
pounds a year in money of the period. With so large a professional
income he could easily, with good management, have completed those
purchases of houses and land at Stratford on which he laid out, between
1599 and 1613, a total sum of 970 pounds, or an annual average of 70
pounds. These properties, it must be remembered, represented
investments, and he drew rent from most of them. He traded, too, in
agricultural produce. There is nothing inherently improbable in the
statement of John Ward, the seventeenth-century vicar of Stratford, that
in his last years 'he spent at the rate of a thousand a year, as I have
heard,' although we may reasonably make allowance for exaggeration in the
round figures.

Incomes of fellow-actors.

Shakespeare realised his theatrical shares several years before his death
in 1616, when he left, according to his will, 350 pounds in money in
addition to an extensive real estate and numerous personal belongings.
There was nothing exceptional in this comparative affluence. His friends
and fellow-actors, Heming and Condell, amassed equally large, if not
larger, fortunes. Burbage died in 1619 worth 300 pounds in land, besides
personal property; while a contemporary actor and theatrical proprietor,
Edward Alleyn, purchased the manor of Dulwich for 10,000 pounds (in money
of his own day), and devoted it, with much other property, to public
uses, at the same time as he made ample provision for his family out of
the residue of his estate. Gifts from patrons may have continued
occasionally to augment Shakespeare's resources, but his wealth can be
satisfactorily assigned to better attested agencies. There is no ground
for treating it as of mysterious origin. {204a}

Formation of the estate at Stratford 1601-10.

Between 1599 and 1611, while London remained Shakespeare's chief home, he
built up at Stratford a large landed estate which his purchase of New
Place had inaugurated. In 1601 his father died, being buried on
September 8. He apparently left no will, and the poet, as the eldest
son, inherited the houses in Henley Street, the only portion of the
property of the elder Shakespeare or of his wife which had not been
alienated to creditors. Shakespeare permitted his mother to reside in
one of the Henley Street houses till her death (she was buried September
9, 1608), and he derived a modest rent from the other. On May 1, 1602,
he purchased for 320 pounds of the rich landowners William and John Combe
of Stratford 107 acres of arable land near the town. The conveyance was
delivered, in the poet's absence, to his brother Gilbert, 'to the use of
the within named William Shakespere.' {204b} A third purchase quickly
followed. On September 28, 1602, at a court baron of the manor of
Rowington, one Walter Getley transferred to the poet a cottage and garden
which were situated at Chapel Lane, opposite the lower grounds of New
Place. They were held practically in fee-simple at the annual rental of
2s. 6d. It appears from the roll that Shakespeare did not attend the
manorial court held on the day fixed for the transfer of the property at
Rowington, and it was consequently stipulated then that the estate should
remain in the hands of the lady of the manor until he completed the
purchase in person. At a later period he was admitted to the copyhold,
and he settled the remainder on his two daughters in fee. In April 1610
he purchased from the Combes 20 acres of pasture land, to add to the 107
of arable land that he had acquired of the same owners in 1602.

The Stratford tithes.

As early as 1598 Abraham Sturley had suggested that Shakespeare should
purchase the tithes of Stratford. Seven years later, on July 24, 1605,
he bought for 440 pounds of Ralph Huband an unexpired term of thirty-one
years of a ninety-two years' lease of a moiety of the tithes of
Stratford, Old Stratford, Bishopton, and Welcombe. The moiety was
subject to a rent of 17 pounds to the corporation, who were the
reversionary owners on the lease's expiration, and of 5 pounds to John
Barker, the heir of a former proprietor. The investment brought
Shakespeare, under the most favourable circumstances, no more than an
annuity of 38 pounds, and the refusal of persons who claimed an interest
in the other moiety to acknowledge the full extent of their liability to
the corporation led that body to demand from the poet payments justly due
from others. After 1609 he joined with two interested persons, Richard
Lane of Awston and Thomas Greene, the town clerk of Stratford, in a suit
in Chancery to determine the exact responsibilities of all the
tithe-owners, and in 1612 they presented a bill of complaint to
Lord-chancellor Ellesmere, with what result is unknown. His acquisition
of a part-ownership in the tithes was fruitful in legal embarrassments.

Recovery of small debts.

Shakespeare inherited his father's love of litigation, and stood
rigorously by his rights in all his business relations. In March 1600 he
recovered in London a debt of 7 pounds from one John Clayton. In July
1604, in the local court at Stratford, he sued one Philip Rogers, to whom
he had supplied since the preceding March malt to the value of 1 pound
19s. 10d, and had on June 25 lent 2s. in cash. Rogers paid back 6s., and
Shakespeare sought the balance of the account, 1 pound 15s. 10d. During
1608 and 1609 he was at law with another fellow-townsman, John
Addenbroke. On February 15, 1609, Shakespeare, who was apparently
represented by his solicitor and kinsman Thomas Greene, {206a} obtained
judgment from a jury against Addenbroke for the payment of 6 pounds, and
1 pound 5s. costs, but Addenbroke left the town, and the triumph proved
barren. Shakespeare avenged himself by proceeding against one Thomas
Horneby, who had acted as the absconding debtor's bail. {206b}


Literary work in 1599.

With an inconsistency that is more apparent than real, the astute
business transactions of these years (1597-1611) synchronise with the
production of Shakespeare's noblest literary work--of his most sustained
and serious efforts in comedy, tragedy, and romance. In 1599, after
abandoning English history with 'Henry V,' he addressed himself to the
composition of his three most perfect essays in comedy--'Much Ado about
Nothing,' 'As You Like It,' and 'Twelfth Night.' Their good-humoured
tone seems to reveal their author in his happiest frame of mind; in each
the gaiety and tenderness of youthful womanhood are exhibited in
fascinating union; while Shakespeare's lyric gift bred no sweeter
melodies than the songs with which the three plays are interspersed. At
the same time each comedy enshrines such penetrating reflections on
mysterious problems of life as mark the stage of maturity in the growth
of the author's intellect. The first two of the three plays were entered
on the 'Stationers' Registers' before August 4, 1600, on which day a
prohibition was set on their publication, as well as on the publication
of 'Henry V' and of Ben Jonson's 'Every Man in his Humour.' This was one
of the many efforts of the acting company to stop the publication of
plays in the belief that the practice was injurious to their rights. The
effort was only partially successful. 'Much Ado,' like 'Henry V,' was
published before the close of the year. Neither 'As You Like It' nor
'Twelfth Night,' however, was printed till it appeared in the Folio.

'Much Ado.'

In 'Much Ado,' which appears to have been written in 1599, the brilliant
and spirited comedy of Benedick and Beatrice, and of the blundering
watchmen Dogberry and Verges, is wholly original; but the sombre story of
Hero and Claudio, about which the comic incident revolves, is drawn from
an Italian source, either from Bandello (novel. xxii.) through
Belleforest's 'Histoires Tragiques,' or from Ariosto's 'Orlando Furioso'
through Sir John Harington's translation (canto v.) Ariosto's version,
in which the injured heroine is called Ginevra, and her lover Ariodante,
had been dramatised before. According to the accounts of the Court
revels, 'A Historie of Ariodante and Ginevra was showed before her
Majestie on Shrovetuesdaie at night' in 1583. {208} Throughout
Shakespeare's play the ludicrous and serious aspects of humanity are
blended with a convincing naturalness. The popular comic actor William
Kemp filled the role of Dogberry, and Cowley appeared as Verges. In both
the Quarto of 1600 and the Folio of 1623 these actors' names are prefixed
by a copyist's error to some of the speeches allotted to the two
characters (act iv. scene ii.)

'As You Like It.'

'As You Like It,' which quickly followed, is a dramatic adaptation of
Lodge's romance, 'Rosalynde, Euphues Golden Legacie' (1590), but
Shakespeare added three new characters of first-rate interest--Jaques,
the meditative cynic; Touchstone, the most carefully elaborated of all
Shakespeare's fools; and the hoyden Audrey. Hints for the scene of
Orlando's encounter with Charles the Wrestler, and for Touchstone's
description of the diverse shapes of a lie, were clearly drawn from a
book called 'Saviolo's Practise,' a manual of the art of self-defence,
which appeared in 1595 from the pen of Vincentio Saviolo, an Italian
fencing-master in the service of the Earl of Essex. None of
Shakespeare's comedies breathes a more placid temper or approaches more
nearly to a pastoral drama. Yet there is no lack of intellectual or
poetic energy in the enunciation of the contemplative philosophy which is
cultivated in the Forest of Arden. In Rosalind, Celia, Phoebe, and
Audrey, four types of youthful womanhood are contrasted with the
liveliest humour.

'Twelfth Night.'

The date of 'Twelfth Night' is probably 1600, and its name, which has no
reference to the story, doubtless commemorates the fact that it was
designed for a Twelfth Night celebration. 'The new map with the
augmentation of the Indies,' spoken of by Maria (III. ii. 86), was a
respectful reference to the great map of the world or 'hydrographical
description' which was first issued with Hakluyt's 'Voyages' in 1599 or
1600, and first disclosed the full extent of recent explorations of the
'Indies' in the New World and the Old. {210a} Like the 'Comedy of
Errors,' 'Twelfth Night' achieved the distinction, early in its career,
of a presentation at an Inn of Court. It was produced at Middle Temple
Hall on February 2, 1601-2, and Manningham, a barrister who was present,
described the performance. {210b} Manningham wrote that the piece was
'much like the "Comedy of Errors" or "Menechmi" in Plautus, but most like
and neere to that in Italian called "Inganni."' Two sixteenth-century
Italian plays entitled 'Gl' Inganni' ('The Cheats'), and a third called
'Gl' Ingannati,' bear resemblance to 'Twelfth Night.' It is possible
that Shakespeare had recourse to the last, which was based on Bandello's
novel of Nicuola, {210c} was first published at Siena in 1538, and became
popular throughout Italy. But in all probability he drew the story
solely from the 'Historie of Apolonius and Silla,' which was related in
'Riche his Farewell to Militarie Profession' (1581). The author of that
volume, Barnabe Riche, translated the tale either direct from Bandello's
Italian novel or from the French rendering of Bandello's work in
Belleforest's 'Histoires Tragiques.' Romantic pathos, as in 'Much Ado,'
is the dominant note of the main plot of 'Twelfth Night,' but Shakespeare
neutralises the tone of sadness by his mirthful portrayal of Malvolio,
Sir Toby Belch, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Fabian, the clown Feste, and Maria,
all of whom are his own creations. The ludicrous gravity of Malvolio
proved exceptionally popular on the stage.

'Julius Caesar,' 1601.

In 1601 Shakespeare made a new departure by drawing a plot from North's
noble translation of Plutarch's 'Lives.' {211a} Plutarch is the king of
biographers, and the deference which Shakespeare paid his work by
adhering to the phraseology wherever it was practicable illustrates his
literary discrimination. On Plutarch's lives of Julius Caesar, Brutus,
and Antony, Shakespeare based his historical tragedy of 'Julius Caesar.'
Weever, in 1601, in his 'Mirror of Martyrs,' plainly refers to the
masterly speech in the Forum at Caaesar's funeral which Shakespeare put
into Antony's mouth. There is no suggestion of the speech in Plutarch;
hence the composition of 'Julius Caesar' may be held to have preceded the
issue of Weever's book in 1601. The general topic was already familiar
on the stage. Polonius told Hamlet how, when he was at the university,
he 'did enact Julius Caesar; he was kill'd in the Capitol: Brutus kill'd
him.' {211b} A play of the same title was known as early as 1589, and
was acted in 1594 by Shakespeare's company. Shakespeare's piece is a
penetrating study of political life, and, although the murder and funeral
of Caesar form the central episode and not the climax, the tragedy is
thoroughly well planned and balanced. Caesar is ironically depicted in
his dotage. The characters of Brutus, Antony, and Cassius, the real
heroes of the action, are exhibited with faultless art. The fifth act,
which presents the battle of Philippi in progress, proves ineffective on
the stage, but the reader never relaxes his interest in the fortunes of
the vanquished Brutus, whose death is the catastrophe.

While 'Julius Caesar' was winning its first laurels on the stage, the
fortunes of the London theatres were menaced by two manifestations of
unreasoning prejudice on the part of the public. The earlier
manifestation, although speciously the more serious, was in effect
innocuous. The puritans of the city of London had long agitated for the
suppression of all theatrical performances, and it seemed as if the
agitators triumphed when they induced the Privy Council on June 22, 1600,
to issue to the officers of the Corporation of London and to the justices
of the peace of Middlesex and Surrey an order forbidding the maintenance
of more than two playhouses--one in Middlesex (Alleyn's newly erected
playhouse, the 'Fortune' in Cripplegate), and the other in Surrey (the
'Globe' on the Bankside). The contemplated restriction would have
deprived very many actors of employment, and driven others to seek a
precarious livelihood in the provinces. Happily, disaster was averted by
the failure of the municipal authorities and the magistrates of Surrey
and Middlesex to make the order operative. All the London theatres that
were already in existence went on their way unchecked. {213a}

The strife between adult and boy actors.

More calamitous was a temporary reverse of fortune which Shakespeare's
company, in common with the other companies of adult actors, suffered
soon afterwards at the hands, not of fanatical enemies of the drama, but
of playgoers who were its avowed supporters. The company of boy-actors,
chiefly recruited from the choristers of the Chapel Royal, and known as
'the Children of the Chapel,' had since 1597 been installed at the new
theatre in Blackfriars, and after 1600 the fortunes of the veterans, who
occupied rival stages, were put in jeopardy by the extravagant outburst
of public favour that the boys' performances evoked. In 'Hamlet,' the
play which followed 'Julius Caesar,' Shakespeare pointed out the perils
of the situation. {213b} The adult actors, Shakespeare asserted, were
prevented from performing in London through no falling off in their
efficiency, but by the 'late innovation' of the children's vogue. {214a}
They were compelled to go on tour in the provinces, at the expense of
their revenues and reputation, because 'an aery [_i.e._ nest] of
children, little eyases [_i.e._ young hawks],' dominated the theatrical
world, and monopolised public applause. 'These are now the fashion,' the
dramatist lamented, {214b} and he made the topic the text of a reflection
on the fickleness of public taste:

HAMLET. Do the boys carry it away?

ROSENCRANTZ. Ay, that they do, my lord, Hercules and his load too.

HAMLET. It is not very strange; for my uncle is King of Denmark, and
those that would make mows at him while my father lived, give twenty,
forty, fifty, a hundred ducats apiece for his picture in little.

Jealousies in the ranks of the dramatists accentuated the actors'
difficulties. Ben Jonson was, at the end of the sixteenth century,
engaged in a fierce personal quarrel with two of his fellow dramatists,
Marston and Dekker. The adult actors generally avowed sympathy with
Jonson's foes. Jonson, by way of revenge, sought an offensive alliance
with 'the Children of the Chapel.' Under careful tuition the boys proved
capable of performing much the same pieces as the men. To 'the children'
Jonson offered in 1600 his comical satire of 'Cynthia's Revels,' in which
he held up to ridicule Dekker, Marston, and their actor-friends. The
play, when acted by 'the children' at the Blackfriars Theatre, was warmly
welcomed by the audience. Next year Jonson repeated his manoeuvre with
greater effect. He learnt that Marston and Dekker were conspiring with
the actors of Shakespeare's company to attack him in a piece called
'Satiro-Mastix, or the Untrussing of the Humourous Poet.' He anticipated
their design by producing, again with 'the Children of the Chapel,' his
'Poetaster,' which was throughout a venomous invective against his
enemies--dramatists and actors alike. Shakespeare's company retorted by
producing Dekker and Marston's 'Satiro-Mastix' at the Globe Theatre next
year. But Jonson's action had given new life to the vogue of the
children. Playgoers took sides in the struggle, and their attention was
for a season riveted, to the exclusion of topics more germane to their
province, on the actors' and dramatists' boisterous war of personalities.

Shakespeare's references to the struggle.

In his detailed references to the conflict in 'Hamlet' Shakespeare
protested against the abusive comments on the men-actors of 'the common
stages' or public theatres which were put into the children's mouths.
Rosencrantz declared that the children 'so berattle [_i.e._ assail] the
common stages--so they call them--that many wearing rapiers are afraid of
goose-quills, and dare scarce come thither [_i.e._ to the public
theatres].' Hamlet in pursuit of the theme pointed out that the writers
who encouraged the vogue of the 'child-actors' did them a poor service,
because when the boys should reach men's estate they would run the risk,
if they continued on the stage, of the same insults and neglect which now
threatened their seniors.

HAMLET. What are they children? Who maintains 'em? how are they
escoted [_i.e._ paid]? Will they pursue the quality [_i.e._ the
actor's profession] no longer than they can sing? Will they not say
afterwards, if they should grow themselves to common players--as it
is most like, if their means are no better--their writers do them
wrong to make them exclaim against their own succession?

ROSENCRANTZ. Faith, there has been much to do on both sides, and the
nation holds it no sin to tarre [_i.e._ incite] them to controversy:
there was for a while no money bid for argument, unless the poet and
the player went to cuffs in the question.

HAMLET. Is it possible?

GUILDENSTERN. O, there has been much throwing about of brains!

Shakespeare clearly favoured the adult actors in their rivalry with the
boys, but he wrote more like a disinterested spectator than an active
partisan when he made specific reference to the strife between the poet
Ben Jonson and the players. In the prologue to 'Troilus and Cressida'
which he penned in 1603, he warned his hearers, with obvious allusion to
Ben Jonson's battles, that he hesitated to identify himself with either
actor or poet. {217} Passages in Ben Jonson's 'Poetaster,' moreover,
pointedly suggest that Shakespeare cultivated so assiduously an attitude
of neutrality that Jonson acknowledged him to be qualified for the role
of peacemaker. The gentleness of disposition with which Shakespeare was
invariably credited by his friends would have well fitted him for such an

Jonson's 'Poetaster.'

Jonson figures personally in the 'Poetaster' under the name of Horace.
Episodically Horace and his friends, Tibullus and Gallus, eulogise the
work and genius of another character, Virgil, in terms so closely
resembling those which Jonson is known to have applied to Shakespeare
that they may be regarded as intended to apply to him (act v. sc. i.)
Jonson points out that Virgil, by his penetrating intuition, achieved the
great effects which others laboriously sought to reach through rules of

His learning labours not the school-like gloss
That most consists of echoing words and terms . . .
Nor any long or far-fetched circumstance--
Wrapt in the curious generalities of arts--
But a direct and analytic sum
Of all the worth and first effects of arts.
And for his poesy, 'tis so rammed with life
That it shall gather strength of life with being,
And live hereafter, more admired than now.

Tibullus gives Virgil equal credit for having in his writings touched
with telling truth upon every vicissitude of human existence.

That which he hath writ
Is with such judgment laboured and distilled
Through all the needful uses of our lives
That, could a man remember but his lines,
He should not touch at any serious point
But he might breathe his spirit out of him.

Finally, Virgil in the play is nominated by Caesar to act as judge
between Horace and his libellers, and he advises the administration of
purging pills to the offenders. That course of treatment is adopted with
satisfactory results. {218}

Shakespeare's alleged partisanship.

As against this interpretation, one contemporary witness has been held to
testify that Shakespeare stemmed the tide of Jonson's embittered activity
by no peace-making interposition, but by joining his foes, and by
administering to him, with their aid, the identical course of medicine
which in the 'Poetaster' is meted out to his enemies. In the same year
(1601) as the 'Poetaster' was produced, 'The Return from Parnassus'--a
third piece in a trilogy of plays--was 'acted by the students in St.
John's College, Cambridge.' In this piece, as in its two predecessors,
Shakespeare received, both as a playwright and a poet, high commendation,
although his poems were judged to reflect somewhat too largely 'love's
lazy foolish languishment.' The actor Burbage was introduced in his own
name instructing an aspirant to the actor's profession in the part of
Richard the Third, and the familiar lines from Shakespeare's play--

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York--

are recited by the pupil as part of his lesson. Subsequently in a prose
dialogue between Shakespeare's fellow-actors Burbage and Kempe, Kempe
remarks of university dramatists, 'Why, here's our fellow Shakespeare
puts them all down; aye, and Ben Jonson, too. O! that Ben Jonson is a
pestilent fellow. He brought up Horace, giving the poets a pill; but our
fellow Shakespeare hath given him a purge that made him bewray his
credit.' Burbage adds: 'He is a shrewd fellow indeed.' This perplexing
passage has been held to mean that Shakespeare took a decisive part
against Jonson in the controversy with Dekker and Dekker's actor friends.
But such a conclusion is nowhere corroborated, and seems to be confuted
by the eulogies of Virgil in the 'Poetaster' and by the general handling
of the theme in 'Hamlet.' The words quoted from 'The Return from
Parnassus' hardly admit of a literal interpretation. Probably the
'purge' that Shakespeare was alleged by the author of 'The Return from
Parnassus' to have given Jonson meant no more than that Shakespeare had
signally outstripped Jonson in popular esteem. As the author of 'Julius
Caesar,' he had just proved his command of topics that were peculiarly
suited to Jonson's vein, {220} and had in fact outrun his churlish
comrade on his own ground.

'Hamlet,' 1602.

At any rate, in the tragedy that Shakespeare brought out in the year
following the production of 'Julius Caesar,' he finally left Jonson and
all friends and foes lagging far behind both in achievement and
reputation. This new exhibition of the force of his genius
re-established, too, the ascendency of the adult actors who interpreted
his work, and the boys' supremacy was quickly brought to an end. In 1602
Shakespeare produced 'Hamlet,' 'that piece of his which most kindled
English hearts.' The story of the Prince of Denmark had been popular on
the stage as early as 1589 in a lost dramatic version by another
writer--doubtless Thomas Kyd, whose tragedies of blood, 'The Spanish
Tragedy' and 'Jeronimo,' long held the Elizabethan stage. To that lost
version of 'Hamlet' Shakespeare's tragedy certainly owed much. {221} The
story was also accessible in the 'Histoires Tragiques' of Belleforest,
who adapted it from the 'Historia Danica' of Saxo Grammaticus. {222} No
English translation of Belleforest's 'Hystorie of Hamblet' appeared
before 1608; Shakespeare doubtless read it in the French. But his
authorities give little hint of what was to emerge from his study of

The problem of its publication.
The First Quarto, 1603.

Burbage created the title-part in Shakespeare's tragedy, and its success
on the stage led to the play's publication immediately afterwards. The
bibliography of 'Hamlet' offers a puzzling problem. On July 26, 1602, 'A
Book called the Revenge of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, as it was lately
acted by the Lord Chamberlain his Servants,' was entered on the
Stationers' Company's Registers, and it was published in quarto next year
by N[icholas] L[ing] and John Trundell. The title-page stated that the
piece had been 'acted divers times in the city of London, as also in the
two Universities of Cambridge and Oxford and elsewhere.' The text here
appeared in a rough and imperfect state. In all probability it was a
piratical and carelessly transcribed copy of Shakespeare's first draft of
the play, in which he drew largely on the older piece.

The Second Quarto, 1604.

A revised version, printed from a more complete and accurate manuscript,
was published in 1604 as 'The Tragical History of Hamlet Prince of
Denmark, by William Shakespeare, newly imprinted and enlarged to almost
as much again as it was, according to the true and perfect copy.' This
was printed by I[ames] R[oberts] for the publisher N[icholas] L[ing].
The concluding words--'according to the true and perfect copy'--of the
title-page of the second quarto were intended to stamp its predecessor as
surreptitious and unauthentic. But it is clear that the Second Quarto
was not a perfect version of the play. It was itself printed from a copy
which had been curtailed for acting purposes.

The Folio Version.

A third version (long the _textus receptus_) figured in the Folio of
1623. Here many passages, not to be found in the quartos, appear for the
first time, but a few others that appear in the quartos are omitted. The
Folio text probably came nearest to the original manuscript; but it, too,
followed an acting copy which had been abbreviated somewhat less
drastically than the Second Quarto and in a different fashion. {224}
Theobald in his 'Shakespeare Restored' (1726) made the first scholarly
attempt to form a text from a collation of the First Folio with the
Second Quarto, and Theobald's text with further embellishments by Sir
Thomas Hanmer, Edward Capell, and the Cambridge editors of 1866, is now
generally adopted.

Popularity of 'Hamlet.'

'Hamlet' was the only drama by Shakespeare that was acted in his lifetime
at the two Universities. It has since attracted more attention from
actors, playgoers, and readers of all capacities than any other of
Shakespeare's plays. Its world-wide popularity from its author's day to
our own, when it is as warmly welcomed in the theatres of France and
Germany as in those of England and America, is the most striking of the
many testimonies to the eminence of Shakespeare's dramatic instinct. At
a first glance there seems little in the play to attract the uneducated
or the unreflecting. 'Hamlet' is mainly a psychological effort, a study
of the reflective temperament in excess. The action develops slowly; at
times there is no movement at all. The piece is the longest of
Shakespeare's plays, reaching a total of over 3,900 lines. It is thus
some nine hundred lines longer than 'Antony and Cleopatra'--the play by
Shakespeare that approaches 'Hamlet' more closely in numerical strength
of lines. At the same time the total length of Hamlet's speeches far
exceeds that of those allotted by Shakespeare to any other of his
characters. Humorous relief is, it is true, effectively supplied to the
tragic theme by Polonius and the grave-diggers, and if the topical
references to contemporary theatrical history (II. ii. 350-89) could only
count on an appreciative reception from an Elizabethan audience, the
pungent censure of actors' perennial defects is calculated to catch the
ear of the average playgoer of all ages. But it is not to these
subsidiary features that the universality of the play's vogue can be
attributed. It is the intensity of interest which Shakespeare contrives
to excite in the character of the hero that explains the position of the
play in popular esteem. The play's unrivalled power of attraction lies
in the pathetic fascination exerted on minds of almost every calibre by
the central figure--a high-born youth of chivalric instincts and finely
developed intellect, who, when stirred to avenge in action a desperate
private wrong, is foiled by introspective workings of the brain that
paralyse the will.

'Troilus and Cressida.'

Although the difficulties of determining the date of 'Troilus and
Cressida' are very great, there are many grounds for assigning its
composition to the early days of 1603. In 1599 Dekker and Chettle were
engaged by Henslowe to prepare for the Earl of Nottingham's company--a
rival of Shakespeare's company--a play of 'Troilus and Cressida,' of
which no trace survives. It doubtless suggested the topic to
Shakespeare. On February 7, 1602-3, James Roberts obtained a license for
'the booke of Troilus and Cresseda as yt is acted by my Lord Chamberlens
men,' _i.e._ Shakespeare's company. {226a} Roberts printed the Second
Quarto of 'Hamlet' and others of Shakespeare's plays; but his effort to
publish 'Troilus' proved abortive owing to the interposition of the
players. Roberts's 'book' was probably Shakespeare's play. The metrical
characteristics of Shakespeare's 'Troilus and Cressida'--the regularity
of the blank verse--powerfully confirm the date of composition which
Roberts's license suggests. Six years later, however, on January 28,
1608-9, a new license for the issue of 'a booke called the history of
Troylus and Cressida' was granted to other publishers, Richard Bonian and
Henry Walley, {226b} and these publishers, more fortunate than Roberts
soon printed a quarto with Shakespeare's full name as author. The text
seems fairly authentic, but exceptional obscurity attaches to the
circumstances of the publication. Some copies of the book bear an
ordinary type of title-page stating that the piece was printed 'as it was
acted by the King's majesties servants at the Globe.' But in other
copies, which differ in no way in regard to the text of the play, there
was substituted for this title-page a more pretentious announcement
running: 'The famous Historie of Troylus and Cresseid, excellently
expressing the beginning of their loues with the conceited wooing of
Pandarus, prince of Lacia.' After this pompous title-page there was
inserted, for the first and only time in the case of a play by
Shakespeare that was published in his lifetime, an advertisement or
preface. In this interpolated page an anonymous scribe, writing in the
name of the publishers, paid bombastic and high-flown compliments to
Shakespeare as a writer of 'comedies,' and defiantly boasted that the
'grand possessers'--_i.e._ the owners--of the manuscript deprecated its
publication. By way of enhancing the value of what were obviously stolen
wares, it was falsely added that the piece was new and unacted. This
address was possibly the brazen reply of the publishers to a more than
usually emphatic protest on the part of players or dramatist against the
printing of the piece. The editors of the Folio evinced distrust of the
Quarto edition by printing their text from a different copy showing many
deviations, which were not always for the better.

Treatment of the theme.

The work, which in point of construction shows signs of haste, and in
style is exceptionally unequal, is the least attractive of the efforts of
Shakespeare's middle life. The story is based on a romantic legend of
the Trojan war, which is of mediaeval origin. Shakespeare had possibly
read Chapman's translation of Homer's 'Iliad,' but he owed his plot to
Chaucer's 'Troilus and Cresseid' and Lydgate's 'Troy Book.' In defiance
of his authorities he presented Cressida as a heartless coquette; the
poets who had previously treated her story--Boccaccio, Chaucer, Lydgate,
and Robert Henryson--had imagined her as a tender-hearted, if frail,
beauty, with claims on their pity rather than on their scorn. But
Shakespeare's innovation is dramatically effective, and accords with
strictly moral canons. The charge frequently brought against the
dramatist that in 'Troilus and Cressida' he cynically invested the Greek
heroes of classical antiquity with contemptible characteristics is ill
supported by the text of the play. Ulysses, Nestor, and Agamemnon figure
in Shakespeare's play as brave generals and sagacious statesmen, and in
their speeches Shakespeare concentrated a marvellous wealth of pithily
expressed philosophy, much of which has fortunately obtained proverbial
currency. Shakespeare's conception of the Greeks followed traditional
lines except in the case of Achilles, whom he transforms into a brutal
coward. And that portrait quite legitimately interpreted the selfish,
unreasoning, and exorbitant pride with which the warrior was credited by
Homer, and his imitators.

Shakespeare's treatment of his theme cannot therefore be fairly
construed, as some critics construe it, into a petty-minded protest
against the honour paid to the ancient Greeks and to the form and
sentiment of their literature by more learned dramatists of the day, like
Ben Jonson and Chapman. Although Shakespeare knew the Homeric version of
the Trojan war, he worked in 'Troilus and Cressida' upon a mediaeval
romance, which was practically uninfluenced either for good or evil by
the classical spirit. {228}

Queen Elizabeth's death, March 26, 1603.

Despite the association of Shakespeare's company with the rebellion of
1601, and its difficulties with the children of the Chapel Royal, he and
his fellow actors retained their hold on Court favour till the close of
Elizabeth's reign. As late as February 2, 1603, the company entertained
the dying Queen at Richmond. Her death on March 26, 1603, drew from
Shakespeare's early eulogist, Chettle, a vain appeal to him under the
fanciful name of Melicert, to

Drop from his honied muse one sable teare,
To mourne her death that graced his desert,
And to his laies opened her royal eare. {230}

But, except on sentimental grounds, the Queen's death justified no
lamentation on the part of Shakespeare. On the withdrawal of one royal
patron he and his friends at once found another, who proved far more
liberal and appreciative.

James I's patronage.

On May 19, 1603, James I, very soon after his accession, extended to
Shakespeare and other members of the Lord Chamberlain's company a very
marked and valuable recognition. To them he granted under royal letters
patent a license 'freely to use and exercise the arte and facultie of
playing comedies, tragedies, histories, enterludes, moralls, pastoralles,
stage-plaies, and such other like as they have already studied, or
hereafter shall use or studie as well for the recreation of our loving
subjectes as for our solace and pleasure, when we shall thinke good to
see them during our pleasure.' The Globe Theatre was noted as the
customary scene of their labours, but permission was granted to them to
perform in the town-hall or moot-hall of any country town. Nine actors
are named. Lawrence Fletcher stands first on the list; he had already
performed before James in Scotland in 1599 and 1601. Shakespeare comes
second and Burbage third. The company to which they belonged was
thenceforth styled the King's company; its members became 'the King's
Servants' and they took rank with the Grooms of the Chamber. {231}
Shakespeare's plays were thenceforth repeatedly performed in James's
presence, and Oldys related that James wrote Shakespeare a letter in his
own hand, which was at one time in the possession of Sir William
D'Avenant, and afterwards, according to Lintot, in that of John
Sheffield, first duke of Buckingham.

In the autumn and winter of 1603 the prevalence of the plague led to the
closing of the theatres in London. The King's players were compelled to
make a prolonged tour in the provinces, which entailed some loss of
income. For two months from the third week in October, the Court was
temporarily installed at Wilton, the residence of William Herbert, third
earl of Pembroke, and late in November the company was summoned by the
royal officers to perform in the royal presence. The actors travelled
from Mortlake to Salisbury 'unto the Courte aforesaide,' and their
performance took place at Wilton House on December 2. They received next
day 'upon the Councells warrant' the large sum of 30 pounds 'by way of
his majesties reward.' {232a} Many other gracious marks of royal favour
followed. On March 15, 1604, Shakespeare and eight other actors of the
company walked from the Tower of London to Westminster in the procession
which accompanied the King on his formal entry into London. Each actor
received four and a half yards of scarlet cloth to wear as a cloak on the
occasion, and in the document authorising the grant Shakespeare's name
stands first on the list. {232b} The dramatist Dekker was author of a
somewhat bombastic account of the elaborate ceremonial, which rapidly ran
through three editions. On April 9, 1604, the King gave further proof of
his friendly interest in the fortunes of his actors by causing an
official letter to be sent to the Lord Mayor of London and the Justices
of the Peace for Middlesex and Surrey, bidding them 'permit and suffer'
the King's players to 'exercise their playes' at their 'usual house,' the
Globe. {233a} Four months later--in August--every member of the company
was summoned by the King's order to attend at Somerset House during the
fortnight's sojourn there of the Spanish ambassador extraordinary, Juan
Fernandez de Velasco, duke de Frias, and Constable of Castile, who came
to London to ratify the treaty of peace between England and Spain, and
was magnificently entertained by the English Court. {233b} Between All
Saints' Day [November 1] and the ensuing Shrove Tuesday, which fell early
in February 1605, Shakespeare's company gave no fewer than eleven
performances at Whitehall in the royal presence.


'Othello' and 'Measure for Measure.'

Under the incentive of such exalted patronage, Shakespeare's activity
redoubled, but his work shows none of the conventional marks of
literature that is produced in the blaze of Court favour. The first six
years of the new reign saw him absorbed in the highest themes of tragedy,
and an unparalleled intensity and energy, which bore few traces of the
trammels of a Court, thenceforth illumined every scene that he contrived.
To 1604 the composition of two plays can be confidently assigned, one of
which--'Othello'--ranks with Shakespeare's greatest achievements; while
the other--'Measure for Measure'--although as a whole far inferior to
'Othello,' contains one of the finest scenes (between Angelo and
Isabella, II. ii. 43 sq.) and one of the greatest speeches (Claudio on
the fear of death, III. i. 116-30) in the range of Shakespearean drama.
'Othello' was doubtless the first new piece by Shakespeare that was acted
before James. It was produced at Whitehall on November 1. 'Measure for
Measure' followed on December 26. {235} Neither was printed in
Shakespeare's lifetime. The plots of both ultimately come from the same
Italian collection of novels--Giraldi Cinthio's 'Hecatommithi,' which was
first published in 1565.

Cinthio's painful story of 'Othello' (decad. iii. nov. 3) is not known to
have been translated into English before Shakespeare dramatised it. He
followed its main drift with fidelity, but he introduced the new
characters of Roderigo and Emilia, and he invested the catastrophe with
new and fearful intensity by making Iago's cruel treachery known to
Othello at the last, after Iago's perfidy has impelled the noble-hearted
Moor in his groundless jealousy to murder his gentle and innocent wife
Desdemona. Iago became in Shakespeare's hands the subtlest of all
studies of intellectual villainy and hypocrisy. The whole tragedy
displays to magnificent advantage the dramatist's fully matured powers.
An unfaltering equilibrium is maintained in the treatment of plot and
characters alike.

Cinthio made the perilous story of 'Measure for Measure' the subject not
only of a romance, but of a tragedy called 'Epitia.' Before Shakespeare
wrote his play, Cinthio's romance had been twice rendered into English by
George Whetstone. Whetstone had not only given a somewhat altered
version of the Italian romance in his unwieldy play of 'Promos and
Cassandra' (in two parts of five acts each, 1578), but he had also freely
translated it in his collection of prose tales, 'Heptameron of Civil
Discources' (1582). Yet there is every likelihood that Shakespeare also
knew Cinthio's play, which, unlike his romance, was untranslated; the
leading character, who is by Shakespeare christened Angelo, was known by
another name to Cinthio in his story, but Cinthio in his play (and not in
his novel) gives the character a sister named Angela, which doubtless
suggested Shakespeare's designation. {237} In the hands of Shakespeare's
predecessors the tale is a sordid record of lust and cruelty. But
Shakespeare prudently showed scant respect for their handling of the
narrative. By diverting the course of the plot at a critical point he
not merely proved his artistic ingenuity, but gave dramatic dignity and
moral elevation to a degraded and repellent theme. In the old versions
Isabella yields her virtue as the price of her brother's life. The
central fact of Shakespeare's play is Isabella's inflexible and
unconditional chastity. Other of Shakespeare's alterations, like the
Duke's abrupt proposal to marry Isabella, seem hastily conceived. But
his creation of the pathetic character of Mariana 'of the moated
grange'--the legally affianced bride of Angelo, Isabella's would-be
seducer--skilfully excludes the possibility of a settlement (as in the
old stories) between Isabella and Angelo on terms of marriage.
Shakespeare's argument is throughout philosophically subtle. The poetic
eloquence in which Isabella and the Duke pay homage to the virtue of
chastity, and the many expositions of the corruption with which unchecked
sexual passion threatens society, alternate with coarsely comic
interludes which suggest the vanity of seeking to efface natural
instincts by the coercion of law. There is little in the play that seems
designed to recommend it to the Court before which it was first
performed. But the two emphatic references to a ruler's dislike of mobs,
despite his love of his people, were perhaps penned in deferential
allusion to James I, whose horror of crowds was notorious. In act i. sc.
i. 67-72 the Duke remarks:

I love the people,
But do not like to stage me to their eyes.
Though it do well, I do not relish well
Their loud applause and aves vehement.
Nor do I think the man of safe discretion
That does affect it.

Of like tenor is the succeeding speech of Angelo (act ii. sc. iv. 27-30):

The general [_i.e._ the public], subject to a well-wish'd king, . . .
Crowd to his presence, where their untaught love
Must needs appear offence.


