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England to James VI. of Scotland, thus writes to Lord Burghley, under date of the 22d October :
“ My Lord Bothw[ell] begins to shew himself willing and ready to do her Majesty any service, and desires hereafter to be thought of as he shall deserve: he sheweth great kindness to our nation, using her Majesties Players and Canoniers with all courtesie ?."
In 1589, the date of Ashby's dispatch, Shakespeare had quitted Stratford about three years, and the question is, what company was intended to be designated as “her Majesty's players.” It is an admitted fact, that in 1583 the Queen selected twelve leading performers from the theatrical servants of some of her nobility, and they were afterwards called “her Majesty's players;" and we also now know, that in 1590 the Queen had two companies acting under her name: in the autumn of the preceding year, it is likely that one of these associations had been sent to the Scottish capital for the amusement of the young king, and the company formed in 1583 may have been divided into two bodies for this express purpose. Sir John Sinclair, in his “ Statistical Account of Scotland,” established that a body of comedians was in Perth in June, 1589; and although we are without evidence that they were English players, we may fairly enough assume that they were the same company spoken of by Ashby, as having been used courteously by Lord Bothwell in the October following. We have no means of ascertaining the names of any of the players, nor indeed, excepting the leaders Laneham and Dutton, can we state who were the members of the Queen's two companies in 1590. Shakespeare might be one of them; but if he were, he might not belong to that division of the company which was dispatched to Scotland.
? From MS. Harl. 4647, being copies of despatches from Mr. Ashby to different members of the Council in London. We are indebted to Mr. N. Hill for directing our attention to this curious notice.
3 See Mr. P. Cunningham's “ Extracts from the Revels' Accounts,” (printed for the Shakespeare Suciety,) p. xxxii.; and this vol., p. xxxvii.
It is not at all improbable that English actors, having found their way north of the Tweed in 1589, would speedily repeat their visit; but the next we hear of them is, not until after a long interval, in the autumn of 1599. The public records of Scotland show that in October, 1599, (exactly the same season as that in which, ten years earlier, they are spoken of by Ashby) 431. 6s. 8d. were delivered to “his Higness' self,” to be given to “the English comedians:" in the next month they were paid 411. 12s. at various times. In December they received no less than 3331. 6s. 8d.; in April, 1600, 101.; and in December, 1601, the royal bounty amounted to 4001.*
Thus we see, that English players were in Scotland from October, 1599, to December, 1601, a period of more than two years; but still we are without a particle of proof that Shakespeare was one of the association. We cannot, however, entertain a doubt that Laurence Fletcher, (whose name, we shall see presently, stands first in the patent granted by King James on his arrival in London) was the leader of the association which performed in Edinburgh and elsewhere, because it appears from the registers of the town council of Aberdeen, that on the 9th October, 1601, the English players received 32 marks as a gratuity, and that on 220 October the freedom of the city was conferred upon Laurence Fletcher, who is especially styled “ comedian to his Majesty.” The company had arrived in Aberdeen, and had been received by the public authorities, under the sanction of a special letter from James VI.; and, although they were in fact the players of the Queen of England, they might on this
• For these particulars of payments, and some other points connected with them, we are indebted to Mr. Laing, of Edinburgh, who has made extensive and valuable collections for a history of the Stage in Scotland.
account be deemed and treated as the players of the King of Scotland.
Our chief reason for thinking it unlikely that Shakespeare would have accompanied his fellows to Scotland, åt all events between October, 1599, and December, 1601, is that, as the principal writer for the company to which he was attached, he could not well have been spared, and because we have good ground for believing that about that period he must have been unusually busy in the composition of plays. No fewer than five dramas seem, as far as evidence, positive or conjectural, can be obtained, to belong to the interval between 1598 and 1602; and the proof appears to us tolerably conclusive, that “Henry V.," “ Twelfth Night,” and “Hamlet,” were written respectively in 1599, 1600, and 1601. Besides, as far as we are able to decide such a point, the company to which our great dramatist belonged continued to perform in London; for although a detachment under Laurence Fletcher may have been sent to Scotland, the main body of the association called the Lord Chamberlain's players exhibited at court at the usual seasons in 1599, 1600, and 1601". Therefore, if Shakespeare visited Scotland at all, we think it must have been at an earlier period, and there was undoubtedly ample time between the years 1589 and 1599 for him to have done so. Nevertheless, we have no tidings that any English actors were in any part of Scotland during those ten years.
5 The accounts of the revels' department at this period are not so complete as usual, and in Mr. P. Cunningham's book we find no details of any kind between 1587 and 1604. The interval was a period of the greatest possible interest, as regards the performance of the productions of Shakespeare, and we earnestly hope that the missing accounts may yet be recovered.
Proclamation by James I. against plays on Sunday. Renewal of theatrical
performances in London. Patent of May 17th, 1603, to Laurence Fletcher, William Shakespeare, and others. Royal patronage of three companies of actors. Shakespeare's additional purchases in Stratford-upon-Avon. Shakespeare in London in the autumn of 1603 ; and a candidate for the office of Master of the Queen's Revels. Characters Shakespeare is known to have performed. His retirement from the stage, as an actor, after April 9th, 1604.
BEFORE he even set foot in London, James I. thought it necessary to put a stop to dramatic performances on Sunday. This fact has never been mentioned, because the proclamation he issued at Theobalds on 7th May, containing the paragraph for this purpose, has only recently come to light. There had been a long pending struggle between the Puritans and the players upon this point, and each party seemed by turns to gain the victory; for various orders were, from time to time, issued from authority forbidding exhibitions of the kind on the Sabbath, and those orders had been uniformly more or less contravened. We may suppose, that strong remonstrances having been made to the King by some of those who attended him from Scotland, a clause with this special object was appended to a proclamation directed against monopolies and legal extortions. The mere circumstance of the company in which this paragraph, against dramatic performances on Sunday, is found seems to prove that it was an after-thought, and that it was inserted, because his courtiers had urged that James ought not even to enter his new capital, until public steps had been taken to put an end to the profanation!.
I The paragragh is in these terms, and we quote them because they have not been noticed by any historian of our stage.
“ And for that we are informed, that there hath been heretofore great neglect in this kingdome of keeping the Sabbath day; for the better observing of the same and avoyding all impious prophanation, We do straightly charge and
The King, having issued this command, arrived at the Charter-house on the same day, and all the theatrical companies, which had temporarily suspended their performances, began to act again on the 9th May?. Permission to this effect was given by James I., and communicated through the ordinary channel to the players, who soon found reason to rejoice in the accession of the new sovereign; for ten days after he reached London he took the Lord Chamberlain's players into his pay and patronage, calling them “the King's servants,” a title they always afterwards enjoyed. For this purpose he issued a warrant, under the privy seal, for making out a patent under the great seal, autho
commaund that no Beare-bayting, Bul-bayting, Enterludes, common Playes, or other like disordered or unlawful exercises, or pastimes, be frequented, kept, or used at any time hereafter upon the Sabbath day.
Given at our Court at Theobalds, the 7 day of May, in the
first yeare of our Reigne.” This fact we have upon the authority of Henslowe's Diary. See the Hist. Engl. Dram. Poetry and the Stage, vol. i. p. 346.
* It runs verbatim et literatim thus :
By The King. “Right trusty and welbeloved Counsellor, we greete you well, and will and commaund you, that under our privie Seale in your custody for the time being, you cause our letters to be derected to the keeper of our greate seale of England, com maunding him under our said greate Seale, he cause our letters to be made patents in forme following. James, by the grace of God, King of England, Scotland, Fraunce, and Irland, defendor of the faith, &c. To all Justices, Maiors, Sheriffs, Constables, Headboroughes, and other our officers and loving su bjects greeting. Know ye, that we of our speciall grace, certaine knowledge, and meere motion have licenced and authorized, and by these presentes doe licence and authorize, these our servants, Lawrence Fletcher, William Shakespeare, Richard Burbage, Augustine Phillippes, John Hemmings, Henrie Condell, William Sly, Robert Armyn, Richard Cowlye, and the rest of their associats, freely to use & exercise the arte and faculty of playing Comedies, Tragedies, Histories, Enterludes, Moralls, Pastoralls, Stage plaies, and such other like, as that thei have already studied or hereafter shall use or studie, aswell for the recreation of our loving subjects, as for our solace and pleasure, when we shall thinke good to see them, during our pleasure. And the said Comedies, Tragedies, Histories, Enterludes, Moralls, Pastoralls, Stage plaies, and such like, to shew & exercise publiquely to their best commoditie, when the infection of the plague shall decrease, as well within theire now usuall howse called the Globe, within our county of Surrey, as also within anie towne halls, or mout halls, or other convenient places within the liberties & freedome of any other citie, universitie, towne, or borough whatsoever within our said realmes and dominions. Willing and commaunding you, and every of you, as you tender