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Forestier, A. (Amédée) / William Shakespeare His Homes and Haunts
.
(Illustration images generously made available by The
Internet Archive/American Libraries.)









SHAKESPEARE


THE PILGRIM BOOKS




WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE




THE PILGRIM BOOKS

_General Editor_--

S. L. BENSUSAN

1. SHAKESPEARE
2. LAMB
3. WORDSWORTH

_Others in Preparation_



=THE ELY PALACE PORTRAIT AT SHAKESPEARE'S BIRTHPLACE=




WILLIAM
SHAKESPEARE

HIS HOMES AND HAUNTS


BY
S.L. BENSUSAN

WITH TWELVE DRAWINGS IN CRAYON BY
A. FORRESTIER
AND FOUR PORTRAITS

LONDON: T. C. & E. C. JACK
16 HENRIETTA STREET, W.C.
AND EDINBURGH




HUNC LIBELLUM

REVERENDISSIMO

M. GASTER, PH.D.

VIRO ERUDITISSIMO

PRAECEPTORI PERITISSIMO

AMICO FIDELISSIMO

MAGNA CUM REVERENTIA

D.D.D.

OLIM DICIPULUS




CONTENTS

CHAP. PAGE

I. STRATFORD-ON-AVON 1

II. THE POET'S YOUTH 8

III. NATURE ROUND STRATFORD AND SHOTTERY 15

IV. FIRST DAYS IN LONDON 20

V. SHAKESPEARE'S LONDON 24

VI. THE STAGE IN SHAKESPEARE'S DAY 28

VII. SHAKESPEARE'S EARLY PLAYS 35

VIII. THE ELIZABETHAN TAVERNS 41

IX. THE MIDDLE PERIOD 46

X. THE LATEST PLAYS 50

XI. BACK AGAIN IN STRATFORD 55

XII. THE POET'S DOMESTIC LIFE 64

XIII. STRATFORD AS IT WAS 72

XIV. THE CLOSE OF LIFE 81




LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

THE ELY PORTRAIT AT SHAKESPEARE'S BIRTHPLACE _Frontispiece_

THE HOME OF JOHN SHAKESPEARE, SNITTERFIELD _Facing p._ 4

ANNE HATHAWAY'S COTTAGE--INTERIOR " 12

MARY ARDEN'S COTTAGE " 16

THE EARL OF SOUTHAMPTON " 20

ANNE HATHAWAY'S COTTAGE " 24

GUILD CHAPEL AND SCHOOL " 28

HOLY TRINITY CHURCH AND THE AVON, STRATFORD " 32

BEN JONSON " 36

CHARLECOTE HALL " 40

INTERIOR OF ST. SAVIOUR'S AT SOUTHWARK " 44

THE FIRST GLOBE THEATRE " 48

MICHAEL DRAYTON " 52

THE MERMAID INN " 64

SHAKESPEARE'S HOUSE, STRATFORD-ON-AVON " 72

SHAKESPEARE MEMORIAL THEATRE, STRATFORD-ON-AVON " 80




PREFACE


In telling the story of Shakespeare's life and work within strict limits
of space, an attempt has been made to keep closely to essential matters.
There is no period of the poet's life, there is no branch of his
marvellous work, that has not been the subject of long and learned
volumes, no single play that has not been discussed at greater length
than serves here to cover the chief incidents of work and life together.
If the Homes and Haunts do not claim the greater part of the following
pages, it is because nobody knows where to find them to-day. Stratford
derives much of its patronage from unsupported traditions, the face of
London has changed, and though we owe to the painstaking researches of
Dr. Chas. Wm. Wallace the very recent discovery that the poet lodged
with a wig-maker named Mountjoy at the corner of Silver and Monkwell
Streets in the City of London, much labour must be accomplished before
we shall be able to follow his wanderings between the time of his
arrival in and departure from the metropolis.

For the purposes of this little book many authorities have been
consulted, and the writer is specially indebted to the researches of Dr.
Sidney Lee, the leading authority of our time on Shakespeare, and the
late Professor Churton Collins.




WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE



CHAPTER I

STRATFORD-ON-AVON


To read the works of a great master of letters, or to study the art of a
great painter, without some first-hand knowledge of the country in which
each lived and from which each gathered his earliest inspiration, is to
court an incomplete impression. It is in the light of a life story and
its setting, however slight our knowledge, that creative work tends to
assume proper proportions. It is in the surroundings of the author that
we find the key to the creation. For, as Gray has pointed out in his
"Elegy written in a Country Churchyard," there are many in the dust and
silence whose hands "the rod of Empire might have swayed, or waked to
ecstasy the living lyre."

We know that it is not enough to have the creative force dormant in the
mind; environment must be favourable to its development, or it will
sleep too long. We see in the briefest survey of the lives of the poet,
the statesman, the soldier and the artist, that there are many great
ones who would have been greater still were it not that then, as now,
"man is one and the fates are three."

To study the life history of a man and to consider its setting is to
understand why he succeeded and how he came to fail, and our wonder at
his success will not be lessened when we find that some simple event,
favourable or untoward, was the deciding factor in a great life. The
hour brings the man, but circumstances mould him and chance leads him to
the fore, unless it be true that "there's a Divinity that shapes our
ends, rough hew them how we will." In our own time we have seen how the
greatest empire-builder of Victorian history, Cecil John Rhodes, came
into prominence because he was sent to South Africa for the cure of weak
lungs. And, looking back to the life and times of William Shakespeare,
who has summed up for so many of his fellow-countrymen, and still more
strangers, the whole philosophy of life, we shall see that he became
articulate through what he may have reasonably regarded as mischance.

Out in the autumn fields, the pigeon and the squirrel, to say nothing of
other birds and beasts, hunt for acorns to eat or store. On the road to
roost or storehouse many are dropped. Of these no small number fall on
waste ground; a few take root, only to be overgrown or destroyed before
they reach the beginnings of strength. But here and there an acorn drops
on favourable soil; the rich earth nourishes it; the germ, when it has
lived on all the store within the shell, can gather its future needs
from the ground. Little roots and fibres pierce the soil; a green twig
rises to seek the sun; there are long years of silent precarious growth,
and then the sapling stage is passed and a young tree sends countless
leaves to draw nourishment from air and sky. Following this comes the
time when no storm can uproot the tree that a hungry rabbit might have
destroyed in days past--something has come to complete maturity and has
developed all the possibilities that were equally latent in so many
million acorns to which growth was denied. As it is with plants, so it
is with men, and thus it becomes permissible to compare literature with
a forest wherein are so many trees, so many saplings, and so much dense
undergrowth, from which trees of worth and beauty may one day spring. In
our national forest there is an oak that first saw life in the year
1564. There are many older trees of splendid worth, but this is the one
which stands alone. What manner of soil nourished it? Whence came its
strength? This little work is a brief attempt to set the well-known
answer down again in a form that may offer a certain convenience in
point of size and selection to lovers of a great poet.

When we read Shakespeare's plays for the first time, it is at once
apparent that the poet was a countryman. He has the knowledge, founded
upon close observation, that we associate with the highly intelligent
dweller in the countryside, the man or woman from whom the poet differs
merely in his supreme capacity for expression. We turn again to his
scenes of city life to find he is no less at home there. It is quite
another world, but he has fathomed it; quite another company of men, but
he has gauged their strength and weakness, the pathos and humour of
their lives. He deals with rulers and courts, and his touch is as sure
and faithful as before; his genius has taught him that kings and queens
are men and women like the rest of us, that environment cannot alter
fundamental characteristics, that royalty is swayed by the same forces
that rule the lives of lesser men.

Only when he deals with foreigners the poet of Avon is often an
unconscious humorist, for his store of geography is inadequate to meet
the small demands upon it, and some of his simple errors, such as "the
seashore of Bohemia," excite our kindly laughter now. But it is easy to
see that the poet's habit of accurate observation was established in the
country and that he applied to the larger life of London the self-taught
methods he had acquired in the little town of his birth.

It is on this account that the minds of his admirers turn to
Stratford-on-Avon, and the footsteps of enthusiasts are directed, year
in, year out, to the pleasant county of Warwickshire. In and around
Stratford we can keep company with the poet in his earliest and latest
days; nor can the bustling crowds of tourists from all parts, the
clamour of innkeepers and coach-drivers, the ever-present determination
to turn a national genius to profitable account, stir our deep content.
Men and public places have changed, but the country is as it was when
William Shakespeare, poor and little known, was gathering the stores of
knowledge and habit of thought that were to lift him to heights no
following Englishman has scaled.


