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SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF SHAKSPEARE.
WILLIAM SHAKSPBARB was born at Stratford-upon-Avon, in Warwickshire, on the 23d day of April, 1564. His father, John Shakspeare, was a glover at Stratford, and had been alderman and high-bailiff, or mayor, of that corporation, but passed the latter part of his sife in reduced circumstances. The poet's mother was the youngest daughter of Robert Arden, of Wellingcote, or Wilmecote, in Warwickshire. He had eight brothers and sisters, of whom five attained to the age of maturity, but of them little is known.
William, the eldest of this family, was placed, for education, at the free-school of Stratford, from which he appears to have been early removed to the office of some country attorney. In his eighteenth year, or perhaps a little sooner, he married Anne Hathaway ; she was seven years and a half older than hiinself.
Of bis course of life at this time all that is known is from tradition, and tradition gives us no very favourable account. We are told that he was obliged to leave his family and business, whatever the latter might be, and take shelter in London, in consequence of having associated with a gang of deer-stealers who robbed the park of Sir Thomas Lucy. Mr. Malone, the last who has attempted to give a life of Shakspeare from original documents, endeavours to prove all this to be false, but has not furnished us with any other reason why Shakspeare should have precipitately left Stratford, unless a conjecture “ that he was involved in some pecuniary difficulties." He is supposed to have arrived in London in the year 1586, when he was twenty-two years old, and appears to have been soon led, by accident or inclination, to the theatres, of which he was destined, at no long period, to be the unrivalled ornament.
He was at first an actor, but, as all his biographers suppose, not of any great eminence. It was when he began to write for the stage that he distanced his predecessors, his conteinporaries, and his successors ; but it is much to be regretted, that no document exists bv which we can trace his progress as a dramatic author. That he was soon eminently distinguished may be gathered from his enjoying the gracious favour of Queen Elizabeth, and the liberal patronage of the Earl of Southampton. He was likewise afterwards a favourite with King James.
How long he was an actor has not been discovered, but the dates of his authorship may be more easily ascertained. He is said to have produced his first play, “The Comedy of Errors," in 1591, and he continued to write for the stage until the year 1614. His lesser poems were produced at various intervals ; but no prose work is known to have come from his pen.
During his career as a drainatic writer he acquired a property in the theatre, from which it is sapposed be derived about 2001. a-year, and with that, and other advantages from his plays, he retired with a fortune, which enabled him to pass the remainder of his days in ease and comfort.
He left London about four years before his death, and purchased a house in Stratford. It had belonged to the family of Sir Hugh Clopton, and was known by the name of the Great House, until Shakspeare, after he had repaired it to his own mind, called it New Place. It existed in 1742, when Garrick paid a visit to Stratford, but was pulled down by the Rev. Mr. Gastrell, who became its owner in 1752. No vestige of it now remains.
During Shakspeare s abode in this house, his pleasurable wit and good nature, says Rowe, engaged him the acquaintance, and entitled him to the friendship, of the gentlemen of the neighbourhood. This inay readily be believed. He was justly entitled to the respect of his countrymen. He had left bis native place poor, and almost unknown ; he returned ennobled by fame, and enriched by fortune.
LIFE OF SHAKSPEARE
Shakspeare died on his birth-day, Tuesday, April 23, 1616, when he had exactly complet his fifty-second year, and was buried on the north side of the chancel, in the great church Stratford. Here a monument is placed on the wall, on which he is represented under a. arch, in a sitting posture, and a cushion before him, with a pen in his right hand, and his left resting on a scroll of paper. The following Latin distich is engraved under the cushion
Indicio Pylium, genio Socratem, arte Maronem,
Terra tegit, populus mæret, Olympus habet, We have no account of the malady which elosed his life. Of his person there is only a scanty notice by Aubrey, who says, "he was a handsome, well-shaped man." The physiognomist may consult the various portraits of him, but the authenticity of some of those is involved in doubt, and it is certain they do not agree.
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 June 5, 1607, to Dr. John Hall, a physician, who died November, 1635, aged sixty. Mro. Hall died July 11, 1649, aged sixty-six. They left only one child, Elizabeth, born in 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 husband. Judith, Shakspeare's youngest daughter, was married February 10, 1615-16, to a Mr. Thomas Quiney, and died February, 1651-2, in her seventy-seventh year. By Mr. Quiney she had three sons, Shakspeare, Richard, and Thomas, who all died unmarried: and here the descendants of our poet became extinct.
