The Baldwin Lbrary
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
WITH SKETCHES OF
THE HOME AND SCHOOL LIFE, THE GAMES
AND SPORTS, THE MANNERS, CUSTOMS
AND FQLI-LORE. OF THE TIME
WILLIAM J. ROLFE, LITT. D.
HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
Copyright, 1896, by. HARPER_& BROTHERS.
All rights reserved.
Two years ago, at the request of the editors df the
Youth's Companion, I wrote for that periodical a series of
four familiar articles on the boyhood of Shakespeare. It
was understood at the time that I might afterwards ex-
pand them into a book, and this plan is carried out in the
present volume. The papers have been carefully revised
and enlarged to thrice their original compass, and a new
fifth chapter has been added.
The sources from which I have drawn my material are
often mentioned in the text and the notes. I have been
particularly indebted to Halliwell-Phillipps's Outlines of
the Life of Shakespeare, Knight's Biography of Shakspere,
Furnivall's Introduction to the "Leopold edition of
Shakespeare, his Babees Book, and his edition of Harri-
son's Descrzption of England, Sidney Lee's Stratford-on-
Avon, Strutt's Sports and Pastimes, Brand's Popular An-
tiquities, and Dyer's Folk-Lore of Shakespeare.
I hope that the book may serve to give the young folk
some glimpses of rural life in England when Shakespeare
was a boy, and also to help them-and possibly their
elders-to a better understanding of many allusions in his
W. J. R.
CAMBRIDGE, Jzune I, 1896.
PART I.-HIS NATIVE TOWN AND NEIGHBOR-
HOOD ........... ...
WARWICKSHIRE. ... ... . 3
WARWICK CASTLE AND SAINT MARY'S CHURCH 4
WARWICK IN HISTORY .. ... 8
GUY OF WARWICK .... .. ... .. 9
KENILWORTH CASTLE ... . 12
COVENTRY . . . 14
CHARLECOTE HALL ... . 19
STRATFORD-ON-AVON . ... 24
THE EARLY HISTORY OF STRATFORD . .. 27
THE STRATFORD GUILD. . .. 34
THE STRATFORD CORPORATION . 39
THE TOPOGRAPHY OF STRATFORD .. 43
PART II.-HIS HOME LIFE. . .. 47
THE DWELLING-HOUSES OF THE TIME. . 49
THE HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE. . 52
FOOD AND DRINK.... .... .. 57
THE TRAINING OF CHILDREN. .. . 60
INDOOR AMUSEMENTS. . . 67
POPULAR BOOKS . . 71
STORY-TELLING . . .. 73
CHRISTENINGS . . . 80
SUPERSTITIONS CONNECTED WITH BIRTH AND BAPTISM. 84
CHARMS AND AMULETS .. . 87
PART III.-AT SCHOOL .. . ... 93
THE STRATFORD GRAMMAR SCHOOL . 95
WHAT SHAKESPEARE LEARNT AT SCHOOL .. 99
THE NEGLECT OF ENGLISH .... .. .106
SCHOOL LIFE IN SHAKESPEARE'S DAY. .. IIO
SCHOOL MORALS . ........ ... 12
SCHOOL DISCIPLINE . . ... 113
WHEN WILLIAM LEFT SCHOOL . ... .118
PART IV.-GAMES AND SPORTS. ... .. 119
BOYISH GAMES .. .. .. . 121
SWIMMING AND ,FISHING -. -. .. 130
BEAR-BAITING .. . . ... 132
COCK-FIGHTING AND COCK-THROWING . 136
OTHER CRUEL SPORTS . . 139
ARCHERY. . . 142
HUNTING . .. .145
FOWLING . .: . 151
HAWKING . . . .. 153
THEATRICAL ENTERTAINMENTS . 160
PART V.-HOLIDAYS, FESTIVALS, FAIRS, ETC.. 165
SAINT GEORGE'S DAY .. .. 167
EASTER ... . .. .... 172
THE PERAMBULATION OF THE PARISH. .. 174
MAY-DAY AND THE MORRIS-DANCE . 176
WHITSUNTIDE. ..... . 184
MIDSUMMER EVE. . .. 186
CHRISTMAS. .. . . 190
SHEEP-SHEARING . . 193
HARVEST-HOME . . . 195
MARKETS AND FAIRS ... .. .. 198
RURAL OUTINGS . . 207
NOTES . . . .213
INDEX . . . 247
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY . .
