Once at work in London, Shakespeare wrought hard, and in view of his immense productiveness can have had little leisure in the ten or fifteen years following. We may infer, then, that the wealth of knowledge of nature he displays was acquired in his boyhood and youth in the country round about Stratford.
His intimate acquaintance with animate and inanimate life in all their forms, his knowledge of banks where wild thyme grew, his love of flowers and of natural beauty which remained with him all through his life, were evidently gained at that receptive period:. Though Shakespeare's schooldays were over long before he left Stratford for London, his real education had only then begun.
To his all-gleaning eye and hungry mind every day he lived brought new accretions of knowledge. Notwithstanding the paucity of recorded fact which exists regarding his material life, and the wealth of intimate knowledge we may possess regarding the lives of other writers, I doubt if, in the works of any other author in the entire history of literature, we can trace such evidence of continuous intellectual and spiritual growth.
While we have no light on Shakespeare's childhood, a few facts have been gleaned from the Stratford records concerning his father's affairs and his own youth, a consideration of which may enable us to judge the underlying causes which led him to seek his fortunes in London. There is something pathetic yet dignified about the figure of John Shakespeare as we dimly sight it in what remains of the annals of his town and time. The stage he treads is circumscribed, and his appearances are few, but sufficient for us to apprehend a high-spirited but injudicious man, showing always somewhat superior in spirit to his social conditions.
He settled in Stratford twelve years previous to the birth of our poet, and appears to have been recognised as a man of some importance soon after his arrival. We have record that he was elected to various small municipal offices early in his Stratford career, and also of purchases of property from time to time, all of which evidences a growth in estate and public regard. At about the time of Shakespeare's birth, and during a season of pestilence, we find him prominent amongst those of his townsmen who contributed to succour their distressed and stricken neighbours.
A year later than this we find him holding office as alderman, and later still as bailiff of Stratford; the latter the highest office in the gift of his fellow-townsmen. While holding this office we catch a glimpse of him giving welcome to a travelling company of players; an innovation in the uses of his position which argues a broad and tolerant catholicity of mind when contrasted with the growing Puritanism of the times.
And so, for several years, we see him prosper, and living as befits one who prospers, and, withal, wearing his village honours with a kindly dignity. But fortune turns, and a period of reverses[Pg 26] sets in; we do not trace them very distinctly; we find him borrowing moneys and mortgaging property, and, later, these and older obligations fall due, and, failing payment, he is sued, and thereafter for some years he fights a stubborn rearguard fight with pursuing fate in the form of truculent creditors and estranged relatives. In the onset of these troubles an event occurred which, we may safely assume, did not tend to ease his worries nor add to his peace of mind.
In , his son, our poet, then a youth of eighteen, brought to his home an added care in the shape of a wife who was nearly eight years his senior, and who the records tell us bore him a daughter within six months of the date of their betrothal. All the circumstances surrounding the marriage lead us to infer that Shakespeare's family was not enthusiastically in favour of it, and was perhaps ignorant of it till its consummation, and that it was practically forced upon the youthful Shakespeare by the bride's friends for reasons obvious in the facts of the case.
About two and a half years from this date, and at a period when John Shakespeare's affairs had become badly involved and his creditors uncomfortably persistent, his son's family and his own care were increased by the addition of the twins, Judith and Hamnet. The few records we have of this period show a most unhappy state of affairs; his creditors are still on the warpath, and one, owning to the solid name of John Brown, having secured judgment against him, is compelled to report to the court that "the defendant hath no property whereon to levy.
We are fairly well assured that Shakespeare did not leave Stratford before the end of , and it appears probable that he remained there as late as or Seeing that he had compromised himself at the age of eighteen with a woman eight years his senior, whom he married from a sense of honour or was induced to marry by her friends, we may infer that the three or four subsequent years he spent in Stratford were not conducive either to domestic felicity or peace of mind. How Shakespeare occupied himself during these years we may never know, though it is very probable that he worked in the capacity of assistant to his father.
That these were years of introspection and remorse to one of his spirit, however, there can be little doubt; there can be still less doubt that they were also years of formative growth, and that in this interval the irresponsible. No biographer has yet taken into consideration the effect which the circumstances of Shakespeare's life during these four or five formative years must necessarily have had in the development of his character.
That this exquisite poet, this builder of dreams, should in the common affairs of life have displayed such an effectively practical bent, has always appeared an anomaly; a partial explanation is to be found in the incentive given to his energies by the conditions of his life, and of his father's affairs, at this formative period. To the burgher class, in which Shakespeare moved in Stratford, the loss of money was the loss of caste.
To provide for the future of his children and to restore the declining fortunes and prestige of his family became now his most immediate concern, if we may form any judgment from his subsequent activities. The history of literature has given us so many instances of poetic genius being unaccompanied by ordinary worldly wisdom, and so few instances of a combination of business aptitude with poetic genius, that some so-called biographers, enamoured of the conventional idea of a poet, seem almost to resent our great poet's practical common sense when displayed in his everyday life, and to impute to him as a derogation, or fault, the sound judgment in worldly matters, without which he never could have evolved the sane and unimpassioned philosophy of life, which, like a firm and even warp, runs veiled through the multicoloured weft of incident and accident in his dramas.
All Shakespearean biographers now agree in dating his hegira from Stratford not later than the year Early in his twin children, Judith and Hamnet, were born. The fact that no children were born to him later is usually advanced in favour of the assumption that he left Stratford shortly after this date. In the next eleven years we have but one mention of him in the Stratford records. Towards the end of his name, in conjunction with his father's, appears upon a legal form relating to the proposed cancellation of a mortgage upon some property in which he held a contingent interest.
This, however, does not necessarily indicate his presence in Stratford at that time. At the present time the most generally accepted hypothesis regarding the beginning of Shakespeare's theatrical career is that he joined the Earl of Leicester's company of players upon the occasion of their visit to Stratford-upon-Avon, either in the year or Upon the death of the Earl of Leicester in , when this company was disrupted, it is thought probable that in company with Will Kempe, George Bryan, and Thomas Pope actors with whom he was afterwards affiliated for years , he joined Lord Strange's players, with which company under its various later titles he continued to be connected during the remainder of his theatrical career.
I shall prove this theory to be erroneous and adduce evidence to show that of whatever company, or companies, he may later have been an active member, his theatrical experience had its inception in a connection as theatrical assistant with the interests of the Burbages; with whose fortunes he thereafter continued to be connected till the end of his London career.
