- 1564 - Record of baptism.
Shakespeare's baptism is recorded in the parish church of
Stratford-upon-Avon dated April 26, 1564. The usual delay between
birth and baptism was 3-4 days, making the date of birth most likely April 22 or 23.
Since Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616, and the engraving on his
monument lists him as aged 53, it is assumed he was born on April 23.
At least, that is how scholars in the absence of any other information
have been willing to leave it. April 23 is also St. George's day,
an appropriate day for the birth of the national poet.
Facsimile of the registry of the
baptism of William Shakespeare, from
of William Shakespeare, by E. K. Chambers, vol. I, 1901,
The entry is in
Latin and reads "Gulielmus filius Johannes Shakspere" or, in
English, "William son of John Shakspere".
Jonathan Bate in
Soul of the Age notes that "There were no more than
twenty deaths [noted in the parish register of Holy Trinity
Church in Stratford-upon-Avon] in the first half of 1564, well
over two hundred in the second...the cause is duly noted in a
marginal annotation...hic incepit pestis. Here begins the
plague" (pp. 3-4).
Birth Place in Henley Street, as it appeared in 1762
Taken from J. O. Halliwell-Phillipps, Outlines of the Life of
Birthplace renedered more fancifully
from Gentleman's Magazine, 1769
Taken from The Works of William Shakespeare ed. E. K. Chambers,
- 1582 - Records of marriage.
William Shakespeare was married to Anne Hathaway on (most likely)
December 2, 1582. The facts about the marriage, however, raise a
few questions. Below is the documentary evidence. For a full
Shakespeare's Marriage Mysteries.
John Whitgift was the bishop of
Worcester from 1577 to 1583, when he was "translated" to the see
of Canterbury. Worcester was 21 miles west of Stratford, and
the consistory court there the place where a marriage license,
issued to a local parish priest, might be obtained. Whitgift's
register for the date November 27, 1582 indicates the issuance
of a license for marriage between William Shaxpere and Anne
Whateley of Temple Grafton. At the time, Shakespeare would
have been 18 years old. I reproduce the register entry below in
facsimile, from Joseph William Gray,
Shakespeare's Marriage, Chapman & Hall, 1905; followed by
the context and literal translation from
Cartae Shakespeareanae. Note that this is the entry from
the Bishop's register, not the license itself, which has not
The next day, November 28, 1582,
a marriage bond was entered into by Fulke Sandells and John
Rychardson, farmers of Shottery, Anne Hathaway's village. The
purpose of the bond was to indemnify the church in case some
later lawful impediment is found to the marriage since the banns
were only going to be pronounced once, rather than the
stipulated three times. The gentlemen in question were
friends of the Hathaway family from Shottery, and stood surety
for £40. In fact, Sandells seems to have been acting as agent
for the Hathaway family, performing the duties of father since
Richard Hathaway was recently deceased. Sandells had supervised
his will, i.e., acted as trustee, and Rychardson had witnessed
it. Richard Hathaway had been married twice. Anne was the
firstborn of four children (1556) by his first wife. His first
wife's name is unknown, but lived in Temple Grafton. His second
wife was named Joan who died about 1600. Richard Hathaway died
in September, 1581.
The bond clearly describes
intended marriage between William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway
of Stratford. I reproduce it in transcript below, from the
Cartae Shakespeareanae, the beginning paragraph in Latin
simply states the parties, amounts, date, and officers of the
diocese acting as witnesses:
Noverint universi per
praesentes nos Fulconem Sandells de Stratford in comitatu
Warwici agricolam et Johannem Rychardson ibidem agricolam,
teneri et firmiter obligari Ricardo Cosin generoso et
Roberto Warmstry notario publico in quadraginta libris bonae
et legalis monetae Angliae solvend. eisdem Ricardo et
Roberto haered. execut. et assignat. suis ad quam quidem
solucionem bene et fideliter faciend. obligamus nos et
utrumque nostrum per se pro toto et in solid. haered.
executor. et administrator, nostros firmiter per praesentes.
sigillis nostris sigillat. Dat 28 die Novem. Anno regni
dominae nostrae Eliz. Dei gratia Angliae Franc. at Hiberniae
Regime fidei defensor &c. 25.
The condicion of this
obligacion ys suche that if herafter there shall not appere
any lawfull lett or impediment by reason of any precontract,
consanguitie, affinitie or by any other lawfull meanes
whatsoever, but that Willm Shagspere one thone partie and
Anne Hathwey of Stratford in the dioces of Worcester,
maiden, may lawfully solemnize matrimony together, and in
the same afterwardes remaine and continew like man and wiffe
according unto the lawes in that behalf provided; and
moreover if there be not at this present time any action
sute quarrell or demaund moved or depending before any judge
ecclesiasticall or temporall for and concerning any such
lawfull lett or impediment; and moreover if the said Willm
do not proceed to solemnization of mariadg with the said
Anne Hathwey without the consent of hir frindes And also if
the said Willm do upon his owne proper costes and expenses
defend and save harmles the right reverend Father in God
Lord John Bishop of Worcester and his offycers for licencing
them the said Willm and Anne to be maried together with once
asking of the bannes of matrimony betwene them and for all
other causes which may ensue by reason or occasion therof
that then the said obligacion to be void and of none effect
or els to stand and abide in full force and vertue.
The bond is signed
with the marks of Sandells and Rychardson, who are described as
being "de Stratford" but were actually from Shottery. I
reproduce the marks below, from Halliwell-Phillipps The Life of
The chancellor of the diocesan
consistory court was Richard Cosin ("Ricardo Cosin") assisted by
registrar Robert Warmstry ("Roberto Warmstry"). The effect of
the bond was that the marriage might proceed "with once asking
of the bannes," as noted above, rather than asking the banns on
three succeeding weeks.
- 1583-84 Birth of Children.
From Daniel Henry Lambert,
Cartae Shakespeareanae: Shakespeare Documents; a Chronological
Catalogue of Extant Evidence Relating to the Life and Works of
William Shakespeare, G. Bell, 1904,
From Greene's Groats-worth
of Wit, 1592, the first mention in print of Shakespeare as
an established London playwright.
"for there is an vpstart
Crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his Tygers
hart wrapt in a Players hyde, supposes he is as well able to
bombast out a blanke verse as the best of you: and being an
absolute Iohannes fac totum, is in his owne conceit the
onely Shake-scene in a countrey. O that I might intreate
your rare wits to be imploied in more profitable courses: &
let those Apes imitate your past excellence, and neuer more
acquaint them with your admired inuentions. I know the best
husband of you all will neuer proue an Usurer, and the
kindest of them all will neuer seeke you a kind nurse: yet
whilest you may, seeke you better Maisters; for it is pittie
men of such rare wits, should be subiect to the pleasure of
such rude groomes.
this I might insert two more, that both haue writ against
these buckram Gentlemen: but let their owne works serue to
witnesse against their owne wickednesse, if they perseuere
to mainteine any more such peasants. For other new-commers,
I leaue them to the mercie of these painted monsters, who (I
doubt not) will driue the best minded to despise them: for
the rest, it skils not though they make a ieast at them."
Greene addresses his diatribe to
three fellow university trained scholars and playwrights ("that
spend their wits in making Plaies"). It is assumed that
the three are Marlowe (being certainly the most notorious
atheist among London playwrights), Nashe and Peele.
The useful information here is that
Shakespeare was prominent enough to provoke this sort of
jealousy from an established playwright, that he was a newcomer,
and that his country mien showed, being called a "rude groom"
- Henry Chettle's
Kind-Hearts Dreame, the superscription of which contains
Chettle's famous apology to (it is usually assumed) Shakespeare and his protestations that he, Chettle, was not the author of the Groats-worth of Wit.
From Chettle's Kind-Hearts Dream, containing his apology
to (presumably) Shakespeare for the offense taken in the Groats-worth affair.
Kind-harts Dreame. Conteining
five Apparitions, with their Invectives against abuses raigning.
Delivered by severall ghosts unto him to be publisht, after
Piers Penilesse Post had refused the carriage. Invita Invidia.
by H. C. Imprinted at London for William Wright. Date
of entry at Stationers' Hall, 8 Dec. 1592.
"About three moneths since
died M. Robert Greene, leauing many papers in sundry Booke
sellers hands, among others his Groats-worth of wit, in which a
letter written to diuers play-makers, is offensiuely by one or
two of them taken, and because on the dead they cannot be
auenged, they wilfully forge in their conceites a liuing Author:
and after tossing it two and fro, no remedy, but it must light
on me. How I haue all the time of my conuersing in printing
hindred the bitter inueying against schollers, it hath been very
well knowne, and how in that I dealt I can sufficiently prooue.
With neither of them that take offence was I acquainted, and
with one of them I care not if I neuer be: the other, whome at
that time I did not so much spare, as since I wish I had, for
that as I haue moderated the heate of liuing writers, and might
haue vsde my owne discretion (especially in such a case) the
Author beeing dead, that I did not, I am as sory, as if the
originall fault had beene my fault, because my selfe haue seene
his demeanor no lesse ciuill than he exelent in the qualitie he
professes: Besides, diuers of worship haue reported, his
vprightnes of dealing, which argues his honesty, and his
facetious grace in writting, that aprooues his Art."
There is a long tradition in
Shakespeare biography of assuming Chettle's apology is addressed
to Shakespeare, but it is certainly not certain. See
Cartae Shakespeareana No. 16.
- 1593. The dedication of Venus
and Adonis, to Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton:
The dedication to
Venus and Adonis, 1593:
TO THE RIGHT HONORABLE
Henrie Wriothesley, Earle of Southampton,
and Baron of Titchfield.
Right Honourable, I know not how I shall offend in
dedicating my unpolisht lines to your Lordship, nor how the
worlde will censure mee for choosing so strong a proppe to
support so weake a burthen, onelye if your Honour seeme but
pleased, I account my selfe highly praised, and vowe to take
advantage of all idle houres, till I have honoured you with some
graver labour. But if the first heire of my invention prove
deformed, I shall be sorie it had so noble a god-father: and
never after eare so barren a land, for feare it yeeld me still
so bad a harvest, I leave it to your Honourable survey, and your
Honor to your hearts content which I wish may alwaies answere
your owne wish, and the worlds hopefull expectation.
