The Young Shakespeare (6): Daddy Shakespeare


Discovering the fascinating truth

Of Shakespeare’s missing years


Rufford Old Hall

1581: Shakespeare & the Heskeths

A Hesketh family tradition dating to at least 1799 says that William Shakespeare performed at Thomas Hesketh’s seat, Rufford Old Hall, about 10 miles south of Preston. It is here that we find ourselves a significant step closer to William Stanley & the Grand Tour. The Hesketh’s were the noble neighbours of the Stanleys, that great northern court of Elizabethan England, whose seat at Lathom Hall, near Ormskirk, was a stone’s throw from Rufford. There is a record in 1587 of ‘Sir thomas hesketh plaaiers,’ in the Earl of Derby’s Household Book, showing that the Heskeths provided theatrical entertainment for the Stanleys in that very decade. We should also notice the link between the Heskeths & the Townleys, whose families were united in the early 16th century – the mother of Sir Thomas was Grace Townley, while Alexander Nowell’s mother, Douse, was also a Hesketh.

Oblique support for the Shakespeare-Houghton connection comes through John Weever’s Epigrammes (1599), in which Weever ingratiates himself with a literary clique centred upon Thomas Houghton’s brother, Sir Richard. Alongside literary paeans such as that on the death of Stanley’s brother, Ferdinando, Weever dedicates this delectable sonnet to Shakespeare.

Honey-tongued Shakespeare, when I saw thine issue
I swore Apollo got them, and none other,
Their rosy-tainted features clothed in tissue,
Some heaven-born goddess said to be their mother.
Rose-cheekt Adonis with his amber tresses,
Fair fire-hot Venus charming him to love her,
Chaste Lucretia virgine-like her dresses,
Proud lust-stung Tarquine seeking still to prove her:
Romea-Richard; more, whose names I know not,
Their sugred tongues, and power attractive beauty
Say they are Saints, although that Sts they show not
For thousands vows to them subjective dutie:
They burn in love thy children Shakespear let them
Go, wo thy Muse more Nymphish brood beget them.

 


1582: Anne Hathaway & Shakespeare Get It On

anne-hathaway-shakespeares-wife-759x1030In September 1581 a young woman called Anne Hathaway became evidently more attractive, for her father left a clause in his will giving her £6 13s 4d if and when she married. Of Shakespeare’s wife-to-be, Rowe tells us she, ‘was the Daughter of one Hathaway, said to have been a substantial Yeoman.’ The Hathaways were from Shottery, a hamlet close to Stratford, as was Richard Debdale who had gone with Shakespeare to Douay in 1575. On Debdale’s return to England in 1580, he was immediately arrested & imprisoned for two years, being discharged on the 10th September 1582. Going home directly home to Shottery, he would have arrived on September 12th or 13th, whose homecoming party the young Shakespeare may even have attended & caught the eye of Anne, who was a good few years older than him.

A possible glimpse into the budding love of Shakespeare & Anne Hathaway can be found in the sonnets. Printed in 1609 – when he was forty-five – they are a compilation of both individual poems & sequences written throughout his early years. Of these, sonnet 145 sticks out like a sore thumb, both technically & artistically. Although fine enough verse, when compared to other masterpieces in the collection, Andrew Gurr calls it, ‘arguably the worst of all the Shakespeare sonnets.’ It is written in a different meter to the rest (Iambic Tetrameter), while the versification, vocabulary, syntax & stylistics definitely seem less mature. It reads;

Those lips that Love’s own hand did make
Breathed forth the sound that said “I hate”
To me that languished for her sake.
But when she saw my woeful state,
Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue that, ever sweet,
Was used in giving gentle doom,
And taught it thus anew to greet:
“I hate” she altered with an end
That followed it as gentle day
Doth follow night, who like a fiend
From heaven to hell is flown away.
“I hate” from hate away she threw,
And saved my life, saying “not you.”

Gurr proposed this sonnet was actually written for Anne Hathaway, noticing a possible pun in ‘hate away’ & Hathaway, while ‘and saved my life’ was a phonetic match to ‘Anne saved my life.‘ The editor of Gurr’s essay, FW Bateson, adds, ‘in Stratford in 1582 Hathaway & hate-away would have been a very tolerable pun.’ With Shakespeare’s name appearing elsewhere as ‘Shagspere,’ pronunced with a short vowel like the ‘a’ in cat, we can see how the Warwickshire vowel lengths were interchangeable, & that Hathaway could easily have become Hate-away. If Shakespeare is writing this sonnet to Anne, we can see how he had developed a teenage crush for her, after which he, ‘languished for her sake.’ His advances seem to have at first been spurned, gaining a few verbal backlashes from Anne’s, ‘tongue that, ever sweet / Was used in giving gentle doom.’ The sonnet then describes how Anne, seeing his ‘woeful sake’ seems to have taken pity on the pining lad, when, ‘in her heart did mercy come.