=THE HOME OF JOHN SHAKESPEARE--SNITTERFIELD=


The wayfarer coming into Stratford for the first time to pay his mute
tribute to the poet who seems destined to live as long as our
civilisation, will enjoy a pleasant impression if he chance to have
chosen a fine day and to have reached the town by the road. Stratford
lies on the right bank of the river Avon, a beautiful river whose waters
flow peacefully over the level land on their way from Naseby to the
Severn. The town was happily planned of old time, and owed its inception
to the establishment of a monastery shortly after the Anglo-Saxon began
to take an interest in Christianity. It is clear that Stratford enjoyed
three centuries of comparative peace, if not of substantial progress,
before Norman William and Saxon Harold met at Senlac; echoes of that
fray could not have pierced to the little town on Avon's banks. Nor have
the subsequent centuries done much to disturb its natural seclusion.

The hand of the builder has raised streets of prosperous shops and
new-built villas; small hotels abound; there is a bustling railway and a
sleepy canal. A Memorial Theatre overlooks the river, and cyclists pass,
not singly but in battalions, along peaceful roads leading to Birmingham
or Warwick. Throughout the summer season Stratford-on-Avon becomes a
metropolis "whereunto the tribes of men assemble." To "do Stratford" is
an article of faith with American visitors, even if they have no more
than a week in which to master the wonders of Great Britain and Ireland.
Germany sends many admirers, for nowhere is Shakespeare's genius more
widely recognised, more highly esteemed, than in that country. London
and the big midland towns of England send visitors daily.

Let it be suggested, with all due respect to those who think otherwise,
that there is no reward for those who seek to discover Shakespeare's
land in the course of a few hours' hurried travel. They will see
Shakespeare's alleged birthplace, and the room in which he is said,
without much authority, to have been born. They will pass through the
Museum, Library, and Picture Gallery; they may even admire the rather
poor monument in Holy Trinity Church, and perhaps a few other sights
that the town affords; and then, with a welter of confused impressions,
will return whence they came. There is no reward for this frenzied
exercise; it is impossible to gather any impression of the scenes in
which the poet passed his early and later days, from a hurried scamper
through the town and a frank acceptance of local traditions, concerning
which some of our leading Shakespearian scholars have much destructive
critical comment to offer. He who wishes to establish some manner of
association with the poet must enter Stratford as the poet left it--by
the road. He should leave the railway and walk in from Warwick, find
quiet lodgings, of which there is no lack, in the town, and visit in
turn the highways and by-ways of Stratford, Snitterfield, Wilmcote,
Aston Clinton, Shottery, Wotten Wawens, Charlecote, and a dozen other
points of interest, of which he will learn when he has definitely left
the ranks of excursionists and has made friends among the people of
Shakespeare's countryside. He will not add a jot to our knowledge of
country or people--a hundred pens have said all there is to say--but he
will come away with a measure of appreciation and recognition that will
make the significance of the poet, as an interpreter of a life that
never changes, far more vital and true. Here is no small reward for a
truly delightful holiday in country full of the best traditions of rural
England. And the intelligent visitor will be one with the great lovers
of Shakespeare, living and dead, from Ben Jonson, Michael Drayton, and
Milton down to Matthew Arnold and our own contemporaries, even though
his contribution to the poet's praise be no more than a little note in a
private diary. His journey will open a fresh field of literary research,
if he be not already a student of Elizabethan literature. He will be
enrolled on the long and unexhausted list of pilgrims to the shrine of
the country's greatest poet, the man whose thoughts have lost nothing of
their depth and beauty in the slow passage of three eventful centuries.




