Love's Labour's Lost (Oxford School Shakespeare Series)

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Overview

The Oxford School Shakespeare is a well-established series that helps students to understand and enjoy Shakespeare's plays.

As well as the complete and unabridged text, each play in this series has an extensive range of students' notes. These include detailed and clear explanations of difficult words and passages, a synopsis of the plot, summaries of individual scenes, and notes on the main characters.

Also included is a wide range of questions...

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Love's Labour's Lost

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Overview

The Oxford School Shakespeare is a well-established series that helps students to understand and enjoy Shakespeare's plays.

As well as the complete and unabridged text, each play in this series has an extensive range of students' notes. These include detailed and clear explanations of difficult words and passages, a synopsis of the plot, summaries of individual scenes, and notes on the main characters.

Also included is a wide range of questions and activities for work in class, together with the historical background to Shakespeare's England, a brief biography of Shakespeare, and a complete list of his plays.

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Meet the Author

Roma Gill, the series editor, has taught Shakespeare at all levels. She has acted in and directed Shakespeare's plays, and has lectured on Shakespeare all over the world.

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list of parts

Ferdinand KING of Navarre BEROWNE LONGAVILLE DUMAINE Don Adriano de ARMADO, a Spanish braggart MOTH, a boy, his page COSTARD, a clown JAQUENETTA, a dairymaid Anthony DULL, a constable Sir NATHANIEL, a curate HOLOFERNES, a pedantic schoolmaster The PRINCESS of France ROSALINE MARIA KATHERINE BOYET, a lord attending on the princess Monsieur MARCADÉ, a messenger from the King of France A FORESTER Lords, Ladies, Attendants

Act 1 [Scene 1] running scene 1

Enter Ferdinand King of Navarre, Berowne, Longaville and Dumaine

KING Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives,
Live registered upon our brazen tombs,
And then grace us in the disgrace of death When, spite of cormorant devouring time,
Th'endeavour of this present breath may buy That honour which shall bate his scythe's keen edge And make us heirs of all eternity.
Therefore, brave conquerors - for so you are,
That war against your own affections And the huge army of the world's desires -
Our late edict shall strongly stand in force.
Navarre shall be the wonder of the world,
Our court shall be a little academe,
Still and contemplative in living art.
You three, Berowne, Dumaine and Longaville,
Have sworn for three years' term to live with me,
My fellow-scholars, and to keep those statutes That are recorded in this schedule here. [Shows a paper]
Your oaths are passed, and now subscribe your names,
That his own hand may strike his honour down That violates the smallest branch herein.
If you are armed to do as sworn to do,
Subscribe to your deep oaths, and keep it too.

LONGAVILLE I am resolved: 'tis but athree years' fast.
The mind shall banquet though the body pine.
Fat paunches have lean pates, and dainty bits Make rich the ribs, but bankrupt quite the wits.

DUMAINE My loving lord, Dumaine is mortified.
The grosser manner of these world's delights He throws upon the gross world's baser slaves.
To love, to wealth, to pomp, I pine and die,
With all these living in philosophy.

BEROWNE I can but say their protestation over.
So much, dear liege, I have already sworn,
That is, to live and study here three years.
But there are other strict observances,
As not to see a woman in that term,
Which I hope well is not enrollèd there.
And one day in a week to touch no food,
And but one meal on every day beside,
The which I hope is not enrollèd there.
And then to sleep but three hours in the night,
And not be seen to wink of all the day -
When I was wont to think no harm all night And make a dark night too of half the day -
Which I hope well is not enrollèd there.
O, these are barren tasks, too hard to keep:
Not to see ladies, study, fast, not sleep.

KING Your oath is passed to pass away from these.

BEROWNE Let me say no, my liege, an if you please.
I only swore to study with your grace And stay here in your court for three years' space.

LONGAVILLE You swore to that, Berowne, and to the rest.

BEROWNE By yea and nay, sir, then I swore in jest.
What is the end of study, let me know?

KING Why, that to know which else we should not know.

BEROWNE Things hid and barred, you mean, from common sense?

KING Ay, that is study's godlike recompense.

BEROWNE Come on then, I will swear to study so,
To know the thing I am forbid to know:
As thus, to study where I well may dine,
When I to feast expressly am forbid.
Or study where to meet some mistress fine,
When mistresses from common sense are hid.
Or, having sworn too hard-a-keeping oath,
Study to break it and not break my troth.
If study's gain be thus and this be so,
Study knows that which yet it doth not know.
Swear me to this, and I will ne'er say no.

KING These be the stops that hinder study quite And train our intellects to vain delight.

BEROWNE Why, all delights are vain, and that most vain,
Which with pain purchased doth inherit pain:
As painfully to pore upon a book To seek the light of truth, while truth the while Doth falsely blind the eyesight of his look.
Light seeking light doth light of light beguile:
So, ere you find where light in darkness lies,
Your light grows dark by losing of your eyes.
Study me how to please the eye indeed By fixing it upon a fairer eye,
Who dazzling so, that eye shall be his heed And give him light that it was blinded by.
Study is like the heaven's glorious sun That will not be deep-searched with saucy looks:
Small have continual plodders ever won Save base authority from others' books.
These earthly godfathers of heaven's lights,
That give a name to every fixèd star,
Have no more profit of their shining nights Than those that walk and wot not what they are.
Too much to know is to know nought but fame,
And every godfather can give a name.

KING How well he's read, to reason against reading.

DUMAINE Proceeded well, to stop all good proceeding.

LONGAVILLE He weeds the corn, and still lets grow the weeding.

BEROWNE The spring is near when green geese are a-breeding.

DUMAINE How follows that?

BEROWNE Fit in his place and time.

DUMAINE In reason nothing.

BEROWNE Something then in rhyme.

KING Berowne is like an envious sneaping frost That bites the first-born infants of the spring.

BEROWNE Well, say I am. Why should proud summer boast Before the birds have any cause to sing?
Why should I joy in any abortive birth?
At Christmas I no more desire a rose Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled shows,
But like of each thing that in season grows.
So your to study now it is too late,
That were to climb o'er the house to unlock the gate.

