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to the country. In the fulness of his fame, with a handsome competency, and before age had chilled the enjoyment of life, the poet returned to his native town to spend the remainder of his days among the quiet scenes and the friends of his youth. Four years were spent by Shakespeare in this dignified retirement, and the history of literature scarcely presents another such picture of calm felicity and satisfied ambition."
He was evidently a shrewd man of business, farming his own lands, disposing of their product, and looking to it that the purchasers paid what they owed; for in 1604 we find him bringing action against one Philip Rogers for about fortyfive dollars for "malt sold and delivered to him."
He died somewhat suddenly, in 1616, of a fever, and was buried in the parish church, where a contemporary bust of him still exists, which must be regarded as the bestauthenticated likeness of the poet. His wife survived him seven years. His only son, Hamnet, died at the age of twelve; his two daughters, Susanna and Judith, both married, and one of them had three sons, but they all died without issue, so that a quarter of a century after his death there was no living descendant of Shakespeare.
Shakespeare must early have won a high place in the esteem of the most accomplished noblemen of Queen Elizabeth's court, for as early as 1594 he dedicated his poem, the "Rape of Lucrece," to the Earl of Southampton, in terms which demonstrate the existence of mutual respect of a high degree between the author and his patron. It is said that Southampton once presented Shakespeare with a sum of money equivalent to twenty-five thousand dollars in our day, but of this
there is no conclusive evidence. It is certain, however, that the noble earl was glad to serve the popular writer and player, and that he was the means of procuring for "William Kempe, William Shakespeare, and Richarde Burbage, servauntes to the Lord Chamberleyne," an invitation to present before the Court "twoe severall comedies or enterludes," for which they received twenty pounds.
That Shakespeare had written more or less before he went up to London is altogether probable; that "Venus and Adonis" was "the first fruits of his invention" in any other sense than that of being the first to be printed, is not probable. That he was certainly employed as playwright or adapter of dramas for the stage before this time is unquestionable, and it is most likely that as a poet he had attracted the notice of the author of the "Faerie Queene," who was his senior by eleven years.
Shakespeare's dramas, according to the all but universally accepted canon, number thirty-seven. There is no good reason to suppose that any of his plays have been lost, or that he had any considerable share in the composition of any others. He undoubtedly availed himself somewhat of the works of earlier playwrights, and in his historical plays made large use of the chroniclers, from whom he took not merely the historical outlines, but page after page of their very words, only throwing into dramatic form the continuous narrative of his authorities. Scene after scene in "Macbeth" is to be found in the "Chronicles" of Holinshed, themselves a translation from the Latin of Hector Boece, which had been published only a few years; and some of the most dramatic scenes in "Richard III." are reproductions from "The Union of the Two Noble and Illustr Families of Lancastre and Yorke," by Edward Hall.
The productive literary life of Shakespeare, as far as we can date it, covers the twenty years preceding 1612, when at the age of forty-eight he retired to his native Stratford-on-Avon, after which we have no proof that he wrote anything.
The dates of the production of the dramas are mainly conjectural; although it is pretty well settled that "Pericles, Prince of Tyre," was one of the earliest, and "The Tempest" one of the latest; that "Romeo and Juliet" was an early play and Cymbeline" a late one. Twelve plays at least, and doubtless several more, had been produced before Shakespeare reached his thirty-fourth year.
greatest works are of later date. "Hamlet" was certainly produced as early as 1604, and "Macbeth" previous to 1610.
About a dozen of the plays of Shakespeare seem to have been printed during his lifetime, probably not by his procurement. The entire plays were first put forth in a folio volume in 1623, seven years after his death. It has a preface and dedication by his fellow-players, Heminge and Condell, and was undoubtedly printed from the stage copies, which could hardly have failed to have been sanctioned by Shakespeare.
Aside from his dramas, Shakespeare would rank with Spenser and Milton as an imaginative poet. His one hundred and fifty-four sonnets, some of which were probably among his earliest productions, are sometimes imagined to express his deepest personal feelings, and to reveal, in great measure, the story of his life; but as Shakespeare wrote to please his reader, and with very little apparent thought of himself, such conclusions must be accepted with great caution. The wonderful dramas so far surpass his other poems that the latter are now but little read.
Shakespeare's actual observation of the world was probably limited to the territory within a distance of fifty miles from the highway, itself a hundred miles in length, which leads from Stratford to London; but by some marvel of endowment he was enabled to touch the mind and heart of men of every land and every generation, and it has been well said that no poet has ever written on any topic but it can be found better done in Shakespeare.
DEATH OF QUEEN KATHERINE.
Kath. Sir, I most humbly pray you to deliver This to my lord the King.
Most willing, madam. Kath. In which I have commended to his goodness
The model of our chaste loves, his young daugh
The dews of heaven fall thick in blessings on her!
Beseeching him to give her virtuous breeding;
The last is, for my men ;-they are the poorest, But poverty could never draw them from me ;That they may have their wages duly paid them,
These antique fables, nor these fairy toys.
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold—
And something over to remember me by;
Over hill, over dale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire,
THE POWER OF IMAGINATION. "A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM," Act V, Scene 1. I never may believe
For so I will.-Mine eyes grow dim.-Farewell,
Let me be used with honor; strew me over
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven,
THE FAIRY TO PUCK.
"MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM," Act II, Scene 1.
To dew her orbs upon the green: The cowslips tall her pensioners be; In their gold coats spots you see; Those be rubies, fairy favors,
In those freckles live their savors; I must go seek some dew-drops here, And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear.