« PreviousContinue »
paper. The following Latin distich is engraved under the cushion :
Judicio Pylium, genio Socratem, arte Maronem, Terra tegit, populus moret, Olympus habet. Perhaps we should read Sophoclem, instead of Socratem. Underneath are the following lines:
Stay, passenger, why dost thou go so fast?
Read, if thou canst, whom envious death has plac'd Within this monument: Shakspeare, with whom Quick nature died; whose name doth deck the tomb Far more than cost: since all that he hath writ Leaves living art but page to serve his wit.
Obiit ano. Dni. 1616,
Æt. 53, die 23 Apri.
We have not any account of the malady which, at no very advanced age, closed the life and labours of this unrivalled and incomparable genius. The only notice we have of his person is from Aubrey, who says, 'He was a handsome wellshaped man;' and adds, 'verie good company, and of a very ready and pleasant and smooth wit.'
His family consisted of two daughters, and a son named Hamnet, who died in 1596, in the twelfth year of his age. Susannah, the eldest daughter, and her father's favourite, was married to Dr. John Hall, a physician, who died Nov. 1635, aged 60. Mrs. Hall died July 11, 1649, aged 66. They left only one child, Elizabeth, born 1607-8, and married April 22, 1626, to Thomas Nashe, esq. who died in 1647; and afterwards to Sir John Barnard, of Abington in Northamptonshire, but died without issue by either hus
band. Judith, Shakspeare's youngest daughter, was married to Mr. Thomas Quiney, and died Feb. 1661-2, in her 77th year. By Mr. Quiney she had three sons, Shakspeare, Richard, and Thomas, who all died unmarried. The traditional story of Shakspeare having been the father of Sir William Davenant, has been generally discredited.
From these imperfect notices,* which are all we have been able to collect from the labours of his biographers and commentators, our readers will perceive that less is known of Shakspeare than of almost any writer who has been consider. ed as an object of laudable curiosity. Nothing could be more highly gratifying, than an account of the early studies of this wonderful man, "the progress of his pen, his moral and social qualities, his friendships, his failings, and whatever else constitutes personal history. But on all these topics his contemporaries, and his immediate successors, have been equally silent; and if aught can hereafter be discovered, it must be by exploring sources which have hitherto escaped the anxious researches of those who have devoted their whole lives, and their most vigorous talents, to revive his memory, and illustrate his writings.
It is equally unfortunate, that we know as little of the progress of his writings, as of his personal history. The industry of his illustrators for the
*The first regular attempt at a life of Shakspeare is prefixed to Mr. A. Chalmers's variorum edition, published in 1805, of which we have availed ourselves in the above Sketch.
last forty years, has been such as probably never was surpassed in the annals of literary investigation; yet so far are we from information of the conclusive or satisfactory kind, that even the order in which his plays were written rests principally on conjecture, and of some of the plays usually printed among his works, it is not yet determined whether he wrote the whole, or any part. We are, however, indebted to the labours of his commentators, not only for much light thrown upon his obscurities, but for a text purified from the gross blunders of preceding transcribers and editors; and it is almost unnecessary to add, that the text of the following volumes is that of the last corrected edition of Johnson and Steevens.
Alonso, king of Naples.
Sebastian, his brother.
Prospero, the rightful duke of Milan.
Antonio, his brother, the usurping duke of Milan. Ferdinand, son to the king of Naples.
Gonzalo, an honest old counsellor of Naples.
Caliban, a savage and deformed slave.
Trinculo, a jester.
Stephano, a drunken butler.
Master of a ship, Boatswain, and Mariners.
Miranda, daughter to Prospero.
Ariel, an airy spirit.
Other spirits attending on Prospero.
Scene, the sea, with a ship; afterwards an uninhabited island.