KING Well, sit you out. Go home, Berowne, adieu.

BEROWNE No, my good lord, I have sworn to stay with you.
And though I have for barbarism spoke more Than for that angel knowledge you can say,
Yet confident I'll keep what I have sworn And bide the penance of each three years' day.
Give me the paper, let me read the same,
And to the strict'st decrees I'll write my name. [Takes the paper]

KING How well this yielding rescues thee from shame.

BEROWNE 'Item, That no woman shall come within a mile of my court.' Hath this been proclaimed?

LONGAVILLE Four days ago.

BEROWNE Let's see the penalty: 'On pain of losing her tongue.' Who devised this penalty?

LONGAVILLE Marry, that did I.

BEROWNE Sweet lord, and why?

LONGAVILLE To fright them hence with that dread penalty.

BEROWNE A dangerous law against gentility!
'Item, If any man be seen to talk with a woman within the term of three years, he shall endure such public shame as the rest of the court shall possibly devise.'
This article, my liege, yourself must break,
For well you know here comes in embassy The French king's daughter with yourself to speak -
A maid of grace and complete majesty -
About surrender up of Aquitaine To her decrepit, sick and bedrid father:
Therefore this article is made in vain,
Or vainly comes th'admirèd princess hither.

KING What say you, lords? Why, this was quite forgot.

BEROWNE So study evermore is overshot.
While it doth study to have what it would,
It doth forget to do the thing it should:
And when it hath the thing it hunteth most,
'Tis won as towns with fire, so won, so lost.

KING We must of force dispense with this decree.
She must lie here on mere necessity.

BEROWNE Necessity will make us all forsworn Three thousand times within this three years' space,
For every man with his affects is born,
Not by might mastered but by special grace.
If I break faith, this word shall speak for me:
I am forsworn 'on mere necessity'.
So to the laws at large I write my name,
And he that breaks them in the least degree Stands in attainder of eternal shame.
Suggestions are to others as to me:
But I believe, although I seem so loath,
I am the last that will last keep his oath.
But is there no quick recreation granted?

KING Ay, that there is. Our court, you know, is haunted With a refinèd traveller of Spain,
A man in all the world's new fashion planted,
That hath a mint of phrases in his brain,
One who the music of his own vain tongue Doth ravish like enchanting harmony,
A man of compliments, whom right and wrong Have chose as umpire of their mutiny.
This child of fancy, that Armado hight,
For interim to our studies shall relate In high-born words the worth of many a knight From tawny Spain lost in the world's debate.
How you delight, my lords, I know not, I,
But I protest I love to hear him lie,
And I will use him for my minstrelsy.

BEROWNE Armado is a most illustrious wight,
A man of fire-new words, fashion's own knight.

LONGAVILLE Costard the swain and he shall be our sport,
And so to study three years is but short.

Enter a constable [Dull] with a letter, with Costard

DULL Which is the duke's own person?

BEROWNE This, fellow. What wouldst?

DULL I myself reprehend his own person, for I am his grace's tharborough. But I would see his own person in flesh and blood.

BEROWNE This is he.

DULL Signior Arme . . . Arme . . . commends you. There's villainy abroad. This letter will tell you more. [Shows a letter]

COSTARD Sir, the contempts thereof are as touching me.

KING A letter from the magnificent Armado.

BEROWNE How low soever the matter, I hope in God for high words.

LONGAVILLE A high hope for a low heaven. God grant us patience.

BEROWNE To hear, or forbear hearing?

LONGAVILLE To hear meekly, sir, and to laugh moderately, or to forbear both.

BEROWNE Well, sir, be it as the style shall give us cause to climb in the merriness.

COSTARD The matter is to me, sir, as concerning Jaquenetta. The manner of it is, I was taken with the manner.

BEROWNE In what manner?

COSTARD In manner and form following, sir, all those three. I was seen with her in the manor-house, sitting with her upon the form, and taken following her into the park, which, put together, is 'in manner and form following'. Now, sir, for the manner: it is the manner of a man to speak to a woman. For the form: in some form.

BEROWNE For the 'following', sir?

COSTARD As it shall follow in my correction, and God defend the right!

KING Will you hear this letter with attention?

BEROWNE As we would hear an oracle.

COSTARD Such is the simplicity of man to hearken after the flesh.

KING 'Great deputy, the welkin's vicegerent and sole dominator of Navarre, my soul's earth's god, and body's fostering patron'-

COSTARD Not a word of Costard yet.

KING 'So it is'-

COSTARD It may be so: but if he say it is so, he is, in telling true, but so.

KING Peace!

COSTARD Be to me and every man that dares not fight.

KING No words!

COSTARD Of other men's secrets, I beseech you.

KING 'So it is, besieged with sable-coloured
melancholy, I did commend the black oppressing humour to the most wholesome physic of thy health-giving air, and, as I am a gentleman, betook myself to walk. The time, when? About the sixth hour, when beasts most graze, birds best peck, and men sit down to that nourishment which is called supper: so much for the time when. Now for the ground, which? Which, I mean, I walked upon. It is ycleped thy park. Then for the place, where? Where, I mean, I did encounter that obscene and most preposterous event that draweth from my snow- white pen the ebon-coloured ink, which here thou viewest, beholdest, surveyest, or seest. But to the place, where? It standeth north-north- east and by east from the west corner of thy curious-knotted garden; there did I see that low-spirited swain, that base minnow of thy mirth'-

COSTARD Me?

KING 'That unlettered small-knowing soul'-

COSTARD Me?

KING 'That shallow vassal'-

COSTARD Still me?

KING 'Which, as I remember, hight Costard'-

COSTARD O, me!

KING 'Sorted and consorted, contrary to thy established proclaimed edict and continent canon, which with - O, with - but with this I passion to say wherewith'-

COSTARD With a wench.

KING 'With a child of our grandmother Eve, a female, or, for thy more sweet understanding, a woman. Him I (as my ever-esteemed duty pricks me on) have sent to thee, to receive the meed of punishment, by thy sweet grace's officer, Anthony Dull, a man of good repute, carriage, bearing, and estimation.'

DULL Me, an't shall please you. I am Anthony Dull.