CHAPTER II

THE POET'S YOUTH


In these days, when biographies of nobody in particular are as the sand
upon the seashore for multitude, and the demand for personal paragraphs
is seemingly well-nigh as great as the supply, we have some occasion to
regret the absence of similar craving in the spacious times of Queen
Elizabeth. If there had been a daily, weekly, or monthly publication
that submitted famous men to the ordeal of the interview, we might
pardon the glut of our latter day. Unhappily for our desire to know what
manner of man Shakespeare was, the available records are exceedingly
scanty, or are at least insufficient for our legitimate needs, and we
are face to face with the initial difficulty that in the sixteenth
century Shakespeare's name was quite common. From Cumberland down to
Warwickshire there was probably no county in which a William Shakespeare
could not have been found for the searching, and this fact is
accountable for many curious mistakes that have been made by students
and biographers. In Warwickshire alone there were more than a score of
families bearing the surname in the sixteenth century, and half as many
again in the following century, when the name was one to conjure with.
The poet's father, John Shakespeare, who was a native of Snitterfield
and moved to Stratford in the middle of the sixteenth century, to carry
on what would seem to have been the business of a big store-keeper,
applied for a right to bear arms towards the century's close, and made
certain claims on behalf of ancestors. But the opinion of competent
critics is that John Shakespeare was as capable of drawing the long-bow
as he was of selling general stores, and that he was closely connected,
from a mental standpoint, with the successful tradesmen of our day who,
having proved fortunate business men, seek to confer upon themselves
such advantage as a dubious pedigree may assure. We cannot, then, accept
the version of his family history that satisfied the complaisant
Heralds' College.

The chief difference between our modern Arms-seekers and John
Shakespeare is that they are moneyed tradesmen and he was not. The early
days of his commercial career were comparatively prosperous, and he
found time to serve the borough of Stratford in many offices, including
those of ale-taster, burgess, petty constable, borough chamberlain, and
chief alderman. He married Mary Arden of Wilmcote near Stratford, the
marriage taking place in Wilmcote's parish church at Aston Clinton, and
William was the third child of the union. The poet's registration in the
parish records at Stratford is dated April 26, 1564. The place of his
birth is generally assumed to be the house in Henley Street purchased by
John Shakespeare a year before his marriage, and we are told that he
was born in a certain room on the first floor. Here again contemporary
criticism may make some people regret the loss of the sixpence that was
demanded before the scene of the birth could be surveyed; but, after
all, there is much saving grace in a tradition, and whether the place be
all it is alleged to be or less, little harm is done. Suffice it that
thousands, gifted with faith and sixpences, have visited the room,
ceilings and windows bear countless traces of the desire that besets the
most commonplace people to deface walls with their uninteresting names.
Shakespeare's alleged birthplace is a charming little residence enough,
with dormered roof and penthouse entrance, and sixpence is a small price
to pay for a pleasant illusion.

In the very early days of the poet's life the _res angusta domi_ had not
yet begun to trouble his father, who was appointed Bailiff of the
Stratford Corporation in 1568, and Chief Alderman three years later. In
1575 he bought a house in Henley Street, and no less an authority than
Dr. Sidney Lee, whose researches command the respect of all, believes
that this house is the one in which the poet is now said to have been
born. It would seem that John Shakespeare's prosperity received a rude
shock soon after the date of their purchase, for in 1578 and 1579 he was
mortgaging his wife's property at Wilmcote and Snitterfield, and
gradually the once wealthy man fell from power and place. Creditors
pursued him, and he lost his standing in the Corporation.

In the meantime William was receiving his early training at Stratford
Grammar School, and picked up more than a smattering of French and
Latin, with perhaps a little Italian as well. That his school life or
home life was closely associated with Bible reading and study is proved
by the readiness with which he turns to Scripture for graphic and
concise expression of a thought, or for the purpose of an apt
comparison. But he was destined to learn in a larger and rougher school
than that of King Edward's foundation at Stratford. His leisure came to
an abrupt end when he had just entered his teens and his father told him
to look after one of his failing businesses. So the brightest genius of
English poetry became, while yet a boy, a butcher or a butcher's
assistant, and for some four or five years passed an uneventful life in
Stratford under conditions that might well have coarsened and spoilt
him. Happily the exquisite surroundings of the little town, and his own
response to them, made a somewhat sordid occupation possible; but of his
daily life and steady growth in the most impressionable period of his
career no reliable details have reached us.

