Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

of matrimony between William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway, of Stratford. It is not known at what church the ceremony was performed, but certainly not at Stratfordupon-Avon,' to which both the parties belonged, where the bondsmen resided, and where it might be expected that it would have been registered. The object of the bond was to obtain such a dispensation from the bishop of Worcester as would authorize a clergyman to unite the bride and groom after only a single publication of the banns; and it is not to be concealed, or denied, that the whole proceeding seems to indicate haste and secresy. However, it ought not to escape notice that the seal used when the bond was executed, although damaged, has upon it the initials R. H., as if it had belonged to R. Hathaway, the father of the bride, and had been used on the occasion with his consent.”

Considering all the circumstances, there might be good reasons why the father of Anne Hathaway should concur in the alliance, independently of any regard to the worldly, prospects of the parties. The first child of William and Anne Shakespeare was christened Susanna on 26th May, 1583% Anne was between seven and eight years older than her young husband, and several passages in Shakespeare's plays have been pointed out by Malone, and repeated by other biographers, which seem to point directly at the evils resulting from unions in which the parties were "misgraffed in respect of years." The most remarkable of these is certainly the well-known speech of the Duke to Viola, in “Twelfth Night,” (act ii. sc. 4) where he says,

" Let still the woman take
An elder than herself: so wears she to him;
So sways she level in her husband's heart :
For, boy, however we do praise ourselves,
Our fancies are more giddy and unfirm,
More longing, wavering, sooner lost and worn,

Than women's are.' Afterwards the Duke adds, 1 Malone conjectured that the marriage took place at Weston, or Billesley, but the old registers there having been lost or destroyed, it is impossible to ascertain the fact. A more recent search in the registers of some other churches in the neighborhood of Stratford has not been attended with any success. Possibly, the ceremony was performed in the vicinity of Worcester, but the mere fact that the bond was there executed proves nothing. An examination of the registers at Worcester has been equally fruitless.

2 Rowe tells us, (and we are without any other authority) that Hathaway was "said to have been a substantial yeoman,” and he was most likely in possession of a seal, such as John Shakespeare had used in 1579. 3 The fact is registered in this form :

* 1583. May 26. Susanna daughter to William Shakspere."

" Then let thy love be younger than thyself,

Or thy affection cannot hold the bent." Whether these lines did or did not originate in the author's reflections upon his own marriage, they are so applicable to his own case, that it seems impossible he should have written them without recalling the circumstances attending his hasty union, and the disparity of years between himself and his wife. Such, we know, was the confirmed opinion of Coleridge, expressed on two distinct occasions in his lectures, and such we think will be the conclusion at which most readers will arrive:-“I cannot hesitate in believing," observed Coleridge in 1815, “ that in this passage from Twelfth Night,' Shakespeare meant to give a caution arising out of his own experience; and, but for the fact of the disproportion in point of years between himself and his wife, I doubt much whether the dialogue between Viola and the Duke would have received this turn?.” It is incident to our nature that youths, just advancing to manhood, should feel with peculiar strength the attraction of women whose charms have reached the full-blown summer of beauty ; but we cannot think that it was so necessary a consequence, as some have supposed", that Anne Hathaway should have possessed peculiar personal advantages. It may be remarked, that poets have often appeared comparatively indifferent to the features and persons of their mistresses, since, in proportion to the strength of their imaginative faculty, they have been able to supply all physical deficiencies? Coleridge was aware, if not from his own particular case, from recorded examples, that the beauty of the objects of the affection of poets was sometimes more fanciful than real; and his notion was, that Anne Hathaway was a woman with whom the boyish Shakespeare had fallen in love, perhaps from proximity of residence and frequency of intercourse, and that sbe had not any peculiar recommendations of a personal description. The truth, however, is, that we

1 We derive this opinion from our own notes of what fell from Coleridge upon the occasion in question. The lectures, upon which he was then engaged, were delivered in a room belonging to the Globe tavern, in Fleet-street. He repeated the same sentiment in public in 1818, and we have more than once heard it from him in private society

2 The Rev. Mr. Dyce, in his Life of Shakespeare, prefixed to the Aldine edition of his Poems, 12mo. 1832. p. xi. It comprises all the main points of the biography of our poet then known.

3 When the Rev. Mr. Dyce observes that “it is unlikely that a woman devoid of personal charms should have won the youthful affections of so imaginative a being as Shakespeare," he forgets that the mere fact that Shakespeare was an “imaginative being” would render “ personal charms" in his wife less necessary to his happiness.

have no evidence either way; and when Oldys remarks upon the 93rd sonnet, that it " seems to have been addressed by Shakespeare to his beautiful wife, on some suspicion of her infidelity)," it is clear that he was under an entire mistake as to the individual: the lines,

“So shall I live supposing thou art true
Like a deceived husband; so love's face

May still seem love to ine,'' &c. were most certainly not applied to his wife ; and Oldys couldhave had no other ground for asserting that Anne Hathaway was “ beautiful,” than general supposition, and the erroneous belief that a sonnet like that from which we have made a brief quotation had Shakespeare's wife for its ob ject.