KING 'For Jaquenetta - so is the weaker vessel called which I apprehended with the aforesaid swain - I keep her as a vessel of the law's fury, and shall, at the least of thy sweet notice, bring her to trial. Thine, in all compliments of devoted and heart-burning heat of duty. Don Adriano de Armado.'

BEROWNE This is not so well as I looked for, but the best that ever I heard.

KING Ay, the best for the worst. But, sirrah, what say you to this?

COSTARD Sir, I confess the wench.

KING Did you hear the proclamation?

COSTARD I do confess much of the hearing it but little of the marking of it.

KING It was proclaimed a year's imprisonment to be taken with a wench.

COSTARD I was taken with none, sir: I was taken with a damsel.

KING Well, it was proclaimed damsel.

COSTARD This was no damsel, neither, sir: she was a virgin.

KING It is so varied too, for it was proclaimed virgin.

COSTARD If it were, I deny her virginity: I was taken with a maid.

KING This maid will not serve your turn, sir.

COSTARD This maid will serve my turn, sir.

KING Sir, I will pronounce your sentence: you shall fast a week with bran and water.

COSTARD I had rather pray a month with mutton and porridge.

KING And Don Armado shall be your keeper.
My Lord Berowne, see him delivered o'er:
And go we, lords, to put in practice that Which each to other hath so strongly sworn.

[Exeunt King, Longaville and Dumaine]

BEROWNE I'll lay my head to any goodman's hat,
These oaths and laws will prove an idle scorn.
Sirrah, come on.

COSTARD I suffer for the truth, sir, for true it is, I was taken with Jaquenetta, and Jaquenetta is a true girl. And therefore welcome the sour cup of prosperity! Affliction may one day smile again, and until then, sit down, sorrow! Exeunt

[Act 1 Scene 2] running scene 1 continues

Enter Armado and Moth, his page

ARMADO Boy, what sign is it when a man of great spirit grows melancholy?

MOTH A great sign, sir, that he will look sad.

ARMADO Why, sadness is one and the self-same thing, dear imp.

MOTH No, no, O lord, sir, no.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations viii
Introduction 1
The Play 12
The Date and 'Sources' 42
The Text 57
Editorial Procedures 85
Abbreviations and References 86
Love's Labour's Lost 91
Appendix A Two 'False Starts' 237
Appendix B Alterations to Lineation 239
Appendix C A Note on the Music 242
Appendix D The name of Armado's Page 245
Index 247
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First Chapter

Forward

Shakespeare's Life

Surviving documents that give us glimpses into the life of William Shakespeare show us a playwright, poet, and actor who grew up in the market town of Stratford-upon-Avon, spent his professional life in London, and returned to Stratford a wealthy landowner. He was born in April 1564, died in April 1616, and is buried inside the chancel of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford.

We wish we could know more about the life of the world's greatest dramatist. His plays and poems are testaments to his wide reading -- especially to his knowledge of Virgil, Ovid, Plutarch, Holinshed's Chronicles, and the Bible -- and to his mastery of the English language, but we can only speculate about his education. We know that the King's New School in Stratfordupon-Avon was considered excellent. The school was one of the English "grammar schools" established to educate young men, primarily in Latin grammar and literature. As in other schools of the time, students began their studies at the age of four or five in the attached "petty school," and there learned to read and write in English, studying primarily the catechism from the Book of Common Prayer. After two years in the petty school, students entered the lower form (grade) of the grammar school, where they began the serious study of Latin grammar and Latin texts that would occupy most of the remainder of their school days. (Several Latin texts that Shakespeare used repeatedly in writing his plays and poems were texts that schoolboys memorized and recited.) Latin comedies were introduced early in the lower form; in the upper form, which the boys entered at age ten or eleven,students wrote their own Latin orations and declamations, studied Latin historians and rhetoricians, and began the study of Greek using the Greek New Testament.

Since the records of the Stratford "grammar school" do not survive, we cannot prove that William Shakespeare attended the school; however, every indication (his father's position as an alderman and bailiff of Stratford, the playwright's own knowledge of the Latin classics, scenes in the plays that recall grammarschool experiences -- for example, The Merry Wives of Windsor, 4.1) suggests that he did. We also lack generally accepted documentation about Shakespeare's life after his schooling ended and his professional life in London began. His marriage in 1582 (at age eighteen) to Anne Hathaway and the subsequent births of his daughter Susanna (1583) and the twins Judith and Hamnet (1585) are recorded, but how he supported himself and where he lived are not known. Nor do we know when and why he left Stratford for the London theatrical world, nor how he rose to be the important figure in that world that he had become by the early 1590s.

We do know that by 1592 he had achieved some prominence in London as both an actor and a playwright. In that year was published a book by the playwright Robert Greene attacking an actor who had the audacity to write blank-verse drama and who was "in his own conceit [i.e., opinion] the only Shake-scene in a country." Since Greene's attack includes a parody ofa line from one of Shakespeare's early plays, there is little doubt that it is Shakespeare to whom he refers, a "Shake-scene" who had aroused Greene's fury by successfully competing with university-educated dramatists like Greene himself. It was in 1593 that Shakespeare became a published poet. In that year he published his long narrative poem Venus and Adonis; in 1594, he followed it with The Rape of Lucrece. Both poems were dedicated to the young earl of Southampton (Henry Wriothesley), who may have become Shakespeare's patron.

It seems no coincidence that Shakespeare wrote these narrative poems at a time when the theaters were closed because of the plague, a contagious epidemic disease that devastated the population of London. When the theaters reopened in 1594, Shakespeare apparently resumed his double career of actor and playwright and began his long (and seemingly profitable) service as an acting-company shareholder. Records for December of 1594 show him to be a leading member of the Lord Chamberlain's Men. It was this company of actors, later named the King's Men, for whom he would be a principal actor, dramatist, and shareholder for the rest of his career.

