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birth. As to troth-plight, its import depends entirely upon that to which troth is plighted. The closing words of the binding declaration in the marriage ceremony of the Church of England are, “ and thereto I plight thee my troth.”
The marriage between William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway took place in December, 1582. The ceremony was not performed in Stratford ; and no record of it has been discovered. But there is a tradition in Luddington, a little village not far off, that it took place there ; and the story derives some support from the fact that Thomas Hunt, Shakespeare's schoolmaster, was curate of that parish. Susanna, the first child born in this wedlock, was baptized May 26th, 1583; and Hamnet and Judith, twins, were baptized February 2d, 1584. William Shakespeare and his wife had no other children, and soon after the latter event their household married life was interrupted for many years' by the departure of the youthful husband from Stratford. The eldest son of a ruined man just degraded from office, having four brothers and sisters younger than himself, and a wife and three children upon his hands before he was twenty-one, there were reasons enough for him to go, as he did, to London, if he could get money there more rapidly than at Stratford. But tradition assigns a particular occasion and other motive for his leaving home. Betterton heard, and Rowe tells us, that he fell into bad company, and that some of his wild companions, who made a frequent practice of deer-stealing, drew him into the robbery of a park belonging to Sir Thomas Lucy, of Charlecote. For this, according to Rowe's story, he was prosecuted by the knight, and in revenge lampooned him in a ballad so bitter that the prosecution became a persecution of such severity that he was obliged to flee the country, and shelter himself in London. There is what may perhaps be accepted as independent authority for the existence of this tradition. The Reverend William Fulman, an antiquary, who died in 1688, bequeathed his manuscript biographical memorandums to the Reverend Richard Davies, rector of Sapperton in Gloucestershire, and archdeacon of Lichfield, who died in 1708. To a note of Fulman's, which barely records Shakespeare's birth, death, and occupation, Davies made brief additions, the principal of which is, that William Shakespeare was “much given to all unluckinesse in stealing venison and rabbits, particularly from S Lucy, who had him oft whipt and sometimes imprisoned, and at last made him fly his native country, to his great advancement: but his revenge was so great that he is his Justice Clodpate, and calls him a great man, and that in allusion to his name bore three louses rampant for his arms." Davies may have heard this story in Stratford; but considering the date of his death, 1708, and that of Betterton's visit to Warwickshire, 1675, and Rowe's publication of his edition of Shakespeare's Works, 1709, it is not at all improbable, to say the least, that the story had reached the archdeacon directly or indirectly through the actor. But Capell tells us * that a Mr. Thomas Jones, who lived at Tarbick, a few miles from Stratford, and who died there in 1703, more than ninety years of age, remembered having heard from old people at Stratford the story of Shakespeare's robbing Sir Thomas Lucy's park. According to Mr. Jones their story agreed with that told by Rowe, with this addition – that the lampoon was stuck upon the park gate, and that this insult, added to the injury of the deer-stealing, provoked the prosecution. Mr. Jones had written
down the first stanza of this ballad, and it reached
At home a poor scare-crowe, at London an asse,
He thinks himself greate,
Yet an asse in his state
Sing O lowsie Lucy, whatever befall it.” This story enriches with a rare touch of real life our faint and meagre memorials of Shakespeare. Not sufficiently well established to be beyond the assaults of those who think it scorn that the author of King Lear and Hamlet should have stolen deer and written coarse lampoons, it yet may well be cherished, and its credibility maintained, by those who prize a trait of character and a glimpse of personal experience above all question of propriety. In Queen Bess's time deer-stealing did not rank with sheep-stealing; and he who wrote, and was praised for writing, The Comedy of Errors and Troilus and Cressida when he was a man, may well be believed, without any abatement of his dignity, to have written the Lucy ballad in his boyhood. Malone thought that he had exploded the tradition by showing that Sir Thomas Lucy had no park, and therefore could have no deer to be stolen ; and the lampoon has been set aside as a fabrication by some writers, and regarded by all with suspicion. But it appears that, whether the knight had an enclosure with formal park privileges or not, the family certainly had deer on their estate, which fulfils the only condition requisite for the truth of the story in that regard.* I think that there is a solution to the question somewhat different from any that has yet been brought forward, and much more probable.
The first Scene of The Merry Wives of Windsor certainly gives strong support to the tradition ; so strong, in fact, that it has been supposed, with some reason, to have been its origin. In that Scene Shakespeare makes Justice Shallow (who, in the words of Davies, is his clodpate, or, as we should say, his clownish or loutish justice) bear a dozen white luces, or pikes, in his coat of arms, which bearing gives the Welsh parson the opportunity for his punning jest that the dozen white louses do become an old coat well.” | The Lucys bore punning coat-armor, three luces, hariant ; and the allusion is unmistakable. In that Scene, too, the country gentleman who is so proud of the luces in his old coat,
* Sir Thomas Lucy, son of Shakespeare's victim, sent a buck as a present to Farehill when Sir Thomas Egerton entertained Queen Elizabeth there in Au. gust, 1602. Egerton Papers, pp. 350, 355.
† Some critics have attributed the transformation of luces to louses, to Sir' Hugh's incapacity of English speech ; but this is to rob the Welshman of his wit. The pronunciation of u as ow is no trick of a Welsh tongue, or of any other, I believe; but "louse" was pronounced like “luce" or "loose" by many people. So the ballad tells us that "lousy is Lucy as some volke miscall it." There is a similar variation as to the dame Toucey, which some pronounce Toosey, giving the first syllable the vowel sound of too and you, others Towsey, with the sound of how, thou.
upon the stage, furious at Falstaff for having killed his deer. Now, in Shakespeare's day, as well as long before, killing a gentleman's deer was as common a sport among wild young men as robbing a farmer's orchard among boys. Indeed, it was looked upon as a sign of that poor semblance of manliness sometimes called spirit, and was rather a gentleman's misdemeanor than a yeoman's; one which a peasant would not have presumed to commit, except, indeed, at risk of his ears, for poaching at once upon the game and the sin-preserves of his betters. Noblemen engaged in it; and in days gone by the very first Prince of Wales had been a deer-stealer. Among multitudinous passages illustrative of this trait of manners, a story preserved by Wood in his Athenæ Oxonienses fixes unmistakably the grade of the offence. It is there told, on the authority of Simon Forman, that his patrons, Robert Pinkney and John Thornborough, the latter of whom was admitted a member of Magdalen College in 1570, and became Bishop of Bristol and Worcester, “seldom studied or gave themselves to their books, but spent their time in fencing schools and dancing schools, in stealing deer and conies, in hunting the hare and wooing girls." * In fact, deer-stealing then supplied to the young members of the privileged classes in Old England an excitement of a higher kind than that afforded by beating watchmen and tearing off knockers and bell-pulls to the generation but just passed away. A passage of Titus Andronicus, written soon after Shakespeare reached London, is here in point. Prince Demetrius exclaims, “ What, hast thou not full often struck a doe,
And cleanly borne her past the keeper's nose ?”
* Athena Oxonienses, Vol. I. p. 371.