To his associates in the old Warwickshire home he was no more than the
clever, precocious eldest son of an alderman who had seen better days.
He went his own way, and may be supposed to have lived a somewhat free
life, for before he was nineteen he appears to have found himself
compelled to marry one Anne Hathaway of Shottery in the parish of Old
Stratford. Her father had died rather more than a year before her
marriage; she was twenty-six years of age, and had inherited by will a
sum amounting in the currency of the day to a little less than 7,
rather more than 50 of our money. The marriage would seem to have been
hurried and irregular, and though it may have followed a formal and
binding betrothal of a kind that had more sanction then than now, the
poet's first child--his daughter Susanna--was born less than six months
later. It was not a fortunate union. Twins were born to William and Anne
Shakespeare in 1585, and then all record of the home life closes for a
long period. Some of Shakespeare's biographers think that the poet had
run away to London before the year closed, and that for more than a
decade he did not return to the town without taking care that his
presence should not be noticed. We do not know how strained his marital
relations had become, but we may assume that his home was not a happy
one, for in the early days of his union he ran risks that most young
married men would avoid for the sake of wife and family.

It seems clear that the story of his poaching expeditions in Charlecote
or Fulbroke Parks is not a mere legend unsupported by facts. Sir Thomas
Lucy, the owner of Charlecote Park, was of course a game preserver, and
Shakespeare must have thought that poaching was a reasonable pastime
enough. He dared "do all that may become a man," and the penalty of
exciting the wrath of a great landowner and game preserver was no less
then than now. Sir Thomas was angry; the poet is said to have written a
vulgar, bitter lampoon, still preserved, and affixed a copy to the
gates of Charlecote. The response was a persecution that made Stratford
too hot to hold a greater man than all the big sportsmen from Nimrod's
day to ours, and William Shakespeare left wife and children and vanished
from the old town's ken. Some think he lived in neighbouring towns or
villages awhile, and found work as a schoolmaster. There was an idea
that he went for a time as a soldier to the Low Countries under the Earl
of Leicester, whose splendid pageants in honour of a visit from Queen
Elizabeth may have inspired some of the fantasy of "A Midsummer Night's
Dream."


=ANNE HATHAWAY'S COTTAGE--INTERIOR=


Doubtless there was a Shakespeare or two in Lord Leicester's regiment;
the name was a common one enough; but it was no part of the poet's
experience "to trail a pike in Flanders." Directly or indirectly, he was
on the high road to London, and Sir Thomas Lucy was to find his claim to
immortality in the pursuit of a young poacher and in the poacher's
creation of Mr. Justice Shallow of Gloucestershire, whose foolishness,
suggested in "Henry IV." (Part II., Act iii. sc. 2), is still further
emphasised in the "Merry Wives of Windsor," where he figures as one who
has come to make a Star Chamber matter out of Sir John Falstaff's
poaching. His complaint will be remembered. "Knight, you have beaten my
men, killed my deer, and broken open my lodge ... the council shall know
this."

There has been no lack of determined effort among the poet's countless
biographers to give the lie direct to every story that does not cast
credit upon his youth. Because he was a great man, many people require
his history to be written in a fashion that shall lessen, ignore, or
deny his weaknesses. There can be no valid reason for pursuing such a
course, for we know that the rule of art is not the rule of morals, and
that while a very good poet may be a very bad man, a very worthy man may
be a vile poet. The apologists have picked out the finest moral thoughts
in the plays and poems and declared that he who could conceive them
could not have been less than a saint. They might as well pick out the
countless villains of the tragedies and declare that he who presented
them must have been a sinner. Truth to tell, the question is one of no
importance. Shakespeare was in some respects a man like the majority of
men; in other regards he stands alone. Only in this latter aspect have
we any occasion to consider him. We have neither the right, the
capacity, nor the data by which to sit in judgment; but it is hardly
honest to withhold reports, that seem to be well founded, because they
do not flatter the youthful career of a great man. In his own "Henry
IV." and "Henry V." Shakespeare shows how the recklessness of youth is
not incompatible with sound living and a high standard of morality and
common sense in the days of responsibility.




CHAPTER III

NATURE ROUND STRATFORD AND SHOTTERY


We find Shakespeare, just out of his teens, travelling on the road to
London, and it is worth while to see what equipment and what resources
he is taking to the metropolis. It is safe to assume that he has no
money, and that his local reputation is not one of the very best, though
the worst to be urged against him is that he has loved not wisely but
too well--and this fault has not been too clearly substantiated--and
that he has ignored the game laws, as so many men had done before, have
done since, and will do as long as these laws exist.

