« ZurückWeiter »
by the Sharers at diuers rates and proportions, so as in the whole it will coste the Lo. Mayor and the Citizens at the least 7000li.”
This, you will own at once, is a very singular, as well as a very valuable document, considering how scanty has hitherto been all our inforination regarding the pecuniary circumstances of our great Poet. Till now, all has depended upon conjecture, both as to the value of theatrical property generally in the time of Shakspeare, and as to the particular sum he may be supposed to have realized as an author of plays and as an actor of them. Malone “suspected that the whole clear receipt of a theatre was divided into forty shares” (Shakspeare by Boswell, iii., 170), and proceeds to guess at the mode in which the money was distributed. Here we have positive proof, that, at the Blackfriars at least the profits were divided into twenty shares: of these Burbage had
4 Shares. Fletcher
3 Shares. Shakspeare
4 Shares. Hemmings
2 Shares. Condell
2 Shares. Taylor and Lowen
3 Shares. Four other Actors
2 Shares. Burbage and Shakspeare, therefore, in the number of their shares, were upon equal terms : the former, as the owner of “the fee,” was probably paid the rent of the theatre, which, I shall hereafter show, from a document of a subsequent date, was then 501. per annum; and the latter, as the owner of the wardrobe and properties, no doubt obtained as large a sum for the use of them. Though they are only estimated at half the value of “the fee,” yet wear and tear is to be taken into the account. We are to presume that the materials for this statement were derived from the actors, and that they made out their loss as large as it could well be shown to be, with a view to gaining full compensation; but if each share produced on an average, or (to use the terms of the document) “ one year with another,” 331. 6s. 8d., the twenty shares would net an annual sum of 6661. 135. 4d., or somewhat less than 3,40C1. of our present money. Shakspeare's annual income from the receipts at the Blackfriars theatre, without the amount paid him for the use of the wardrobe and properties, would therefore be 1331. 6s. Sd. It is possible, however, that thorr might be a deduction for his proportion of the rent to Burbage, and of the salaries to the “ hired men,"
who were always paid by the sharers. To this income would be to be added the sums he received for either new or altered plays. At about this date, it appears that from 12. to 251. were usually given for new dramatic productions. Much would of course depend upon the popularity of the author.
We have a right to conclude that the Globe was at least as profitable as the Blackfriars: it was a public theatre of larger dimensions, and the performances took place at a season when, probably, playhouses were more frequented: if not, why should they have been built so as to contain a more numerous audience? At the lowest computation, therefore, I should be inclined to put Shakspeare's yearly income at 3001., or not far short of 1,5001. of our present money. We are to recollect that, in 1608, he had produced most of his greatest works; the plausible conjecture being, that he wrote only five or six plays between that year and his final retirement from London. In what way, and for what amount, he previously disposed of his interest in the Blackfriars and Globe theatres, it is useless to attempt to speculate.
By “Laz Fletcher," in the preceding account, we are doubtless to understand Laurence, or Larence, Fletcher, the first-named patentee in King James's grant of 1603. The document last quoted seems to have been prepared in the summer of 1608, and Fletcher was buried on the 12th of September of that year. That he was an actor, we know by the will of Augustine Phillips, but upon no other authority; and perhaps he owed his shares in the theatre to his influence in procuring the patent. Hemmings, or Hemminge, and Condell became leaders of the company after the death of Burbage in March, 1619. It is a feature in the character of Burbage, that he was a painter as well as an actor. This fact is confirmed by an epitaph upon him by his contemporary, Thomas Middleton, the dramatist, which I found in a MS. miscellany of poetry belonging to the late Mr. Heber : the collection appears to have been made about the year 1630, and the epitaph runs thus :
“On the death of that great Mr. in his art and quality (painting and play ing) R. Burbage.
" Astronomers and star-gazers this year
Write but of foure Eclipses-five appeare
This, it must be owned, is rather obscure; but “their staying" perhaps means that, in consequence of the death of so great an ornament of the stage, the theatre was for a time closed. Hemminge and Condell, as every body knows, were the editors of the first folio edition of Shakspeare in 1623. Taylor and Lowen were actors of eminence, and seem to have come into the management of the King's Servants, first in conjunction with Hemminge, and subsequently without his partnership.
I have stated that, at a date subsequent to 1608, the rent of the Blackfriars theatre was 501. a year: this was the case in 1633, when the company of the King's Servants held it upon a lease from Cuthbert and William Burbage, doubtless the sons of Richard Burbage, who inherited the property from their father. In that year, the privy council “ entertained the plan of removing the playhouse, and of making compensation to the parties” (“ History of Dramatic Poetry,” î., 50); but, when I wrote this passage, I was not aware of the existence of the original report on the value of the property, made by the aldermen of the ward and two other magistrates, which is now in my possession, and of which I subjoin a copy in a note, because it may serve as some guide to the worth of the concern at the time of the death of Shakspeare, or when he quitted the metropolis for Stratford upon Avon.*
* Certificate from the Justices of the Peace of the County of Middlesex about the Blackfryers.
Vay it please your Lordshipps. According to the order of this honorable Board of the 9th of October last wee haue had diuers meeteings at the Blacke-Fryers, and haueing first viewed the Play house there, we haue called vnto us the chiefe of the Players, and such as haue interest in the said I'layhouse and the buildings thereunto belonging (which wee alsoe viewed) who pretendinge an exceeding greate losse, and allmost vndoing to many of them, and especially to diuers widowes and orphanes hauing interest therein, if they should be removed from playing there, we required them to make a reasonable demaund of recompense for such interest as they or any of them had therein: Whereupon their first demaund being in a grosse sume 16070li wee required them to sett downe particularly in writing how, and from whense such a demaund could arise, and gave them time for it. At our next meeteing they accordingly presented vnto us a particular note thereof which ainounted 10 21,99011. But wee descending to an examination of their interest in their houses and buil!ings they there possess, and the indifferent valuation thereof, haue with their owne consent valued the same as followeth.
