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"A parliament member, a Justice of peace, At home a poor scarecrow, in London an asse, If Lowsie is lucy, as some volke miscalle it Then Lucy is lowsie, whatever befalle it. He thinks himself greate
Yet an asse in his state,
We allowe by his ears but with asses to mate. If Lucy is lowsie, as some volke miscalle it

Sing lowsie Lucy whatever befalle it.
* * * * *
"If a juvenile frolick he cannot forgive,
We'll sing lowsie Lucy as long as we live,
And Lucy, the lowsie, a libel may calle it
Sing lowsie Lucy whatever befalle it.

He thinks himself greate
Yet an asse in his state,
We allowe by his ears but with asses to mate. If Lucy is lowsie, as some volke miscalle it Sing lowsie Lucy, Whatever befalle it."

The last verse, so out of keeping in its curious impartiality with the scurrilous refrain, appears to me to carry its own signature. There can be no doubt that the verses give us young Shakespeare's feelings in the matter. It was probably reading ballads and tales of "Merrie Sherwood" that first inclined him to deer-stealing; and we have already seen from his "Richard II." and "Henry IV." and "Henry V." that he had been led astray by low companions.

In his idle, high-spirited youth, Shakespeare did worse than break bounds and kill deer; he was at a loose end and up to all sorts of mischief. At eighteen he had already courted and won Anne Hathaway, a farmer's daughter of the neighbouring village of Shottery. Anne was nearly eight years older than he was. Her father had died a short time before and left Anne, his eldest daughter, £6 13<i>s</i>. 4<i>d</i>., or, say, £50 of our money. The house at Shottery, now shown as Anne Hathaway's cottage, once formed part of Richard Hathaway's farmhouse, and there, and in the neighbouring lanes, the lovers did their courting. The wooing on Shakespeare's side was nothing but pastime, though it led to marriage.

His marriage is perhaps the first serious mistake that Shakespeare made, and it certainly influenced his whole life. It is needful, therefore, to understand it as accurately as may be, however we may judge it. A man's life, like a great river, may be limpid-pure in the beginning, and when near its source; as it grows and gains strength it is inevitably sullied and stained with earth's soilure.

The ordinary apologists would have us believe that the marriage was happy; they know that Shakespeare was not married in Stratford, and, though a minor, his parents' consent to the marriage was not obtained; but they persist in talking about his love for his wife, and his wife's devoted affection for him. Mr. Halliwell-Phillipps, the bell-wether of the flock, has gone so far as to tell us how on the morning of the day he died "his wife, who had smoothed the pillow beneath his head for the last time, felt that her right hand was taken from her." Let us see if there is any foundation for this sentimental balderdash. Here are some of the facts.

In the Bishop of Worcester's register a licence was issued on 27th November, 1582, authorizing the marriage of William Shakespeare with Anne Whately, of Temple Grafton. On the very next day in the register of the same Bishop there is a deed, wherein Fulk Sandells and John Richardson, farmers of Shottery, bound themselves in the Bishop's court under a surety of £40 to free the Bishop of all liability should a lawful impediment--"by reason of any pre-contract or consanguinity"--be subsequently disclosed to imperil the validity of the marriage, then in contemplation, of William Shakespeare with Anne Hathaway.

Dryasdust, of course, argues that there is no connection whatever between these two events. He is able to persuade himself easily that the William Shakespeare who got a licence to marry Anne Whately, of Temple Grafton, on 27th November, 1582, is not the same William Shakespeare who is being forced to marry Anne Hathaway on the next day by two friends of Anne Hathaway's father. Yet such a coincidence as two William Shakespeares seeking to be married by special licence in the same court at the same moment of time is too extraordinary to be admitted. Besides, why should Sandells and Richardson bind themselves as sureties in £40 to free the Bishop of liability by reason of any pre-contract if there were no pre-contract? The two William Shakespeares are clearly one and the same person. Sandells was a supervisor of the will of Richard Hathaway, and was described in the will as "my trustie friende and neighbour." He showed himself a trusty friend of the usual sort to his friend's daughter, and when he heard that loose Will Shakespeare was attempting to marry Anne Whately, he forthwith went to the same Bishop's court which had granted the licence, pledged himself and his neighbour, Richardson, as sureties that there was no pre-contract, and so induced the Bishop, who no doubt then learned the unholy circumstances for the first time, to grant a licence in order that the marriage with Anne Hathaway could be celebrated, "with once asking of the bannes" and without the consent of the father of the bridegroom, which was usually required when the bridegroom was a minor.

