صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

covenants, “ Johannem Shackspere de Stratford-upon-Avon, in comitat. Warwici.Had he been resident at Ingon, or at Snitterfield, he would hardly have been described as of Stratford-upon-Avon. Another point requiring notice in connexion with these two newly-discovered documents is, that in both John Shakespeare is termed “yeoman,” and not glover : perhaps in 1579, although he continued to occupy a house in Stratford, he had relinquished his original trade, and having embarked in agricultural pursuits, to which he had not been educated, had been unsuccessful. pears not an unnatural modo of accounting for some of his difficulties: in the midst of them, in the spring of 1580, another son, named Edmund (perhaps after Edmund Lambert, the mortgagee of Asbyes) was born, and christened at the parish-church

This ap


Education of William Shakespeare: probably, at the free-school of Stratford. At what time, and under what circumstances, he left school. Possibly an assistant in the school, and afterwards in an attorney's office. His bandwriting. His marriage with Anne Hathaway. The preliminary bond given by Pulk Sandells and Jobn Richardson. Birth of Susanna, the first child of William Shakespeare and his wife Anne, in 1583. Shakespeare's opinion on the marriage of persons of disproportionate age. His domestic condition and circumstances.

Anne Hathaway's family. Ar the period of the sale of their Snitterfield property by his father and mother, William Shakespeare was in his sixteenth year, and in what way he had been educated is mere matter of conjecture. It is highly probable that he was at the freeschool of Stratford, founded by Thomas Jolyffe in the reign of Edward IV., and subsequently chartered by Edward VI.; but we are destitute of all evidence beyond Rowe's assertion ‘. Of course, we know nothing of the time when he might have been first sent there; but if so sent between 1570 and 1578, Walter Roche, Thomas Hunt, and Thomas Jenkins, were successively masters, and from them he must have derived the rudiments of his Latin and Greek. That his father and mother could give him no instruction of the kind is quite

* The register contains the following:

“ 1580. May 3. Edmund sonne to Mr. John Shakspere." • " Some Account of the Life," &c. edit. 1709, p. ii.

evident from the proofs we have adduced that neither of them could write; but this very deficiency might render them more desirous that their eldest son, at least, if not their children in general, should receive the best education circumstances would allow. The free grammar-school of Stratford afforded an opportunity of which, it is most likely, the parents of William Shakespeare availed themselves.

As we are ignorant of the time when he went to school, we are also in the dark as to the period when he left it. Rowe, indeed, has told us that the poverty of John Shakespeare, and the necessity of employing his son profitably at home, induced him, at an early age, to withdraw him from the place of instruction'. Such may have been the case; but, in considering the question, we must not leave out of view the fact that the education of the son of a member of the corporation would cost nothing; 80 that, if the boy were removed from school at the period of his father's embarrassments, the expense of continuing his studies there could not have entered into the calculation : he must have been taken away, as Rowe states, in order to aid his father in the maintenance of his family, consisting, after the death of his daughter Anne in 1579, and the birth of his son Edmund in 1580, of his wife and five children. However, we are without the power of confirming or contradicting Rowe's statement.

Aubrey has asserted positively, in his MSS. in the Ashmolean Museum, that " in his younger years Shakespeare had been a schoolmaster in the country;" and the truth may be, though we are not aware that the speculation has ever been hazarded, that being a young man of abilities, and rapid in the acquisition of knowledge, he had been employed by Jenkins (the master of the school from 1577 to 1580, if not for a longer period) to aid him in the instruction of the junior boys. Such a course is certainly not very unusual, and it may serve to account for this part of Aubrey's questionable narrative.

S“ The narrowness of his father's circumstances, and the want of his assistance at home, forced his father to withdraw him from thence, and unhappily prevented his farther proficiency.”-Rowe's “Some Account," &c. edit. 1709, p. ii.

6 Aubrey cites “Mr. Beeston" as his authority, and as persons of that name were connected with theatres before the death of Shakespeare, and long afterwards, we ought to treat the assertion with the more respect. Simon Forman, according to his Diary, was employed in this way in the free-school where he was educated, and was paid by the parents of the boys for his assistance. The same might be the case with Shakespeare.