In 'Macbeth,' his 'great epic drama,' which he began in 1605 and
completed next year, Shakespeare employed a setting wholly in harmony
with the accession of a Scottish king. The story was drawn from
Holinshed's 'Chronicle of Scottish History,' with occasional reference,
perhaps, to earlier Scottish sources. {239} The supernatural machinery
of the three witches accorded with the King's superstitious faith in
demonology; the dramatist lavished his sympathy on Banquo, James's
ancestor; while Macbeth's vision of kings who carry 'twofold balls and
treble sceptres' (iv. i. 20) plainly adverted to the union of Scotland
with England and Ireland under James's sway. The allusion by the porter
(ii. iii. 9) to the 'equivocator . . . who committed treason' was perhaps
suggested by the notorious defence of the doctrine of equivocation made
by the Jesuit Henry Garnett, who was executed early in 1606 for his share
in the 'Gunpowder Plot.' The piece was not printed until 1623. It is in
its existing shape by far the shortest of all Shakespeare's tragedies,
('Hamlet' is nearly twice as long) and it is possible that it survives
only in an abbreviated acting version. Much scenic elaboration
characterised the production. Dr. Simon Forman witnessed a performance
of the tragedy at the Globe in April 1611, and noted that Macbeth and
Banquo entered the stage on horseback, and that Banquo's ghost was
materially represented (iii. iv. 40 seq.) Like 'Othello,' the play ranks
with the noblest tragedies either of the modern or the ancient world.
The characters of hero and heroine--Macbeth and his wife--are depicted
with the utmost subtlety and insight. In three points 'Macbeth' differs
somewhat from other of Shakespeare's productions in the great class of
literature to which it belongs. The interweaving with the tragic story
of supernatural interludes in which Fate is weirdly personified is not
exactly matched in any other of Shakespeare's tragedies. In the second
place, the action proceeds with a rapidity that is wholly without
parallel in the rest of Shakespeare's plays. Nowhere, moreover, has
Shakespeare introduced comic relief into a tragedy with bolder effect
than in the porter's speech after the murder of Duncan (II. iii. I seq.)
The theory that this passage was from another hand does not merit
acceptance. {240} It cannot, however, be overlooked that the second
scene of the first act--Duncan's interview with the 'bleeding
sergeant'--falls so far below the style of the rest of the play as to
suggest that it was an interpolation by a hack of the theatre. The
resemblances between Thomas Middleton's later play of 'The Witch' (1610)
and portions of 'Macbeth' may safely be ascribed to plagiarism on
Middleton's part. Of two songs which, according to the stage directions,
were to be sung during the representation of 'Macbeth' (III. v. and IV.
i.), only the first line of each is noted there, but songs beginning with
the same lines are set out in full in Middleton's play; they were
probably by Middleton, and were interpolated by actors in a stage version
of 'Macbeth' after its original production.

'King Lear.'

'King Lear,' in which Shakespeare's tragic genius moved without any
faltering on Titanic heights, was written during 1606, and was produced
before the Court at Whitehall on the night of December 26 of that year.
{241a} It was entered on the 'Stationers' Registers' on November 26,
1607, and two imperfect editions, published by Nathaniel Butter, appeared
in the following year; neither exactly corresponds with the other or with
the improved and fairly satisfactory text of the Folio. The three
versions present three different playhouse transcripts. Like its
immediate predecessor, 'Macbeth,' the tragedy was mainly founded on
Holinshed's 'Chronicle.' The leading theme had been dramatised as early
as 1593, but Shakespeare's attention was no doubt directed to it by the
publication of a crude dramatic adaptation of Holinshed's version in 1605
under the title of 'The True Chronicle History of King Leir and his three
Daughters--Gonorill, Ragan, and Cordella.' Shakespeare did not adhere
closely to his original. He invested the tale of Lear with a hopelessly
tragic conclusion, and on it he grafted the equally distressing tale of
Gloucester and his two sons, which he drew from Sidney's 'Arcadia.'
{241b} Hints for the speeches of Edgar when feigning madness were drawn
from Harsnet's 'Declaration of Popish Impostures,' 1603. In every act of
'Lear' the pity and terror of which tragedy is capable reach their
climax. Only one who has something of the Shakespearean gift of language
could adequately characterise the scenes of agony--'the living
martyrdom'--to which the fiendish ingratitude of his daughters condemns
the abdicated king--'a very foolish, fond old man, fourscore and upward.'
The elemental passions burst forth in his utterances with all the
vehemence of the volcanic tempest which beats about his defenceless head
in the scene on the heath. The brutal blinding of Gloucester by Cornwall
exceeds in horror any other situation that Shakespeare created, if we
assume that he was not responsible for the like scenes of mutilation in
'Titus Andronicus.' At no point in 'Lear' is there any loosening of the
tragic tension. The faithful half-witted lad who serves the king as his
fool plays the jesting chorus on his master's fortunes in penetrating
earnest and deepens the desolating pathos.

'Timon of Athens.'

Although Shakespeare's powers showed no sign of exhaustion, he reverted
in the year following the colossal effort of 'Lear' (1607) to his earlier
habit of collaboration, and with another's aid composed two
dramas--'Timon of Athens' and 'Pericles.' An extant play on the subject
of 'Timon of Athens' was composed in 1600, {242} but there is nothing to
show that Shakespeare and his coadjutor were acquainted with it. They
doubtless derived a part of their story from Painter's 'Palace of
Pleasure,' and from a short digression in Plutarch's 'Life of Marc
Antony,' where Antony is described as emulating the life and example of
'Timon Misanthropos the Athenian.' The dramatists may, too, have known a
dialogue of Lucian entitled 'Timon,' which Boiardo had previously
converted into a comedy under the name of 'Il Timone.' Internal evidence
makes it clear that Shakespeare's colleague was responsible for nearly
the whole of acts III. and V. But the character of Timon himself and all
the scenes which he dominates are from Shakespeare's pen. Timon is cast
in the mould of Lear.


There seems some ground for the belief that Shakespeare's coadjutor in
'Timon' was George Wilkins, a writer of ill-developed dramatic power,
who, in 'The Miseries of Enforced Marriage' (1607), first treated the
story that afterwards served for the plot of 'The Yorkshire Tragedy.' At
any rate, Wilkins may safely be credited with portions of 'Pericles,' a
romantic play which can be referred to the same year as 'Timon.'
Shakespeare contributed only acts III. and V. and parts of IV., which
together form a self-contained whole, and do not combine satisfactorily
with the remaining scenes. The presence of a third hand, of inferior
merit to Wilkins, has been suspected, and to this collaborator (perhaps
William Rowley, a professional reviser of plays who could show capacity
on occasion) are best assigned the three scenes of purposeless coarseness
which take place in or before a brothel (IV. ii., v. and vi.) From so
distributed a responsibility the piece naturally suffers. It lacks
homogeneity, and the story is helped out by dumb shows and prologues.
But a matured felicity of expression characterises Shakespeare's own
contributions, narrating the romantic quest of Pericles for his daughter
Marina, who was born and abandoned in a shipwreck. At many points he
here anticipated his latest dramatic effects. The shipwreck is depicted
(IV. i.) as impressively as in the 'Tempest,' and Marina and her mother
Thaisa enjoy many experiences in common with Perdita and Hermione in the
'Winter's Tale.' The prologues, which were not by Shakespeare, were
spoken by an actor representing the mediaeval poet John Gower, who in the
fourteenth century had versified Pericles's story in his 'Confessio
Amantis' under the title of 'Apollonius of Tyre.' It is also found in a
prose translation (from the French), which was printed in Lawrence
Twyne's 'Patterne of Painfull Adventures' in 1576, and again in 1607.
After the play was produced, George Wilkins, one of the alleged
coadjutors, based on it a novel called 'The Painful Adventures of
Pericles, Prynce of Tyre, being the True History of the Play of Pericles
as it was lately presented by the worthy and ancient Poet, John Gower'
(1608). The play was issued as by William Shakespeare in a mangled form
in 1608, and again in 1611, 1619, 1630, and 1635. It was not included in
Shakespeare's collected works till 1664.

'Antony and Cleopatra.'

In May 1608 Edward Blount entered in the 'Stationers' Registers,' by the
authority of Sir George Buc, the licenser of plays, 'a booke called
"Anthony and Cleopatra."' No copy of this date is known, and once again
the company probably hindered the publication. The play was first
printed in the folio of 1623. The source of the tragedy is the life of
Antonius in North's 'Plutarch.' Shakespeare closely followed the
historical narrative, and assimilated not merely its temper, but, in the
first three acts, much of its phraseology. A few short scenes are
original, but there is no detail in such a passage, for example, as
Enobarbus's gorgeous description of the pageant of Cleopatra's voyage up
the Cydnus to meet Antony (II. ii. 194 seq.), which is not to be matched
in Plutarch. In the fourth and fifth acts Shakespeare's method changes
and he expands his material with magnificent freedom. {245} The whole
theme is in his hands instinct with a dramatic grandeur which lifts into
sublimity even Cleopatra's moral worthlessness and Antony's criminal
infatuation. The terse and caustic comments which Antony's level-headed
friend Enobarbus, in the role of chorus, passes on the action accentuate
its significance. Into the smallest as into the greatest personages
Shakespeare breathed all his vitalising fire. The 'happy valiancy' of
the style, too--to use Coleridge's admirable phrase--sets the tragedy
very near the zenith of Shakespeare's achievement, and while
differentiating it from 'Macbeth,' 'Othello,' and 'Lear,' renders it a
very formidable rival.


'Coriolanus' (first printed from a singularly bad text in 1623) similarly
owes its origin to the biography of the hero in North's 'Plutarch,'
although Shakespeare may have first met the story in Painter's 'Palace of
Pleasure' (No. iv.) He again adhered to the text of Plutarch with the
utmost literalness, and at times--even in the great crises of the
action--repeated North's translation word for word. {246} But the
humorous scenes are wholly of Shakespeare's invention, and the course of
the narrative was at times slightly changed for purposes of dramatic
effect. The metrical characteristics prove the play to have been written
about the same period as 'Antony and Cleopatra,' probably in 1609. In
its austere temper it contrasts at all points with its predecessor. The
courageous self-reliance of Coriolanus's mother, Volumnia, is severely
contrasted with the submissive gentleness of Virgilia, Coriolanus's wife.
The hero falls a victim to no sensual flaw, but to unchecked pride of
caste, and there is a searching irony in the emphasis laid on the ignoble
temper of the rabble, who procure his overthrow. By way of foil, the
speeches of Menenius give dignified expression to the maturest political
wisdom. The dramatic interest throughout is as single and as
unflaggingly sustained as in 'Othello.'


The latest plays.

In 'Cymbeline,' 'The Winter's Tale,' and 'The Tempest,' the three latest
plays that came from his unaided pen, Shakespeare dealt with romantic
themes which all end happily, but he instilled into them a pathos which
sets them in a category of their own apart alike from comedy and tragedy.
The placidity of tone conspicuous in these three plays (none of which was
published in his lifetime) has been often contrasted with the storm and
stress of the great tragedies that preceded them. But the commonly
accepted theory that traces in this change of tone a corresponding
development in the author's own emotions ignores the objectivity of
Shakespeare's dramatic work. All phases of feeling lay within the scope
of his intuition, and the successive order in which he approached them
bore no explicable relation to substantive incident in his private life
or experience. In middle life, his temperament, like that of other men,
acquired a larger measure of gravity and his thought took a profounder
cast than characterised it in youth. The highest topics of tragedy were
naturally more congenial to him, and were certain of a surer handling
when he was nearing his fortieth birthday than at an earlier age. The
serenity of meditative romance was more in harmony with the fifth decade
of his years than with the second or third. But no more direct or
definite connection can be discerned between the progressive stages of
his work and the progressive stages of his life. To seek in his
biography for a chain of events which should be calculated to stir in his
own soul all or any of the tempestuous passions that animate his greatest
plays is to under-estimate and to misapprehend the resistless might of
his creative genius.


In 'Cymbeline' Shakespeare freely adapted a fragment of British history
taken from Holinshed, interweaving with it a story from Boccaccio's
'Decameron' (day 2, novel ix.) Ginevra, whose falsely suspected chastity
is the theme of the Italian novel, corresponds to Shakespeare's Imogen.
Her story is also told in the tract called 'Westward for Smelts,' which
had already been laid under contribution by Shakespeare in the 'Merry
Wives.' {249} The by-plot of the banishment of the lord, Belarius, who
in revenge for his expatriation kidnapped the king's young sons and
brought them up with him in the recesses of the mountains, is
Shakespeare's invention. Although most of the scenes are laid in Britain
in the first century before the Christian era, there is no pretence of
historical vraisemblance. With an almost ludicrous inappropriateness the
British king's courtiers make merry with technical terms peculiar to
Calvinistic theology, like 'grace' and 'election.' {250} The action,
which, owing to the combination of three threads of narrative, is
exceptionally varied and intricate, wholly belongs to the region of
romance. On Imogen, who is the central figure of the play, Shakespeare
lavished all the fascination of his genius. She is the crown and flower
of his conception of tender and artless womanhood. Her husband
Posthumus, her rejected lover Cloten, her would-be seducer Iachimo are
contrasted with her and with each other with consummate ingenuity. The
mountainous retreat in which Belarius and his fascinating boy-companions
play their part has points of resemblance to the Forest of Arden in 'As
You Like It;' but life throughout 'Cymbeline' is grimly earnest, and the
mountains nurture little of the contemplative quiet which characterises
existence in the Forest of Arden. The play contains the splendid lyric
'Fear no more the heat of the sun' (IV. ii. 258 seq.) The 'pitiful
mummery' of the vision of Posthumus (V. iv. 30 seq.) must have been
supplied by another hand. Dr. Forman, the astrologer who kept notes of
some of his experiences as a playgoer, saw 'Cymbeline' acted either in
1610 or 1611.

'A Winter's Tale.'

'A Winter's Tale' was seen by Dr. Forman at the Globe on May 15, 1611,
and it appears to have been acted at court on November 5 following.
{251a} It is based upon Greene's popular romance which was called
'Pandosto' in the first edition of 1588, and in numerous later editions,
but was ultimately in 1648 re-christened 'Dorastus and Fawnia.'
Shakespeare followed Greene, his early foe, in allotting a seashore to
Bohemia--an error over which Ben Jonson and many later critics have made
merry. {251b} A few lines were obviously drawn from that story of
Boccaccio with which Shakespeare had dealt just before in 'Cymbeline.'
{251c} But Shakespeare created the high-spirited Paulina and the
thievish pedlar Autolycus, whose seductive roguery has become proverbial,
and he invented the reconciliation of Leontes, the irrationally jealous
husband, with Hermione, his wife, whose dignified resignation and
forbearance lend the story its intense pathos. In the boy Mamilius, the
poet depicted childhood in its most attractive guise, while the courtship
of Florizel and Perdita is the perfection of gentle romance. The
freshness of the pastoral incident surpasses that of all Shakespeare's
presentations of country life.


'The Tempest' was probably the latest drama that Shakespeare completed.
In the summer of 1609 a fleet bound for Virginia, under the command of
Sir George Somers, was overtaken by a storm off the West Indies, and the
admiral's ship, the 'Sea-Venture,' was driven on the coast of the
hitherto unknown Bermuda Isles. There they remained ten months,
pleasurably impressed by the mild beauty of the climate, but sorely tried
by the hogs which overran the island and by mysterious noises which led
them to imagine that spirits and devils had made the island their home.
Somers and his men were given up for lost, but they escaped from Bermuda
in two boats of cedar to Virginia in May 1610, and the news of their
adventures and of their safety was carried to England by some of the
seamen in September 1610. The sailors' arrival created vast public
excitement in London. At least five accounts were soon published of the
shipwreck and of the mysterious island, previously uninhabited by man,
which had proved the salvation of the expedition. 'A Discovery of the
Bermudas, otherwise called the Ile of Divels,' written by Sylvester
Jourdain or Jourdan, one of the survivors, appeared as early as October.
A second pamphlet describing the disaster was issued by the Council of
the Virginia Company in December, and a third by one of the leaders of
the expedition, Sir Thomas Gates. Shakespeare, who mentions the 'still
vexed Bermoothes' (I. i. 229), incorporated in 'The Tempest' many hints
from Jourdain, Gates, and the other pamphleteers. The references to the
gentle climate of the island on which Prospero is cast away, and to the
spirits and devils that infested it, seem to render its identification
with the newly discovered Bermudas unquestionable. But Shakespeare
incorporated the result of study of other books of travel. The name of
the god Setebos whom Caliban worships is drawn from Eden's translation of
Magellan's 'Voyage to the South Pole' (in the 'Historie of Travell,'
1577), where the giants of Patagonia are described as worshipping a
'great devil they call Setebos.' No source for the complete plot has
been discovered, but the German writer, Jacob Ayrer, who died in 1605,
dramatised a somewhat similar story in 'Die schone Sidea,' where the
adventures of Prospero, Ferdinand, Ariel, and Miranda are roughly
anticipated. {253a} English actors were performing at Nuremberg, where
Ayrer lived, in 1604 and 1606, and may have brought reports of the piece
to Shakespeare. Or perhaps both English and German plays had a common
origin in some novel that has not yet been traced. Gonzalo's description
of an ideal commonwealth (II. i. 147 seq.) is derived from Florio's
translation of Montaigne's essays (1603), while into Prospero's great
speech renouncing his practice of magical art (V. i. 33-57) Shakespeare
wrought reminiscences of Golding's translation of Medea's invocation in
Ovid's 'Metamorphoses' (vii. 197-206). {253b} Golding's rendering of
Ovid had been one of Shakespeare's best-loved books in youth.

A highly ingenious theory, first suggested by Tieck, represents 'The
Tempest' (which, excepting the 'The Comedy of Errors,' is the shortest of
Shakespeare's plays) as a masque written to celebrate the marriage of
Princess Elizabeth (like Miranda, an island-princess) with the Elector
Frederick. This marriage took place on February 14, 1612-13, and 'The
Tempest' formed one of a series of nineteen plays which were performed at
the nuptial festivities in May 1613. But none of the other plays
produced seem to have been new; they were all apparently chosen because
they were established favourites at Court and on the public stage, and
neither in subject-matter nor language bore obviously specific relation
to the joyous occasion. But 1613 is, in fact, on more substantial ground
far too late a date to which to assign the composition of 'The Tempest.'
According to information which was accessible to Malone, the play had 'a
being and a name' in the autumn of 1611, and was no doubt written some
months before. {254} The plot, which revolves about the forcible
expulsion of a ruler from his dominions, and his daughter's wooing by the
son of the usurper's chief ally, is, moreover, hardly one that a shrewd
playwright would deliberately choose as the setting of an official
epithalamium in honour of the daughter of a monarch so sensitive about
his title to the crown as James I. {255a}

In the theatre and at court the early representations of 'The Tempest'
evoked unmeasured applause. The success owed something to the beautiful
lyrics which were dispersed through the play and had been set to music by
Robert Johnson, a lutenist in high repute. {255b} Like its predecessor
'A Winter's Tale,' 'The Tempest' long maintained its first popularity in
the theatre, and the vogue of the two pieces drew a passing sneer from
Ben Jonson. In the Induction to his 'Bartholomew Fair,' first acted in
1614, he wrote: 'If there be never a servant-monster in the Fair, who can
help it he [_i.e._ the author] says? nor a nest of Antics. He is loth to
make nature afraid in his plays like those that beget Tales, Tempests,
and such like Drolleries.' The 'servant-monster' was an obvious allusion
to Caliban, and 'the nest of Antics' was a glance at the satyrs who
figure in the sheepshearing feast in 'A Winter's Tale.'

Fanciful interpretations of 'The Tempest.'

Nowhere did Shakespeare give rein to his imagination with more imposing
effect than in 'The Tempest.' As in 'Midsummer Night's Dream,' magical
or supernatural agencies are the mainsprings of the plot. But the tone
is marked at all points by a solemnity and profundity of thought and
sentiment which are lacking in the early comedy. The serious atmosphere
has led critics, without much reason, to detect in the scheme of 'The
Tempest' something more than the irresponsible play of poetic fancy.
Many of the characters have been represented as the outcome of
speculation respecting the least soluble problems of human existence.
Little reliance should be placed on such interpretations. The creation
of Miranda is the apotheosis in literature of tender, ingenuous girlhood
unsophisticated by social intercourse, but Shakespeare had already
sketched the outlines of the portrait in Marina and Perdita, the youthful
heroines respectively of 'Pericles' and 'A Winter's Tale,' and these two
characters were directly developed from romantic stories of
girl-princesses, cast by misfortune on the mercies of nature, to which
Shakespeare had recourse for the plots of the two plays. It is by
accident, and not by design, that in Ariel appear to be discernible the
capabilities of human intellect when detached from physical attributes.
Ariel belongs to the same world as Puck, although he is delineated in the
severer colours that were habitual to Shakespeare's fully developed art.
Caliban--Ariel's antithesis--did not owe his existence to any conscious
endeavour on Shakespeare's part to typify human nature before the
evolution of moral sentiment. {257a} Caliban is an imaginary portrait,
conceived with matchless vigour and vividness, of the aboriginal savage
of the New World, descriptions of whom abounded in contemporary
travellers' speech and writings, and universally excited the liveliest
curiosity. {257b} In Prospero, the guiding providence of the romance,
who resigns his magic power in the closing scene, traces have been sought
of the lineaments of the dramatist himself, who in this play probably
bade farewell to the enchanted work of his life. Prospero is in the
story a scholar-prince of rare intellectual attainments, whose engrossing
study of the mysteries of science has given him command of the forces of
nature. His magnanimous renunciation of his magical faculty as soon as
by its exercise he has restored his shattered fortunes is in perfect
accord with the general conception of his just and philosophical temper.
Any other justification of his final act is superfluous.

Unfinished plays. The lost play of 'Cardenio.'

While there is every indication that in 1611 Shakespeare abandoned
dramatic composition, there seems little doubt that he left with the
manager of his company unfinished drafts of more than one play which
others were summoned at a later date to complete. His place at the head
of the active dramatists was at once filled by John Fletcher, and
Fletcher, with some aid possibly from his friend Philip Massinger,
undertook the working up of Shakespeare's unfinished sketches. On
September 9, 1653, the publisher Humphrey Moseley obtained a license for
the publication of a play which he described as 'History of Cardenio, by
Fletcher and Shakespeare.' This was probably identical with the lost
play, 'Cardenno,' or 'Cardenna,' which was twice acted at Court by
Shakespeare's company in 1613--in May during the Princess Elizabeth's
marriage festivities, and on June 8 before the Duke of Savoy's
ambassador. {258a} Moseley, whose description may have been fraudulent,
{258b} failed to publish the piece, and nothing is otherwise known of it
with certainty; but it was no doubt a dramatic version of the adventures
of the lovelorn Cardenio which are related in the first part of 'Don
Quixote' (ch. xxiii.-xxxvii.) Cervantes's amorous story, which first
appeared in English in Thomas Shelton's translation in 1612, offers much
incident in Fletcher's vein. When Lewis Theobald, the Shakespearean
critic, brought out his 'Double Falshood, or the Distrest Lovers,' in
1727, he mysteriously represented that the play was based on an
unfinished and unpublished draft of a play by Shakespeare. The story of
Theobald's piece is the story of Cardenio, although the characters are
renamed. There is nothing in the play as published by Theobald to
suggest Shakespeare's hand, {259a} but Theobald doubtless took advantage
of a tradition that Shakespeare and Fletcher had combined to dramatise
the Cervantic theme.

'Two Noble Kinsmen.'

Two other pieces, 'The Two Noble Kinsmen' and 'Henry VIII,' which are
attributed to a similar partnership, survive. {259b} 'The Two Noble
Kinsmen' was first printed in 1634, and was written, according to the
title-page, 'by the memorable worthies of their time, Mr. John Fletcher
and Mr. William Shakespeare, gentlemen.' It was included in the folio of
Beaumont and Fletcher of 1679. On grounds alike of aesthetic criticism
and metrical tests, a substantial portion of the play was assigned to
Shakespeare by Charles Lamb, Coleridge, and Dyce. The last included it
in his edition of Shakespeare. Coleridge detected Shakespeare's hand in
act I., act II. sc. i., and act III. sc. i. and ii. In addition to those
scenes, act IV. sc. iii. and act V. (except sc. ii.) were subsequently
placed to his credit. Some recent critics assign much of the alleged
Shakespearean work to Massinger, and they narrow Shakespeare's
contribution to the first scene (with the opening song, 'Roses their
sharp spines being gone') and act V. sc. i. and iv. {260} An exact
partition is impossible, but frequent signs of Shakespeare's workmanship
are unmistakable. All the passages for which Shakespeare can on any
showing be held responsible develop the main plot, which is drawn from
Chaucer's 'Knight's Tale' of Palamon and Arcite, and seems to have been
twice dramatised previously. A lost play, 'Palaemon and Arcyte,' by
Richard Edwardes, was acted at Court in 1566, and a second piece, called
'Palamon and Arsett' (also lost), was purchased by Henslowe in 1594. The
non-Shakespearean residue of 'The Two Noble Kinsmen' is disfigured by
indecency and triviality, and is of no literary value.

'Henry VIII.'

A like problem is presented by 'Henry VIII.' The play was nearly
associated with the final scene in the history of that theatre which was
identified with the triumphs of Shakespeare's career. 'Henry VIII' was
in course of performance at the Globe Theatre on June 29, 1613, when the
firing of some cannon incidental to the performance set fire to the
playhouse, which was burned down. The theatre was rebuilt next year, but
the new fabric never acquired the fame of the old. Sir Henry Wotton,
describing the disaster on July 2, entitled the piece that was in process
of representation at the time as 'All is True representing some principal
pieces in the Reign of Henry VIII.' {261} The play of 'Henry VIII' that
is commonly allotted to Shakespeare is loosely constructed, and the last
act ill coheres with its predecessors. The whole resembles an
'historical masque.' It was first printed in the folio of Shakespeare's
works in 1623, but shows traces of more hands than one. The three chief
characters--the king, Queen Katharine of Arragon, and Cardinal
Wolsey--bear clear marks of Shakespeare's best workmanship; but only act
i. sc. i., act ii. sc. iii. and iv. (Katharine's trial), act iii. sc. ii.
(except ll. 204-460), act v. sc. i. can on either aesthetic or metrical
grounds be confidently assigned to him. These portions may, according to
their metrical characteristics, be dated, like the 'Winter's Tale,' about
1611. There are good grounds for assigning nearly all the remaining
thirteen scenes to the pen of Fletcher, with occasional aid from
Massinger. Wolsey's familiar farewell to Cromwell (III. ii. 204-460) is
the only passage the authorship of which excites really grave
embarrassment. It recalls at every point the style of Fletcher, and
nowhere that of Shakespeare. But the Fletcherian style, as it is here
displayed, is invested with a greatness that is not matched elsewhere in
Fletcher's work. That Fletcher should have exhibited such faculty once
and once only is barely credible, and we are driven to the alternative
conclusion that the noble valediction was by Shakespeare, who in it gave
proof of his versatility by echoing in a glorified key the habitual
strain of Fletcher, his colleague and virtual successor. James
Spedding's theory that Fletcher hastily completed Shakespeare's
unfinished draft for the special purpose of enabling the company to
celebrate the marriage of Princess Elizabeth and the Elector Palatine,
which took place on February 14, 1612-13, seems fanciful. During May
1613, according to an extant list, nineteen plays were produced at Court
in honour of the event, but 'Henry VIII' is not among them. {263a} The
conjecture that Massinger and Fletcher alone collaborated in 'Henry VIII'
(to the exclusion of Shakespeare altogether) does not deserve serious
consideration. {263b}


Plays at Court in 1613. Actor-friends.

The concluding years of Shakespeare's life (1611-1616) were mainly passed
at Stratford. It is probable that in 1611 he disposed of his shares in
the Globe and Blackfriars theatres. He owned none at the date of his
death. But until 1614 he paid frequent visits to London, where friends
in sympathy with his work were alone to be found. His plays continued to
form the staple of Court performances. In May 1613, during the Princess
Elizabeth's marriage festivities, Heming, Shakespeare's former colleague,
produced at Whitehall no fewer than seven of his plays, viz. 'Much Ado,'
'Tempest,' 'Winter's Tale,' 'Sir John Falstaff' (_i.e._ 'Merry Wives'),
'Othello,' 'Julius Caesar,' 'and Hotspur' (doubtless 'Henry IV'). {264}
Of his actor-friends, one of the chief, Augustine Phillips, had died in
1605, leaving by will 'to my fellowe, William Shakespeare, a
thirty-shillings piece of gold.' With Burbage, Heming, and Condell his
relations remained close to the end. Burbage, according to a poetic
elegy, made his reputation by creating the leading parts in Shakespeare's
greatest tragedies. Hamlet, Othello, and Lear were roles in which he
gained especial renown. But Burbage and Shakespeare were popularly
credited with co-operation in less solemn enterprises. They were reputed
to be companions in many sportive adventures. The sole anecdote of
Shakespeare that is positively known to have been recorded in his
lifetime relates that Burbage, when playing Richard III, agreed with a
lady in the audience to visit her after the performance; Shakespeare,
overhearing the conversation, anticipated the actor's visit, and met
Burbage on his arrival with the quip that 'William the Conqueror was
before Richard the Third.' {265a}

Such gossip possibly deserves little more acceptance than the later
story, in the same key, which credits Shakespeare with the paternity of
Sir William D'Avenant. The latter was baptised at Oxford on March 3,
1605, as the son of John D'Avenant, the landlord of the Crown Inn, where
Shakespeare lodged in his journeys to and from Stratford. The story of
Shakespeare's parental relation to D'Avenant was long current in Oxford,
and was at times complacently accepted by the reputed son. Shakespeare
is known to have been a welcome guest at John D'Avenant's house, and
another son, Robert, boasted of the kindly notice which the poet took of
him as a child. {265b} It is safer to adopt the less compromising
version which makes Shakespeare the godfather of the boy William instead
of his father. But the antiquity and persistence of the scandal belie
the assumption that Shakespeare was known to his contemporaries as a man
of scrupulous virtue. Ben Jonson and Drayton--the latter a Warwickshire
man--seem to have been Shakespeare's closest literary friends in his
latest years.

Final settlement at Stratford.

At Stratford, in the words of Nicholas Rowe, 'the latter part of
Shakespeare's life was spent, as all men of good sense will wish theirs
may be, in ease, retirement, and the conversation of his friends.' As a
resident in the town, he took a full share of social and civic
responsibilities. On October 16, 1608, he stood chief godfather to
William, son of Henry Walker, a mercer and alderman. On September 11,
1611, when he had finally settled in New Place, his name appeared in the
margin of a folio page of donors (including all the principal inhabitants
of Stratford) to a fund that was raised 'towards the charge of
prosecuting the bill in Parliament for the better repair of the

Domestic affairs.

Meanwhile his own domestic affairs engaged some of his attention. Of his
two surviving children--both daughters--the eldest, Susanna, had married,
on June 5, 1607, John Hall (1575-1635), a rising physician of Puritan
leanings, and in the following February there was born the poet's only
granddaughter, Elizabeth Hall. On September 9, 1608, the poet's mother
was buried in the parish church, and on February 4, 1613, his third
brother Richard. On July 15, 1613, Mrs. Hall preferred, with her
father's assistance, a charge of slander against one Lane in the
ecclesiastical court at Worcester; the defendant, who had apparently
charged the lady with illicit relations with one Ralph Smith, did not
appear, and was excommunicated.

[Picture: Signature on Purchase-Deed]

Purchase of a house in Blackfriars.

In the same year (1613), when on a short visit to London, Shakespeare
invested a small sum of money in a new property. This was his last
investment in real estate. He then purchased a house, the ground-floor
of which was a haberdasher's shop, with a yard attached. It was situated
within six hundred feet of the Blackfriars Theatre--on the west side of
St. Andrew's Hill, formerly termed Puddle Hill or Puddle Dock Hill, in
the near neighbourhood of what is now known as Ireland Yard. The former
owner, Henry Walker, a musician, had bought the property for 100 pounds
in 1604. Shakespeare in 1613 agreed to pay him 140 pounds. The deeds of
conveyance bear the date of March 10 in that year. {267} Next day, on
March 11, Shakespeare executed another deed (now in the British Museum)
which stipulated that 60 pounds of the purchase-money was to remain on
mortgage until the following Michaelmas. The money was unpaid at
Shakespeare's death. In both purchase-deed and mortgage-deed
Shakespeare's signature was witnessed by (among others) Henry Lawrence,
'servant' or clerk to Robert Andrewes, the scrivener who drew the deeds,
and Lawrence's seal, bearing his initials 'H. L.,' was stamped in each
case on the parchment-tag, across the head of which Shakespeare wrote his
name. In all three documents--the two indentures and the
mortgage-deed--Shakespeare is described as 'of Stratford-on-Avon, in the
Countie of Warwick, Gentleman.' There is no reason to suppose that he
acquired the house for his own residence. He at once leased the property
to John Robinson, already a resident in the neighbourhood.

[Picture: Signature on Mortgage-Deed]

Attempt to enclose the Stratford common fields.

With puritans and puritanism Shakespeare was not in sympathy, {268} and
he could hardly have viewed with unvarying composure the steady progress
that puritanism was making among his fellow-townsmen. Nevertheless a
preacher, doubtless of puritan proclivities, was entertained at
Shakespeare's residence, New Place, after delivering a sermon in the
spring of 1614. The incident might serve to illustrate Shakespeare's
characteristic placability, but his son-in-law Hall, who avowed sympathy
with puritanism, was probably in the main responsible for the civility.
{269a} In July John Combe, a rich inhabitant of Stratford, died and left
5 pounds to Shakespeare. The legend that Shakespeare alienated him by
composing some doggerel on his practice of lending money at ten or twelve
per cent. seems apocryphal, although it is quoted by Aubrey and accepted
by Rowe. {269b} Combe's death involved Shakespeare more conspicuously
than before in civic affairs. Combe's heir William no sooner succeeded
to his father's lands than he, with a neighbouring owner, Arthur
Mannering, steward of Lord-chancellor Ellesmere (who was ex-officio lord
of the manor), attempted to enclose the common fields, which belonged to
the corporation of Stratford, about his estate at Welcombe. The
corporation resolved to offer the scheme a stout resistance. Shakespeare
had a twofold interest in the matter by virtue of his owning the freehold
of 106 acres at Welcombe and Old Stratford, and as joint owner--now with
Thomas Greene, the town clerk--of the tithes of Old Stratford, Welcombe,
and Bishopton. His interest in his freeholds could not have been
prejudicially affected, but his interest in the tithes might be
depreciated by the proposed enclosure. Shakespeare consequently joined
with his fellow-owner Greene in obtaining from Combe's agent Replingham
in October 1614 a deed indemnifying both against any injury they might
suffer from the enclosure. But having thus secured himself against all
possible loss, Shakespeare threw his influence into Combe's scale. In
November 1614 he was on a last visit to London, and Greene, whose
official position as town clerk compelled him to support the corporation
in defiance of his private interests, visited him there to discuss the
position of affairs. On December 23, 1614, the corporation in formal
meeting drew up a letter to Shakespeare imploring him to aid them.
Greene himself sent to the dramatist 'a note of inconveniences [to the
corporation that] would happen by the enclosure.' But although an
ambiguous entry of a later date (September 1615) in the few extant pages
of Greene's ungrammatical diary has been unjustifiably tortured into an
expression of disgust on Shakespeare's part at Combe's conduct, {271} it
is plain that, in the spirit of his agreement with Combe's agent, he
continued to lend Combe his countenance. Happily Combe's efforts failed,
and the common lands remain unenclosed.

Death. Burial.

At the beginning of 1616 Shakespeare's health was failing. He directed
Francis Collins, a solicitor of Warwick, to draft his will, but, though
it was prepared for signature on January 25, it was for the time laid
aside. On February 10, 1616, Shakespeare's younger daughter, Judith,
married, at Stratford parish church, Thomas Quincy, four years her
junior, a son of an old friend of the poet. The ceremony took place
apparently without public asking of the banns and before a license was
procured. The irregularity led to the summons of the bride and
bridegroom to the ecclesiastical court at Worcester and the imposition of
a fine. According to the testimony of John Ward, the vicar, Shakespeare
entertained at New Place his two friends, Michael Drayton and Ben Jonson,
in this same spring of 1616, and 'had a merry meeting,' but 'itt seems
drank too hard, for Shakespeare died of a feavour there contracted.' A
popular local legend, which was not recorded till 1762, {272a} credited
Shakespeare with engaging at an earlier date in a prolonged and violent
drinking bout at Bidford, a neighbouring village, {272b} but his
achievements as a hard drinker may be dismissed as unproven. The cause
of his death is undetermined, but probably his illness seemed likely to
take a fatal turn in March, when he revised and signed the will that had
been drafted in the previous January. On Tuesday, April 23, he died at
the age of fifty-two. {272c} On Thursday, April 25 (O.S.), the poet was
buried inside Stratford Church, near the northern wall of the chancel, in
which, as part-owner of the tithes, and consequently one of the
lay-rectors, he had a right of interment. Hard by was the charnel-house,
where bones dug up from the churchyard were deposited. Over the poet's
grave were inscribed the lines:

Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbeare
To dig the dust enclosed heare;
Bleste be the man that spares these stones,
And curst be he that moves my bones.

According to one William Hall, who described a visit to Stratford in
1694, {273} these verses were penned by Shakespeare to suit 'the capacity
of clerks and sextons, for the most part a very ignorant set of people.'
Had this curse not threatened them, Hall proceeds, the sexton would not
have hesitated in course of time to remove Shakespeare's dust to 'the
bone-house.' As it was, the grave was made seventeen feet deep, and was
never opened, even to receive his wife, although she expressed a desire
to be buried with her husband.

[Picture: Signatures from each sheet of the will]

The will. Bequest to his wife.

Shakespeare's will, the first draft of which was drawn up before January
25, 1616, received many interlineations and erasures before it was signed
in the ensuing March. Francis Collins, the solicitor of Warwick, and
Thomas Russell, 'esquier,' of Stratford, were the overseers; it was
proved by John Hall, the poet's son-in-law and joint-executor with Mrs.
Hall, in London on June 22 following. The religious exordium is in
conventional phraseology, and gives no clue to Shakespeare's personal
religious opinions. What those opinions were, we have neither the means
nor the warrant for discussing. But while it is possible to quote from
the plays many contemptuous references to the puritans and their
doctrines, we may dismiss as idle gossip Davies's irresponsible report
that 'he dyed a papist.' The name of Shakespeare's wife was omitted from
the original draft of the will, but by an interlineation in the final
draft she received his second best bed with its furniture. No other
bequest was made her. Several wills of the period have been discovered
in which a bedstead or other article of household furniture formed part
of a wife's inheritance, but none except Shakespeare's is forthcoming in
which a bed forms the sole bequest. At the same time the precision with
which Shakespeare's will accounts for and assigns to other legatees every
known item of his property refutes the conjecture that he had set aside
any portion of it under a previous settlement or jointure with a view to
making independent provision for his wife. Her right to a widow's
dower--_i.e._ to a third share for life in freehold estate--was not
subject to testamentary disposition, but Shakespeare had taken steps to
prevent her from benefiting--at any rate to the full extent--by that
legal arrangement. He had barred her dower in the case of his latest
purchase of freehold estate, viz. the house at Blackfriars. {274} Such
procedure is pretty conclusive proof that he had the intention of
excluding her from the enjoyment of his possessions after his death.
But, however plausible the theory that his relations with her were from
first to last wanting in sympathy, it is improbable that either the
slender mention of her in the will or the barring of her dower was
designed by Shakespeare to make public his indifference or dislike.
Local tradition subsequently credited her with a wish to be buried in his
grave; and her epitaph proves that she inspired her daughters with
genuine affection. Probably her ignorance of affairs and the infirmities
of age (she was past sixty) combined to unfit her in the poet's eyes for
the control of property, and, as an act of ordinary prudence, he
committed her to the care of his elder daughter, who inherited, according
to such information as is accessible, some of his own shrewdness, and had
a capable adviser in her husband.