THE SHAKESPEARE BIRTHPLACE, ABOUT 1820.
WARWICK CASTLE . .... 5
GATE-HOUSE OF KENILWORTH CASTLE . . 13
COVENTRY CHURCHES AND PAGEANT. . Facing 14
CHARLECOTE HALL. .. . .. .20
ENTRANCE TO CHARLECOTE HALL .. . .. 22
SIR THOMAS LUCY ... ........ 23
STRATFORD CHURCH ... .. .. Facing. 30
STRATFORD CHURCH, WEST END . . .. 32
THE GUILD CHAPEL AND GRAMMAR SCHOOL, STRATFORD. 35
MAP-PLAN OF STRATFORD. .. . 42
SHAKESPEARE HOUSE, RESTORED . ... 49
ROOM IN WHICH SHAKESPEARE WAS BORN. ,, Facing f. 50
INTERIOR OF ANNE HATHAWAY'S COTTAGE 56
OLD HOUSE IN HIGH STREET .... . 59
ANNE HATHAWAY'S COTTAGE . .. .Facingf. 64"
SHILLING OF EDWARD VI. .. . 68
ANCIENT FONT AT STRATFORD. . .... 81
PORCH, STRATFORD CHURCH . Facingfp. 88
INNER COURT, GRAMMAR SCHOOL. . .95
ILL USTRA TIONS
THE SCHOOL-ROOM AS IT WAS .
DESK SAID TO BE SHAKESPEARE'S .
WALK ON THE BANKS OF THE AVON .
MORRISS" BOARD . .
FISHING IN THE AVON . .
THE BEAR GARDEN, LONDON . .
GARDEN AT NEW PLACE . .
ELIZABETH HAWKING . ..
BOY WITH HAWK AND HOUNDS .
ITINERANT PLAYERS IN A COUNTRY HALL
WILLIAM KEMP DANCING THE MORRIS. .
THE BOUNDARY ELM . .
MORRIS-DANCE . .
CLOPTON HOUSE ON CHRISTMAS EVE .
THE FAIR . . .
INTERIOR OF GRAMMAR SCHOOL, BEFORE
TION . . .
CLOPTON MONUMENTS .. .
THE BAR-GATE, SOUTHAMPTON .
AUTOGRAPH OF QUEEN ELIZABETH. .
ARMS OF JOHN SHAKESPEARE.. ..
. Facing. 112
. Facing. 132
. Facing. 160
. Facing. 178
. . 225
. Facing. 238
. . 242
. . 245
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
HIS NATIVE TOWN AND NEIGHBORHOOD
THE SHAKESPEARE BIRTHPLACE, ABOUT 1820
THE county of Warwick was called the heart of Eng-
land as long ago as the time of Shakespeare. Indeed,
it was his friend, Michael Drayton, born the year be-
fore himself, who first called it so. In his Poly-Olbion
(1613) Drayton refers to his native county as "That
shire which we the heart of England well may call."
The form of the expression seems to imply that it was
original with him. It was doubtless suggested by the
central situation of the county, about equidistant from
the eastern, western, and southern shores of the island;
but it is no less appropriate with reference to its his-
torical, romantic, and poetical associations. Drayton,
whose rhymed geography in the Poly-Olbion is rather
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
prosaic and tedious, attains a kind of genuine inspira-
tion when, in his i3th book, he comes to describe
"Brave Warwick that abroad so long advanced her Bear,
By her illustrious Earls renowned everywhere;
Above her neighboring shires which always bore her
The verse catches something of the music of the thros-
tle and the lark, of the woosel "with golden bill" and
the nightingale with her tender strains, as he tells of
these Warwickshire birds, and of the region with "flow-
ery bosom brave" where they breed and warble; but
in Shakespeare the same birds sing with a finer music
-more like that to which we may still listen in the
fields and woodlands along the lazy-winding Avon;
WARWICK CASTLE AND SAINT MARY'S CHURCH.
Warwickshire is the heart of England, and the coun-
try within ten miles or so of the town of Warwick may
be called the heart of this heart. On one side of this
circle are Stratford and Shottery and Wilmcote--the
home of Shakespeare's mother-and on the other are
Kenilworth and Coventry.
In Warwick itself is the famous castle of its Earls-
"that fairest monument," as Scott calls it, "of ancient
and chivalrous splendor which yet remains uninjured
by time." The earlier description written by the vera-
cious Dugdale almost two hundred and fifty years ago
might be applied to it to-day. It is still not only a
place of great strength, but extraordinary delight; with
most pleasant gardens, walls, and thickets such as this
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part of England can hardly parallel; so that now it is
the most princely seat that is within the midland parts
of this realm."