So far as we can tell, that career spanned about twenty years. In the 1590s, he wrote his plays on English history as well as several comedies and at least two tragedies (Titus Andronicus and Romeo and Juliet). These histories, comedies, and tragedies are the plays credited to him in 1598 in a work, Palladis Tamia, that in one chapter compares English writers with "Greek, Latin, and Italian Poets." There the author, Francis Meres, claims that Shakespeare is comparable to the Latin dramatists Seneca for tragedy and Plautus for comedy, and calls him "the most excellent in both kinds for the stage." He also names him "Mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare": "I say," writes Meres, "that the Muses would speak with Shakespeare's fine filed phrase, if they would speak English." Since Meres also mentions Shakespeare's "sugared sonnets among his private friends," it is assumed that many of Shakespeare's sonnets (not published until 1609) were also written in the 1590s.

In 1599, Shakespeare's company built a theater for themselves across the river from London, naming it the Globe. The plays that are considered by many to be Shakespeare's major tragedies (Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth) were written while the company was resident in this theater, as were such comedies as Twelfth Night and Measure for Measure. Many of Shakespeare's plays were performed at court (both for Queen Elizabeth I and, after her death in 1603, for King James I), some were presented at the Inns of Court (the residences of London's legal societies), and some were doubtless performed in other towns, at the universities, and at great houses when the King's Men went on tour; otherwise, his plays from 1599 to 1608 were, so far as we know, performed only at the Globe. Between 1608 and 1612, Shakespeare wrote several plays -- among them The Winter's Tale and The Tempest -- presumably for the company's new indoor Blackfriars theater, though the plays seem to have been performed also at the Globe and at court. Surviving documents describe a performance of The Winter's Tale in 1611 at the Globe, for example, and performances of The Tempest in 1611 and 1613 at the royal palace of Whitehall.

Shakespeare wrote very little after 1612, the year in which he probably wrote King Henry VIII. (It was at a performance of Henry VIII in 1613 that the Globe caught fire and burned to the ground.) Sometime between 1610 and 1613 he seems to have returned to live in Stratford-upon-Avon, where he owned a large house and considerable property, and where his wife and his two daughters and their husbands lived. (His son Hamnet had died in 1596.) During his professional years in London, Shakespeare had presumably derived income from the acting company's profits as well as from his own career as an actor, from the sale of his play manuscripts to the acting company, and, after 1599, from his shares as an owner of the Globe. It was presumably that income, carefully invested in land and other property, which made him the wealthy man that surviving documents show him to have become. It is also assumed that William Shakespeare's growing wealth and reputation played some part in inclining the crown, in 1596, to grant John Shakespeare, William's father, the coat of arms that he had so long sought. William Shakespeare died in Stratford on April 23, 1616 (according to the epitaph carved under his bust in Holy Trinity Church) and was buried on April 25. Seven years after his death, his collected plays were published as Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies (the work now known as the First Folio).

The years in which Shakespeare wrote were among the most exciting in English history. Intellectually, the discovery, translation, and printing of Greek and Roman classics were making available a set of works and worldviews that interacted complexly with Christian texts and beliefs. The result was a questioning, a vital intellectual ferment, that provided energy for the period's amazing dramatic and literary output and that fed directly into Shakespeare's plays. The Ghost in Hamlet, for example, is wonderfully complicated in part because he is a figure from Roman tragedy -- the spirit of the dead returning to seek revenge -- who at the same time inhabits a Christian hell (or purgatory); Hamlet's description of humankind reflects at one moment the Neoplatonic wonderment at mankind ("What a piece of work is a man!") and, at the next, the Christian disparagement of human sinners ("And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?").

As intellectual horizons expanded, so also did geographical and cosmological horizons. New worlds -- both North and South America -- were explored, and in them were found human beings who lived and worshiped in ways radically different from those of Renaissance Europeans and Englishmen. The universe during these years also seemed to shift and expand. Copernicus had earlier theorized that the earth was not the center of the cosmos but revolved as a planet around the sun. Galileo's telescope, created in 1609, allowed scientists to see that Copernicus had been correct; the universe was not organized with the earth at the center, nor was it so nicely circumscribed as people had, until that time, thought. In terms of expanding horizons, the impact of these discoveries on people's beliefs -- religious, scientific, and philosophical -- cannot be overstated.

London, too, rapidly expanded and changed during the years (from the early 1590s to around 1610) that Shakespeare lived there. London -- the center of England's government, its economy, its royal court, its overseas trade -- was, during these years, becoming an exciting metropolis, drawing to it thousands of new citizens every year. Troubled by overcrowding, by poverty, by recurring epidemics of the plague, London was also a mecca for the wealthy and the aristocratic, and for those who sought advancement at court, or power in government or finance or trade. One hears in Shakespeare's plays the voices of London -- the struggles for power, the fear of venereal disease, the language of buying and selling. One hears as well the voices of Stratford-upon-Avon -- references to the nearby Forest of Arden, to sheepherding, to small-town gossip, to village fairs and markets. Part of the richness of Shakespeare's work is the influence felt there of the various worlds in which he lived: the world of metropolitan London, the world of small-town and rural England, the world of the theater, and the worlds of craftsmen and shepherds.

That Shakespeare inhabited such worlds we know from surviving London and Stratford documents, as well as from the evidence of the plays and poems themselves. From such records we can sketch the dramatist's life. We know from his works that he was a voracious reader. We know from legal and business documents that he was a multifaceted theater man who became a wealthy landowner. We know a bit about his family life and a fair amount about his legal and financial dealings. Most scholars today depend upon such evidence as they draw their picture of the world's greatest playwright. Such, however, has not always been the case. Until the late eighteenth century, the William Shakespeare who lived in most biographies was the creation of legend and tradition. This was the Shakespeare who was supposedly caught poaching deer at Charlecote, the estate of Sir Thomas Lucy close by Stratford; this was the Shakespeare who fled from Sir Thomas's vengeance and made his way in London by taking care of horses outside a playhouse; this was the Shakespeare who reportedly could barely read but whose natural gifts were extraordinary, whose father was a butcher who allowed his gifted son sometimes to help in the butcher shop, where William supposedly killed calves "in a high style," making a speech for the occasion. It was this legendary William Shakespeare whose Falstaff (in 1 and 2 Henry IV) so pleased Queen Elizabeth that she demanded a play about Falstaff in love, and demanded that it be written in fourteen days (hence the existence of The Merry Wives of Windsor). It was this legendary Shakespeare who reached the top of his acting career in the roles of the Ghost in Hamlet and old Adam in As You Like It -- and who died of a fever contracted by drinking too hard at "a merry meeting" with the poets Michael Drayton and Ben Jonson. This legendary Shakespeare is a rambunctious, undisciplined man, as attractively "wild" as his plays were seen by earlier generations to be. Unfortunately, there is no trace of evidence to support these wonderful stories.

Perhaps in response to the disreputable Shakespeare of legend -- or perhaps in response to the fragmentary and, for some, all-too-ordinary Shakespeare documented by surviving records -- some people since the mid-nineteenth century have argued that William Shakespeare could not have written the plays that bear his name. These persons have put forward some dozen names as more likely authors, among them Queen Elizabeth, Sir Francis Bacon, Edward de Vere (earl of Oxford), and Christopher Marlowe. Such attempts to find what for these people is a more believable author of the plays is a tribute to the regard in which the plays are held. Unfortunately for their claims, the documents that exist that provide evidence for the facts of Shakespeare's life tie him inextricably to the body of plays and poems that bear his name. Unlikely as it seems to those who want the works to have been written by anaristocrat, a university graduate, or an "important" person, the plays and poems seem clearly to have been produced by a man from Stratford-upon-Avon with a very good "grammar-school" education and a life of experience in London and in the world of the London theater. How this particular man produced the works that dominate the cultures of much of the world almost four hundred years after his death is one of life's mysteries -- and one that will continue to tease our imaginations as we continue to delight in his plays and poems.

Copyright © 2005, by Washington Square Press

Forward

Shakespeare's Life

Surviving documents that give us glimpses into the life of William Shakespeare show us a playwright, poet, and actor who grew up in the market town of Stratford-upon-Avon, spent his professional life in London, and returned to Stratford a wealthy landowner. He was born in April 1564, died in April 1616, and is buried inside the chancel of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford.

We wish we could know more about the life of the world's greatest dramatist. His plays and poems are testaments to his wide reading -- especially to his knowledge of Virgil, Ovid, Plutarch, Holinshed's Chronicles, and the Bible -- and to his mastery of the English language, but we can only speculate about his education. We know that the King's New School in Stratfordupon-Avon was considered excellent. The school was one of the English "grammar schools" established to educate young men, primarily in Latin grammar and literature. As in other schools of the time, students began their studies at the age of four or five in the attached "petty school," and there learned to read and write in English, studying primarily the catechism from the Book of Common Prayer. After two years in the petty school, students entered the lower form (grade) of the grammar school, where they began the serious study of Latin grammar and Latin texts that would occupy most of the remainder of their school days. (Several Latin texts that Shakespeare used repeatedly in writing his plays and poems were texts that schoolboys memorized and recited.) Latin comedies were introduced early in the lower form; in the upper form, which the boys entered at age ten or eleven, students wrote their own Latin orations and declamations, studied Latin historians and rhetoricians, and began the study of Greek using the Greek New Testament.

Since the records of the Stratford "grammar school" do not survive, we cannot prove that William Shakespeare attended the school; however, every indication (his father's position as an alderman and bailiff of Stratford, the playwright's own knowledge of the Latin classics, scenes in the plays that recall grammarschool experiences -- for example, The Merry Wives of Windsor, 4.1) suggests that he did. We also lack generally accepted documentation about Shakespeare's life after his schooling ended and his professional life in London began. His marriage in 1582 (at age eighteen) to Anne Hathaway and the subsequent births of his daughter Susanna (1583) and the twins Judith and Hamnet (1585) are recorded, but how he supported himself and where he lived are not known. Nor do we know when and why he left Stratford for the London theatrical world, nor how he rose to be the important figure in that world that he had become by the early 1590s.

We do know that by 1592 he had achieved some prominence in London as both an actor and a playwright. In that year was published a book by the playwright Robert Greene attacking an actor who had the audacity to write blank-verse drama and who was "in his own conceit [i.e., opinion] the only Shake-scene in a country." Since Greene's attack includes a parody ofa line from one of Shakespeare's early plays, there is little doubt that it is Shakespeare to whom he refers, a "Shake-scene" who had aroused Greene's fury by successfully competing with university-educated dramatists like Greene himself. It was in 1593 that Shakespeare became a published poet. In that year he published his long narrative poem Venus and Adonis; in 1594, he followed it with The Rape of Lucrece. Both poems were dedicated to the young earl of Southampton (Henry Wriothesley), who may have become Shakespeare's patron.

It seems no coincidence that Shakespeare wrote these narrative poems at a time when the theaters were closed because of the plague, a contagious epidemic disease that devastated the population of London. When the theaters reopened in 1594, Shakespeare apparently resumed his double career of actor and playwright and began his long (and seemingly profitable) service as an acting-company shareholder. Records for December of 1594 show him to be a leading member of the Lord Chamberlain's Men. It was this company of actors, later named the King's Men, for whom he would be a principal actor, dramatist, and shareholder for the rest of his career.

So far as we can tell, that career spanned about twenty years. In the 1590s, he wrote his plays on English history as well as several comedies and at least two tragedies (Titus Andronicus and Romeo and Juliet). These histories, comedies, and tragedies are the plays credited to him in 1598 in a work, Palladis Tamia, that in one chapter compares English writers with "Greek, Latin, and Italian Poets." There the author, Francis Meres, claims that Shakespeare is comparable to the Latin dramatists Seneca for tragedy and Plautus for comedy, and calls him "the most excellent in both kinds for the stage." He also names him "Mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare": "I say," writes Meres, "that the Muses would speak with Shakespeare's fine filed phrase, if they would speak English." Since Meres also mentions Shakespeare's "sugared sonnets among his private friends," it is assumed that many of Shakespeare's sonnets (not published until 1609) were also written in the 1590s.