We decidedly concur with Malone in thinking, that after Shakespeare quitted the free-school, he was employed in the office of an attorney. Proofs of something like a legal education are to be found in many of his plays; and it may

be safely asserted, that they do not occur anything like so frequently in the dramatic productions of his contemporaries. We doubt if, in the whole works of Marlowe, Greene, Peele, Jonson, Heywood, Chapman, Marston, Dekker, and Webster, 80 many law terms and allusions are to be found, as in only six or eight plays by Shakespeare: and, moreover, they are applied with much technical propriety. Malone has accumulated some of these, and it would be easy to multiply them'. We may presume that, if so employed, he was paid something for his services; for, if he were to earn nothing, his father could have had no motive for taking him from school. Supposing him to have ceased to receive instruction from Jenkins in 1579, when John Shakespeare's distresses were apparently most severe, we may easily imagine that he was, for the next year or two, in the office of one of the seven attorneys in Stratford, whose names Malone introduces. That he wrote a good hand we are perfectly sure, not only from the extant specimens of his signature, when we may suppose him to

? A passage from the epistle of Thomas Nash, before Greene's “ Menaphon," has been held by some to apply to Shakespeare, to his “Hamlet,” and to his early occupation in an attorney's office. The best answer to this supposition is an attention to dates : “Menaphon” was not printed for the first time, as bas been supposed, in 1589, but in 1587 (see p. 26); in all probability before Shakespeare had written any play, much less “Hamlet." The “Hamlet” to which Nash alludes must have been the old drama, which was in existence long before Shake. speare took up the subject. (See Vol. v. p. 467.) The terms Nash uses are these ; and it is to be observed, that by noverint he means an attorney or attore ney's clerk, employed to draw up bonds, &c., commencing Noverint universi, &c. " It is a common practice now-a-dayes, amongst a sort of shifting companions, that run through every art and thrive by none, to leave the trade of noverint, whereto they were borne, and busie themselves with the indevours of art, that could scarcely Latinize their neck verse, if they should have neede : yet English Seneca, read by candle-light, yields many good sentences, as Bloud is a begger, and so forth; and if you intreate bim faire in a frostie morning, he will affoord you whole Hamlets, I should say handfuls, of tragical speeches." Hence we may possibly infer that the author of the old “ Hamlet,” preceding Shakespeare's tragedy, had been an attorney's clerk. In 1587, Shakespeare was only in his twenty-third year, and could hardly be said by that time to have "run through every art, and thriven by

Seneca had been translated, and published collectively, six years before Nash wrote. He may have intended to speak generally, and without more individual allusion than a comparatively modern poet, wlien, in the very same spirit,


he wrote the couplet,

“ Some clerk foredoom'd his father's soul to cross,

Who pens a stanza when he should ingross."

have been in health, but still more from the ridicule which, in “Hamlet,” (Act y. sc. 2,) he throws upon such as affected to write illegibly :

I once did hold it, as our statists do,

A baseness to write fair."-Volv. p. 596. In truth, many of his dramatic contemporaries wrote excellently: Ben Jonson's penmanship was beautiful; and Peele, Chapman, Dekker, Chettle, and Marston, (to say nothing of some inferior authors,) must have given printers and copyists little trouble'.

Excepting by mere tradition, we hear not a syllable regarding William Shakespeare from the time of his birth until he had considerably passed his eighteenth year, and then we suddenly come to one of the most important events of his life, established upon irrefragable testimony: we allude to his marriage with Anne Hathaway, which could not have taken place before the 28th Nov. 1582, because on that day two persons, named Fulk Sandells and John Richardson, entered into a preliminary bond (which we subjoin in a note") in the

8 It is certain also that Shakespeare wrote with great facility, and that his compositions required little correction. This fact we have upon the indubitable assertion of Ben Jonson, who thus speaks in his “ Discoveries," put together in old age, when, as he tells as, his memory began to fail, and printed with the date of 1641 : see p. 97 in that folio :

“ I remember the players have often mentioned it, as an honour to Shakespeare, that in his writing (whatsoever he penned) he never blotted out line. My answer hath been, Would he had blotted a thousand / which they thought a malevolent speech. I had not told posterity this, but for their ignorance, who chuse that circumstance to commend their friend by, wherein he most faulted ; and to justify mine own candour, for I loved the man, and do honour his memory (on this side įdolatry) as much as any. He was indeed honest, and of an open and free nature; had an excellent fancy, brave notions, and gentle expressions, wherein he flowed with that facility, that sometimes it was necessary he should be stopped. Sufla. minandus erat, as Augustus said of Haterius. His wit was in his own power : would the rule of it had been so too !"