His heiress. Legacies to friends.

This elder daughter, Susanna Hall, was, according to the will, to become
mistress of New Place, and practically of all the poet's estate. She
received (with remainder to her issue in strict entail) New Place, all
the land, barns, and gardens at and near Stratford (except the tenement
in Chapel Lane), and the house in Blackfriars, London, while she and her
husband were appointed executors and residuary legatees, with full rights
over nearly all the poet's household furniture and personal belongings.
To their only child and the testator's granddaughter, or 'niece,'
Elizabeth Hall, was bequeathed the poet's plate, with the exception of
his broad silver and gilt bowl, which was reserved for his younger
daughter, Judith. To his younger daughter he also left, with the
tenement in Chapel Lane (in remainder to the elder daughter), 150 pounds
in money, of which 100 pounds, her marriage portion, was to be paid
within a year, and another 150 pounds to be paid to her if alive three
years after the date of the will. {276a} To the poet's sister, Joan
Hart, whose husband, William Hart, predeceased the testator by only six
days, he left, besides a contingent reversionary interest in Judith's
pecuniary legacy, his wearing apparel, 20 pounds in money, a life
interest in the Henley Street property, with 5 pounds for each of her
three sons, William, Thomas, and Michael. To the poor of Stratford he
gave 10 pounds, and to Mr. Thomas Combe (apparently a brother of William,
of the enclosure controversy) his sword. To each of his Stratford
friends, Hamlett Sadler, William Reynoldes, Anthony Nash, and John Nash,
and to each of his 'fellows' (_i.e._ theatrical colleagues in London),
John Heming, Richard Burbage, and Henry Condell, he left xxvj_s_.
viij_d_., with which to buy memorial rings. His godson, William Walker,
received 'xx' shillings in gold.

The tomb.

Before 1623 {276b} an elaborate monument, by a London sculptor of Dutch
birth, Gerard Johnson, was erected to Shakespeare's memory in the chancel
of the parish church. {277} It includes a half-length bust, depicting
the dramatist on the point of writing. The fingers of the right hand are
disposed as if holding a pen, and under the left hand lies a quarto sheet
of paper. The inscription, which was apparently by a London friend,

Judicio Pylium, genio Socratem, arte Maronem,
Terra tegit, populus maeret, Olympus habet.

Stay passenger, why goest thou by so fast?
Read, if thou canst, whom envious death hath plast
Within this monument; Shakespeare with whome
Quick nature dide; whose name doth deck ys tombe
Far more than cost; sith all yt he hath writt
Leaves living art but page to serve his witt.

Obiit ano. doi 1616 AEtatis 53 Die 23 Ap.

Personal character.

At the opening of Shakespeare's career Chettle wrote of his 'civil
demeanour' and of the reports of 'his uprightness of dealing which argues
his honesty.' In 1601--when near the zenith of his fame--he was
apostrophised as 'sweet Master Shakespeare' in the play of 'The Return
from Parnassus,' and that adjective was long after associated with his
name. In 1604 one Anthony Scoloker in a poem called 'Daiphantus'
bestowed on him the epithet 'friendly.' After the close of his career
Jonson wrote of him: 'I loved the man and do honour his memory, on this
side idolatry as much as any. He was, indeed, honest and of an open and
free nature.' {278a} No other contemporary left on record any definite
impression of Shakespeare's personal character, and the 'Sonnets,' which
alone of his literary work can be held to throw any illumination on a
personal trait, mainly reveal him in the light of one who was willing to
conform to all the conventional methods in vogue for strengthening the
bonds between a poet and a great patron. His literary practices and aims
were those of contemporary men of letters, and the difference in the
quality of his work and theirs was due not to conscious endeavour on his
part to act otherwise than they, but to the magic and involuntary working
of his genius. He seemed unconscious of his marvellous superiority to
his professional comrades. The references in his will to his
fellow-actors, and the spirit in which (as they announce in the First
Folio) they approached the task of collecting his works after his death,
corroborate the description of him as a sympathetic friend of gentle,
unassuming mien. The later traditions brought together by Aubrey depict
him as 'very good company, and of a very ready and pleasant smooth wit,'
and there is much in other early posthumous references to suggest a
genial, if not a convivial, temperament, linked to a quiet turn for
good-humoured satire. But Bohemian ideals and modes of life had no
genuine attraction for Shakespeare. His extant work attests his
'copious' and continuous industry, {278b} and with his literary power and
sociability there clearly went the shrewd capacity of a man of business.
Pope had just warrant for the surmise that he

For gain not glory winged his roving flight,
And grew immortal in his own despite.

His literary attainments and successes were chiefly valued as serving the
prosaic end of providing permanently for himself and his daughters. His
highest ambition was to restore among his fellow-townsmen the family
repute which his father's misfortunes had imperilled. Ideals so homely
are reckoned rare among poets, but Chaucer and Sir Walter Scott, among
writers of exalted genius, vie with Shakespeare in the sobriety of their
personal aims and in the sanity of their mental attitude towards life's
ordinary incidents.


The survivors. Mistress Judith Quiney.

Shakespeare's widow died on August 6, 1623, at the age of sixty-seven,
and was buried near her husband inside the chancel two days later. Some
affectionately phrased Latin elegiacs--doubtless from Dr. Hall's
pen--were inscribed on a brass plate fastened to the stone above her
grave. {280} The younger daughter, Judith, resided with her husband,
Thomas Quiney, at The Cage, a house which he leased in Bridge Street from
1616 till 1652. There he carried on the trade of a vintner, and took
part in municipal affairs, acting as a councillor from 1617 and as
chamberlain in 1621-2 and 1622-3; but after 1630 his affairs grew
embarrassed, and he left Stratford late in 1652 for London, where he
seems to have died a few months later. Of his three sons by Judith, the
eldest, Shakespeare (baptised on November 23, 1616), was buried in
Stratford Churchyard on May 8, 1617; the second son, Richard (baptised on
February 9, 1617-18), was buried on January 28, 1638-9; and the third
son, Thomas (baptised on January 23, 1619-20), was buried on February 26,
1638-9. Judith survived her husband, sons, and sister, dying at
Stratford on February 9, 1661-2, in her seventy-seventh year.

Mistress Susannah Hall.

The poet's elder daughter, Mrs. Susanna Hall, resided at New Place till
her death. Her sister Judith alienated to her the Chapel Place tenement
before 1633, but that, with the interest in the Stratford tithes, she
soon disposed of. Her husband, Dr. John Hall, died on November 25, 1635.
In 1642 James Cooke, a surgeon in attendance on some Royalist troops
stationed at Stratford, visited Mrs. Hall and examined manuscripts in her
possession, but they were apparently of her husband's, not of her
father's, composition. {281} From July 11 to 13, 1643, Queen Henrietta
Maria, while journeying from Newark to Oxford, was billeted on Mrs. Hall
at New Place for three days, and was visited there by Prince Rupert.
Mrs. Hall was buried beside her husband in Stratford Churchyard on July
11, 1649, and a rhyming inscription, describing her as 'witty above her
sex,' was engraved on her tombstone. The whole inscription ran: 'Heere
lyeth ye body of Svsanna, wife to John Hall, Gent. ye davghter of William
Shakespeare, Gent. She deceased ye 11th of Jvly, A.D. 1649, aged 66.

'Witty above her sexe, but that's not all,
Wise to Salvation was good Mistress Hall,
Something of Shakespere was in that, but this
Wholy of him with whom she's now in blisse.
Then, passenger, ha'st ne're a teare,
To weepe with her that wept with all?
That wept, yet set herselfe to chere
Them up with comforts cordiall.
Her Love shall live, her mercy spread,
When thou hast ne're a teare to shed.'

The last descendant.

Mrs. Hall's only child, Elizabeth, was the last surviving descendant of
the poet. In April 1626 she married her first husband, Thomas Nash of
Stratford (_b._ 1593), who studied at Lincoln's Inn, was a man of
property, and, dying childless at New Place on April 4, 1647, was buried
in Stratford Church next day. At Billesley, a village four miles from
Stratford, on June 5, 1649, Mrs. Nash married, as a second husband, a
widower, John Bernard or Barnard of Abington, Northamptonshire, who was
knighted by Charles II in 1661. About the same date she seems to have
abandoned New Place for her husband's residence at Abington. Dying
without issue, she was buried there on February 17, 1669-70. Her husband
survived her four years, and was buried beside her. {282} On her
mother's death in 1649 Lady Barnard inherited under the poet's will the
land near Stratford, New Place, the house at Blackfriars, and (on the
death of the poet's sister, Joan Hart, in 1646) the houses in Henley
Street, while her father, Dr. Hall, left her in 1635 a house at Acton
with a meadow. She sold the Blackfriars house, and apparently the
Stratford land, before 1667. By her will, dated January 1669-70, and
proved in the following March, she left small bequests to the daughters
of Thomas Hathaway, of the family of her grandmother, the poet's wife.
The houses in Henley Street passed to her cousin, Thomas Hart, the
grandson of the poet's sister Joan, and they remained in the possession
of Thomas's direct descendants till 1806 (the male line expired on the
death of John Hart in 1800). By her will Lady Barnard also ordered New
Place to be sold, and it was purchased on May 18, 1675, by Sir Edward
Walker, through whose daughter Barbara, wife of Sir John Clopton, it
reverted to the Clopton family. Sir John rebuilt it in 1702. On the
death of his son Hugh in 1752, it was bought by the Rev. Francis Gastrell
(_d._ 1768), who demolished the new building in 1759. {283}

Shakespeare's brothers.

Of Shakespeare's three brothers, only one, Gilbert, seems to have
survived him. Edmund, the youngest brother, 'a player,' was buried at
St. Saviour's Church, Southwark, 'with a fore-noone knell of the great
bell,' on December 31, 1607; he was in his twenty-eighth year. Richard,
John Shakespeare's third son, died at Stratford in February 1613, aged
29. 'Gilbert Shakespeare adolescens,' who was buried at Stratford on
February 3, 1611-12, was doubtless son of the poet's next brother,
Gilbert; the latter, having nearly completed his forty-sixth year, could
scarcely be described as 'adolescens;' his death is not recorded, but
according to Oldys he survived to a patriarchal age.


Spelling of the poet's surname. Autograph signatures.

Much controversy has arisen over the spelling of the poet's surname. It
has been proved capable of four thousand variations. {284} The name of
the poet's father is entered sixty-six times in the council books of
Stratford, and is spelt in sixteen ways. The commonest form is
'Shaxpeare.' Five autographs of the poet of undisputed authenticity are
extant: his signature to the indenture relating to the purchase of the
property in Blackfriars, dated March 10, 1612-13 (since 1841 in the
Guildhall Library); his signature to the mortgage-deed relating to the
same purchase, dated March 11, 1612-13 (since 1858 in the British
Museum), and the three signatures on the three sheets of his will, dated
March 25, 1615-16 (now at Somerset House). In all the signatures some of
the letters are represented by recognised signs of abbreviation. The
signature to the first document is 'William Shakspere,' though in all
other portions of the deed the name is spelt 'Shakespeare.' The
signature to the second document has been interpreted both as Shakspere
and Shakspeare. The ink of the first signature in the will has now faded
almost beyond decipherment, but that it was 'Shakspere' may be inferred
from the facsimile made by Steevens in 1776. The second and third
signatures to the will, which are also somewhat difficult to decipher,
have been read both as Shakspere and Shakspeare; but a close examination
suggests that whatever the second signature may be, the third is
'Shakespeare.' Shakspere is the spelling of the alleged autograph in the
British Museum copy of Florio's 'Montaigne,' but the genuineness of that
signature is disputable. {285} Shakespeare was the form adopted in the
full signature appended to the dedicatory epistles of the 'Venus and
Adonis' of 1593 and the 'Lucrece' of 1594, volumes which were produced
under the poet's supervision. It is the spelling adopted on the
title-pages of the majority of contemporary editions of his works,
whether or not produced under his supervision. It is adopted in almost
all the published references to the poet during the seventeenth century.
It appears in the grant of arms in 1596, in the license to the players of
1603, and in the text of all the legal documents relating to the poet's
property. The poet, like most of his contemporaries, acknowledged no
finality on the subject. According to the best authority, he spelt his
surname in two ways when signing his will. There is consequently no good
ground for abandoning the form Shakespeare, which is sanctioned by legal
and literary custom. {286}

Shakespeare's portraits. The Stratford bust. The 'Stratford' portrait.

Aubrey reported that Shakespeare was 'a handsome well-shap't man,' but no
portrait exists which can be said with absolute certainty to have been
executed during his lifetime, although one has recently been discovered
with a good claim to that distinction. Only two of the extant portraits
are positively known to have been produced within a short period after
his death. These are the bust in Stratford Church and the frontispiece
to the folio of 1623. Each is an inartistic attempt at a posthumous
likeness. There is considerable discrepancy between the two; their main
points of resemblance are the baldness on the top of the head and the
fulness of the hair about the ears. The bust was by Gerard Johnson or
Janssen, who was a Dutch stonemason or tombmaker settled in Southwark.
It was set up in the church before 1623, and is a rudely carved specimen
of mortuary sculpture. There are marks about the forehead and ears which
suggest that the face was fashioned from a death mask, but the
workmanship is at all points clumsy. The round face and eyes present a
heavy, unintellectual expression. The bust was originally coloured, but
in 1793 Malone caused it to be whitewashed. In 1861 the whitewash was
removed, and the colours, as far as traceable, restored. The eyes are
light hazel, the hair and beard auburn. There have been numberless
reproductions, both engraved and photographic. It was first
engraved--very imperfectly--for Rowe's edition in 1709; then by Vertue
for Pope's edition of 1725; and by Gravelot for Hanmer's edition in 1744.
A good engraving by William Ward appeared in 1816. A phototype and a
chromo-phototype, issued by the New Shakspere Society, are the best
reproductions for the purposes of study. The pretentious painting known
as the 'Stratford' portrait, and presented in 1867 by W. O. Hunt, town
clerk of Stratford, to the Birthplace Museum, where it is very
prominently displayed, was probably painted from the bust late in the
eighteenth century; it lacks either historic or artistic interest.

Droeshout's engraving.

The engraved portrait--nearly a half-length--which was printed on the
title-page of the folio of 1623, was by Martin Droeshout. On the
opposite page lines by Ben Jonson congratulate 'the graver' on having
satisfactorily 'hit' the poet's 'face.' Jonson's testimony does no
credit to his artistic discernment; the expression of countenance, which
is very crudely rendered, is neither distinctive nor lifelike. The face
is long and the forehead high; the top of the head is bald, but the hair
falls in abundance over the ears. There is a scanty moustache and a thin
tuft under the lower lip. A stiff and wide collar, projecting
horizontally, conceals the neck. The coat is closely buttoned and
elaborately bordered, especially at the shoulders. The dimensions of the
head and face are disproportionately large as compared with those of the
body. In the unique proof copy which belonged to Halliwell-Phillipps
(now with his collection in America) the tone is clearer than in the
ordinary copies, and the shadows are less darkened by cross-hatching and
coarse dotting. The engraver, Martin Droeshout, belonged to a Flemish
family of painters and engravers long settled in London, where he was
born in 1601. He was thus fifteen years old at the time of Shakespeare's
death in 1616, and it is consequently improbable that he had any personal
knowledge of the dramatist. The engraving was doubtless produced by
Droeshout very shortly before the publication of the First Folio in 1623,
when he had completed his twenty-second year. It thus belongs to the
outset of the engraver's professional career, in which he never achieved
extended practice or reputation. A copy of the Droeshout engraving, by
William Marshall, was prefixed to Shakespeare's 'Poems' in 1640, and
William Faithorne made another copy for the frontispiece of the edition
of 'The Rape of Lucrece' published in 1655.

The 'Droeshout' painting.

There is little doubt that young Droeshout in fashioning his engraving
worked from a painting, and there is a likelihood that the original
picture from which the youthful engraver worked has lately come to light.
As recently as 1892 Mr. Edgar Flower, of Stratford-on-Avon, discovered in
the possession of Mr. H. C. Clements, a private gentleman with artistic
tastes residing at Peckham Rye, a portrait alleged to represent
Shakespeare. The picture, which was faded and somewhat worm-eaten, dated
beyond all doubt from the early years of the seventeenth century. It was
painted on a panel formed of two planks of old elm, and in the upper
left-hand corner was the inscription 'Willm Shakespeare, 1609.' Mr.
Clements purchased the portrait of an obscure dealer about 1840, and knew
nothing of its history, beyond what he set down on a slip of paper when
he acquired it. The note that he then wrote and pasted on the box in
which he preserved the picture, ran as follows: 'The original portrait of
Shakespeare, from which the now famous Droeshout engraving was taken and
inserted in the first collected edition of his works, published in 1623,
being seven years after his death. The picture was painted nine [_vere_
seven] years before his death, and consequently sixteen [_vere_ fourteen]
years before it was published. . . . The picture was publicly exhibited
in London seventy years ago, and many thousands went to see it.' In all
its details and in its comparative dimensions, especially in the
disproportion between the size of the head and that of the body, this
picture is identical with the Droeshout engraving. Though coarsely and
stiffly drawn, the face is far more skilfully presented than in the
engraving, and the expression of countenance betrays some artistic
sentiment which is absent from the print. Connoisseurs, including Sir
Edward Poynter, Mr. Sidney Colvin, and Mr. Lionel Cust, have almost
unreservedly pronounced the picture to be anterior in date to the
engraving, and they have reached the conclusion that in all probability
Martin Droeshout directly based his work upon the painting. Influences
of an early seventeenth-century Flemish school are plainly discernible in
the picture, and it is just possible that it is the production of an
uncle of the young engraver Martin Droeshout, who bore the same name as
his nephew, and was naturalised in this country on January 25, 1608, when
he was described as a 'painter of Brabant.' Although the history of the
portrait rests on critical conjecture and on no external contemporary
evidence, there seems good ground for regarding it as a portrait of
Shakespeare painted in his lifetime--in the forty-fifth year of his age.
No other pictorial representation of the poet has equally serious claims
to be treated as contemporary with himself, and it therefore presents
features of unique interest. On the death of its owner, Mr. Clements, in
1895, the painting was purchased by Mrs. Charles Flower, and was
presented to the Memorial Picture Gallery at Stratford, where it now
hangs. No attempt at restoration has been made. A photogravure forms
the frontispiece to the present volume. {290}

Of the same type as the Droeshout engraving, although less closely
resembling it than the picture just described, is the 'Ely House'
portrait (now the property of the Birthplace Trustees at Stratford),
which formerly belonged to Thomas Turton, Bishop of Ely, and it is
inscribed 'AE. 39 x. 1603.' {291a} This painting is of high artistic
value. The features are of a far more attractive and intellectual cast
than in either the Droeshout painting or engraving, and the many
differences in detail raise doubts as to whether the person represented
can have been intended for Shakespeare. Experts are of opinion that the
picture was painted early in the seventeenth century.

Early in Charles II's reign Lord Chancellor Clarendon added a portrait of
Shakespeare to his great gallery in his house in St. James's. Mention is
made of it in a letter from the diarist John Evelyn to his friend Samuel
Pepys in 1689, but Clarendon's collection was dispersed at the end of the
seventeenth century and the picture has not been traced. {291b}

Later portraits.

Of the numerous extant paintings which have been described as portraits
of Shakespeare, only the 'Droeshout' portrait and the Ely House portrait,
both of which are at Stratford, bear any definable resemblance to the
folio engraving or the bust in the church. {291c} In spite of their
admitted imperfections, those presentments can alone be held indisputably
to have been honestly designed to depict the poet's features. They must
be treated as the standards of authenticity in judging of the genuineness
of other portraits claiming to be of an early date.

The 'Chandos' portrait.

Of other alleged portraits which are extant, the most famous and
interesting is the 'Chandos' portrait, now in the National Portrait
Gallery. Its pedigree suggests that it was intended to represent the
poet, but numerous and conspicuous divergences from the authenticated
likenesses show that it was painted from fanciful descriptions of him
some years after his death. The face is bearded, and rings adorn the
ears. Oldys reported that it was from the brush of Burbage,
Shakespeare's fellow-actor, who had some reputation as a limner, {292}
and that it had belonged to Joseph Taylor, an actor contemporary with
Shakespeare. These rumours are not corroborated; but there is no doubt
that it was at one time the property of D'Avenant, and that it
subsequently belonged successively to the actor Betterton and to Mrs.
Barry the actress. In 1693 Sir Godfrey Kneller made a copy as a gift for
Dryden. After Mrs Barry's death in 1713 it was purchased for forty
guineas by Robert Keck, a barrister of the Inner Temple. At length it
reached the hands of one John Nichols, whose daughter married James
Brydges, third duke of Chandos. In due time the Duke became the owner of
the picture, and it subsequently passed, through Chandos's daughter, to
her husband, the first Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, whose son, the
second Duke of Buckingham and Chandos, sold it with the rest of his
effects at Stowe in 1848, when it was purchased by the Earl of Ellesmere.
The latter presented it to the nation. Edward Capell many years before
presented a copy by Ranelagh Barret to Trinity College, Cambridge, and
other copies are attributed to Sir Joshua Reynolds and Ozias Humphrey
(1783). It was engraved by George Vertue in 1719 for Pope's edition
(1725), and often later, one of the best engravings being by Vandergucht.
A good lithograph from a tracing by Sir George Scharf was published by
the trustees of the National Portrait Gallery in 1864. The Baroness
Burdett-Coutts purchased in 1875 a portrait of similar type, which is
said, somewhat doubtfully, to have belonged to John lord Lumley, who died
in 1609, and to have formed part of a collection of portraits of the
great men of his day at his house, Lumley Castle, Durham. Its early
history is not positively authenticated, and it may well be an early copy
of the Chandos portrait. The 'Lumley' painting was finely
chromo-lithographed in 1863 by Vincent Brooks.

The 'Jansen' portrait.

The so-called 'Jansen' or Janssens portrait, which belongs to Lady
Guendolen Ramsden, daughter of the Duke of Somerset, and is now at her
residence at Bulstrode, was first doubtfully identified about 1770, when
in the possession of Charles Jennens. Janssens did not come to England
before Shakespeare's death. It is a fine portrait, but is unlike any
other that has been associated with the dramatist. An admirable
mezzotint by Richard Earlom was issued in 1811.

The 'Felton' portrait.

The 'Felton' portrait, a small head on a panel, with a high and very bald
forehead (belonging since 1873 to the Baroness Burdett-Coutts), was
purchased by S. Felton of Drayton, Shropshire, in 1792 of J. Wilson, the
owner of the Shakespeare Museum in Pall Mall; it bears a late
inscription, 'Gul. Shakespear 1597, R. B.' [_i.e._ Richard Burbage]. It
was engraved by Josiah Boydell for George Steevens in 1797, and by James
Neagle for Isaac Reed's edition in 1803. Fuseli declared it to be the
work of a Dutch artist, but the painters Romney and Lawrence regarded it
as of English workmanship of the sixteenth century. Steevens held that
it was the original picture whence both Droeshout and Marshall made their
engravings, but there are practically no points of resemblance between it
and the prints.

[Picture: Plaster-cast of bust of William Shakespeare]

The 'Soest' portrait.

The 'Soest' or 'Zoust' portrait--in the possession of Sir John
Lister-Kaye of the Grange, Wakefield--was in the collection of Thomas
Wright, painter, of Covent Garden in 1725, when John Simon engraved it.
Soest was born twenty-one years after Shakespeare's death, and the
portrait is only on fanciful grounds identified with the poet. A chalk
drawing by John Michael Wright, obviously inspired by the Soest portrait,
is the property of Sir Arthur Hodgson of Clopton House, and is on loan at
the Memorial Gallery, Stratford.


A well-executed miniature by Hilliard, at one time in the possession of
William Somerville the poet, and now the property Of Sir Stafford
Northcote, bart., was engraved by Agar for vol. ii. of the 'Variorum
Shakespeare' of 1821, and in Wivell's 'Inquiry,' 1827. It has little
claim to attention as a portrait of the dramatist. Another miniature
(called the 'Auriol' portrait), of doubtful authenticity, formerly
belonged to Mr. Lumsden Propert, and a third is at Warwick Castle.

The Garrick Club bust.

A bust, said to be of Shakespeare, was discovered in 1845 bricked up in a
wall in Spode and Copeland's china warehouse in Lincoln's Inn Fields.
The warehouse had been erected on the site of the Duke's Theatre, which
was built by D'Avenant in 1660. The bust, which is of black terra cotta,
and bears traces of Italian workmanship, is believed to have adorned the
proscenium of the Duke's Theatre. It was acquired by the surgeon William
Clift, from whom it passed to Clift's son-in-law, Richard (afterwards Sir
Richard) Owen the naturalist. The latter sold it to the Duke of
Devonshire, who presented it in 1851 to the Garrick Club, after having
two copies made in plaster. One of these copies is now in the
Shakespeare Memorial Gallery at Stratford, and from it an engraving has
been made for reproduction in this volume.

Alleged death-mask.

The Kesselstadt death-mask was discovered by Dr. Ludwig Becker, librarian
at the ducal palace at Darmstadt, in a rag-shop at Mayence in 1849. The
features resemble those of an alleged portrait of Shakespeare (dated
1637) which Dr. Becker purchased in 1847. This picture had long been in
the possession of the family of Count Francis von Kesselstadt of Mayence,
who died in 1843. Dr. Becker brought the mask and the picture to England
in 1849, and Richard Owen supported the theory that the mask was taken
from Shakespeare's face after death, and was the foundation of the bust
in Stratford Church. The mask was for a long time in Dr. Becker's
private apartments at the ducal palace, Darmstadt. {296a} The features
are singularly attractive; but the chain of evidence which would identify
them with Shakespeare is incomplete. {296b}

Memorials in sculpture.

A monument, the expenses of which were defrayed by public subscription,
was set up in the Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey in 1741. Pope and
the Earl of Burlington were among the promoters. The design was by
William Kent, and the statue of Shakespeare was executed by Peter
Scheemakers. {297} Another statue was executed by Roubiliac for Garrick,
who bequeathed it to the British Museum in 1779. A third statue, freely
adapted from the works of Scheemakers and Roubiliac, was executed for
Baron Albert Grant and was set up by him as a gift to the metropolis in
Leicester Square, London, in 1879. A fourth statue (by Mr. J. A. Q.
Ward) was placed in 1882 in the Central Park, New York. A fifth in
bronze, by M. Paul Fournier, which was erected in Paris in 1888 at the
expense of an English resident, Mr. W. Knighton, stands at the point
where the Avenue de Messine meets the Boulevard Haussmann. A sixth
memorial in sculpture, by Lord Ronald Gower, the most elaborate and
ambitious of all, stands in the garden of the Shakespeare Memorial
buildings at Stratford-on-Avon, and was unveiled in 1888; Shakespeare is
seated on a high pedestal; below, at each side of the pedestal, stand
figures of four of Shakespeare's principal characters: Lady Macbeth,
Hamlet, Prince Hal, and Sir John Falstaff.

At Stratford, the Birthplace, which was acquired by the public in 1846
and converted into a museum, is with Anne Hathaway's cottage (which was
acquired by the Birthplace Trustees in 1892), a place of pilgrimage for
visitors from all parts of the globe. The 27,038 persons who visited it
in 1896 and the 26,510 persons who visited it in 1897 represented over
forty nationalities. The site of the demolished New Place, with the
gardens, was also purchased by public subscription in 1861, and now forms
a public garden. Of a new memorial building on the river-bank at
Stratford, consisting of a theatre, picture-gallery, and library, the
foundation-stone was laid on April 23, 1877. The theatre was opened
exactly two years later, when 'Much Ado about Nothing' was performed,
with Helen Faucit (Lady Martin) as Beatrice and Barry Sullivan as
Benedick. Performances of Shakespeare's plays have since been given
annually during April. The library and picture-gallery were opened in
1881. {298} A memorial Shakespeare library was opened at Birmingham on
April 23, 1868, to commemorate the tercentenary of 1864, and, although
destroyed by fire in 1879, was restored in 1882; it now possesses nearly
ten thousand volumes relating to Shakespeare.


Quartos of the poems in the poet's lifetime.

Only two of Shakespeare's works--his narrative poems 'Venus and Adonis'
and 'Lucrece'--were published with his sanction and co-operation. These
poems were the first specimens of his work to appear in print, and they
passed in his lifetime through a greater number of editions than any of
his plays. At the time of his death in 1616 there had been printed in
quarto seven editions of his 'Venus and Adonis' (1593, 1594, 1596, 1599,
1600, and two in 1602), and five editions of his 'Lucrece' (1594, 1598,
1600, 1607, 1616). There was only one lifetime edition of the 'Sonnets,'
Thorpe's surreptitious venture of 1609; {299} but three editions were
issued of the piratical 'Passionate Pilgrim,' which was fraudulently
assigned to Shakespeare by the publisher William Jaggard, although it
contained only a few occasional poems by him (1599, 1600 no copy known,
and 1612).

Posthumous quartos of the poems.

Of posthumous editions in quarto of the two narrative poems in the
seventeenth century, there were two of 'Lucrece'--viz. in 1624 ('the
sixth edition') and in 1655 (with John Quarles's 'Banishment of
Tarquin')--and there were as many as six editions of 'Venus' (1617, 1620,
1627, two in 1630, and 1636), making thirteen editions in all in
forty-three years. No later editions of these two poems were issued in
the seventeenth century. They were next reprinted together with 'The
Passionate Pilgrim' in 1707, and thenceforth they usually figured, with
the addition of the 'Sonnets,' in collected editions of Shakespeare's

The 'Poems' of 1640.

A so-called first collected edition of Shakespeare's 'Poems' in 1640
(London, by T. Cotes for I. Benson) was mainly a reissue of the
'Sonnets,' but it omitted six (Nos. xviii., xix., xliii., lvi., lxxv.,
and lxxvi.) and it included the twenty poems of 'The Passionate Pilgrim,'
with some other pieces by other authors. Marshall's copy of the
Droeshout engraving of 1623 formed the frontispiece. There were
prefatory poems by Leonard Digges and John Warren, as well as an address
'to the reader' signed with the initials of the publisher. There
Shakespeare's 'Sonnets' were described as 'serene, clear, and elegantly
plain; such gentle strains as shall re-create and not perplex your brain.
No intricate or cloudy stuff to puzzle intellect. Such as will raise
your admiration to his praise.' A chief point of interest in the volume
of 'Poems' of 1640 is the fact that the 'Sonnets' were printed then in a
different order from that which was followed in the volume of 1609. Thus
the poem numbered lxvii. in the original edition opens the reissue, and
what has been regarded as the crucial poem, beginning

Two loves I have of comfort and despair,

which was in 1609 numbered cxliv., takes the thirty-second place in 1640.
In most cases a more or less fanciful general title is placed in the
second edition at the head of each sonnet, but in a few instances a
single title serves for short sequences of two or three sonnets which are
printed as independent poems continuously without spacing. The poems
drawn from 'The Passionate Pilgrim' are intermingled with the 'Sonnets,'
together with extracts from Thomas Heywood's 'General History of Women,'
although no hint is given that they are not Shakespeare's work. The
edition concludes with three epitaphs on Shakespeare and a short section
entitled 'an addition of some excellent poems to those precedent by other
Gentlemen.' The volume is of great rarity. An exact reprint was
published in 1885.

Quartos of the plays in the poet's lifetime.

Of Shakespeare's plays there were in print in 1616 only sixteen (all in
quarto), or eighteen if we include the 'Contention,' the first draft of
'2 Henry VI' (1594 and 1600), and 'The True Tragedy,' the first draft of
'3 Henry VI' (1595 and 1600). These sixteen quartos were publishers'
ventures, and were undertaken without the co-operation of the author.

Two of the plays, published thus, reached five editions before 1616, viz.
'Richard III' (1597, 1598, 1602, 1605, 1612) and '1 Henry IV' (1598,
1599, 1604, 1608, 1615).

Three reached four editions, viz. 'Richard II' (1597, 1598, 1608
supplying the deposition scene for the first time, 1615); 'Hamlet' (1603
imperfect, 1604, 1605, 1611), and 'Romeo and Juliet' (1597 imperfect,
1599, two in 1609).

Two reached three editions, viz. 'Henry V' (1600 imperfect, 1602, and
1608) and 'Pericles' (two in 1609, 1611).

Four reached two editions, viz. 'Midsummer Night's Dream' (both in 1600);
'Merchant of Venice' (both in 1600); 'Lear' (both in 1608); and 'Troilus
and Cressida' (both in 1609).

Five achieved only one edition, viz. 'Love's Labour's Lost' (1598), '2
Henry IV' (1600), 'Much Ado' (1600), 'Titus' (1600), 'Merry Wives' (1602

Posthumous quartos of the plays.

Three years after Shakespeare's death--in 1619--there appeared a second
edition of 'Merry Wives' (again imperfect) and a fourth of 'Pericles.'
'Othello' was first printed posthumously in 1622 (4to), and in the same
year sixth editions of 'Richard III' and 'I Henry IV' appeared. {302}
The largest collections of the original quartos--each of which survives
in only four, five, or six copies--are in the libraries of the Duke of
Devonshire, the British Museum, and Trinity College, Cambridge, and in
the Bodleian Library. {303} All the quartos were issued in Shakespeare's
day at sixpence each.

The First Folio. The publishing syndicate.

In 1623 the first attempt was made to give the world a complete edition
of Shakespeare's plays. Two of the dramatist's intimate friends and
fellow-actors, John Heming and Henry Condell, were nominally responsible
for the venture, but it seems to have been suggested by a small syndicate
of printers and publishers, who undertook all pecuniary responsibility.
Chief of the syndicate was William Jaggard, printer since 1611 to the
City of London, who was established in business in Fleet Street at the
east end of St. Dunstan's Church. As the piratical publisher of 'The
Passionate Pilgrim' he had long known the commercial value of
Shakespeare's work. In 1613 he had extended his business by purchasing
the stock and rights of a rival pirate, James Roberts, who had printed
the quarto editions of the 'Merchant of Venice' and 'Midsummer Night's
Dream' in 1600 and the complete quarto of 'Hamlet' in 1604. Roberts had
enjoyed for nearly twenty years the right to print 'the players' bills,'
or programmes, and he made over that privilege to Jaggard with his other
literary property. It is to the close personal relations with the
playhouse managers into which the acquisition of the right of printing
'the players' bill' brought Jaggard after 1613 that the inception of the
scheme of the 'First Folio' may safely be attributed. Jaggard associated
his son Isaac with the enterprise. They alone of the members of the
syndicate were printers. Their three partners were publishers or
booksellers only. Two of these, William Aspley and John Smethwick, had
already speculated in plays of Shakespeare. Aspley had published with
another in 1600 the 'Second Part of Henry IV' and 'Much Ado about
Nothing,' and in 1609 half of Thorpe's impression of Shakespeare's
'Sonnets.' Smethwick, whose shop was in St. Dunstan's Churchyard, Fleet
Street, near Jaggard's, had published in 1611 two late editions of 'Romeo
and Juliet' and one of 'Hamlet.' Edward Blount, the fifth partner, was
an interesting figure in the trade, and, unlike his companions, had a
true taste in literature. He had been a friend and admirer of
Christopher Marlowe, and had actively engaged in the posthumous
publication of two of Marlowe's poems. He had published that curious
collection of mystical verse entitled 'Love's Martyr,' one poem in which,
'a poetical essay of the Phoenix and the Turtle,' was signed 'William
Shakespeare.' {304}

The First Folio was doubtless printed in Jaggard's printing office near
St. Dunstan's Church. Upon Blount probably fell the chief labour of
seeing the work through the press. It was in progress throughout 1623,
and had so far advanced by November 8, 1623, that on that day Edward
Blount and Isaac (son of William) Jaggard obtained formal license from
the Stationers' Company to publish sixteen of the twenty hitherto
unprinted plays that it was intended to include. The pieces, whose
approaching publication for the first time was thus announced, were of
supreme literary interest. The titles ran: 'The Tempest,' 'The Two
Gentlemen,' 'Measure for Measure,' 'Comedy of Errors,' 'As you like it,'
'All's Well,' 'Twelfth Night,' 'Winter's Tale,' '3 Henry VI,' 'Henry
VIII,' 'Coriolanus,' 'Timon,' 'Julius Caesar,' 'Macbeth,' 'Antony and
Cleopatra,' and 'Cymbeline.' Four other hitherto unprinted dramas for
which no license was sought figured in the volume, viz. 'King John,' '1
and 2 Henry VI,' and the 'Taming of the Shrew;' but each of these plays
was based by Shakespeare on a play of like title which had been published
at an earlier date, and the absence of a license was doubtless due to an
ignorant misconception on the past either of the Stationers' Company's
officers or of the editors of the volume as to the true relations
subsisting between the old pieces and the new. The only play by
Shakespeare that had been previously published and was not included in
the First Folio was 'Pericles.'

The prefatory matter.

Thirty-six pieces in all were thus brought together. The volume
consisted of nearly one thousand double-column pages and was sold at a
pound a copy. Steevens estimated that the edition numbered 250 copies.
The book was described on the title-page as published by Edward Blount
and Isaac Jaggard, and in the colophon as printed at the charges of 'W.
Jaggard, I. Smithweeke, and W. Aspley,' as well as of Blount. {306} On
the title-page was engraved the Droeshout portrait. Commendatory verses
were supplied by Ben Jonson, Hugh Holland, Leonard Digges, and I. M.,
perhaps Jasper Maine. The dedication was addressed to the brothers
William Herbert, earl of Pembroke, the lord chamberlain, and Philip
Herbert, earl of Montgomery, and was signed by Shakespeare's friends and
fellow-actors, Heming and Condell. The same signatures were appended to
a succeeding address 'to the great variety of readers.' In both
addresses the two actors made pretension to a larger responsibility for
the enterprise than they really incurred, but their motives in
identifying themselves with the venture were doubtless irreproachable.
They disclaimed (they wrote) 'ambition either of selfe-profit or fame in
undertaking the design,' being solely moved by anxiety to 'keepe the
memory of so worthy a friend and fellow alive as was our Shakespeare.'
'It had bene a thing we confesse worthie to haue bene wished,' they
inform the reader, 'that the author himselfe had liued to haue set forth
and ouerseen his owne writings. . . .' A list of contents follows the
address to the readers.

The value of the text.

The title-page states that all the plays were printed 'according to the
true originall copies.' The dedicators wrote to the same effect. 'As
where (before) we were abus'd with diuerse stolne and surreptitious
copies, maimed and deformed by the frauds and stealthes of incurious
impostors that expos'd them: even those are now offer'd to your view
cur'd and perfect in their limbes, and all the rest absolute in their
numbers as he conceived them.' There is no doubt that the whole volume
was printed from the acting versions in the possession of the manager of
the company with which Shakespeare had been associated. But it is
doubtful if any play were printed exactly as it came from his pen. The
First Folio text is often markedly inferior to that of the sixteen
pre-existent quartos, which, although surreptitiously and imperfectly
printed, followed playhouse copies of far earlier date. From the text of
the quartos the text of the First Folio differs invariably, although in
varying degrees. The quarto texts of 'Love's Labour's Lost,' 'Midsummer
Night's Dream,' and 'Richard II,' for example, differ very largely and
always for the better from the folio texts. On the other hand, the folio
repairs the glaring defects of the quarto versions of 'The Merry Wives of
Windsor' and of 'Henry V.' In the case of twenty of the plays in the
First Folio no quartos exist for comparison, and of these twenty plays,
'Coriolanus,' 'All's Well,' and 'Macbeth' present a text abounding in
corrupt passages.