In judging of the youthful Shakespeare, of whom we can only conjecture, we may reasonably draw inferences from the character of the man we find revealed in his life's work. I am convinced that Shakespeare's departure from Stratford was deliberate, and that when he went to London he did so with a definite purpose in view. Had Shakespeare's father been a prosperous man of business, in all probability the world would never have heard of his son; though the local traditions of Stratford might have been enriched by the proverbial wit and wisdom of a certain anonymous sixteenth-century tradesman.
Unconfirmed legend, originating nearly a hundred years after the alleged event, is the sole basis for the report that[Pg 30] Shakespeare was forced to leave his native town on account of his participation in a poaching adventure. It is possible that Shakespeare in his youth may have indulged in such a natural transgression of the law, but supposing it to be a fact that he did so, it does not necessarily brand him as a scapegrace. A ne'er-do-well in the country would probably remain the same in the city, and would be likely to accentuate his. Instead of this, what are the facts?
Assuming that Shakespeare left Stratford in or , and became, as tradition reports, a servitor in the theatre at that period, let us look ten years ahead and see how he has fared. We know that he had already returned to Stratford in and purchased one of the most important residences in the town. From the fact that John Shakespeare's creditors from this time forward ceased to harass him, we may assume that he had also settled his father's affairs. We have record that in he had, through his father, applied for the confirmation of an old grant of arms, which was confirmed three years later, and that he thereafter was styled "William Shakespeare, Gentleman of Stratford-upon-Avon.
All of this he had attained working in the same environment in which other men of about his own age, but of greater education and larger opportunities, had found penury, disgrace, and death. A year earlier, Greene, also a university man, would have died a beggar on the street but for the charity of a cobbler's wife who housed him in his dying hours. Spenser,[Pg 31] breathing a purer atmosphere, but lacking the business aptitude of Shakespeare, died broken-hearted in poverty in George Peele, another university man, at about the same date, and at the age of thirty-four, we are told by Meres, died from the results of an irregular life.
And those of his literary contemporaries who lived as long as, or outlived, Shakespeare, what were their ends, and where are their memories? Unknown and in most cases forgotten except where they live in his reflected light. Matthew Roydon lived long and died in poverty, no one knows when or where. George Chapman outlived his great rival many years, and died as he had lived, a friendless misanthropist. Though Shakespeare won to fame and fortune over the temptations and vicissitudes of the same life and environments to which so many of his fellows succumbed, we have proof that this was not due to any inherent asceticism or native coldness of blood.
No man in Shakespeare's circumstances could have attained and accomplished what he did during those early years living at haphazard or without a controlling purpose in life. Whatever may have been the immediate accident of fate that turned his face Londonwards, we may rest assured that he went there with the purpose of retrieving his good name in his own community and rehabilitating the fortunes of his family.
Shakespeare's literary history does not show in him any evidence of remarkable precocity. Keats was famous and already gathered to the immortals at an age at which Shakespeare was still in the chrysalid stage of the actual buskin and sock. It may reasonably be doubted that Shakespeare produced any of his known poems or plays previous to the years Though his genius blossomed late his[Pg 32] common sense and business capacity developed early, forced into being, no doubt, by a realisation of his responsibilities, as well as by the deplorable condition into which his father's affairs had fallen.
So, between the years , when he was married, and , when we first begin to get some hints of his literary activities, his Pegasus was in harness earning bread and butter and, incidentally, gleaning worldly wisdom. We may dismiss the deer-stealing rumour as referring to this period. The patient industry, sound judgment, and unusual business capacity exhibited by Shakespeare from the time we begin to get actual glimpses of his doings until the end of his career, belie the stupid and belated rumour of his having been forced to leave Stratford as a fugitive from justice on account of his participation in a poaching adventure upon Sir Thomas Lucy's preserves.
When Shakespeare's methods of work are better understood it will become evident that he did not in revenge an injury from ten to twelve years old. Whatever may have been his animus against Sir Thomas Lucy it undoubtedly pertained to conditions existent in the year In John Shakespeare's application for. It was still under consideration by the College of Heralds, or had very recently been granted when Shakespeare wrote Henry IV. It is not likely that such a grant of arms would be made even by the most friendly[Pg 33] disposed authorities without consultation with, or reference to, the local magistracy or gentry regarding the character and social standing of the applicant.
The critical student of Shakespeare's works will find that wherever a reflection of a topical nature is palpable in his plays, that the thing, or incident, referred to is almost invariably a matter of comparatively recent experience. If it is a reflection of, or a reference to, another writer we may be assured that Shakespeare has recently come from a perusal of the writer in question.
If the allusion is of a social or political nature it will refer to some recent happening or to something that is still of public interest. Should such an allusion be in any sense autobiographical and pertaining to his own personal interests or feelings, it is still more likely to refer to recent experience.
Whatever may have been the reason for his caricature of Sir Thomas Lucy, its cause was evidently of a later date than his departure from Stratford. It was no shiftless runagate nor fugitive from justice who went to London in, or about, ; neither was it a wrathful Chatterton, eating out his heart in bitter pride while firing his imagination to. It was a very sane, clear-headed, and resourceful young man who took service with the Players, one, as yet, probably unconscious of literary ability or dramatic genius, but with a capacity for hard work; grown somewhat old for his years[Pg 34] through responsibility, and with a slightly embittered and mildly cynical pose of mind in regard to life.
Scene ii. But for because he hath not woo'd me yet; Not that I have the power to clutch my hand, When his fair angels would salute my palm; But for my hand, as unattempted yet, Like a poor beggar, raileth on the rich. Well, whiles I am a beggar, I will rail And say there is no sin but to be rich; And being rich, my virtue then shall be To say there is no vice but beggary.
Since kings break faith upon commodity, Gain, be my lord, for I will worship thee. I have new evidence to show that this play was composed by Shakespeare in , and though it was revised in about , the passage quoted above, which exhibits the affected cynicism of youth, pertains to the earlier period. Aside from the leading of the natural bent of his genius it is evident that the greater pecuniary reward to be attained from the writing rather than from the acting of plays would be quickly apparent to a youth who in this spirit has left home to make London his oyster.