In 1599, Shakespeare's company built a theater for themselves across the river from London, naming it the Globe. The plays that are considered by many to be Shakespeare's major tragedies (Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth) were written while the company was resident in this theater, as were such comedies as Twelfth Night and Measure for Measure. Many of Shakespeare's plays were performed at court (both for Queen Elizabeth I and, after her death in 1603, for King James I), some were presented at the Inns of Court (the residences of London's legal societies), and some were doubtless performed in other towns, at the universities, and at great houses when the King's Men went on tour; otherwise, his plays from 1599 to 1608 were, so far as we know, performed only at the Globe. Between 1608 and 1612, Shakespeare wrote several plays -- among them The Winter's Tale and The Tempest -- presumably for the company's new indoor Blackfriars theater, though the plays seem to have been performed also at the Globe and at court. Surviving documents describe a performance of The Winter's Tale in 1611 at the Globe, for example, and performances of The Tempest in 1611 and 1613 at the royal palace of Whitehall.

Shakespeare wrote very little after 1612, the year in which he probably wrote King Henry VIII. (It was at a performance of Henry VIII in 1613 that the Globe caught fire and burned to the ground.) Sometime between 1610 and 1613 he seems to have returned to live in Stratford-upon-Avon, where he owned a large house and considerable property, and where his wife and his two daughters and their husbands lived. (His son Hamnet had died in 1596.) During his professional years in London, Shakespeare had presumably derived income from the acting company's profits as well as from his own career as an actor, from the sale of his play manuscripts to the acting company, and, after 1599, from his shares as an owner of the Globe. It was presumably that income, carefully invested in land and other property, which made him the wealthy man that surviving documents show him to have become. It is also assumed that William Shakespeare's growing wealth and reputation played some part in inclining the crown, in 1596, to grant John Shakespeare, William's father, the coat of arms that he had so long sought. William Shakespeare died in Stratford on April 23, 1616 (according to the epitaph carved under his bust in Holy Trinity Church) and was buried on April 25. Seven years after his death, his collected plays were published as Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies (the work now known as the First Folio).

The years in which Shakespeare wrote were among the most exciting in English history. Intellectually, the discovery, translation, and printing of Greek and Roman classics were making available a set of works and worldviews that interacted complexly with Christian texts and beliefs. The result was a questioning, a vital intellectual ferment, that provided energy for the period's amazing dramatic and literary output and that fed directly into Shakespeare's plays. The Ghost in Hamlet, for example, is wonderfully complicated in part because he is a figure from Roman tragedy -- the spirit of the dead returning to seek revenge -- who at the same time inhabits a Christian hell (or purgatory); Hamlet's description of humankind reflects at one moment the Neoplatonic wonderment at mankind ("What a piece of work is a man!") and, at the next, the Christian disparagement of human sinners ("And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?").

As intellectual horizons expanded, so also did geographical and cosmological horizons. New worlds -- both North and South America -- were explored, and in them were found human beings who lived and worshiped in ways radically different from those of Renaissance Europeans and Englishmen. The universe during these years also seemed to shift and expand. Copernicus had earlier theorized that the earth was not the center of the cosmos but revolved as a planet around the sun. Galileo's telescope, created in 1609, allowed scientists to see that Copernicus had been correct; the universe was not organized with the earth at the center, nor was it so nicely circumscribed as people had, until that time, thought. In terms of expanding horizons, the impact of these discoveries on people's beliefs -- religious, scientific, and philosophical -- cannot be overstated.

London, too, rapidly expanded and changed during the years (from the early 1590s to around 1610) that Shakespeare lived there. London -- the center of England's government, its economy, its royal court, its overseas trade -- was, during these years, becoming an exciting metropolis, drawing to it thousands of new citizens every year. Troubled by overcrowding, by poverty, by recurring epidemics of the plague, London was also a mecca for the wealthy and the aristocratic, and for those who sought advancement at court, or power in government or finance or trade. One hears in Shakespeare's plays the voices of London -- the struggles for power, the fear of venereal disease, the language of buying and selling. One hears as well the voices of Stratford-upon-Avon -- references to the nearby Forest of Arden, to sheepherding, to small-town gossip, to village fairs and markets. Part of the richness of Shakespeare's work is the influence felt there of the various worlds in which he lived: the world of metropolitan London, the world of small-town and rural England, the world of the theater, and the worlds of craftsmen and shepherds.

That Shakespeare inhabited such worlds we know from surviving London and Stratford documents, as well as from the evidence of the plays and poems themselves. From such records we can sketch the dramatist's life. We know from his works that he was a voracious reader. We know from legal and business documents that he was a multifaceted theater man who became a wealthy landowner. We know a bit about his family life and a fair amount about his legal and financial dealings. Most scholars today depend upon such evidence as they draw their picture of the world's greatest playwright. Such, however, has not always been the case. Until the late eighteenth century, the William Shakespeare who lived in most biographies was the creation of legend and tradition. This was the Shakespeare who was supposedly caught poaching deer at Charlecote, the estate of Sir Thomas Lucy close by Stratford; this was the Shakespeare who fled from Sir Thomas's vengeance and made his way in London by taking care of horses outside a playhouse; this was the Shakespeare who reportedly could barely read but whose natural gifts were extraordinary, whose father was a butcher who allowed his gifted son sometimes to help in the butcher shop, where William supposedly killed calves "in a high style," making a speech for the occasion. It was this legendary William Shakespeare whose Falstaff (in 1 and 2 Henry IV) so pleased Queen Elizabeth that she demanded a play about Falstaff in love, and demanded that it be written in fourteen days (hence the existence of The Merry Wives of Windsor). It was this legendary Shakespeare who reached the top of his acting career in the roles of the Ghost in Hamlet and old Adam in As You Like It -- and who died of a fever contracted by drinking too hard at "a merry meeting" with the poets Michael Drayton and Ben Jonson. This legendary Shakespeare is a rambunctious, undisciplined man, as attractively "wild" as his plays were seen by earlier generations to be. Unfortunately, there is no trace of evidence to support these wonderful stories.