Hence he proceeds to instance the passage in “ Julius Cæsar," upon which we have remarked in Vol. v. p. 332: he then adds in conclusion :" But he redeemed his vices with his virtues : there was ever more in him to be praised, than to be pardoned.” Consistently with what Ben Jonson above tells us the players had “often mentioned," we find the following in the address of Heminge and Condell, “To the great variety of Readers," before the folio 1623 :~"His mind and hand went together, and what he thought he uttered with that easiness, that we have scarce received from him a blot in his papers."

· The instrument (for the discovery of which we are indebted to Sir Thomas Phillipps of Middle Hill, Worcestershire), divested of useless formal legal con. tractions, runs thus :

“ Noverint universi per presentes, nos Fulconem Sandells de Stratford in comi. tatu Warwici, agricolam, et Jobannem Richardson ibidem agricolam, teneri et

penalty of 401. to be forfeited to the bishop of the diocese of Worcester, if it were thereafter found that there existed any lawful impediment to the solemnization of matrimony between William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway, of Stratford. It is not known at what church the ceremony was performed, but certainly not at Stratford-upon-Avon ", to which both the parties belonged, where the bondsmen resided, and where it might be expected that it would have been registered. The object of the bond was to obtain such a dispensation from the bishop of Worcester as would authorize a clergyman to unite the bride and groom after only a single publication of the banns ; and it is not to be denied, or concealed, that the whole proceeding seems to indicate haste and secrecy. However, it ought not to escape notice that the seal used when the bond was executed, although damaged, has upon it the initials R. H.,

firmiter obligari Ricardo Cosin, generoso, et Roberto Warmstry, notario publico, in quadraginta libris bonæ et legalis monetæ Angliæ solvendis eisdem Ricardo et Roberto, heredibus, executoribus, vel assignatis suis, ad quam quidem solutionem bene et fideliter faciendam obligamus nos, et utrumque nostrum, per se pro toto et in solido, heredes, executores, et administratores nostros firmiter per presentes, sigillis nostris sigillatos. Datum 28 die Novembris, anno Regni Dominæ nostre Elizabethæ, Dei gratia Angliæ, Francise, et Hiberniæ Reginæ, Fidei Defensoris, &c. 25°

"The condition of this obligation ys suche, that if bereafter there shall not appere any lawfull lett or impediment, by reason of any precontract, consanguinitie, affinitie, or by any other lawfull meanes whatsoever, but that William Shagspere one thone partie, and Anne Hathwey, of Stratford in the Dioces of Worcester, maiden, may lawfully solemnize matrimony together, and in the same afterwards remaine and continew like man and wiffe, according unto the lawes in that behalf provided : and moreover, if there be not at this present time any action, sate, quarrel, or demaund, moved or depending before any judge, ecclesiastical or temporal, for and concerning any suche lawfull lett or impediment : and moreover, if the said William Shagspere do not proceed to solemnization of marriadg with the said Anne Hathwey without the consent of her frinds: and also if the said William do, upon his owne proper costs and expenses, defend and save harmlos the Right Reverend Father in God, Lord John Bushop of Worcester, and his offycers, for licencing them the said William and Anne to be maried together with once asking of the bannes of matrimony betwene them, and for all other causes which may ensue by reason or occasion thereof, that then the said obligation to be voyd and of none effect, or els to stand and abide in fulle force and vertue.”

The marks and seals of Sandells and Richardson. 10 Malone conjectured that the marriage took place at Weston, or Billesley, but the old registers there having been lost or destroyed, it is impossible to ascertain the facto

A more recent search in the registers of some of the other churches in the neighbourhood of Stratford has not been attended with any success. Possibly, the ceremony was performed in the vicinity of Worcester, but the mere fact that the bond was there executed proves nothing.

An examination of the registers at Worcester has been equally fruitless.

« السابقةمتابعة »