As research and criticism advance and we are enabled, little by little, more intimately to apprehend the personality of Shakespeare and to construct a more definite chronology of his doings, the shifting lights of evidence in the form of tradition and legend, which in the past have dazed, or misled, searchers, either. When we remember that Shakespeare, when he went to London, was about twenty-three years old, the father of a family, and the son of an ex-bailiff of the not unimportant[Pg 35] town of Stratford, we may dismiss as a fanciful distortion the story of his holding horses at the theatre doors for stray pennies; and in the added embellishment of the story which describes this Orpheon, yet thrifty street Arab, as organising for this purpose a band of his mates who, to prove their honesty when soliciting the care of a horse, would claim to be "Shakespeare's boys," we may find a clue to the actual facts of the case.
We have hitherto had no definite record of, nor recognised allusion to, Shakespeare between the year , when his name is mentioned with his father's in a legal document, and the year , when we have the well-known allusions of Robert Greene. Greene's references in this latter year reveal Shakespeare as having already entered upon his literary career, and at the same time, in the phrases "upstart crow beautified with our feathers" and "the onlie Shake-scene in the country," seem to point to him as an actor; the expression "Johannes factotum" seems still further to widen the scope of his activities and to indicate the fact that Shakespeare wrought in several capacities for his masters during his earlier theatrical career.
Part of his first work for his employers, it is possible, consisted in taking charge of the stabling arrangements for the horses of the gentlemen and noblemen who frequented the Theatre. The expression "rude groome," which Greene uses in his attack upon Shakespeare, is evidently used as pointing at his work in this capacity. The story of the youths who introduced themselves as "Shakespeare's boys" seems to indicate that he was the recognised representative of the theatrical proprietors who provided accommodations for this purpose. It is to be assumed then that Shakespeare, having charge of this work, would upon occasions come personally in contact with the noblemen and gentry who frequented Burbage's[Pg 36] Theatre, which was situated in the parish of Shoreditch, then regarded as the outskirts of the City.
Of the several records concerning this alleged incident in Shakespeare's early London experience, that which is simplest and latest in date seems to bear the greatest evidence of truth when considered in connection with established facts and coincident circumstantial evidence. Traditions preserved in the poet's own family would in essentials be likely to be closer to the truth than the bibulous gossip of Sir William Davenant, from which source all the other records of this story are derived.
In the monthly magazine of February the story is told as follows: "Mr. Smith said he had often heard his mother state that Shakespeare owed his rise in life and his introduction to the theatre to his accidentally holding the horse of a gentleman at the door of the theatre on his first arriving in London; his appearance led to inquiry and subsequent patronage.
Smith" mentioned here was the son of Mary Hart, a lineal descendant of Joan Hart, Shakespeare's sister. While it is clearly impossible that Shakespeare owed his introduction to the theatre to Southampton, there can be little doubt, in the light of data to follow, that his rise in life was much enhanced by his friendship and patronage. What truth there may be in this story is evidently a distorted reflection of Shakespeare's earlier work in the Theatre at Shoreditch and of his later acquaintance with the Earl of Southampton.
We have no record, hint, or suggestion of his personal acquaintance or business connection with any noblemen or gentlemen other than Southampton, and possibly Sir Thomas Heneage, at this early period. It shall later be shown that Southampton first became identified with London and Court life in[Pg 37] October I am led by good evidence to the belief that Shakespeare's acquaintance with this nobleman had its inception very soon after this date, and that he, and the theatrical company to which he was attached at that time, attended the Earl of Southampton at Cowdray House and at Tichfield House in August and September , upon the occasion of the Queen's progress to, and sojourn at, these places.
As we have well-attested evidence that Shakespeare was connected with the interests of James Burbage and his sons from until the end of his London career, it is usually, and reasonably, assumed that his early years in London were also spent with the Burbages; but as nothing is definitely known regarding Burbage's. Only by throwing light upon Burbage's activities during these years can we hope for light upon Shakespeare during the same period. Much of the ambiguity regarding Burbage's affairs during these years arises from the fact that critics persist in regarding him as an actor and an active member of a regular theatrical company after , instead of recognising the palpable fact that he was now also a theatrical manager with a large amount of borrowed money invested in a theatre upon which it would take all of his energies to pay interest and make a profit.
After Burbage's relations with com[Pg 39]panies of actors were necessarily much the same as those of Henslowe's with the companies that acted at his theatres, though it is probable that Burbage acted at times for a few years after this date. He was now growing old, and his business responsibility increasing, it is unlikely that he continued to act long after , when his son Richard entered upon his histrionic career.
The Theatre at Shoreditch, owned by James Burbage, was built by him in , and was the first building designed in modern England specially for theatrical purposes. Though he had many troubles in later years with his brother-in-law and partner, John Brayne, and with his grasping landlord, Giles Allen, he retained his ownership of the Theatre until his death in , and he, or his sons, maintained its management until the expiration of their lease in the same year. In an Act of Parliament was passed making it necessary for a company of players who wished to exercise their profession without unnecessary interference from petty officials and municipal authorities, to secure a licence as the players, or servants, of a nobleman; lacking such licences members of their calling were classed before the law, and liable to be treated, as "vagabonds and sturdy beggars.
At times a company possessing a licence would diminish by attrition[Pg 40] until the ownership of the licence became vested in the hands of a few of the original sharers, who, lacking either the means or ability to continue to maintain themselves as an effective independent organisation, would form a connection with a similarly depleted company and perform as one company, each of them preserving their licensed identity. In travelling in the provinces such a dual company would at times be recorded under one title, and again under the other, in the accounts of the Wardens, Chamberlains, and Mayors of the towns they visited.
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If we find for a number of years in the provincial and Court records the names of two companies recorded separately, who from time to time act together as one company, and that these companies act together as one company at the same London theatre, we may infer that the dual company may be represented also at times where only the name of one of them is given in provincial or Court records. It is likely that the full numbers of such a dual company would not make prolonged provincial tours except under stress of circumstances, such as the enforced closing of the theatres in London on account of the plague; and that while the entire combination might perform at Coventry and other points within a short distance of London, they would probably divide their forces and act as separate companies upon the occasions of their regular provincial travels.
Such a combination as this between two companies in[Pg 41] some instances lasted for years. The provincial, and even the Court records, will make mention of one company, and at times of the other, in instances where two companies had merged their activities while preserving their respective titles. Under whatever varying licences and titles the organisation of players to which Shakespeare attached himself upon his arrival in London may have performed in later years, all tradition, inference, and evidence point to a connection from the beginning with the interests of James Burbage and his sons.
