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considerable confidence in dealing with other hypotheses resting on no more sure foundation, treats it as a fact established beyond controversy. It is necessary, however, to draw a strict line between the imaginary and the authentie biography of Shakspeare; and to exhibit clearly the nature of the data upon which speculations of this kind are based. So little is really known of the early life of Shakspeare, that there is ample room for the exercise of fancy; but too much caution cannot be observed in attempting to fill the blank by hints drawn from his writings. The universality of his genius, and that intuitive knowledge which he seemed to possess of almost every art and occupation, as of every phase of human experience, manifestly render such experiments hazardous and delusive. If he has not illustrated other callings as fully as that of the law, the language of which enters, more or less, into the ordinary affairs of life, he has shown at least a similar familiarity with their technical details ;

and the same line of reasoning which led Malone to infer that he had been employed in an attorney's office, might be extended with equal justification over an indefinite range of occupations by sea and land.

Of the interval between Shakspeare's removal from school and his marriage, which took place in the latter part of 1582, when he was eighteen years of age, nothing is known, except that he was engaged in his father's business. The marriage under such circumstances was sufficiently imprudent; but there is no reason for concluding that it was entered into without the knowledge of his family. Anne Hathaway was the daughter of Richard Hathaway, a farmer living at the village of Shottery, in the neighbourhood of Stratford. She was born in 1556, and was, consequently, eight years older than Shakspeare. The families had long been on terms of intimacy, and the attachment between the poet and his bride, who is said to have been beautiful, grew up probably in their childhood. The bondsmen whose names appear in the marriage bond were respectable inhabitants of Stratford, and the seal used at its execution bears the initials R. H.; circum

stances which seem to imply that the union was sanctioned by responsible friends on both sides. The place where the marriage was celebrated has not been traced. There is no entry of it in the Stratford register. All that has been further recorded of the domestic life of Shakspeare during the short period he remained in Stratford after his marriage is discovered in the baptismal entries. A daughter, Susannah, was born in May, 1583; and in January, 1584-5, the family was increased by twins, Hamnet and Judith. Not long subsequently to this time, in 1585 or 1586, Shakspeare quitted his native town for the metropolis, leaving his wife behind him.

The cause of his departure has been generally ascribed to a youthful indiscretion which brought him under the displeasure of Sir Thomas Lucy, of Charlecote, near Stratford. The tradition is related in detail by Rowe, who states that Shakspeare had fallen into the company of some wild young men, who were in the habit of stealing deer from the neighbouring preserves, and who prevailed upon him, on more than one occasion, to join them in their depredations in the park at Charlecote. The result was, that he was prosecuted by Sir Thomas Lucy with considerable severity; for which Shakspeare is said to have taken ample revenge in a satirical ballad, a fragment of which has been preserved by Oldys. The story is corroborated in its essential particulars by other authorities; and no doubt can be entertained that, whatever may be the exact amount of truth in it, the tradition has long been current in Stratford. The portraits Shakspeare has drawn of silly justices of the peace, and the zest with which he exposes their petty tyranny, pomp, and ignorance, independently of certain passages supposed to have a special allusion to Sir Thomas Lucy, are referred to as evidences of the feelings generated in his mind by the harshness with which he was treated, or threatened, by the proprietor of Charlecote.

Having resolved to seek his fortune in London, the particular pursuit upon which he cast himself, if not determined by the instinct of his genius, was, probably, suggested by the frequent opportunities he had enjoyed of witnessing theatrical representations in his youth. There was scarcely a year in which one company or another, belonging to Lord Leicester, Lord Worcester, Lord Warwick, or some other nobleman, did not appear at the Guildhall. It was usual for the mayor to order a performance at his own expense, or at the expense of the corporation, throwing open the entertainment to the townspeople; and numerous entries in the chamberlain's accounts inform us of the amount of the largess bestowed upon the actors. In one year the Queen's players received nine shillings, and the Earl of Worcester's one; and at another time Lord Shandowe's players were paid three shillings and fourpence, which seems to have been the average sum for an evening's performance. At these free entertainments Shak. speare's enthusiasm was awakened, and the passion they inspired led him at once to the door of the theatre on his arrival in the metropolis.