1582: The State of the Theaters

While Shakespeare was cooped up in Lancashire, the theater world was happily evolving down south, with Oxford College accounts showing that in the second half of February 1582, a comedy and two tragedies were played at St John’s and a comedy and three tragedies at Christ Church. Magdalen’s accounts for 1582 also mentioned musical activity & a ‘tempore spectaculi’ at the time of the show. A contemporary document hitherto overlooked makes clear the names or themes of those seven plays and suggests that the last two weeks of February, 1582, saw a co-ordinated festivals of drama, involving not only the seven plays at St. John’s and Christ Church, but also one at Magdalen.

Meanwhile in London, Stephen Gosson, in his Playes Confuted in Five Actions, describes; ‘In the playhouses at London it is the fashion of youths to go first into the yard, and to carry their eye through every gallery, then like unto ravens where they spy the carrion thither they fly, and press as near to the fairest as they can. Instead of pomegranates they give them pippins, they dally with their garments to pass the time, they minister talk upon all occasions, and either bring them home to their houses on small acquaintance, or slip into taverns when the plays are done. He thinketh best of his painted sheath, and taketh himself for a jolly fellow, that is noted of most to be busiest with women in all such places.’


1582: William Stanley in Europe

In 1582, when William Stanley was about 21 he obtained leave from his father & the government to travel for three year. With him wen two servants & his tutor, Richard Lloyd. From the latter’s hand two letters are extant, sent by Lloyd to ‘Secretary’ Walsingham at court.

Mr Stanley arrived in Paris, on Wednesday, 25th July; we mean shortly to journey towards Orleans, Blois, or Angers, and the sooner if we had received our license from you, which I pray you either to send to the Lord Ambassador, or keep until our return to Paris. Aug. 6, Paris. 

I received your letter, dated Oatlands, 12th. Sept., with Mr. Stanley’s license, for which we thank you. Since it is your pleasure that I should send you such letters as Mr. Stanley sends to the Earl, his father, I will not disobey you, for it is a great favour done to him. According to your advice, we travelled towards Angers, where we are now, taking Orleans, Blois, Tours, Saumur, and other town upon the Loire. We mean to remain the winter here, and yet I find it a place out of the way, and little frequented. The Papists and those of the religion accord very well, and none are compelled to come to church, and yet the place appointed for preaching is eight miles off. Oct. 6. Angers.

After Angers they seem to be among those ‘personnes of quallitie’ residing at the court of Henry of Navarra, at Nerac. A letter from Lord Cobham to Walsingham, in June 1583, states that the King of Navarre had ‘reformed his house, The Princesse his sister Catherine de Bourbon hath done the lyke… there are sundry noblemen, protestants papists, repaired unto the Kynge of Navarres Court– there are dyvers special personnes of quallitie…’

To an edition of Seacome’s, History of the House, of Stanley printed in Preston, 1793 a 47 page account of Stanley’s travels & adventures were prefixed. This in turn was a reprint of an earlier pamphlet of unknown date,printed by J Nuttall of Liverpool. Entitled, ‘A brief account of the travels of the celebrated Sir William Stanley, son of the fourth earl of derby of Latham Hall, Lancashire.’ In it we gain more detail of Stanley’s time in Paris where he was welcomed by the ‘grand monarque & his consort’ due to fame of his father. He would spend about three years in France where his military skill brought down the envy of the nobles, but was still widely famed for his ‘gallantry & amiable accomplishments.’ Being of ‘high birth & engaging manners’ he had access ‘to all companies,’ while visiting Roman remains at Paris, Chaolons, Vienne, Rheims, & Lyons. He also visited 28 universities, several scholars, acquiring en route an ‘enlarged mind‘ & the ‘accomplishments of the scholar.’

What is crucial to our scheme is that in Paris, 1582, both Stanley & Thomas Watson were present, for 14 years after, in 1596, the anonymous author of Ulysses upon Ajax describes a certain, ‘Tom Watson’s jests, I heard them at Paris fourteen years ago: besides what balductum play is not full of them?”


Nov 1582 – Shakespeare Marries Anne Hathaway

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Like any any other 18-year-old, Shakespeare had found a great romance in his earliest carnal occasions, a romantic dalliance which sometime around August 1582 had resulted in Anne’s pregnancy. As soon as she began to show, a rapid wedding between the two youngsters was organised. The Episcopal register at Worcester, dated to November 28th 1582, gives us a record of the marriage.

