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In 1557 John married a local heiress, Mary, younger daughter of Robert Arden, a prosperous farmer of Wilmecote, in the parish of Aston Cantlowe, near Stratford. To John she brought the estate of Asbies, a property of some fifty acres, in Wilmecote, with a house
Early Years.--William was the third child but the eldest
The house of his birth is still extant but greatly modified. It is one of the two attached dwellings in Henley Street, Stratford,
Shakespeare's Birthplace, 1769.
(From the Gentleman's Magazine.) now held by the Corporation of that town on Legalf of the subscribers to the public fund. Amid domestic comfort, and a certain degree of affluence, Shakespeare's childhood was spent. His father's civic promotion had been unusually rapid. He had passed through all the various offices in quick succession, from that of “ ale-taster in 1557 to “ bailiff” in 1568. In the latter year be entertained two companies of players—the “ Queen's and the “Earl of Worcester's” men-probably for the first time in the history of the burgh. In September 1571 he became Chief Alderman, the highest civic position attainable, and held it until September 1572.
John Shakespeare's Reverses.—About Michaelmas (October) of the latter year adversity of some unknown kind
seems to have fallen upon the busy merchant.
His prosperity declined. He was unable to contribute to the customary civic levies for the relief of the poor, etc., his property had to be mortgaged to his brother-in-law, Edmund Lambert, and at last he was deprived of his seat in the Council on the ground of irregularity in attendance.
Shakespeare's Education.—During the first seven or eight years of his life William had probably known a fair measure of
Court yard of the Grammar School, Stratford.
(From an engraving by Fairholt.) aomestic comfort. He would be sent, as was usual, to the Free Grammar School at Stratford, an old “foundation ”re-organised by Edward VI. His teachers there would in all likelihood be Walter Roche, who was succeeded by Thomas Hunt in 1577, while the “matter” of the instruction imparted would be almost wholly classical. After the boys had gone through the Accidence (cf. Merry Wives of Windsor, IV. i.) and Lily's Latin Grammar, along with the Sententiae Pueriles, they passed on to the study of Ovid, Virgil, Horace, Livy, Seneca, Cicero, Terence and Plautus, while Baptist Mantuanus, the popular Renaissance poet, was widely read as an introduction to Virgil. Greek was rarely taught in the provinces, and there are no traces of its having formed part of the school course in Stratford until later. That the system of education pursued in Shakespeare's case was thorough is evident from those scenes in Love's Labour's Lost where Holofernes appears, and also in the Merry Wives of Windsor where Sir Hugh Evans is introduced examining his pupil in the early pages of the Accidence. French, likewise, formed one of the branches in which the poet attained considerable proficiency, as the dialogues in that language in Henry V. undeniably prove. Some writers have found difficulty in accounting for Shakespeare's marvellous fund of information by the amount of school training that had fallen to his lot. But he had received a sound middleclass education, and had profited by it, as Shakespeare alone could profit. During this period, any boy possessing that marvellous union of keen faculty with receptive capacity characteristic of him, must have amassed, through the medium of the senses alone, just such a vast store of information as he acquired. Sir Walter Scott's mind was constituted on somewhat similar lines, and in age he could repeat entire pages
of ballads which he had heard only once recited in early youth.
Shakespeare begins Work.-Shakespeare's schooldays probably lasted from 1571-1577. At thirteen, owing to his father's increasing commercial difficulties, the boy was removed from school, and according to one tradition was apprenticed to his father's business, according to another, bound to a butcher. To this myth, Aubrey makes the addition, that when the future dramatist killed a calf he was wont to make a speech and do it in high style.
Shakespeare's Marriage.—The events of those five years 1577-1582 are wrapped in a mist of obscurity. There can be little doubt, however, they must have been years of steady mental growth and the acquisition of stores of knowledge. When next we hear of him he was assuming responsibilities that were to influence the whole of his after career.
In November 1582 he married Anne, youngest daughter of Richard Hathaway of Shottery, near Stratford, who, like Robert Arden, the poet's grandfather, was a substantial yeomanfarmer. There is some ground at least for thinking that the union was not a happy one, for the wife was the senior by eight years of her husband. The reference in Twelfth Night (II. iv, 29) to a parallel case has often been regarded as suggested by his own state. Shakespeare leaves Stratford for London.-In 1583 their first child Susanna was born, followed in February 1585 by the twins Hamnet and Judith, and early next year the poet in all likelihood withdrew from Stratford. That he was compelled to leave his native town in consequence of his share in a poaching raid over the estates of Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, is proved a myth by the fact that the Charlecote deer forest was not in existence at the time. Certainly Sir Thomas Lucy was an extensive game-preserver, and, as Lee says, owned at Charlecote a warren in which a few harts may have found a home, but there
was no deer forest ther :” The tradition goes on to say that Lucy, having prosecuted and punished Shakespeare, the latter retaliated in a satire so bitter in tone that the local magnate's wrath w:s increased to such a degree against its author, that the latter judged it expedient to withdraw from the district for a time. Whether due to this cause, or to the increasing expenses of a young family, towards the support of which he could contribute but little, or to his conviction that continued association with his wife was impossible under existing conditions, certain it is that by 1586 they were living apart, and the poet was either in London or directing his steps thither.
His First Position in London.—Tradition reports many tales, obviously fictions, as to his employment during the six years between 1586 and 1592. By one narrator he is said to have been a schoolmaster, by another a soldier in the Low Countries, by a third a vintner's drawer, by a fourth a holder of horses in front of the theatres, and so forth. The most probable of all such tales is that which states that he had been recommended to the players by some of those Stratford friends they had made during their visits there, and that he was employed as prompter's assistant or “call-boy” at Burbage's playhouse, “ The Theatre.”
The Lot of the Elizabethan Player.-If Shakespeare arrived in London in 1586, he would find two theatres in existence, viz., “THE THEATRE, erected in 1576 in Shoreditch by James Burbage, father of the great tragic actor, and “The Curtain,' built about the same time as the other in Moorfields. Both were without the City boundaries, as the Corporation of London would not permit playhouses within the municipality. To the former of these Shakespeare became attached, and in the company he then joined—the Earl of Leicester’s—he remained until he quitted the stage. Actors in those days were all obliged to shelter themselves under the name of some leading personage. By an Act of Parliament passed in 1571 (14 Eliz., Cap. 2), they were enjoined, if they would escape being treated as rogues and vagabonds, to procure a license to pursue their calling from the monarch, from a peer of the realm, or from some high official of the Court. Both Elizabeth and the leading notles of the time, however, were so liberal in granting permits that no player of any standing had difficulty in procuring the license which gave him a social status. There were at least six companies of adult actors playing at this time, and owning the licenses respectively of the Earls of Leicester, Oxford, Sussex and Worcester, the Lord Admiral (Charles Lord Howard), while one of them held the permit of the Queen, and was called the “ Queen's Servants” or company of players. , In addition, there were three companies of licensed boy-actors, formed from the choristers of St Paul's and the Chapel Royal, also from Westminster School. Between the adult and the boy-players intense rivalry existed, and the dramatists took sides in the dispute. For instance, the most of Lyly’s plays are stated on the title-pages