Your Honors in all dutie,
The work was
printed in London by Shakespeare's countryman and friend,
Richard Field. It became the most popular, best selling
long poem of the Elizabethan age, gaining for its author
notoriety as reflected in Meres' Palladis Tamia, John
Weever's epigram 22 and the Parnassus plays (for each see
below). Refer to one of the following facsimile editions
to examine the original:
- A facsimile edition of the
1593 1st quarto of Venus and Adonis via the MacPherson Library,
University of Victoria, from the
Internet Shakespeare Editions.
Shakespears Venus and Adonis, Being a Reproduction in Facsimile
of The First Edition 1593 From the Unique Copy in the Malone Collection
In The Bodleian Library, ed. Sidney Lee, 1905, from Google
Book Search, full text and PDF, 75 pages.
3rd (octavo) edition Venus and Adonis from the Rare Book
Room (Octavo) from a volume held by The
Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. The volume had previously
belonged to Malone.
From Willobie, His Avisa.
"Yet Tarquyne pluckt his glistering grape,
And Shake-speare, paints poore Lucrece rape." ...
"H. W. being sodenly affected with the contagion of a
fantasticali fit, at the first sight of A, pyneth a while in
secret griefe, at length not able any longer to indure the
burning beate of so fervent a humour, bewrayeth the secresy
of his disease unto his familiar frend W. S. who not long
before had tryed the curtesy of the like passion, and was
now newly recovered of the like infection ; yet finding his
frend let bloud in the same vaine, he took pleasure for a
tyme to see him bleed, & in steed of stopping the issue, he
inlargeth the wound, with the sharpe rasor of a willing
conceit, perswading him that he thought it a matter very
easy to be compassed, & no douht with payne, diligence &
some cost in tyme to he obtayned. Thus this miserable
comforter comforting his frend with an impossibility, eyther
for that he now would secretly laugh at his frends folly,
that had given occasion not long before unto others to laugh
at his owne, or because he would see whether an other could
play his part better then himselfe, & in vewing a far off
the course of this loving Comedy, he determined to see
whether it would sort to a happier end for this new actor,
then it did for the old player" (Cant.
The dedication to
The Rape of Lucrece, 1594:
RIGHT HONOURABLE HENRY WRIOTHESLEY,
EARL OF SOUTHAMPTON AND BARON OF TICHFIELD
The love I dedicate to your Lordship is without end, whereof
this pamphlet, without beginning, is but a superfluous moiety.
The warrant I have of your honourable disposition, not the worth
of my untutored lines, makes it assured of acceptance. What I
have done is yours; what I have to do is yours; being part in
all I have, devoted yours. Were my worth greater, my duty would
show greater; meantime, as it is, it is bound to your Lordship,
to whom I wish long life, still lengthened with all happiness.
Your Lordship's in all duty,
Field printed Shakespeare's next
long poem also. The growth in familiarity, eveny intimacy,
in comparison with the previous year's dedication to Venus
and Adonis is often noted. Many commentators feel it
is likely that Shakespeare spent some portion of the time during
which the theatres were closed by plague in 1593-94 in the
personal service of Southampton, likely at his house in
Titchfield. Certainly the Italianate influence of John
Florio, Southampton's tutor, can be seen in the play written (in
all likelihood) during or shortly after this period, Love's
Labour's Lost. Many believe that most of the Sonnets
were written between Lucrece and the end of the decade of
the 1590s. Because Shakespeare seems to have been
intimately associated with Southampton during this period, he is
the leading candidate as the young man addressed in the Sonnets.
Even if so, and Shakespeare carried on some sort of familiarity
with Southampton after 1594, there is no record of association
between the two after Southampton's imprisonment consequent to
the Essex rebellion of 1601 and the marginal role the
Shakespeare's company played in that fiasco (see my blog entry "The
Essex Rebellion and the Players" for details).
See one of the following facsimile
editions in order to examine the original document.
Shakespeares Lucrece, Being a Reproduction in Facsimile
of The First Edition 1594, ed. Sidney Lee, Oxford, 1905, from Google
Book Search, full view and PDF, 91 pages.
1594 edition from the Rare Book Room (Octavo) from a volume held by
The Bodleian Library, University of Oxford.
"Now at the Bodleian Library, this 1594 quarto of The Rape of Lucrece is
the first of seven other Shakespeare quartos inlaid in Edmund Malone’s
Volume III..." (Octavo statement of provenance). The volume is mis-dated
at the Octavo site as "1598." It should be 1594.
- The 1632 edition of
of Lucrece, from the Rare Book Room (Octavo) from a
volume held by the University of Edinburgh
Gesta Grayorum, printed in 1688 from a manuscript apparently
passed down from the 1590s is an account of the Christmas revels by the
law students at Gray's Inn in 1594. In the text reproduced below the
references to the High and Mighty Prince, Henry Prince of Purpoole, our
Prince of State, are to the mock prince crowned for the occasion from
among the students, a sort of prince of misrule. The document is
important for its clear reference to Shakespeare's company--the
players--and unmistakable references to Shakespeare's The Comedy of
Errors, performed on the night of December 28, 1594
("Innocents-Day"). The excerpt below is taken from the edition
printed for the Malone Society and edited by W. W. Greg at the
From the Gesta Grayorum:
After their Departure the
Throngs and Tumults did somewhat cease, although so much of
them continued, as was able to disorder and confound any
good Inventions whatsoever. In regard whereof, as also
for that the Sports intended were especially for the gracing
of the Templarians [i.e., law students from the Inner
Temple] it was thought good not to offer any thing of
Account, saving Dancing and Revelling with Gentlewomen; and
after such Sports, a Comedy of Errors (like to Plautus his
Menechmus) was played by the Players. So that Night was
begun, and continued to the end, in nothing but Confusion
and Errors; whereupon, it was ever afterwards called, The
Night of Errors.
Accident forting so ill, to the great prejudice of the rest
of our Proceedings, was a great Discouragement and
Disparagement to our whole State ; yet it gave occasion to
the Lawyers of the Prince's Council, the next Night, after
Revels, to read a Commission of Oyer and Terminer, directed
to certain Noblemen and Lords of His Highness's Council, and
others, that they would enquire, or cause Enquiry to be made
of some great Disorders and Abuses lately done and committed
within His Highness's Dominions of Purpoole, especially by
Sorceries and Inchantments ; and namely, of a great
Witchcraft used the Night before, whereby there were great
Disorders and Misdemeanours, by Hurly-burlies, Crowds,
Errors, Confusions, vain Representations and Shews, to the
utter Difcredit of our State and Policy.
The next Night upon this
Occasion, we preferred Judgments thick and threefold, which
were read publickly by the Clerk of the Crown, being all
against a Sorcerer or Conjurer that was supposed to be the
Cause of that confused Inconvenience. Therein was contained,
How he had caused the Stage to be built, and Scaffolds to be
reared to the top of the House, to increase Expectation.
Also how he had caused divers Ladies and Gentlewomen, and
others of good Condition, to be invited to our Sports; also
our dearest Friend, the State of Templaria, to be disgraced,
and disappointed of their kind Entertainment, deserved and
intended. Also that he caused Throngs and Tumults, Crowds
and Outrages, to disturb our whole Proceedings. And Lastly,
that he had foisted a Company of base and common Fellows, to
make up our Disorders with a Play of Errors and Confusions ;
and that that Night had gained to us Discredit, and itself a
Nickname of Errors. All which were against the Crown and
Dignity of our Sovereign Lord, the Prince of Purpoole.
The illustration above shows the
interior of Gray's Inn Hall from Shakespeare's London by
Thomas Ordish, 1904,
- 1595. Payments to Kempe,
Shakespeare and Burbage representing the Lord Chamberlain's Men.
Cartae Shakespeareanae: Shakespeare Documents; a
Chronological Catalogue of Extant Evidence Relating to the Life
and Works of William Shakespeare, by Daniel Henry Lambert,
This is a record of
payment for the acting of two comedies or interludes as part of
the Christmas festivities before the queen in 1594. The
first was acted on St. Stephens day (December 26) and the second
on Innocent's day (December 28). The 28th is probably an
error because a separate payment is recorded to the Admiral's
men for playing that day, and Shakespeare's company seems to
have been employed elsewhere that day (see "Gesta Grayorum"
above). The troupe received somewhat over 20£ for two
|From Robert Southwell's dedication to his Saint Peter's
"The Author to His Louing Cosin Master W. S."
- 1596 - Burial of Hamnet
Shakespeare, Shakespeare's only son.
August 11, Hamnet filius William Shakspere.
Hamnet and his twin
sister, Judeth, were baptized February 2, 1584-5. He
died, just 11 1/2 years later and was buried August 11,
1596 at Stratford, cause unknown. He was the poet's
only known son. (Halliwell-Phillipps,
The Life of William Shakespeare, p. 31). The twins
had been named after the Stratford baker Hamnet (or as
it is sometimes given Hamlett) Sadler and his wife
Judeth, who undoubtedly stood as godparents.
Shakespeare's relationship with Hamnet Sadler lasted a
lifetime, because he is remembered in his will with a
bequest of 26s 8d in order to purchase a memorial
ring--the same bequest left to his fellows Burbage,
Heming and Condell (see Sidney Lee,
A Life of William Shakespeare, p. 285).
For more on the death of
Hamnet Shakespeare see my
blog post on this topic.
- 1596 - Draft of Grant of Arms to
John Shakespeare. It is assumed that John Shakespeare's
successful London son, William, applied for the grant of arms, since the
elder Shakespeare was in no position to do so at this time for financial
reasons. Further, it is assumed the arms were granted, since the
Shakespeare's adopted them and they become the source of satire among
illustration is from the second draft of the grant at
the Heralds' College. The motto "Non sans droict,'
not without right. See
Cartae Shakespeareana No. 30 for details and
the further draft grant, in 1599, giving the
Shakespeares the right to impale their arms with those
- 1597 - Purchase of New Place.