Clearly Fulk Sandells was a masterful man; young Will Shakespeare was forced to give up Anne Whately, poor lass, and marry Anne Hathaway, much against his will. Like many another man, Shakespeare married at leisure, and repented in hot haste. Six months later a daughter was born to him, and was baptized in the name of Susanna at Stratford Parish Church on the 26th of May, 1583. There was, therefore, an importunate reason for the wedding, as Sandells, no doubt, made the Bishop understand.

The whole story, it seems to me, is in perfect consonance with Shakespeare's impulsive, sensual nature; is, indeed, an excellent illustration of it. Hot, impatient, idle Will got Anne Hathaway into trouble, was forced to marry her, and at once came to regret. Let us see how far these inferences from plain facts are borne out from his works.

The most important passages seem to have escaped critical scholarship. I have already said that the earliest works of Shakespeare, and the latest, are the most fruitful in details about his private life. In the earliest works he was compelled to use his own experience, having no observation of life to help him, and at the end of his life, having said almost everything he had to say, he again went back to his early experience for little vital facts to lend a colour to the fainter pictures of age. In "The Winter's Tale," a shepherd finds the child Perdita, who has been exposed; one would expect him to stumble on the child by chance and express surprise; but this shepherd of Shakespeare begins to talk in this way:

"I would there were no age between ten and three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest; for there is nothing in the between but getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry, stealing, fighting. Hark you now! Would any but these boiled brains of nineteen and two-and-twenty hunt this weather?"

Now this passage has nothing to do with the play, nor with the shepherd's occupation; nor is it at all characteristic of a shepherd boy. Between ten and three-and-twenty a poor shepherd boy is likely to be kept hard at work; he is not idle and at a loose end like young Shakespeare, free to rob the ancientry, steal, fight, and get wenches with child. That, in my opinion, is Shakespeare's own confession.

Of course, every one has noticed how Shakespeare again and again in his plays declares that a woman should take in marriage an "elder than herself," and that intimacy before marriage is productive of nothing but "barren hate and discord." In "Twelfth Night" he says:

"Let still the woman take
An elder than herself: so wears she to him, So sways she level in her husband's heart."

In "The Tempest" he writes again:

"If thou dost break her virgin knot before All sanctimonious ceremonies may
With full and holy rite be minister'd, No sweet aspersions shall the heavens let fall To make this contract grow; but barren hate, Sour-ey'd disdain, and discord, shall bestrew The union of your bed with weeds so loathly That you shall hate it both."

These admonitions are so far-fetched and so emphatic that they plainly discover personal feeling. We have, besides, those quaint, angry passages in the "Comedy of Errors," to which we have already drawn attention, which show that the poet detested his wife.

The known facts, too, all corroborate this inference: let us consider them a little. The first child was born within six months of the marriage; twins followed in 1585; a little later Shakespeare left Stratford not to return to it for eight or nine years, and when he did return there was probably no further intimacy with his wife; at any rate, there were no more children. Yet Shakespeare, one fancies, was fond of children. When his son Hamnet died his grief showed itself in his work--in "King John" and in "The Winter's Tale." He was full of loving kindness to his daughters, too, in later life; it was his wife alone for whom he had no affection, no forgiveness.

There are other facts which establish this conclusion. While Shakespeare was in London he allowed his wife to suffer the extremes of poverty. Sometime between 1585 and 1595 she appears to have borrowed forty shillings from Thomas Whittington, who had formerly been her father's shepherd. The money was still unpaid when Whittington died, in 1601, and he directed his executor to recover the sum from the poet, and distribute it among the poor of Stratford. Now Shakespeare was rich when he returned to Stratford in 1595, and always generous. He paid off his father's heavy debts; how came it that he did not pay this trifling debt of his wife? The mere fact proves beyond doubt that Shakespeare disliked her and would have nothing to do with her.

Even towards the end of his life, when he was suffering from increasing weakness, which would have made most men sympathetic, even if it did not induce them completely to relent, Shakespeare shows the same aversion to his poor wife. In 1613, when on a short visit to London, he bought a house in Blackfriars for £140; in the purchase he barred his wife's dower, which proceeding seems even to Dryasdust "pretty conclusive proof that he had the intention of excluding her from the enjoyment of his possessions after his death."

