Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

haps he suffered this indignity on account of his kind. ness to his brother Henry, before mentioned, who had much money trouble, and for whom he became surety to one Nicholas Lane for ten pounds. Henry not having duly paid this sum, Lane sued John Shakespeare for it in February, 1587. To follow his sad fortunes yet farther, in 1592 a commission, upon which were Sir Thomas Lucy and Sir Fulke Greville with six others, which had been appointed to inquire into the conformity of the people of Warwickshire to the established religion, with a special eye to Jesuits, priests, and recusants, reported many persons

for not comming monethlie to the churche, according to hir Majestie's lawes ;” and among them was John Shakespeare.

But the commissioners specially note as to him and eight others, that “it is sayd that these last nine coom not to churche for fear of processe for debtte."

Thus low in fortune and estate had sunk the once prosperous high bailiff of Stratford, in the veins of whose children ran the blood of men who had owned half the county through which he skulked, a bailiff-hunted debtor. Those very children added largely to his anxiety and his cares. For since Margaret's death six had been born to him : William; Gilbert, born in 1566; a second Joan, in 1569; Anne, in 1571 ; Richard, in 1574; and Edmund, in 1580. Betterton's authority, says that John Shakespeare had " ten children in all.” But Betterton only reported tradition; and the Stratford parish register, better authority on such a point, records the baptism of no more than eight, two of whom, as we have seen, died before their father reached the height of his prosperity; and Anne died at the beginning of his troubles. At her burial there were both pall and bell, for which it

Rowe, upon has been discovered that viii d. were paid, while other children buried in the same year (1579) were honored with only half the ceremony, the bell, at half the price ; which has been accepted as evidence that John Shakespeare had money to spare. So regarded he meant that it should be ; and he deceived even posterity. As long as funeral ceremonies are deemed important, they will be the last as to which poverty will compel retrenchment. In 1579 John Shakespeare had not abandoned the struggle to keep up appearances. Had his purse been fuller, or his position lower, he might have been willing to save the four pence. But a few years later five little mouths to feed, five little backs to clothe, were quite enough to harass the poor man who could not keep his own body out of a debtor's prison, and to cause him to abandon any ambitious projects which he might have formed for his eldest son, and call him from his studies to contribute something to his own support, and perhaps to that of the family. The traditions of the townsfolk upon this subject were surely therefore in the main well founded, though in their particulars they were discordant. Rowe, speaking for Betterton, says, that “

upon his leaving school he seems to have given entirely into that way of living which his father proposed to him,” which, according to the same authority, was that of a dealer in wool. Gossiping John Aubrey, who says that John Shakespeare was a butcher, adds, “ I have been told heretofore by some of the neighbors that when he was a boy he exercised his father's trade; but when he kill'd a calfe he wold doe it in a high style, and make a speeche.” Aubrey, who died about 1700, probably received this precious information from the same source through which an old parish clerk of Stratford, who was living in 1693, and was then more than eighty years old, derived a similar story, that Shakespeare had been “ bound apprentice to a butcher.” Aubrey also records, on the authority of an unknown Mr. Beeston, that William Shakespeare v understode Latin pretty well, for he had been many years a schoolmaster in the country." The only point upon which these loose traditions are of importance, is that upon which they are unanimous, that William Shakespeare was obliged to leave school early and earn his living. Isolated passages of the poet's works have been gathered together and gravely brought forward to sustain each of these traditions as to his early occupation, — surely a wise and penetrative method of getting at the truth in such a matter. There is hardly a calling, from that of bishop or general to that of pimp or serving-man, which could not be fastened upon him by this process. Utterly ruined, however, as John Shakespeare was, he seems never to have been driven out of his house in Henley Street, or to have lost his property in it; though how this could be in the case of a man as to whom the return upon an execution was no effects,” it is not easy to conjecture.