New Place, the second greatest house in Stratford, was in a run down
condition when purchased by the Poet in April 1597 at what seems a
reduced price (£60)
from William Underhill. The house had belonged to the Clopton
family early in the sixteenth century.
Shakespeare querentem et Willielmum Underhill, generosum,
deforciantem, de uno mesuagio, duobus horreis, et duobus
gardinis cum pertinentiis in Stratford Super Avon unde
placitum conventions summonitum fuit inter eos in eadem
curia. Scilicet quod predictusWillielmusUnderbill recognovit predicta tenementa
cum pertinentiis esse jus ipsius Willielmi Shakespeare ut
illa quse idem Willielmus habet de dono predicti Willielmi
Underhill et illa remisit et quietumclamavit de se et
hseredibus suis predicto Willielmo Shakespeare et hseredibus
suis imperpetuum; et prseterea idem Willielmus Underhill
concessit pro se et hseredibus suis quod ipsi warantiz-
abunt predicto Willielmo Shakespeare et hseredibus suis
predicta tenementa cum pertinentiis imperpetuum: et pro hac
recognitione remissione quieta clamantia warantia fine et
concordia idem Willielmus Shakespeare dedit predicto
Willielmo Underhill sexaginta libras sterlingorum. (Pasch.
39 Eliz.)" [See
Cartae Number 32. See also the original of this
Windows on Warwickshire, where the following note is
"Not all the
documentation for this purchase has survived. This
document, known technically as an exemplification of a
fine, records a fictitious legal action the result of
which was Shakespeare's successful acquisition of the
property. This was enrolled in the records of the
central courts and could be turned up should a dispute
later arise, rather like registration today."]
A indicates the location of the
house, F the grounds and garden, where grew the famous mulberry
tree. The house eventually made its way back into the
Clopton family, who renovated it and added a new front.
Sir Hugh Clopton died there in 1751, the year it was purchased
by the infamous Rev. Francis Gastrell who pulled down the house
and uprooted the mulberry tree. It is pictured below
from that time.
From Halliwell-Phillipps, The
Life of William Shakespeare, 1848,
Shakespere's home at New Place, Stratford-upon-Avon: Being a
history of the "Great house" built in the reign of King Henry
VII, by Sir Hugh Clopton, knight, and subsequently the property
of William Shakespere, gent., wherein he lived and died,
By John Chippendall Montesquieu Bellew, Published by Virtue
brothers and co., 1863.
In 1602 a similar "fine" was
entered, this time between William Shakespeare and Hercules
Willielmum Shakespeare generosum querentem ct Herculem
Underhill generosum deforciantem, de uno mesuagio, duobus
horreis, duobus gardinis, et duobus pomariis cum
pertinentiis, in Stretford-super-Avon; unde placitum
convencionis summonitum fuit inter eos in eadem curia,
Scilicet quod predictus Hercules recognovit predicta
tenementa cum pertinentiis esse jus ipsius Willielmi, ut
illa que idem Willielmus habet de dono predicti Herculis, et
illa remisit et quieta clamavit de se et beredibus suis
predicto Willielmo et heredibus suis in perpetuum; et
preterea idem Hercules concessit, pro se et heredibus suis,
quod ipsi warantizabunt predicto Willielmo et heredibus suis
predicta tenementa cum pertinentiis contra predictum
Herculem et heredes suos in perpetuum; et pro hac re
cognicione, remissione, quieta clamancia, waranto, fine et
concordia idem Willielmus dedit predicto Herculi sexaginta
libras sterlingorum," Mich. 44 & 45 Eliz. (See
Halliwell-Phillipps, Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare,
3rd edition, 1883,
Apparently this was a formality.
According to Halliwell-Phillipps, it must have been discovered
that Hercules has a residual interest in the party and this fine
concluded the transaction so that Shakespeare would own the
title clear. The deed to the property has disappeared, so
these two surviving "fines" are not completely clear.
- 1598. Francis Meres's contemporary comments on Shakespeare from
Tamia, published 1598, which lists many of
Shakespeare's works to that date, and is invaluable in dating the plays.
Thanks to Google Book Search, reprints of the relevant sections of Palladis Tamia are now easily accessible. The
section of Palladis Tamia can be found in Smith,
Critical Essays, vol. II, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1904.
It can also be found in Haslewood, Joseph, et al.
Essays Upon English Poets and Poësy. London: Printed by Harding
and Wright for Robert Triphook, 1815, also in full view and PDF from GBS,
the relevant passage beginning on
p. 147. A transcription in HTML can be found
From Francis Meres' Palladis Tamia, listing some of
the works of Shakespeare to 1598.
As the soul of Euphorbus was thought to live in
Pythagorus, so the sweet, witty soul of Ovid lives in
mellifluous & honey-tongued Shakespeare, witness his Venus
and Adonis, his Lucrece, his sugared sonnets among his
private friends, &c.
As Plautus and Seneca are accounted the best for
comedy and tragedy among the Latins, so Shakespeare among
the English is the most excellent in both kinds for the
stage; for comedy, witness his Gentlemen of Verona, his
Errors, his Love Labours Lost, his Love Labours Won, his
Midsummer's Night Dream, & his Merchant of Venice; for
tragedy, his Richard the 2, Richard the 3, Henry the 4, King
John, Titus Andronicus, and his Romeo and Juliet.
As Epius Stolo said that the muses would speak with
Plautus' tongue if they would speak Latin, so I say that the
muses would speak with Shakespeare's fine-filed phrase, if
they would speak English.
- 1598 - The Quiney Letter. The Quineys and the Shakespeares went way
back. In 1568 John Shakespeare was elected high bailiff of Stratford
(mayor). When his term expired, he became high alderman and deputy to
the new high bailiff, his friend Adrian Quiney (d. 1607). Adrian Quiney
was a prosperous mercer and had been one of the original aldermen of
Stratford under the charter granted in 1553. His house stood on High
Street, very near the house of John Shakespeare on Henley Street.
Adrian's son Richard has the distinction of being the only known
personal correspondent of William Shakespeare. Only one letter
addressed to Shakespeare survives: the Quiney letter.
The mid-1590s were hard times for
the residents of Stratford, as they were for most English towns
in the midlands. To add to the miseries of malnutrition brought
on by poor harvests, heavy rains, and unseasonable cold,
Stratford had suffered two disastrous fires. Richard Quiney had
been elected bailiff in 1592, and represented Stratford in
London every year from 1597 to 1601. In 1598 he had traveled
there to petition the Privy Council for relief from the
Parliamentary subsidy. He stayed at the Bell, near St. Paul's,
from where he wrote the following letter to Shakespeare, asking
for a loan of 30£ to cover his own expenses, not those of the
Facsimile of the
Transcription of the letter:
Loveinge contreyman, I am
bolde of yow, as of a ffrende, craveinge yowr helpe with
xxxll uppon Mr. Bushells mid my securytee, or Mr. Myttens
with me. Mr. Rosswell is nott come to London as yeate, and I
have especiall cawse. Yow shall ffrende me muche in
helpeinge me out of all the debettes I owe in London, I
thanck God, and muche quiet my mynde, which wolde nott be
indebted. I am nowe towardes the Cowrte, in hope of answer
for the dispatche of my buysenes. Yow shall nether loose
creddytt nor monney by me, the Lorde wyllinge ; and nowe
butt perswade yowrselfe soe, as I hope, and yow shall nott
need to feare, butt, with all hartie thanckefullnes I wyll
holde my tyme, and content yowr ffreende, and yf we bargaine
farther, yow shalbe the paie-master yowrselfe. My tyme
biddes me hasten to an ende, and soe I committ thys [to]
yowr care and hope of yowr helpe. I feare I shall nott be
backe thys night ffrom the Cowrte. Haste. The Lorde be with
yow and with us all, Amen ! ffrom the Bell in Carter Lane,
the 25. October, 1598. Yowrs in all kyndenes,
loveinge good ffrend and contreyman
Mr. Wm. Shackespere deliver thees.
Reproduced from J. O.
Halliwell-Phillipps, The Life of William Shakespeare,
p. 178. Facsimile reproductions of the letter can be found
in D. H. Lambert, Cartae Shakespeareanae,
following p. 28, and at
Your Icons. In both places, it is reproduced courtesy of
the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, where it is currently held.
The facsimile given above is reproduced from J. O.
Halliwell-Phillipps, Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare,
- 1598 - Shakespeare's name for the
first time appears on the title page of a printed play.
The first appearance of
Shakespeare's name on the title page of a printed play was
the quarto publication of
Love's Labour's Lost.
The first quarto, and
only authoritative text, of Love's Labour's Lost
appeared in 1598 with the following title page:
A pleasant conceited comedie called, Loues labors
lost. As it was presented before her Highnes this last
Christmas. Newly corrected and augmented by W.
Imprinted at London: by W. W. [William White] for
Cutbert Burby, 1598.
The W. W. is thought to be William
White (d. 1615). Cuthbert Burby (d. 1607) owned the
copyright to this play and to Romeo and Juliet,
transferred on his death to Nicholas Ling.
Q1 served as the text for the Folio
printing, but it has been revised inconsistently, giving
rise to a theory of a lost Q0, but there is no other
evidence for a lost quarto (except for the "Newly corrected
and augmented" tag printer on the Title page of Q1. It is
often noted that the stage directions in Q1 are unusually
full and descriptive, indicating perhaps an absence from the
playhouse and/or a production for non-professionals. Once
again, this is only a theory.
Because it is full of inside jokes
and parodies, a case has been made for Love's Labour's
Lost having been written for a private party, probably
involving Southampton and his circle, and later adapted for
the stage. It does seem to have strong associations with
the Southampton circle, though this theory is by no means
universally accepted. Those who advance it usually place
the play in about 1593-94, in the period of Venus and
Adonis and The Rape of Lucrece, with which it has
obvious affinities. A popular theory of Shakespeare's life
has him serving as Southampton's secretary or literary
assistant during this period of closure of the public
Peter Ackroyd in his
Shakespeare: The Biography says that LLL is "so
highly allusive and ironic that it hardly seems designed for
the public playhouses...there has even been speculation that
it was first performed in Southampton House or at Titchfield.
