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in Edinburgh ten years earlier? In 1589, Ashby, the ambassador extraordinary from England to James VI. of Scotland, thus writes to Lord Burghley, under date of the 22nd 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 courtesiet."
In 1589, the date of Ashby's despatch, 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 in 1589 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 despatched by the queen to Scotland.
It is not at all improbable that English actors, having
3 Between September, 1589, and September, 1590, Queen Elizabeth had sent, as a present to the young King of Scotland on his marriage, a splendid Masque, 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 very likely that the actors from London accompanied this gift.
* From MS. Harl. 4647, being copies of despatches from Mr. Ashby to different members of the Council in London.
* See Mr. P. Canningham's “Extracts from the Revels' Accounts" (printed for the Shakespeare Society), p. xxxii; and this Vol. p. [21.
found their way north of the Tweed in 1589, would speedily repeat their visit; but the next we hear of them there is, not until after a lony interval, namely, 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 Highness' 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 4007.
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 22nd October the freedom of the city was conferred upon Laurence Fletcher, who is especially styled “comedian to his Majesty.” The company had arrived at 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 account of the royal rescript, be 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, at 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,”
6 For these particulars of payments, and some other points connected with them, we are indebted to David Laing, Esq., of Edinburgh, who has made extensive and valuable collections for a history of the Stage in Scotland.
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 80. Nevertheless, we have no tidings that any English actors were in any part of Scotland during those ten years.
Whether between October, 1599, and December, 1601, Shakespeare did or did not visit Scotland, we are in a condition to show pretty distinctly that he was not at Stratford in the month of March, 1601: our belief is that he was in London writing and making preparations for the commencement of the season at the Globe Theatre "; and perhaps so much engaged, that he may have been guilty of some little neglect of his family in his native town. A person of the name of Thomas Whittington, who resided at Shottery, and who was, no doubt, intimate with the Shakespeare family at Stratford, made his will on the 25th March, 1601, and it contains the following paragraph, in which our great dramatist and his wife are both mentioned :
" Item, I give and bequeath to the poor people of Stratford forty shillings, that is in the hand of Anne Shaxspere, wife unto Mr. William Shaxspere, and is debt due unto me, being paid to mine Executor by the said William Shaxspere, or his assigns, according to the true meaning of this my will %.”
We gather from the above, that while our great poet was absent from Stratford for professional purposes, his wife, who probably came originally from Shottery, being in want of a temporary loan until she could receive a remittance from her husband, had resorted to Whittington for a sum, then equal to about 101. of our present money. This amount (when the advance had been made is not stated) was not repaid at the date when Whittington executed his will, and he, wishing to leave a legacy to the poor of Stratford, bequeathed to his executor for this purpose the 21. which Anne Shakespeare had borrowed from him. He, in fact, treated it as so much money, and we may be sure that it was duly paid to Whittington's representative after death.
7 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.
$ We are not in a condition to state at what precise period of the year the players of the Lord Chamberlain were in the habit of removing to the Globe on the Bankside, after the conclusion of what we may call the winter season at the Blackfriars theatre. The middle of February seems very early for this removal, yet we know that Sir Gilly Meyrick and other partisans of the Earl of Essex saw a play on the deposition and killing of Richard II. at the Globe not later than the 10th Feb., 1601. See Vol. iii. p. 214, and this Vol. p. 154).
9 This fact was discovered in 1847 by Sir Thomas Phillipps, Bart., in a search among the archives of the bishopric of Worcester.
Shakespeare, who had bought New Place about the year 1597, and who in 1601 was following up a most profitable and prosperous career in the height of his popularity, could not really be in want of assistance; but some temporary emergency having arisen, and his wife not being able to resort to him on the sudden, applied to Whittington, who included the sum in his will. Such seems the natural explanation of the transaction, and we adduce the circumstance, because it tends to show how busily our great dramatist was employed in London about this period.
Proclamation by James I. against plays on Sunday. Renewal of theatrical per
formances in London. Patent of May 17th, 1603, to Laurence Fletcber, William Shakespeare, and others. Epigram to the king by Shakespeare. Royal patronage of three companies of actors. Shakespeare's additional purchases in Stratford-upon-Avon. In London in the autumn of 1603; and a candidate for the office of Master of the Queen's Revels. S. Daniel and M. Drayton. Characters Shakespeare is known to have performed on the stage. His retirement, 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, apparently directed only 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
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
The incongruous paragraph 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 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." ? The following memorandum in “ Henslowe's Diary,” as printed by the Shakespeare Society, p. 232, proves that the suspension commenced on the 5th May: we avoid the uncouth spelling for the sake of intelligibility:
"There resteth due unto me this day, being the 5 day of May, 1603, when we left off play at the King's coming, all reckonyngs abated, the sum of 1971. 13s. 4d.”
When they recommenced operations appears by an account thus headed :
"Beginning to play again by the King's licence, and laid out since for my Lord of Worcester's men as followeth. 1603, 9 of May." p. 251.
Therefore the suspension of theatrical performances only lasted from the 5th to the 9th May. “The King's licence" means merely the King's leave, for no licence, properly so called, was granted until eight days afterwards.