페이지 이미지

WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE.—1564–1616. WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE, the greatest of all dramatists and poets, was born at Stratford-on-Avon, April 23, 1564. He does not seem to have got much education at the local schools. While yet a boy, however, he shared his father's experience of the ups and downs of fortune. John Shakspeare carried on a prosperous business in Stratford, and rose through a succession of public offices to the highest municipal dignity in 1571; but by the end of seven years more he was compelled by stress of circumstances to mortgage (1578) the estate of Ashbies, which had come to him through his wife, Mary Arden. In the meantime also, William Shakspeare's mind was being familiarised, not only with the turns of fortune's wheel, but with the stage representations of these as well, for he had abundant opportunity at Stratford to witness the best dramatic productions, such as they were, represented by the best actors then alive.' Very probably, too, he had taken a foremost part in the local amusements at the seasons of the great festivals; such energy as his could not be utterly depressed even by the clouded circumstances of his home. Before he was nineteen, he married (Nov. 28, 1582) Ann Hathaway, daughter of a neighbouring yeoman, and nearly eight years older than himself. Children followed rapidly; first a daughter, and, in less than two years thereafter, twins. Whether under the pressure of his fast-increasing responsibilities, joined with his father's embarrassments, and probably a very irksome life on the whole, or under the restless impulse of conscious power, or the strong attraction of the stage for his most lively and vigorous imagination, Shakspeare found himself in London about the age of twenty-two (1586), a member of the Queen's conpany of players at Blackfriars Theatre. As an actor, as an adapter of other writers' plays, and as an original dramatist, he achieved a great reputation by the end of the century; no doubt fighting every inch of his way, by the usual indomitable struggle of men that rise in the world, to the acknowledged victory at last. His father witnessed his success before dying in 1601. Besides holding theatre shares, Shakspeare made various extensive purchases of property in and near Stratford, between 1597 and 1605; a guarantee of the substantial accompaniments of his fame. On quitting the stage, he retired to his native place, perhaps not before 1609; and here he continued to write dramas. He died on his fifty-second birthday, April 23, 1616.

Shakspeare's Playscomedies, histories, and tragedies—are nearly forty in number. There has been much debate over certain plays and parts of plays, as to whether they are Shakspeare's work or not; and though various attempts have been made to arrrange his admitted plays in the order of their production, rational conjecture

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

has taken us but a short way beyond the few ascertained dates. Venus and Adonis was printed in 1593, and was followed next year by another poem, The Rape of Lucrece. The Sonnets, over one hundred and fifty in number, were all published by 1609.

(From The First Part of King Henry IV., Act I., Scene iii.)

Scene.-London; the Palace.

BLUNT, and others.
North. Those prisoners in your highness' name demanded,
Which Harry Percy here at Holmedon took,
Were, as he says, not with such strength denied 25
As is delivered to your majesty :
Either envy, therefore, or misprision
Is guilty of this fault, and not my son.

Hot. My liege, I did deny no prisoners.
But, I remember, when the fight was done,
When I was dry with rage and extreme toil, *
Breathless and faint, leaning upon my sword,
Came there a certain lord, neat, trimly dressed,
Fresh as a bridegroom ; and his chin, new reaped,
Shewed like a stubble-land at harvest-home ;
He was perfumed like a milliner;
And 'twixt his finger and his thumb he held
A pouncet-box, which ever and anon
He gave his nose, and took’t away again ;
Who, therewith angry, when it next came there,
Took it in snuff : and still he smiled and talked ;
And as the soldiers bore dead bodies by
He called them untaught knaves, unmannerly,
To bring a slovenly unhandsome corse
Betwixt the wind and his nobility,
With many holiday and lady terms
He questioned me; among the rest, demanded
My prisoners, in your majesty's behalf.
I then, all smarting with my wounds being cold,
Out of my grief and my impatience
To be so pestered with a popinjay,


Answered neglectingly I know not what,
He should, or he should not ; for he made me mad,
To see him shine so brisk, and smell so sweet,
And talk so like a waiting-gentlewoman
Of guns and drums and wounds—God save the mark !-
And telling me the sovereign'st thing on earth
Was parmaceti for an inward bruise ;
And that it was great pity, so it was,
That villainous saltpetre should be digged
Out of the bowels of the harmless earth,
Which many a good tall fellow had destroyed
So cowardly; and but for these vile guns
He would himself have been a soldier.
This bald unjointed chat of his, my lord,
I answered indirectly, as I said ;
And, I beseech you, let not this report
Come current for an accusation
Betwixt my love and your high majesty.

Blunt. The circumstance considered, good my lord,
Whatever Harry Percy then had said
To such a person, and in such a place,
At such a time, with all the rest re-told,
May reasonably die, and never rise
To do him wrong, or any way impeach
What then he said, so he unsay it now.

K. Hen. Why, yet he doth deny his prisoners,
But with proviso and exception
That we, at our own charge, shall ransom straight
His brother-in-law, the foolish Mortimer ;
Who, on my soul, hath wilfully betrayed
The lives of those that he did lead to fight
Against the great magician, Owen Glendower ;
Whose daughter, as we hear, the Earl of March
Hath lately married. Shall our coffers, then,
Be emptied to redeem a traitor home ?
Shall we buy treason ? and indent with fears,
When they have lost and forfeited themselves ?
No, on the barren mountains let him starve;
For I shall never hold that man my friend

« 이전계속 »