The early life of a truly imaginative man had been passed in the most
beautiful surroundings that rural England can provide, and by reason,
perhaps, of the lack of restrictions, had helped him to enlarge his
experiences and develop all the facets of a luminous mind. The
expression is chosen deliberately. Man's mind is like a diamond, and
experience is the lapidary. Every action, every stroke of good fortune
or of bad, leaves its definite mark; every association does the same. As
a boy Shakespeare lived in close touch with Nature. His father's
business would have brought him into contact with farmers, given him
the freedom of their fields, taught him the significance of the seasons.
Even now, when glimpses of Elizabethan England are few and far between,
we are touched by the supreme peace that still broods over land on which
the old-time houses, with their thatched roofs or well-worn tiles, their
ingle nooks, their dormer windows, their oak rafters and their many
gables, tell of a time when the jerry-builder was not and the suburban
villa had not yet come into being. It was an age of beauty, and the
walks round Stratford remain beautiful to this hour, despite the growth
of villadom and the advent of the railway line.

We can follow the roads that Shakespeare knew, to the woods of his
poaching exploits, and the meadows over which he passed to thatched,
half-timbered Shottery, where the village inn was still standing when
men, now middle-aged, were born. Rustic gardens, white-blossomed
orchards, tiny brooks beloved by the kingfisher, trees that may have
seen the courting of the poet and his wife, still remain to tell the
story of England's unchanging charm. In the spring and early summer
there is such an atmosphere about the countryside as George Meredith has
created in his "Richard Feverel" when Richard and Lucy meet in "the very
spring-tide of their youth." Doubtless there are other regions in
plenty, scattered through the length and breadth of our fascinating
English country, wherein the attractions are hardly less than here; but
Shakespeare's genius has hallowed Stratford for us, because that
particular countryside made him a poet and sent him to London, full of
such inspiration as has not fallen to any other Englishman even in times
when the literary activity of the age has been at its highest point.


=MARY ARDEN'S COTTAGE=


It may be suggested in passing that much of the early romance associated
with Anne Hathaway's cottage is spurious, and the worthy people who tell
of the poet's courtship there overlook the fact that his relations with
his wife were clandestine and his marriage almost a secret union. But
the cottage itself is beautiful enough to account for the enthusiastic
departure from the path of truth, if not to justify it.

Lying on the left as you come out of Stratford to Shottery, past the
post-office, to the "Bell Inn," where the road has crossed a stream, we
see the cottage, and, _horribile dictu!_ a row of modern brick-built
cottages for background! Long, thatched and creeper-covered, built upon
slabs of stone, with timber and plaster above, with tiny windows under
the thatch, surrounded by a well-filled and carefully tended garden, the
place makes a quick and enduring appeal to the imagination, even though
the legends associated with it are, for the most part, legends and
nothing more. It is easy to realise the supreme beauty of the scene that
Shakespeare knew, to understand how the lovers' secret meetings were
made all the more memorable by reason of their surroundings. The scene
and the associations went to the making of the poet; they were among the
treasures he carried up to London when he was compelled to leave
Stratford behind him and time and distance were smoothing all the little
troubles that had beset his short and uneventful life. He must have
heard Stratford and Shottery calling to him in the heart of the town,
for when his name was made and his future assured, he came back to home,
wife, and little ones to enjoy the "poor remains" of life.

On his road to and from Shottery, he would have passed "under the shade
of melancholy boughs" and watched the "guest of summer, the
Temple-haunting martlet," that built under the eaves of Anne Hathaway's
house. Doubtless to his mood of elation or depression, and to his quick
and intimate response to the wild life round him, we owe those clear
impressions that connect certain scenes and phases of our life with his
more familiar utterances. To hear the cuckoo and the nightingale to-day
in the woods round Shottery and Wilmcote is to recall some of the poet's
most inspired moods. But it is not the familiar birds alone that caught
the poet's eye and stimulated his imagination. In the days of his youth,
before he went to London, he must have studied bird life closely and
accurately. Nearly fifty wild birds find mention in his plays and poems,
and for the most part they are birds he would not have seen in London,
though in his day the metropolis was small enough, and the outer London
of his time was well-nigh as wild and wooded as the least frequented
parts of Warwickshire to-day. The halcyon or kingfisher, the
white-breasted water-ouzel, the skylark, the "ruddock" or
robin-redbreast, the wren, the green plover, the woodcock--these serve
for some of his moods; but he mentions eagle, kite, hawk, buzzard, owl,
falcon, cormorant, and a number of others, always with discretion and
with the full measure of knowledge vouchsafed to his time. Classical
lore and country superstitions are sometimes found in his references,
but the most of them point to the poet's own loving observation at a
time when there was no widespread interest in birds or beasts, unless
they had a part to play in hunting. Shakespeare's references to the
chase are accurate and suggest first-hand observation, coupled with the
keen instincts of the sportsman, and it is easy to see that the
extraordinary receptivity of his mind enabled him to take impressions
from every aspect of life.




