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magnificent revels, at which the boy Shakespeare may have been present. Traveling companies of players seem to have visited Stratford during Shakespeare's early years, whose performances he doubtless witnessed. He may even have gazed at the wonders of a miracle play at Coventry, a town some twenty miles distant, where these plays were frequently produced by the guilds.

Education. - Besides all that he gained from such surroundings and experiences, Shakespeare had the advantage of some instruction at the town grammar school, which he probably entered in 1571, when he was seven years old. Latin was the chief study, and it is reasonably certain that Shakespeare, who remained at school about six years, gained a fair elementary knowledge of the language. By 1577 his father, who had been prosperous and respected, began to be pressed for money, and about this time Shakespeare was taken from school. The boy, then about thirteen, may have helped his father in the business. According to an old account he was “apprenticed to a butcher.” However this may have been, it is practically certain that he made himself useful in some way, and that his school life was interrupted because his help was needed at home. Just how the young Shakespeare earned his bread at this time is, after all, comparatively unimportant; our real interest is in the boy himself, and the most remarkable thing we note of him is that even as a boy he had the power of observing closely and accurately the facts of the life about him. The country life of Warwickshire, its flowers and birds, its hedgerows and woodlands, the oddities of its rustics, and the narrow self-importance of its local authorities were indelibly impressed upon his memory and afterwards used in his plays. We need

not wonder how it happened that he who spent so few years at school became the greatest of English poets. Shakespeare was never what the world calls a learned man, nor a traveled man, but something far greater, a man“ with his whole soul seeing." Although he had but little schooling, he was, in the best sense of the words, highly educated. He hungered for a knowledge of life, and his marvelously sensitive mind and quick intuition gathered it from every possible source. He was quick to respond to the beauty, the pathos, the comedy, and the tragedy that lay around him. This was his school. His simple neighbors, his homely duties, his rustic pleasures, gave him his first materials for his

Afterward, when he went to London, the world of books was opened to him, and we may be sure that there the ardent youth read eagerly and rapidly the many Italian stories and novels which, as one writer of the time says, were sold in every shop in London.” He read, too, pamphlets and poems on topics of the day, which young, clever, versatile writers were issuing in great numbers. Here he read Chaucer, and Plutarch's great book, The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, and Holinshed's Chronicles, in which he found the ancient stories of King Lear and Macbeth and Cymbeline. These books and others Shakespeare fixed in his memory, and made their thought his own. one who with unerring instinct sought in books that which is human.

Marriage. — Our knowledge of Shakespeare's life during the period of boyhood and youth leads us to imagine that he was not merely the dreamy and meditative spectator of life, but rather one who flung himself into its varied experiences with zest and vigor. We are rather led to think of him in these early years as hot

He was

as

headed, passionate, even, perhaps, as a trifle lawless, a man whose blood is warm within."

In 1582, when he was only eighteen, and in spite of his father's straitened circumstances, he married Anne Hathaway, a woman eight years older than himself. Three or four years later he left his wife and children and went to London to wrestle with Fortune; coming, “as others do," to try against the great “ General Challenger" the strength of his youth. According to an old tradition, the immediate reason for Shakespeare's leaving Stratford was his quarrel with Sir Thomas Lucy, a neighboring landed proprietor, in whose park Shakespeare, with some other “young fellows," had been stealing deer. Whether this story be true or not, Shakespeare's going to London is exactly what his circumstances would lead us to expect. In 1585 he had a wife and three children to support, his father's money affairs had gone from bad to worse, and Shakespeare, strong as we may imagine in the hopes and confidence of youth and genius, had every reason to feel the country village of Stratford too cramped for his powers.

“The spirit of a youth That means to be of note, begins betimes.” Shakespeare in London. - When Shakespeare reached London (1587?) the drama was rapidly gaining in popular favor; clever young playwrights were giving it form, and Marlowe had recently produced his Tamburlaine. Shakespeare became an actor, and made a place for himself among the crowd of struggling dramatists. He became a member of a leading company of players, the Lord Chamberlain's Company,” and by 1592 had fairly entered upon a prosperous career.'

1 At this time actors of any standing were organized in companies. These companies were licensed, and many of them bore the name

1

Shakespeare's Work. — In studying the dramas of Shakespeare it is important to realize that Shakespeare did not at once reach perfection in his art. Though he is often called the greatest of English writers, he, as other less able men have done, served an apprenticeship in his profession, and went through a gradual and normal development which can partly be traced in his plays. It is not true, as is sometimes said, that Shakespeare's work is flawless. His early dramas, naturally, lack the depth of insight and intensity of passion that are characteristic of his mature work; yet even in the first plays there are flashes of genius that give promise of his later style. Shakespeare seems to have begun his dramatic career in London by remodeling former plays, adding new scenes or rewriting old ones according to the needs of the theater. He was learning his art by practical experience, and in immediate touch with the stage. Titus Andronicus, a coarse and brutal tragedy, was probably one of the plays not his own thus touched up. But soon Shakespeare began writing entire dramas, at first on the model of the Latin or Italian comedies, as The Comedy of Errors and The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and afterward independently, according to his own invention. The poetic fantasy of A Midsummer Night's Dream is of this latter class. It easily rises above the other comedies of this early period in breadth of conception, imagination, beauty, and suggestiveness. The characters in it have been more carefully studied and more naturally drawn. Theseus, the Duke, has an heroic largeness of stature, a nobility which leads us to place him with Shakespeare's great men of action. of some great nobleman. Thus there was the Earl of Leicester's Company, the Lord Admiral's Company, etc. The Queen's Company had obtained its license from the Queen herself.

Here, too, is Bully Bottom, the incarnation of arrogant, uncomprehending common sense, solidly established in the midst of Shakespeare's filmy and gossamer world of imaginations and dreams.

These early plays (not all of which have been mentioned) constitute the first period in Shakespeare's career as a playwright, the period of apprenticeship, or as Professor Dowden has called it, “in the workshop.” Of this time also are the two narrative poems, Venus and Adonis (1593), and Lucrece (1594).

Historical Plays. — From this world of high imagination and homespun fact, Shakespeare turned to the story of England's past. In 1594 he produced Richard II, and the other plays of his great English historical series followed in quick succession. Begun a few years after the defeat of the Spanish Armada, these plays reflect the triumphant patriotism of the time. They are not merely nobly patriotic, they are above all broadly human. They show us the usurper Henry IV sleepless in his lonely power, and the jolly roisterers in the taverns of Eastcheap; the aspiring Hotspur, who would "pluck bright honour from the pale-faced moon;" and the fat, comfortable, companionable Jack Falstaff, glorified by kindliness and humor, to whom “honour" is but a word. We are shown the incapable Richard II with his strain of poetry and sentiment, and the hero-king Henry V, the doer of great deeds.

Later Comedies. — After the completion of this series of historical studies, Shakespeare again turned to comedy. The witty and brilliant Much Ado About Nothing, with its inimitable Dogberry and its touch of tragedy, the woodland pastoral As you Like It, and Twelfth Night, were written during this time. In the plays of this second period the tide of youth runs full

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