The order of the plays.

The plays are arranged under three headings--'Comedies,' 'Histories,' and
'Tragedies'--and each division is separately paged. The arrangement of
the plays in each division follows no principle. The comedy section
begins with the 'Tempest' and ends with the 'Winter's Tale.' The
histories more justifiably begin with 'King John' and end with 'Henry
VIII.' The tragedies begin with 'Troilus and Cressida' and end with
'Cymbeline.' This order has been usually followed in subsequent
collective editions.

The typography.

As a specimen of typography the First Folio is not to be commended.
There are a great many contemporary folios of larger bulk far more neatly
and correctly printed. It looks as though Jaggard's printing office were
undermanned. The misprints are numerous and are especially conspicuous
in the pagination. The sheets seem to have been worked off very slowly,
and corrections were made while the press was working, so that the copies
struck off later differ occasionally from the earlier copies. One mark
of carelessness on the part of the compositor or corrector of the press,
which is common to all copies, is that 'Troilus and Cressida,' though in
the body of the book it opens the section of tragedies, is not mentioned
at all in the table of contents, and the play is unpaged except on its
second and third pages, which bear the numbers 79 and 80.

Unique copies.

Three copies are known which are distinguished by more interesting
irregularities, in each case unique. The copy in the Lenox Library in
New York includes a cancel duplicate of a leaf of 'As You Like It' (sheet
R of the comedies), and the title-page bears the date 1622 instead of
1623; but it is suspected that the figures were tampered with outside the
printing office. {308} Samuel Butler, successively headmaster of
Shrewsbury and Bishop of Lichfield and Coventry, possessed a copy of the
First Folio in which a proof leaf of 'Hamlet' was bound up with the
corrected leaf. {309a}

The Sheldon copy.

The most interesting irregularity yet noticed appears in one of the two
copies of the book belonging to the Baroness Burdett-Coutts. This copy
is known as the Sheldon Folio, having formed in the seventeenth century
part of the library of Ralph Sheldon of Weston Manor in the parish of
Long Compton, Warwickshire. {309b} In the Sheldon Folio the opening page
of 'Troilus and Cressida,' of which the recto or front is occupied by the
prologue and the verso or back by the opening lines of the text of the
play, is followed by a superfluous leaf. On the recto or front of the
unnecessary leaf {309c} are printed the concluding lines of 'Romeo and
Juliet' in place of the prologue to 'Troilus and Cressida.' At the back
or verso are the opening lines of 'Troilus and Cressida' repeated from
the preceding page. The presence of a different ornamental headpiece on
each page proves that the two are not taken from the same setting of the
type. At a later page in the Sheldon copy the concluding lines of 'Romeo
and Juliet' are duly reprinted at the close of the play, and on the verso
or back of the leaf, which supplies them in their right place, is the
opening passage, as in other copies, of 'Timon of Athens.' These curious
confusions attest that while the work was in course of composition the
printers or editors of the volume at one time intended to place 'Troilus
and Cressida,' with the prologue omitted, after 'Romeo and Juliet.' The
last page of 'Romeo and Juliet' is in all copies numbered 79, an obvious
misprint for 77; the first leaf of 'Troilus' is paged 78; the second and
third pages of 'Troilus' are numbered 79 and 80. It was doubtless
suddenly determined while the volume was in the press to transfer
'Troilus and Cressida' to the head of the tragedies from a place near the
end, but the numbers on the opening pages which indicated its first
position were clumsily retained, and to avoid the extensive typographical
corrections that were required by the play's change of position, its
remaining pages were allowed to go forth unnumbered. {310}

Estimated number of extant copies.

It is difficult to estimate how many copies survive of the First Folio,
which is intrinsically the most valuable volume in the whole range of
English literature, and extrinsically is only exceeded in value by some
half-dozen volumes of far earlier date and of exceptional typographical
interest. It seems that about 140 copies have been traced within the
past century. Of these fewer than twenty are in a perfect state, that
is, with the portrait _printed_ (_not inlaid_) _on_ the title-page, and
the flyleaf facing it, with all the pages succeeding it, intact and
uninjured. (The flyleaf contains Ben Jonson's verses attesting the
truthfulness of the portrait.) Excellent copies in this enviable state
are in the Grenville Library at the British Museum, and in the libraries
of the Duke of Devonshire, the Earl of Crawford, the Baroness
Burdett-Coutts, and Mr. A. H. Huth. Of these probably the finest and
cleanest is the 'Daniel' copy belonging to the Baroness Burdett-Coutts.
It measures 13 inches by 8.25, and was purchased by its present owner for
716 pounds 2s. at the sale of George Daniel's library in 1864. Some
twenty more copies are defective in the preliminary pages, but are
unimpaired in other respects. There remain about a hundred copies which
have sustained serious damage at various points.

Reprints of the First Folio.

A reprint of the First Folio unwarrantably purporting to be exact was
published in 1807-8. {311} The best reprint was issued in three parts by
Lionel Booth in 1861, 1863, and 1864. The valuable photo-zincographic
reproduction undertaken by Sir Henry James, under the direction of Howard
Staunton, was issued in sixteen folio parts between February 1864 and
October 1865. A reduced photographic facsimile, too small to be legible,
appeared in 1876, with a preface by Halliwell-Phillipps.

The Second Folio. The Third Folio. The Fourth Folio.

The Second Folio edition was printed in 1632 by Thomas Cotes for Robert
Allot and William Aspley, each of whose names figures as publisher on
different copies. To Allot Blount had transferred, on November 16, 1630,
his rights in the sixteen plays which were first licensed for publication
in 1623. {312a} The Second Folio was reprinted from the First; a few
corrections were made in the text, but most of the changes were arbitrary
and needless. Charles I's copy is at Windsor, and Charles II's at the
British Museum. The 'Perkins Folio,' now in the Duke of Devonshire's
possession, in which John Payne Collier introduced forged emendations,
was a copy of that of 1632. {312b} The Third Folio--for the most part a
faithful reprint of the Second--was first published in 1663 by Peter
Chetwynde, who reissued it next year with the addition of seven plays,
six of which have no claim to admission among Shakespeare's works. 'Unto
this impression,' runs the title-page of 1664, 'is added seven Playes
never before printed in folio, viz.: Pericles, Prince of Tyre. The
London Prodigall. The History of Thomas Ld. Cromwell. Sir John
Oldcastle, Lord Cobham. The Puritan Widow. A Yorkshire Tragedy. The
Tragedy of Locrine.' The six spurious pieces which open the volume were
attributed by unprincipled publishers to Shakespeare in his lifetime.
Fewer copies of the Third Folio are reputed to be extant than of the
Second or Fourth, owing to the destruction of many unsold impressions in
the Fire of London in 1666. The Fourth Folio, printed in 1685 'for H.
Herringman, E. Brewster, R. Chiswell, and R. Bentley,' reprints the folio
of 1664 without change except in the way of modernising the spelling; it
repeats the spurious pieces.

Eighteenth-century editors.

Since 1685 some two hundred independent editions of the collected works
have been published in Great Britain and Ireland, and many thousand
editions of separate plays. The eighteenth-century editors of the
collected works endeavoured with varying degrees of success to purge the
text of the numerous incoherences of the folios, and to restore, where
good taste or good sense required it, the lost text of the contemporary
quartos. It is largely owing to a due co-ordination of the results of
the efforts of the eighteenth-century editors by their successors in the
present century that Shakespeare's work has become intelligible to
general readers unversed in textual criticism, and has won from them the
veneration that it merits. {314}

Nicholas Rowe, 1674-1718.

Nicholas Rowe, a popular dramatist of Queen Anne's reign, and poet
laureate to George I., was the first critical editor of Shakespeare. He
produced an edition of his plays in six octavo volumes in 1709. A new
edition in eight volumes followed in 1714, and another hand added a ninth
volume which included the poems. Rowe prefixed a valuable life of the
poet embodying traditions which were in danger of perishing without a
record. His text followed that of the Fourth Folio. The plays were
printed in the same order, except that he transferred the spurious pieces
from the beginning to the end. Rowe did not compare his text with that
of the First Folio or of the quartos, but in the case of 'Romeo and
Juliet' he met with an early quarto while his edition was passing through
the press, and inserted at the end of the play the prologue which is met
with only in the quartos. He made a few happy emendations, some of which
coincide accidentally with the readings of the First Folio; but his text
is deformed by many palpable errors. His practical experience as a
playwright induced him, however, to prefix for the first time a list of
_dramatis personae_ to each play, to divide and number acts and scenes on
rational principles, and to mark the entrances and exits of the
characters. Spelling, punctuation, and grammar he corrected and

Alexander Pope, 1688-1744.

The poet Pope was Shakespeare's second editor. His edition in six quarto
volumes was completed in 1725. The poems, edited by Dr. George Sewell,
with an essay on the rise and progress of the stage, and a glossary,
appeared in a seventh volume. Pope had few qualifications for the task,
and the venture was a commercial failure. In his preface Pope, while he
fully recognised Shakespeare's native genius, deemed his achievement
deficient in artistic quality. Pope claimed to have collated the text of
the Fourth Folio with that of all preceding editions, and although his
work indicates that he had access to the First Folio and some of the
quartos, it is clear that his text was based on that of Rowe. His
innovations are numerous, and are derived from 'his private sense and
conjecture,' but they are often plausible and ingenious. He was the
first to indicate the place of each new scene, and he improved on Rowe's
subdivision of the scenes. A second edition of Pope's version in ten
duodecimo volumes appeared in 1728 with Sewell's name on the title-page
as well as Pope's. There were few alterations in the text, though a
preliminary table supplied a list of twenty-eight quartos. Other
editions followed in 1735 and 1768. The last was printed at Garrick's
suggestion at Birmingham from Baskerville's types.

Lewis Theobald, 1688-1744.

Pope found a rigorous critic in Lewis Theobald, who, although
contemptible as a writer of original verse and prose, proved himself the
most inspired of all the textual critics of Shakespeare. Pope savagely
avenged himself on his censor by holding him up to ridicule as the hero
of the 'Dunciad.' Theobald first displayed his critical skill in 1726 in
a volume which deserves to rank as a classic in English literature. The
title runs 'Shakespeare Restored, or a specimen of the many errors as
well committed as unamended by Mr. Pope in his late edition of this poet,
designed not only to correct the said edition but to restore the true
reading of Shakespeare in all the editions ever yet publish'd.' There at
page 137 appears Theobald's great emendation in Shakespeare's account of
Falstaff's death (Henry V, II. iii. 17): 'His nose was as sharp as a pen
and a' babbled of green fields,' in place of the reading in the old
copies, 'His nose was as sharp as a pen and a table of green fields.' In
1733 Theobald brought out his edition of Shakespeare in seven volumes.
In 1740 it reached a second issue. A third edition was published in
1752. Others are dated 1772 and 1773. It is stated that 12,860 copies
in all were sold. Theobald made the First Folio the basis of his text,
although he failed to adopt all the correct readings of that version, but
over 300 corrections or emendations which he made in his edition have
become part and parcel of the authorised canon. Theobald's principles of
textual criticism were as enlightened as his practice was triumphant. 'I
ever labour,' he wrote to Warburton, 'to make the smallest deviation that
I possibly can from the text; never to alter at all where I can by any
means explain a passage with sense; nor ever by any emendation to make
the author better when it is probable the text came from his own hands.'
Theobald has every right to the title of the Porson of Shakespearean
criticism. {317a} The following are favourable specimens of his insight.
In 'Macbeth' (I. vii. 6) for 'this bank and school of time,' he
substituted the familiar 'bank and shoal of time.' In 'Antony and
Cleopatra' the old copies (v. ii. 87) made Cleopatra say of Antony:

For his bounty,
There was no winter in't; an Anthony it was
That grew the more by reaping.

For the gibberish 'an Anthony it was,' Theobald read 'an autumn 'twas,'
and thus gave the lines true point and poetry. A third notable instance,
somewhat more recondite, is found in 'Coriolanus' (II. i. 59-60) where
Menenius asks the tribunes in the First Folio version 'what harm can your
besom conspectuities [_i.e._ vision or eyes] glean out of this
character?' Theobald replaced the meaningless epithet 'besom' by
'bisson' (_i.e._ purblind), a recognised Elizabethan word which
Shakespeare had already employed in 'Hamlet' (II. ii. 529). {317b}

Sir Thomas Hanmer, 1677-1746.

The fourth editor was Sir Thomas Hammer, a country gentleman without much
literary culture, but possessing a large measure of mother wit. He was
speaker in the House of Commons for a few months in 1714, and retiring
soon afterwards from public life devoted his leisure to a thorough-going
scrutiny of Shakespeare's plays. His edition, which was the earliest to
pretend to typographical beauty, was printed at the Oxford University
Press in 1744 in six quarto volumes. It contained a number of good
engravings by Gravelot after designs by Francis Hayman, and was long
highly valued by book collectors. No editor's name was given. In
forming his text, Hanmer depended exclusively on his own ingenuity. He
made no recourse to the old copies. The result was a mass of
common-sense emendations, some of which have been permanently accepted.
{318} Hanmer's edition was reprinted in 1770-1.

Bishop Warburton, 1698-1779.

In 1747 Bishop Warburton produced a revised version of Pope's edition in
eight volumes. Warburton was hardly better qualified for the task than
Pope, and such improvements as he introduced are mainly borrowed from
Theobald and Hanmer. On both these critics he arrogantly and unjustly
heaped abuse in his preface. The Bishop was consequently criticised with
appropriate severity for his pretentious incompetence by many writers;
among them, by Thomas Edwards, whose 'Supplement to Warburton's Edition
of Shakespeare' first appeared in 1747, and, having been renamed 'The
Canons of Criticism' next year in the third edition, passed through as
many as seven editions by 1765.

Dr. Johnson, 1709-1783.

Dr. Johnson, the sixth editor, completed his edition in eight volumes in
1765, and a second issue followed three years later. Although he made
some independent collation of the quartos, his textual labours were
slight, and his verbal notes show little close knowledge of sixteenth and
seventeenth century literature. But in his preface and elsewhere he
displays a genuine, if occasionally sluggish, sense of Shakespeare's
greatness, and his massive sagacity enabled him to indicate convincingly
Shakespeare's triumphs of characterisation.

Edward Capell, 1713-1781.

The seventh editor, Edward Capell, advanced on his predecessors in many
respects. He was a clumsy writer, and Johnson declared, with some
justice, that he 'gabbled monstrously,' but his collation of the quartos
and the First and Second Folios was conducted on more thorough and
scholarly methods than those of any of his predecessors not excepting
Theobald. His industry was untiring, and he is said to have transcribed
the whole of Shakespeare ten times. Capell's edition appeared in ten
small octavo volumes in 1768. He showed himself well versed in
Elizabethan literature in a volume of notes which appeared in 1774, and
in three further volumes, entitled 'Notes, Various Readings, and the
School of Shakespeare,' which were not published till 1783, two years
after his death. The last volume, 'The School of Shakespeare,' consisted
of 'authentic extracts from divers English books that were in print in
that author's time,' to which was appended 'Notitia Dramatica; or, Tables
of Ancient Plays (from their beginning to the Restoration of Charles

George Steevens, 1736-1800.

George Steevens, whose saturnine humour involved him in a lifelong series
of literary quarrels with rival students of Shakespeare, made invaluable
contributions to Shakespearean study. In 1766 he reprinted twenty of the
plays from the quartos. Soon afterwards he revised Johnson's edition
without much assistance from the Doctor, and his revision, which embodied
numerous improvements, appeared in ten volumes in 1773. It was long
regarded as the standard version. Steevens's antiquarian knowledge alike
of Elizabethan history and literature was greater than that of any
previous editor; his citations of parallel passages from the writings of
Shakespeare's contemporaries, in elucidation of obscure words and
phrases, have not been exceeded in number or excelled in aptness by any
of his successors. All commentators of recent times are more deeply
indebted in this department of their labours to Steevens than to any
other critic. But he lacked taste as well as temper, and excluded from
his edition Shakespeare's sonnets and poems, because, he wrote, 'the
strongest Act of Parliament that could be framed would fail to compel
readers into their service.' {320} The second edition of Johnson and
Steevens's version appeared in ten volumes in 1778. The third edition,
published in ten volumes in 1785, was revised by Steevens's friend, Isaac
Reed (1742-1807), a scholar of his own type. The fourth and last
edition, published in Steevens's lifetime, was prepared by himself in
fifteen volumes in 1793. As he grew older, he made some reckless changes
in the text, chiefly with the unhallowed object of mystifying those
engaged in the same field. With a malignity that was not without humour,
he supplied, too, many obscene notes to coarse expressions, and he
pretended that he owed his indecencies to one or other of two highly
respectable clergymen, Richard Amner and John Collins, whose surnames
were in each instance appended. He had known and quarrelled with both.
Such proofs of his perversity justified the title which Gifford applied
to him of 'the Puck of Commentators.'

Edmund Malone, 1741-1812.

Edmund Malone, who lacked Steevens's quick wit and incisive style, was a
laborious and amiable archaeologist, without much ear for poetry or
delicate literary taste. He threw abundance of new light on
Shakespeare's biography, and on the chronology and sources of his works,
while his researches into the beginnings of the English stage added a new
chapter of first-rate importance to English literary history. To Malone
is due the first rational 'attempt to ascertain the order in which the
plays attributed to Shakespeare were written.' His earliest results on
the topic were contributed to Steevens's edition of 1778. Two years
later he published, as a supplement to Steevens's work, two volumes
containing a history of the Elizabethan stage, with reprints of Arthur
Brooke's 'Romeus and Juliet,' Shakespeare's Poems, and the plays falsely
ascribed to him in the Third and Fourth Folios. A quarrel with Steevens
followed, and was never closed. In 1787 Malone issued 'A Dissertation on
the Three Parts of King Henry VI,' tending to show that those plays were
not originally written by Shakespeare. In 1790 appeared his edition of
Shakespeare in ten volumes, the first in two parts.

Variorum editions.

What is known among booksellers as the 'First Variorum' edition of
Shakespeare was prepared by Steevens's friend, Isaac Reed, after
Steevens's death. It was based on a copy of Steevens's work of 1793,
which had been enriched with numerous manuscript additions, and it
embodied the published notes and prefaces of preceding editors. It was
published in twenty-one volumes in 1803. The 'Second Variorum' edition,
which was mainly a reprint of the first, was published in twenty-one
volumes in 1813. The 'Third Variorum' was prepared for the press by
James Boswell the younger, the son of Dr. Johnson's biographer. It was
based on Malone's edition of 1790, but included massive accumulations of
notes left in manuscript by Malone at his death. Malone had been long
engaged on a revision of his edition, but died in 1812, before it was
completed. Boswell's 'Malone,' as the new work is often called, appeared
in twenty-one volumes in 1821. It is the most valuable of all collective
editions of Shakespeare's works, but the three volumes of preliminary
essays on Shakespeare's biography and writings, and the illustrative
notes brought together in the final volume, are confusedly arranged and
are unindexed; many of the essays and notes break off abruptly at the
point at which they were left at Malone's death. A new 'Variorum'
edition, on an exhaustive scale, was undertaken by Mr. H. Howard Furness
of Philadelphia, and eleven volumes have appeared since 1871 ('Romeo and
Juliet,' 'Macbeth,' 'Hamlet,' 2 vols., 'King Lear,' 'Othello,' 'Merchant
of Venice,' 'As You Like It,' 'Tempest,' 'Midsummer Night's Dream,' and
'Winter's Tale').

Nineteenth-century editors.

Of nineteenth-century editors who have prepared collective editions of
Shakespeare's work with original annotations those who have most
successfully pursued the great traditions of the eighteenth century are
Alexander Dyce, Howard Staunton, Nikolaus Delius, and the Cambridge
editors William George Clark (1821-1878) and Dr. Aldis Wright.

Alexander Dyce, 1798-1869. Howard Staunton, 1810-1874. The Cambridge
edition, 1863-6.

Alexander Dyce was almost as well read as Steevens in Elizabethan
literature, and especially in the drama of the period, and his edition of
Shakespeare in nine volumes, which was first published in 1857, has many
new and valuable illustrative notes and a few good textual emendations,
as well as a useful glossary; but Dyce's annotations are not always
adequate, and often tantalise the reader by their brevity. Howard
Staunton's edition first appeared in three volumes between 1868 and 1870.
He also was well read in contemporary literature and was an acute textual
critic. His introductions bring together much interesting stage history.
Nikolaus Delius's edition was issued at Elberfeld in seven volumes
between 1854 and 1861. Delius's text is formed on sound critical
principles and is to be trusted thoroughly. A fifth edition in two
volumes appeared in 1882. The Cambridge edition, which first appeared in
nine volumes between 1863 and 1866, exhaustively notes the textual
variations of all preceding editions, and supplies the best and fullest
_apparatus criticus_. (Of new editions, one dated 1887 is also in nine
volumes, and another, dated 1893, in forty volumes.)

Other nineteenth-century editions.

Other editors of the complete works of Shakespeare of the nineteenth
century whose labours, although of some value, present fewer distinctive
characteristics are:--William Harness (1825, 8 vols.); Samuel Weller
Singer (1826, 10 vols., printed at the Chiswick Press for William
Pickering, illustrated by Stothard and others; reissued in 1856 with
essays by William Watkiss Lloyd); Charles Knight, with discursive notes
and pictorial illustrations by F. W. Fairholt and others ('Pictorial
edition,' 8 vols., including biography and the doubtful plays, 1838-43,
often reissued under different designations); Bryan Waller Procter,
_i.e._ Barry Cornwall (1839-43, 3 vols.); John Payne Collier (1841-4, 8
vols.; another edition, 8 vols., privately printed, 1878, 4to); Samuel
Phelps, the actor (1852-4, 2 vols.; another edition, 1882-4); J. O.
Halliwell (1853-61, 15 vols. folio, with an encyclopaedic collection of
annotations of earlier editors and pictorial illustrations); Richard
Grant White (Boston, U.S.A., 1857-65, 12 vols.); W. J. Rolfe (New York,
1871-96, 40 vols.); the Rev. H. N. Hudson (the Harvard edition, Boston,
1881, 20 vols.) The latest complete annotated editions published in this
country are 'The Henry Irving Shakespeare,' edited by F. A. Marshall and
others--especially useful for notes on stage history (8 vols.
1888-90)--and 'The Temple Shakespeare,' concisely edited by Mr. Israel
Gollancz (38 vols. 12mo, 1894-6).

Of one-volume editions of the unannotated text, the best are the Globe,
edited by W. G. Clark and Dr. Aldis Wright (1864, and constantly
reprinted--since 1891 with a new and useful glossary); the Leopold (1876,
from the text of Delius, with preface by Dr. Furnivall); and the Oxford,
edited by Mr. W. J. Craig (1894).


Shakespeare defied at every stage in his career the laws of the classical
drama. He rode roughshod over the unities of time, place, and action.
There were critics in his day who zealously championed the ancient rules,
and viewed with distrust any infringement of them. But the force of
Shakespeare's genius--its revelation of new methods of dramatic art--was
not lost on the lovers of the ancient ways; and even those who, to
assuage their consciences, entered a formal protest against his
innovations, soon swelled the chorus of praise with which his work was
welcomed by contemporary playgoers, cultured and uncultured alike. The
unauthorised publishers of 'Troilus and Cressida' in 1608 faithfully
echoed public opinion when they prefaced the work with the note: 'This
author's comedies are so framed to the life that they serve for the most
common commentaries of all actions of our lives, showing such a dexterity
and power of wit that the most displeased with plays are pleased with his
comedies. . . . So much and such savoured salt of wit is in his comedies
that they seem for their height of pleasure to be born in the sea that
brought forth Venus.'

Ben Jonson's tribute.

Anticipating the final verdict, the editors of the First Folio wrote,
seven years after Shakespeare's death: 'These plays have had their trial
already and stood out all appeals.' {327a} Ben Jonson, the staunchest
champion of classical canons, noted that Shakespeare 'wanted art,' but he
allowed him, in verses prefixed to the First Folio, the first place among
all dramatists, including those of Greece and Rome, and claimed that all
Europe owed him homage:

Triumph, my Britain, thou hast one to show,
To whom all scenes [_i.e._ stages] of Europe homage owe.
He was not of an age, but for all time.

In 1630 Milton penned in like strains an epitaph on 'the great heir of

What needs my Shakespeare for his honoured bones
The labour of an age in piled stones?
Or that his hallowed reliques should be hid
Under a star-ypointing pyramid?
Dear son of memory, great heir of fame,
What need'st thou such weak witness of thy name?
Thou in our wonder and astonishment
Hast built thyself a lifelong monument.

A writer of fine insight who veiled himself under the initials I. M. S.
{327b} contributed to the Second Folio of 1632 a splendid eulogy. The
opening lines declare 'Shakespeare's freehold' to have been

A mind reflecting ages past, whose clear
And equal surface can make things appear
Distant a thousand years, and represent
Them in their lively colours' just extent.

It was his faculty

To outrun hasty time, retrieve the fates,
Roll back the heavens, blow ope the iron gates
Of death and Lethe, where (confused) lie
Great heaps of ruinous mortality.

Milton and I. M. S. were followed within ten years by critics of tastes
so varied as the dramatist of domesticity Thomas Heywood, the gallant
lyrist Sir John Suckling, the philosophic and 'ever-memorable' John Hales
of Eton, and the untiring versifier of the stage and court, Sir William
D'Avenant. Before 1640 Hales is said to have triumphantly established,
in a public dispute held with men of learning in his rooms at Eton, the
proposition that 'there was no subject of which any poet ever writ but he
could produce it much better done in Shakespeare.' {328} Leonard Digges
(in the 1640 edition of the 'Poems') asserted that every revival of
Shakespeare's plays drew crowds to pit, boxes, and galleries alike. At a
little later date, Shakespeare's plays were the 'closet companions' of
Charles I's 'solitudes.' {329a}

1660-1702. Dryden's view.

After the Restoration public taste in England veered towards the French
and classical dramatic models. {329b} Shakespeare's work was subjected
to some unfavourable criticism as the product of nature to the exclusion
of art, but the eclipse proved more partial and temporary than is
commonly admitted. The pedantic censure of Thomas Rymer on the score of
Shakespeare's indifference to the classical canons attracted attention,
but awoke in England no substantial echo. In his 'Short View of Tragedy'
(1692) Rymer mainly concentrated his attention on 'Othello,' and reached
the eccentric conclusion that it was 'a bloody farce without salt or
savour.' In Pepys's eyes 'The Tempest' had 'no great wit,' and
'Midsummer Night's Dream' was 'the most insipid and ridiculous play;' yet
this exacting critic witnessed thirty-six performances of twelve of
Shakespeare's plays between October 11, 1660, and February 6, 1668-9,
seeing 'Hamlet' four times, and 'Macbeth,' which he admitted to be 'a
most excellent play for variety,' nine times. Dryden, the literary
dictator of the day, repeatedly complained of Shakespeare's
inequalities--'he is the very Janus of poets.' {330a} But in almost the
same breath Dryden declared that Shakespeare was held in as much
veneration among Englishmen as AEschylus among the Athenians, and that
'he was the man who of all modern and perhaps ancient poets had the
largest and most comprehensive soul. . . . When he describes anything,
you more than see it--you feel it too.' {330b} In 1693, when Sir Godfrey
Kneller presented Dryden with a copy of the Chandos portrait of
Shakespeare, the poet acknowledged the gift thus:


_Shakespear_, thy Gift, I place before my sight;
With awe, I ask his Blessing ere I write;
With Reverence look on his Majestick Face;
Proud to be less, but of his Godlike Race.
His Soul Inspires me, while thy Praise I write,
And I, like _Teucer_, under _Ajax_ fight.

Writers of Charles II's reign of such opposite temperaments as Margaret
Cavendish, duchess of Newcastle, and Sir Charles Sedley vigorously argued
for Shakespeare's supremacy. As a girl the sober duchess declares she
fell in love with Shakespeare. In her 'Sociable Letters,' which were
published in 1664, she enthusiastically, if diffusely, described how
Shakespeare creates the illusion that he had been 'transformed into every
one of those persons he hath described,' and suffered all their emotions.
When she witnessed one of his tragedies she felt persuaded that she was
witnessing an episode in real life. 'Indeed,' she concludes,
'Shakespeare had a clear judgment, a quick wit, a subtle observation, a
deep apprehension, and a most eloquent elocution.' The profligate
Sedley, in a prologue to the 'Wary Widdow,' a comedy by one Higden,
produced in 1693, apostrophised Shakespeare thus:

Shackspear whose fruitfull Genius, happy wit
Was fram'd and finisht at a lucky hit
The pride of Nature, and the shame of Schools,
Born to Create, and not to Learn from Rules.

Restoration adaptations.

Many adaptations of Shakespeare's plays were contrived to meet current
sentiment of a less admirable type. But they failed efficiently to
supersede the originals. Dryden and D'Avenant converted 'The Tempest'
into an opera (1670). D'Avenant single-handed adapted 'The Two Noble
Kinsmen' (1668) and 'Macbeth' (1674). Dryden dealt similarly with
'Troilus' (1679); Thomas Duffett with 'The Tempest' (1675); Shadwell with
'Timon' (1678); Nahum Tate with 'Richard II' (1681), 'Lear' (1681), and
'Coriolanus' (1682); John Crowne with 'Henry VI' (1681); D'Urfey with
'Cymbeline' (1682); Ravenscroft with 'Titus Andronicus' (1687); Otway
with 'Romeo and Juliet' (1692), and John Sheffield, duke of Buckingham,
with 'Julius Caesar' (1692). But during the same period the chief actor
of the day, Thomas Betterton, won his spurs as the interpreter of
Shakespeare's leading parts, often in unrevised versions. Hamlet was
accounted that actor's masterpiece. {332a} 'No succeeding tragedy for
several years,' wrote Downes, the prompter at Betterton's theatre, 'got
more reputation or money to the company than this.'

From 1702 onwards.

From the accession of Queen Anne to the present day the tide of
Shakespeare's reputation, both on the stage and among critics, has flowed
onward almost uninterruptedly. The censorious critic, John Dennis, in
his 'Letters' on Shakespeare's 'genius,' gave his work in 1711
whole-hearted commendation, and two of the greatest men of letters of the
eighteenth century, Pope and Johnson, although they did not withhold all
censure, paid him, as we have seen, the homage of becoming his editor.
The school of textual criticism which Theobald and Capell founded in the
middle years of the century has never ceased its activity since their
day. {332b} Edmund Malone's devotion at the end of the eighteenth
century to the biography of the poet and the contemporary history of the
stage, secured for him a vast band of disciples, of whom Joseph Hunter
and John Payne Collier well deserve mention. But of all Malone's
successors, James Orchard Halliwell, afterwards Halliwell-Phillipps
(1820-1889), has made the most important additions to our knowledge of
Shakespeare's biography.

Meanwhile, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, there arose a
third school to expound exclusively the aesthetic excellence of the
plays. In its inception the aesthetic school owed much to the methods of
Schlegel and other admiring critics of Shakespeare in Germany. But
Coleridge in his 'Notes and Lectures' {333} and Hazlitt in his
'Characters of Shakespeare's Plays' (1817) are the best representatives
of the aesthetic school in this or any other country. Although Professor
Dowden, in his 'Shakespeare, his Mind and Art' (1874), and Mr. Swinburne
in his 'Study of Shakespeare' (1880), are worthy followers, Coleridge and
Hazlitt remain as aesthetic critics unsurpassed. In the effort to supply
a fuller interpretation of Shakespeare's works textual, historical, and
aesthetic--two publishing societies have done much valuable work. 'The
Shakespeare Society' was founded in 1841 by Collier, Halliwell, and their
friends, and published some forty-eight volumes before its dissolution in
1853. The New Shakspere Society, which was founded by Dr. Furnivall in
1874, issued during the ensuing twenty years twenty-seven publications,
illustrative mainly of the text and of contemporary life and literature.

Stratford festivals.

In 1769 Shakespeare's 'jubilee' was celebrated for three days (September
6-8) at Stratford, under the direction of Garrick, Dr. Arne, and Boswell.
The festivities were repeated on a small scale in April 1827 and April
1830. 'The Shakespeare tercentenary festival,' which was held at
Stratford from April 23 to May 4, 1864, claimed to be a national
celebration. {334}

On the English stage. The first appearance of actresses in Shakespearean
parts. David Garrick, 1717-1779.

On the English stage the name of every eminent actor since Betterton, the
great actor of the period of the Restoration, has been identified with
Shakespearean parts. Steele, writing in the 'Tatler' (No. 167) in
reference to Betterton's funeral in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey on
May 2, 1710, instanced his rendering of Othello as proof of an
unsurpassable talent in realising Shakespeare's subtlest conceptions on
the stage. One great and welcome innovation in Shakespearean acting is
closely associated with Betterton's first name. He encouraged the
substitution, that was inaugurated by Killigrew, of women for boys in
female parts. The first role that was professionally rendered by a woman
in a public theatre was that of Desdemona in 'Othello,' apparently on
December 8, 1660. {335} The actress on that occasion is said to have
been Mrs. Margaret Hughes, Prince Rupert's mistress; but Betterton's
wife, who was at first known on the stage as Mrs. Saunderson, was the
first actress to present a series of Shakespeare's great female
characters. Mrs. Betterton gave her husband powerful support, from 1663
onwards, in such roles as Ophelia, Juliet, Queen Catherine, and Lady
Macbeth. Betterton formed a school of actors who carried on his
traditions for many years after his death. Robert Wilks (1670-1732) as
Hamlet, and Barton Booth (1681-1733) as Henry VIII and Hotspur, were
popularly accounted no unworthy successors. Colley Cibber (1671-1757) as
actor, theatrical manager, and dramatic critic, was both a loyal disciple
of Betterton and a lover of Shakespeare, though his vanity and his faith
in the ideals of the Restoration incited him to perpetrate many outrages
on Shakespeare's text when preparing it for theatrical representation.
His notorious adaptation of 'Richard III,' which was first produced in
1700, long held the stage to the exclusion of the original version. But
towards the middle of the eighteenth century all earlier efforts to
interpret Shakespeare in the playhouse were eclipsed in public esteem by
the concentrated energy and intelligence of David Garrick. Garrick's
enthusiasm for the poet and his histrionic genius riveted Shakespeare's
hold on public taste. His claim to have restored to the stage the text
of Shakespeare--purified of Restoration defilements--cannot be allowed
without serious qualifications. Garrick had no scruple in presenting
plays of Shakespeare in versions that he or his friends had recklessly
garbled. He supplied 'Romeo and Juliet' with a happy ending; he
converted the 'Taming of the Shrew' into the farce of 'Katherine and
Petruchio,' 1754; he introduced radical changes in 'Antony and
Cleopatra,' 'Two Gentlemen of Verona,' 'Cymbeline,' and 'Midsummer
Night's Dream.' Nevertheless, no actor has won an equally exalted
reputation in so vast and varied a repertory of Shakespearean roles. His
triumphant debut as Richard III in 1741 was followed by equally
successful performances of Hamlet, Lear, Macbeth, King John, Romeo, Henry
IV, Iago, Leontes, Benedick, and Antony in 'Antony and Cleopatra.'
Garrick was not quite undeservedly buried in Westminster Abbey on
February 1, 1779, at the foot of Shakespeare's statue.

Garrick was ably seconded by Mrs. Clive (1711-1785), Mrs. Cibber
(1714-1766), and Mrs. Pritchard (1711-1768). Mrs. Cibber as Constance in
'King John,' and Mrs. Pritchard in Lady Macbeth, excited something of the
same enthusiasm as Garrick in Richard III and Lear. There were, too,
contemporary critics who judged rival actors to show in certain parts
powers equal, if not superior, to those of Garrick. Charles Macklin
(1697?-1797) for nearly half a century, from 1735 to 1785, gave many
hundred performances of a masterly rendering of Shylock. The character
had, for many years previous to Macklin's assumption of it, been allotted
to comic actors, but Macklin effectively concentrated his energy on the
tragic significance of the part with an effect that Garrick could not
surpass. Macklin was also reckoned successful in Polonius and Iago.
John Henderson, the Bath Roscius (1747-1785), who, like Garrick, was
buried in Westminster Abbey, derived immense popularity from his
representation of Falstaff; while in subordinate characters like
Mercutio, Slender, Jaques, Touchstone, and Sir Toby Belch, John Palmer
(1742?-1798) was held to approach perfection. But Garrick was the
accredited chief of the theatrical profession until his death. He was
then succeeded in his place of predominance by John Philip Kemble, who
derived invaluable support from his association with one abler than
himself, his sister, Mrs. Siddons.

John Philip Kemble, 1757-1823. Mrs. Sarah Siddons, 1755-1831.

Somewhat stilted and declamatory in speech, Kemble enacted a wide range
of characters of Shakespearean tragedy with a dignity that won the
admiration of Pitt, Sir Walter Scott, Charles Lamb, and Leigh Hunt.
Coriolanus was regarded as his masterpiece, but his renderings of Hamlet,
King John, Wolsey, the Duke in 'Measure for Measure,' Leontes, and Brutus
satisfied the most exacting canons of contemporary theatrical criticism.
Kemble's sister, Mrs. Siddons, was the greatest actress that
Shakespeare's countrymen have known. Her noble and awe-inspiring
presentation of Lady Macbeth, her Constance, her Queen Katherine, have,
according to the best testimony, not been equalled even by the
achievements of the eminent actresses of France.

Edmund Kean, 1787-1833.

During the present century the most conspicuous histrionic successes in
Shakespearean drama have been won by Edmund Kean, whose triumphant
rendering of Shylock on his first appearance at Drury Lane Theatre on
January 26, 1814, is one of the most stirring incidents in the history of
the English stage. Kean defied the rigid convention of the 'Kemble
School,' and gave free rein to his impetuous passions. Besides Shylock,
he excelled in Richard III, Othello, Hamlet, and Lear. No less a critic
than Coleridge declared that to see him act was like 'reading Shakespeare
by flashes of lightning.' Among other Shakespearean actors of Kean's
period a high place was allotted by public esteem to George Frederick
Cooke (1756-1811), whose Richard III, first given in London at Covent
Garden Theatre, October 31, 1801, was accounted his masterpiece. Charles
Lamb, writing in 1822, declared that of all the actors who flourished in
his time, Robert Bensley 'had most of the swell of soul,' and Lamb gave
with a fine enthusiasm in his 'Essays of Elia' an analysis (which has
become classical) of Bensley's performance of Malvolio. But Bensley's
powers were rated more moderately by more experienced playgoers. {338}
Lamb's praises of Mrs. Jordan (1762-1816) in Ophelia, Helena, and Viola
in 'Twelfth Night,' are corroborated by the eulogies of Hazlitt and Leigh
Hunt. In the part of Rosalind Mrs. Jordan is reported on all sides to
have beaten Mrs. Siddons out of the field.

William Charles Macready, 1793-1873.

