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imagination. Thomas Carlyle says of him, in his "Lectures on Heroes":"Which Englishman we ever made in this land of ours, which million of Englishmen, would we not give up rather than the Stratford peasant? There is no regiment of highest dignitaries that we would sell him for. He is the grandest thing we have done yet. For our honour among foreign nations, as an ornament to our English household, what item is there that we would not surrender rather than him?
William Shakespeare was born at Stratford-on-Avon, in Warwickshire, about April 23, 1564. The exact date is a matter of doubt. His father was John Shakespeare, whose occupation is also variously stated as that of a farmer, glover, glazier, wool-stapler and butcher. His mother was Mary Arden, a lady of gentle birth, who was able to trace her descent from the Saxon times. John Shakespeare seems to have been in prosperous circumstances, and to have been the owner of some property in Stratford-on-Avon.
Our poet is supposed to have been one of a family of eight children-namely, John, Margaret, William, Gilbert, Joan, Anne, Richard, and Edmund. Little is known of his childhood or early youth. He seems to have been imperfectly educated in the school of his native town. Ben Jonson describes his classical education as consisting of "little Latin, and less Greek." Probably his scholarship was not extensive, but his works prove him to have been a man of considerable reading, and he certainly attained to an unrivalled knowledge of human nature.
About 1582 (almost every incident in his biography is uncertain) he married Anne Hathaway, who was the daughter of a yeoman living in the neighbouring village of Shottery, and his senior by seven years. From this marriage were born a daughter, Susanna, in 1583, and twins (Hamnet and Judith) in 1584.
A year or two afterwards he removed to London, probably following the example of many young men of his own and subsequent times who have left the country and gone up to the metropolis. to seek their fortune. There is an obscure tradition that he was obliged to flee from his native town in order to avoid the wrath of Sir Thomas Lucy, of Charlecote Park, a local country squire whose estates had been trespassed on by our poet for the purpose of stealing deer. This story is now, however, generally abandoned as. not being supported by sufficient evidence and as being improbable. Shakespeare's career for some years is almost entirely unknown. It is generally supposed that he very soon became connected with theatrical affairs, and one very untrustworthy account states that he at first gained a meagre subsistence by minding the horses of gentlemen who came to the play. We find him before very long one of a company of actors, called the Queen's Players, who performed at the Blackfriars Theatre, and afterwards removed to the new and more commodious building called the Globe Theatre, in Southwark.
He appears to have been only moderately successful as an actor, not rising to higher parts (according to Rowe) than the Ghost in his own "Hamlet." As a writer for the stage he seems to have been more successful, and it was most likely in that capacity that he rose to be one of the principal proprietors of the Globe Theatre. During his connection with this theatre he wrote many of those great dramas which have immortalised his name.
In 1596 he visited Stratford-on-Avon, on the death of his only son, Hamnet.
He was acquainted with the Earl of Essex, Ben Jonson, and most of the leading spirits of his age. Queen Elizabeth is said to have been an admirer of his genius, and to have been so charmed with his delineation of the character of Falstaff as to request him to continue it in another play, a circumstance which led to the production of "The Merry Wives of Windsor."
His father died in 1601, at the age of seventy-one.
In 1607 his eldest daughter, Susanna, married Dr. Hall, a physician of some celebrity in Warwickshire.
Shakespeare seems to have been fond of a quiet country life. He is said to have visited Stratford-on-Avon once a year, and at length, having as a player, author, and proprietor obtained a comfortable competence, he left London early in the seventeenth century and settled down in his native town. Here he acquired property, bought a house and land in "New Place," and continued the production of the wonderful dramas.
In the year 1613 the Globe Theatre was destroyed by fire during the performance of Shakespeare's "Henry VIII." Whether he was a loser by this event is not known.
He seems to have lived quietly in Stratford-on-Avon, till his death on the supposed anniversary of his birth, April 23rd, 1616, at the age of fifty-two years. His wife survived him, and died seven years afterwards. His daughter Judith married a vintner of Stratfordon-Avon. There is now no lineal descendant of the great poet.
Shakespeare's will is still in existence, bearing his signature. A specimen of his handwriting is to be seen in the British Museum. The house in Henley Street, where he is supposed to have been born, is still carefully preserved.
He was buried in the Church of Stratford-on-Avon. A stone bearing the following inscription, said to have been written by himself, covers his grave :
"Good frend, for Jesus' sake forbeare
A monument is erected to his memory on the chancel wall. We must reserve our account of the poet's writings for the next number.
BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.
KING RICHARD THE SECOND.
Duke of York, Uncles to
JOHN OF GAUNT,
Duke of Lancaster,-
DUKE OF AUMERLE, Son to the
MOWBRAY, Duke of Norfolk.
EARL OF SALISBURY.
Creatures to King Rich-
EARL OF NORTHUMBERLAND.
HENRY PERCY, his Son.
Lord Marshal; and another Lord.
SIR STEPHEN SCROOP.
QUEEN to King Richard.
Lords, Heralds, Officers, Soldiers,
SCENE-Dispersedly in England and Wales.
SCENE I.-London. A Room in the Palace.
Enter KING RICHARD, attended: JOHN OF GAUNT, and other Nobles with him.
K. Rich. Old John of Gaunt, time-honour'd Lancaster,
Against the duke of Norfolk, Thomas Mowbray ?
K. Rich. Tell me, moreover, hast thou sounded him,
10 Or worthily, as a good subject should,
On some known ground of treachery in him?
Gaunt. As near as I could sift him on that argument,—
On some apparent danger seen in him,
Aim'd at your highness, no inveterate malice.
K. Rich. Then call them to our presence; face to face,
The accuser and the accused, freely speak.—
[Exeunt some Attendants. High-stomach'd are they both, and full of ire, In rage deaf as the sea, hasty as fire.
Re-enter Attendants, with BOLINGBROKE and NORFOLK.
Boling. Many years of happy days befal
K. Rich. We thank you both; yet one but flatters us,
Namely, to appeal each other of high treason.-
Boling. First (Heaven be the record to my speech !),
Tendering the precious safety of my prince,
And wish (so please my sovereign), ere I move,
What my tongue speaks, my right-drawn sword may prove. Nor. Let not my cold words here accuse my zeal : 'Tis not the trial of a woman's war,
The bitter clamour of two eager tongues,
50 Can arbitrate this cause betwixt us twain:
First, the fair reverence of your highness curbs me
These terms of treason doubled down his throat.
60 I do defy him, and I spit at him;
Call him a slanderous coward, and a villain :
Wherever Englishman dare set his foot.
Boling. Pale trembling coward, there I throw my gage, 70 Disclaiming here the kindred of a king ;
And lay aside my high blood's royalty,
Which fear, not reverence, makes thee to except :
Or chivalrous design of knightly trial:
And, when I mount, alive may I not light,
If I be traitor, or unjustly fight!
K. Rich. What doth our cousin lay to Mowbray's charge? It must be great that can inherit us
So much as of a thought of ill in him.
Boling. Look, what I speak my life shall prove it true ;-
Fetch from false Mowbray their first head and spring.
Upon his bad life, to make all this good,
100 That he did plot the Duke of Gloster's death; Suggest his soon-believing adversaries ;
And, consequently, like a traitor coward,
Sluiced out his innocent soul through streams of blood :
Even from the tongueless caverns of the earth,
K. Rich. How high a pitch his resolution soars!