In the first draft of his will Shakespeare did not mention his wife. The apologists explain this by saying that, of course, he had already given her all that she ought to have. But if he loved her he would have mentioned her with affection, if only to console her in her widowhood. Before the will was signed he inserted a bequest to her of his "second-best bed," and the apologists have been at pains to explain that the best bed was kept for guests, and that Shakespeare willed to his wife the bed they both occupied. How inarticulate poor William Shakespeare must have become! Could the master of language find no better word than the contemptuous one? Had he said "our bed" it would have been enough; "the second-best bed" admits of but one interpretation. His daughters, who had lived with their mother, and who had not been afflicted by her jealousy and scolding tongue, begged the dying man to put in some mention of her, and he wrote in that "second-best bed"--bitter to the last. If his own plain words and these inferences, drawn from indisputable facts, are not sufficient, then let us take one fact more, and consider its significance; one fact, so to speak, from the grave.

When Shakespeare died he left some lines to be placed over his tomb. Here they are:

"Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare To Digg the dust enclosed heare.
Blessed be ye man yt spares thes stones And Curst be ye yt moves my bones."

Now, why did Shakespeare make this peculiar request? No one seems to have seen any meaning in it. It looks to me as if Shakespeare wrote the verses in order to prevent his wife being buried with him. He wanted to be free of her in death as in life. At any rate, the fact is that she was not buried with him, but apart from him; he had seen to that. His grave was never opened, though his wife expressed a desire to be buried with him. The man who needs further proofs would not be persuaded though one came from the dead to convince him.

The marriage was an unfortunate one for many reasons, as an enforced marriage is apt to be, even when it is not the marriage of a boy in his teens to a woman some eight years his senior. Shakespeare takes trouble to tell us in "The Comedy of Errors" that his wife was spitefully jealous, and a bitter scold. She must have injured him, poisoned his life with her jealous nagging, or Shakespeare would have forgiven her. There is some excuse for him, if excuse be needed. At the time the marriage must have seemed the wildest folly to him, seething as he was with inordinate conceit. He was wise beyond his years, and yet he had been forced to give hostages to fortune before he had any means of livelihood, before he had even found a place in life. What a position for a poet--penniless, saddled with a jealous wife and three children before he was twenty-one. And this poet was proud, and vain, and in love with all distinctions.

But why did Shakespeare nurse such persistent enmity all through his life to jealous, scolding Anne Hathaway? Shakespeare had wronged her; the keener his moral sense, the more certain he was to blame his partner in the fault, for in no other way could he excuse himself.

It was overpowering sensuality and rashness which had led Shakespeare into the noose, and now there was nothing for it but to cut the rope. He had either to be true to his higher nature or to the conventional view of his duty; he was true to himself and fled to London, and the world is the richer for his decision. The only excuse he ever made is to be found in the sonnet-line:

"Love is too young to know what conscience is."

For my part I do not see that any excuse is needed: if Shakespeare had married Anne Whately he might never have gone to London or written a play. Shakespeare's hatred of his wife and his regret for having married her were alike foolish. Our brains are seldom the wisest part of us. It was well that he made love to Anne Hathaway; well, too, that he was forced to marry her; well, finally, that he should desert her. I am sorry he treated her badly and left her unsupplied with money; that was needlessly cruel; but it is just the kindliest men who have these extraordinary lapses; Shakespeare's loathing for his wife was measureless, was a part of his own self-esteem, and his self-esteem was founded on snobbish non-essentials for many years, if not, indeed, throughout his life.

There is a tradition preserved by Rowe that before going to London young Shakespeare taught school in the country; it may be; but he did not teach for long, we can be sure, and what he had to teach there were few scholars in the English country then or now capable of learning. Another tradition asserts that he obtained employment as a lawyer's clerk, probably because of the frequent use of legal phrases in his plays. But these apologists all forget that they are speaking of men like themselves, and of times like ours. Politics is the main theme of talk in our day; but in the time of Elizabeth it was rather dangerous to show one's wisdom by criticizing the government: law was then the chief staple of conversation: every educated man was therefore familiar with law and its phraseology, as men are familiar in our day with the jargon of politics.

When did Shakespeare fly to London? Some say when he was twenty-one, as soon as his wife presented him with twins, in 1585. Others say as soon as Sir Thomas Lucy's persecution became intolerable. Both causes no doubt worked together, and yet another cause, given in "The Two Gentlemen of Verona," was the real <i>causa causans</i>. Shakespeare was naturally ambitious; eager to measure himself with the best and try his powers. London was the arena where all great prizes were to be won: Shakespeare strained towards the Court like a greyhound in leash. But when did he go? Again in doubt I take the shepherd's words in "The Winter's Tale" as a guide. Most men would have said from fourteen to twenty was the dangerous age for a youth; but Shakespeare had perhaps a personal reason for the peculiar "ten to twenty-three." He was, no doubt, astoundingly precocious, and probably even at ten he had learned everything of value that the grammar school had to teach, and his thoughts had begun to play truant. Twenty-three, too, is a significant date in his life; in 1587, when he was twenty-three, two companies of actors, under the nominal patronage of the Queen and Lord Leicester, returned to London from a provincial tour, during which they visited Stratford. In Lord Leicester's company were Burbage and Heminge, with whom we know that Shakespeare was closely connected in later life. It seems to me probable that he returned with this company to London, and arrived in London, as he tells us in "The Comedy of Errors," "stiff and weary with long travel," and at once went out to view the town and "peruse the traders."