The torch thus lit by Garrick, by the Kembles, by Kean and his
contemporaries was worthily kept alive by William Charles Macready, a
cultivated and conscientious actor, who, during a professional career of
more than forty years (1810-1851), assumed every great part in
Shakespearean tragedy. Although Macready lacked the classical bearing of
Kemble or the intense passion of Kean, he won as the interpreter of
Shakespeare the whole-hearted suffrages of the educated public.
Macready's chief associate in women characters was Helen Faucit
(1820-1898, afterwards Lady Martin), whose refined impersonations of
Imogen, Beatrice, Juliet, and Rosalind form an attractive chapter in the
history of the stage.

Recent revivals.

The most notable tribute paid to Shakespeare by any actor-manager of
recent times was paid by Samuel Phelps (1804-1878), who gave during his
tenure of Sadler's Wells Theatre between 1844 and 1862 competent
representations of all the plays save six; only 'Richard II,' the three
parts of 'Henry VI,' 'Troilus and Cressida,' and 'Titus Andronicus' were
omitted. Sir Henry Irving, who since 1878 has been ably seconded by Miss
Ellen Terry, has revived at the Lyceum Theatre between 1874 and the
present time eleven plays ('Hamlet,' 'Macbeth,' 'Othello,' 'Richard III,'
'The Merchant of Venice,' 'Much Ado about Nothing,' 'Twelfth Night,'
'Romeo and Juliet,' 'King Lear,' 'Henry VIII,' and 'Cymbeline'), and has
given each of them all the advantage they can derive from thoughtful
acting as well as from lavish scenic elaboration. {340a} But theatrical
revivals of plays of Shakespeare are in England intermittent, and no
theatrical manager since Phelps's retirement has sought systematically to
illustrate on the stage the full range of Shakespearean drama. Far more
in this direction has been attempted in Germany. {340b} In one respect
the history of recent Shakespearean representations can be viewed by the
literary student with unqualified satisfaction. Although some changes of
text or some rearrangement of the scenes are found imperative in all
theatrical representations of Shakespeare, a growing public sentiment in
England and elsewhere has for many years favoured as loyal an adherence
to the authorised version of the plays as is practicable on the part of
theatrical managers; and the evil traditions of the stage which
sanctioned the perversions of the eighteenth century are happily
well-nigh extinct.

In music and art.

Music and art in England owe much to Shakespeare's influence. From
Thomas Morley, Purcell, Matthew Locke, and Arne to William Linley, Sir
Henry Bishop, and Sir Arthur Sullivan, every distinguished musician has
sought to improve on his predecessor's setting of one or more of
Shakespeare's songs, or has composed concerted music in illustration of
some of his dramatic themes. {341} In art, the publisher John Boydell
organised in 1787 a scheme for illustrating scenes in Shakespeare's work
by the greatest living English artists. Some fine pictures were the
result. A hundred and sixty-eight were painted in all, and the artists,
whom Boydell employed, included Sir Joshua Reynolds, George Romney,
Thomas Stothard, John Opie, Benjamin West, James Barry, and Henry Fuseli.
All the pictures were exhibited from time to time between 1789 and 1804
at a gallery specially built for the purpose in Pall Mall, and in 1802
Boydell published a collection of engravings of the chief pictures. The
great series of paintings was dispersed by auction in 1805. Few eminent
artists of later date, from Daniel Maclise to Sir John Millais, have
lacked the ambition to interpret some scene or character of Shakespearean

In America.

In America no less enthusiasm for Shakespeare has been manifested than in
England. Editors and critics are hardly less numerous there, and some
criticism from American pens, like that of James Russell Lowell, has
reached the highest literary level. Nowhere, perhaps, has more labour
been devoted to the study of his works than that given by Mr. H. H.
Furness of Philadelphia to the preparation of his 'New Variorum' edition.
The Barton collection of Shakespeareana in the Boston Public Library is
one of the most valuable extant, and the elaborate catalogue (1878-80)
contains some 2,500 entries. First of Shakespeare's plays to be
represented in America, 'Richard III' was performed in New York in March
1750. More recently Edwin Forrest, Junius Brutus Booth, Edwin Booth,
Charlotte Cushman, and Miss Ada Rehan have maintained on the American
stage the great traditions of Shakespearean acting; while Mr. E. A. Abbey
has devoted high artistic gifts to pictorial representation of scenes
from the plays.

Translations. In Germany. German translations.

The Bible, alone of literary compositions, has been translated more
frequently or into a greater number of languages than the works of
Shakespeare. The progress of his reputation in Germany, France, Italy,
and Russia was somewhat slow at the outset. But in Germany the poet has
received for nearly a century and a half a recognition scarcely less
pronounced than that accorded him in America and in his own country.
Three of Shakespeare's plays, now in the Zurich Library, were brought
thither by J. R. Hess from England in 1614. As early as 1626 'Hamlet,'
'King Lear,' and 'Romeo and Juliet' were acted at Dresden, and a version
of the 'Taming of The Shrew' was played there and elsewhere at the end of
the seventeenth century. But such mention of Shakespeare as is found in
German literature between 1640 and 1740 only indicates a knowledge on the
part of German readers either of Dryden's criticisms or of the accounts
of him printed in English encyclopaedias. {342} The earliest sign of a
direct acquaintance with the plays is a poor translation of 'Julius
Caesar' into German by Baron C. W. von Borck, formerly Prussian minister
in London, which was published at Berlin in 1741. A worse rendering of
'Romeo and Juliet' followed in 1758. Meanwhile J. C. Gottsched
(1700-66), an influential man of letters, warmly denounced Shakespeare in
a review of Von Borck's effort in 'Beitrage zur deutschen Sprache' and
elsewhere. Lessing came without delay to Shakespeare's rescue, and set
his reputation, in the estimation of the German public, on that exalted
pedestal which it has not ceased to occupy. It was in 1759, in a journal
entitled 'Litteraturbriefe,' that Lessing first claimed for Shakespeare
superiority, not only to the French dramatists Racine and Corneille, who
hitherto had dominated European taste, but to all ancient or modern
poets. Lessing's doctrine, which he developed in his 'Hamburgische
Dramaturgie' (Hamburg, 1767, 2 vols. 8vo), was at once accepted by the
poet Johann Gottfried Herder in the 'Blatter von deutschen Art and
Kunst,' 1771. Christopher Martin Wieland (1733-1813) in 1762 began a
prose translation which Johann Joachim Eschenburg (1743-1820) completed
(Zurich, 13 vols., 1775-84). Between 1797 and 1833 there appeared at
intervals the classical German rendering by August Wilhelm von Schlegel
and Ludwig Tieck, leaders of the romantic school of German literature,
whose creed embodied, as one of its first articles, an unwavering
veneration for Shakespeare. Schlegel translated only seventeen plays,
and his workmanship excels that of the rest of the translation. Tieck's
part in the undertaking was mainly confined to editing translations by
various hands. Many other German translations in verse were undertaken
during the same period--by J. H. Voss and his sons (Leipzig, 1818-29), by
J. W. O. Benda (Leipzig, 1825-6), by J. Korner (Vienna, 1836), by A.
Bottger (Leipzig, 1836-7), by E. Ortlepp (Stuttgart, 1838-9), and by A.
Keller and M. Rapp (Stuttgart, 1843-6). The best of more recent German
translations is that by a band of poets and eminent men of letters
including Friedrich von Bodenstedt, Ferdinand von Freiligrath, and Paul
Heyse (Leipzig, 1867-71, 38 vols.) Most of these versions have been many
times reissued, but, despite the high merits of von Bodenstedt and his
companions' performance, Schlegel and Tieck's achievement still holds the
field. Schlegel's lectures on 'Shakespeare and the Drama,' which were
delivered at Vienna in 1808, and were translated into English in 1815,
are worthy of comparison with those of Coleridge, who owed much to their
influence. Wordsworth in 1815 declared that Schlegel and his disciples
first marked out the right road in aesthetic criticism, and enjoyed at
the moment superiority over all English aesthetic critics of Shakespeare.
{344} Subsequently Goethe poured forth, in his voluminous writings, a
mass of criticism even more illuminating and appreciative than
Schlegel's. {345} Although Goethe deemed Shakespeare's works unsuited to
the stage, he adapted 'Romeo and Juliet' for the Weimar Theatre, while
Schiller prepared 'Macbeth' (Stuttgart, 1801). Heine published in 1838
charming studies of Shakespeare's heroines (English translation 1895),
and acknowledged only one defect in Shakespeare--that he was an

Modern German writers on Shakespeare.

During the last half-century textual, aesthetic, and biographical
criticism has been pursued in Germany with unflagging industry and
energy; and although laboured and supersubtle theorising characterises
much German aesthetic criticism, its mass and variety testify to the
impressiveness of the appeal that Shakespeare's work has made to the
German intellect. The efforts to stem the current of Shakespearean
worship made by the realistic critic, Gustav Rumelin, in his
'Shakespearestudien' (Stuttgart, 1866), and subsequently by the
dramatist, J. R. Benedix, in 'Die Shakespearomanie' (Stuttgart, 1873,
8vo), proved of no effect. In studies of the text and metre Nikolaus
Delius (1813-1888) should, among recent German writers, be accorded the
first place; in studies of the biography and stage history Friedrich Karl
Elze (1821-1889); in aesthetic studies Friedrich Alexander Theodor
Kreyssig (1818-1879), author of 'Vorlesungen uber Shakespeare' (Berlin,
1858 and 1874), and 'Shakespeare-Fragen' (Leipzig, 1871). Ulrici's
'Shakespeare's Dramatic Art' (first published at Halle in 1839) and
Gervinus's Commentaries (first published at Leipzig in 1848-9), both of
which are familiar in English translations, are suggestive but
unconvincing aesthetic interpretations. The German Shakespeare Society,
which was founded at Weimar in 1865, has published thirty-four year-books
(edited successively by von Bodenstedt, Delius, Elze, and F. A. Leo);
each contains useful contributions to Shakespearean study.

On the German stage.

Shakespeare has been no less effectually nationalised on the German
stage. The three great actors--Frederick Ulrich Ludwig Schroeder
(1744-1816) of Hamburg, Ludwig Devrient (1784-1832), and his nephew
Gustav Emil Devrient (1803-1872)--largely derived their fame from their
successful assumptions of Shakespearean characters. Another of Ludwig
Devrient's nephews, Eduard (1801-1877), also an actor, prepared, with his
son Otto, an acting German edition (Leipzig, 1873 and following years).
An acting edition by Wilhelm Oechelhaeuser appeared previously at Berlin
in 1871. Twenty-eight of the thirty-seven plays assigned to Shakespeare
are now on recognised lists of German acting plays, including all the
histories. {346a} In 1895 as many as 706 performances of twenty-five of
Shakespeare's plays were given in German theatres. {346b} In 1896 no
fewer than 910 performances were given of twenty-three plays. In 1897
performances of twenty-four plays reached a total of 930--an average of
nearly three Shakespearean representations a day in the German-speaking
districts of Europe. {347} It is not only in capitals like Berlin and
Vienna that the representations are frequent and popular. In towns like
Altona, Breslau, Frankfort-on-the-Maine, Hamburg, Magdeburg, and Rostock,
Shakespeare is acted constantly and the greater number of his dramas is
regularly kept in rehearsal. 'Othello,' 'Hamlet,' 'Romeo and Juliet,'
and 'The Taming of the Shrew' usually prove most attractive. Of the many
German musical composers who have worked on Shakespearean themes,
Mendelssohn (in 'Midsummer Night's Dream'), Schumann, and Franz Schubert
(in setting separate songs) have achieved the greatest success.

In France. Voltaire's strictures.

In France Shakespeare won recognition after a longer struggle than in
Germany. Cyrano de Bergerac (1619-1655) plagiarised 'Cymbeline,'
'Hamlet,' and 'The Merchant of Venice' in his 'Agrippina.' About 1680
Nicolas Clement, Louis XIV's librarian, allowed Shakespeare imagination,
natural thoughts, and ingenious expression, but deplored his obscenity.
{348a} Half a century elapsed before public attention in France was
again directed to Shakespeare. {348b} The Abbe Prevost, in his
periodical 'Le Pour et Contre' (1733 et seq.), acknowledged his power.
But it is to Voltaire that his countrymen owe, as he himself boasted,
their first effective introduction to Shakespeare. Voltaire studied
Shakespeare thoroughly on his visit to England between 1726 and 1729, and
his influence is visible in his own dramas. In his 'Lettres
Philosophiques' (1731), afterwards reissued as 'Lettres sur les Anglais,'
1734 (Nos. xviii. and xix.), and in his 'Lettre sur la Tragedie' (1731),
he expressed admiration for Shakespeare's genius, but attacked his want
of taste and art. He described him as 'le Corneille de Londres, grand
fou d'ailleurs mais il a des morceaux admirables.' Writing to the Abbe
des Fontaines in November 1735, Voltaire admitted many merits in 'Julius
Caesar,' on which he published 'Observations' in 1764. Johnson replied
to Voltaire's general criticism in the preface to his edition (1765), and
Mrs. Elizabeth Montagu in 1769 in a separate volume, which was translated
into French in 1777. Diderot made, in his 'Encylopedie,' the first stand
in France against the Voltairean position, and increased opportunities of
studying Shakespeare's works increased the poet's vogue. Twelve plays
were translated in De la Place's 'Theatre Anglais' (1745-8).
Jean-Francois Ducis (1733-1816) adapted without much insight six plays
for the French stage, beginning in 1769 with 'Hamlet,' his version of
which was acted with applause. In 1776 Pierre Le Tourneur began a bad
prose translation (completed in 1782) of all Shakespeare's plays, and
declared him to be 'the god of the theatre.' Voltaire protested against
this estimate in a new remonstrance consisting of two letters, of which
the first was read before the French Academy on August 25, 1776. Here
Shakespeare was described as a barbarian, whose works--'a huge
dunghill'--concealed some pearls.

French critics' gradual emancipation from Voltairean influence.

Although Voltaire's censure was rejected by the majority of later French
critics, it expressed a sentiment born of the genius of the nation, and
made an impression that was only gradually effaced. Marmontel, La Harpe,
Marie-Joseph Chenier, and Chateaubriand, in his 'Essai sur Shakespeare,'
1801, inclined to Voltaire's view; but Madame de Stael wrote effectively
on the other side in her 'De la Litterature, 1804 (i. caps. 13, 14, ii.
5.) 'At this day,' wrote Wordsworth in 1815, 'the French critics have
abated nothing of their aversion to "this darling of our nation." "The
English with their bouffon de Shakespeare" is as familiar an expression
among them as in the time of Voltaire. Baron Grimm is the only French
writer who seems to have perceived his infinite superiority to the first
names of the French theatre; an advantage which the Parisian critic owed
to his German blood and German education.' {350a} The revision of Le
Tourneur's translation by Francois Guizot and A. Pichot in 1821 gave
Shakespeare a fresh advantage. Paul Duport, in 'Essais Litteraires sur
Shakespeare' (Paris, 1828, 2 vols.), was the last French critic of repute
to repeat Voltaire's censure unreservedly. Guizot, in his discourse 'Sur
la Vie et les OEuvres de Shakespeare' (reprinted separately from the
translation of 1821), as well as in his 'Shakespeare et son Temps'
(1852), Villemain in a general essay, {350b} and Barante in a study of
'Hamlet,' {350c} acknowledge the mightiness of Shakespeare's genius with
comparatively few qualifications. Other complete translations
followed--by Francisque Michel (1839), by Benjamin Laroche (1851), and by
Emil Montegut (1867), but the best is that in prose by Francois Victor
Hugo (1859-66), whose father, Victor Hugo the poet, published a
rhapsodical eulogy in 1864. Alfred Mezieres's 'Shakespeare, ses OEuvres
et ses Critiques' (Paris, 1860), is a saner appreciation.

On the French stage.

Meanwhile 'Hamlet' and 'Macbeth,' 'Othello,' and a few other
Shakespearean plays, became stock pieces on the French stage. A powerful
impetus to theatrical representation of Shakespeare in France was given
by the performance in Paris of the chief plays by a strong company of
English actors in the autumn of 1827. 'Hamlet' and 'Othello' were acted
successively by Charles Kemble and Macready; Edmund Kean appeared as
Richard III, Othello, and Shylock; Miss Smithson, who became the wife of
Hector Berlioz the musician, filled the _roles_ of Ophelia, Juliet,
Desdemona, Cordelia, and Portia. French critics were divided as to the
merits of the performers, but most of them were enthusiastic in their
commendations of the plays. {351a} Alfred de Vigny prepared a version of
'Othello' for the Theatre-Francais in 1829 with eminent success. An
adaptation of 'Hamlet' by Alexandre Dumas was first performed in 1847,
and a rendering by the Chevalier de Chatelain (1864) was often repeated.
George Sand translated 'As You Like It' (Paris, 1856) for representation
by the Comedie Francaise on April 12, 1856. 'Lady Macbeth' has been
represented in recent years by Madame Sarah Bernhardt, and 'Hamlet' by M.
Mounet Sully of the Theatre-Francais. {351b} Four French
musicians--Berlioz in his symphony of 'Romeo and Juliet,' Gounod in his
opera of 'Romeo and Juliet,' Ambroise Thomas in his opera of 'Hamlet,'
and Saint-Saens in his opera of 'Henry VIII'--have sought with public
approval to interpret musically portions of Shakespeare's work.

In Italy.

In Italy Shakespeare was little known before the present century. Such
references as eighteenth-century Italian writers made to him were based
on remarks by Voltaire. {352} The French adaptation of 'Hamlet' by Ducis
was issued in Italian blank verse (Venice, 1774, 8vo). Complete
translations of all the plays made direct from the English were issued by
Michele Leoni in verse at Verona in 1819-22, and by Carlo Rusconi in
prose at Padua in 1831 (new edit. Turin, 1858-9). 'Othello' and 'Romeo
and Juliet' have been very often translated into Italian separately. The
Italian actors, Madame Ristori (as Lady Macbeth), Salvini (as Othello),
and Rossi rank among Shakespeare's most effective interpreters. Verdi's
operas on Macbeth, Othello, and Falstaff (the last two with libretti by
Boito), manifest close and appreciative study of Shakespeare.

In Holland.

Two complete translations have been published in Dutch; one in prose by
A. S. Kok (Amsterdam 1873-1880), the other in verse by Dr. L. A. J.
Burgersdijk (Leyden, 1884-8, 12 vols.)

In Russia.

In Eastern Europe, Shakespeare first became known through French and
German translations. Into Russian 'Romeo and Juliet' was translated in
1772, 'Richard III' in 1783, and 'Julius Caesar' in 1786. Sumarakow
translated Ducis' version of 'Hamlet' in 1784 for stage purposes, while
the Empress Catherine II adapted the 'Merry Wives' and 'King John.'
Numerous versions of all the chief plays followed; and in 1865 there
appeared at St. Petersburg the best translation in verse (direct from the
English), by Nekrasow and Gerbel. A prose translation, by N. Ketzcher,
begun in 1862, was completed in 1879. Gerbel issued a Russian
translation of the 'Sonnets' in 1880, and many critical essays in the
language, original or translated, have been published. Almost every play
has been represented in Russian on the Russian stage. {353a}

In Poland.

A Polish version of 'Hamlet' was acted at Lemberg in 1797; and as many as
sixteen plays now hold a recognised place among Polish acting plays. The
standard Polish translation of Shakespeare's collected works appeared at
Warsaw in 1875 (edited by the Polish poet Kraszewski), and is reckoned
among the most successful renderings in a foreign tongue.

In Hungary.

In Hungary, Shakespeare's greatest works have since the beginning of the
century been highly appreciated by students and by playgoers. A complete
translation into Hungarian appeared at Kaschau in 1824. At the National
Theatre at Budapest no fewer than twenty-two plays have been of late
years included in the actors' repertory. {353b}

In other countries.

Other complete translations have been published in Bohemian (Prague
1874), in Swedish (Lund, 1847-1851), in Danish (1845-1850), and Finnish
(Helsingfors, 1892-5). In Spanish a complete translation is in course of
publication (Madrid, 1885 et seq.), and the eminent Spanish critic
Menendez y Pelayo has set Shakespeare above Calderon. In Armenian,
although only three plays ('Hamlet,' 'Romeo and Juliet,' and 'As You Like
It') have been issued, the translation of the whole is ready for the
press. Separate plays have appeared in Welsh, Portuguese, Friesic,
Flemish, Servian, Roumanian, Maltese, Ukrainian, Wallachian, Croatian,
modern Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Japanese; while a few have been rendered
into Bengali, Hindustani, Marathi, {354} Gujarati, Urdu, Kanarese, and
other languages of India, and have been acted in native theatres.


General estimate.

No estimate of Shakespeare's genius can be adequate. In knowledge of
human character, in wealth of humour, in depth of passion, in fertility
of fancy, and in soundness of judgment, he has no rival. It is true of
him, as of no other writer, that his language and versification adapt
themselves to every phase of sentiment, and sound every note in the scale
of felicity. Some defects are to be acknowledged, but they sink into
insignificance when measured by the magnitude of his achievement. Sudden
transitions, elliptical expressions, mixed metaphors, indefensible verbal
quibbles, and fantastic conceits at times create an atmosphere of
obscurity. The student is perplexed, too, by obsolete words and by some
hopelessly corrupt readings. But when the whole of Shakespeare's vast
work is scrutinised with due attention, the glow of his magination is
seen to leave few passages wholly unillumined. Some of his plots are
hastily constructed and inconsistently developed, but the intensity of
the interest with which he contrives to invest the personality of his
heroes and heroines triumphs over halting or digressive treatment of the
story in which they have their being. Although he was versed in the
technicalities of stagecraft, he occasionally disregarded its elementary
conditions. But the success of his presentments of human life and
character depended little on his manipulation of theatrical machinery.
His unassailable supremacy springs from the versatile working of his
insight and intellect, by virtue of which his pen limned with unerring
precision almost every gradation of thought and emotion that animates the
living stage of the world.

Character of Shakespeare's achievement.

Shakespeare's mind, as Hazlitt suggested, contained within itself the
germs of all faculty and feeling. He knew intuitively how every faculty
and feeling would develop in any conceivable change of fortune. Men and
women--good or bad, old or young, wise or foolish, merry or sad, rich or
poor--yielded their secrets to him, and his genius enabled him to give
being in his pages to all the shapes of humanity that present themselves
on the highway of life. Each of his characters gives voice to thought or
passion with an individuality and a naturalness that rouse in the
intelligent playgoer and reader the illusion that they are overhearing
men and women speak unpremeditatingly among themselves, rather than that
they are reading written speeches or hearing written speeches recited.
The more closely the words are studied, the completer the illusion grows.
Creatures of the imagination--fairies, ghosts, witches--are delineated
with a like potency, and the reader or spectator feels instinctively that
these supernatural entities could not speak, feel, or act otherwise than
Shakespeare represents them. The creative power of poetry was never
manifested to such effect as in the corporeal semblances in which
Shakespeare clad the spirits of the air.

Its universal recognition.

So mighty a faculty sets at naught the common limitations of nationality,
and in every quarter of the globe to which civilised life has penetrated
Shakespeare's power is recognised. All the world over, language is
applied to his creations that ordinarily applies to beings of flesh and
blood. Hamlet and Othello, Lear and Macbeth, Falstaff and Shylock,
Brutus and Romeo, Ariel and Caliban are studied in almost every civilised
tongue as if they were historic personalities, and the chief of the
impressive phrases that fall from their lips are rooted in the speech of
civilised humanity. To Shakespeare the intellect of the world, speaking
in divers accents, applies with one accord his own words: 'How noble in
reason! how infinite in faculty! in apprehension how like a god!'



Contemporary records abundant.

The scantiness of contemporary records of Shakespeare's career has been
much exaggerated. An investigation extending over two centuries has
brought together a mass of detail which far exceeds that accessible in
the case of any other contemporary professional writer. Nevertheless,
some important links are missing, and at some critical points appeal to
conjecture is inevitable. But the fully ascertained facts are numerous
enough to define sharply the general direction that Shakespeare's career
followed. Although the clues are in some places faint, the trail never
altogether eludes the patient investigator.

First efforts in biography.

Fuller, in his 'Worthies' (1662), attempted the first biographical notice
of Shakespeare, with poor results. Aubrey, in his gossiping 'Lives of
Eminent Men,' {361} based his ampler information on reports communicated
to him by William Beeston (_d._ 1682), an aged actor, whom Dryden called
'the chronicle of the stage,' and who was doubtless in the main a
trustworthy witness. A few additional details were recorded in the
seventeenth century by the Rev. John Ward (1629-1681), vicar of
Stratford-on-Avon from 1662 to 1668, in a diary and memorandum-book
written between 1661 and 1663 (ed. C. A. Severn, 1839); by the Rev.
William Fulman, whose manuscripts are at Corpus Christi College, Oxford
(with valuable interpolations made before 1708 by the Rev. Richard
Davies, vicar of Saperton, Gloucestershire); by John Dowdall, who
recorded his experiences of travel through Warwickshire in 1693 (London,
1838); and by William Hall, who described a visit to Stratford in 1694
(London, 1884, from Hall's letter among the Bodleian MSS.) Phillips in
his 'Theatrum Poetarum' (1675), and Langbaine in his 'English Dramatick
Poets' (1691), confined themselves to elementary criticism. In 1709
Nicholas Rowe prefixed to his edition of the plays a more ambitious
memoir than had yet been attempted, and embodied some hitherto unrecorded
Stratford and London traditions with which the actor Thomas Betterton
supplied him. A little fresh gossip was collected by William Oldys, and
was printed from his manuscript 'Adversaria' (now in the British Museum)
as an appendix to Yeowell's 'Memoir of Oldys,' 1862. Pope, Johnson, and
Steevens, in the biographical prefaces to their editions, mainly repeated
the narratives of their predecessor, Rowe.

Biographers of the nineteenth century. Stratford topography.

In the Prolegomena to the Variorum editions of 1803, 1813, and especially
in that of 1821, there was embodied a mass of fresh information derived
by Edmund Malone from systematic researches among the parochial records
of Stratford, the manuscripts accumulated by the actor Alleyn at Dulwich,
and official papers of state preserved in the public offices in London
(now collected in the Public Record Office). The available knowledge of
Elizabethan stage history, as well as of Shakespeare's biography, was
thus greatly extended. John Payne Collier, in his 'History of English
Dramatic Poetry' (1831), in his 'New Facts' about Shakespeare (1835), his
'New Particulars' (1836), and his 'Further Particulars' (1839), and in
his editions of Henslowe's 'Diary' and the 'Alleyn Papers' for the
Shakespeare Society, while occasionally throwing some further light on
obscure places, foisted on Shakespeare's biography a series of
ingeniously forged documents which have greatly perplexed succeeding
biographers. {362} Joseph Hunter in 'New Illustrations of Shakespeare'
(1845) and George Russell French's 'Shakespeareana Genealogica' (1869)
occasionally supplemented Malone's researches. James Orchard Halliwell
(afterwards Halliwell-Phillipps) printed separately, between 1850 and
1884, in various privately issued publications, all the Stratford
archives and extant legal documents bearing on Shakespeare's career, many
of them for the first time. In 1881 Halliwell-Phillipps began the
collective publication of materials for a full biography in his 'Outlines
of the Life of Shakespeare;' this work was generously enlarged in
successive editions until it acquired massive proportions; in the seventh
and last edition of 1887 it numbered near 1,000 pages. Mr. Frederick
Gard Fleay, in his 'Shakespeare Manual' (1876), in his 'Life of
Shakespeare' (1886), in his 'History of the Stage' (1890), and his
'Biographical Chronicle of the English Drama' (1891), adds much useful
information respecting stage history and Shakespeare's relations with his
fellow-dramatists, mainly derived from a study of the original editions
of the plays of Shakespeare and of his contemporaries; but unfortunately
many of Mr. Fleay's statements and conjectures are unauthenticated. For
notices of Stratford, R. B. Wheler's 'History and Antiquities' (1806),
John R. Wise's 'Shakespere, his Birthplace and its Neighbourhood' (1861),
the present writer's 'Stratford-on-Avon to the Death of Shakespeare'
(1890), and Mrs. C. C. Stopes's 'Shakespeare's Warwickshire
Contemporaries' (1897), may be consulted. Wise appends to his volume a
tentative 'glossary of words still used in Warwickshire to be found in
Shakspere.' The parish registers of Stratford have been edited by Mr.
Richard Savage for the Parish Registers Society (1898-9). Nathan Drake's
'Shakespeare and his Times' (1817) and G. W. Thornbury's 'Shakespeare's
England' (1856) collect much material respecting Shakespeare's social

Specialised studies in biography. Useful epitomes.

The chief monographs on special points in Shakespeare's biography are Dr.
Richard Farmer's 'Essay on the Learning of Shakespeare' (1767), reprinted
in the Variorum editions; Octavius Gilchrist's 'Examination of the
Charges . . . . of Ben Jonson's Enmity towards Shakespeare' (1808); W. J.
Thoms's 'Was Shakespeare ever a Soldier?' (1849), a study based on an
erroneous identification of the poet with another William Shakespeare;
Lord Campbell's 'Shakespeare's Legal Acquirements considered' (1859);
John Charles Bucknill's 'Medical Knowledge of Shakespeare' (1860); C. F.
Green's' 'Shakespeare's Crab-Tree, with its Legend' (1862); C. H.
Bracebridge's 'Shakespeare no Deer-stealer' (1862); William Blades's
'Shakspere and Typography' (1872); and D. H. Madden's 'Diary of Master
William Silence (Shakespeare and Sport),' 1897. A full epitome of the
biographical information accessible at the date of publication is
supplied in Karl Elze's 'Life of Shakespeare' (Halle, 1876; English
translation, 1888), with which Elze's 'Essays' from the publications of
the German Shakespeare Society (English translation, 1874) are worth
studying. A less ambitious effort of the same kind by Samuel Neil (1861)
is seriously injured by the writer's acceptance of Collier's forgeries.
Professor Dowden's 'Shakspere Primer' (1877) and his 'Introduction to
Shakspere' (1893), and Dr. Furnivall's 'Introduction to the Leopold
Shakspere,' are all useful summaries of leading facts.

Aids to study of plots and text. Concordances. Bibliographies.

Francis Douce's 'Illustrations of Shakespeare' (1807, new edit. 1839),
'Shakespeare's Library' (ed. J. P. Collier and W. C. Hazlitt, 1875),
'Shakespeare's Plutarch' (ed. Skeat, 1875), and 'Shakespeare's Holinshed'
(ed. W. G. Boswell-Stone, 1896) are of service in tracing the sources of
Shakespeare's plots. Alexander Schmidt's 'Shakespeare Lexicon' (1874)
and Dr. E. A. Abbott's 'Shakespearian Grammar' (1869, new edit. 1893) are
valuable aids to a study of the text. Useful concordances to the Plays
have been prepared by Mrs. Cowden-Clarke (1845), to the Poems by Mrs. H.
H. Furness (Philadelphia, 1875), and to Plays and Poems, in one volume,
with references to numbered lines, by John Bartlett (London and New York,
1895). {364} A 'Handbook Index' by J. O. Halliwell (privately printed
1866) gives lists of obsolete words and phrases, songs, proverbs, and
plants mentioned in the works of Shakespeare. An unprinted glossary
prepared by Richard Warner between 1750 and 1770 is at the British Museum
(Addit. MSS. 10472-542). Extensive bibliographies are given in Lowndes's
'Library Manual' (ed. Bohn); in Franz Thimm's 'Shakespeariana' (1864 and
1871); in the 'Encyclopaedia Britannica,' 9th edit. (skilfully classified
by Mr. H. R. Tedder); and in the 'British Museum Catalogue' (the
Shakespearean entries in which, comprising 3,680 titles, were separately
published in 1897).

Critical studies.

The valuable publications of the Shakespeare Society, the New Shakspere
Society, and of the Deutsche Shakespeare-Gesellschaft, comprising
contributions alike to the aesthetic, textual, historical, and
biographical study of Shakespeare, are noticed above (see pp. 333-4,
346). To the critical studies, on which comment has already been made
(see p. 333)--viz. Coleridge's 'Notes and Lectures,' 1883, Hazlitt's
'Characters of Shakespeare's Plays,' 1817, Professor Dowden's 'Shakspere:
his Mind and Art,' 1875, and Mr. A. C. Swinburne's 'A Study of
Shakespeare,' 1879--there may be added the essays on Shakespeare's
heroines respectively by Mrs. Jameson in 1833 and Lady Martin in 1885;
Dr. Ward's 'English Dramatic Literature' (1875, new edit. 1898); Richard
G. Moulton's 'Shakespeare as a Dramatic Artist' (1885); 'Shakespeare
Studies' by Thomas Spencer Baynes (1893); F. S. Boas's 'Shakspere and his
Predecessors', (1895), and Georg Brandes's 'William Shakespeare'--an
elaborately critical but somewhat fanciful study--in Danish (Copenhagen,
1895, 8vo), in German (Leipzig, 1895), and in English (London, 1898, 2
vols. 8vo).

Shakespearean forgeries.

The intense interest which Shakespeare's life and work have long
universally excited has tempted unprincipled or sportively mischievous
writers from time to time to deceive the public by the forgery of
documents purporting to supply new information. The forgers were
especially active at the end of last century and during the middle years
of the present century, and their frauds have caused students so much
perplexity that it may be useful to warn them against those Shakespearean
forgeries which have obtained the widest currency.

John Jordan, 1746-1809.

The earliest forger to obtain notoriety was John Jordan (1746-1809), a
resident at Stratford-on-Avon, whose most important achievement was the
forgery of the will of Shakespeare's father; but many other papers in
Jordan's 'Original Collections on Shakespeare and Stratford-on-Avon'
(1780), and 'Original Memoirs and Historical Accounts of the Families of
Shakespeare and Hart,' are open to the gravest suspicion. {366a}

The Ireland forgeries, 1796.

The best known Shakespearean forger of the eighteenth century was William
Henry Ireland (1777-1835), a barrister's clerk, who, with the aid of his
father, Samuel Ireland (1740?-1800), an author and engraver of some
repute, produced in 1796 a volume of forged papers claiming to relate to
Shakespeare's career. The title ran: 'Miscellaneous Papers and Legal
Instruments under the Hand and Seal of William Shakespeare, including the
tragedy of "King Lear" and a small fragment of "Hamlet" from the original
MSS. in the possession of Samuel Ireland.' On April 2, 1796 Sheridan and
Kemble produced at Drury Lane Theatre a bombastic tragedy in blank verse
entitled 'Vortigern' under the pretence that it was by Shakespeare, and
had been recently found among the manuscripts of the dramatist that had
fallen into the hands of the Irelands. The piece, which was published,
was the invention of young Ireland. The fraud of the Irelands, which for
some time deceived a section of the literary public, was finally exposed
by Malone in his valuable 'Inquiry into the Authenticity of the Ireland
MSS.' (1796). Young Ireland afterwards published his 'Confessions'
(1805). He had acquired much skill in copying Shakespeare's genuine
signature from the facsimile in Steevens's edition of Shakespeare's works
of the mortgage-deed of the Blackfriars house of 1612-13, {366b} and,
besides conforming to that style of handwriting in his forged deeds and
literary compositions, he inserted copies of the signature on the
title-pages of many sixteenth-century books, and often added notes in the
same feigned hand on their margins. Numerous sixteenth-century volumes
embellished by Ireland in this manner are extant, and his forged
signatures and marginalia have been frequently mistaken for genuine
autographs of Shakespeare.

Forgeries promulgated by Collier and others, 1835-1849.

But Ireland's and Jordan's frauds are clumsy compared with those that
belong to the present century. Most of the works relating to the
biography of Shakespeare or the history of the Elizabethan stage produced
by John Payne Collier, or under his supervision, between 1835 and 1849
are honeycombed with forged references to Shakespeare, and many of the
forgeries have been admitted unsuspectingly into literary history. The
chief of these forged papers I arrange below in the order of the dates
that have been allotted to them by their manufacturers. {367a}

1589 (November). Appeal from the Blackfriars players
(16 in number) to the Privy Council
for favour. Shakespeare's name
stands twelfth. From the manuscripts
at Bridgewater House, belonging to
the Earl of Ellesmere. First printed
in Collier's 'New Facts regarding the
Life of Shakespeare,' 1835.
1596 (July). List of inhabitants of the Liberty of
Southwark, Shakespeare's name
appearing in the sixth place. First
printed in Collier's 'Life of
Shakespeare,' 1858, p. 126.
1596. Petition of the owners and players of
the Blackfriars Theatre to the Privy
Council in reply to an alleged
petition of the inhabitants
requesting the closing of the
playhouse. Shakespeare's name is
fifth on the list of petitioners.
This forged paper is in the Public
Record Office, and was first printed
in Collier's 'History of English
Dramatic Poetry' (1831), vol. i. p.
297, and has been constantly
reprinted as if it were genuine.
1596 (_circa_). A letter signed H. S.(_i.e._ Henry,
Earl of Southampton), addressed to
Sir Thomas Egerton, praying
protection for the players of the
Blackfriars Theatre, and mentioning
Burbage and Shakespeare by name.
First printed in Collier's 'New
1596 (_circa_). A list of sharers in the Blackfriars
Theatre, with the valuation of their
property, in which Shakespeare is
credited with four shares, worth 933
pounds 6s. 8d. This was first
printed in Collier's 'New Facts,'
1835, p. 6, from the Egerton MSS. at
Bridgewater House.
1602 (August 6). Notice of the performance of
'Othello' by Burbage's 'players'
before Queen Elizabeth when on a
visit to Sir Thomas Egerton, the
lord-keeper, at Harefield, in a
forged account of disbursements by
Egerton's steward, Arthur
Mainwaringe, from the manuscripts at
Bridgewater House, belonging to the
Earl of Ellesmere. Printed in
Collier's 'New Particulars regarding
the Works of Shakespeare,' 1836, and
again in Collier's edition of the
'Egerton Papers,' 1840 (Camden
Society)) pp. 342-3.
1603 (October 3). Mention of 'Mr. Shakespeare of the
Globe' in a letter at Dulwich from
Mrs. Alleyn to her husband; part of
the letter is genuine. First
published in Collier's Memoirs of
Edward Alleyn,' 1841, p. 63. {368}
1604 List of the names of eleven players
(April 9). of the King's Company fraudulently
appended to a genuine letter at
Dulwich College from the Privy
Council bidding the Lord Mayor permit
performances by the King's players.
Printed in Collier's 'Memoirs of
Edward Alleyn,' 1841, p. 68. {368b}
1605 (November-December). Forged entries in Master of the
Revels' account-books (now at the
Public Record Office) of performances
at Whitehall by the King's players of
the 'Moor of Venice'--_i.e._
'Othello'--on November 1, and of
'Measure for Measure' on December 26.
Printed in Peter Cunningham's
'Extracts from the Accounts of the
Revels at Court' (pp. 203-4),
published by the Shakespeare Society
in 1842. Doubtless based on Malone's
trustworthy memoranda (now in the
Bodleian Library) of researches among
genuine papers formerly at the Audit
Office at Somerset House. {369a}
1607. Notes of performances of 'Hamlet' and
'Richard II' by the crews of the
vessels of the East India Company's
fleet off Sierra Leone. First
printed in 'Narratives of Voyages
towards the North-West, 1496-1631,'
edited by Thomas Rundall for the
Hakluyt Society, 1849, p. 231, from
what purported to be an exact
transcript 'in the India Office' of
the 'Journal of William Keeling,'
captain of one of the vessels in the
expedition. Keeling's manuscript
journal is still at the India Office,
but the leaves that should contain
these entries are now, and have long
been, missing from it.
1609 (January 4). A warrant appointing Robert Daborne,
William Shakespeare, and others
instructors of the Children of the
Revels. From the Bridgewater House
MSS. first printed in Collier's 'New
Facts,' 1835.
1609 List of persons assessed for poor
(April 6). rate in Southwark, April 6, 1609, in
which Shakespeare's name appears.
First printed in Collier's 'Memoirs
of Edward Alleyn,' 1841, p. 91. The
forged paper is at Dulwich. {369b}
1611 (November). Forged entries in Master of the
Revels' account-books (now at the
Public Record Office) of performances
at Whitehall by the King's Players of
the 'Tempest' on November 1, and of
the 'Winter's Tale' on November 5.
Printed in Peter Cunningham's
'Extracts from the Revels Accounts,'
p. 210. Doubtless based on Malone's
trustworthy memoranda of researches
among genuine papers formerly at the
Audit Office at Somerset House.