In a ground plan for Titchfield House there is an upstairs
chamber designated as the 'Playhouse Room,' just to the left
of the main entrance...it has been variously interpreted as
a playful satire upon Southampton and his circle, upon Lord
Strange and his supporters, upon Thomas Nashe, upon John
Florio, upon Sir Walter Raleigh and the notorious 'school of
night.' There are references to a thundering rival poet,
George Chapman, and to other Elizabethan notables who are
now less well known...and it may indeed refer to all of
If indeed the play was acted for the
Southampton circle, it must later have been translated to
the Theatre repertory. It is known to have been acted
before Queen Elizabeth in 1597 (see the text on the title
page), and Southampton had it performed for the family of
King James at Southampton House in 1605.
What is definitely known is that it
appears in the list of Shakespeare's plays in Francis Meres'
in 1598. It is also (in all likeliehood) referenced in
Robert Tofte's Alba, or The Month's Mind of a Melancholy
Lover, also published in 1598: "I once did see a play
ycleped so," (see Halliwell-Phillipps, Outlines,
p. 305. The play was most likely written, therefore,
between 1593 and 1597, though may be a revision of a much
- 1599. John Weever (1576 - 1632) published
a sonnet, epigram 22, "The fourth weeke" from his
Epigrams in the oldest Cut, and newest Fashion, 1599, from C. E.
Praise of Shakespeare, 1904, from Google Book Search.
Another edition of
Epigrammes, Reprinted from the original edition with notes by R.
B. McKerrow (1922), can be found at the Internet Archive.
weeke, epigramme 22:
Shakespeare, when I saw thine issue,
I swore Apollo got them and none other;
Their rosy-tinted features clothed in tissue,
Some heaven-born goddess said to be their mother:
Rose-cheeked Adonis, with his amber tresses,
Fair fire-hot Venus, charming him to love her,
Chaste Lucretia, virgin-like her dresses,
Proud lust-stung Tarquin, seeking still to prove her:
Romeo, Richard; more whose names I know not,
Their sugared tongues, and power attractive beauty
Say they are saints, although that saints they show not,
For thousands vow to them subjective duty :
They burn in love, thy children, Shakespeare het them,
Go, woo thy Muse, more Nymphish brood beget them.
Epigrammes in the oldest Cut, and newest Fashion.
John Weever. 1599. Fourth Weeke, Epig. 22.
- 1599. Sir George Buck's encounter with
Shakespeare, ca. 1599, and George-a-Green.
Edmund Tilney had
been Elizabeth's Master of the Revels, and as such was censor
and licensor of all plays, players and playhouses in the realm,
but practically, in and around London. "But after the accession
of James the First he seems to have had a deputy in his nephew,
Sir George Buck, to whom the reversion of the Mastership had
been given by Elizabeth in 1597, and confirmed by a patent of
James on June 23, 1603" (E. K. Chambers, Notes on the History of
the Revels Office Under the Tudors,
p. 57). Buck was an avid collector of plays, and often
annotated them (see Alan Nelson's "Sir
George Buc (1560-1622): the Man who knew Shakespeare.")
In his copy of George-a-Green: The Pinner of Wakefield (1599) he
..........a minister, who acted
the pinner's part in it himself. Teste W. Shakespea[re]"
He must have
encountered Shakespeare or sought him out to get his theatrical
insider's insight into the authorship of the play. The
episode is probed in depth in Alan Nelson's "George
Buc, William Shakespeare, and the Folger George a Greene"
from Shakespeare Quarterly, April 1998.
The Pilgrimage to
Parnassus with the Two Parts of The Return from Parnassus: Three
Comedies performed in St. John's College Cambridge A.D. MDXCVII-MDCI,
Edited from MSS. by the Rev. W. D. Macray, from Google Book Search, full
view and PDF, Clarendon, 1886. These are the famous Parnassus
plays produced at Cambridge between 1598 and 1601: The Pilgrimage to
Parnassus, The Return from Parnassus, Parts 1 and 2. The
plays are interesting for their references to Shakespeare and other
contemporary authors. In The Return, Part 2 Will Kempe and Richard
Burbage appear to attempt to recruit students as actors. Of chief
interest are the attitudes of young men, echoing the sonnet by Weever
above, toward "Sweete Mr. Shakspeare." The
work can be found at the Internet Archive in many formats.
|The Return from Parnassus,
Act 3, Scene 1
Gullio. Marrie, well
remembred! I'le repeat unto you an
enthusiasticall oration wherwith my new mistris' ears were
verie lately made happie. The carriage of my body, by
the reporte of my mistriss, was excellent: I stood stroking
up my haire, which became me very admirably, gave a low
congey at the beginning of each period, made every
sentence end sweetly with an othe. It is the part of an
Oratoure to perswade, and I know not how better than to
conclude with such earnest protestations. Suppose also
that thou wert my mistris, as somtime woodden statues
represent the goddesses; thus I woulde looke amorously,
thus I would pace, thus I would salute thee.
Ingenioso. (It will
be my lucke to dye noe other death than
by hearinge of his follies! I feare this speach that's a
comminge will breede a deadly disease in my ears.)
Gullio. Pardon, faire
lady, thoughe sicke-thoughted Gullio
maks amaine unto thee, and like a bould-faced sutore '
gins to woo thee.
Ingenioso. (We shall
have nothinge but pure Shakspeare
and shreds of poetrie that he hath gathered at the
Gullio. Pardon mee,
moy mittressa, ast am a gentleman,
the moone in comparison of thy bright hue a meere slutt,
Anthonie's Cleopatra a blacke browde milkmaide, Hellen a
Romeo and Juliet! O monstrous thefta!
I thinke he will runn throughe a whole booke of Samuell
Gullio. Thrise fairer
than myselfe (—thus I began—)
The gods faire riches, sweete above compare,
Staine to all nimphes, more lovely then a man,
More white and red than doves and roses are!
Nature that made thee with herselfe had strife,
Saith that the worlde hath ending with thy life.
Ingenioso. Sweete Mr.
Gullio. As I am a
scholler, these arms of mine are long
and strong withall,
Thus elms by vines are compast ere they falle.
gentleman! youre reading is wonderfull
in our English poetts!
Gullio. Sweet Mistris,
I vouchsafe to take some of there
wordes, and applie them to mine owne matters by a
Report thou, upon thy credit; is not my vayne in courtinge
gallant and honorable ?
sanes compare, never was so mellifluous
a witt joynet to so pure a phrase, such comly gesture,
suche gentlemanlike behaviour.
Gullio. But stay!
it's verie true good witts have badd
memories. I had almoste forgotten the cheife pointe. I
cal'd thee out for new year's day approcheth, and wheras
other gallants bestovve Jewells
upon there mistrisses (as I
have done whilome) I now count it base to do as the
common people doe ; I will bestowe upon them the precious
stons of my witt, a diamonde of invention, that shall be
above all value and esteeme; therfore, sithens I am
employed in some weightie affayrs of the courte, I will have
thee, Ingenioso, to make them, and when thou hast done I
will peruse, pollish, and correcte them.
Ingenioso. My pen is
youre bounden vassall to commande.
But what vayne woulde it please you to have them in ?
Gullio. Not in a
vaine veine (prettie, i'faith!): make mee
them in two or three divers vayns, in Chaucer's, Gower's
and Spencer's and Mr. Shakspeare's. Marry, I thinke I
shall entertaine those verses which run like these;
Even as the sunn with purple coloured face
Had tane his laste leave on the weeping morne, &c.
O sweet Mr. Shakspeare! I'le have his picture in my study
at the courte.
heed, my maisters! he'le kill you with
tediousness ere I can ridd him of the stage!)
Gullio. Come, let us in! I'le eate a bit of phesaunte,
drincke a cupp of wine in my cellar, and straight to the
courte I'le goe. A Countess and twoo lordes expect mee
to day at dinner; they are my very honorable frendes ; I
muste not disapointe them.
Act 4, Scene 1
Gullio. Stay, man!
thou haste a very lecherous witt;
what wordes are these? Though thou comes somwhat neare
my meaninge yet it doth not become my gentle witt to sett
it downe soe plainlye Youe schollers are simple felowes,
men that never came where ladies growe; I that have
spente my life amonge them knowes best what becometh
my pen and theire ladishipps ears. Let mee heare Mr.
Venus, queene of beutie and of love,
Thy red doth stayne the blushinge of the morne,
Thy snowie necke shameth the milkwhite dove,
Thy presence doth this naked worlde adorne;
Gazinge on thee all other nymphes I scorne.
When ere thou dyest slowe shine that Satterday,
Beutie and grace muste sleepe with thee for aye!
Gullio. Noe more! I
am one that can judge accordinge
to the proverbe, bovem ex unguibus. Ey marry, Sir, these
have some life in them! Let this duncified worlde esteeme
of Spencer and Chaucer, I'le worshipp sweet Mr. Shakspeare,
and to honoure him will lay his Venus and Adonis
my pillowe, as wee reade of one (I doe not well remember
his name, but I am sure he was a kinge) slept with Homer
under his bed's heade. Well, I'le bestowe a Frenche crowne
in the faire writinge of them out, and then I'le instructe
thee about the delivery of them. Meanewhile I'le have
thee make an elegant description of my mistris ; liken the
worste part of her to Cynthia; make also a familiar
dialogue betwixt her and myselfe. I'le now in, and correct
Ingenioso. Why, who
coulde endure this post put into a
sattin sute, this haberdasher of lyes, this bracchidochio,
ladyemunger, this meere rapier and dagger, this cringer,
this foretopp, but a man that's ordayned to miserie! Well,
madame Pecunia, one more for thy sake will I waite on
this truncke, and with soothinge him upp in time will leave
him a greater foole than I founde him.
In The Return to Parnassus,
Act 1, Scene 2 where Judicio, the critic, is passing
judgment on various of the poetic worthies of the day, we read:
Judicio. Who loues not Adons loue, or
His sweeter verse contaynes hart throbbing line,
Could but a grauer subiect him content,
Without loues foolish lazy languishment.