That this was a London company with an established theatrical home in the most important theatre in London, between the years and , is established by the facts that James Burbage was its manager, and the infrequency of mention of it in the provincial records. It is probable that at this early period it was not a full company of actors, but that Lord Hunsdon's licence covered Burbage and his theatrical employees and musicians.
Numerous and continuous records of provincial visits for a company infer that it would be better known as a provincial than as a London company, while the total lack of any record of Court performances, taken in conjunction with a large number of records of provincial performances, would imply that such a company had no permanent London abiding-place, such as Lord Hunsdon's company undoubtedly had in Burbage's Theatre. Much ambiguity regarding James Burbage's theatrical affiliations in the years between and has been engendered by the utterly gratuitous assumption that he joined the Queen's players upon the organisation of that company by Edmund Tilney, the Master of the Revels, in , leaving the Earl of Leicester's players along with Robert Wilson, John Laneham, and Richard Tarleton at that time.
We have conclusive evidence, however, against this assumption.
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James Burbage worked under the patronage of Lord Hunsdon and was undoubtedly the owner of the Theatre in , although Halliwell-Phillipps, and others who have followed him in his error have assumed, on account of his having mortgaged the lease of the Theatre in the year to one John Hyde, a grocer of London, that the actual occupancy and use of the Theatre had also then been transferred. There is nothing unusual or mysterious in the fact that Burbage mortgaged the Theatre to Hyde. In the time of Elizabeth, leases of business property were bought, sold, and hypothecated for loans and regarded as investment securities.
Burbage at this time was in need of money. His brother-in-law, John Brayne, who had engaged with him to advance half of the necessary expenses for the building and conduct of the Theatre, defaulted in in his payments.
William Shakespeare Biography - The second lost Years -
It is evident that Burbage borrowed the money he needed from Hyde, mortgaging the lease as security, probably agreeing to repay the loan with interest in instalments. As Hyde transferred the lease to Cuthbert Burbage in , it appears that he held a ten years' mortgage, which was a common term in such transactions. In Burbage was clearly still manager of the Theatre, and in the eyes of the companies playing there from time to time, who were not likely to be cognizant of his private business transactions, such as borrowing of money upon a mortgage, was also still the owner of the Theatre.
In one of the witty Recorder Fleetwood's reports to Lord Burghley, dated 18th June , we have the following matter referring to the Theatre and the Curtain: "Upon Sondaie, my Lord sent two aldermen to the court, for the suppressing and pulling downe of the theatre and curten, for all the Lords agreed thereunto, saving my Lord Chamberlayn and Mr. Vice-Chamberlayn; but we obtayned a letter to suppresse them all. Upon the same night I sent for the Queen's players, and my Lord of Arundell his players, for they all well. The chiefest of her Highnes' players advised me to send for the owner of the theatre, who was a stubborne fellow, and to bynd him.
I dyd so. He sent me word that he was my Lord of Hunsdon's man, and that he would not come to me, but he would in the morning ride to my Lord. Then I sent the under-sheriff for hym, and he brought him to me, and at his coming he showted me out very justice. And in the end, I showed hym my Lord his master's hand, and then he was more quiet. But to die for it he wold not be bound. And then I mynding to send hym to prison, he made sute that he might be bounde to appeare at the oier and determiner, the which is to-morrowe, where he said that[Pg 45] he was sure the court wold not bynd hym, being a counsellor's man.
And so I have graunted his request, where he is sure to be bounde, or else is lyke to do worse. It is plain that Allen's lawyer implies that the mortgaging of the Theatre to Hyde and its later conveyance to Cuthbert Burbage were made, not alone for value received, but also for the protection of James Burbage against legal proceedings.
As no logical reasons are given by Halliwell-Phillipps, or by the compilers who base their biographies upon his Outlines of the Life of Shakespeare, for declining to accept the reference in Fleetwood's letter to the "owner of the Theatre" as an allusion to Burbage, whom they admit to have been,[Pg 46] and who undoubtedly was, the owner of the Theatre from until he transferred his property to his sons, Cuthbert and Richard, shortly before he died in , their refusal to see the light must arise from their obsession that Burbage at this time was a member of either Leicester's or the Queen's company, and as to which one they do not seem to have a very clear impression.
Shakespearean biography may be searched in vain for any other recorded facts concerning Burbage's company affiliations between and In view of this general lack of knowledge of Burbage in these years the critical neglect of such a definite allusion as Recorder Fleetwood makes to the "owner of the Theatre" as a servant of Lord Hunsdon is difficult to understand.
The alleged reason for the proposed suppression of the Theatre and the Curtain at this, and at other times, was that they had become public nuisances by attracting large crowds of the most unruly elements of the populace, which led to disturbances of the peace. In this same report of Fleetwood's to Burghley, he informs him that on the previous Monday, upon his return to London from Kingston, he "found all the wardes full of watches. The cause thereof was for that neare the theatre[Pg 47] or curten, at the time of the plays, there laye a prentice sleeping upon the grasse; and one Challes alias Grostock did turne upon the toe upon the belly of the prentice; whereupon this apprentice start up, and afterwards they fell to playne blowes.
The companie increased of both sides to the number of at the least. This Challes exclaimed and said, that he was a gentleman, and that the apprentice was but a rascal and some there were littel better than roogs, that took upon them the name of gentleman, and said the prentices were but the skume of the worlde.
Upon these troubles, the prentices began the next daye, being Tuesdaye, to make mutinies, and assemblies, and conspyre to have broken the prisones, and to have taken forth the prentices that were imprisoned. But my Lord and I having intelligence thereof, apprehended four or fyve of the chief conspirators, who are in Newgate, and stand indicted of their lewd demeanours.
Whereupon there assembled near a thousand people. This Browne did very cunningly conveye himself away, but by chance he was taken after and brought to Mr. Humprey Smithe, and because no man was able to charge him, he[Pg 48] dismyssed him. Though the Council ordered the suppression of both the Theatre and the Curtain at this time, Fleetwood's report of the disturbances seems to place the blame largely upon the Theatre.