There is a tradition that when he came to London in 1587 he held horses outside the doors of the theatre. This story was first put about by the compiler of "The Lives of the Poets," in 1753. According to the author the story was related by D'Avenant to Betterton; but Rowe, to whom Betterton must have told it, does not transmit it. Rowe was perhaps right to forget it or leave it out; though the story is not in itself incredible. Such work must have been infinitely distasteful to Shakespeare, but necessity is a hard master, and Greene, who talks of him later as "Shake-scene," also speaks in the same connection of these "grooms." The curious amplified version of the story that Shakespeare organized a service of boys to hold the horses is hardly to be believed. The great Doctor was anything but a poet, or a good judge of the poetic temperament.

The Shakespeares of this world are not apt to take up menial employs, and this one had already shown that he preferred idle musings and parasitic dependence to uncongenial labour. Whoever reads the second scene of the second act of "The Comedy of Errors," will see that Shakespeare, even at the beginning, had an uncommonly good opinion of himself. He plays gentleman from the first, and despises trade; he snubs his servant and will not brook familiarity from him. In "The Two Gentlemen of Verona," he tells us that he left the country and came to London seeking "honour," intending, no doubt, to make a name for himself by his writings. He had probably "Venus and Adonis" in his pocket when he first reached London. This would inspire a poet with the self-confidence which a well-filled purse lends to an ordinary man.

I am inclined to accept Rowe's statement that Shakespeare was received into an actor-company at first in a very mean rank. The parish clerk of Stratford at the end of the seventeenth century used to tell the visitors that Shakespeare entered the playhouse as a servitor; but, however he entered it, it is pretty certain he was not long in a subordinate position.

What manner of man was William Shakespeare when he first fronted life in London somewhere about 1587? Aubrey tells us that he was "a handsome, well-shap't man, very good company, and of a very readie and pleasant smooth witt." The bust of him in Stratford Church was coloured; it gave him light hazel eyes, and auburn hair and beard. Rowe says of him that "besides the advantages of his witt, he was in himself a good-natured man, of too great sweetness in his manners, and a most agreeable companion."

I picture him to myself very like Swinburne--of middle height or below it, inclined to be stout; the face well-featured, with forehead domed to reverence and quick, pointed chin; a face lighted with hazel-clear vivid eyes and charming with sensuous-full mobile lips that curve easily to kisses or gay ironic laughter; an exceedingly sensitive, eager speaking face that mirrors every fleeting change of emotion....

I can see him talking, talking with extreme fluency in a high tenor voice, the reddish hair flung back from the high forehead, the eyes now dancing, now aflame, every feature quick with the "beating mind."

And such talk--the groundwork of it, so to speak, very intimate-careless; but gemmed with thoughts, diamonded with wit, rhythmic with feeling: don't we know how it ran--"A hundred and fifty tattered prodigals.... No eye hath seen such scarecrows, ... discarded, unjust serving-men, younger sons to younger brothers, revolted tapsters, and ostlers trade-fallen: the cankers of a calm world and a long peace." And after the thought the humour again--"food for powder, food for powder."

Now let us consider some of his other qualities. In 1592 he published his "Venus and Adonis," which he had no doubt written in 1587 or even earlier, for he called it "the first heir of my invention" when he dedicated it to Lord Southampton. This work is to me extremely significant. It is all concerned with the wooing of young Adonis by Venus, an older woman. Now, goddesses have no age, nor do women, as a rule, woo in this sensual fashion. The peculiarities point to personal experience. "I, too," Shakespeare tells us practically, "was wooed by an older woman against my will." He seems to have wished the world to accept this version of his untimely marriage. Young Shakespeare in London was probably a little ashamed of being married to some one whom he could hardly introduce or avow. The apologists who declare that he made money very early in his career give us no explanation of the fact that he never brought his wife or children to London. Wherever we touch Shakespeare's intimate life, we find proof upon proof that he detested his wife and was glad to live without her.