Its source. Toby Matthew's letter.

The apparent contrast between the homeliness of Shakespeare's Stratford
career and the breadth of observation and knowledge displayed in his
literary work has evoked the fantastic theory that Shakespeare was not
the author of the literature that passes under his name, and perverse
attempts have been made to assign his works to his great contemporary,
Francis Bacon (1561-1626), the great contemporary prose-writer,
philosopher, and lawyer. It is argued that Shakespeare's plays embody a
general omniscience (especially a knowledge of law) which was possessed
by no contemporary except Bacon; that there are many close parallelisms
between passages in Shakespeare's and passages in Bacon's works, {370}
and that Bacon makes enigmatic references in his correspondence to secret
'recreations' and 'alphabets' and concealed poems for which his alleged
employment as a concealed dramatist can alone account. Toby Matthew
wrote to Bacon (as Viscount St. Albans) at an uncertain date after
January 1621: 'The most prodigious wit that ever I knew of my nation and
of this side of the sea is of your Lordship's name, though he be known by
another.' {371} This unpretending sentence is distorted into conclusive
evidence that Bacon wrote works of commanding excellence under another's
name, and among them probably Shakespeare's plays. According to the only
sane interpretation of Matthew's words, his 'most prodigious wit' was
some Englishman named Bacon whom he met abroad--probably a pseudonymous
Jesuit like most of Matthew's friends. (The real surname of Father
Thomas Southwell, who was a learned Jesuit domiciled chiefly in the Low
Countries, was Bacon. He was born in 1592 at Sculthorpe, near
Walsingham, Norfolk, being son of Thomas Bacon of that place, and he died
at Watten in 1637.)

Chief exponents. Its vogue in America.

Joseph C. Hart (U.S. Consul at Santa Cruz, _d._ 1855), in his 'Romance of
Yachting' (1848), first raised doubts of Shakespeare's authorship. There
followed in a like temper 'Who wrote Shakespeare?' in 'Chambers's
Journal,' August 7, 1852, and an article by Miss Delia Bacon in 'Putnams'
Monthly,' January, 1856. On the latter was based 'The Philosophy of the
Plays of Shakespeare unfolded by Delia Bacon,' with a neutral preface by
Nathaniel Hawthorne, London and Boston, 1857. Miss Delia Bacon, who was
the first to spread abroad a spirit of scepticism respecting the
established facts of Shakespeare's career, died insane on September 2,
1859. {372} Mr. William Henry Smith, a resident in London, seems first
to have suggested the Baconian hypothesis in 'Was Lord Bacon the author
of Shakespeare's plays?--a letter to Lord Ellesmere' (1856), which was
republished as 'Bacon and Shakespeare' (1857). The most learned exponent
of this strange theory was Nathaniel Holmes, an American lawyer, who
published at New York in 1866 'The Authorship of the Plays attributed to
Shakespeare,' a monument of misapplied ingenuity (4th edit. 1886, 2
vols.) Bacon's 'Promus of Formularies and Elegancies,' a commonplace
book in Bacon's handwriting in the British Museum (London, 1883), was
first edited by Mrs. Henry Pott, a voluminous advocate of the Baconian
theory; it contained many words and phrases common to the works of Bacon
and Shakespeare, and Mrs. Pott pressed the argument from parallelisms of
expression to its extremest limits. The Baconian theory has found its
widest acceptance in America. There it achieved its wildest
manifestation in the book called 'The Great Cryptogram: Francis Bacon's
Cypher in the so-called Shakespeare Plays' (Chicago and London, 1887, 2
vols.), which was the work of Mr. Ignatius Donnelly of Hastings,
Minnesota. The author pretended to have discovered among Bacon's papers
a numerical cypher which enabled him to pick out letters appearing at
certain intervals in the pages of Shakespeare's First Folio, and the
selected letters formed words and sentences categorically stating that
Bacon was author of the plays. Many refutations have been published of
Mr. Donnelly's arbitrary and baseless contention.

Extent of the literature.

A Bacon Society was founded in London in 1885 to develop and promulgate
the unintelligible theory, and it inaugurated a magazine (named since May
1893 'Baconiana'). A quarterly periodical also called 'Baconiana,' and
issued in the same interest, was established at Chicago in 1892. 'The
Bibliography of the Shakespeare-Bacon Controversy' by W. H. Wyman,
Cincinnati, 1884, gives the titles of two hundred and fifty-five books or
pamphlets on both sides of the subject, published since 1848; the list
was continued during 1886 in 'Shakespeariana,' a monthly journal
published at Philadelphia, and might now be extended to fully twice its
original number.

The abundance of the contemporary evidence attesting Shakespeare's
responsibility for the works published under his name gives the Baconian
theory no rational right to a hearing while such authentic examples of
Bacon's effort to write verse as survive prove beyond all possibility of
contradiction that, great as he was as a prose writer and a philosopher,
he was incapable of penning any of the poetry assigned to Shakespeare.
Defective knowledge and illogical or casuistical argument alone render
any other conclusion possible.


Southampton and Shakespeare.

From the dedicatory epistles addressed by Shakespeare to the Earl of
Southampton in the opening pages of his two narrative poems, 'Venus and
Adonis' (1593) and 'Lucrece' (1594), {374a} from the account given by Sir
William D'Avenant, and recorded by Nicholas Rowe, of the earl's liberal
bounty to the poet, {374b} and from the language of the sonnets, it is
abundantly clear that Shakespeare enjoyed very friendly relations with
Southampton from the time when his genius was nearing its maturity. No
contemporary document or tradition gives the faintest suggestion that
Shakespeare was the friend or _protege_ of any man of rank other than
Southampton; and the student of Shakespeare's biography has reason to ask
for some information respecting him who enjoyed the exclusive distinction
of serving Shakespeare as his patron.

Parentage. Birth on Oct. 6, 1573.

Southampton was a patron worth cultivating. Both his parents came of the
New Nobility, and enjoyed vast wealth. His father's father was Lord
Chancellor under Henry VIII, and when the monasteries were dissolved,
although he was faithful to the old religion, he was granted rich estates
in Hampshire, including the abbeys of Titchfield and Beaulieu in the New
Forest. He was created Earl of Southampton early in Edward VI's reign,
and, dying shortly afterwards, was succeeded by his only son, the father
of Shakespeare's friend. The second earl loved magnificence in his
household. 'He was highly reverenced and favoured of all that were of
his own rank, and bravely attended and served by the best gentlemen of
those counties wherein he lived. His muster-roll never consisted of four
lacqueys and a coachman, but of a whole troop of at least a hundred
well-mounted gentlemen and yeomen.' {375a} The second earl remained a
Catholic, like his father, and a chivalrous avowal of sympathy with Mary
Queen of Scots procured him a term of imprisonment in the year preceding
his distinguished son's birth. At a youthful age he married a lady of
fortune, Mary Browne, daughter of the first Viscount Montague, also a
Catholic. Her portrait, now at Welbeck, was painted in her early married
days, and shows regularly formed features beneath bright auburn hair.
Two sons and a daughter were the issue of the union. Shakespeare's
friend, the second son, was born at her father's residence, Cowdray
House, near Midhurst, on October 6, 1573. He was thus Shakespeare's
junior by nine years and a half. 'A goodly boy, God bless him!'
exclaimed the gratified father, writing of his birth to a friend. {375b}
But the father barely survived the boy's infancy. He died at the early
age of thirty-five--two days before the child's eighth birthday. The
elder son was already dead. Thus, on October 4, 1581, the second and
only surviving son became third Earl of Southampton, and entered on his
great inheritance. {375c}


As was customary in the case of an infant peer, the little earl became a
royal ward--'a child of state'--and Lord Burghley, the Prime Minister,
acted as the boy's guardian in the Queen's behalf. Burghley had good
reason to be satisfied with his ward's intellectual promise. 'He spent,'
wrote a contemporary, 'his childhood and other younger terms in the study
of good letters.' At the age of twelve, in the autumn of 1585, he was
admitted to St. John's College, Cambridge, 'the sweetest nurse of
knowledge in all the University.' Southampton breathed easily the
cultured atmosphere. Next summer he sent his guardian, Burghley, an
essay in Ciceronian Latin on the somewhat cynical text that 'All men are
moved to the pursuit of virtue by the hope of reward.' The argument, if
unconvincing, is precocious. 'Every man,' the boy tells us, 'no matter
how well or how ill endowed with the graces of humanity, whether in the
enjoyment of great honour or condemned to obscurity, experiences that
yearning for glory which alone begets virtuous endeavour.' The paper,
still preserved at Hatfield, is a model of calligraphy; every letter is
shaped with delicate regularity, and betrays a refinement most uncommon
in boys of thirteen. {376a} Southampton remained at the University for
some two years, graduating M.A. at sixteen in 1589. Throughout his after
life he cherished for his college 'great love and affection.'

Before leaving Cambridge, Southampton entered his name at Gray's Inn.
Some knowledge of law was deemed needful in one who was to control a
landed property that was not only large already but likely to grow.
{376b} Meanwhile he was sedulously cultivating his literary tastes. He
took into his 'pay and patronage' John Florio, the well-known author and
Italian tutor, and was soon, according to Florio's testimony, as
thoroughly versed in Italian as 'teaching or learning' could make him.

'When he was young,' wrote a later admirer, 'no ornament of youth was
wanting in him;' and it was naturally to the Court that his friends sent
him at an early age to display his varied graces. He can hardly have
been more than seventeen when he was presented to his sovereign. She
showed him kindly notice, and the Earl of Essex, her brilliant favourite,
acknowledged his fascination. Thenceforth Essex displayed in his welfare
a brotherly interest which proved in course of time a very doubtful

Recognition of Southampton's youthful beauty.

While still a boy, Southampton entered with as much zest into the sports
and dissipations of his fellow courtiers as into their literary and
artistic pursuits. At tennis, in jousts and tournaments, he achieved
distinction; nor was he a stranger to the delights of gambling at
primero. In 1592, when he was in his eighteenth year, he was recognised
as the most handsome and accomplished of all the young lords who
frequented the royal presence. In the autumn of that year Elizabeth paid
Oxford a visit in state. Southampton was in the throng of noblemen who
bore her company. In a Latin poem describing the brilliant ceremonial,
which was published at the time at the University Press, eulogy was
lavished without stint on all the Queen's attendants; but the academic
poet declared that Southampton's personal attractions exceeded those of
any other in the royal train. 'No other youth who was present,' he
wrote, 'was more beautiful than this prince of Hampshire (_quo non
formosior alter affuit_), nor more distinguished in the arts of learning,
although as yet tender down scarce bloomed on his cheek.' The last words
testify to Southampton's boyish appearance. {377a} Next year it was
rumoured, that his 'external grace' was to receive signal recognition by
his admission, despite his juvenility, to the Order of the Garter.
'There be no Knights of the Garter new chosen as yet,' wrote a
well-informed courtier on May 3, 1593, 'but there were four nominated.'
{377b} Three were eminent public servants, but first on the list stood
the name of young Southampton. The purpose did not take effect, but the
compliment of nomination was, at his age, without precedent outside the
circle of the Sovereign's kinsmen. On November 17, 1595, he appeared in
the lists set up in the Queen's presence in honour of the thirty-seventh
anniversary of her accession. The poet George Peele pictured in blank
verse the gorgeous scene, and likened the Earl of Southampton to that
ancient type of chivalry, Bevis of Southampton, so 'valiant in arms,' so
'gentle and debonair,' did he appear to all beholders. {378}

Reluctance to marry.

But clouds were rising on this sunlit horizon. Southampton, a wealthy
peer without brothers or uncles, was the only male representative of his
house. A lawful heir was essential to the entail of his great
possessions. Early marriages--child-marriages--were in vogue in all
ranks of society, and Southampton's mother and guardian regarded
matrimony at a tender age as especially incumbent on him in view of his
rich heritage. When he was seventeen Burghley accordingly offered him a
wife in the person of his granddaughter, Lady Elizabeth Vere, eldest
daughter of his daughter Anne and of the Earl of Oxford. The Countess of
Southampton approved the match, and told Burghley that her son was not
averse from it. Her wish was father to the thought. Southampton
declined to marry to order, and, to the confusion of his friends, was
still a bachelor when he came of age in 1594. Nor even then did there
seem much prospect of his changing his condition. He was in some ways as
young for his years in inward disposition as in outward appearance.
Although gentle and amiable in most relations of life, he could be
childishly self-willed and impulsive, and outbursts of anger involved
him, at Court and elsewhere, in many petty quarrels which were with
difficulty settled without bloodshed. Despite his rank and wealth, he
was consequently accounted by many ladies of far too uncertain a temper
to sustain marital responsibilities with credit. Lady Bridget Manners,
sister of his friend the Earl of Rutland, was in 1594 looking to
matrimony for means of release from the servitude of a lady-in-waiting to
the Queen. Her guardian suggested that Southampton or the Earl of
Bedford, who was intimate with Southampton and exactly of his age, would
be an eligible suitor. Lady Bridget dissented. Southampton and his
friend were, she objected, 'so young,' 'fantastical,' and volatile ('so
easily carried away'), that should ill fortune befall her mother, who was
'her only stay,' she 'doubted their carriage of themselves.' She spoke,
she said, from observation. {379}

Intrigue with Elizabeth Vernon.

In 1595, at two-and-twenty, Southampton justified Lady Bridget's censure
by a public proof of his fallibility. The fair Mistress Vernon (first
cousin of the Earl of Essex), a passionate beauty of the Court, cast her
spell on him. Her virtue was none too stable, and in September the
scandal spread that Southampton was courting her 'with too much

Marriage in 1598.

The entanglement with 'his fair mistress' opened a new chapter in
Southampton's career, and life's tempests began in earnest. Either to
free himself from his mistress's toils, or to divert attention from his
intrigue, he in 1596 withdrew from Court and sought sterner occupation.
Despite his mistress's lamentations, which the Court gossips duly
chronicled, he played a part with his friend Essex in the military and
naval expedition to Cadiz in 1596, and in that to the Azores in 1597. He
developed a martial ardour which brought him renown, and Mars (his
admirers said) vied with Mercury for his allegiance. He travelled on the
Continent, and finally, in 1598, he accepted a subordinate place in the
suite of the Queen's Secretary, Sir Robert Cecil, who was going on an
embassy to Paris. But Mistress Vernon was still fated to be his evil
genius, and Southampton learnt while in Paris that her condition rendered
marriage essential to her decaying reputation. He hurried to London and,
yielding his own scruples to her entreaties, secretly made her his wife
during the few days he stayed in this country. The step was full of
peril. To marry a lady of the Court without the Queen's consent
infringed a prerogative of the Crown by which Elizabeth set exaggerated

Imprisonment, 1601-3.

The story of Southampton's marriage was soon public property. His wife
quickly became a mother, and when he crossed the Channel a few weeks
later to revisit her he was received by pursuivants, who had the Queen's
orders to carry him to the Fleet prison. For the time his career was
ruined. Although he was soon released from gaol, all avenues to the
Queen's favour were closed to him. He sought employment in the wars in
Ireland, but high command was denied him. Helpless and hopeless, he late
in 1600 joined Essex, another fallen favourite, in fomenting a rebellion
in London, in order to regain by force the positions each had forfeited.
The attempt at insurrection failed, and the conspirators stood their
trial on a capital charge of treason on February 19, 1600-1. Southampton
was condemned to die, but the Queen's Secretary pleaded with her that
'the poor young earl, merely for the love of Essex, had been drawn into
this action,' and his punishment was commuted to imprisonment for life.
Further mitigation was not to be looked for while the Queen lived. But
Essex, Southampton's friend, had been James's sworn ally. The first act
of James I as monarch of England was to set Southampton free (April 10,
1603). After a confinement of more than two years, Southampton resumed,
under happier auspices, his place at Court.

Later career. Death on Nov. 10, 1624.

Southampton's later career does not directly concern the student of
Shakespeare's biography. After Shakespeare had congratulated Southampton
on his liberty in his Sonnet cvii., there is no trace of further
relations between them, although there is no reason to doubt that they
remained friends to the end. Southampton on his release from prison was
immediately installed a Knight of the Garter, and was appointed governor
of the Isle of Wight, while an Act of Parliament relieved him of all the
disabilities incident to his conviction of treason. He was thenceforth a
prominent figure in Court festivities. He twice danced a correnta with
the Queen at the magnificent entertainment given at Whitehall on August
19, 1604, in honour of the Constable of Castile, the special ambassador
of Spain, who had come to sign a treaty of peace between his sovereign
and James I. {380} But home politics proved no congenial field for the
exercise of Southampton's energies. Quarrels with fellow-courtiers
continued to jeopardise his fortunes. With Sir Robert Cecil, with Philip
Herbert, Earl of Montgomery, and with the Duke of Buckingham he had
violent disputes. It was in the schemes for colonising the New World
that Southampton found an outlet for his impulsive activity. He helped
to equip expeditions to Virginia, and acted as treasurer of the Virginia
Company. The map of the country commemorates his labours as a colonial
pioneer. In his honour were named Southampton Hundred, Hampton River,
and Hampton Roads in Virginia. Finally, in the summer of 1624, at the
age of fifty-one, Southampton, with characteristic spirit, took command
of a troop of English volunteers which was raised to aid the Elector
Palatine, husband of James I's daughter Elizabeth, in his struggle with
the Emperor and the Catholics of Central Europe. With him went his
eldest son, Lord Wriothesley. Both on landing in the Low Countries were
attacked by fever. The younger man succumbed at once. The Earl regained
sufficient strength to accompany his son's body to Bergen-op-Zoom, but
there, on November 10, he himself died of a lethargy. Father and son
were both buried in the chancel of the church of Titchfield, Hampshire,
on December 28. Southampton thus outlived Shakespeare by more than eight


Southampton's collection of books.

Southampton's close relations with men of letters of his time give
powerful corroboration of the theory that he was the patron whom
Shakespeare commemorated in the sonnets. From earliest to latest
manhood--throughout the dissipations of Court life, amid the torments
that his intrigue cost him, in the distractions of war and travel--the
earl never ceased to cherish the passion for literature which was
implanted in him in boyhood. His devotion to his old college, St.
John's, is characteristic. When a new library was in course of
construction there during the closing years of his life, Southampton
collected books to the value of 360 pounds wherewith to furnish it. This
'monument of love,' as the College authorities described the benefaction,
may still be seen on the shelves of the College library. The gift
largely consisted of illuminated manuscripts--books of hours, legends of
the saints, and mediaeval chronicles. Southampton caused his son to be
educated at St. John's, and his wife expressed to the tutors the hope
that the boy would 'imitate' his father 'in his love to learning and to

References in his letters to poems and plays.

Even the State papers and business correspondence in which Southampton's
career is traced are enlivened by references to his literary interests.
Especially refreshing are the active signs vouchsafed there of his
sympathy with the great birth of English drama. It was with plays that
he joined other noblemen in 1598 in entertaining his chief, Sir Robert
Cecil, on the eve of the departure for Paris of that embassy in which
Southampton served Cecil as a secretary. In July following Southampton
contrived to enclose in an official despatch from Paris 'certain songs'
which he was anxious that Sir Robert Sidney, a friend of literary tastes,
should share his delight in reading. Twelve months later, while
Southampton was in Ireland, a letter to him from the Countess attested
that current literature was an everyday topic of their private talk.
'All the news I can send you,' she wrote to her husband, 'that I think
will make you merry, is that I read in a letter from London that Sir John
Falstaff is, by his mistress Dame Pintpot, made father of a goodly
miller's thumb--a boy that's all head and very little body; but this is a
secret.' {383a} This cryptic sentence proves on the part of both earl
and countess familiarity with Falstaff's adventures in Shakespeare's
'Henry IV,' where the fat knight apostrophised Mrs. Quickly as 'good pint
pot' (Pt. I. II. iv. 443). Who the acquaintances were about whom the
countess jested thus lightly does not appear, but that Sir John, the
father of 'the boy that was all head and very little body,' was a playful
allusion to Sir John's creator is by no means beyond the bounds of
possibility. In the letters of Sir Toby Matthew, many of which were
written very early in the seventeenth century (although first published
in 1660), the sobriquet of Sir John Falstaff seems to have been bestowed
on Shakespeare: 'As that excellent author Sir John Falstaff sayes, "what
for your businesse, news, device, foolerie, and libertie, I never dealt
better since I was a man."' {383b}

His love of the theatre.

When, after leaving Ireland, Southampton spent the autumn of 1599 in
London, it was recorded that he and his friend Lord Rutland 'come not to
Court' but 'pass away the time merely in going to plays every day.'
{383c} It seems that the fascination that the drama had for Southampton
and his friends led them to exaggerate the influence that it was capable
of exerting on the emotions of the multitude. Southampton and Essex in
February 1601 requisitioned and paid for the revival of Shakespeare's
'Richard II' at the Globe Theatre on the day preceding that fixed for
their insurrection, in the hope that the play-scene of the deposition of
a king might excite the citizens of London to countenance their
rebellious design. {383d} Imprisonment sharpened Southampton's zest for
the theatre. Within a year of his release from the Tower in 1603 he
entertained Queen Anne of Denmark at his house in the Strand, and Burbage
and his fellow players, one of whom was Shakespeare, were bidden to
present the 'old' play of 'Love's Labour's Lost,' whose 'wit and mirth'
were calculated 'to please her Majesty exceedingly.'

Poetic adulation. Barnabe Barnes's sonnet, 1593.

But these are merely accidental testimonies to Southampton's literary
predilections. It is in literature itself, not in the prosaic records of
his political or domestic life, that the amplest proofs survive of his
devotion to letters. From the hour that, as a handsome and accomplished
lad, he joined the Court and made London his chief home, authors
acknowledged his appreciation of literary effort of almost every quality
and form. He had in his Italian tutor Florio, whose circle of
acquaintance included all men of literary reputation, a mentor who
allowed no work of promise to escape his observation. Every note in the
scale of adulation was sounded in Southampton's honour in contemporary
prose and verse. Soon after the publication, in April 1593, of
Shakespeare's 'Venus and Adonis,' with its salutation of Southampton, a
more youthful apprentice to the poet's craft, Barnabe Barnes, confided to
a published sonnet of unrestrained fervour his conviction that
Southampton's eyes--'those heavenly lamps'--were the only sources of true
poetic inspiration. The sonnet, which is superscribed 'to the Right
Noble and Virtuous Lord, Henry, Earl of Southampton,' runs:

Receive, sweet Lord, with thy thrice sacred hand
(Which sacred Muses make their instrument)
These worthless leaves, which I to thee present,
(Sprung from a rude and unmanured land)
That with your countenance graced, they may withstand
Hundred-eyed Envy's rough encounterment,
Whose patronage can give encouragement
To scorn back-wounding Zoilus his band.
Vouchsafe, right virtuous Lord, with gracious eyes--
Those heavenly lamps which give the Muses light,
Which give and take in course that holy fire--
To view my Muse with your judicial sight:
Whom, when time shall have taught, by flight, to rise
Shall to thy virtues, of much worth, aspire.

Tom Nash's addresses.

Next year a writer of greater power, Tom Nash, betrayed little less
enthusiasm when dedicating to the earl his masterly essay in romance,
'The Life of Jack Wilton.' He describes Southampton, who was then
scarcely of age, as 'a dear lover and cherisher as well of the lovers of
poets as of the poets themselves.' 'A new brain,' he exclaims, 'a new
wit, a new style, a new soul, will I get me, to canonise your name to
posterity, if in this my first attempt I am not taxed of presumption.'
{385a} Although 'Jack Wilton' was the first book Nash formally dedicated
to Southampton, it is probable that Nash had made an earlier bid for the
earl's patronage. In a digression at the close of his 'Pierce
Pennilesse' he grows eloquent in praise of one whom he entitles 'the
matchless image of honour and magnificent rewarder of vertue, Jove's
eagle-borne Ganimede, thrice noble Amintas.' In a sonnet addressed to
'this renowned lord,' who 'draws all hearts to his love,' Nash expresses
regret that the great poet, Edmund Spenser, had omitted to celebrate 'so
special a pillar of nobility' in the series of adulatory sonnets prefixed
to the 'Faerie Queene;' and in the last lines of his sonnet Nash suggests
that Spenser suppressed the nobleman's name

Because few words might not comprise thy fame. {385b}

Southampton was beyond doubt the nobleman in question. It is certain,
too, that the Earl of Southampton was among the young men for whom Nash,
in hope of gain, as he admitted, penned 'amorous villanellos and qui
passas.' One of the least reputable of these efforts of Nash survives in
an obscene love-poem entitled 'The Choosing of Valentines,' which may be
dated in 1595. Not only was this dedicated to Southampton in a prefatory
sonnet, but in an epilogue, again in the form of a sonnet, Nash addressed
his young patron as his 'friend.' {386}

Markham's sonnet, 1595. Florio's address, 1598.

Meanwhile, in 1595, the versatile Gervase Markham inscribed to
Southampton, in a sonnet, his patriotic poem on Sir Richard Grenville's
glorious fight off the Azores. Markham was not content to acknowledge
with Barnes the inspiriting force of his patron's eyes, but with
blasphemous temerity asserted that the sweetness of his lips, which
stilled the music of the spheres, delighted the ear of Almighty God.
Markham's sonnet runs somewhat haltingly thus:

Thou glorious laurel of the Muses' hill,
Whose eyes doth crown the most victorious pen,
Bright lamp of virtue, in whose sacred skill
Lives all the bliss of ear-enchanting men,
From graver subjects of thy grave assays,
Bend thy courageous thoughts unto these lines--
The grave from whence my humble Muse doth raise
True honour's spirit in her rough designs--
And when the stubborn stroke of my harsh song
Shall seasonless glide through Almighty ears
Vouchsafe to sweet it with thy blessed tongue
Whose well-tuned sound stills music in the spheres;
So shall my tragic lays be blest by thee
And from thy lips suck their eternity.

Subsequently Florio, in associating the earl's name with his great
Italian-English dictionary--the 'Worlde of Wordes'--more soberly defined
the earl's place in the republic of letters when he wrote: 'As to me and
many more the glorious and gracious sunshine of your honour hath infused
light and life.'

The congratulations of the poets in 1603.

The most notable contribution to this chorus of praise is to be found, as
I have already shown, in Shakespeare's 'Sonnets.' The same note of
eulogy was sounded by men of letters until Southampton's death. When he
was released from prison on James I's accession in April 1603, his
praises in poets' mouths were especially abundant. Not only was that
grateful incident celebrated by Shakespeare in what is probably the
latest of his sonnets (No. cvii.), but Samuel Daniel and John Davies of
Hereford offered the Earl congratulation in more prolonged strains.
Daniel addressed to Southampton many lines like these:

The world had never taken so full note
Of what thou art, hadst thou not been undone:
And only thy affliction hath begot
More fame than thy best fortunes could have won;
For ever by adversity are wrought
The greatest works of admiration;
And all the fair examples of renown
Out of distress and misery are grown . . .
Only the best-compos'd and worthiest hearts
God sets to act the hard'st and constanst'st parts. {388a}

Davies was more jubilant:

Now wisest men with mirth do seem stark mad,
And cannot choose--their hearts are all so glad.
Then let's be merry in our God and King,
That made us merry, being ill bestead.
Southampton, up thy cap to Heaven fling,
And on the viol there sweet praises sing,
For he is come that grace to all doth bring. {388b}

Many like praises, some of later date, by Henry Locke (or Lok), George
Chapman, Joshua Sylvester, Richard Brathwaite, George Wither, Sir John
Beaumont, and others could be quoted. Beaumont, on Southampton's death,
wrote an elegy which panegyrises him in the varied capacities of warrior,
councillor, courtier, father, and husband. But it is as a literary
patron that Beaumont insists that he chiefly deserves remembrance:

I keep that glory last which is the best,
The love of learning which he oft expressed
In conversation, and respect to those
Who had a name in arts, in verse or prose.

Elegies on Southampton.

To the same effect are some twenty poems which were published in 1624,
just after Southampton's death, in a volume entitled 'Teares of the Isle
of Wight, shed on the Tombe of their most noble valorous and loving
Captaine and Governour, the right honorable Henrie, Earl of Southampton.'
The keynote is struck in the opening stanza of the first poem by one
Francis Beale:

Ye famous poets of the southern isle,
Strain forth the raptures of your tragic muse,
And with your Laureate pens come and compile
The praises due to this great Lord: peruse
His globe of worth, and eke his virtues brave,
Like learned Maroes at Mecaenas' grave.


The publication of the sonnets in 1609.

In 1598 Francis Meres enumerated among Shakespeare's best known works his
'sugar'd sonnets among his private friends.' None of Shakespeare's
sonnets are known to have been in print when Meres wrote, but they were
doubtless in circulation in manuscript. In 1599 two of them were printed
for the first time by the piratical publisher, William Jaggard, in the
opening pages of the first edition of 'The Passionate Pilgrim.' On
January 3, 1599-1600, Eleazar Edgar, a publisher of small account,
obtained a license for the publication of a work bearing the title, 'A
Booke called Amours by J. D., with certein other Sonnetes by W. S.' No
book answering this description is extant. In any case it is doubtful if
Edgar's venture concerned Shakespeare's 'Sonnets.' It is more probable
that his 'W. S.' was William Smith, who had published a collection of
sonnets entitled 'Chloris' in 1596. {390} On May 20, 1609, a license for
the publication of Shakespeare's 'Sonnets' was granted by the Stationers'
Company to a publisher named Thomas Thorpe, and shortly afterwards the
complete collection as they have reached us was published by Thorpe for
the first time. To the volume Thorpe prefixed a dedication in the
following terms:


T. T.

The words are fantastically arranged. In ordinary grammatical order they
would run: 'The well-wishing adventurer in setting forth [_i.e._ the
publisher] T[homas] T[horpe] wisheth Mr. W. H., the only begetter of
these ensuing sonnets, all happiness and that eternity promised by our
ever-living poet.'

Publishers' dedication.

Few books of the sixteenth or seventeenth century were ushered into the
world without a dedication. In most cases it was the work of the author,
but numerous volumes, besides Shakespeare's 'Sonnets,' are extant in
which the publisher (and not the author) fills the role of dedicator.
The cause of the substitution is not far to seek. The signing of the
dedication was an assertion of full and responsible ownership in the
publication, and the publisher in Shakespeare's lifetime was the full and
responsible owner of a publication quite as often as the author. The
modern conception of copyright had not yet been evolved. Whoever in the
sixteenth or early seventeenth century was in actual possession of a
manuscript was for practical purposes its full and responsible owner.
Literary work largely circulated in manuscript. {391} Scriveners made a
precarious livelihood by multiplying written copies, and an enterprising
publisher had many opportunities of becoming the owner of a popular book
without the author's sanction or knowledge. When a volume in the reign
of Elizabeth or James I was published independently of the author, the
publisher exercised unchallenged all the owner's rights, not the least
valued of which was that of choosing the patron of the enterprise, and of
penning the dedicatory compliment above his signature. Occasionally
circumstances might speciously justify the publisher's appearance in the
guise of a dedicator. In the case of a posthumous book it sometimes
happened that the author's friends renounced ownership or neglected to
assert it. In other instances, the absence of an author from London
while his work was passing through the press might throw on the publisher
the task of supplying the dedication without exposing him to any charge
of sharp practice. But as a rule one of only two inferences is possible
when a publisher's name figured at the foot of a dedicatory epistle:
either the author was ignorant of the publisher's design, or he had
refused to countenance it, and was openly defied. In the case of
Shakespeare's 'Sonnets' it may safely be assumed that Shakespeare
received no notice of Thorpe's intention of publishing the work, and that
it was owing to the author's ignorance of the design that the dedication
was composed and signed by the 'well-wishing adventurer in setting

But whether author or publisher chose the patron of his wares, the choice
was determined by much the same considerations. Self-interest was the
principle underlying transactions between literary patron and _protege_.
Publisher, like author, commonly chose as patron a man or woman of wealth
and social influence who might be expected to acknowledge the compliment
either by pecuniary reward or by friendly advertisement of the volume in
their own social circle. At times the publisher, slightly extending the
field of choice, selected a personal friend or mercantile acquaintance
who had rendered him some service in trade or private life, and was
likely to appreciate such general expressions of good will as were the
accepted topic of dedications. Nothing that was fantastic or mysterious
entered into the Elizabethan or the Jacobean publishers' shrewd schemes
of business, and it may be asserted with confidence that it was under the
everyday prosaic conditions of current literary traffic that the
publisher Thorpe selected 'Mr. W. H.' as the patron of the original
edition of Shakespeare's 'Sonnets.'

Thorpe's early life.

A study of Thorpe's character and career clears the point of doubt.
Thorpe has been described as a native of Warwickshire, Shakespeare's
county, and a man eminent in his profession. He was neither of these
things. He was a native of Barnet in Middlesex, where his father kept an
inn, and he himself through thirty years' experience of the book trade
held his own with difficulty in its humblest ranks. He enjoyed the
customary preliminary training. {393a} At midsummer 1584 he was
apprenticed for nine years to a reputable printer and stationer, Richard
Watkins. {393b} Nearly ten years later he took up the freedom of the
Stationers' Company, and was thereby qualified to set up as a publisher
on his own account. {393c} He was not destitute of a taste for
literature; he knew scraps of Latin, and recognised a good manuscript
when he saw one. But the ranks of London publishers were overcrowded,
and such accomplishments as Thorpe possessed were poor compensation for a
lack of capital or of family connections among those already established
in the trade. {393d} For many years he contented himself with an obscure
situation as assistant or clerk to a stationer more favourably placed.

His ownership of the manuscript of Marlowe's 'Lucan.' His dedicatory
address to Edward Blount in 1600.

It was as the self-appointed procurer and owner of an unprinted
manuscript--a recognised role for novices to fill in the book trade of
the period--that Thorpe made his first distinguishable appearance on the
stage of literary history. In 1600 there fell into his hands in an
unexplained manner a written copy of Marlowe's unprinted translation of
the first book of 'Lucan.' Thorpe confided his good fortune to Edward
Blount, then a stationer's assistant like himself, but with better
prospects. Blount had already achieved a modest success in the same
capacity of procurer or picker-up of neglected 'copy.' {393e} In 1598 he
became proprietor of Marlowe's unfinished and unpublished 'Hero and
Leander,' and found among better-equipped friends in the trade both a
printer and a publisher for his treasure-trove. Blount good-naturedly
interested himself in Thorpe's 'find,' and it was through Blount's good
offices that Peter Short undertook to print Thorpe's manuscript of
Marlowe's 'Lucan,' and Walter Burre agreed to sell it at his shop in St.
Paul's Churchyard. As owner of the manuscript Thorpe exerted the right
of choosing a patron for the venture and of supplying the dedicatory
epistle. The patron of his choice was his friend Blount, and he made the
dedication the vehicle of his gratitude for the assistance he had just
received. The style of the dedication was somewhat bombastic, but Thorpe
showed a literary sense when he designated Marlowe 'that pure elemental
wit,' and a good deal of dry humour in offering to 'his kind and true
friend' Blount 'some few instructions' whereby he might accommodate
himself to the unaccustomed _role_ of patron. {394a} For the
conventional type of patron Thorpe disavowed respect. He preferred to
place himself under the protection of a friend in the trade whose
goodwill had already stood him in good stead, and was capable of
benefiting him hereafter.

This venture laid the foundation of Thorpe's fortunes. Three years later
he was able to place his own name on the title-page of two humbler
literary prizes--each an insignificant pamphlet on current events. {394b}
Thenceforth for a dozen years his name reappeared annually on one, two,
or three volumes. After 1614 his operations were few and far between,
and they ceased altogether in 1624. He seems to have ended his days in
poverty, and has been identified with the Thomas Thorpe who was granted
an alms-room in the hospital of Ewelme, Oxfordshire, on December 3, 1635.

Character of his business.

Thorpe was associated with the publication of twenty-nine volumes in all,
{395b} including Marlowe's 'Lucan;' but in almost all his operations his
personal energies were confined, as in his initial enterprise, to
procuring the manuscript. For a short period in 1608 he occupied a shop,
The Tiger's Head, in St. Paul's Churchyard, and the fact was duly
announced on the title-pages of three publications which he issued in
that year. {395c} But his other undertakings were described on their
title-pages as printed for him by one stationer and sold for him by
another; and when any address found mention at all, it was the
shopkeeper's address, and not his own. He never enjoyed in permanence
the profits or dignity of printing his 'copy' at a press of his own, or
selling books on premises of his own, and he can claim the distinction of
having pursued in this homeless fashion the well-defined profession of
procurer of manuscripts for a longer period than any other known member
of the Stationers' Company. Though many others began their career in
that capacity, all except Thorpe, as far as they can be traced, either
developed into printers or booksellers, or, failing in that, betook
themselves to other trades.

Very few of his wares does Thorpe appear to have procured direct from the
authors. It is true that between 1605 and 1611 there were issued under
his auspices some eight volumes of genuine literary value, including,
besides Shakespeare's 'Sonnets,' three plays by Chapman, {395d} four
works of Ben Jonson, and Coryat's 'Odcombian Banquet.' But the taint of
mysterious origin attached to most of his literary properties. He
doubtless owed them to the exchange of a few pence or shillings with a
scrivener's hireling; and the transaction was not one of which the author
had cognisance.

Shakespeare's sufferings at publishers' hands.

It is quite plain that no negotiation with the author preceded the
formation of Thorpe's resolve to publish for the first time Shakespeare's
'Sonnets' in 1609. Had Shakespeare associated himself with the
enterprise, the world would fortunately have been spared Thorpe's
dedication to 'Mr. W. H.' T. T.'s' place would have been filled by 'W.
S.' The whole transaction was in Thorpe's vein. Shakespeare's 'Sonnets'
had been already circulating in manuscript for eleven years; only two had
as yet been printed, and those were issued by the pirate publisher,
William Jaggard, in the fraudulently christened volume, 'The Passionate
Pilgrim, by William Shakespeare,' in 1599. Shakespeare, except in the
case of his two narrative poems, showed utter indifference to all
questions touching the publication of his works. Of the sixteen plays of
his that were published in his lifetime, not one was printed with his
sanction. He made no audible protest when seven contemptible dramas in
which he had no hand were published with his name or initials on the
title-page while his fame was at its height. With only one publisher of
his time, Richard Field, his fellow-townsman, who was responsible for the
issue of 'Venus' and 'Lucrece,' is it likely that he came into personal
relations, and there is nothing to show that he maintained relations with
Field after the publication of 'Lucrece' in 1594.