They are recorded as performing in Bath in June A consideration of the records of Lord Hunsdon's company, and of previous companies that performed under this name, gives fair evidence that James Burbage established this company in , at or before which date he severed his active connection as a player with the Earl of Leicester's players, though still continuing his own theatrical organisation at the Theatre under the patronage of Leicester, as the[Pg 49] Earl of Leicester's musicians, and maintaining relations with Leicester's players as a theatre owner. Burbage's reason in for transferring from the patronage of Leicester for his theatrical employees to that of Lord Hunsdon was, no doubt, the fact of Leicester's departure for the Continent in this year.
This performance of the Admiral's men, in conjunction with the remnant of Leicester's men at Dover, is the first record we possess for many years of any company under this title. Burbage's men, recently Lord Hunsdon's. It is evident that they had now taken the place of Leicester's men as Burbage's permanent company at the Theatre, holding much the same relations to him as Lord Strange's men held to Henslowe at the Rose between and Both Leicester's and Lord Hunsdon's companies dis- appear from the records at the same date , and Lord Strange's players appear for the first time as a regular London company of players, performing in the City of London and at the Crosskeys in the same year.
Three years later, when we are enabled, for the first time, to learn anything of the personnel of this company, we find among its members Thomas Pope, George Bryan, and, later on, William Kempe, all of them members of Leicester's company before We also find in Lord Strange's company, in , Richard Burbage, who, without doubt, between in which year he first began as a player and , was a member of his father's company, Lord Hunsdon's, known as the Lord Chamberlain's company after It becomes apparent, then, that early in the year a junction of forces took place between the leading actors of the com- panies previously known as Lord Strange's tumblers, Lord Hunsdon's, or, as it was then known, the Lord Chamberlain's company, and the Earl of Leicester's players the new organisation becoming known as Lord Strange's players.
In the provincial records they are mentioned at times as "Lord Strange's tumblers," " Symons and his fellowes," and as " John Symonds and Mr. The Lord Admiral's players, on the other hand, were clearly a regular company of players who presented plays, yet we find them paid for Court perform- ances in and , and also "For showing other feats of activitye and tumblinge.
The last performances of this nature given by the Lord Admiral's players were on 27th December and i6th February The record of payment for these performances makes mention of " other feates of activitye then also done by them. Chambers has pointed out in the Pipe Rolls fol. It is evident, then, that late in the first performance of this nature being recorded on the 27th of December a junction took place between certain members of Lord Strange's tumblers and the Lord 1 Previous to the affiliations between Strange's tumblers and the Lord Admiral's company they seem to have maintained intermittent relations with the Queen's company, and are sometimes mentioned as the Queen's tumblers.
There is no further record of a Court performance by the Lord Admiral's company until the Christmas season of , by which time they had parted from the Lord Chamberlain's men and reorganised by absorbing members from other companies such as the Earl of Sussex and Earl of Pembroke's companies, which at this time disappear from the records.
Here, then, we find, between the Christmas season of and , an amalgamation into one com- pany of a portion ot the membership of four different companies, all of which had, immediately before, been asso- ciated in some measure with the theatrical interests of the Burbages. While a chance record remains which reveals official action in the formation of the Queen's company of players in , and no actual record of official action has yet been found to account for the sudden Court favour accorded the new and powerful Lord Strange's company in , it is very apparent that an equally authoritative purpose existed in the latter case.
During the Christmas and New Year festivities in every year but one in this decade, Leicester's company played before the Court, being supplanted by the newly formed Queen's company in Howes states in his Additions to Stowe's Chronicles that "in twelve of the best players were chosen out of several great Lords' companies and sworn the Queen's servants, being allowed wages and liveries as Grooms of the Chamber," and among these, two players, Thomas Robert Wilson and Richard Tarleton, were chosen.
As these players and John Laneham were taken from Lord Leicester's company it has been incorrectly inferred that James Burbage who is known to have been the leader of the company as late as went with them to the Queen's company at this time. It is apparent that changes so important in the several companies affected by the disruption of their memberships could not be made in a very short time, and that test performances and negotiations of some duration preceded the actual amalgamation of the new company.
Burbage's reason for securing Lord Hunsdon's patronage in was, no doubt, because of Leicester's departure for the Continent in this year and the disorganisation of Leicester's company, caused by the formation of the new Queen's company at the same period. Between and , while other companies per- formed occasionally at the Court, the Queen's company performed during the Christmas festivities every season and usually upon several occasions in each year. This company, under its various later titles, retained the position it had now attained of the leading Court company for the next forty years.
It is evident, then, that the amalgamation of the leading members of Lord Strange's acrobats, the Lord Chamberlain's, the Earl of Leicester's, and the Lord Admiral's players, which I have shown began in tentative Court performances in the Christmas season of , and which culminated in the success of the thoroughly organised company in the season of , was at least in its later stage fostered by similar official sanction and encouragement to that which brought about the formation of the Queen's company in Edmund Tilney, the Master of the Revels, who chose the players for the Queen's company in , held the same position in , and evidently exercised a similar function in forwarding the promotion of Lord Strange's company, and the discarding of the Queen's company for Court purposes in the latter year.
It is significant that Henslowe, the owner of the Rose Theatre, where Lord Strange's players commenced to perform on I9th February , was made a Groom of the Privy Chamber in that year, and that the weekly payments of his fees to Tilney, in connection with his new venture, begin at that time. Henslowe became the financial backer of this company in , at which time, it shall be shown, later on, that James Burbage's fortunes were at a low ebb, and that he also was in disfavour with the authorities.
Henslowe evidently was brought into the affair by Tilney's influence, the office of Groom of the Privy Chamber being a reward for his com- pliance. I have shown a connection between Burbage's company, i. A company performing under the licence of Lord Charles Howard of Effingham appears in the Court records between and Between and June there are no provincial records of any company performing under this nobleman's licence, and, until 6th January , no Court records. On this latter date a company licensed by this nobleman, who was now Lord Admiral, appeared at Court working in conjunction with the Lord Chamberlain's com- pany.
The last provincial visit of Lord Howard's old company is at Ipswich in The first provincial record of his new company the Lord Admiral's is at Dover in June , when the entry reads: "Paid unto my Lord Admiralles and my Lord Lycestors players 20 shillings. Their next recorded provincial visit is to Ipswich under date of 2Oth February , when they are mentioned as the Lord Admiral's players.