First for the Playhouse itselfe, whereof the Company hath taken a Lease for diuers yeares yet to come of Cuthbert Burbidge and William Burbidge (who haue the inheritance thereof) at the Rent of 50li per Ann, wee value the same after the same rate at 14 yearts purchase, as an indifferent recompence to the Burbidges, which cometh to 70011. For 4 Tenements neare adioyning to the Playhouse, for the which they receiue 75li per VOL. I.
It seems by this document, that the company first put a gross sum of 16,0007. upon the Blackfriars theatre and its appurtenances --that, being called upon for particulars, they advanced their claim to 21,9991.; but that the magistrates, extraordinary as it may seem, subsequently reduced the whole demand to only 2,9001. 13s. 4d. There is every reason to suppose that many circumstances, into which I need not now enter, had rendered the undertaking less profitable in 1633 than it had been in the time of Shakspeare, and down to the period when his plays ceased to be as popular as they had been made by Richard Burbage.
In connection with the question of the property of our great Dramatist, I may notice another document of some curiosity, which was pointed out to me among the fines preserved at the Chapter House, Westminster, subsequent to the publication of my book. It relates to the purchase, in 1603, of a messuage, with barn, granary, garden, and orchard, at Stratford upon Avon, for 601. In May, 1602, as is stated in most of the recent memoirs of Shakspeare, he had bought 107 acres of land, which he attached to his house of New Place, and in the same month of the subsequent year (as is no where mentioned) he made this additional bargain with Hercules Underhill. A copy of the document, in its original form, is worth insertion in a note.*
Ann rent, and for a voide piece of ground there to turne coaches in, which they value at 611 per Ann, makeing together 81li per Ann, the purchase thereof, at 14 yeares likewise, cometh to 1131li.
They demaund further in respect of the interest that some of them haue by lease in the said Playhouse, and in respect of the shares which others haue in the benefit thereof, and for the damage they all pretend they shall sustaine by their remoue, not knowing where to settle themselves againe (they being 16 in number) the sume of 2100li viz to each of them 15011. But wee conceive they may be brought to accept of the summe of 10661 136. 42 which is to each of them 100 markes.
All which we humbly leave to your Lordshipps graue consideration. Your Lordshipps
It is known that, in 1605, Shakspeare gave 4401. for the lease of a moiety of the great and small tithes of Stratford; so that the author of the anonymous tract called Ratsey's Ghost (printed without date, but not earlier than 1606) might well make his hero tell the poor itinerant player, in obvious reference to the success of Shakspeare, “When thou feelest thy purse well lined, buy thee some place of lordship in the country, that, growing weary of playing, thy money may there bring thee to high dignity and reputation, *** for I have heard indeed of some that have gone to London very meanly, and have come in time to be exceeding wealthy.” Shakspeare came to London a penniless fugitive, and returned, “ weary of playing " and of plays, to spend his last years in his birthplace, comparatively in a high dignity and reputation," and, if not “exceeding wealthy," with a very comfortable independence. In a previous part of the same paragraph, the author of Ratsey's Ghost clearly refers to Burbage as the original performer of Hamlet (a point now beyond dispute, to the rejection of the claim of Joseph Taylor, whose name has already been inserted), which brings me to another very interesting document preserved at Bridgewater House.
It is the copy of a letter signed H. S., and addressed, as we must conclude, to Lord Ellesmere, in order to induce him to exert himself on behalf of the players at Blackfriars when assailed by the corporation of London. It has no date ; but the internal evidence
tunc ibi presentibus. Inter Willm. SHAKESPEARE generosum Quer. et Herculem UnderIuill generosum Deforc. de uno mesuagio duobus Horreis duobus gardinis & duobus pomarijs cum pertin. in Stretford super Avon: Unde Placitum conventionis sum. fuit inter eos in eadem Curia Scilt. qd predictus Hercules recogn. predicta ten. cum pertin. esse jus ipsius Willi. ut ill. quæ idem Wills. het. de dono predicti Hercnlis. Et ill. remisit & quietelam de se & hered. suis predicto Willo. & hered. suis in perpetuum. Et predicta idem Hercules concessit pro se & hered. suis qd ipsi warant. predicto Willo. & hered. suis predicta ten cum pertin. contra predictum Herculem & hered. suos in perpetuum. Et pro hac recogn. remissione quietelam Warant. fine & concordia idem Wills. dedit predicto IIerculi sexaginta libras sterlingorum
Secundum formam Statuti.
Prima proclam. facta fuit vicesimo nono die Novembris t'mio. Sci. Michis. Anno quadragesimo quinto Reginæ infrascr. Secunda proclam. facta fuit primo die Februar. t'mio. Sci. Hillar. Anno quadragesimo quinto Reginæ infrascr. Tertia proclam. facta fuit decimo octavo die Maij t'mio. Pasche, Anno regnorum Jacobi Dei gra. Angl. Scotiæ Franc. & Hibn. Regis, fidei Defensor. &c. Angl. Franc. & Hibn. primo, & Scotiæ tricesimo sexto. Quarta proclam. facta fuit vicesimo quinto die Junij, t'mio. Scæ. Trinitatis, Anno primo Regis supradicti.