For the Burbage and Kempe scenes
Act 4, Scene 3, where Kempe says:
"Why heres our fellow
Shakespeare puts them all downe, I and Ben Jonson too.
O that Ben Jonson is a pestilent fellow, he brought up
Horace giving the Poets a pill, but our fellow Shakespeare
hath given him a purge that made him beray his credit."
[Referring to the War of the Theatres]
Act 4, Scene 4, Burbage goes on to audition students for
the part of Richard III.
Diary of John
Manningham, of the Middle Temple, and of Bradbourne, Kent,
Barrister-at-Law, 1602-1603, ed. John Bruce, J. B. Nichols,
1868, from Google Book Search, full view and PDF, 188 pages.
Manningham (d. 1622) was a law student at the Middle Temple and
kept this diary during that time. The diary was first noticed for
literary purposes by J. Payne Collier,
the infamous forger, but it is one of his genuine discoveries and is not
suspect. The diary contains two famous passages, one on Twelfth
Night, dating the play, and a more famous one on Shakespeare and
Burbage. Both are given below. (Note, dates prior to March
25 were given by Manningham as in the previous year, using the old
system. They would be in the next year after the reform of the
calendar. The first date below, for example, Feb. 1601 we would
understand as Feb. 1602, thus the title of the volume as Bruce gives
|From the Diary of John
||At our feast wee had a
play called " Twelue Night, or What you Will," much like
the Commedy of Errores, or Menechmi in Plautus, but most
like and neere to that in Italian called Inganni? A good
practise in it to make the Steward beleeve his Lady
widdowe was in love with him, by counterfeyting a letter
as from his Lady in generall termes, telling him what
shee liked best in him, and prescribing his gesture in
smiling, his apparaile, &c., and then when he came to
practise making him beleeue they tooke him to be mad.
||Vpon a tyme when
Burbidge played Richard III. there was a citizen grone
soe farr in liking with him, that before shee went from
the play shee appointed him to come that night vnto hir
by the name of Richard the Third. Shakespeare
ouerhearing their conclusion went before, was
intertained and at his game ere Burbidge came. Then
message being brought that Richard the Third was at the
dore, Shakespeare caused returne to be made that William
the Conqueror was before Richard the Third.
Shakespeare's name William. (Mr. Touse.)
- 1603. Gabriel Harvey's marginialia, ca. 1603:
Harvey, scholar, intimate friend to Spenser, enemy of Nashe, a
man with his hand on the literary pulse of his time, and an
inveterate marginal annotator wrote this now famous marginalia
in his copy of Speght's Chaucer, which he signed and dated
And now translated
Petrarch, Ariosto, Tasso, & Bartas himself deserue
curious comparison with Chaucer, Lidgate, & owre best
Inglish, auncient & moderne. Amongst which, the
Countesse of Pembrokes Arcadia, & the Faerie Queene ar
now freshest in request : & Astrophil, & Amyntas ar none
of the idlest pastimes of sum fine humanists. The Earle
of Essex much commendes Albions England : and not
unworthily for diuerse notable pageants, before, & in
the Chronicle. Sum Inglish, & other Histories nowhere
more sensibly described, or more inwardly discouered.
The Lord Daniel, Mountioy makes the like account of
Daniels peece of the Chronicle, touching the Vsurpation
of Henrie of Bullingbrooke. which in deede is a fine,
sententious, & politique peece of Poetrie: as
profitable, as pleasurable. The younger sort takes much
delight in Shakespeares Venus, & Adonis : but his
Lucrece, & his tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke
haue it in them, to please the wiser sort. Or such
poets : or better : or none.
Vilia miretur vulgus :
mihi flavus Apollo
Pocula Castaliae plena ministret aquae :
quoth Sir Edward Dier,
betwene iest, & earnest. Whose written deuises farr
excell most of the sonets, and cantos in print. His
Amaryllis, & Sir Walter Raleighs Cynthia how fine &
sweet inuentions? Excellent matter of emulation for
Spencer, Constable, France, Watson, Daniel, Warner,
Chapman, Siluester, Shakespeare, & the rest of owr
florishing metricians...I have a phansie to Owens new
Epigrams, as pithie as elegant, as plesant as sharp, &
sumtime as weightie as breife..." (Gabriel
Harvey's Marginalia, G. C. Moore Smith, 1913, p.
Mention of the work that put
Shakespeare on the literary map, Venus and Adonis, could
not be avoided, but Harvey is quick to distance himself from
Shakespeare's erotic, if mellifluous, poem and stress the
opinion among graver critics that Lucrece and Hamlet are worth
serious attention. The Latin tag associated with Dier (Sir
Edward Dyer 1543-1607 most of whose poetic works are lost was
later resurrected (though now forgotten) by Alden Brooks as a
Shakespeare authorial candidate--see
Will Shakespeare and the Dyers Hand, 1943) is, of course,
from Ovid's Amores and serves as the epigraph to Venus
and Adonis, the mention of which must have put Harvey in
mind of the passage and then by transference of Dyer. [It means,
"Let vile people admire vile things; may fair haired Apollo
serve me goblets filled with Castalian water", Apollo being the
god of poetry, the Castalian springs being sacred to the
Muses--see Venus and Adonis in
The Norton Shakespeare, ed. Katharine E. Maus]. This
piece of marginialia is important as a testimony to the regard
with which Shakepseare was held by a very literate contemporary.
The fact that Harvey's Chaucer was
signed and dated 1598 does not, of course mean that he knew
Hamlet at that date. The annotation could have been made
much later and is believed to have been made in 1603.
For more on Harvey's marginalia,
and its subsequent history involving Steevens, Malone,
Halliwell-Phillipps, and Sidney Lee--all great Shakespeare
Harvey and the Wiser Sort".
- 1603 - License to Play. King James,
upon acceding to the throne, granted warrant (license) to Shakespeare's
company, formerly the Lord Chamberlain's Men, now, upon the King's
warrant, the King's Men to play anywhere in the kingdom.
Since it is sometimes
difficult to find a text of the license granted Shakespeare's
company from King James, I reproduce it here, taken from
The Life of William Shakespeare,
p. 203. The warrant bears the date May 17, 1603 and takes
Shakespeare's company into the king's service as the King's Men,
giving them the right to play in their accustomed house and to
tour within the realm.
For more, see "License
to Play" in the Mr. Shakespeare blog.
By the King. Right
trusty and welbeloved counsellor, we greete you well and
will and commaund you, that under our privie seale in your
custody for the time being, you cause our letters to be
derected to the keeper of our greate seale of England,
commaunding him under our said greate seale, he cause our
letters to be made patents in forme following. James, by the
grace of God, King of England, Scotland, Fraunce and Irland,
defendor of the faith, &c., to all justices, maiors,
sheriffs, constables, headboroughes, and other our officers
and loving subjects, greeting; Know ye, that we of our
speciall grace, certaine knowledge, and meere motion, have
licenced and authorized, and by these presentes doe licence
and authorize, these our servants, Lawrence Fletcher,
William Shakespeare, Richard Burbage, Augustine Phillippes,
John Hemmings, Henrie Condell, William Sly, Robert Armyn,
Richard Cowlye, and the rest of their associats, freely to
use and exercise the arte and faculty of playing comedies,
tragedies, histories, enterludes, moralls, pastoralls, stage
plaies, and such other like, as thei have already studied,
or hereafter shall use or studie, as well for the recreation
of our loving subjects, as for our solace and pleasure, when
we shall thinke good to see them, during our pleasure; and
the said comedies, tragedies, histories, enterludes, moralls,
pastoralls, stage plaies, and such like, to shew and
exercise publiquely to their best commoditie, when the
infection of the plague shall decrease, as well within
theire now usuall howse called the Globe, within our county
of Surrey, as also within anie towne halls, or moat halls,
or other convenient places within the liberties and freedome
of any other citie, universitie, towne or borough whatsoever
within our said realmes and dominions. Willing and
commaunding you, and every of you, as you tender our
pleasure, not only to permit and suffer them heerin, without
any your letts, hinderances, or molestations, during our
said pleasure, but also to be ayding or assisting to them yf
any wrong be to them offered; and to allowe them such former
courtesies, as hathe bene given to men of their place and
qualitie, and also what further favour you shall shew to
these our servants for our sake we shall take kindly at your
hands, and these our letters shall be your sufficient
warrant and discharge in this behalfe. Given under our
signet at our manner of Greenewiche the seavententh day of
May in the first yeere of our raigne of England, France, and
Ireland, and of Scotland the six and thirtieth.
- 1603. In 1603
John Davies of Hereford,
writing in Microcosmos of "W.S. and R. B.," most
Shakespeare and Richard Burbage, praises their qualities while lamenting
the "staine" of the stage.
|From Microcosmos (1603)
The Complete Works of John Davies of Hereford (15.. - 1618),
vol. I, p. 82, ed. A. B. Grosart, 1878.
Players, I loue yee, and
As ye are Men, that pass-time not abus'd :
And some I loue for 'painting, poesie,
And say fell Fortune cannot be excus'd,
That hath for better uses you refus'd :
Wit, Courage, good-shape, good partes, and all good,
As long as al these goods are no worse us'd,
And though the stage doth staine pure gentle bloud.
Yet generous yee are in minde and moode.
Burbage, in addition to being
the period's leading actor, was known as a painter.
|In 1604 Antony Scoloker
Daiphantus, or The Passions of Love. It can be found
Longer Elizabethan Poems, edited by that pillar of English
Renaissance studies, Arthur Henry Bullen (1903). The poem
interests us little, but the remarkable thing about it is a
reference to both "friendly" Shakespeare himself and his then
recent creation Hamlet in the introductory epistle to the
reader, which begins, fanciful flush with the printer's art:
The epistle to the reader, it
turns out, deals with epistles to readers. Eschewing the
overwrought first paragraph (that can be read at the source)
Scoloker moves on to more interesting matter:
"It [the introductory
epistle] should be like the never-too-well-read Arcadia,
where the Prose and Verse, Matter and Words, are like
his [SIDNEY'S] Mistress's eyes! one still excelling
another, and without corrival! or to come home to the
vulgar's element, like friendly SHAKE-SPEARE'S
Tragedies, where the Comedian rides, when the Tragedian
stands on tiptoe. Faith, it should please all, like
Prince HAMLET ! But, in sadness, then it were to be
feared, he would run mad. In sooth, I will not be
moonsick, to please ! nor out of my wits, though I
displease all ! What ? Poet ! are you in Passion, or out
of Love ? This is as strange as true !" (p.