In fitting accord with the circumstance that the publication of the
'Sonnets' was a tradesman's venture which ignored the author's feelings
and rights, Thorpe in both the entry of the book in the 'Stationers'
Registers' and on its title-page brusquely designated it 'Shakespeares
Sonnets,' instead of following the more urbane collocation of words
invariably adopted by living authors, viz. 'Sonnets by William

The use of initials in dedications of Elizabethan and Jacobean books.

In framing the dedication Thorpe followed established precedent.
Initials run riot over Elizabethan and Jacobean books. Printers and
publishers, authors and contributors of prefatory commendations were all
in the habit of masking themselves behind such symbols. Patrons figured
under initials in dedications somewhat less frequently than other sharers
in the book's production. But the conditions determining the employment
of initials in that relation were well defined. The employment of
initials in a dedication was a recognised mark of a close friendship or
intimacy between patron and dedicator. It was a sign that the patron's
fame was limited to a small circle, and that the revelation of his full
name was not a matter of interest to a wide public. Such are the
dominant notes of almost all the extant dedications in which the patron
is addressed by his initials. In 1598 Samuel Rowlands addressed the
dedication of his 'Betraying of Christ' to his 'deare affected _friend_
Maister H. W., gentleman.' An edition of Robert Southwell's 'Short Rule
of Life' which appeared in the same year bore a dedication addressed 'to
my deare affected _friend_ M. [_i.e._ Mr.] D. S., gentleman.' The poet
Richard Barnfield also in the same year dedicated the opening sonnet in
his 'Poems in divers Humours' to his '_friend_ Maister R. L.' In 1617
Dunstan Gale dedicated a poem, 'Pyramus and Thisbe,' to the 'worshipfull
his verie _friend_ D. [_i.e._ Dr.] B. H. {397}

Frequency of wishes for 'happiness' and 'eternity' in dedicatory

There was nothing exceptional in the words of greeting which Thorpe
addressed to his patron 'Mr. W. H.' They followed a widely adopted
formula. Dedications of the time usually consisted of two distinct
parts. There was a dedicatory epistle, which might touch at any length,
in either verse or prose, on the subject of the book and the writer's
relations with his patron. But there was usually, in addition, a
preliminary salutation confined to such a single sentence as Thorpe
displayed on the first page of his edition of Shakespeare's sonnets. In
that preliminary sentence the dedicator habitually 'wisheth' his patron
one or more of such blessings as health, long life, happiness, and
eternity. 'Al perseverance with soules happiness' Thomas Powell
'wisheth' the Countess of Kildare on the first page of his 'Passionate
Poet' in 1601. 'All happines' is the greeting of Thomas Watson, the
sonnetteer, to his patron, the Earl of Oxford, on the threshold of
Watson's 'Passionate Century of Love.' There is hardly a book published
by Robert Greene between 1580 and 1592 that does not open with an
adjuration before the dedicatory epistle in the form: 'To --- --- Robert
Greene wisheth increase of honour with the full fruition of perfect

Thorpe in Shakespeare's sonnets left the salutation to stand alone, and
omitted the supplement of a dedicatory epistle; but this, too, was not
unusual. There exists an abundance of contemporary examples of the
dedicatory salutation without the sequel of the dedicatory epistle.
Edmund Spenser's dedication of the 'Faerie Queene' to Elizabeth consists
solely of the salutation in the form of an assurance that the writer
'consecrates these his labours to live with the eternitie of her fame.'
Michael Drayton both in his 'Idea, The Shepheard's Garland' (1593), and
in his 'Poemes Lyrick and Pastorall' (1609), confined his address to his
patron to a single sentence of salutation. {398} Richard Brathwaite in
1611 exclusively saluted the patron of his 'Golden Fleece' with 'the
continuance of God's temporall blessings in this life, with the crowne of
immortalitie in the world to come;' while in like manner he greeted the
patron of his 'Sonnets and Madrigals' in the same year with 'the
prosperitie of times successe in this life, with the reward of eternitie
in the world to come.' It is 'happiness' and 'eternity,' or an
equivalent paraphrase, that had the widest vogue among the good wishes
with which the dedicator in the early years of the seventeenth century
besought his patron's favour on the first page of his book. But Thorpe
was too self-assertive to be a slavish imitator. His addiction to
bombast and his elementary appreciation of literature recommended to him
the practice of incorporating in his dedicatory salutation some
high-sounding embellishments of the accepted formula suggested by his
author's writing. {399a} In his dedication of the 'Sonnets' to 'Mr. W.
H.' he grafted on the common formula a reference to the immortality which
Shakespeare, after the habit of contemporary sonnetteers, promised the
hero of his sonnets in the pages that succeeded. With characteristic
magniloquence, Thorpe added the decorative and supererogatory phrase,
'promised by our ever-living poet,' to the conventional dedicatory wish
for his patron's 'all happiness' and 'eternitie.' {399b}

Five dedications by Thorpe.

Thorpe, as far as is known, penned only one dedication before that to
Shakespeare's 'Sonnets.' His dedicatory experience was previously
limited to the inscription of Marlowe's 'Lucan' in 1600 to Blount, his
friend in the trade. Three dedications by Thorpe survive of a date
subsequent to the issue of the 'Sonnets.' One of these is addressed to
John Florio, and the other two to the Earl of Pembroke. {400a} But these
three dedications all prefaced volumes of translations by one John
Healey, whose manuscripts had become Thorpe's prey after the author had
emigrated to Virginia, where he died shortly after landing. Thorpe
chose, he tells us, Florio and the Earl of Pembroke as patrons of
Healey's unprinted manuscripts because they had been patrons of Healey
before his expatriation and death. There is evidence to prove that in
choosing a patron for the 'Sonnets,' and penning a dedication for the
second time, he pursued the exact procedure that he had
followed--deliberately and for reasons that he fully stated--in his first
and only preceding dedicatory venture. He chose his patron from the
circle of his trade associates, and it must have been because his patron
was a personal friend that he addressed him by his initials, 'W. H.'

'W. H.' signs dedication of Southwell's poems in 1606.

Shakespeare's 'Sonnets' is not the only volume of the period in the
introductory pages of which the initials 'W. H.' play a prominent part.
In 1606 one who concealed himself under the same letters performed for 'A
Foure-fould Meditation' (a collection of pious poems which the Jesuit
Robert Southwell left in manuscript at his death) the identical service
that Thorpe performed for Marlowe's 'Lucan' in 1600, and for
Shakespeare's 'Sonnets' in 1609. In 1606 Southwell's manuscript fell
into the hands of this 'W. H.,' and he published it through the agency of
the printer, George Eld, and of an insignificant bookseller, Francis
Burton. {400b} 'W. H.,' in his capacity of owner, supplied the
dedication with his own pen under his initials. Of the Jesuit's newly
recovered poems 'W. H.' wrote, 'Long have they lien hidden in obscuritie,
and haply had never scene the light, had not a meere accident conveyed
them to my hands. But, having seriously perused them, loath I was that
any who are religiously affected, should be deprived of so great a
comfort, as the due consideration thereof may bring unto them.' 'W. H.'
chose as patron of his venture one Mathew Saunders, Esq., and to the
dedicatory epistle prefixed a conventional salutation wishing Saunders
long life and prosperity. The greeting was printed in large and bold
type thus:--

To the Right Worfhipfull and
Vertuous Gentleman, Mathew
Saunders, Efquire
W.H. wifheth, with long life, a profperous
achieuement of his good defires.

There follows in small type, regularly printed across the page, a
dedicatory letter--the frequent sequel of the dedicatory salutation--in
which the writer, 'W.H.,' commends the religious temper of 'these
meditations' and deprecates the coldness and sterility of his own
'conceits.' The dedicator signs himself at the bottom of the page 'Your
Worships unfained affectionate, W.H.' {401}

The two books--Southwell's 'Foure-fould Meditation' of 1606, and
Shakespeare's 'Sonnets' of 1609--have more in common than the appearance
on the preliminary pages of the initials 'W. H.' in a prominent place,
and of the common form of dedicatory salutation. Both volumes, it was
announced on the title-pages, came from the same press--the press of
George Eld. Eld for many years co-operated with Thorpe in business. In
1605 he printed for Thorpe Ben Jonson's 'Sejanus,' and in each of the
years 1607, 1608, 1609, and 1610 at least one of his ventures was
publicly declared to be a specimen of Eld's typography. Many of Thorpe's
books came forth without any mention of the printer; but Eld's name
figures more frequently upon them than that of any other printer.
Between 1605 and 1609 it is likely that Eld printed all Thorpe's 'copy'
as matter of course and that he was in constant relations with him.

'W. H.' and Mr. William Hall.

There is little doubt that the 'W. H.' of the Southwell volume was Mr.
William Hall, who, when he procured that manuscript for publication, was
an humble auxiliary in the publishing army. Hall flits rapidly across
the stage of literary history. He served an apprenticeship to the
printer and stationer John Allde from 1577 to 1584, and was admitted to
the freedom of the Stationers' Company in the latter year. For the long
period of twenty-two years after his release from his indentures he was
connected with the trade in a dependent capacity, doubtless as assistant
to a master-stationer. When in 1606 the manuscript of Southwell's poems
was conveyed to his hands and he adopted the recognised role of procurer
of their publication, he had not set up in business for himself. It was
only later in the same year (1606) that he obtained the license of the
Stationers' Company to inaugurate a press in his own name, and two years
passed before he began business. In 1608 he obtained for publication a
theological manuscript which appeared next year with his name on the
title-page for the first time. This volume constituted the earliest
credential of his independence. It entitled him to the prefix 'Mr.' in
all social relations. Between 1609 and 1614 he printed some twenty
volumes, most of them sermons and almost all devotional in tone. The
most important of his secular undertaking was Guillim's far-famed
'Display of Heraldrie,' a folio issued in 1610. In 1612 Hall printed an
account of the conviction and execution of a noted pickpocket, John
Selman, who had been arrested while professionally engaged in the Royal
Chapel at Whitehall. On the title-page Hall gave his own name by his
initials only. The book was described in bold type as 'printed by W. H.'
and as on sale at the shop of Thomas Archer in St. Paul's Churchyard.
Hall was a careful printer with a healthy dread of misprints, but his
business dwindled after 1613, and, soon disposing of it to one John
Beale, he disappeared into private life.

'W. H.' are no uncommon initials, and there is more interest attaching to
the discovery of 'Mr. W. H.'s' position in life and his function in
relation to the scheme of the publication of the 'Sonnets' than in
establishing his full name. But there is every probability that William
Hall, the 'W. H.' of the Southwell dedication, was one and the same
person with the 'Mr. W. H.' of Thorpe's dedication of the 'Sonnets.' No
other inhabitant of London was habitually known to mask himself under
those letters. William Hall was the only man bearing those initials who
there is reason to suppose was on familiar terms with Thorpe. {403a}
Both were engaged at much the same period in London in the same
occupation of procuring manuscripts for publication; both inscribed their
literary treasure-trove in the common formula to patrons for whom they
claimed no high rank or distinction, and both engaged the same printer to
print their most valuable prize.

'The onlie begetter' means 'only procurer'.

No condition of the problem of the identity of Thorpe's friend 'Mr. W. H'
seems ignored by the adoption of the interpretation that he was the
future master-printer William Hall. The objection that 'Mr. W. H.' could
not have been Thorpe's friend in trade, because while wishing him all
happiness and eternity Thorpe dubs him 'the onlie begetter of these
insuing sonnets,' is not formidable. Thorpe rarely used words with much
exactness. {403b} It is obvious that he did not employ 'begetter' in the
ordinary sense. 'Begetter,' when literally interpreted as applied to a
literary work, means father, author, producer, and it cannot be seriously
urged that Thorpe intended to describe 'Mr. W. H.' as the author of the
'Sonnets.' 'Begetter' has been used in the figurative sense of inspirer,
and it is often assumed that by 'onlie begetter' Thorpe meant 'sole
inspirer,' and that by the use of those words he intended to hint at the
close relations subsisting between 'W. H.' and Shakespeare in the
dramatist's early life; but that interpretation presents numberless
difficulties. It was contrary to Thorpe's aims in business to invest a
dedication with any cryptic significance, and thus mystify his customers.
Moreover, his career and the circumstances under which he became the
publisher of the sonnets confute the assumption that he was in such
relations with Shakespeare or with Shakespeare's associates as would give
him any knowledge of Shakespeare's early career that was not public
property. All that Thorpe--the struggling pirate-publisher, 'the
well-wishing adventurer in setting forth' wares mysteriously come
by--knew or probably cared to know of Shakespeare was that he was the
most popular and honoured of the literary producers of the day. When
Thorpe had the luck to acquire surreptitiously an unprinted manuscript by
'our ever-living poet,' it was not in the great man's circle of friends
or patrons, to which hitherto he had had no access, that he was likely to
seek his own patron. Elementary considerations of prudence impelled him
to publish his treasure-trove with all expedition, and not disclose his
design prematurely to one who might possibly take steps to hinder its
fulfilment. But that Thorpe had no 'inspirer' of the 'Sonnets' in his
mind when he addressed himself to 'Mr. W. H.' is finally proved by the
circumstance that the only identifiable male 'inspirer' of the poems was
the Earl of Southampton, to whom the initials 'W. H.' do not apply.

Of the figurative meanings set in Elizabethan English on the word
'begetter,' that of 'inspirer' is by no means the only one or the most
common. 'Beget' was not infrequently employed in the attenuated sense of
'get,' 'procure,' or 'obtain,' a sense which is easily deducible from the
original one of 'bring into being.' Hamlet, when addressing the players,
bids them 'in the very whirlwind of passion acquire and beget a
temperance that may give it smoothness.' 'I have some cousins german at
Court,' wrote Dekker in 1602, in his 'Satiro-Mastix,' '[that] shall beget
you the reversion of the Master of the King's Revels.' 'Mr. W. H.,' whom
Thorpe described as 'the onlie begetter of these insuing sonnets,' was in
all probability the acquirer or procurer of the manuscript, who,
figuratively speaking, brought the book into being either by first
placing the manuscript in Thorpe's hands or by pointing out the means by
which a copy might be acquired. To assign such significance to the word
'begetter' was entirely in Thorpe's vein. {405} Thorpe described his
_role_ in the piratical enterprise of the 'Sonnets' as that of 'the
well-wishing adventurer in setting forth,' _i.e._ the hopeful speculator
in the scheme. 'Mr. W. H.' doubtless played the almost equally important
part--one as well known then as now in commercial operations--of the
'vendor' of the property to be exploited.


Origin of the notion that 'Mr. W. H.' stands for 'Mr. William Herbert.'

For fully sixty years it has been very generally assumed that Shakespeare
addressed the bulk of his sonnets to the young Earl of Pembroke. This
theory owes its origin to a speciously lucky guess which was first
disclosed to the public in 1832, and won for a time almost universal
acceptance. {406} Thorpe's form of address was held to justify the
mistaken inference that, whoever 'Mr. W. H.' may have been, he and no
other was the hero of the alleged story of the poems; and the cornerstone
of the Pembroke theory was the assumption that the letters 'Mr. W. H.' in
the dedication did duty for the words 'Mr. William Herbert,' by which
name the (third) Earl of Pembroke was represented as having been known in
youth. The originators of the theory claimed to discover in the Earl of
Pembroke the only young man of rank and wealth to whom the initials 'W.
H' applied at the needful dates. In thus interpreting the initials, the
Pembroke theorists made a blunder that proves on examination to be fatal
to their whole contention.

The Earl of Pembroke known only as Lord Herbert in youth.

The nobleman under consideration succeeded to the earldom of Pembroke on
his father's death on January 19, 1601 (N. S.), when he was twenty years
and nine months old, and from that date it is unquestioned that he was
always known by his lawful title. But it has been overlooked that the
designation 'Mr. William Herbert,' for which the initials 'Mr. W. H.'
have been long held to stand, could never in the mind of Thomas Thorpe or
any other contemporary have denominated the Earl at any moment of his
career. When he came into the world on April 9, 1580, his father had
been (the second) Earl of Pembroke for ten years, and he, as the eldest
son, was from the hour of his birth known in all relations of life--even
in the baptismal entry in the parish register--by the title of Lord
Herbert, and by no other. During the lifetime of his father and his own
minority several references were made to him in the extant correspondence
of friends of varying degrees of intimacy. He is called by them, without
exception, 'my Lord Herbert,' 'the Lord Herbert,' or 'Lord Herbert.'
{407} It is true that as the eldest son of an earl he held the title by
courtesy, but for all practical purposes it was as well recognised in
common speech as if he had been a peer in his own right. No one nowadays
would address in current parlance, or even entertain the conception of,
Viscount Cranborne, the heir of the present Prime Minister, as 'Mr. J.
C.' or 'Mr. James Cecil.' It is no more legitimate to assert that it
would have occurred to an Elizabethan--least of all to a personal
acquaintance or to a publisher who stood toward his patron in the
relation of a personal dependent--to describe 'young Lord Herbert,' of
Elizabeth's reign, as 'Mr. William Herbert.' A lawyer, who in the way of
business might have to mention the young lord's name in a legal document,
would have entered it as 'William Herbert, commonly called Lord Herbert.'
The appellation 'Mr.' was not used loosely then as now, but indicated a
precise social grade. Thorpe's employment of the prefix 'Mr.' without
qualification is in itself fatal to the pretension that any lord, whether
by right or courtesy, was intended. {408}

Thorpe's mode of addressing the Earl of Pembroke.

Proof is at hand to establish that Thorpe was under no misapprehension as
to the proper appellation of the Earl of Pembroke, and was incapable of
venturing on the meaningless misnomer of 'Mr. W. H.' Insignificant
publisher though he was, and sceptical as he was of the merits of noble
patrons, he was not proof against the temptation, when an opportunity was
directly offered him, of adorning the prefatory pages of a publication
with the name of a nobleman, who enjoyed the high official station, the
literary culture, and the social influence of the third Earl of Pembroke.
In 1610--a year after he published the 'Sonnets'--there came into his
hands the manuscripts of John Healey, that humble literary aspirant who
had a few months before emigrated to Virginia, and had, it would seem,
died there. Healey, before leaving England, had secured through the good
offices of John Florio (a man of influence in both fashionable and
literary circles) the patronage of the Earl of Pembroke for a translation
of Bishop Hall's fanciful satire, 'Mundus alter et idem.' Calling his
book 'The Discoverie of a New World,' Healey had prefixed to it, in 1609,
an epistle inscribed in garish terms of flattery to the 'Truest mirrour
of truest honor, William Earl of Pembroke.' {409} When Thorpe
subsequently made up his mind to publish, on his own account, other
translations by the same hand, he found it desirable to seek the same
patron. Accordingly, in 1610, he prefixed in his own name, to an edition
of Healey's translation of St. Augustine's 'Citie of God,' a dedicatory
address 'to the honorablest patron of the Muses and good mindes, Lord
William, Earle of Pembroke, Knight of the Honourable Order (of the
Garter), &c.' In involved sentences Thorpe tells the 'right gracious and
gracefule Lord' how the author left the work at death to be a 'testimonie
of gratitude, observance, and heart's honor to your honour.'
'Wherefore,' he explains, 'his legacie, laide at your Honour's feete, is
rather here delivered to your Honour's humbly thrise-kissed hands by his
poore delegate. Your Lordship's true devoted, Th. Th.'

Again, in 1616, when Thorpe procured the issue of a second edition of
another of Healey's translations, 'Epictetus Manuall. Cebes Table.
Theoprastus Characters,' he supplied more conspicuous evidence of the
servility with which he deemed it incumbent on him to approach a potent
patron. As this address by Thorpe to Pembroke is difficult of access, I
give it _in extenso_:

'To the Right Honourable, William Earle of Pembroke, Lord
Chamberlaine to His Majestie, one of his most honorable Privie
Counsell, and Knight of the most noble order of the Garter, &c.

'Right Honorable.--It may worthily seeme strange unto your Lordship,
out of what frenzy one of my meanenesse hath presumed to commit this
Sacriledge, in the straightnesse of your Lordship's leisure, to
present a peece, for matter and model so unworthy, and in this
scribbling age, wherein great persons are so pestered dayly with
Dedications. All I can alledge in extenuation of so many
incongruities, is the bequest of a deceased Man; who (in his
lifetime) having offered some translations of his unto your Lordship,
ever wisht if _these ensuing_ were published they might onely bee
addressed unto your Lordship, as the last Testimony of his dutifull
affection (to use his own termes) _The true and reall upholder of
Learned endeavors_. This, therefore, beeing left unto mee, as a
Legacie unto your Lordship (pardon my presumption, great Lord, from
so meane a man to so great a person) I could not without some impiety
present it to any other; such a sad priviledge have the bequests of
the _dead_, and so obligatory they are, more than the requests of the
_living_. In the hope of this honourable acceptance I will ever

'Your lordship's humble devoted,
'T. Th.'

With such obeisances did publishers then habitually creep into the
presence of the nobility. In fact, the law which rigorously maintained
the privileges of peers left them no option. The alleged erroneous form
of address in the dedication of Shakespeare's 'Sonnets'--'Mr. W. H.' for
Lord Herbert or the Earl of Pembroke--would have amounted to the offence
of defamation. And for that misdemeanour the Star Chamber, always active
in protecting the dignity of peers, would have promptly called Thorpe to
account. {410}

Of the Earl of Pembroke, and of his brother the Earl of Montgomery, it
was stated a few years later, 'from just observation,' on very pertinent
authority, that 'no men came near their lordships [in their capacity of
literary patrons], but with a kind of religious address.' These words
figure in the prefatory epistle which two actor-friends of Shakespeare
addressed to the two Earls in the posthumously issued First Folio of the
dramatist's works. Thorpe's 'kind of religious address' on seeking Lord
Pembroke's patronage for Healey's books was somewhat more unctuous than
was customary or needful. But of erring conspicuously in an opposite
direction he may, without misgiving, be pronounced innocent.


With the disposal of the allegation that 'Mr. W. H.' represented the Earl
of Pembroke's youthful name, the whole theory of that earl's identity
with Shakespeare's friend collapses. Outside Thorpe's dedicatory words,
only two scraps of evidence with any title to consideration have been
adduced to show that Shakespeare was at any time or in any way associated
with Pembroke.

Shakespeare with the acting company at Wilton in 1603.

In the late autumn of 1603 James I and his Court were installed at the
Earl of Pembroke's house at Wilton for a period of two months, owing to
the prevalence of the plague in London. By order of the officers of the
royal household, the King's company of players, of which Shakespeare was
a member, gave a performance before the King at Wilton House on December
2. The actors travelled from Mortlake for the purpose, and were paid in
the ordinary manner by the treasurer of the royal household out of the
public funds. There is no positive evidence that Shakespeare attended at
Wilton with the company, but assuming, as is probable, that he did, the
Earl of Pembroke can be held no more responsible for his presence than
for his repeated presence under the same conditions at Whitehall. The
visit of the King's players to Wilton in 1603 has no bearing on the Earl
of Pembroke's alleged relations with Shakespeare. {411}

The dedication of the First Folio.

The second instance of the association in the seventeenth century of
Shakespeare's name with Pembroke's tells wholly against the conjectured
intimacy. Seven years after the dramatist's death, two of his friends
and fellow-actors prepared the collective edition of his plays known as
the First Folio, and they dedicated the volume, in the conventional
language of eulogy, 'To the most noble and incomparable paire of
brethren, William Earl of Pembroke, &c., Lord Chamberlaine to the King's
most excellent Majesty, and Philip, Earl of Montgomery, &c., Gentleman of
His Majesties Bedchamber. Both Knights of the most Noble Order of the
Garter and our singular good Lords.'

The choice of such patrons, whom, as the dedication intimated, 'no one
came near but with a kind of religious address,' proves no private sort
of friendship between them and the dead author. To the two earls in
partnership nearly every work of any literary pretension was dedicated at
the period. Moreover, the third Earl of Pembroke was Lord Chamberlain in
1623, and exercised supreme authority in theatrical affairs. That his
patronage should be sought for a collective edition of the works of the
acknowledged master of the contemporary stage was a matter of course. It
is only surprising that the editors should have yielded to the passing
vogue of soliciting the patronage of the Lord Chamberlain's brother in
conjunction with the Lord Chamberlain.

The sole passage in the editors' dedication that can be held to bear on
the question of Shakespeare's alleged intimacy with Pembroke is to be
found in their remarks: 'But since your lordships have beene pleas'd to
thinke these trifles something, heretofore; and have prosequuted both
them, and their Authour living, with so much favour: we hope that (they
outliving him, and he not having the fate, common with some, to be
exequutor to his owne writings) you will use the like indulgence toward
them you have done unto their parent. There is a great difference,
whether any Booke choose his Patrones, or find them: This hath done both.
For, so much were your lordships' likings of the severall parts, when
they were acted, as, before they were published, the Volume ask'd to be
yours.' There is nothing whatever in these sentences that does more than
justify the inference that the brothers shared the enthusiastic esteem
which James I and all the noblemen of his Court extended to Shakespeare
and his plays in the dramatist's lifetime. Apart from his work as a
dramatist, Shakespeare, in his capacity of one of 'the King's servants'
or company of players, was personally known to all the officers of the
royal household who collectively controlled theatrical representations at
Court. Throughout James I's reign his plays were repeatedly performed in
the royal presence, and when the dedicators of the First Folio, at the
conclusion of their address to Lords Pembroke and Montgomery, describe
the dramatist's works as 'these remaines of your _Servant_ Shakespeare,'
they make it quite plain that it was in the capacity of 'King's servant'
or player that they knew him to have been the object of their noble
patrons' favour.

No suggestion in the sonnets of the youth's identity with Pembroke.

The sonnets offer no internal indication that the Earl of Pembroke and
Shakespeare ever saw each other. Nothing at all is deducible from the
vague parallelisms that have been adduced between the earl's character
and position in life and those with which the poet credited the youth of
the sonnets. It may be granted that both had a mother (Sonnet iii.),
that both enjoyed wealth and rank, that both were regarded by admirers as
cultivated, that both were self-indulgent in their relations with women,
and that both in early manhood were indisposed to marry, owing to habits
of gallantry. Of one alleged point of resemblance there is no evidence.
The loveliness assigned to Shakespeare's youth was not, as far as we can
learn, definitely set to Pembroke's account. Francis Davison, when
dedicating his 'Poetical Rhapsody' to the earl in 1602 in a very
eulogistic sonnet, makes a cautiously qualified reference to the
attractiveness of his person in the lines:

[His] outward shape, though it most lovely be,
Doth in fair robes a fairer soul attire.

The only portraits of him that survive represent him in middle age, {414}
and seem to confute the suggestion that he was reckoned handsome at any
time of life; at most they confirm Anthony Wood's description of him as
in person 'rather majestic than elegant.' But the point is not one of
moment, and the argument neither gains nor loses, if we allow that
Pembroke may, at any rate in the sight of a poetical panegyrist, have at
one period reflected, like Shakespeare's youth, 'the lovely April of his
mother's prime.'

But when we have reckoned up the traits that can, on any showing, be
admitted to be common to both Pembroke and Shakespeare's alleged friend,
they all prove to be equally indistinctive. All could be matched without
difficulty in a score of youthful noblemen and gentlemen of Elizabeth's
Court. Direct external evidence of Shakespeare's friendly intercourse
with one or other of Elizabeth's young courtiers must be produced before
the sonnets' general references to the youth's beauty and grace can
render the remotest assistance in establishing his identity.

Aubrey's ignorance of any relation between Shakespeare and Pembroke.

Although it may be reckoned superfluous to adduce more arguments,
negative or positive, against the theory that the Earl of Pembroke was a
youthful friend of Shakespeare, it is worth noting that John Aubrey, the
Wiltshire antiquary, and the biographer of most Englishmen of distinction
of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, was zealously researching
from 1650 onwards into the careers alike of Shakespeare and of various
members of the Earl of Pembroke's family--one of the chief in Wiltshire.
Aubrey rescued from oblivion many anecdotes--scandalous and
otherwise--both about the third Earl of Pembroke and about Shakespeare.
Of the former he wrote in his 'Natural History of Wiltshire' (ed.
Britton, 1847), recalling the earl's relations with Massinger and many
other men of letters. Of Shakespeare, Aubrey narrated much lively gossip
in his 'Lives of Eminent Persons.' But neither in his account of
Pembroke nor in his account of Shakespeare does he give any hint that
they were at any time or in any manner acquainted or associated with one
another. Had close relations existed between them, it is impossible that
all trace of them would have faded from the traditions that were current
in Aubrey's time and were embodied in his writings. {415}


No one has had the hardihood to assert that the text of the sonnets gives
internally any indication that the youth's name took the hapless form of
'William Herbert;' but many commentators argue that in three or four
sonnets Shakespeare admits in so many words that the youth bore his own
Christian name of Will, and even that the disdainful lady had among her
admirers other gentlemen entitled in familiar intercourse to similar
designation. These are fantastic assumptions which rest on a
misconception of Shakespeare's phraseology and of the character of the
conceits of the sonnets, and are solely attributable to the fanatical
anxiety of the supporters of the Pembroke theory to extort, at all
hazards, some sort of evidence in their favour from Shakespeare's text.

Elizabethan meanings of 'will.'

In two sonnets (cxxxv.-vi.)--the most artificial and 'conceited' in the
collection--the poet plays somewhat enigmatically on his Christian name
of 'Will,' and a similar pun has been doubtfully detected in sonnets
cxxxiv. and cxlvii. The groundwork of the pleasantry is the identity in
form of the proper name with the common noun 'will.' This word connoted
in Elizabethan English a generous variety of conceptions, of most of
which it has long since been deprived. Then, as now, it was employed in
the general psychological sense of volition; but it was more often
specifically applied to two limited manifestations of the volition. It
was the commonest of synonyms alike for 'self will' or 'stubbornness'--in
which sense it still survives in 'wilful'--and for 'lust,' or 'sensual
passion.' It also did occasional duty for its own diminutive 'wish,' for
'caprice,' for 'good-will,' and for 'free consent' (as nowadays in
'willing,' or 'willingly').

Shakespeare's uses of the word.

Shakespeare constantly used 'will' in all these significations. Iago
recognised its general psychological value when he said, 'Our bodies are
our gardens, to the which our wills are gardeners.' The conduct of the
'will' is discussed after the manner of philosophy in 'Troilus and
Cressida' (II. ii. 51-68). In another of Iago's sentences, 'Love is
merely a lust of the blood and a permission of the will,' light is shed
on the process by which the word came to be specifically applied to
sensual desire. The last is a favourite sense with Shakespeare and his
contemporaries. Angelo and Isabella, in 'Measure for Measure,' are at
one in attributing their conflict to the former's 'will.' The
self-indulgent Bertram, in 'All's Well,' 'fleshes his "will" in the spoil
of a gentlewoman's honour.' In 'Lear' (IV. vi. 279) Regan's heartless
plot to seduce her brother-in-law is assigned to 'the undistinguished
space'--the boundless range--'of woman's will.' Similarly, Sir Philip
Sidney apostrophised lust as 'thou web of will.' Thomas Lodge, in
'Phillis' (Sonnet xi.), warns lovers of the ruin that menaces all who
'guide their course by will.' Nicholas Breton's fantastic romance of
1599, entitled 'The Will of Wit, Wit's Will or Will's Wit, Chuse you
whether,' is especially rich in like illustrations. Breton brings into
marked prominence the antithesis which was familiar in his day between
'will' in its sensual meaning, and 'wit,' the Elizabethan synonym for
reason or cognition. 'A song between Wit and Will' opens thus:

_Wit_: What art thou, Will? _Will_: A babe of nature's

_Wit_: Who was thy sire? _Will_: Sweet Lust, as lovers

_Wit_: Thy mother who? _Will_: Wild lusty wanton

_Wit_: When wast thou born? _Will_: In merry month of May.

_Wit_: And where brought up? _Will_: In school of little

_Wit_: What learn'dst thou there? _Will_: Love is my lesson

Of the use of the word in the sense of stubbornness or self-will Roger
Ascham gives a good instance in his 'Scholemaster,' (1570), where he
recommends that such a vice in children as 'will,' which he places in the
category of lying, sloth, and disobedience, should be 'with sharp
chastisement daily cut away.' {418a} 'A woman will have her will' was,
among Elizabethan wags, an exceptionally popular proverbial phrase, the
point of which revolved about the equivocal meaning of the last word.
The phrase supplied the title of 'a pleasant comedy,' by William
Haughton, which--from 1597 onwards--held the stage for the unusually
prolonged period of forty years. 'Women, because they cannot have their
wills when they dye, they will have their wills while they live,' was a
current witticism which the barrister Manningham deemed worthy of record
in his 'Diary' in 1602. {418b}

Shakespeare's puns on the word.

It was not only in the sonnets that Shakespeare--almost invariably with a
glance at its sensual significance--rang the changes on this many-faced
verbal token. In his earliest play, 'Love's Labour's Lost' (II. i.
97-101), after the princess has tauntingly assured the King of Navarre
that he will break his vow to avoid women's society, the king replies,
'Not for the world, fair madam, by my _will_' (_i.e._ willingly). The
princess retorts 'Why _will_ (_i.e._ sensual desire) shall break it
(_i.e._ the vow), _will_ and nothing else.' In 'Much Ado' (V. iv. 26
seq.), when Benedick, anxious to marry Beatrice, is asked by the lady's
uncle 'What's your will?' he playfully lingers on the word in his answer.
As for his 'will,' his 'will' is that the uncle's 'goodwill may stand
with his' and Beatrice's 'will'--in other words that the uncle may
consent to their union. Slender and Anne Page vary the tame sport when
the former misinterprets the young lady's 'What is your will?' into an
inquiry into the testamentary disposition of his property. To what depth
of vapidity Shakespeare and contemporary punsters could sink is nowhere
better illustrated than in the favour they bestowed on efforts to extract
amusement from the parities and disparities of form and meaning
subsisting between the words 'will' and 'wish,' the latter being in
vernacular use as a diminutive of the former. Twice in the 'Two
Gentlemen of Verona' (I. iii. 63 and IV. ii. 96) Shakespeare almost
strives to invest with the flavour of epigram the unpretending
announcement that one interlocutor's 'wish' is in harmony with another
interlocutor's 'will.'

It is in this vein of pleasantry--'will' and 'wish' are identically
contrasted in Sonnet cxxxv.--that Shakespeare, to the confusion of modern
readers, makes play with the word 'will' in the sonnets, and especially
in the two sonnets (cxxxv.-vi.) which alone speciously justify the
delusion that the lady is courted by two, or more than two, lovers of the
name of Will.

Arbitrary and irregular use of italics by Elizabethan and Jacobean

One of the chief arguments advanced in favour of this interpretation is
that the word 'will' in these sonnets is frequently italicised in the
original edition. But this has little or no bearing on the argument.
The corrector of the press recognised that Sonnets cxxxv. and cxxxvi.
largely turned upon a simple pun between the writer's name of 'Will' and
the lady's 'will.' That fact, and no other, he indicated very roughly by
occasionally italicising the crucial word. Typography at the time
followed no firmly fixed rules, and, although 'will' figures in a more or
less punning sense nineteen times in these sonnets, the printer bestowed
on the word the distinction of italics in only ten instances, and those
were selected arbitrarily. The italics indicate the obvious equivoque,
and indicate it imperfectly. That is the utmost that can be laid to
their credit. They give no hint of the far more complicated punning that
is alleged by those who believe that 'Will' is used now as the name of
the writer, and now as that of one or more of the rival suitors. In each
of the two remaining sonnets that have been forced into the service of
the theory, Nos. cxxxiv. and cxliii., 'will' occurs once only; it alone
is italicised in the second sonnet in the original edition, and there, in
my opinion, arbitrarily and without just cause. {419}

The conceits of sonnets cxxxv-vi. interpreted.

The general intention of the complex conceits of Sonnets cxxxv. and
cxxxvi. becomes obvious when we bear in mind that in them Shakespeare
exploits to the uttermost the verbal coincidences which are inherent in
the Elizabethan word 'will.' 'Will' is the Christian name of the
enslaved writer; 'will' is the sentiment with which the lady inspires her
worshippers; and 'will' designates stubbornness as well as sensual
desire. These two characteristics, according to the poet's reiterated
testimony, are the distinguishing marks of the lady's disposition. He
often dwells elsewhere on her 'proud heart' or 'foul pride,' and her
sensuality or 'foul faults.' These are her 'wills,' and they make up her
being. In crediting the lady with such constitution Shakespeare was not
recording any definite observation or experience of his own, but was
following, as was his custom, the conventional descriptions of the
disdainful mistress common to all contemporary collections of sonnets.
Barnabe Barnes asks the lady celebrated in his sonnets, from whose 'proud
disdainfulness' he suffered,

Why dost thou my delights delay,
And with thy cross unkindness kills (_sic_)
Mine heart, bound martyr to thy wills?

Barnes answers his question in the next lines:

But women will have their own wills,
Since what she lists her heart fulfils. {420}

Similar passages abound in Elizabethan sonnets, but certain verbal
similarities give good ground for regarding Shakespeare's 'will' sonnets
as deliberate adaptations--doubtless with satiric purpose--of Barnes's
stereotyped reflections on women's obduracy. The form and the constant
repetition of the word 'will' in these two sonnets of Shakespeare also
seem to imitate derisively the same rival's Sonnets lxxii. and lxxiii. in
which Barnes puts the words 'grace' and 'graces' through much the same
evolutions as Shakespeare puts the words 'will' and 'wills' in the
Sonnets cxxxv. and cxxxvi. {421a}

Shakespeare's 'Sonnet' cxxxv. runs:

Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will,
And will to boot, and will in over-plus;
More than enough am I that vex thee still,
To thy sweet will making addition thus.
Wilt thou, whose will is large and spacious, {420b}
Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine?
Shall will in others seem right gracious,
And in my will no fair acceptance shine?
The sea, all water, yet receives rain still,
And in abundance addeth to his store;
So thou, being rich in will, add to thy will
One will of mine, to make thy large will more.
Let no unkind no fair beseechers kill;
Think all but one, and me in that one--Will.

Sonnet cxxxv.

In the opening words, 'Whoever hath her wish,' the poet prepares the
reader for the punning encounter by a slight variation on the current
catch-phrase 'A woman will have her will.' At the next moment we are in
the thick of the wordy fray. The lady has not only her lover named Will,
but untold stores of 'will'--in the sense alike of stubbornness and of
lust--to which it seems supererogatory to make addition. {421c} To the
lady's 'over-plus' of 'will' is punningly attributed her defiance of the
'will' of her suitor Will to enjoy her favours. At the same time 'will'
in others proves to her 'right gracious,' {422a} although in him it is
unacceptable. All this, the poet hazily argues, should be otherwise; for
as the sea, although rich in water, does not refuse the falling rain, but
freely adds it to its abundant store, so she, 'rich in will,' should
accept her lover Will's 'will' and 'make her large will more.' The poet
sums up his ambition in the final couplet:

Let no unkind no fair beseechers kill;
Think all but one, and me in that one--Will.

This is as much as to say, 'Let not my mistress in her unkindness kill
any of her fair-spoken adorers. Rather let her think all who beseech her
favours incorporate in one alone of her lovers--and that one the writer
whose name of "Will" is a synonym for the passions that dominate her.'
The thought is wiredrawn to inanity, but the words make it perfectly
clear that the poet was the only one of the lady's lovers--to the
definite exclusion of all others--whose name justified the quibbling
pretence of identity with the 'will' which controls her being.

Sonnet cxxxvi.

The same equivocating conceit of the poet Will's title to identity with
the lady's 'will' in all senses is pursued in Sonnet cxxxvi. The sonnet

If thy soul check thee that I come so near,
Swear to thy blind soul that I was thy will, {422b}
And will thy soul knows is admitted there.

Here Shakespeare adapts to his punning purpose the familiar philosophic
commonplace respecting the soul's domination by 'will' or volition, which
was more clearly expressed by his contemporary, Sir John Davies, in the
philosophic poem, 'Nosce Teipsum:'

Will holds the royal sceptre in the soul,
And on the passions of the heart doth reign.

Whether Shakespeare's lines be considered with their context or without
it, the tenor of their thought and language positively refutes the
commentators' notion that the 'will' admitted to the lady's soul is a
rival lover named Will. The succeeding lines run:

Thus far for love, my love-suit, sweet, fulfil. {423a}
Will will fulfil the treasure of thy love;
Ay, fill it full with wills, and my will one.
In things of great receipt with ease we prove
Among a number one is reckon'd none:
Then in the number let me pass untold,
Though in thy stores' account, I one must be;
For nothing hold me, so it please thee hold
That nothing me, a something sweet to thee.

Here the poet Will continues to claim, in punning right of his Christian
name, a place, however small and inconspicuous, among the 'wills,' the
varied forms of will (_i.e._ lust, stubbornness, and willingness to
accept others' attentions), which are the constituent elements of the
lady's being. The plural 'wills' is twice used in identical sense by
Barnabe Barnes in the lines already quoted:

Mine heart, bound martyr to thy _wills_.
But women will have their own _wills_.

Impulsively Shakespeare brings his fantastic pretension to a somewhat
more practical issue in the concluding apostrophe:

Make but my name thy love, and love that still,
And then thou lovest me--for my name is Will. {423b}

That is equivalent to saying 'Make "will"' (_i.e._ that which is
yourself) 'your love, and then you love me, because Will is my name.'
The couplet proves even more convincingly than the one which clinches the
preceding sonnet that none of the rivals whom the poet sought to displace
in the lady's affections could by any chance have been, like himself,
called Will. The writer could not appeal to a mistress to concentrate
her love on his name of Will, because it was the emphatic sign of
identity between her being and him, if that name were common to him and
one or more rivals, and lacked exclusive reference to himself.

Loosely as Shakespeare's sonnets were constructed, the couplet at the
conclusion of each poem invariably summarises the general intention of
the preceding twelve lines. The concluding couplets of these two sonnets
cxxxv.-vi., in which Shakespeare has been alleged to acknowledge a rival
of his own name in his suit for a lady's favour, are consequently the
touchstone by which the theory of 'more Wills than one' must be tested.
As we have just seen, the situation is summarily embodied in the first
couplet thus:

Let no unkind no fair beseechers kill;
Think all but one, and me in that one--Will.

It is re-embodied in the second couplet thus:

Make but my name thy love, and love that still,
And then thou lovest me--for my name is Will.

The whole significance of both couplets resides in the twice-repeated
fact that one, and only one, of the lady's lovers is named Will, and that
that one is the writer. To assume that the poet had a rival of his own
name is to denude both couplets of all point. 'Will,' we have learned
from the earlier lines of both sonnets, is the lady's ruling passion.
Punning mock-logic brings the poet in either sonnet to the ultimate
conclusion that one of her lovers may, above all others, reasonably claim
her love on the ground that his name of Will is the name of her ruling
passion. Thus his pretension to her affections rests, he punningly
assures her, on a strictly logical basis.

Sonnet cxxxiv. Meaning of Sonnet cxliii.

Unreasonable as any other interpretation of these sonnets (cxxxv.-vi.)
seems to be, I believe it far more fatuous to seek in the single and
isolated use of the word 'will' in each of the sonnets cxxxiv. and
cxliii. any confirmation of the theory of a rival suitor named Will.

Sonnet cxxxiv. runs:

So now I have confess'd that he is thine,
And I myself am mortgaged to thy will. {425}
Myself I'll forfeit, so that other mine
Thou wilt restore, to be my comfort still.
But thou wilt not, nor he will not be free,
For thou art covetous and he is kind.
He learn'd but surety-like to write for me,
Under that bond that him as fast doth bind.
The statute of thy beauty thou wilt take,
Thou usurer, that putt'st forth all to use,
And sue a friend came debtor for my sake;
So him I lose through my unkind abuse.
Him have I lost; thou hast both him and me;
He pays the whole, and yet am I not free.

Here the poet describes himself as 'mortgaged to the lady's will' (_i.e._
to her personality, in which 'will,' in the double sense of stubbornness
and sensual passion, is the strongest element). He deplores that the
lady has captivated not merely himself, but also his friend, who made
vicarious advances to her.

Sonnet cxliii. runs:

Lo, as a careful housewife runs to catch
One of her feathered creatures broke away,
Sets down her babe, and makes all swift despatch
In pursuit of the thing she would have stay;
Whilst her neglected child holds her in chase,
Cries to catch her whose busy care is bent
To follow that which flies before her face,
Not prizing her poor infant's discontent:
So runn'st thou after that which flies from thee,
Whilst I, thy babe, chase thee afar behind;
But if thou catch thy hope turn back to me,
And play the mother's part, kiss me, be kind:
So will I pray that thou mayst have thy will, {426}
If thou turn back and my loud crying still.

In this sonnet--which presents a very clear-cut picture, although its
moral is somewhat equivocal--the poet represents the lady as a country
housewife and himself as her babe; while an acquaintance, who attracts
the lady but is not attracted by her, is figured as a 'feathered
creature' in the housewife's poultry-yard. The fowl takes to flight; the
housewife sets down her infant and pursues 'the thing.' The poet,
believing apparently that he has little to fear from the harmless
creature, lightly makes play with the current catch-phrase ('a woman will
have her will'), and amiably wishes his mistress success in her chase, on
condition that, having recaptured the truant bird, she turn back and
treat him, her babe, with kindness. In praying that the lady may have
her 'will' the poet is clearly appropriating the current catch-phrase,
and no pun on a man's name of 'Will' can be fairly wrested from the


The sonnetteering vogue, as I have already pointed out, {427a} reached
its full height between 1591 and 1597, and when at its briskest in 1594
it drew Shakespeare into its current. An enumeration of volumes
containing sonnet-sequences or detached sonnets that were in circulation
during the period best illustrates the overwhelming force of the
sonnetteering rage of those years, and, with that end in view, I give
here a bibliographical account, with a few critical notes, of the chief
efforts of Shakespeare's rival sonnetteers. {427b}

Wyatt's and Surrey's Sonnets, published in 1557. Watson's 'Centurie of
Love,' 1582.

The earliest collections of sonnets to be published in England were those
by the Earl of Surrey and Sir Thomas Wyatt, which first appeared in the
publisher Tottel's poetical miscellany called 'Songes and Sonnetes' in
1557. This volume included sixteen sonnets by Surrey and twenty by
Wyatt. Many of them were translated directly from Petrarch, and most of
them treated conventionally of the torments of an unrequited love.
Surrey included, however, three sonnets on the death of his friend Wyatt,
and a fourth on the death of one Clere, a faithful follower. Tottel's
volume was seven times reprinted by 1587. But no sustained endeavour was
made to emulate the example of Surrey and Wyatt till Thomas Watson about
1580 circulated in manuscript his 'Booke of Passionate Sonnetes,' which
he wrote for his patron, the Earl of Oxford. The volume was printed in
1582, under the title of '[Greek text], or Passionate Centurie of Loue.
Divided into two parts: whereof the first expresseth the Authours
sufferance on Loue: the latter his long farewell to Loue and all his
tyrannie. Composed by Thomas Watson, and published at the request of
certaine Gentlemen his very frendes.' Watson's work, which he called 'a
toy,' is a curious literary mosaic. He supplied to each poem a prose
commentary, in which he not only admitted that every conceit was
borrowed, but quoted chapter and verse for its origin from classical
literature or from the work of French or Italian sonnetteers. {428a} Two
regular quatorzains are prefixed, but to each of the 'passions' there is
appended a four-line stanza which gives each poem eighteen instead of the
regular fourteen lines. Watson's efforts were so well received, however,
that he applied himself to the composition of a second series of sonnets
in strict metre. This collection, entitled 'The Teares of Fancie,' only
circulated in manuscript in his lifetime. {428b}

Sidney's 'Astrophel and Stella,' 1591.

Meanwhile a greater poet, Sir Philip Sidney, who died in 1586, had
written and circulated among his friends a more ambitious collection of a
hundred and eight sonnets. Most of Sidney's sonnets were addressed by
him under the name of Astrophel to a beautiful woman poetically
designated Stella. Sidney had in real life courted assiduously the
favour of a married lady, Penelope, Lady Rich, and a few of the sonnets
are commonly held to reflect the heat of passion which the genuine
intrigue developed. But Petrarch, Ronsard, and Desportes inspired the
majority of Sidney's efforts, and his addresses to abstractions like
sleep, the moon, his muse, grief, or lust, are almost verbatim
translations from the French. Sidney's sonnets were first published
surreptitiously, under the title of 'Astrophel and Stella,' by a
publishing adventurer named Thomas Newman, and in his first issue Newman
added an appendix of 'sundry other rare sonnets by divers noblemen and
gentlemen.' Twenty-eight sonnets by Daniel were printed in the appendix
anonymously and without the author's knowledge. Two other editions of
Sidney's 'Astrophel and Stella' without the appendix were issued in the
same year. Eight other of Sidney's sonnets, which still circulated only
in manuscript, were first printed anonymously in 1594 with the sonnets of
Henry Constable, and these were appended with some additions to the
authentic edition of Sidney's 'Arcadia' and other works that appeared in
1598. Sidney enjoyed in the decade that followed his death the
reputation of a demi-god, and the wide dissemination in print of his
numerous sonnets in 1591 spurred nearly every living poet in England to
emulate his achievement. {429a}

In order to facilitate a comparison of Shakespeare's sonnets with those
of his contemporaries it will be best to classify the sonnetteering
efforts that immediately succeeded Sidney's under the three headings of

(1) sonnets of more or less feigned love, addressed to a more or less
fictitious mistress;

(2) sonnets of adulation, addressed to patrons; and

(3) sonnets invoking metaphysical abstractions or treating impersonally
of religion or philosophy. {429b}

(1) Collected sonnets of feigned love. Daniel's 'Delia,' 1592.

In February 1592 Samuel Daniel published a collection of fifty-five
sonnets, with a dedicatory sonnet addressed to his patroness, Sidney's
sister, the Countess of Pembroke. As in many French volumes, the
collection concluded with an 'ode.' {429c} At every point Daniel
betrayed his indebtedness to French sonnetteers, even when apologising
for his inferiority to Petrarch (No. xxxviii.) His title he borrowed
from the collection of Maurice Seve, whose assemblage of dixains called
'Delie, objet de plus haute vertu' (Lyon, 1544), was the pattern of all
sonnet-sequences on love, and was a constant theme of commendation among
the later French sonnetteers. But it is to Desportes that Daniel owes
most, and his methods of handling his material may be judged by a
comparison of his Sonnet xxvi. with Sonnet lxiii. in Desportes'
collection, 'Cleonice: Dernieres Amours,' which was issued at Paris in

Desportes' sonnet runs:

Je verray par les ans vengeurs de mon martyre
Que l'or de vos cheveux argente deviendra,
Que de vos deux soleils la splendeur s'esteindra,
Et qu'il faudra qu'Amour tout confus s'en retire.
La beaute qui si douce a present vous inspire,
Cedant aux lois du Temps ses faveurs reprendra,
L'hiver de vostre teint les fleurettes perdra,
Et ne laissera rien des thresors que i'admire.
Cest orgueil desdaigneux qui vous fait ne m'aimer,
En regret et chagrin se verra transformer,
Avec le changement d'une image si belle:
Et peut estre qu'alors vous n'aurez desplaisir
De revivre en mes vers chauds d'amoureux desir,
Ainsi que le Phenix au feu se renouvelle.

This is Daniel's version, which he sent forth as an original production:

I once may see, when years may wreck my wrong,
And golden hairs may change to silver wire;
And those bright rays (that kindle all this fire)
Shall fail in force, their power not so strong,
Her beauty, now the burden of my song,
Whose glorious blaze the world's eye doth admire,
Must yield her praise to tyrant Time's desire;
Then fades the flower, which fed her pride so long,
When if she grieve to gaze her in her glass,
Which then presents her winter-withered hue:
Go you my verse! go tell her what she was!
For what she was, she best may find in you.
Your fiery heat lets not her glory pass,
But Phoenix-like to make her live anew.

In Daniel's beautiful sonnet (xlix.) beginning,

Care-charmer Sleep, son of the sable Night,
Brother to Death, in silent darkness born,

he has borrowed much from De Baif and Pierre de Brach, sonnetteers with
whom it was a convention to invocate 'O Sommeil chasse-soin.' But again
he chiefly relies on Desportes, whose words he adapts with very slight
variations. Sonnet lxxiii. of Desportes' 'Amours d'Hippolyte' opens

Sommeil, paisible fils de la Nuict solitaire . . .
O frere de la Mort, que tu m'es ennemi!

Fame of Daniel's sonnets.

Daniel's sonnets were enthusiastically received. With some additions
they were republished in 1594 with his narrative poem, 'The Complaint of
Rosamund.' The volume was called 'Delia and Rosamund Augmented.'
Spenser, in his 'Colin Clouts come Home againe,' lauded the 'well-tuned
song' of Daniel's sonnets, and Shakespeare has some claim to be classed
among Daniel's many sonnetteering disciples. The anonymous author of
'Zepheria' (1594) declared that the 'sweet tuned accents' of 'Delian
sonnetry' rang throughout England; while Bartholomew Griffin, in his
'Fidessa' (1596), openly plagiarised Daniel, invoking in his Sonnet xv.
'Care-charmer Sleep, . . . brother of quiet Death.'

Constable's 'Diana,' 1592.

In September of the same year (1592) that saw the first complete version
of Daniel's 'Delia,' Henry Constable published 'Diana: the Praises of his
Mistres in certaine sweete Sonnets.' Like the title, the general tone
was drawn from Desportes' 'Amours de Diane.' Twenty-one poems were
included, all in the French vein. The collection was reissued, with very
numerous additions, in 1594 under the title 'Diana; or, The excellent
conceitful Sonnets of H. C. Augmented with divers Quatorzains of
honourable and learned personages.' This volume is a typical venture of
the booksellers. {431} The printer, James Roberts, and the publisher,
Richard Smith, supplied dedications respectively to the reader and to
Queen Elizabeth's ladies-in-waiting. They had swept together sonnets in
manuscript from all quarters and presented their customers with a
disordered miscellany of what they called 'orphan poems.' Besides the
twenty sonnets by Constable, eight were claimed for Sir Philip Sidney,
and the remaining forty-seven are by various hands which have not as yet
been identified.

Barnes' sonnets, 1593.

In 1593 the legion of sonnetteers received notable reinforcements. In
May came out Barnabe Barnes's interesting volume, 'Parthenophil and
Parthenophe: Sonnets, Madrigals, Elegies, and Odes. To the right noble
and virtuous gentleman, M. William Percy, Esq., his dearest friend.'
{432a} The contents of the volume and their arrangement closely resemble
the sonnet-collections of Petrarch or the 'Amours' of Ronsard. There are
a hundred and five sonnets altogether, interspersed with twenty-six
madrigals, five sestines, twenty-one elegies, three 'canzons,' and twenty
'odes,' one in sonnet form. There is, moreover, included what purports
to be a translation of 'Moschus' first eidillion describing love,' but is
clearly a rendering of a French poem by Amadis Jamin, entitled 'Amour
Fuitif, du grec de Moschus,' in his 'OEuvres Poetiques,' Paris, 1579.
{432b} At the end of Barnes's volume there also figure six dedicatory
sonnets. In Sonnet xcv. Barnes pays a compliment to Sir Philip Sidney,
'the Arcadian shepherd, Astrophel,' but he did not draw so largely on
Sidney's work as on that of Ronsard, Desportes, De Baif, and Du Bellay.
Legal metaphors abound in Barnes's poems, but amid many crudities, he
reaches a high level of beauty in Sonnet lxvi., which runs:

Ah, sweet Content! where is thy mild abode?
Is it with shepherds, and light-hearted swains,
Which sing upon the downs, and pipe abroad,
Tending their flocks and cattle on the plains?
Ah, sweet Content! where dost thou safely rest
In Heaven, with Angels? which the praises sing
Of Him that made, and rules at His behest,
The minds and hearts of every living thing.
Ah, sweet Content! where doth thine harbour hold?
Is it in churches, with religious men,
Which please the gods with prayers manifold;
And in their studies meditate it then?
Whether thou dost in Heaven, or earth appear;
Be where thou wilt! Thou wilt not harbour here! {433a}

Watson's 'Tears of Fancie,' 1593.

In August 1593 there appeared a posthumous collection of sixty-one
sonnets by Thomas Watson, entitled 'The Tears of Fancie, or Love
Disdained.' They are throughout the imitative type of his previously
published 'Centurie of Love.' Many of them sound the same note as
Shakespeare's sonnets to the 'dark lady.'

Fletcher's 'Licia,' 1593.

In September 1593 followed Giles Fletcher's 'Licia, or Poems of Love in
honour of the admirable and singular virtues of his Lady.' This
collection of fifty-three sonnets is dedicated to the wife of Sir Richard
Mollineux. Fletcher makes no concealment that his sonnets are literary
exercises. 'For this kind of poetry,' he tells the reader, 'I did it to
try my humour;' and on the title-page he notes that the work was written
'to the imitation of the best Latin poets and others.' {433b}

Lodge's 'Phillis,' 1593.

The most notable contribution to the sonnet-literature of 1593 was Thomas
Lodge's 'Phillis Honoured with Pastoral Sonnets, Elegies, and Amorous
Delights.' {433c} Besides forty sonnets, some of which exceed fourteen
lines in length and others are shorter, there are included three elegies
and an ode. Desportes is Lodge's chief master, but he had recourse to
Ronsard and other French contemporaries. How servile he could be may be
learnt from a comparison of his Sonnet xxxvi. with Desportes's sonnet
from 'Les Amours de Diane,' livre II. sonnet iii.

Thomas Lodge's Sonnet xxxvi. runs thus:

If so I seek the shades, I presently do see
The god of love forsake his bow and sit me by;
If that I think to write, his Muses pliant be;
If so I plain my grief, the wanton boy will cry.
If I lament his pride, he doth increase my pain
If tears my cheeks attaint, his cheeks are moist with moan
If I disclose the wounds the which my heart hath slain,
He takes his fascia off, and wipes them dry anon.
If so I walk the woods, the woods are his delight;
If I myself torment, he bathes him in my blood;
He will my soldier be if once I wend to fight,
If seas delight, he steers my bark amidst the flood.
In brief, the cruel god doth never from me go,
But makes my lasting love eternal with my woe.

Desportes wrote in 'Les Amours de Diane,' book II. sonnet iii.:

Si ie me sies l'ombre, aussi soudainement
Amour, laissant son arc, s'assiet et se repose:
Si ie pense a des vers, ie le voy qu'il compose:
Si ie plains mes douleurs, il se plaint hautement.
Si ie me plains du mal, il accroist mon tourment:
Si ie respan des pleurs, son visage il arrose:
Si ie monstre la playe en ma poitrine enclose,
Il defait son bandeau l'essuyant doucement.
Si ie vay par les bois, aux bois il m'accompagne:
Si ie me suis cruel, dans mon sang il se bagne:
Si ie vais a la guerre, it deuient mon soldart:
Si ie passe la mer, il conduit ma nacelle:
Bref, iamais l'inhumain de moy ne se depart,
Pour rendre mon amour et ma peine eternelle.

Drayton's 'Idea', 1594.

Three new volumes in 1594, together with the reissue of Daniel's 'Delia'
and of Constable's 'Diana' (in a piratical miscellany of sonnets from
many pens), prove the steady growth of the sonnetteering vogue. Michael
Drayton in June produced his 'Ideas Mirrour, Amours in Quatorzains,'
containing fifty-one 'Amours' and a sonnet addressed to 'his ever kind
Mecaenas, Anthony Cooke.' Drayton acknowledged his devotion to 'divine
Sir Philip,' but by his choice of title, style, and phraseology, the
English sonnetteer once more betrayed his indebtedness to Desportes and
his compeers. 'L'Idee' was the name of a collection of sonnets by Claude
de Pontoux in 1579. Many additions were made by Drayton to the sonnets
that he published in 1594, and many were subtracted before 1619, when
there appeared the last edition that was prepared in Drayton's lifetime.
A comparison of the various editions (1594, 1599, 1605, and 1619) shows
that Drayton published a hundred sonnets, but the majority were
apparently circulated by him in early life. {435a}

Percy's 'Coelia,' 1594.

William Percy, the 'dearest friend' of Barnabe Barnes, published in 1594,
in emulation of Barnes, a collection of twenty 'Sonnets to the fairest
Coelia.' {435b} He explains, in an address to the reader, that out of
courtesy he had lent the sonnets to friends, who had secretly committed
them to the press. Making a virtue of necessity, he had accepted the
situation, but begged the reader to treat them as 'toys and amorous

Zepheria, 1594.

A collection of forty sonnets or 'canzons,' as the anonymous author calls
them, also appeared in 1594 with the title 'Zepheria.' {435c} In some
prefatory verses addressed 'Alli veri figlioli delle Muse' laudatory
reference was made to the sonnets of Petrarch, Daniel, and Sidney.
Several of the sonnets labour at conceits drawn from the technicalities
of the law, and Sir John Davies parodied these efforts in the eighth of
his 'gulling sonnets' beginning, 'My case is this, I love Zepheria

Barnfield's sonnets to Ganymede, 1595.

Four interesting ventures belong to 1595. In January, appended to
Richard Barnfield's poem of 'Cynthia,' a panegyric on Queen Elizabeth,
was a series of twenty sonnets extolling the personal charms of a young
man in emulation of Virgil's Eclogue ii., in which the shepherd Corydon
addressed the shepherd-boy Alexis. {435d} In Sonnet xx. the author
expressed regret that the task of celebrating his young friend's praises
had not fallen to the more capable hand of Spenser ('great Colin, chief
of shepherds all') or Drayton ('gentle Rowland, my professed friend').
Barnfield at times imitated Shakespeare.

Spenser's 'Amoretti', 1595.

Almost at the same date as Barnfield's 'Cynthia' made its appearance
there was published the more notable collection by Edmund Spenser of
eighty-eight sonnets, which in reference to their Italian origin he
entitled 'Amoretti.' {435e} Spenser had already translated many sonnets
on philosophic topics of Petrarch and Joachim Du Bellay. Some of the
'Amoretti' were doubtless addressed by Spenser in 1593 to the lady who
became his wife a year later. But the sentiment was largely ideal, and,
as he says in Sonnet lxxxvii., he wrote, like Drayton, with his eyes
fixed on 'Idaea.'

'Emaricdulfe,' 1595.

An unidentified 'E.C., Esq.,' produced also in 1595, under the title of
'Emaricdulfe,' {436a} a collection of forty sonnets, echoing English and
French models. In the dedication to his 'two very good friends, John
Zouch and Edward Fitton Esquiers,' the author tells them that an ague
confined him to his chamber, 'and to abandon idleness he completed an
idle work that he had already begun at the command and service of a fair

Sir John Davies's 'Gullinge Sonnets,' 1595.

To 1595 may best be referred the series of nine 'Gullinge sonnets,' or
parodies, which Sir John Davies wrote and circulated in manuscript, in
order to put to shame what he regarded as 'the bastard sonnets' in vogue.
He addressed his collection to Sir Anthony Cooke, whom Drayton had
already celebrated as the Mecaenas of his sonnetteering efforts. {436b}
Davies seems to have aimed at Shakespeare as well as at insignificant
rhymers like the author of 'Zepheria.' {436c} No. viii. of Davies's
'gullinge sonnets,' which ridicules the legal metaphors of the
sonnetteers, may be easily matched in the collections of Barnabe Barnes
or of the author of 'Zepheria,' but Davies's phraseology suggests that he
also was glancing at Shakespeare's legal sonnets lxxxvii. and cxxxiv.
Davies's sonnet runs:

My case is this. I love Zepheria bright,
Of her I hold my heart by fealty:
Which I discharge to her perpetually,
Yet she thereof will never me acquit[e].
For, now supposing I withhold her right,
She hath distrained my heart to satisfy
The duty which I never did deny,
And far away impounds it with despite.
I labour therefore justly to repleave [_i.e._ recover]
My heart which she unjustly doth impound.
But quick conceit which now is Love's high shreive
Returns it as esloyned [_i.e._ absconded], not to be found.
Then what the law affords I only crave,
Her heart for mine, in wit her name to have (_sic_).

Linche's 'Diella,' 1596.

'R. L., gentleman,' probably Richard Linche, published in 1596
thirty-nine sonnets under the title 'Diella.' {437a} The effort is
thoroughly conventional. In an obsequious address by the publisher,
Henry Olney, to Anne, wife of Sir Henry Glenham, Linche's sonnets are
described as 'passionate' and as 'conceived in the brain of a gallant

Griffin's 'Fidessa,' 1596. Thomas Campion, 1596.

To the same year belongs Bartholomew Griffin's 'Fidessa,' sixty-two
sonnets inscribed to 'William Essex, Esq.' Griffin designates his
sonnets as 'the first fruits of a young beginner.' He is a shameless
plagiarist. Daniel is his chief model, but he also imitated Sidney,
Watson, Constable, and Drayton. Sonnet iii., beginning 'Venus and young
Adonis sitting by her,' is almost identical with the fourth poem--a
sonnet beginning 'Sweet Cytheraea, sitting by a brook'--in Jaggard's
piratical miscellany, 'The Passionate Pilgrim,' which bore Shakespeare's
name on the title-page. {437b} Jaggard doubtless stole the poem from
Griffin, although it may be in its essentials the property of some other
poet. Three beautiful love-sonnets by Thomas Campion, which are found in
the Harleian MS. 6910, are there dated 1596. {437c}

William Smith's 'Chloris,' 1596.

William Smith was the author of 'Chloris,' a third collection of sonnets
appearing in 1596. {437d} The volume contains forty-eight sonnets of
love of the ordinary type, with three adulating Spenser; of these, two
open the volume and one concludes it. Smith says that his sonnets were
'the budding springs of his study.' In 1600 a license was issued by the
Stationers' Company for the issue of 'Amours' by W. S. This no doubt
refers to a second collection of sonnets by William Smith. The projected
volume is not extant. {438a}

Robert Tofte's 'Laura,' 1597.

In 1597 there came out a similar volume by Robert Tofte, entitled 'Laura,
the Joys of a Traveller, or the Feast of Fancy.' The book is divided
into three parts, each consisting of forty 'sonnets' in irregular metres.
There is a prose dedication to Lucy, sister of Henry, ninth Earl of
Northumberland. Tofte tells his patroness that most of his 'toys' 'were
conceived in Italy.' As its name implies, his work is a pale reflection
of Petrarch. A postscript by a friend--'R. B.'--complains that a
publisher had intermingled with Tofte's genuine efforts 'more than thirty
sonnets not his.' But the style is throughout so uniformly tame that it
is not possible to distinguish the work of a second hand.

Sir William Alexander's 'Aurora.'

To the same era belongs Sir William Alexander's 'Aurora,' a collection of
a hundred and six sonnets, with a few songs and elegies interspersed on
French patterns. Sir William describes the work as 'the first fancies of
his youth,' and formally inscribes it to Agnes, Countess of Argyle. It
was not published till 1604. {438b}

Sir Fulke Greville's 'Caelica.'

Sir Fulke Greville, afterwards Lord Brooke, the intimate friend of Sir
Philip Sidney, was author of a like collection of sonnets called
'Caelica.' The poems number a hundred and nine, but few are in strict
sonnet metre. Only a small proportion profess to be addressed to the
poet's fictitious mistress, Caelica. Many celebrate the charms of
another beauty named Myra, and others invoke Queen Elizabeth under her
poetic name of Cynthia (cf. Sonnet xvii.) There are also many addresses
to Cupid and meditations on more or less metaphysical themes, but the
tone is never very serious. Greville doubtless wrote the majority of his
'Sonnets' during the period under survey, though they were not published
until their author's works appeared in folio for the first time in 1633,
five years after his death.

Estimate of number of love-sonnets issued between 1591 and 1597.

With Tofte's volume in 1597 the publication of collections of
love-sonnets practically ceased. Only two collections on a voluminous
scale seem to have been written in the early years of the seventeenth
century. About 1607 William Drummond of Hawthornden penned a series of
sixty-eight interspersed with songs, madrigals, and sextains, nearly all
of which were translated or adapted from modern Italian sonnetteers.
{439a} About 1610 John Davies of Hereford published his 'Wittes
Pilgrimage . . . through a world of Amorous Sonnets.' Of more than two
hundred separate poems in this volume, only the hundred and four sonnets
in the opening section make any claim to answer the description on the
title-page, and the majority of those are metaphysical meditations on
love which are not addressed to any definite person. Some years later
William Browne penned a sequence of fourteen love-sonnets entitled
'Caelia' and a few detached sonnets of the same type. {439b} The dates
of production of Drummond's, Davies's, and Browne's sonnets exclude them
from the present field of view. Omitting them, we find that between 1591
and 1597 there had been printed nearly twelve hundred sonnets of the
amorous kind. If to these we add Shakespeare's poems, and make allowance
for others which, only circulating in manuscript, have not reached us, it
is seen that more than two hundred love-sonnets were produced in each of
the six years under survey. France and Italy directed their literary
energies in like direction during nearly the whole of the century, but at
no other period and in no other country did the love-sonnet dominate
literature to a greater extent than in England between 1591 and 1597.

Of sonnets to patrons between 1591 and 1597, of which detached specimens
may be found in nearly every published book of the period, the chief
collections were:

II. Sonnets to patrons, 1591-7.

A long series of sonnets prefixed to 'Poetical Exercises of a Vacant
Hour' by King James VI of Scotland, 1591; twenty-three sonnets in Gabriel
Harvey's 'Four Letters and certain Sonnets touching Robert Greene'
(1592), including Edmund Spenser's fine sonnet of compliment addressed to
Harvey; a series of sonnets to noble patronesses by Constable circulated
in manuscript about 1592 (first printed in 'Harleian Miscellany,' 1813,
ix. 491); six adulatory sonnets appended by Barnabe Barnes to his
'Parthenophil' in May 1593; four sonnets to 'Sir Philip Sidney's soul,'
prefixed to the first edition of Sidney's 'Apologie for Poetrie' (1595);
seventeen sonnets which were originally prefixed to the first edition of
Spenser's 'Faerie Queene,' bk. i.-iii., in 1590, and were reprinted in
the edition of 1596; {440} sixty sonnets to peers, peeresses, and
officers of state, appended to Henry Locke's (or Lok's) 'Ecclesiasticus'
(1597); forty sonnets by Joshua Sylvester addressed to Henry IV of France
'upon the late miraculous peace in Fraunce' (1599); Sir John Davies's
series of twenty-six octosyllabic sonnets, which he entitled 'Hymnes of
Astraea,' all extravagantly eulogising Queen Elizabeth (1599).

III. Sonnets on philosophy and religion.

The collected sonnets on religion and philosophy that appeared in the
period 1591-7 include sixteen 'Spirituall Sonnettes to the honour of God
and Hys Saynts,' written by Constable about 1593, and circulated only in
manuscript; these were first printed from a manuscript in the Harleian
collection (5993) by Thomas Park in 'Heliconia,' 1815, vol. ii. In 1595
Barnabe Barnes published a 'Divine Centurie of Spirituall Sonnets,' and,
in dedicating the collection to Toby Matthew, bishop of Durham, mentions
that they were written a year before, while travelling in France. They
are closely modelled on the two series of 'Sonnets Spirituels' which the
Abbe Jacques de Billy published in Paris in 1573 and 1578 respectively.
A long series of 'Sonnets Spirituels' written by Anne de Marquets, a
sister of the Dominican Order, who died at Poissy in 1598, was first
published in Paris in 1605. In 1594 George Chapman published ten sonnets
in praise of philosophy, which he entitled 'A Coronet for his Mistress
Philosophy.' In the opening poem he states that his aim was to dissuade
poets from singing in sonnets 'Love's Sensual Empery.' In 1597 Henry
Locke (or Lok) appended to his verse-rendering of Ecclesiastes {441a} a
collection of 'Sundrie Sonets of Christian Passions, with other
Affectionate Sonets of a Feeling Conscience.' Lok had in 1593 obtained a
license to publish 'a hundred Sonnets on Meditation, Humiliation, and
Prayer,' but that work is not extant. In the volume of 1597 his sonnets
on religious or philosophical themes number no fewer than three hundred
and twenty-eight. {441b}

Thus in the total of sonnets published between 1591 and 1597 must be
included at least five hundred sonnets addressed to patrons, and as many
on philosophy and religion. The aggregate far exceeds two thousand.


Ronsard (1524-1585) and 'La Pleiade.' Desportes (1546-1606).

In the earlier years of the sixteenth century Melin de Saint-Gelais
(1487-1558) and Clement Marot (1496-1544) made a few scattered efforts at
sonnetteering in France; and Maurice Seve laid down the lines of all
sonnet-sequences on themes of love in his dixains entitled 'Delie'
(1544). But it was Ronsard (1524-1585), in the second half of the
century, who first gave the sonnet a pronounced vogue in France. The
sonnet was handled with the utmost assiduity not only by Ronsard, but by
all the literary comrades whom he gathered round him, and on whom he
bestowed the title of 'La Pleiade.' The leading aim that united Ronsard
and his friends was the re-formation of the French language and
literature on classical models. But they assimilated and naturalised in
France not only much that was admirable in Latin and Greek poetry, {442a}
but all that was best in the recent Italian literature. {442b} Although
they were learned poets, Ronsard and the majority of his associates had a
natural lyric vein, which gave their poetry the charms of freshness and
spontaneity. The true members of 'La Pleiade,' according to Ronsard's
own statement, were, besides himself, Joachim du Bellay (1524-1560);
Estienne Jodelle (1532-1573); Remy Belleau (1528-1577); Jean Dinemandy,
usually known as Daurat or Dorat (1508-1588), Ronsard's classical teacher
in early life; Jean-Antoine de Baif (1532-1589); and Ponthus de Thyard
(1521-1605). Others of Ronsard's literary allies are often loosely
reckoned among the 'Pleiade.' These writers include Jean de la Peruse
(1529-1554), Olivier de Magny (1530-1559), Amadis Jamyn (1538?-1585),
Jean Passerat (1534-1602), Philippe Desportes (1546-1606), Estienne
Pasquier (1529-1615), Scevole de Sainte-Marthe (1536-1623), and Jean
Bertaut (1552-1611). These subordinate members of the 'Pleiade' were no
less devoted to sonnetteering than the original members. Of those in
this second rank, Desportes was most popular in France as well as in
England. Although many of Desportes's sonnets are graceful in thought
and melodious in rhythm, most of them abound in overstrained conceits.
Not only was Desportes a more slavish imitator of Petrarch than the
members of the 'Pleiade,' but he encouraged numerous disciples to
practise 'Petrarchism,' as the imitation of Petrarch was called, beyond
healthful limits. Under the influence of Desportes the French sonnet
became, during the latest years of the sixteenth century, little more
than an empty and fantastic echo of the Italian.

Chief collections of French sonnets published between 1550 and 1584.

The following statistics will enable the reader to realise how closely
the sonnetteering movement in France adumbrated that in England. The
collective edition in 1584 of the works of Ronsard, the master of the
'Pleiade,' contains more than nine hundred separate sonnets arranged
under such titles as 'Amours de Cassandre,' 'Amours de Marie,' 'Amours
pour Astree,' 'Amours pour Helene;' besides 'Amours Divers' and 'Sonnets
Divers,' complimentary addresses to friends and patrons. Du Bellay's
'Olive,' a collection of love sonnets, first published in 1549, reached a
total of a hundred and fifteen. 'Les Regrets,' Du Bellay's sonnets on
general topics, some of which Edmund Spenser first translated into
English, numbered in the edition of 1565 a hundred and eighty-three. De
Baif published two long series of sonnets, entitled respectively 'Les
Amours de Meline' (1552) and 'Les Amours de Francine' (1555). Amadis
Jamyn was responsible for 'Les Amours d'Oriane,' 'Les Amours de
Calliree,' and 'Les Amours d'Artemis' (1575). Desportes's 'Premieres
OEuvres' (1575), a very popular book in England, included more than three
hundred sonnets--a hundred and fifty being addressed to Diane, eighty-six
to Hippolyte, and ninety-one to Cleonice. Ponthus de Thyard produced
between 1549 and 1555 three series of his 'Erreurs Amoureuses,' sonnets
addressed to Pasithee, and Belleau brought out a volume of 'Amours' in

Minor collections of French sonnets published between 1553 and 1605.

Among other collections of sonnets published by less known writers of the
period, and arranged here according to date of first publication, were
those of Guillaume des Autels, 'Amoureux Repos' (1553); Olivier de Magny,
'Amours, Soupirs,' &c. (1553, 1559); Louise Labe, 'OEuvres' (1555);
Jacques Tahureau, 'Odes, Sonnets,' &c. (1554, 1574); Claude de Billet,
'Amalthee,' a hundred and twenty-eight love sonnets (1561); Vauquelin de
la Fresnaye, 'Foresteries' (1555 et annis seq.); Jacques Grevin, 'Olympe'
(1561); Nicolas Ellain, 'Sonnets' (1561); Scevole de Sainte-Marthe,
'OEuvres Francaises' (1569, 1579); Estienne de la Boetie, 'OEuvres'
(1572), and twenty-nine sonnets published with Montaigne's 'Essais'
(1580); Jean et Jacques de la Taille, 'OEuvres' (1573); Jacques de Billy,
'Sonnets Spirituels' (first series 1573, second series 1578); Estienne
Jodelle 'OEuvres Poetiques' (1574); Claude de Pontoux, 'Sonnets de
l'Idee' (1579); Les Dames des Roches, 'OEuvres' (1579, 1584); Pierre de
Brach, 'Amours d'Aymee' (_circa_ 1580); Gilles Durant, 'Poesies'--sonnets
to Charlotte and Camille (1587, 1594); Jean Passerat, 'Vers . . .
d'Amours' (1597); and Anne de Marquet, who died in 1588, 'Sonnets
Spirituels' (1605). {445}
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