CHAPTER IV

FIRST DAYS IN LONDON


Three hundred and twenty-four years have passed since William
Shakespeare set out to prove his fortune in London, and in those
far-away days that his genius makes so real for us the journey was long
and at times dangerous. Three days would suffice in fine summer weather,
while four or five might be required in winter time, when rivers were
swollen and fords were dangerous. Not only were roads bad, but bridges
were conspicuous by their absence. To send a letter from Stratford to
London and receive a reply to it would occupy nearly a fortnight, and
if, as some writers believe, Shakespeare had already made a certain name
by his skilled handling of other men's work when touring companies came
to his town, it is quite clear that his best chance of establishing
himself as a playwright would be found in the metropolis. Even if he had
not found trouble in his native place, he could not hope to thrive
there. It is thought that he travelled to town on foot by way of Oxford
and High Wycombe, and that once in the metropolis he sought a friend of
the family, one Richard Field of Stratford, who had left Warwickshire
seven years before, and after serving his apprenticeship to a
printer, had set up an office of his own in Blackfriars.


=THE EARL OF SOUTHAMPTON
In the National Portrait Gallery=


It is possible that he owed his introduction to the world of the London
theatre to Field, and that at one of the only two houses in the
metropolis, "The Theatre" in Shoreditch or "The Curtain" in Moorfields,
he served for a time in a very humble capacity, looking after the horses
of the men of fashion who rode to the play. The keen relish with which
he deals with the moods and thoughts of ostlers, stable-boys, and the
lower classes that frequented the stable and the theatre, lends a
certain countenance to the legend. A year later, when his friend Field
had been admitted a member of the Stationers' Company, Shakespeare found
his employment inside one of the two theatres--probably the house in
Shoreditch; some writers have said that his first work there was that of
a call-boy. It is certain, at least, that his apprenticeship was a hard
one, and that in those early days his contributions to the support of
the Warwickshire home must have been few and scanty.

When Shakespeare came to town there were some half-dozen companies of
licensed actors, that is to say, companies that enjoyed and exercised
their rights under an Act of Parliament (14 Eliz. c. 2). It said that
all actors, save those who held the licence of a peer of the realm or
other person of importance, were to be treated as rogues and vagabonds.
The company to which Shakespeare was admitted derived its rights from
the Earl of Leicester, and soon after he joined, if not before, it
passed under the support of the Earl of Derby, and in later years under
the supreme patronage of King James I., whose admiration for the poet
and his works was very large and real. James Burbage was owner of "The
Theatre," and it was in his time, we may presume, that Shakespeare acted
as ostler and call-boy. But he must have risen up from the ranks at no
small pace when his gifts became well known, for not only do we find him
a regular member of the company, but a friend of the leading members,
men like Richard Burbage, son of the proprietor, and Augustus Phillips.
And at "The Theatre" in Shoreditch he won some fame as a playwright,
though it was not at "The Theatre" but at "The Rose," a new house on the
Bankside at Southwark, that the poet's genius was to "blossom and bud
and fill the face of the world with fruit."

The close of the sixteenth century was a season of considerable activity
among actors; the destruction of the "galleons of Spain" had relieved
the country of a very real danger. Some of the leading companies
amalgamated for a time when in town; new houses were springing up. In
addition to "The Rose" there was one at Newington Butts, and in 1599 the
Burbages transplanted "The Theatre" to Bankside and called it "The
Globe." Here Shakespeare did the most of his work and made the most of
his reputation, acquiring considerable wealth the while.