Looked at in this light "Venus and Adonis" is not a very noble thing to have written; but I am dealing with a young poet's nature, and the majority of young poets would like to forget their Anne Hathaway if they could; or, to excuse themselves, would put the blame of an ill-sorted union upon the partner to it.

There is a certain weakness, however, shown in the whole story of his marriage; a weakness of character, as well as a weakness of <i>morale</i>, which it is impossible to ignore; and there were other weaknesses in Shakespeare, especially a weakness of body which must necessarily have had its correlative delicacies of mind.

I have pointed out in the first part of this book that sleeplessness was a characteristic of Shakespeare, even in youth; he attributes it to Henry IV. in old age, and to Henry V., a youth at the time, who probably never knew what a sleepless night meant. Shakespeare's <i>alter ego</i>, Valentine, in "The Two Gentlemen of Verona," suffers from it, and so do Macbeth and Hamlet, and a dozen others of his chief characters, in particular his impersonations--all of which shows, I think, that from the beginning the mind of Shakespeare was too strong for his body. As we should say to-day, he was too emotional, and lived on his nerves. I always think of him as a ship over-engined; when the driving-power is working at full speed it shakes the ship to pieces.

One other weakness is marked in him, and that is that he could not drink, could not carry his liquor like a man--to use our accepted phrase. Hamlet thought drinking a custom more honoured in the breach than in the observance; Cassius, Shakespeare's incarnation in "Othello," confessed that he had "poor unhappy brains for drinking": tradition informs us that Shakespeare himself died of a "feavour" from drinking--all of which confirms my opinion that Shakespeare was delicate rather than robust. He was, also, extraordinarily fastidious: in drama after drama he rails against the "greasy" caps and "stinking" breath of the common people. This overstrained disgust suggests to me a certain delicacy of constitution.

But there is still another indication of bodily weakness which in itself would be convincing to those accustomed to read closely; but which would carry little or no weight to the careless. In sonnet 129 Shakespeare tells us of lust and its effects, and the confession seems to me purely personal. Here are four lines of it:

"Enjoy'd no sooner but despised straight; Past reason hunted; and no sooner had, Past reason hated, as a swallowed bait, On purpose laid to make the taker mad."

Now, this is not the ordinary man's experience of passion and its effects. "Past reason hunted," such an one might say, but he would certainly not go on "No sooner had, Past reason hated." He is not moved to hate by enjoyment, but to tenderness; it is your weakling who is physically exhausted by enjoyment who is moved to hatred. This sonnet was written by Shakespeare in the prime of manhood at thirty-four or thirty-five at latest.

Shakespeare was probably healthy as a young man, but intensely sensitive and highly strung; too finely constituted ever to have been strong. One notices that he takes no pleasure in fighting; his heroes are, of course, all "valiant," but he shows no loving interest in the game of fighting as a game. In fact, we have already seen that he found no wonderful phrase for any of the manly virtues; he was a neuropath and a lover, and not a fighter, even in youth, or Fulk Sandells might have rued his interference.

The dominating facts to be kept ever in mind about Shakespeare are that he was delicate in body, and over-excitable; yielding and irresolute in character; with too great sweetness of manners and inordinately given to the pleasures of love.

How would such a man fare in the world of London in 1587? It was a wild and wilful age; eager English spirits were beginning to take a part in the opening up of the new world; the old, limiting horizons were gone; men dared to think for themselves and act boldly; ten years before Drake had sailed round the world--the adventurer was the characteristic product of the time. In ordinary company a word led to a blow, and the fight was often brought to a fatal conclusion with dagger or sword or both. In those rough days actors were almost outlaws; Ben Jonson is known to have killed two or three men; Marlowe died in a tavern brawl. Courage has always been highly esteemed in England, like gentility and a university training. Shakespeare possessed none of these passports to public favour. He could not shoulder his way through the throng. The wild adventurous life of the time was not to his liking, even in early manhood; from the beginning he preferred "the life removed" and his books; all given over to the "bettering of his mind" he could only have been appreciated at any time by the finer spirits.

Entering the theatre as a servitor he no doubt made such acquaintances as offered themselves, and spent a good deal of his leisure perforce with second-rate actors and writers in common taverns and studied his Bardolph and Pistol, and especially his Falstaff at first hand. Perhaps Marlowe was one of his <i>ciceroni</i> in rough company. Shakespeare had almost certainly met Marlowe very early in his career, for he worked with him in the "Third Part of Henry VI.," and his "Richard III." is a conscious imitation of Marlowe, and Marlowe was dissipated enough and wild enough to have shown him the wildest side of life in London in the '80's. It was the very best thing that could have happened to delicate Shakespeare, to come poor and unknown to London, and be soused in common rowdy life like this against his will by sheer necessity; for if left to his own devices he would probably have grown up a bookish poet--a second Coleridge. Fate takes care of her favourites.