It does not anpear that Shakspeare published any of his plays, and only eleven of them were printed in his life-time. Soon after he died, the nation began to be involved in disputes, which ended in a civil war ; and it was nearly a century after before the merit of his works was discovered. During this long period only four editions of his works were published, all in folio, and it is supposed that the impressions were not numerous.
His last commentator justly remarks, that “ if he had been read, admired, studied, and imitated, in the same degree as he now is, the enthusiasm of some one or other of his admirers in the last age would have induced him to make some inquiries concerning the history of his theatrical career, and the anecdotes of his private life." But all these are for ever lost, and less is known of Shakspeare than of almost any writer who has been regarded as an object of curiosity.
For his character as a dramatic writer, it is sufficient to refer to Dr. Johnson's preface to his edition of his plays, a composition pre-eminent for taste, elegance, and philosophy. “ Shakspeare," says our great moralist,“ is above all writers, at least above all modern writers, the poet of nature ; the poet that holds up to his readers a faithful mirror of manners and of life. His characters are not modified by the customs of particular places, unpractised by the rest of the world ; by the peculiarities of studies or professions, which can operate but upon small numbers, or by the accidents of transient fashions or temporary opinions ; they are the genuine progeny of common humanity, such as the world will always supply, and observation will always find. His persons act and speak by the influence of those general passions and principles by which all minds are agitated, and the whole system of life is continued in motion. In the writings of other poets, a character is too often an individual ; in those of Shakspeare, it is commonly a species. It is from this wide extension of design that so much instruction is derived. It is this which fills the plays of Shakspeare with practical axioms and domestic wisdom. It was said of Euripides, that every verse was a precept: and it may be said of Shakspeare, that from his works may be collected a system of civil and economical prudence.”—This, therefore, is the praise of Shakspeare, that his drama is the mirror of life: that he who has mazed his imagination, in following the phantoins which other writers raise up before him, may here be cured of his delirious ecstasies, by reading human sentiments in human language ; by scenes from which a hermit may estimate the transactions of the world, and a confessor predict the progress of the passions.
Miranda, daughter to Prospero.
Ariel, an airy spirit.
Other spirits attending on Prosperu
SCENE,—T'he sea, with a Ship: afterwards an uninhabited Island.
n of them red in diserit of his vere pub
died, and of his ad& the hisre forever
rded as an
preface to ilosophy.
modern of man
нпргас7 operate pinions ;
supply, of those
SCENE 1.-On a Ship at Sea.
Gon. Good; yet remember whom thou hsel
aboard. A Storm with Thunder and Lightning.
Boats. None that I more love than myself. You Enter a Ship-master and a Boatswain.
are a counsellor; if you can command these ele
ments to silence, and work the peace of the present Master. Boatswain,
we will not hand a rope more; use your authority. Boats. Here, master: What cheer?
If you cannot, give thanks you have lived so long, Master. Good : Speak to the mariners : fall to't and make yourself ready in your cabin for the misyarely, or we run ourselves aground; bestir, bestir. chance of the hour, if it so hap.-Cheerly, good [Erit. hearts.-Out of our way, I say.
[Exit. Enter Mariners
Gon. I have great comfort from this fellow : meBoats. Heigh, my hearts; cheerly, cheerly, my thinks he hath no drowning mark upon him; his hearts; yare, yare: take in the top sail ; Tend to complexion is perfect ga!lows. Stand fast, good the master's whistle.—Blow till 'thou burst thy fate, to his hanging! make the rope of his destiny wind, if room enough!
our cable, for our own doth little advantage! if
he be not born to be hanged our case is miserable Enter ALONSO, Sebastian, ANTONIO, FERDINAND,
[Exeunt GONZALO, and others.
Boats. Down with the topmast; yare ; lower, master ? Play the men.
lower ; bring her to try with main-course. [A cry Boats. I pray now, keep below.
within.] A plague upon this howling! they are Ant. Where is the master, Boatswain ?
louder than the weather, to your office.-
Gon. Nay, good, be patient.
Yet again? what do you here ? Shall we give o'er
Seb. A pox o' your throat! you bawling, blas phemous, incharitable dog!
m of life
indiriasion of kspeare rse was system jat his phan
ies, by timate