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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 Plays—comedies, 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
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.
HOTSPUR AND HIS PRISONERS.
Scene.-London; the Palace.
BLUNT, and others.
Hot. My liege, I did deny no prisoners.
Answered neglectingly I know not what,
Blunt. The circumstance considered, good my lord,
K. Hen. Why, yet he doth deny his prisoners,