It was all in his favour that he should have been forced at first to win his spurs as an actor. He must have been too intelligent, one would think, ever to have brought it far as a mummer; he looked upon the half-art of acting with disdain and disgust, as he tells us in the sonnets, and if in Hamlet he condescends to give advice to actors, it is to admonish them not to outrage the decencies of nature by tearing a passion to tatters. He had at hand a surer ladder to fame than the mummer's art. As soon as he felt his feet in London he set to work adapting plays, and writing plays, while reading his own poetry to all and sundry who would listen, and I have no doubt that patrons of the stage, who were also men of rank, were willing to listen to Shakespeare from the beginning. He was of those who require no introductions.

In 1592, four or five years after his arrival in London, he had already come to the front as a dramatist, or at least as an adapter of plays, for Robert Greene, a scholar and playwright, attacked him in his "Groatsworth of Wit" in this fashion:

"There is an upstart Crow, beautified in our feathers that, with his tiger's heart wrapt in a player's hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you, and, being an absolute Johannes fac totum, is, in his own conceit, the only Shakescene in a country. Oh, that I might intreat your rare wits to be employed in more profitable courses, and let these apes imitate your past excellence, and never more acquaint them with your admired inventions."

It is plain from this weird appeal that Shakespeare had already made his mark.

There are further proofs of his rapid success. One of Chettle's references to Shakespeare (I take Chettle to be the original of Falstaff) throws light upon the poet's position in London in these early days. Shortly after Greene had insulted Shakespeare as "Shake-scene" Chettle apologized for the insult in these terms:

"I am as sorry," Chettle wrote, "as if the original fault had beene my fault, because myselfe have seen his (<i>i.e.</i>, Shakespeare's) demeanour no less civill than he (is) exelent in the qualitie he professes. Besides, divers of worship have reported his uprightnes of dealing, which argues his honesty, and his facetious grace in writing that aprooves his art."

In 1592, then, Shakespeare was most "civill in demeanour," and had won golden opinions from people of importance.

Actors and poets of that time could not help knowing a good many of the young nobles who came to the theatre and sat round the stage listening to the performances. And Shakespeare, with his aristocratic sympathies and charming sweetness of nature, must have made friends with the greatest ease. Chettle's apology proves that early in his career he had the art or luck to win distinguished patrons who spoke well of him. While still new to town he came to know Lord Southampton, to whom he dedicated "Venus and Adonis"; the fulsome dedication of "Lucrece" to the same nobleman two years later shows that deference had rapidly ripened into affectionate devotion; no wonder Rowe noticed the "too great sweetness in his manners." Thinking of his intimacy with Southampton on the one hand and Bardolph on the other, one is constrained to say of Shakespeare what Apemantus says of Timon:

"The middle of humanity thou never knewest, But the extremity of both ends."

In the extremes characters show themselves more clearly than they do in the middle classes; at both ends of society speech and deed are unrestrained. Falstaff and Bardolph and the rest were free of convention by being below it, just as Bassanio and Mercutio were free because they were above it, and made the rules. The young lord did what he pleased, and spoke his mind as plainly as the footpad. Life at both ends was the very school for quick, sympathetic Shakespeare. But even in early manhood, as soon as he came to himself and found his work, one other quality is as plain in Shakespeare as even his humour--high impartial intellect with sincere ethical judgement. He judges even Falstaff severely, to the point of harshness, indeed; as he judged himself later in Enobarbus. This high critical faculty pervades all his work. But it must not be thought that his conduct was as scrupulous as his principles, or his will as sovereign as his intelligence. That he was a loose-liver while in London is well attested. Contemporary anecdotes generally hit off a man's peculiarities, and the only anecdote of Shakespeare that is known to have been told about him in his lifetime illustrates this master trait of his character. Burbage, we are told, when playing Richard III., arranged with a lady in the audience to visit her after the performance. Shakespeare overheard the rendezvous, anticipated his fellow's visit, and met Burbage on his arrival with the jibe that "William the Conqueror came before Richard III." The lightness is no doubt as characteristic of Shakespeare as the impudent humour.

