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tradition that his first office in the theater was that of prompter's attendant, whose employment it is to give the performers notice to be ready to enter as often as the business of the play requires their appearance on the stage"; nor can the future eminence of Shakespeare be considered to be opposed to the reception of the tradition. "I have known men within my remembrance," observes Downes, in 1710, "arrive to the highest dignities of the theater, who made their entrance in the quality of mutes, joint-stools, flower-pots, and tapestry hangings." The office of prompter's attendant was at least as respectable as any of the occupations which are here enumerated.

No one has recorded the name of the first theater with which Shakespeare was connected, but if, as is almost certain, he came to London in or soon after the year 1585, there were at the time of his arrival only two in the metropolis, both of them on the north of the Thames. The earliest legitimate theater on the south was the Rose, the erection of which was contemplated in the year 1587, but it would seem from Henslowe's Diary that the building was not opened till early in 1592. The circus at Paris Garden, though perhaps occasionally used for dramatic performances, was not a regular theater. Admitting, however, the possibility that companies of players could have hired the latter establishment, there is good reason for concluding that Southwark was not the locality alluded to in the Davenant tradition. The usual mode of transit, for those Londoners who desired to attend theatrical performances in Southwark, was certainly by water. The boatmen of the Thames were perpetually asserting at a somewhat later period that their living depended on the continuance of the Southwark, and the suppression of the

London, theaters. Some few of the courtly members of the audience, perhaps for the mere sake of appearances, might occasionally have arrived at their destination on horseback, having taken what would be to most of them the circuitous route over London Bridge; but the large majority would select the more convenient passage by boat. The Southwark audiences mainly consisted of Londoners, for in the then sparsely inhabited condition of Kent and Surrey very few could have arrived from those counties. The number of riders to the Bankside theaters must, therefore, always have been very limited, too much so for the remunerative employment of horse-holders, whose services would be required merely in regard to the still fewer persons who were unattended by their lackeys. The only theaters upon the other side of the Thames, when the poet arrived in London, were the Theater and the Curtain, for, notwithstanding some apparent testimonies to the contrary, the Blackfriars Theater, as will be afterwards seen, was not then in existence. It was to the Theater or to the Curtain that the satirist alluded when he speaks of the fashionable youth riding "into the fieldes playes to behold." Both these theaters were situated in the parish of Shoreditch, in the fields of the Liberty of Halliwell, in which locality, if the Davenant tradition is in the slightest degree to be trusted, Shakespeare must have commenced his metropolitan life. This new career, however, was initiated not absolutely in London, but in a thinly populated outskirt about half a mile from the city walls, a locality possessing outwardly the appearance of a country village, but inwardly sustaining much of the bustle and all the vices of the town. These latter inconveniences could easily be avoided, for there were in the neighboring meadows ample

opportunities for quiet meditation or scientific enquiry. Here it was that Gerard, the celebrated botanist, stumbled a few years afterwards upon a new kind of crow-foot which he describes as being similar to the ordinary plant, "saving that his leaves are fatter, thicker, and greener, and his small twiggie stalkes stand upright, otherwise it is like; of which kinde it chanced that, walking in the fielde next unto the Theater by London, in company of a worshipfull marchant named master Nicholas Lete, I founde one of this kinde there with double flowers, which before that time I had not seene," (The Herball, 1597, p. 804). Thus Shakespeare's observation of the wild flowers was not necessarily limited, as has been supposed, to his provincial experiences, two of the principal theaters with which he was connected having been situated in a rural suburb, and green fields being throughout his life within an easy walk from any part of London.

Nothing has been discovered respecting the history of Shakespeare's early theatrical life, but there is an interesting evidence that no estrangement between his parents and himself had followed the circumstances that led him to the metropolis, a fact which is established by his concurrence with them in an endeavor that they were making in 1587 to obtain favorable terms for a proposed relinquishment of Asbies. Nine years previously they had borrowed the sum of £40, on the security of that estate, from their connection, Edmund Lambert of Barton-on-theHeath. The loan remaining unpaid, and the mortgagee dying in April, 1587, his son and heir, John, threatened shortly after that event with the institution of a law-suit for the recovery of the property, was naturally desirous of having the matter settled, and it was arranged in the fol

lowing September that Lambert should, on canceling the mortgage and paying also the sum of £20, receive from the Shakespeares an absolute title to the estate, or, to speak more accurately, the best title which it was in their power to grant. Having obtained the assent of William, who was his mother's heir-apparent, they were enabled to offer all but a perfect security; but it appears, from the records of a subsequent litigation, that the intended compromise was abandoned.

It clearly appears, from the account given by Rowe, that Shakespeare returned to his native town after the dangers from the Lucy prosecution had subsided. The same writer informs us that the visit occurred subsequently to his junction with one of the theatrical companies. The exact dates of these events are unknown, but it is not likely that he would have ventured into Sir Thomas's neighborhood for a considerable time after his escapade. Country justices wielded in those days tremendous power in adjudication on minor offenses. There were no newspapers to carry the intelligence of provincial tyranny to the ears of a sensitive public opinion, and there is no doubt that a youth in Shakespeare's position, who had dared to lampoon the most influential magistrate of the locality, would have been for some time in a critical position. However greatly he may have desired to rejoin his family, it is, therefore, not probable that the poet would be found again at Stratford-on-Avon before the year 1587, and then we have, in the Lambert episode, a substantial reason for believing that he had at that time a conference with his parents on the subject of the Asbies mortgage. The sum of £20, equivalent to at least £240 now-a-days, to be paid in cash by Lambert, would have

been an element of serious importance to them all in their then financial circumstances. It must have been a subject for anxious deliberation, one that could hardly have been arranged without a personal interview, and, in the presence of Rowe's testimony, it may fairly be assumed that the meeting took place at Stratford, not in London.

In the same year, 1587, an unusual number of companies of actors visited Stratford-on-Avon, including the Queen's Players and those of Lords Essex, Leicester, and Stafford. This circumstance has given rise to a variety of speculations respecting the company to which the poet may then have belonged; but the fact is that we are destitute of any information, and have no relative means of forming an opinion on the subject. Even if it be conceded that Burbage's theater was the first with which Shakespeare was connected, no progress is made in the enquiry. That personage, who had retired from the stage, was in the habit of letting the building to any public entertainers who would remunerate him either in cash or by a share of profits.

There was no establishment at that time devoted for a long continuous period to the use of a single company. It is, however, all but certain that the favorite theory of Shakespeare having been one of the Queen's servants at this period is incorrect, for his name is not found in the official list belonging to the following year; so that, if he was connected in any way with them, he could at the latter date have been merely one of the underlings who were not in a position of sufficient importance to be included in the register. With the single exception of the absence of his name from that list, no evidence whatever has been discovered to warrant a conjecture on the subject. But although there is no reason for believing that

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