His first employment, according to a writer who traces the anecdote up to Sir William Davenant, was that of holding gentlemen's horses at the doors of the playhouse, an avocation in which he showed so much diligence that his business rapidly increased, and he was obliged at last to hire boys to assist him. This story has evidently been augmented in its descent, and is in other respects improbable. Having sought out the theatre as a means of subsistence, Rowe's statement, that he was received into the company in a very mean rank, perhaps as call-boy to the performers, or serviture' to one of the actors, is better entitled to credit. It is in the highest degree likely that he obtained access to the stage at once through the introduction of some of the players he had become acquainted with on their annual visits to Stratford.

Certain it is that, however subordinate may have been the situation in which he first became connected with the playhouse, his progress to eminence was rapid. Unfortunately no means of exhibiting the course of that progress exist ; and from the moment he left his native town, until he secured fame and fortune, and returned to it again, the chief materials for his biography consist in the catalogue of his productions, and the scanty, and frequently obscure, allusions of his contemporaries.

The earliest authentic notice that occurs of him is found in a pamphlet called A Groat's worth of Wit bought with a Million of Repentance, published in 1592, at least six years after he had been settled in London. The whole history of the interval, or rather all that we are now likely to learn of that history, is here comprised in a single paragraph. The Groať s worth of Wit was written shortly before his death by Greene, the dramatist, and was immediately afterwards prepared for the press by Chettle. Broken down by a life of abandoned profligacy, Greene seems to have contemplated an act of atonement in his last hours, and to have written this tract as a warning to his friends and boon companions, Marlowe, Lodge, and Peele, to amend their lives, and, profiting by the misery of his example, to relinquish the thankless labour of catering for the theatre. After describing the players as puppets that speak from the mouths of the dramatists, 'antics garnished in our colours,' he goes on: 'Is it not strange that I, to whom they have all been beholding; is it not like that you, to whom they have all been beholding, shall (were ye in that case that I am now) be both of them at once forsaken? Yes, trust them not; for there is an upstart crow beautified with our feathers, that with his tiger's heart wrapped 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 Shake-scene in a country. The reference to Shakspeare in this passage is unmistakeable; and the sequel to it possesses a still stronger personal interest. Marlowe and Shakspeare were offended at the freedom which had been taken with them in this pamphlet; and Chettle, in the preface to a work he published a few months afterwards, took occasion to make an amende to Shakspeare for the share he had in bringing Greene's tract before the public. Speaking of Marlowe and Shakspeare, he says:-With neither of them that take offence was I acquainted, and with one of them (Marlowe] I care not if I never be: The other, [Shakspeare,] whom at that time I did not so much spare as since I wish I had, for that, as I have moderated the heat of living writers, and might have used my own discretion, especially in such a case, the author being dead, that I did not I am as sorry as if the original fault had been my fault, because myself have seen his demeanour no less civil than he excellent in the quality he professes. Besides, divers of worship have reported his uprightness of dealing, which argues his honesty, and his facetious grace in writing, which approves his art.'

From these passing references we gather several important particulars concerning the occupations and character of Shakspeare. It is clear that in 1592 Shakspeare was both actor and dramatist, and that he had been employed in remodelling for the stage pieces written by Peele and others. The prominence given to him by Greene implies that he had already acquired a position of influence in the theatre; and it may be inferred that, independently of original authorship, or of extensive revisions of the plays of others, he exercised a control over the new pieces submitted for representation-a function which was more likely than any other to excite the jealousy of his brother dramatists. This slight allusion to him by Chettle is valuable as a contemporary testimony. It agrees with other accounts in showing that the highest genius was not incompatible in Shakspeare with integrity and prudence in the common business of life.

The status he held as an actor cannot be satisfactorily ascertained. Rowe says that he never got beyond the Ghost in Hamlet, and Wright tells us that he heard he was a better poet than actor ; but other authorities, some of them nearer to the time of the poet, warrant the belief that he played a variety of parts, and achieved a considerable success in them. Aubrey affirms that he acted exceedingly well;' and his contemporary, Davies, alludes to his playing 'kingly parts,' which is in some measure confirmed by a current tradition that

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