The present may not be an improper opportunity for remarking (if, indeed, the remark might not be entirely spared, and the reader left to draw his own inferences) that the balance of such imperfect information as remains to us, leads us to the opinion that Shakespeare was not a very happy married man. The disparity in age between himself and his wife from the first was such, that she could not “sway level in her husband's heart;" and this difference; for a certain time at least, became more apparent as they advanced in years: may we say also, that the peculiar cir cumstances attending their marriage, and the birth of their first child, would not tend, even in the most grateful and considerate mind, to increase that respect which is the chief source of confidence and comfort in domestic life. To this may be added the fact (by whatever circumstances it may have been occasioned, which we shall consider presently) that Shakespeare quitted his home at Stratford a very few years after he had become a husband and a father, and that although he revisited his native town frequently, and ultimately settled there with bis family, there is no proof that his wife ever returned with him to London, or resided with him during any of his lengthened sojourns in the metropolis : that she may have done so is very possible: and in 1609 he certainly paid a weekly poor-rate to an amount that may indicate that he occupied a house in Southwark capable of receiving his family', but we are here, as upon

1 In his MS. notes to Lang baine, in the British Museum, as quoted by Steevens. See “Malone's Shakspeare, by Boswell,” vol. xx.

2 We have noticed this matter more at length hereafter, with re. ference to the question, whether Shakespeare, in 1609, were not rated to the poor of Southwark in respect of his theatrical property, and not for any dwelling-house which he occupied.

P. 306.

many other points, compelled to deplore the absence of distinct testimony. We put out of view the doubtful and am. biguous indications to be gleaned from Shakespeare's Sonnets, observing merely, that they contain little to show that he was of a domestic turn, or that he found any great en.

joyment in the society of his wife. That such may have been the fact we do not pretend to deny, and we willingly believe that much favourable evidence upon the point has been lost: all we venture to advance on a question of so much difficulty and delicacy is, that what remains to us is not, as far as it goes, perfectly satisfactory.

A question was formerly agitated, which the marriage bond, already quoted, tends to set at rest. Some of Shakespeare's biographers have contended that Anne Hathaway came from Shottery, within a mile of Stratford, while Malone argued that she was probably from Luddington, about three miles from the borough. There is no doubt that a family of the name of Hathaway had been resident at Shottery from the year 1543, and continued to occupy a house there long after the death of Shakespeare'; there is also a tradition in favour of a particular cottage in the vil. lage, and, on the whole, we may perhaps conclude that Anne Hathaway was of that family, She is, however, described in the bond as “of Stratford,” and we may take it for granted, until other and better proof is offered, that she was resident at the time in the borough, although she may have come from Shottery?. Had the parties seeking the licence wished to misdescribe her, it might have answered their purpose better to have stated her to be of any other place rather than of Stratford.

1 Richard Hathaway, alias Gardener, of Shottery, had a daughter named Johanna, baptized at Stratford church on 9th May, 1566; but there is no trace of the baptism of Anne Hathaway.

? From an extract of a letter from Abraham Sturley, dated 24 Jan., 1598, printed in “ Malone's Shakspeare by Boswell," vol. ii. p. 266, it appears that our great dramatist then contemplated the purchase of some odd yard-land or other at Shottery." This intention perhaps arose out of the connexion of his wife with the village.

CHAPTER V.

Shakespeare's twins, Hamnet and Judith, born in 1585. His

departure from Stratford. The question of deer-stealing from Sir Thomas Lucy considered. Authorities for the story; Rowe, Betterton, Fulman's MSS., Oldys. Ballad by Shakespeare against Sir Thomas Lucy. Proof, in opposition to Malone, that Sir Thomas Lucy had deer: his present of a buck to Lord Ellesmere. Other inducements to Shakespeare, to quit Stratford. Companies of players encouraged by the Corporation. Several of Shakespeare's fellow-actors from Stratford and Warwickshire. The Princely Pleasures of Kenilworth.

In the beginning of 1585 Shakespeare's wife produced him twins-a boy and a girl and they were baptized at Stratford Church on the 2d Feb. in that year? Malone supposed, and the supposition is very likely well founded, that Hamnet Sadler and his wife Judith stood sponsors for the infants, which were baptized by the Christian names of the godfather and godmother, Hamnet and Judith. It is a fact not altogether unimportant, with relation to the terms of affection between Shakespeare and his wife in the subsequent part of his career, that she brought him no more children, although in 1585 she was only thirty years old.

That Shakespeare quitted his home and his family not long afterwards has not been disputed, but no ground for this step has ever been derived from domestic disagreements. It has been alleged that he was obliged to leave Stratford on account of a scrape in which he had involved himself by stealing, or assisting in stealing, deer from the grounds of Charlcote, the property of Sir Thomas Lucy, about five miles from the borough. As Rowe is the oldest authority in print for this story, we give it in his own words "He had, by a misfortune common enough to young fellows, fallen into ill company; and among them some, that made a frequent practice of deer-stealing, engaged him more than once in robbing, the park that belonged to Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecot, near Stratford. For this he was prosecuted by that gentleman, as he thought, somewhat too severely; and, in order to revenge

1 The registration is, of course, dated 2 Feb., 1584, as the year 1585 did not at that date begin until after 25th March : it runs thus :

"1584. Feb. 2. Hamnet & Judith sónne & daughter to Willia Shakspere."

? There was an actor called Hamnet (the name is sometimes spelt Hamlet, see " Memoirs of Edward Alleyn," p. 127) in one of the Lone don companies at a subsequent date. It is not at all impossible that, like not a few players of that day, came from Warwickshire.

Vol, I.--G

« ZurückWeiter »