Scoloker's poem itself
also makes reference to Hamlet in the context of the lunacy of
love. Here are the verses:
His breath, he
thinks the smoke ! his tongue, a coal!
Then runs for bottle-ale to quench his thirst;
Runs to his ink-pot, drinks ! then stops the hole !
And thus grows madder than he was at first.
TASSO he finds, by that of HAMLET thinks
Terms him a madman, then of his inkhorn drinks!
Calls players "fools! The Fool, he judgeth wiseth,
Will learn them action out of Chaucer's Pander,
Proves of their poets bawds, even in the highest,
Then drinks a health! and swears it is no slander."
Puts off his clothes! his shirt he only wears !
Much like mad HAMLET, thus, as Passion tears! (p.
For more, see "Antony
Scoloker: Friendly Shakespeare and Mad Hamlet" at the Mr.
1605 - Augustine
Phillips' Will. Phillips, Shakespeare's fellow among the
King's Men, died in 1605. His will can be found printed in full in
J. P. Collier's
The History of
English Dramatic Poetry to the Time of Shakespeare ; And, Annals of the
Stage to the Restoration, London: G. Bell & Sons, 1879. This is
infamous forger John Payne Collier, but the will and the information
about Phillips are reliable because they had been previously published
and can be found substantiated in other official documents. The
biography of Phillips begins on
page 321 and the will is reprinted beginning on
page 327. The will is worth reading in its entirety, but I
reproduce only the passage surrounding the appearance of Shakespeare's
name below. Phillips was a generous man, and his care for the poor
and his own apprentices is touching.
|Item, I geve and bequeathe unto
and amongste the hyred men of the company which I am of, which
shalbe at the tyme of my decease, the some of fyve pounds of
lawfull money of England, to be equally distributed amongste
Item, I geve and
bequeathe unto my fellowe, William Shakespeare, a thirty
shillinge peece in gould; to my fellowe, Henry Condell, one
other thirty shillinge peece in gould; to my servaunte,
Christopher Beeston, thirty shillings in gould; to my
fellowe, Lawrence Fletcher, twenty shillings in gould ; to my
fellowe, Robert Armyne, twenty shillings in gould ; to my
fellowe, Richard Coweley, twenty shillings in gould ; to my
fellowe, Alexander Cook, twenty shillings in gould; to my
fellowe, Nicholas Tooley, twenty shillings in gould.
Item, I geve to the preacher, which
shall preache at my funerall, the some of twenty shillings.
Item, I geve to Samuell Gilborne,
my late apprentice, the some of fortye shillings, and my mouse
colloured velvit hose, and a white taffety dublet, a blacke
taffety sute, my purple cloke, sword, and dagger, and my base
Item, I geve to
James Sands, my apprentice, the some of fortye shillings, and a
citterne, a bandore, and a lute, to be paid and delivered unto
him at the expiration of his terme of yeres in his indenture of
John Davies of Hereford,
a "writing master" (i.e., penmanship teacher) and principally
wrote this epigrammatic praise to Shakespeare, "To Our English Terence." It was published in 1611 in his The Scourge of Folly. It is the source of the idea that Shakespeare played
kingly parts on stage, and clearly draws the parallel between the Roman
playwright Terence, and his English counterpart Shakespeare.
|From The Scourge of Folly
(c. 1610) in
The Complete Works of John Davies of Hereford (15.. - 1618),
vol. II, p. 26, ed. A. B. Grosart, 1878.
To our English Terence Mr.
Will : Shake-speare.
SOME say good Will (which I, in sport, do sing)
Had'st thou not plaid some Kingly parts in sport,
Thou hadst bin a companion for a King ;
And, beene a King among the meaner sort.
Some others raile ; but raile as they thinke fit,
Thou hast no rayling, but, a raigning Wit :
And honesty thou sow'st, which they do reape ;
So, to increase their Stocke which they do keepe.
Davies is also probably
referring to Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis in
Papers Complaint, compil'd in ruthfull Rimes Against the
Paper-spoylers of these Times, a 546-line poetic satire
appended to The Scourge of Folly. Speaking
fancifully in the person of paper, Davies says,
Another (ah Lord helpe) mee
With Art of Loue, and how to subtilize,
Making lewd Venus, with eternall Lines,
To tye Adonis to her loues designes :
Fine wit is shew'n therein : but finer twere
If not attired in such bawdy Geare.
But be it as it will : the coyest Dames,
In priuate read it for their Closset-games :
For, sooth to say, the Lines so draw them on,
To the venerian speculation,
That will they, nill they (if of flesh they bee)
They will thinke of it, sith loose Thought is free.
And thou (O Poet) that dost pen my Plaint,
Thou art not scot-free from my iust complaint
For, thou hast plaid thy part, with thy rude Pen,
To make vs both ridiculous to men.
(ll.47-62, Complete Works, vol. II,
Venus and Adonis was
enormously popular in its time, and while other poems of the era
dealt with Venus and Adonis, and could be the subject of these
Grosart's note), none could be said, in 1610, to possess "eternall
Lines" other than Shakespeare's poem.
- 1612 - Heywood's Complaint.
In 1612 the third edition of The Passionate Pilgrim appeared,
printed by William Jaggard. It was attributed to W. Shakespeare,
but only two sonnets and three passages from Love's Labour's Lost
contained therein were the work of Shakespeare. The rest of the
poems were works by Marlowe, Barnfield, Raleigh, and, in the third
edition, Heywood, taken from his Troia Britannica. He
complained bitterly and publicly in an epistle he appended to his
Apologie for Actors, printed later in 1612 by Nicholas Okes, in
which he makes reference to Shakespeare's Sonnets and also Shakespeare's
reaction to Jaggard's using his name without authorization.
|Among the filler in the third
edition of The Passionate Pilgrim are several poems by
Thomas Heywood, notably including two love epistles translated
by Heywood from Ovid's Heroides which were published as
part of his Troia Britannica or Great Britain's Troy
(1609 - printed by William Jaggard), an epistle of Paris to
Helen and one of Helen to Paris which are trumpeted on the title
page, a transcription of which is reproduced here from
edition of 1906:
THE | PASSIONATE | PILGRIME.
| or | Certaine Amorous Sonnets, \ betweene Venus and
Adonis, | newly corrected and aug- \ mented. | By W.
Shakespere. \ The third Edition. | Whereunto is newly ad- |
ded two Loue- Epistles, the first | from Paris to Hellen,
and | Hellens answere backe | againe to Paris. \ Printed by
W. Iaggard. | 1612.
The title pages of all editions
(apparently, since the title page to the first edition is not
extant) of The Passionate Pilgrim attribute all the works
contained therein to "W. Shakespere." The printer of the
orginal Troia Britannica was the same William Jaggard,
who, as we will see, answered Heywood so insolently when he was
requested to print a list of his errata. With this as
background, here is Heywood's epistle to Okes, taken from
Literary Blunders: A Chapter in the "History of Human Error"
by H. B. Wheatley:
To my approved good Friend,
MR. NICHOLAS OKES.
The infinite faults escaped
in my booke of Britaines Troy by the negligence of the
printer, as the misquotations, mistaking the sillables,
misplacing halfe lines, coining of strange and never heard
of words, these being without number, when I would have
taken a particular account of the errata, the printer
answered me, hee would not publish his owne disworkemanship,
but rather let his owne fault lye upon the necke of the
author. And being fearefull that others of his quality had
beene of the same nature and condition, and finding you, on
the contrary, so carefull and industrious, so serious and
laborious to doe the author all the rights of the presse, I
could not choose but gratulate your honest indeavours with
this short remembrance. Here, likewise, I must necessarily
insert a manifest injury done me in that worke, by taking
the two epistles of Paris to Helen, and Helen to Paris, and
printing them in a lesse volume under the name of another,
which may put the world in opinion I might steale them from
him, and hee, to doe himselfe right, hath since published
them in his owne name; but as I must acknowledge my lines
not worthy his patronage under whom he hath publisht them,
so the author, I know, much offended with M. Jaggard (that
altogether unknowne to him) presumed to make so bold with
his name. These and the like dishonesties I knowe you to bee
cleere of ; and I could wish but to bee the happy author of
so worthy a worke as I could willingly commit to your care
Yours ever, THOMAS HEYWOOD
Jaggard apparently responded by
canceling the title page ascribing the work to Shakespeare, and
issuing a new title page without attribution.
learn from Rolfe that
The Bodleian copy of this
edition contains the following note by Malone: "All the
poems from Sig. D. 5 were written by Thomas Heywood, who was
so offended at Jaggard for printing them under the name of
Shakespeare that he has added a postscript to his Apology
for Actors, 4to, 1612, on this subject; and Jaggard in
consequence of it appears to have printed a new title-page
to please Heywood, without the name of Shakespeare in it.
The former title-page was no doubt intended to be cancelled,
but by some inadvertence they were both prefixed to this
copy and I have retained them as a curiosity."
In 1905 Sidney Lee published a
facsimile of the 1599 edition of The Passionate Pilgrim,
along with an illustration of the two title pages to which
Malone refers from the 1612. I reproduce them here.
This copy, at the
Bodleian in the Malone collection, of the 1612 title page
without Shakespeare's name, is not known to exist anywhere
For more on this
interesting episode, see my blog post "Thomas
Heywood and the Much Offended Mr. Shakespeare."