Perhaps in response to the disreputable Shakespeare of legend -- or perhaps in response to the fragmentary and, for some, all-too-ordinary Shakespeare documented by surviving records -- some people since the mid-nineteenth century have argued that William Shakespeare could not have written the plays that bear his name. These persons have put forward some dozen names as more likely authors, among them Queen Elizabeth, Sir Francis Bacon, Edward de Vere (earl of Oxford), and Christopher Marlowe. Such attempts to find what for these people is a more believable author of the plays is a tribute to the regard in which the plays are held. Unfortunately for their claims, the documents that exist that provide evidence for the facts of Shakespeare's life tie him inextricably to the body of plays and poems that bear his name. Unlikely as it seems to those who want the works to have been written by anaristocrat, a university graduate, or an "important" person, the plays and poems seem clearly to have been produced by a man from Stratford-upon-Avon with a very good "grammar-school" education and a life of experience in London and in the world of the London theater. How this particular man produced the works that dominate the cultures of much of the world almost four hundred years after his death is one of life's mysteries -- and one that will continue to tease our imaginations as we continue to delight in his plays and poems.

Copyright © 2005, by Washington Square Press

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Shakespeare's Life

Surviving documents that give us glimpses into the life of William Shakespeare show us a playwright, poet, and actor who grew up in the market town of Stratford-upon-Avon, spent his professional life in London, and returned to Stratford a wealthy landowner. He was born in April 1564, died in April 1616, and is buried inside the chancel of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford.

We wish we could know more about the life of the world's greatest dramatist. His plays and poems are testaments to his wide reading -- especially to his knowledge of Virgil, Ovid, Plutarch, Holinshed's Chronicles, and the Bible -- and to his mastery of the English language, but we can only speculate about his education. We know that the King's New School in Stratfordupon-Avon was considered excellent. The school was one of the English "grammar schools" established to educate young men, primarily in Latin grammar and literature. As in other schools of the time, students began their studies at the age of four or five in the attached "petty school," and there learned to read and write in English, studying primarily the catechism from the Book of Common Prayer. After two years in the petty school, students entered the lower form (grade) of the grammar school, where they began the serious study of Latin grammar and Latin texts that would occupy most of the remainder of their school days. (Several Latin texts that Shakespeare used repeatedly in writing his plays and poems were texts that schoolboys memorized and recited.) Latin comedies were introduced early in the lower form; in the upper form, which the boys entered at age ten or eleven, students wrote their own Latin orations and declamations, studied Latin historians and rhetoricians, and began the study of Greek using the Greek New Testament.

Since the records of the Stratford "grammar school" do not survive, we cannot prove that William Shakespeare attended the school; however, every indication (his father's position as an alderman and bailiff of Stratford, the playwright's own knowledge of the Latin classics, scenes in the plays that recall grammarschool experiences -- for example, The Merry Wives of Windsor, 4.1) suggests that he did. We also lack generally accepted documentation about Shakespeare's life after his schooling ended and his professional life in London began. His marriage in 1582 (at age eighteen) to Anne Hathaway and the subsequent births of his daughter Susanna (1583) and the twins Judith and Hamnet (1585) are recorded, but how he supported himself and where he lived are not known. Nor do we know when and why he left Stratford for the London theatrical world, nor how he rose to be the important figure in that world that he had become by the early 1590s.

We do know that by 1592 he had achieved some prominence in London as both an actor and a playwright. In that year was published a book by the playwright Robert Greene attacking an actor who had the audacity to write blank-verse drama and who was "in his own conceit [i.e., opinion] the only Shake-scene in a country." Since Greene's attack includes a parody ofa line from one of Shakespeare's early plays, there is little doubt that it is Shakespeare to whom he refers, a "Shake-scene" who had aroused Greene's fury by successfully competing with university-educated dramatists like Greene himself. It was in 1593 that Shakespeare became a published poet. In that year he published his long narrative poem Venus and Adonis; in 1594, he followed it with The Rape of Lucrece. Both poems were dedicated to the young earl of Southampton (Henry Wriothesley), who may have become Shakespeare's patron.

It seems no coincidence that Shakespeare wrote these narrative poems at a time when the theaters were closed because of the plague, a contagious epidemic disease that devastated the population of London. When the theaters reopened in 1594, Shakespeare apparently resumed his double career of actor and playwright and began his long (and seemingly profitable) service as an acting-company shareholder. Records for December of 1594 show him to be a leading member of the Lord Chamberlain's Men. It was this company of actors, later named the King's Men, for whom he would be a principal actor, dramatist, and shareholder for the rest of his career.

So far as we can tell, that career spanned about twenty years. In the 1590s, he wrote his plays on English history as well as several comedies and at least two tragedies (Titus Andronicus and Romeo and Juliet). These histories, comedies, and tragedies are the plays credited to him in 1598 in a work, Palladis Tamia, that in one chapter compares English writers with "Greek, Latin, and Italian Poets." There the author, Francis Meres, claims that Shakespeare is comparable to the Latin dramatists Seneca for tragedy and Plautus for comedy, and calls him "the most excellent in both kinds for the stage." He also names him "Mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare": "I say," writes Meres, "that the Muses would speak with Shakespeare's fine filed phrase, if they would speak English." Since Meres also mentions Shakespeare's "sugared sonnets among his private friends," it is assumed that many of Shakespeare's sonnets (not published until 1609) were also written in the 1590s.

In 1599, Shakespeare's company built a theater for themselves across the river from London, naming it the Globe. The plays that are considered by many to be Shakespeare's major tragedies (Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth) were written while the company was resident in this theater, as were such comedies as Twelfth Night and Measure for Measure. Many of Shakespeare's plays were performed at court (both for Queen Elizabeth I and, after her death in 1603, for King James I), some were presented at the Inns of Court (the residences of London's legal societies), and some were doubtless performed in other towns, at the universities, and at great houses when the King's Men went on tour; otherwise, his plays from 1599 to 1608 were, so far as we know, performed only at the Globe. Between 1608 and 1612, Shakespeare wrote several plays -- among them The Winter's Tale and The Tempest -- presumably for the company's new indoor Blackfriars theater, though the plays seem to have been performed also at the Globe and at court. Surviving documents describe a performance of The Winter's Tale in 1611 at the Globe, for example, and performances of The Tempest in 1611 and 1613 at the royal palace of Whitehall.