James Burbage built the Blackfriars Theatre, to which Shakespeare
brought his company shortly before he retired to Stratford. He
gradually acquired certain interests in the theatres, so his profits
were not only those of actor and playwright. The wealth that was to be
his was drawn from three sources.




CHAPTER V

SHAKESPEARE'S LONDON


Of the landmarks that Shakespeare knew, the Great Fire of London
destroyed many, and Time, dealing in rather gentler fashion, has effaced
the most of those that the fire spared. A map made by Peter Van den
Keere in 1593 shows us the old London Bridge, with the Church of St.
Saviour's, then known as "St. Marye Overyes," facing the river on the
Southwark side. This church, which would have been well known to the
poet, is, with the exception of Westminster Abbey, the only ancient
example of pure Gothic architecture in London. Its earliest name would
have been St. Mary Over Rye, rye being perhaps the old name for ferry.
When it was built there could have been no London Bridge, and St. Mary's
was built upon the site of a still older priory founded by two Norman
knights. In this church one finds a stone in the centre aisle marked
"Edmond Shakespeare. Died December 1607."


=ANNE HATHAWAY'S COTTAGE=


This marks the mortal remains of a brother of the poet, said by some to
have been concerned with the business side of his undertakings, and
certainly his companion in London for some time. In St. Mary Over Rye or
St. Saviour's, King James I. of Scotland was married; here the poet
Gower, with whose works Shakespeare was undoubtedly familiar, was
buried, and his monument is a fine one with many inscriptions, including
one that describes him as "Anglorum Poeta celeberrimus." Beyond "St.
Marye Overyes" on Van den Keere's map one sees the famous "Bears House,"
and below that the "Play House," and beyond this the town merges into
gardens stretching up to "Lambeth Marsh." Across the river we see "More
Feyldes" and "Spittlefeyldes," big open spaces, and then Islington, but
there is no sign of another theatre. Had the worthy cartographer known
what was to give his map an abiding interest three centuries after its
making, he would doubtless have given more thought to the playhouses.

To-day the Church of St. Saviour's stands well-nigh smothered by
factories, shops, and small houses. London, a muddy stream, has
overflown its banks and spread on that side far into regions where birds
and beasts of the chase flew or ran in the poet's day. Tradition tells
us that the Thames sometimes rose above its boundaries and flooded the
graveyard of St. Mary's, and in like fashion the town itself has spread
beyond all limits, until the south side, within a very restricted area,
holds more than all London held in the poet's day. Doubtless the old
church fared better at the hands of the river than the town does now,
for three hundred years ago the hands of Father Thames were clean; the
river still ran sparkling under London Bridge, then a comparatively low
structure, with houses on either side of it, like the Ponte Vecchio in
Florence.

Shakespeare's London held about a quarter of a million souls, on
generous computation, and it is said that about 15 per cent. of the
number found employment and their means of livelihood on the river. The
writ of the civic authorities did not run on the south side of the
Thames, and it is to this that we owe the existence of so many houses of
amusement in Southwark. Nor were they the only ones to be placed for
choice beyond the eye of authority. The river Thames brought foreigners
by the thousand to London, adventurers from all lands, men who said with
ancient Pistol, "The world's my oyster, that I with sword will open."
London held dangerous riverside slums.

Many associations whose members were banded together for protection
against the lawful authorities throve on the south side of the Thames,
and the numbers increased as the years went past. It is a fascinating
chapter in London's life, this organised revolt against ever-growing
authority, but one with which in this place there is no lawful occasion
to deal at length. We know that when Shakespeare had settled in the
metropolis he lived for a time in Southwark, near the "Bears House"
marked on the map to which reference has been made. But he is also
assessed as the owner of property in St. Helen's, Bishopgate, where a
window given by some anonymous lover of the poet to St. Helen's Church
records the association. It is likely that Shakespeare in his acting
days took part in some of the plays given in the yard of the "Bull
Inn," then the most important hostelry in Bishopgate Street. Old "Crosby
Hall," the subject of such a prolonged discussion in the press a year or
so back, was in Bishopgate Street, and Shakespeare lays one of the
scenes there in his "Richard III." The poet's activity unites Southwark
with St.



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