There is another fact in Shakespeare's life which throws almost as much light on his character as his marriage. He seems to have come to riches very early and very easily. As we have seen, he was never able to paint a miser, which confirms Jonson's testimony that he was "of an open and free nature." In 1597 he went down to Stratford and bought New Place, then in ruinous condition, but the chief house in the town, for £60; he spent at least as much more between 1597 and 1599 in rebuilding the house and stocking the barns with grain. In 1602 we find that he purchased from William and John Combe, of Stratford, a hundred and seven acres of arable land near the town, for which he paid £320; in 1605, too, he bought for £440 a moiety of the tithes of Stratford for an unexpired term of thirty-one years, which investment seems to have brought him in little except a wearisome lawsuit.

Now, how did the poet obtain this thousand pounds or so? English apologists naturally assume that he was a "good business man"; with delicious unconscious irony they one and all picture the man who hated tradesmen as himself a sort of thrifty tradesman-soul--a master of practical life who looked after the pennies from the beginning. These commentators all treat Shakespeare as the Hebrews treated God; they make him in their own likeness. In Shakespeare's case this practice leads to absurdity. Let us take the strongest advocate of the accepted view. Dryasdust is at pains to prove that Shakespeare's emoluments, even as an actor in the '90's, were not likely to have fallen below a hundred a year; but even Dryasdust admits that his large earnings came after 1599, from his shares in the Globe Theatre, and is inclined "to accept the tradition that Shakespeare received from the Earl of Southampton a large gift of money." As Southampton came of age in 1595, he may well out of his riches have helped the man who had dedicated his poems to him with servile adulation. Moreover, the statement is put forward by Rowe, who is certainly more trustworthy than the general run of gossip-mongers, and his account of the matter proves that he did not accept the story with eager credulity, but as one compelled by authority. Here is what he says:

"There is one story so singular in magnificence of this patron of Shakspeare that if I had not been assured that the story was handed down by Sir Wm. D'Avenant, who was probably very well acquainted with his affairs, I should not have ventured to insert that my lord Southampton, at one time, gave him a thousand pounds to enable him to go through with a purchase to which he heard he had a mind. A bounty very great, and very rare at any time, almost equal to that profuse generosity the present age has shown to French dancers and Italian Eunuchs."

It seems to me a great deal more likely that this munificent gift of Southampton was the source of Shakespeare's wealth than that he added coin to coin in saving, careful fashion. It may be said at once that all the evidence we have is in favour of Shakespeare's extravagance, and against his thrift. As we have seen, when studying "The Merchant of Venice," the presumption is that he looked upon saving with contempt, and was himself freehanded to a fault. The Rev. John Ward, who was Vicar of Stratford from 1648 to 1679, tells us "that he spent at the rate of a thousand a year, as I have heard."

It is impossible to deny that Shakespeare got rid of a great deal of money even after his retirement to Stratford; and men accustomed to save are not likely to become prodigal in old age.

On the 10th March, 1613, Shakespeare bought a house in Blackfriars for £140; the next day he executed another deed, now in the British Museum, which stipulated that £60 of the purchase-money was to remain on mortgage until the following Michaelmas; the money was unpaid at Shakespeare's death, which seems to me to argue a certain carelessness, to say the least of it.

Dryasdust makes out that Shakespeare, in the years from 1600 to 1612, was earning about six hundred a year in the money of the period, or nearly five thousand a year of our money, and yet he was unable or unwilling to pay off a paltry £60.

After passing the last five years of his life in village Stratford, where he could not possibly have found many opportunities of extravagance, he was only able to leave a little more than one year's income. He willed New Place to his elder daughter, Susanna Hall, together with the land, barns, and gardens at and near Stratford (except the tenement in Chapel Lane), and the house in Blackfriars, London, all together equal, at the most, to five or six hundred pounds; and to his younger daughter, Judith, he bequeathed the tenement in Chapel Lane, £150 in money, and another £150 to be paid if she was alive three years after the date of the will. Nine hundred pounds, or so, of the money of the period, would cover all he possessed at death. When we consider these things, it becomes plain, I think, that Shakespeare was extravagant to lavishness even in cautious age. While in London he no doubt earned and was given large sums of money; but he was free-handed and careless, and died far poorer than one would have expected from an ordinarily thrifty man. The loose-liver is usually a spendthrift.