The condicion of this obligacion ys suche that if herafter there shall not appere any Lawfull Lett or impediment by reason of any precontract consanguinitie affinitie or by any other lawfull meanes whatsoeuer but that William Shagspere on thone partie, and Anne Hathwey of Stratford in the Dioces of Worcester maiden may lawfully solennize matrimony together and in the same afterwardes remaine and continew like man and wiffe according vnto the lawes in that behalf prouided

Six months after the marriage, the baptism record tells us that Shakespeares’ first child, Susanna, was christened on May 26th, 1583. Read into that what you will – was it a mariage of honour & necessity or one of true love, we don’t really know.


1582: Thomas Watson’s Hekatompathia

In xxxx Watson shook up the world of English poetry with the release of his debut, Hekatompathia: Passionate Century of Love. This series of 18 line ‘sonnets’ or ‘passions’ contains the phrase, ‘her lips more red than any Coral stone,’ which foreshadows Shakespeare’s, ‘coral is far more red than her lip’s red.’ It has also been noted that Shakespeare’s sonnet sequence is divided into themes of an 26 sonnet intro, a set of 100 subdivided into groups of 80 & 20, an outr of 26, & two late add-ons to conclude. Significantly the 100 sonnets of the Hekatompathia are also divided into two groups of 80 & 20.

‘A Pasquine Piller erected in the despite of Love,’ one of the earliest concrete poems in English – Watson been exposed to the form as a vogue from his time on the continent.


1584:  Shakespeare Appears in Print

George Peele

There are two events of 1584 which we may apply to Shakespeare. We can at least pin him to April 1584, when he conceived the twins with his wife, Anne. It was also in this year that a play known as the Arraignment of Paris was printed. On account of evidence internal & external, it seems that this early English pastoral play may even have been co-author’d by our prodigal young & a certain George Peele. Of the latter, William Beloe wrote (Anecdotes of Literature I: 1807) “This writer flourished in the time of Elizabeth. He was a very good Poet, and produced four plays, or as some say, five; all are remarkably rare…. {The Arraignment} piece has been attributed to Shakspeare; but its real author was George Peele.

The earliest authorship attributions were indeed to Peele; in his preface to Greene’s Menaphon, Nashe describes the Arraignment as Peele’s ‘first increase,’ while in 1600, a book called England’s Helicon printed selections over the name Geo. Peele.. In contrast are the records of mid-seventeenth century booksellers such as Kirkman & Winstanley who recorded Shakespeare as the author, as in; fa’Arraignment of Paris, a Pastoral, which I never saw; but it is ascribed by Kirkman to Mr. W. Shakespear,’ Gerard Langbaine, Account of the English Dramatick Poets (1691). The simple solution here is that both writers were involved in the creation of the play, a hyperbasis which remains stands firm upon further scrutiny. Peele’s sister, Isabel, had married a certain Matthew Shakespeare, with whom she sired eight children. They lived in Clerkenwell in London, & if Matthew was a relation of Shakespeare’s then we have a crucial familial link between the two playwrights.

The Arraignment of Paris is a heavily mythologized piece based on the famous judgement of Paris which led to the Trojan war, its authors utilizing a great number of variant poetic forms, from euphonius blank verse to charming lyrics. The majority of the play bares the stamp of Peele, but there are sections which undoubtedly belong to the hand of our young bard. Its astounding really how the following extract remembers (a) Shakespeare’s time with Spenser when he was composing the Calendar; while (b) the poetic forms are identical to those we have already ascribed to Shakespeare as the W.S. author of both the ‘songe of the Lambes feast’ & the fourteeners of the Golden Aphroditis.


ACT. III. SCENA. I.
COLIN THENAMORED SHEEPHERD SINGETH HIS PASSION OF LOVE.

THE SONG.
O gentle Love, ungentle for thy deede,
Thou makest my harte
A bloodie marke
With pearcyng shot to bleede.
Shoote softe sweete love, for feare thou shoote amysse,
For feare too keene
Thy arrowes beene,
And hit the harte, where my beloved is.
Too faire that fortune were, nor never I
Shalbe so blest
Among the rest
That Love shall ceaze on her by sympathye.
Then since with love my prayers beare no boot,
This doth remayne
To cease my payne,
I take the wounde, and dye at Venus foote.

Exit COLIN.

ACT III. SCENA. II.
HOBINOL, DIGON, THENOT.

HOBBINOL.
Poor Colin wofull man, thy life forespoke by love,
What uncouth fit, what maladie is this, that thou dost prove.

DIGGON.
Or Love is voide of physicke cleane, or loves our common wracke,
That gives us bane to bring us lowe, and let us medicine lacke.

