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him, the following were then alive, and might be present at the funeral :—William, Gilbert, Joan, Richard, and Edmund. The later years of John Shakespeare (who, if born in 1530 as Malone supposed, was in his seventy-first year) were doubtless easy and comfortable, and the prosperity of his eldest son must have placed him beyond the reach of pecuniary difficulties.
Early in the spring of 1602, we meet with one of those rare facts which distinctly show how uncertain all conjecture must be respecting the date when Shakespeare's dramas were originally written and produced. Malone and Tyrwhitt, in 1790, conjectured that “Twelfth Night” had been written in 1614: in his second edition Malone altered it to 1607, and Chalmers, weighing the evidence in favour of one date and of the other, thought neither correct, and fixed upon 1613?, an opinion in which Dr. Drake fully concurred'. The truth is, that we have irrefragable evidence, from an eye-witness, of its existence on 2nd February, 1602, when it was played at the Reader's Feast in the Middle Temple. This eye-witness was a barrister of the name of Manningham, who left a Diary behind him, which has been preserved in the British Museum; but as we have inserted his account of the plot in our Introduction to the comedy, (Vol. iii. p. 317) no more is required here, than a mere mention of the circumstance. However, in another part of the same manuscript', he gives an anecdote of Shakespeare and Burbage, which we quote, without farther remark than that it has been supposed to depend upon the authority of Nicholas Tooleys, but on looking at the original record again, we doubt whether it came from any such source. A “Mr. Towse” is repeatedly introduced as a person
2 Supplemental Apology, &c. p. 467.
5 Hist. of Engl. Dram. Poetry and the Stage, vol. i. p. 331. The Christian name is wanting in the Harl. MS.
from whom Manningham derived information, and that name, though blotted, seems to be placed at the end of the paragraph, certainly without the addition of any Christian name. This circumstance may make some difference as regards the authenticity of the story, because we know not wbo Mr. Towse might be, while we are sure that Nicholas Tooley was a fellow-actor in the same company as both the individuals to whom the story relates. At the same time it was, very possibly, a mere invention of the “roguish players,” originating, as was often the case, in some older joke, and applied to Shakespeare and Burbage, because their Christian names happened to be William and Richardo.
Elizabeth, from the commencement of her reign seems to have extended her personal patronage, as well as her public countenance, to the drama; and scarcely a Christmas or a Shrovetide can be pointed out during the forty-five years she occupied the throne, when there were not dramatic entertainments, either at Whitehall, Greenwich, Nonesuch, Richmond, or Windsor. The latest visit she paid to any of her nobility in the country was to the Lord Keeper, Sir Thomas Egerton, at Harefield, only nine or ten months before
See “ Hist. Engl. Dram. Poetry and the Stage,” vol. i. p. 331. The writer of that work thus introduces the anecdote :-“If in the course of my inquiries, I have been unlucky enough (I may perhaps say) to find anything which represents our great dramatist in a less favourable light, as a human being with human infirmities, I may lament it, but I do not therefore feel myself at liberty to conceal and suppress the fact." The anecdote is this.
“Upon a tyme when Burbage played Rich. 3, there was a citizen grew so farre in liking with him, that before shee went from the play, shee appointed him to come that night unto her, by the name of Rich, the 3. Shakespeare, overhearing their conclusion, went before, was entertained, and at his game ere Burbage came. Then, message being brought, that Rich. the 3. was at the dore, Shakespeare caused returne to be made, that William the Conqueror was before Rich. the 3. Shakespeare's name Willm.”
This story may be a piece of scandal, but there is no doubt that Burbage was the original Richard III. As to the custom of ladies inviting players home to supper, see Middleton's "Mad World, my Masters,” Act. v. sc. 2, in “ Dodsley's Old Plays," last edit. The players, in turn, sometimes invited the ladies, as we find by Field's “ Amends for Ladies,” Act iii. sc. 4, in the supplementary volume to “ Dodsley's Old Plays,” published in 1829.
her death, and it was upon this occasion, in the very beginning of August, 1602, that “Othello?” (having been got up for her amusement, and the Lord Chamberlain's players brought down to the Lord Keeper's seat in Hertfordshire for the purpose) was represented before her. In this case, as in the preceding one respecting “Twelfth Night,” all that we positively learn is that such drama was performed, and we are left to infer that it was a new play from other circumstances, as well as from the fact that it was customary on such festivities to exbibit some drama that, as a novelty, was then attracting public attention. Hence we are led to believe, that “Twelfth Night” (not printed until it formed part of the folio of 1623) was written at the end of 1600, or in the beginning of 1601; and that “Othello” (first published in 4to, 1622,) came from the author's pen about a year afterwards.