Shakespeare wrote very little after 1612, the year in which he probably wrote King Henry VIII. (It was at a performance of Henry VIII in 1613 that the Globe caught fire and burned to the ground.) Sometime between 1610 and 1613 he seems to have returned to live in Stratford-upon-Avon, where he owned a large house and considerable property, and where his wife and his two daughters and their husbands lived. (His son Hamnet had died in 1596.) During his professional years in London, Shakespeare had presumably derived income from the acting company's profits as well as from his own career as an actor, from the sale of his play manuscripts to the acting company, and, after 1599, from his shares as an owner of the Globe. It was presumably that income, carefully invested in land and other property, which made him the wealthy man that surviving documents show him to have become. It is also assumed that William Shakespeare's growing wealth and reputation played some part in inclining the crown, in 1596, to grant John Shakespeare, William's father, the coat of arms that he had so long sought. William Shakespeare died in Stratford on April 23, 1616 (according to the epitaph carved under his bust in Holy Trinity Church) and was buried on April 25. Seven years after his death, his collected plays were published as Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies (the work now known as the First Folio).

The years in which Shakespeare wrote were among the most exciting in English history. Intellectually, the discovery, translation, and printing of Greek and Roman classics were making available a set of works and worldviews that interacted complexly with Christian texts and beliefs. The result was a questioning, a vital intellectual ferment, that provided energy for the period's amazing dramatic and literary output and that fed directly into Shakespeare's plays. The Ghost in Hamlet, for example, is wonderfully complicated in part because he is a figure from Roman tragedy -- the spirit of the dead returning to seek revenge -- who at the same time inhabits a Christian hell (or purgatory); Hamlet's description of humankind reflects at one moment the Neoplatonic wonderment at mankind ("What a piece of work is a man!") and, at the next, the Christian disparagement of human sinners ("And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?").

As intellectual horizons expanded, so also did geographical and cosmological horizons. New worlds -- both North and South America -- were explored, and in them were found human beings who lived and worshiped in ways radically different from those of Renaissance Europeans and Englishmen. The universe during these years also seemed to shift and expand. Copernicus had earlier theorized that the earth was not the center of the cosmos but revolved as a planet around the sun. Galileo's telescope, created in 1609, allowed scientists to see that Copernicus had been correct; the universe was not organized with the earth at the center, nor was it so nicely circumscribed as people had, until that time, thought. In terms of expanding horizons, the impact of these discoveries on people's beliefs -- religious, scientific, and philosophical -- cannot be overstated.

London, too, rapidly expanded and changed during the years (from the early 1590s to around 1610) that Shakespeare lived there. London -- the center of England's government, its economy, its royal court, its overseas trade -- was, during these years, becoming an exciting metropolis, drawing to it thousands of new citizens every year. Troubled by overcrowding, by poverty, by recurring epidemics of the plague, London was also a mecca for the wealthy and the aristocratic, and for those who sought advancement at court, or power in government or finance or trade. One hears in Shakespeare's plays the voices of London -- the struggles for power, the fear of venereal disease, the language of buying and selling. One hears as well the voices of Stratford-upon-Avon -- references to the nearby Forest of Arden, to sheepherding, to small-town gossip, to village fairs and markets. Part of the richness of Shakespeare's work is the influence felt there of the various worlds in which he lived: the world of metropolitan London, the world of small-town and rural England, the world of the theater, and the worlds of craftsmen and shepherds.

That Shakespeare inhabited such worlds we know from surviving London and Stratford documents, as well as from the evidence of the plays and poems themselves. From such records we can sketch the dramatist's life. We know from his works that he was a voracious reader. We know from legal and business documents that he was a multifaceted theater man who became a wealthy landowner. We know a bit about his family life and a fair amount about his legal and financial dealings. Most scholars today depend upon such evidence as they draw their picture of the world's greatest playwright. Such, however, has not always been the case. Until the late eighteenth century, the William Shakespeare who lived in most biographies was the creation of legend and tradition. This was the Shakespeare who was supposedly caught poaching deer at Charlecote, the estate of Sir Thomas Lucy close by Stratford; this was the Shakespeare who fled from Sir Thomas's vengeance and made his way in London by taking care of horses outside a playhouse; this was the Shakespeare who reportedly could barely read but whose natural gifts were extraordinary, whose father was a butcher who allowed his gifted son sometimes to help in the butcher shop, where William supposedly killed calves "in a high style," making a speech for the occasion. It was this legendary William Shakespeare whose Falstaff (in 1 and 2 Henry IV) so pleased Queen Elizabeth that she demanded a play about Falstaff in love, and demanded that it be written in fourteen days (hence the existence of The Merry Wives of Windsor). It was this legendary Shakespeare who reached the top of his acting career in the roles of the Ghost in Hamlet and old Adam in As You Like It -- and who died of a fever contracted by drinking too hard at "a merry meeting" with the poets Michael Drayton and Ben Jonson. This legendary Shakespeare is a rambunctious, undisciplined man, as attractively "wild" as his plays were seen by earlier generations to be. Unfortunately, there is no trace of evidence to support these wonderful stories.

Perhaps in response to the disreputable Shakespeare of legend -- or perhaps in response to the fragmentary and, for some, all-too-ordinary Shakespeare documented by surviving records -- some people since the mid-nineteenth century have argued that William Shakespeare could not have written the plays that bear his name. These persons have put forward some dozen names as more likely authors, among them Queen Elizabeth, Sir Francis Bacon, Edward de Vere (earl of Oxford), and Christopher Marlowe. Such attempts to find what for these people is a more believable author of the plays is a tribute to the regard in which the plays are held. Unfortunately for their claims, the documents that exist that provide evidence for the facts of Shakespeare's life tie him inextricably to the body of plays and poems that bear his name. Unlikely as it seems to those who want the works to have been written by anaristocrat, a university graduate, or an "important" person, the plays and poems seem clearly to have been produced by a man from Stratford-upon-Avon with a very good "grammar-school" education and a life of experience in London and in the world of the London theater. How this particular man produced the works that dominate the cultures of much of the world almost four hundred years after his death is one of life's mysteries -- and one that will continue to tease our imaginations as we continue to delight in his plays and poems.

Copyright © 2005, by Washington Square Press

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