HOBBINOL.
That ever love had reverence ‘mong sillie sheepeherd swaines.
Belike that humour hurtes them most that most might be their paines.

THENOT.
Hobin, it is some other god that cheerisheth their sheepe,
For sure this love doth nothing else but make our herdmen weepe.

DIGGON.
And what a hap is this I praye, when all our woods rejoyce,
For Colin thus to be denyed his yong and lovely choice.

THENOT.
She hight indeede so fresh and faire that well it is for thee,
Colin and kinde hath bene thy friende, that Cupid coulde not see.

HOBBINOL.
And whether wendes yon thriveles swain, like to the stricken deere,
Seekes he dictamum for his wounde within our forrest here.

DIGGON.
He wendes to greete the Queene of love, that in these woods doth wonne,
With mirthles layes to make complaint to Venus of her sonne.

THENOT.
A Colin, thou art all deceived, shee dallyes with the boy,
And winckes at all his wanton prankes, and thinkes thy love a toy.

HOBBINOL.
Then leave him to his luckles love, let him abide his fate,
The sore is ranckled all too farre, our comforte coms to late.

DIGGON.
Though Thestilis the Scorpion be that breakes his sweete assault,
Yet will Rhamnusia vengeance take on her disdainefull fault.

THENOT.
Lo yonder comes the lovely Nymphe, that in these Ida vales
Playes with Amyntas lustie boie, and coyes him in the dales.

HOBBINOL.
Thenot, methinks her cheere is changed, her mirthfull lookes are layd,
She frolicks not: pray god, the lad have not beguide the mayde

The play was printed in 1584, & declares it had been, ‘Presented before the Queenes Maiestie, by the Children of her Chappell‘ at some unknown point beforehand. Having already traced Shakespeare’s connection to the Children of the Chapel through his mimesial remembrances of the Kenilworth procession in 1576, then his textual presence in the Arraingnment shows a probable earlier involvement with the troupe, probably in the late 1570s, & given his age would have been one of its actors. The Arraignment has an influential place in Shakespeare’s works with a one-man play’s thematic & a precursor Othello, consisting of speaker, listeners & supporting cas. The play’s motif of the judgement of Paris pops up again in Henry V, Troilus & Cressda & Romeo & Juliet, while his self-justication speech turns up in Macbeth’s

Prithee, peace
I dare do all that may become a man;
Who dares do more, is none


JANUARY 1585: Shakespeare joins the Earl of Derby

Henry Stanley, 4th Earl of Derby

In the chilly late January of 1585, Shakespeare’s twins, Hamnet & Judith arrived in the world.  Just after the twins were born, Oxford & Worcester’s Men received payment for a performance in Stratford on the 20th January, which we can tentativelt place Shakespeare at. The twins were baptized 2 weeks later in Stratford, on the 2nd February. It is possible that Shakespeare was present, but he would have had to afterwards travel to Dover in 3 days or so – doable, but stretching it. I’d say Shakespeare set off south not long after the 20th on a journey of meticuolous note-taking, a great deal of which would eventually find their way into his immortal plays. ‘Let him carry with him also some card, or book,’ suggested Sir Francis Bacon to the young travelers of the age, ‘describing the country where he travelleth, which will be a good key to his inquiry; let him not stay long in one city or town, more or less as the place deserveth, but not long: nay, when he stayeth in one city or town, let him change his lodging from one end and part of the town to another, which is a great adamant of acquaintance.’

Shakespeare had found himself a very minor station in the grand retinue of William Stanley’s father, the 4th Earl of Derby, who was readying himself for a trip to Paris. His mission was to present the French King with the Order of the Garter on behalf of Queen Elizabeth, one of only 26 – no more, no less – noble investees of the a tradition founded by Edward III in 1348, & religiously maintain’d by Elizabeth. There are several manuscripts extant which contain a list of the leading members of the Earl’s retinue, together with numbers for their anonymous, un-named staff. Among the names we may observe;

Sir Richard Shireburn, treasurer – 3
Sir Randulp Brereton of Malpas – 6
Thomas Arderne, steward – 2
William Fox, comptroller -1
Stanley of Chelsea – 2

Of great significance is the presence of Thomas Arderne, the cousin of Shakespeare’s mother, Mary, while William Stanley appears as Stanley of Chelsea. On & off, throughout his entire life, Stanley did indeed live in the fashionable parts of West London. For his trip to France he was accompanied by two of the aforementioned un-named servants, one of whom was Shakespeare. So pack yer bags & grab a passport, cos we’re all about to go on us holidays!


 

Posted on March 2, 2020, in The Young Shakespeare. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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