In the memorandum ascertaining the performance of “Othello” at Harefield, the company by which it was represented is called “ Burbages Players,” that designation arising out of the fact, that he was looked upon as the leader of the association: he was certainly its most celebrated actor, and we find from other sources that he was the representative of “the Moor. of Venice $.” Whether Shakespeare had any
7 See the “ Introduction” to “Othello," Vol. vii. p. 493. Also “ The Egerton Papers,” printed by the Camden Society, 1840, p. 343.
8 On p. cxii. note 5, we have inserted the names of some of the principal characters, in plays of the time, sustained by Burbage, as they are given in the Epitaph upon his death, in 1619. Our readers may like to see the manner in which these characters are spoken of by the contemporaneous versifier. The production opens with this couplet :
“Some skilful limner help me, if not so,
Some sad tragedian to express my woe;". which certainly does not promise much in the way of excellence ; but the enumeration of parts is all that is valuable, and it is this :
“ No more young Hamlet, though but scant of breath,
and what part in the tragedy, either then or upon other occasion, is not known; but we do not think any argument, one way or the other, is to be drawn from the fact that the company, when at Harefield, does not seem to have been under his immediate government. Whether he was or was not one of the “players” in “Othello,” in August 1602, there can be little doubt that as an actor, and moreover as one “excellent in his quality,” he must have been often seen and applauded by Elizabeth. Chettle informs us after her death, in a passage already quoted, that she had “opened her royal ear to his lays;” but this was obviously in his capacity of dramatist, and we have no direct evidence to establish that Shakespeare had ever performed at Court'.
They died with thee, dear Dick,-
All these, and many more, with him are dead,” &c. The MS. from which the above lines are copied seems, at least in one place, defective, but it might be cured by the addition of the words," and not long since.” See also Vol. vii. p. 494, for a ballad on Burbage's Othello.
9 A ballad was published on the death of Elizabeth, in the commencement of which Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and Thomas Greene,” author of “A Poet's
James I. reached Theobalds, in his journey from Edinburgh to London, on the 7th May, 1603. Before he quitted his own capital he had had various opportunities of witnessing the performances of English actors; and it is an interesting, but at the same time a difficult question, whether Shakespeare had ever appeared before him, or, in other words, whether our great dramatist had ever visited Scotland? We have certainly no affirmative testimony upon the point, beyond what may be derived from some passages in “ Macbeth,” descriptive of particular localities, with which passages our readers must be familiar: there is, however, ample room for conjecture; and although, on the whole, we are inclined to think that he was never north of the Tweed, it is indisputable that the company to which he belonged, or a part of it, had performed in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and doubtless in some intermediate places. We will briefly state the existing proofs of this fact.
The year 1599 has been commonly supposed the earliest date at which an association of English actors was in Scotland; but it can be shown beyond contradiction that “her Majesty's players,” meaning those of Queen Elizabeth, were in Edinburgh ten years earlier'. In 1589, Ashby, the ambassador extraordinary from
Vision and a Prince's Glorie,” 4to, 1603, were called upon to contribute some verses in honour of the late Queen :
“ You poets all, brave Shakespeare, Johnson, Greene,
Bestow your time to write for England's Queene, &c. Excepting for this notice of “brave Shakespeare," the production is utterly contemptible, and must have been the work of some of the “ goblins and underelves” of poetry, who, according to a poem in H. Chettle's “ England's Mourning Garment,” had put forth upon the occasion “ rude rhimes, and metres reasonless."
i Between September, 1589, and September, 1590, Queen Elizabeth had sent, as a present to the young King of Scotland on his marriage, a splendid mask, with all the necessary appurtenances, and we find it charged for in the accounts of the department of the revels for that period. See “Hist. of Engl. Dram. Poetry and the Stage,” vol. i. p. 270. It is most likely that the actors from London accompanied this gift.