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probably at the free school of Stratford; 14 but at what period he was first placed there, or how long he remained, are points which it is impossible to ascertain. What quantity of classical learning he possessed, is a question which has given rise to much discussion. That he had no pretensions to scholarship is beyond a doubt; but that he should have failed to carry away from a respectable school as much learning as a talented and well-taught stripling generally acquires, I can see no reason to disbelieve.15 From the line in Jonson's admirable verses to his memory,
"And though thou had'st small Latin, and less Greek," we are not to conclude that he was utterly igno rant of those languages,-Ben probably meant to allow him a school-boy knowledge of both; and be it remembered, that even considerable attainments in learning would have appeared slight to Jonson, who having devoted many a laborious hour to the study of the classics, had stored his mind with all the treasures of antiquity. In opposition to Gildon, Upton, and other critics who
14 Rowe Malone has shown that Mr. Thomas Hunt and Mr. Thomas Jenkins were successively masters of the school from 1572 to 1578, during which time we may suppose that Shakespeare belonged to it.
15 ** He understood Latin pretty well," says Aubrey, "for he had been in his younger yeares a schoolmaster in the country." MSS. Mus. Ashmol. Oxon. [Collier suggests that he might have been employed by the master of the Stratford school to aid him in the instruction of the junior boys.]
asserted the extensive erudition of Shakespeare, Farmer has intontrovertibly shown that, while composing several of his dramas, he had recourse to North's Plutarch, and to other vernacular books, instead of consulting the ancient authors in the original. Let me just observe, that if he was unable to read the Greek text of the 66 Cheronean sage," not a few worthy gentlemen of our own day, who have taken their degrees at Oxford or Cambridge, stand in the same predicament. It is difficult to believe that he never acquired any knowledge either of Italian or French, as both languages were then more familiar to Englishmen than at the present time.
In consequence of the embarrassments of his father (which have been already noticed) we are informed by Rowe,16 that the youthful poet was withdrawn from school, his assistance being required at home. The truth of this statement 17 is weakly disputed by Malone, who as unsuccessfully endeavours to establish, from the frequent employment of law terms in our author's dramas,
16 Life of Shakespeare.
17 His brother Gilbert, says Malone, "was little more than two years younger than our poet, and, at the time now under our consideration, was as capable of carrying out parcels of gloves for his father (all that a boy could do) as his elder brother! For this purpose, therefore, it was not necessary to impede the progress of the eldest son's education." Life of Shakespeare, p. 106. (Shak. by Boswell, ii.)
that he was stationed for two or three years in the office of a Stratford attorney.* Aubrey's assertion, 18 that Shakespeare in his youth was a schoolmaster in the country, whether worthy of credit or not, must be referred to this period of his life. But to turn from uncertainties to facts - in 1582, when he was a little more than eighteen, he married 19 Anne Hathaway, the daughter of a substantial yeoman in the neighbourhood of Stratford.20 There was considerable disproportion in
*[The great number of law terms and of allusions to legal processes which occur in Shakespeare's plays, and the propriety with which they are introduced, make Malone's supposition by no means incredible.]
18 See note, p. ix.
A story of Shakespeare and some of his companions having accepted the challenge of the Bidford topers and sippers to drink with them, &c., was communicated to Malone by a native of Stratford, Life of Shakespeare, p. 500, (Shak. by Boswell, ii.) et seq. and is related with some variations in Ireland's Picturesque Views, p. 229 et seq. It informs us that Shakespeare composed these lines on the occasion, which the late Mr. Boswell suspected to have been from Brathwaite's
"Piping Pebworth, Dancing Marston,
19 Neither the day, nor the place of their union are known. [On the 28th November, 1582, two persons entered into a bond to obtain such a dispensation from the bishop of Worcester as would authorize a clergyman to marry William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway "with once asking of the banns."
their ages, for the lady was in her twenty-sixth year; but Oldys seems to have learned, by tradition, that she was beautiful; and it is indeed unlikely that a woman devoid of personal charms should have won the youthful affections of so imaginative a being as Shakespeare. It is unfair to conclude (as some biographers have done) from certain passages in his plays concerning marriage, that he afterwards repented of this connection; but when we find that during his almost constant residence in London, his wife remained at Stratford, and that he only remembers her slightly, and, as it were, casually in his will, we have some reason to suspect that their union was not productive of much domestic happiness. From some of Shakespeare's Sonnets, it has been supposed that, after he became a husband, he was by no means remarkable for purity of morals; but (as I shall have occasion to notice more particularly in a subsequent part of this essay) no inference respecting his conduct should be drawn from compositions, most of which appear to have been written under an assumed charac
ter. In May, 1583, his wife bore a daughter, who was called Susanna; 22 and, about eighteen
21. See note on our author's xciiid Sonnet.-Malone's Shakespeare (by Boswell) xx. [This sonnet could not have been addressed to the poet's wife.]
22 Baptized May 26.
months afterwards, she was delivered of twins, a son and daughter, baptized 23 by the names of Hamnet and Judith. It does not appear that she again became a mother.
We are now arrived at an event in our author's
history of great importance, inasmuch as it caused him to abandon his native town, and put forth the energies of his mighty genius. Having fallen into the company of some wild and disorderly young men, he was induced to assist them, on more than one occasion, in stealing deer from the park of Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, in the neighbourhood of Stratford. For this offence (which in those days used to be regarded as a venial frolic) he was treated, as he thought, too harshly; and he repaid the severity by ridiculing Sir Thomas in a ballad. So bitter was this satirical effusion, that the prosecution against its author was redoubled; and forsaking his family and occupation, he took shelter in the metropolis from his powerful enemy. Such is the story which tradition has preserved; and that it
23 February 2nd, 1584-5.
24 Rowe's account has been followed in the text.
In the archives of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, are the MS. collections of a learned antiquary, Mr. William Fulman, who died in 1688, with additional notes, by the friend to whom he bequeathed them, Mr. Richard Davies, archdeacon of Lichfield, who died in 1707. Among these papers is the following record concerning Shakespeare by the latter gentleman. "He was much given to all unluckinesse,