- 1612 - John Webster's "To The
Reader" prefaced to the quarto edition of
The White Devil.
|Detraction is the sworne friend
to ignorance : for mine owne part I have ever truly cherisht my
good opinion of other mens worthy labours; especially of that
full and haightned stile of Maister Chapman, the labor'd
and understanding workes of Maister Johnson, the no lesse
worthy composures of the both worthily excellent Maister
Beamont, & Maister Fletcher, and lastly (without
wrong last to be named) the right happy and copious industry of
M. Shake-speare, M. Decker, & M. Heywood;
wishing what I write may be read by their light protesting that,
in the strength of mine owne judgement, I know them so worthy,
that though I rest silent in my owne worke, yet to most of
theirs I dare (without flattery) fix that of Martial:
—non norunt haec
[*L. "These memorials do not
know how to die."]
- 1614 - Thomas Greene, Shakespeare's
"cosen" consults him regarding an enclosure near Stratford.
1.—Jovis, 17 Nov., my cosen
Shakspeare comyng yesterday to towne, I went to see him how
he did. He told me that they assured him they ment to
inclose noe further than to Gospell Bushe, and so upp
straight (leavyng out part of the Dyngles to the Field) to
the Gate in Clopton hedge, and take in Salisburyes peece;
and that they mean in Aprill to survey the land, and then to
gyve satisfaccicn, and not before; and he and Mr. Hall say
they think ther will be nothyng done at all.
2.—23 Dec. A hall. Lettres
wrytten, one to Mr. Manyring, another to Mr. Shakspear, with
almost all the company's handes to eyther. I alsoe wrytte of
myself to my cosen Shakspear the coppyes of all our actes,
and then also a not of the inconvenyences wold happen by the
3.—10 Januarii, 1614. Mr.
Manwaryng and his agreement for me with my cosen Shakspeare.
4.—9 Jan. 1614. Mr.
Replyngham, 28 Octobris, article with Mr. Shakspear, and
then I was putt in by Thursday.
5.—Sept . Mr. Shakspeare
told Mr. J. Greene that I was not abble to beare the
enclosing of Welcombe.
of the Life of Shakespeare, 3rd edition, 1883,
- 1615 - Francis Beaumont's verse
letter to Ben Jonson:
|As early as about 1615, we see
Francis Beaumont, in his verse letter to "Mr B:J" (Ben Jonson)
refer to Shakespeare as a poet informed by Nature:
Here I would let slip
And from all learning keep these lines as clear
As Shakespeare's best are, which our heirs shall hear
Preachers apt to their auditors to show
How far sometimes a mortal man may go
By the dim light of Nature.
The letter is printed
in E. K. Chambers' William Shakespeare: Facts and Problems
(Oxford, 1930) in vol. II, p. 224, and has been reprinted
several times, most recently in Charles Nicholl's
The Lodger Shakespeare (p. 80). It begins a traditional
view of Shakespeare as the unlearned, non-scholarly poet; a poet
born, not made; one who brings forth his verse from his mother
wit, as it were, without studied preparation; in short, "by the
dim light of Nature."
For more on Shakespeare's
reputation as a "Natural" poet, see my blog post "Natural
six copies of Shakespeare's signature have survived, and this will
contains three of them."
For the others,
Six Signatures" a post
on my Mr. William Shakespeare and the Internet blog with
facsimile reproductions of the six authenticated Shakespeare
signatures and information on their sources.
- 1616. Record of burial.
Shakespeare's burial is recorded in the parish church register of
Stratford-upon-Avon. He died on April 23, 1616, and was buried
April 25. It is reproduced in facsimile below.
ELEGY ON SHAKESPEARE,
ON MR. WM. SHAKESPEARE.
HE DYED IN APRILL l6l6.
RENOWNED Spencer lye a thought more nye
To learned Chaucer, and rare Beaumond lye
A little neerer Spenser, to make roome
For Shakespeare in your threefold, fowerfold Tombe.
To lodge all fowre in one bed make a shift
Vntill Doomesdaye, for hardly will a fift
Betwixt ys day and yt by Fate be slayne,
For whom your Curtaines may be drawn againe.
If your precedency in death doth barre
A fourth place in your sacred sepulcher,
Vnder this carued marble of thine owne,
Sleepe, rare Tragoedian, Shakespeare, sleep alone;
Thy unmolested peace, vnshared Caue,
Possesse as Lord, not Tenant, of thy Graue,
That vnto us & others it may be
Honor hereafter to be layde by thee.
For more on the elegy, see
blog post of 9/19/07.
- 1623. Prefatory materials from the
First Folio. I
have brought together here, in original spelling, html editions, the dedicatory and
prefatory materials from the 1623 First Folio, including:
Discoveries Made Upon Men and Matter contains a Ben Jonson
reminiscence of Shakespeare quite apart from the one usually quoted in
the Folio, where, after all, he was on his best behavior and taking
pains to be flattering. Ben, in his cups or otherwise, could be
acerbic. The version quoted here is from a facsimile edition at
Google Book Search edited by Felix Schelling, 1892. First
published in 1641, Dr. Schelling says of its origin, "The date of the
composition of the Discoveries cannot be determined with any degree of
accuracy ; and it is highly probable, from the nature of the work, that
it was written from time to time through a series of years...It is
likely that little violence will be done to the truth in assigning the
composition of the Discoveries to the last years of the poet's life"
(from the section titled "Publication
and Date of Composition"—Jonson died in August, 1637). There is also
a transcription available from the University of Toronto.
From Ben Jonson's Timber or Discoveries,
De Shakespeare nostrat[i]. — I remember the players
have often mentioned it as an honor to Shakespeare, that in
his writing, whatsoever he penned, he never blotted out a
line. My answer hath been, " Would he had blotted a
thousand," which they thought a malevolent speech. I had not
told posterity this but for their ignorance, who chose that
circumstance to commend their friend by wherein he most
faulted ; and to justify mine own candor, for I loved the
man, and do honor his memory on this side idolatry as much
as any. He was, indeed, honest, and of an open and free
nature ; had an excellent fancy, brave notions, and gentle
expressions, wherein he flowed with that facility that
sometime it was necessary he should be stopped. "Sufflaminandus
erat" as Augustus said of Haterius. His wit was in his own
power; would the rule of it had been so too. Many
times he fell into those things, could not escape laughter,
as when he said in the person of Caesar, one speaking to
him: "Caesar, thou dost me wrong." He replied :
"Caesar did never wrong but with just cause;" and such like,
which were ridiculous. But he redeemed his vices with his
virtues. There was ever more in him to be praised than to be
It should be noted that it would
seem utterly impossible to regard anyone other than Shakespeare
of Stratford-upon-Avon as the author of the works, in light of
this testimony and Jonson's even more compelling "To
the memory of my beloved, the author," among the
commendatory verses to the First Folio, but such is the
perversity of human nature.
Leonard Digges (1588 - 1635), was an Oxford scholar,
translator and poet. See "Leonard
Digges, the First Bardolator," post in the Mr. William Shakespeare
and the Internet blog reviewing Digges' two commendatory poems, one to
the First Folio and one to Benson's 1640 edition of
Written by Wil. Shakespeare, Gent. Digges widowed
mother married Thomas Russell, Shakespeare's friend and one of the
overseers of his will. His brother was Sir Dudley Digges, an
officer of the Virginia Company, and possible the source of information
on the shipwreck source for The Tempest. His father was
Thomas Digges, the famous Elizabethan scientist, mathematician, and
scientific popularizer. His grandfather was Leonard Digges, author
of A General Prognostication (1553), a very popular
Elizabethan almanac, and Pantometria (1571).
Digges commendatory poem to
the First Folio (1623):
To the Memorie of the
deceased Authour Maister W. Shakespeare
Shake-speare, at length
thy pious fellowes give
The world thy Workes : thy Workes, by which, out-live
Thy Tombe, thy name must when that stone is rent,
And Time dissolves thy Stratford Moniment,
Here we alive shall view thee still. This Booke,
When Brasse and Marble fade, shall make thee looke
Fresh to all Ages : when Posteritie
Shall loath what's new, thinke all is prodegie
That is not Shake-speares; ev'ry Line, each Verse
Here shall revive, redeeme thee from thy Herse.
Nor Fire, nor cankring Age, as Naso said,
Of his, thy wit-fraught Booke shall once invade.
Nor shall I e're beleeve, or thinke thee dead.
(Though mist) untill our bankrout Stage be sped
(Imposible) with some new straine t'out-do
Passions of Juliet, and her Romeo ;
Or till I heare a Scene more nobly take,
Then when thy half-Sword parlying Romans spake.
Till these, till any of thy Volumes rest
Shall with more fire, more feeling be exprest,
Be sure, our Shake-speare, thou canst never dye,
But crown'd with Lawrell, live eternally.
Digges commendatory poem to
the 1640 edition of Poems: Written by Wil. Shakespeare,
Gent. (1623? - 1635):
Vpon Master W
ILLIAM S H A K E S P E A R E,
the Deceased Authour, and his P O E M S .
borne not made, when I would prove
This truth, the glad rememberance I must love
Of never dying Shakespeare, who alone,
Is argument enough to make that one.
First, that he was a Poet none would doubt,
That heard th’applause of what he sees set out
Imprinted; where thou hast (I will not say
Reader his Workes for to contrive a Play:
To him twas none) the patterne of all wit,
Art without Art unparaleld as yet.
Next Nature onely helpt him, for looke thorow
This whole Booke, thou shalt find he doth not borrow,
One phrase from Greekes, nor Latines imitate,
Nor once from vulgar Languages Translate,
Nor Plagiari-like from others gleane,
Nor begges he from each witty friend a Scene
To peece his Acts with, all that he doth write,
Is pure his owne, plot, language exquisite,
But oh ! what praise more powerfull can we give
The dead, then that by him the Kings men live,
His Players, which should they but have shar’d the Fate,
All else expir’d within the short Termes date;
How could the Globe have prospered, since through want
Of change, the Plaies and Poems had growne scant.
But happy Verse thou shalt be sung and heard,
When hungry quills shall be such honour bard.