In this same year they appear at Cambridge, also as the Lord Admiral's players. Who, then, were the men that composed the Lord Admiral 's company from to ? In , when Lord Strange's players left Burbage to perform under Henslowe at the Rose, we are assured that Edward Alley n was the manager of the company, and, though the manager of Lord Strange's company, that he still styled himself a Lord Admiral's man. When, then, did Edward Alleyn, who is mentioned in the Leicester records in a member of the Earl of Worcester's company, become a Lord Admiral's man and cease to perform under the licence of the Earl of Worcester?
Is it not palpable that the change took place in , when all records of Worcester's company cease for several years and a new Lord Admiral's company begins? The last record of a provincial performance for Worcester's company is at Barnstaple in The Court and provincial records of show that within about eight months of its inception the Lord Admiral's company worked in conjunction with Burbage's players the Lord Chamberlain's men.
It is evident that Edward Alleyn's brother, John Alleyn, joined the Admiral's men at about the time of its inception, when his old company, Lord Sheffield's players, suddenly disappear from the records. Their last recorded provincial performance is in Coventry, under date of I5th November , the Lord Admiral's men and the Lord Chamberlain's men being recorded there under the same date of entry. John Alleyn continued his connection with the Lord Admiral's men at least as late as July , when he is mentioned as " servant to me the Lord Admiral " in a letter from the Privy Council to certain aldermen.
After this he is not heard of again either in connection with Lord Strange's or the Admiral's men. He was evidently one of the discarded actors in the reorganisations of Past critics, ignoring the fact that there are no records of either Court, London, or provincial performances for Wor- cester's company between and , have assumed that this company was in existence during these years, and that it was disrupted and reorganised in , Edward Alleyn leaving it and joining the Lord Admiral's men at that period.
This inference is drawn erroneously from the following facts: first, that Richard Jones, who is recorded in , in the Leicester records, as a member of Lord Worcester's company, in January , sold to Edward Alleyn his share in theatrical properties, consisting of play- ing apparel, playbooks, instruments, etc. In the light of the foregoing facts and deductions it is evident that the Earl of Worcester's company, or at least a large portion of it, became the Lord Admirals company in , and that, at about the same time, they became affiliated with Burbage and the Lord Chamberlain's com- pany.
It is probable, however, that in making this change they discarded some of their old members and took on others, John Alleyn evidently joining them from Sheffield's company at that time. The new licence they sought and secured in was evidently made necessary by the disfavour and ill repute which the ill-regulated behaviour of some of their members whom they now discarded had gained for them. In June the Earl of Worcester's company was refused per- mission to perform in Ipswich, the excuse being given that they had passed through places infected by the plague.
They were, however, given a reward on their promise to leave the city, but instead of doing so they proceeded to their inn and played there.
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The Mayor and Court ordered that the Earl of Worcester should be notified, that this company should never again receive a reward from the city, and that they leave at once on pain of imprisonment. Though the Mayor and Court, at the entreaty of the com- pany, agreed not to inform the Earl of their misconduct, it is not unlikely that this and similar happenings came to his knowledge, as they seem to have had little respect for municipal authorities.
Finding at their inn at Leicester the com- mission of the Master of the Revels' company, which in leaving Leicester three days before this company had in- advertently left behind, they appropriated it and presented it to the Leicester authorities as their own, stating that the previous company had stolen it from them. Not being believed, they were forced to produce their own licence, when they were refused permission to play, but given an angel to pay for their dinner.
Later in the day, meeting the Mayor on the street, they again asked leave to play, and, being refused, abused the Mayor with " evyll and con- temptuous words, and said they would play whether he wold or not," and went "in contempt of the Mayor with drum and trumpet through the town.
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We may infer that these were not isolated instances of their misbehaviour, and that their change of title in was made necessary by reports of their misconduct coming to the notice of the old Earl of Worcester. No company of players is known to have acted under this nobleman's licence after In , when the process of amalgamation between the Lord Admiral's, the Lord Chamberlain's, and Lord Leicester's companies, and Lord Strange's acrobats, which resulted in 1 English Dramatic Companies, , p. Other old members, including Robert Brown the leader of the former Worcester company and Richard Jones, formed a new company for continental performances.
Brown and others continued to make continental trips for years afterwards, while Richard Jones rejoined the Lord Admiral's men in , after they and the Lord Chamber- lain's men had separated. It was plainly, then, Richard Jones' share in the stage properties of the Lord Admiral's company that Edward Alleyn bought in It is apparent that he also bought out his brother's and Robert Brown's shares, as neither of them afterwards appeared as Strange's or Admiral's men.
It was on Burbage's stage, then, that this great actor between and after having spent several years touring the provinces entered upon and established his metropolitan reputation, attaining in the latter year, at the age of twenty-three, a large, if not the largest, share in the properties and holdings, and also the management of the strongest company of players in England, as well as the reputation of being the greatest actor of the time.
Which of them was the greater was one of the moot questions of the day eight to ten years later, when they had become the star actors of rival companies, and those the foremost two in London. It is now pertinent to inquire as to which of these companies, if to any, Shakespeare was connected previous to the amalgamation, and also, whether or not he became a member of Lord Strange's company, along with Richard Burbage, and acted under, or wrote for, Alleyn and Henslowe between and The suggestion which was first made by Mr.
Fleay in which he has since been followed by encyclopaedists and compilers that Shakespeare joined Lord Leicester's com- pany upon one of its visits to Stratford-upon-Avon in or , is plainly without foundation in the light of the fore- going facts, as is also his assumption that Lord Strange's company was merely a continuation of Lord Leicester's company under new patronage.
Lord Leicester's company spent the greater part of the years between and performing in the provinces. The records of its provincial visits outnumber all of those recorded for the other three companies concerned in the re- organisation of If Shakespeare acted at all in these early years he must have done so merely incidentally. He would have found little time for dramatic composition or study during these years had he accompanied Lord Leicester's company in their provincial peregrinations.
Bearing in mind his later habit of revising earlier work it is not unlikely that some of his dramatic work, which from internal and external evidence we now date between and , is rewritten or revised work originally produced before It is palpable that Shakespeare had not been previously affiliated with Lord Strange's acrobats, nor a member of the Lord Admiral's company, and evident, in view of the above facts and deductions, as well as of his future close and con- tinuous connection with James Burbage, that his inceptive years in London were spent in his service, working in various capacities in his business and dramatic interests.
