« НазадПродовжити »
his name appears among the actors of Ben Jonson's play of Sejanus. Thus it is evident that he continued to perform many years: but of his merits as a player, we find no positive data lo found an accurate estimate, and hence there is much diversity of opinion among his commentators. Performers and dramatic authors were not then so closely watched, and fastidiously criticised as in the present age; indeed diurnal reviewers were then unknown. From some satirical passages in the writings of his contemporaries, he appears not to have been a favourite actor with the public. His instructions on the subject of acting, bowever, in Hanilet, aro so peculiarly excellent, that we are not a little inclined to suspect that his unpopularity arose rather from the want of laste in his audience, than from the deficiency of theatrical powers in himself. The " science of acting" was then only in its infancy; and as he that “strutted and bellowed” most, was probably esteemed the best player, Shakspeare's gentleness would be considered X tameness, and his observance of nature ignorance of
At what period our poet gave up all personal connexion with the theatre has not been discovered; but it is probable that he retired from it at least three years before his death. Rowe indeed states, that (the latter part of his life was spent, as all men of good sense would wish theirs may be, in ease, retirement, and the conversation of bis friends.” During his dramatic career, he appears to have acquired a share in the properly of the Globe Theatre, and to have been joint manager of the same, as his name is mentioned in the licence granted by King James, in 1603, for the exhibition of plays in that house, and in any part of the kingdom. This share he probably sold when he finally retired to Stratford, as it is neither alluded to in his will, nor does his name occur in the accounts of the thealre for 1613.
Shakspeare, like most men of pre-eminent talents, is said to have been much assailed by the attacks of envious rivals, notwithstanding that diffidence and good nature were the peculiar characteristics of his personal deport
ment. Among those who are stated to have treated him with hostility, was the celebrated Ben Jonson: but Dr. Farmer departs from the received opinions on this subject, and thinks that though Jonson was arrogant of his scholarship, and publicly professed a rivalship of Shakspeare, he was in private his friend and associate.
Pope, in his preface, says, that Jonson, “loved” Shakspeare, “as well as honoured his memory; celebrates the honesty, openness, and frankness of his temper; and only distinguishes, as he reasonably ought, between the real merit of the author, and the silly and derogatory applauses of the players.” Mr. Gilchrist, whose dramatic criticisms are generally profound and acute, has published a pamphlet, to prove that Jonson was never a harsh or an envious rival of Shakspeare; and that the popular opinion on this subject is founded in error. The following story respecting these two great dramatists is related by Rowe, and has been generally credited by subsequent biographers. “Mr. Jonson, who was at that time altogether unknown to the world, had offered one of his plays to the players, in order to have it acted; and the persons into whose hands it was put, after having turned it carelessly and superciliously. over, were just upon returning it to him with an illnatured answer, that it would be of no service to their company, when Shakspeare luckily cast his eye upon it, and found something so well in it, as to engage him first to read it through, and afterwards to recommend Mr. Jonson and his writings to the public.”
The opposition or rivalship of Shakspeare and Jonson produced, as might naturally be expected, much contention concerning their relative merits between their respective friends and admirers; and it is not a little remarkable, that Jonson seems to have maintained a higher place in the estimation of the public in general than our poet, for more than a century after the death of the latter. Within that period Jonson's works are said to have passed through several editions, and to have been read with avidity, while Shakspeare's were comparatively neglected till the time of Rowe. This
circumstance is in a great measure to be accounted for on the principle that classical literature and collegiate learning were regarded in those days as the chief criterions of merit. Accordingly Jonson's grand charge against Shakspeare was the want of that species of knowledge; and upon his own proficiency in it, he arrogated to himself a superiority over him. That all classical scholars, however, did not sanction Jonson's pretensions is certain; for among the greatest admirers of Shakspeare, was one of the most learned men of his age, the ever-memorable Hales. On one occasion the latter, after listening in silence to a warm debate between Sir John Suckling and Jonson, is reported to have interposed by observing, “That if Sbakspeare had not read the ancients, he had likewise not stolen any thing from them; and that if he (Jonson) would produce any one topic finely treated by any one of them, he would undertake to show something upon the same subject, at least as well written by Shakspeare.” A trial, it is added, being in consequence agreed to, judges were appointed to decide the dispute, whó unanimously voted in favour of the English poet, after a candid examination and comparison of the passages produced by the contending parties.
“Shakspeare," observes Rowe,“ had the good forlune lo gather an estate equal to his occasion, and in that to his wish;" but the biographer does not even bint at the amount of the poet's income. Malone, however, judging from the bequests in Shakspeare's Will, thinks it might be about 2001. per year; which at the age when he lived, was equal to 8001. a year at the present time. Subsequent to his retirement from the stage, he resided in a house at Stralford which he had purchased, according to Wheler, in 1597, from the family of Underhill, and which, previous to that time had been called the Great House, probably from its having been the best in the town, when it was originally erected by Sir Hugh Clopton, in the reign of Henry the Seventh. The poet appears to have made considerable alterations in this house, and changed its name to New-place. Here he appears to have resided a few years in retire