Then vanish upstart Writers to each Stage,
You needy Poetasters of this Age,
Where Shakespeare liv’d or spake, Vermine forbeare,
Least with your froth you spot them, come not neere;
But if you needs must write, if poverty
So pinch, that otherwise you starve and die,
On Gods name may the Bull or Cockpit have
Your lame blancke Verse, to keepe you from the grave:
Or let new Fortunes younger brethren see,
What they can picke from your leane industry.
I doe not wonder when you offer at
Blacke-Friers, that you suffer : tis the fate
Of richer veines, prime judgements that have far’d
The worse, with this deceased man compar’d.
So have I seene, when Cesar would appeare,
And on the Stage at half-sword parley were,
Brutus and Cassius : oh how the Audience,
Were ravish’d, with what wonder they went thence,
When some new day they would not brooke a line,
Of tedious (though well laboured ) Catilines;
Sejanus too was irksome, they priz’de more
Honest Iago, or the jealous Moore.
And though the Fox and subtill Alchimist,
Long intermitted could not quite be mist,
Though these have sham’d all the Ancients, and might
Their Authours merit with a crowne of Bayes.
Yet these sometimes, even at a friends desire
Acted, have scarce defrai’d the Seacoale fire
And doore-keepers : when let but Falstaffe come,
Hall, Poines, the rest you scarce shall have a roome
All is so pester’d : let but Beatrice
And Benedicke be seene, loe in a trice
The Cockpit Galleries, Boxes, all are full
To heare Maluoglio that crosse garter’d Gull.
Briefe, there is nothing in his wit fraught Booke,
Whose sound we would not heare, on whose worth looke
Like old coyned gold, whose lines in every page,
Shall passe true currant to succeeding age.
But why doe I dead Sheakspeares praise recite,
Some second Shakespeare must of Shakespeare write;
For me tis needlesse, since an host of men,
Will pay to clap his praise, to free my Pen.
Milton on Shakespeare, blog post to the Mr. Shakespeare
companion blog with a discussion of Milton's first published poem, his
Epitaph on Shakespeare (1630).
Milton's epitaph on
Shakespeare, published in the
Second Folio of 1632; Milton's first published poem:
An Epitaph on the
admirable Dramaticke Poet, W. Shakespeare
What needs my
Shakespeare for his honour'd bones,
The labour of an age in piled stones?
Or that his hallow'd reliques should be hid
Under a star-y-pointing pyramid?
Dear son of memory, great heir of fame,
What need'st thou such weak witness of thy name ?
Thou in our wonder and astonishment
Hast built thyself a live-long monument.
For whilst to th' shame of slow-endeavouring art
Thy easy numbers flow, and that each heart
Hath from the leaves of thy unvalued book
Those Delphic lines with deep impression took,
Then thou our fancy of itself bereaving,
Dost make us marble with too much conceiving;
And so sepulchred in such pomp dost lie,
That kings for such a tomb would wish to die.
Milton also makes reference
to Shakespeare, contra "learned" Ben Jonson, in L'Allegro
the well-trod stage anon,
If Jonson's learned sock be on,
Or sweetest Shakespeare, Fancy's child,
Warble his native wood-notes wild. (131-134)
Thomas Heywood's mention
of Shakespeare among his younger contemporary playwrights.
Hierarchy of the Blessed Angels,
a description of which I give here, taken from Collectanea
Anglo-Poetica (The Chetham Society, 1878,
The Hierarchie of the
blessed Angells. Their Names, Orders, and Offices. The fall
of Lucifer with his Angells. Written by Tho. Heywood. ...
London Printed by Adam Islip 1635. Folio, pp. 639, including
frontispiece, introductory matter and index...The Hierarchie
of the blessed Angells is a long and very desultory poem of
above six hundred pages, in nine books...
It is a long and, to
quote Chambers Cyclopaedia, "curious specimen." Among
its description of angels and devils the Hierarchie gives
a description of various contemporary or near contemporary
playwrights with their shortened first names.
Shakespeare, whose enchanting quill
Commanded mirth or passion, was but Will;
And famous Jonson, though his learned pen
Be dipped in Castaly, is still but Ben.
Fletcher and Webster, of that learned pack
None of the meanest, was but Jack;
Dekker but Tom, nor May, nor Middleton,
And he's but now Jack Ford that once was John.
(Library of the
world's best literature, ancient and modern, ed. C. D.
Warner, et al, 1897,
Surely the most
incidental of verse, but interesting none the less for the
grouping. This was published in 1635, and Shakespeare's name is
still prominent among those who had lived to be noteworthy (or
nearly so) in the Carolinian period, though he had been dead
nearly 20 years: Ben Jonson (d.1637), John Fletcher (d. 1625),
John Webster (d. 1634), Thomas Dekker (d. 1632), Thomas May (d.
1650), Thomas Middleton (d. 1627), John Ford (d. c. 1640),
Shakespeare (d. 1616).
(1626 - 1697) was a seventeenth century antiquarian and writer and
member of the Royal Society who gathered materials on the lives of
famous Britains and published them as Aubrey's Brief Lives,
and vol. II
(from Google Book Search, Clarendon, 1898). He described his
writings as "pieces written extempore, on the spur of the moment."
They are important because they form a direct link back to those who
knew Shakespeare. His principal informants were Christopher
Beeston, the son of a member of Shakespeare's company, and William
Davenant, playwright and theatrical entrepreneur who, at times, claimed
to be the illegitimate son of Shakespeare.
Passages from Aubrey's Brief Lives
Shakespeare not a "company
The more to be admired,
quaere—he was not a company keeper; lived in Shorditch;
would not be debauched; and if invited to court, was in
paine. W. Shakespeare—quaere Mr. Beeston, who knowes most of
him from Mr. Lacy.
I, p. 97)
Sir William Davenant
(l6o5/6-1668). Sir William Davenant, knight, Poet Laureate,
was borne about the end of February — vide A. Wood's Antiq.
Oxon.—baptized 3 of March A.D. i605/6], in ... street in the
city of Oxford at the Crowne taverne.
His father was John
Davenant, a vintner there, a very grave and discreet
citizen: his mother was a very beautifull woman, and of a
very good witt, and of conversation extremely agreable. They
had three sons, viz. 1, Robert 2, William; and 3, Nicholas
(an attorney) : and two handsome daughters...
Mr. William Shakespeare
was wont to goe into Warwickshire once a yeare, and did
commonly in his journey lye at this house in Oxon. where he
was exceedingly respected. I have heard parson Robert
(Davenant) say that Mr. W. Shakespeare haz given him a
hundred kisses. Now Sir William would sometimes, when
he was pleasant over a glasse of wine with his most intimate
friends—e. g. Sam. Butler (author of Hudibras), &c.—say,
that it seemed to him that he writt with the very spirit
that Shakespeare, and scemd contented enough to be thought
his son. He would tell them the story as above, in which way
his mother had a very light report. (Vol.
I, p. 204)
Shakespeare's entry in the
Mr. William Shakespear
was borne at Stratford upon Avon in the county of Warwick.
His father was a butcher, and I have been told heretofore by
some of the neighbours, that when he was a boy he exercised
his father's trade, but when he kill'd a calfe he would doe
it in a high style, and make a speech. There was at that
time another butcher's son in this towne that was held not
at all inferior to him for a naturall witt, his acquaintance
and coetanean, but dyed young.
This William being
inclined naturally to poetry and acting, came to London, I
guesse, about 18; and was an actor at one of the
play-houses, and did act exceedingly well (now B. Johnson
was never a good actor, but an excellent instructor).
He began early to make
essayes at dramatique poetry, which at that time was very
lowe ; and his playes tooke well.
He was a handsome, well
shap't man: very good company, and of a very readie and
pleasant smooth witt.
The humour of ... the
constable, in Midsomernight's Dreame, he happened to take at
Grendon in Bucks— I thinke it was Midsomer night that he
happened to lye there—which is the roade from London to
Stratford, and there was living that constable about 1642,
when I first came to Oxon : Mr. Josias Howe is of that
parish, and knew him. Ben Johnson and he did gather humours
of men dayly where ever they came. One time as he was at the
tavern at Stratford super Avon, one Combes, an old rich
usurer, was to be buryed, he makes there this extemporary
Ten in the hundred the
But Combes will have twelve, he sweares and vowes:
If any one askes who lies in this tombe,
' Hoh !' quoth the Devill, ' Tis my John o Combe.'
He was wont to goe to his
native countrey once a yeare. I thinke I have been told that
he left 2 or 300 li. per annum there and thereabout to a
sister. Vide his epitaph in Dugdale's Warwickshire.
I have heard Sir William
Davenant and Mr. Thomas Shadwell (who is counted the best
comoedian we have now) say that he had a most prodigious
witt, and did admire his naturall parts beyond all other
dramaticall writers. He was wont to say (B. Johnson's
Underwoods) that he ' never blotted out a line in his life';
sayd Ben: Johnson, ' I wish he had blotted-out a thousand.'
His comoedies will
remaine witt as long as the English tongue is understood,
for that he handles mores hominum. Now our present
writers reflect so much upon particular persons and
coxcombeities, that twenty yeares hence they will not be
Though, as Ben: Johnson
sayes of him, that he had but little Latine and lesse Greek,
he understood Latine pretty well, for he had been in his
younger yeares a schoolmaster in the countrey.—from Mr. . .
. Beeston (Vol.
II, p. 225-227)
"Many were the
wet-combats betwixt him [Shakespeare] and Ben Jonson ; which
two I behold like a Spanish great galleon and an English
man-of-war : master Jonson (like the former) was built far
higher in learning ; solid, but slow, in his performances.
Shakespeare, with the English man-of-war, lesser in bulk,
but lighter in sailing, could turn with all tides, tack
about, and take advantage of all winds, by the quickness of
his wit and invention" (vol.
III, p. 284).
1709. Nicholas Rowe's Some Acount of the Life &c. of Mr.
William Shakespear, prefaced to his 1709 edition of the Works. This is an
html edition of the first biography of Shakespeare, prefaced to the first critical edition
of the Works. I have retained the original spellings and added explanatory notes. This was
the standard Life throughout the Eighteenth Century and is the foundation for all