It is apparent that between and Shakespeare worked for James Burbage as a bonded and hired servant.
In Henslowe's Diary there are several instances of such bonds with hired servants, and covenant servants, covering terms of years usually from two to three between Henslowe and men connected with the Lord Admiral's company. It shall be shown later that Nashe in his preface to Greene's Menaphon alludes to Shakespeare in this capacity. These evidences are confirmed by the gossip of William Castle, who was parish clerk of Stratford for many years, and who was born two years before Shakespeare died, and, consequently, must have known and talked with many people who had known Shakespeare.
He frequently told visitors that Shakespeare was first received in the playhouse as " a servitor. With- out such a legally ratified connection with some employer, a youth of Shakespeare's poverty and social degree, and a stranger in London, would be classed before the law as a masterless man and a vagrant. The term "servitor" then does not refer to his theatrical capacity as stated by Halliwell-Phillipps but to his legal relations with James Burbage, his employer. Only sharers in a company were classed as " servants " to the nobleman under whose patronage they worked ; the hired men were servants to the sharers, or to the theatrical owner for whom they worked.
Though in later life he was reputed to be a fair actor, he never achieved great reputation in this capacity; it was plainly not to acting that he devoted himself most seriously during these early years. Working in the capacity of handy-man or, as Greene calls him, Johannes factotum, for the Burbages, besides, possibly, taking general charge of their stabling arrangements, as tradition asserts, he also, no doubt, took care of the theatrical properties, which included the MSS.
Though Shakespeare's grammar school days ended in Stratford he took his collegiate course in Burbage's Theatre. During the leisure hours of the years of his servitorship he studied the arts as he found them in MS. That he made good use of his time and his materials, how- ever, is demonstrated by the fact that in the four years intervening between the end of and the end of , he composed, at least, seven original plays, two long poems, and over sixty sonnets ; much of this work being since and still regarded three hundred years after its production as a portion of the world's greatest literature.
As it is probable that James Burbage, through his son Richard, retained some interest in Lord Strange's company during the period that it acted under Henslowe's and Alleyn's management, the question naturally arises, Why should Lord Strange's company, which was composed largely of members of Leicester's and Hunsdon's company, both of which, affiliated with the Admiral's men, had been previously associated with the Burbage interests why should this company, having Richard Burbage in its membership, enter into business relations with Henslowe and perform for two years at the Rose Theatre instead of playing under James Burbage at the Theatre in Shoreditch in summer, and at the Crosskeys in winter, where they formerly played?
A consideration of the business affairs of James Burbage will show that the temporary severance of his business relations with Strange's men was due to legal and financial difficulties in which he became involved at this time, when strong financial backing became necessary to establish and maintain this new company, which, I have indicated, had been formed specially for Court performances. It also appears evident that he again incurred the disfavour of Lord Burghley and the authorities at this time.
Both the Theatre, and the Curtain at Shoreditch, seem to have been particularly obnoxious to the puritanical element among the local authorities, who made numerous attempts to have both theatres suppressed. There were long intervals during the term of Burbage's lease of the Theatre when, owing to various causes, both the Theatre and the Curtain were closed. Among the causes were the prevalence of the plague, alleged rioting, and the performance of plays which infringed the law prohibiting the presentation of matters of Church and State upon the stage.
It is not unlikely that their connection with the Martin Marprelate affair earlier in the year at the Theatre, and their deliberate defiance of the Mayor's orders in performing at the Crosskeys on the after- noon of the day the prohibition was issued, delayed the full measure of Court favour presaged for them by their recent drastic and evidently officially encouraged reorganisation. When they performed at Court in the Christmas seasons of and , they did so as the Lord Admiral's men ; and in the latter instance, while the Acts of the Privy Council credit the performance to the Admiral's, the Pipe Rolls assign it to Strange's men.
It is not unlikely that their transfer to Henslowe's financial management became necessary because of Burbage's continued disfavour with Lord Burghley and the City authorities, as well as his financial inability adequately to provide for the needs of the new Court company, in In the defiance of Burghley's and the Mayor's orders by the Burbage portion of the company, and the subservience of the Alleyn element at this time, is foreshadowed their future political bias as independent companies.
From the time of their separation in until the death of Elizabeth, the Lord Admiral's company repre- sented the Cecil- Ho ward, and Burbage's company the Essex factional and political interests in their covert stage polemics. Chambers in Modern Language Review, Oct. This phase of Shakespeare's theatrical career has not been investigated by past critics, though Fleay, Simpson, and Feis recognise the critical and bio- graphical importance of such an inquiry, while the compilers do not even suspect that such a phase existed.
While the Curtain seems to have escaped trouble arising from its lease and its ownership, the Theatre came in for more than its share. The comparative freedom of the Curtain from the interference and persecution of the local authorities in these years was evidently due to the fact that it was the recognised summer home of the Queen's company between and It is evident that during the winter months the Queen's company performed at the Rose between when this theatre was erected and the end of ; it was superseded at Court by Lord Strange's company at the end of , and was disrupted during this year a portion of them continuing under the two Buttons, as the Queen's men.
The Rose, being the most important, centrally located, theatre available for winter performances during these years, would naturally be used by the leading Court company. It is significant that Lord Strange's company commenced to play there when they finally supplanted the Queen's company at Court.
It is probable that they played there also before it was recon- structed during The large number of old plays formerly owned by the Queen's company, which came into the hands of the companies associated with Henslowe and Burbage at this time, suggests that they bought them from Henslowe, who EARL OF PEMBROKE'S COMPANY 75 had retained them, and probably other properties, in pay- ment for money owed him by the Queen's company which, having been several years affiliated with him at the Rose, would be likely to have a similar financial experience to that of the Lord Admiral's men, who, as shown by the Diary, got deeply into his debt between and The Queen's company was plainly not in a prosperous financial condition in It is apparent also that some Queen's men joined Strange's, and Pembroke's men at this time bringing some of these plays with them as properties.
In building the Theatre, in , Burbage had taken his brother-in-law, one John Brayne, into partnership, agreeing to give him a half-interest upon certain terms which Brayne apparently failed to meet. Brayne, however, claimed a moiety and engaged in a lawsuit with Burbage which dragged along until his death, when his heirs continued the litigation.
Giles Allen, the landlord from whom Burbage leased the land on which he had built the Theatre, evidently a somewhat sharp and grasping individual, failed to live up to the terms of his lease which he had agreed to extend, provided that Burbage expended a certain amount of money upon improvements.