But what was William Shakespeare doing in all those years through which his father was descending into the vale of poverty, whither we have followed him to the lowest depth : We have passed over thereby some events of great importance to the son, whom his father's trials seem not to have chastened into sobriety. In estimating Shakespeare's character, the fact that he left among his neighbors the reputation of having been somewhat irregular in his youth cannot be lightly set aside. Nor is it at all strange that such a reputation should have been attained in the early years of a man of his lively fancy, healthy organization, and breadth of moral sympathy. It is from tradition that we learn that during his father's misfortunes he was occasionally engaged in stealing deer ; but we know on

good evidence that about that time he also got himself married in no very creditable fashion. While he was sowing his wild oats in the fields round Stratford, he naturally visited the cottage of Richard Hathaway, a substantial yeoman of Shottery, who seems to have been on terms of friendship with John Shakespeare. This Richard Hathaway had, among other children, a daughter named Anne, who might have dandled William Shakespeare in his infancy upon her knee ; for she was eight years old when he was born, in 1564. Whether or no Anne Hathaway had a fair face and a winning way which spontaneously captivated William Shakespeare, or whether he yielded to arts to which his inexperience made him an easy victim, we cannot surely tell. But we do know that she, though not vestally inclined, as we shall see, remained unmarried until 1582, and that then the woman of twenty-six took to husband the boy of eighteen. They were married upon once asking of the banns ; and the bond given to the Bishop of Worcester for his security in licensing this departure from custom, was given in that year, on the 28th day of November.*

# “ Noverint universi per præsentes dos ffnlconem Sandells de Stratford in comitatu Warwici, agricolam, et Johannem Rychardson ibidem agricolam, teneri et firmiter obligari Ricardo Cosin generoso, et Roberto Warmstry nota. rio publico, in quadraginta libris bonæ et legalis monetæ Angliæ, solvend. eisdem Ricardo et Roberto, hæred. execut. vel assignat, suis, ad quam quidem solucionem bene et fideliter faciend. obligamus nos et utrumque nostrum per se pro toto et in solid. hæred. executor, et administrator, postros firmiter per præsentes sigillis nostris sigillat. Dat. 28 die Novem. anno regni dominæ nostræ Eliz. Dei gratia Angliæ, Franc. et Hiberniæ reginæ, 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, consangui ni tie, affinitie, or by any other lawfull meanes whatsoever, but that William Shagspere one thone partie, and Anne Hathwey of Stratford in the dioces of Worcester, maiden, may lawfully solenpize 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 suche lawfull lett or

About those days there was great need that Anne Hathaway should provide herself with a husband of some sort, and that speedily; for in less than five months after she obtained one she was delivered of a daughter. The parish register shows that Susanna, the daughter of William and Anne Shakespeare, was baptized May 26th, 1583.

There have been attempts to turn aside the obvious bearing of these facts upon the character of Anne Hathaway. But it is a stubborn and unwise idolatry which resists such evidence as this, — an idolatry which would exempt Shakespeare, and not only him, but all with whom he became connected, from human passion and human frailty. That temperament is cruel, and that morality pharisaic, which treats all cases of this kind with inexorable and indiscriminating severity, and that judgment outrageously unjust which visits all the sin upon the weaker and already suffering party. Yet if in the present instance it must be that one or other of this couple seduced the other into error, perhaps where a woman of twenty-six is involved with a boy of eighteen, for the honor of her sex the less that is said about the matter the better. Besides, Anne Hathaway rests under the implied reproach of both the men whose good opinion was to her of gravest moment. Her father,

impediment: and moreover, if the said William Shagspere do not proceed to solemnizacion of mariadg with the said Anne Hathwey without the consent of hir frindes: and also, if the said William do, upon his owne proper costes and expences, defend and save harmles the right reverend Father in God, Lord John Bushop of Worcester, and his offycers, for licensing them the said William and Anne to be maried together with once asking of the bannes of matrimony betweene them, and for all other causes which may ensue by reason or occasion thereof, that then the said obligacion to be voyd and of none effect, or els to stand and abide in full force and vertue.”

To this instrument are attached the rude marks of Sandells and Richardson, and a seal which bears two letters, R, and another, imperfect, which seems to be an H. This seal is conjectured to be that of the bride's father, who at the execution of the bond had been dead five months.

« НазадПродовжити »