A Life of William Shakespeare - with portraits and facsimiles
by Sidney Lee
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

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 xxxli.' 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. {215}

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 office.

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 art.

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 them.

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}

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10     Next Part
Home - Random Browse