There was constant bickering between Allen and Burbage regarding this matter, which also eventu- ated in a lawsuit that was carried on by Cuthbert and Richard Burbage after their father's death in Added to these numerous irritations, came further trouble from a most unlooked-for source. In , Edmund Peckham, son of Sir George Peckham, on the most shadowy and far- fetched grounds, questioned the validity of Giles Allen's title to the land he had leased to Burbage, and not only entered a legal claim upon it, but found a jury to agree with him.
This suit also continued for years. Stopes evidently gives all available details regarding his legal embarrassments.
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Stopes' account makes it clear that by the year , James Burbage could not have amassed much wealth in the practice of his profession, though we may infer that he had enriched a number of lawyers. In the legal records examined by Mrs. Stopes, I learn that upon loth January an attachment on the Theatre was awarded against Burbage for contempt of court on the plea of one Robert Miles, and though several attempts were made in the meantime to have the matter adjudicated, that the attachment was still in force in November ; there is apparently no record as to when and how the matter was finally settled and the attachment lifted.
It evidently held three months later when Lord Strange's company commenced to perform under Henslowe at the Rose, or at least as late as December and January , in which months Henslowe repaired and enlarged the Rose in anticipation of the coming of Strange's company. I have reason to believe that some settlement was made regarding the attachment upon Burbage's Theatre early in , and that the Earl of Pembroke's company played there when in London from that time until we lose sight of them late in In the spring of their membership and properties were absorbed by the Lord Admiral's company and Lord Strange's company, most of the properties they had in the way of plays going to the latter.
The Rose Theatre was first erected in By the year , when Lord Strange's players commenced to appear there, it evidently needed to be repaired and enlarged. Henslowe was much too careful a business man to invest the large sum of money in the enlargement and repair of the Rose Theatre, which he did at this time, without the assur- ance of a profitable return. When his other business trans- actions, as shown in his Diary, are considered it becomes apparent that in undertaking this expenditure he would stipulate for the use of his house by Lord Strange's men for a settled period, probably of, at least, two years, and that Edward Alleyn, who was the manager of Lord Strange's men at this time, and continued to be their manager for the next two years, though still remaining the Lord Admiral's man, was Henslowe's business representative in the company.
Alleyn married Henslowe's stepdaughter in October, this year, and continued to be his business associate until Henslowe's death, when, through his wife, he became his heir. Lord Strange's company, under this and the later title of the Lord Chamberlain's men, continued to perform at theatres owned or operated by Henslowe, and probably also under Alleyn's management, until the spring of , when it appears that they returned to Burbage and resumed perform- ances, as in , at the Theatre in Shoreditch in summer, and at the Crosskeys in winter. The assumption that Shakespeare was a member of Lord Strange's company while it was with Henslowe, is based upon three things: first, the undoubted fact that his close friend and coadjutor, Richard Burbage, was one of the lead- ing members of the company at that time ; secondly, that The First Part of Henry VI.
Let us examine these things in order. At first sight it is a plausible inference, in view of Shake- speare's earlier, and later, connection with the Burbages, that he should continue to be associated with Richard Burbage during these two years. When the reason for the formation of Lord Strange's company is remembered, however, it becomes clear that Richard Burbage would be a member for the very reason that Shakespeare would not.
The intention in the formation of this company being to secure an organisation of the best actors for the services of the Court, it is evident that Richard Burbage who even at this early date was one of the leading actors in London would be chosen. Shakespeare never at any time attained distinction as an actor.
The presentation of Henry VI. This, conse- quently, implies that Nashe's commendatory references to these scenes were complimentary to work of Shakespeare's in Three hands are distinctly traceable in it ; the unknown original author who wrote the opening lines : " Hung be the heavens with black, yield day to night! Comets, importing change of times and states, Brandish your crystal tresses in the sky, And with them scourge the bad revolting stars That have consented unto Henry's death!
The second hand in the play was the reviser of who introduced the Talbot passages. There cannot be the slightest doubt that this was George Peele, who in , and for some time before and later, was the principal producer and reviser of plays for the Lord Admiral's company. The classical allusions in the Talbot scenes, and the manner in which they are always lugged in by the ear, as though for adornment, plainly proclaim the hand of Peele, and as plainly disassociate Shake- speare from their composition.
The third hand is clearly Shakespeare's.
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The " Temple Garden " scene has been accepted by practically all critics as unquestionably his work ; it is not the work, either, of his " pupil pen. The references to red and white roses, as the badges of Lancaster and York, were evidently then intro- duced by Shakespeare in order to link together, and give dramatic continuity to, the whole historical series connected with the Wars of the Roses, upon which he had already worked, or was then working for his company.
In any authentic play by Marlowe, Greene, or Peele of an equal length there will be found from forty to eighty classical allusions, besides, as a rule, a number of Latin quotations. In his own acknowledged historical plays, Richard II. When the settled animus which Nashe, in conjunction with Greene, between , displays against Shakespeare is better understood, the utter improbability of his referring to Shakespeare's work in a laudatory manner in the latter year shall readily be seen. When, also, the high praise which Nashe bestows upon Peele in the same publications in which he attacks Shakespeare is noted, it becomes evident that he again intends to commend Peele in his compli- mentary allusion to the Talbot scenes.
Peele was the principal writer and reviser for Henslowe at this period, while not one of Shakespeare's plays is mentioned in his whole Diary. While I believe that the reference to Shakespeare's name in Edward I. It was written by Peele for the Lord Admiral's company before their con- junction with Strange's men under Henslowe, and at the time when they acted with Lord Hunsdon's company at the Theatre in Shoreditch in summer, and at the Crosskeys in the winter. It is significant that this play was not acted by Lord Strange's men during their tenure of the Rose Theatre, and that in , after they had separated from Henslowe, it was revised and presented as a new play by the Lord Admiral's company.
It is quite likely that it was the property of Pembroke's company in 1 The allusion to Shakespeare in this play is probably the first evidence we possess of the well-authenticated fact that as an actor he usually appeared in kingly parts. It is recorded of him that he played the part of the ghost in Hamlet, and his friend, John Davies, the poet, writes in : " Some say, good Will, which I in sport do sing, Hadst thou not played some kingly parts in sport, Thou hadst been a companion for a King.
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