There are worse faults to be laid to his account than lechery and extravagance. Every one who has read his works with any care must admit that Shakespeare was a snob of the purest English water. Aristocratic tastes were natural to him; inherent, indeed, in the delicate sensitiveness of his beauty-loving temperament; but he desired the outward and visible signs of gentility as much as any podgy millionaire of our time, and stooped as low to get them as man could stoop. In 1596, his young son, Hamnet, died at Stratford, and was buried on 11th August in the parish church. This event called Shakespeare back to his village, and while he was there he most probably paid his father's debts, and certainly tried to acquire for himself and his successors the position of gentlefolk. He induced his father to make application to the College of Heralds for a coat of arms, on the ground not only that his father was a man of substance, but that he had also married into a "worshipful" family. The draft grant of arms was not executed at the time. It may have been that the father's pecuniary position became known to the College, or perhaps the profession of the son created difficulties; but in any case nothing was done for some time. In 1597, however, the Earl of Essex became Earl Marshal and Chief of the Heralds' College, and the scholar and antiquary, William Camden, joined the College as Clarenceux King of Arms. Shakespeare must have been known to the Earl of Essex, who was an intimate friend of the Earl of Southampton; he was indeed almost certainly a friend and admirer of Essex. The Shakespeares' second application to be admitted to the status of gentlefolk took a new form. They asserted roundly that the coat as set out in the draft of 1596 had been assigned to John Shakespeare while he was bailiff, and the heralds were asked to give him a "recognition" of it. At the same time John Shakespeare asked for permission to quarter on his "ancient coat of arms" that of the Ardens of Wilmscote, his wife's family. But this was going too far, even for a friend of Essex. To grant such a request might have got the College into trouble with the influential Warwickshire family of Arden, and so it was refused; but the grant was "recognized," and Shakespeare's peculiar ambition was satisfied.

Every single incident in his life bears out what we have learned from his works. In all his writings he praises lords and gentlemen, and runs down the citizens and common people, and in his life he spent some years, a good deal of trouble, and many impudent lies in getting for his father a grant of arms and recognition as a gentleman--a very pitiful ambition, but peculiarly English. Shakespeare, one fancies, was a gentleman by nature, and a good deal more.

But his snobbishness had other worse results. Partly because of it he never got to know the middle classes in England. True, even in his time they were excessively Puritanical, which quality hedged them off, so to speak, from the playwright-poet. With his usual gentleness or timidity, Shakespeare never tells us directly what he thought of the Puritans, but his half-averted, contemptuous glance at them in passing, is very significant. Angelo, the would-be Puritan ruler, was a "false seemer," Malvolio was a "chough." The peculiar virtues of the English middle class, its courage and sheepishness; its good conduct and respect for duties; its religious sense and cocksure narrow-mindedness, held no attraction for Shakespeare, and, armoured in snobbishness, he utterly missed what a knowledge of the middle classes might have given him.

Let us take one instance of his loss. Though he lived in an age of fanaticism, he never drew a fanatic or reformer, never conceived a man as swimming against the stream of his time. He had but a vague conception of the few spirits in each age who lead humanity to new and higher ideals; he could not understand a Christ or a Mahomet, and it seems as if he took but small interest in Jeanne d'Arc, the noblest being that came within the ken of his art. For even if we admit that he did not write the first part of "Henry VI.," it is certain that it passed through his hands, and that in his youth, at any rate, he saw nothing to correct in that vile and stupid libel on the greatest of women. Even the English fanatic escaped his intelligence; his Jack Cade, as I have already noticed, is a wretched caricature; no Cade moves his fellows save by appealing to the best in them, to their sense of justice, or what they take for justice. The Cade who will wheedle men for his own gross ambitions may make a few dupes, but not thousands of devoted followers. These elementary truths Shakespeare never understood. Yet how much greater he would have been had he understood them; had he studied even one Puritan lovingly and depicted him sympathetically. For the fanatic is one of the hinges which swing the door of the modern world. Shakespeare's "universal sympathy"--to quote Coleridge--did not include the plainly-clad tub-thumper who dared to accuse him to his face of serving the Babylonish Whore. Shakespeare sneered at the Puritan instead of studying him; with the result that he belongs rather to the Renaissance than to the modern world, in spite even of his Hamlet. The best of a Wordsworth or a Turgenief is outside him; he would never have understood a Marianna or a Bazarof, and the noble faith of the sonnet to "Toussaint l'Ouverture" was quite beyond him. He could never have written:

  "Thou hast left behind

Powers that will work for thee, air, earth and skies; There's not a breathing of the common wind That will forget thee; thou hast great allies; Thy friends are exultations, agonies, And love, and man's unconquerable mind."

It is time to speak of him frankly; he was gentle, and witty; gay, and sweet-mannered, very studious, too, and fair of mind; but at the same time he was weak in body and irresolute, hasty and wordy, and took habitually the easiest way out of difficulties; he was ill-endowed in the virile virtues and virile vices. When he showed arrogance it was always of intellect and not of character; he was a parasite by nature. But none of these faults would have brought him to ruin; he was snared again in full manhood by his master-quality, his overpowering sensuality, and thrown in the mire.

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