The castle was old in Shakespeare's day. Caesar's
Tower, so called, though not built, as tradition alleged,
by the mighty Julius, dated back to an unknown period;
and Guy's Tower, named in honor of the redoubted
Guy of Warwick, the hero of many legendary exploits,
was built in 1394. No doubt the general appearance
of the buildings was more ancient in the sixteenth cen-
tury than it is to-day, for they had been allowed to be-
come somewhat dilapidated; and it was not until the
reign of James I. that they were repaired and embel-
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lished, at enormous expense, and made the stately for-
tress and mansion that Dugdale describes.
But the castle would be no less beautiful for situa-
tion, though it were fallen to ruin like the neighboring
Kenilworth. The rock on which it stands, washed at
its base by the Avon, would still be there, the park
would still stretch its woods and glades along the river,
and all the natural attractions of the noble estate would
We cannot doubt that the youthful Shakespeare was
familiar with the locality. Warwick and Kenilworth
were probably the only baronial castles he had seen
before he went to London ; and, whatever others he
may have seen later in life, these must have continued
to be his ideal castles as in his boyhood.
It is not likely that he was ever in Scotland, and
when he described the castle of Macbeth the picture
in his mind's eye was doubtless Warwick or Kenilworth,
and more likely the former than the latter; for
This castle hath a pleasant seat; the air
Nimbly and sweetly recommends itself
Unto our gentle senses. This guest of summer,
The temple-haunting martlet, does approve,
By his loved mansionry, that the air
Smells wooingly here; no jutty, frieze,
Buttress, nor coign of vantage, but this bird
Hath made his pendent bed and procreant cradle.
Where they most breed and haunt I have observed
The air is delicate."
Saint Mary's church at Warwick was also standing
then-the most interesting church in Warwickshire next
to Holy Trinity at Stratford. It was burned in 1694,
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
but the beautiful choir and the magnificent lady chapel,
or Beauchamp Chapel, fortunately escaped the flames,
and we see them to-day as Shakespeare doubtless saw
them, except for the monuments that.have since been
added. He saw in the choir the splendid tomb of
Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, and in the ad-
jacent chapel the grander tomb of Richard Beauchamp,
unsurpassed in the kingdom except by that of Henry
VII. in Westminster Abbey. He looked, as we do, on
the full-length figure of the Earl, recumbent in armor
of gilded brass, under the herse of brass hoops also
gilt; his hands elevated in prayer, the garter on his left
knee, the swan at his head, the griffin and bear at his
feet. He read, as we read, in the inscription on the cor-
nice of the sepulchre, how this "most worshipful knight
decessed full christenly the last day of April the year
of oure Lord God 1439, he being at that time lieutenant
general and governor of the realm of Fraunce," and how
his body was brought to Warwick, and "laid with full
solemn exequies in a fair chest made of stone in this
church on the 4th day of October-" honoured be God
therefore" And the young Shakespeare looked up, as
we do, at the exquisitely carved stone ceiling, and at
the great east window, which still contains the original
glass, now almost four and a half centuries old, with the
'portrait of Earl Richard kneeling in armor with up-
The tomb of the noble Impe, Robert of Dudley,"
who died in 1584, with the lovely figure of a child seven
or eight years old, may have been seen by Shakespeare
when he returned to Stratford in his latter years, and
also the splendid monument of the father of the "noble
imp," Robert Dudley, the great Earl of Leicester, who
.SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
died in 1588; but in the poet's youth this famous nobJe-
man was living in the height of his renown and pros-
perity at the castle of Kenilworth five miles away, which
we will visit later.
WARWICK IN HISTORY.
Only brief reference can be made here to the impor-
tant part that Warwick, or its famous Earl, Richard
Neville, the King-maker," played in the English his-
tory on which Shakespeare founded several dramas,
-the three Parts of Henry VI. and Richard IIIZ He
is the most conspicuous personage of those troublous
times. He had already distinguished himself by deeds
of bravery in the Scottish wars, before his marriage
with Anne, daughter and heiress of Richard Beau-
champ, made him the most powerful nobleman in the
kingdom. By this alliance he acquired the vast estates
of the Warwick family, and became Earl of Warwick,
with the right to hand down the title to his descendants.
The immense revenues from his patrimony were aug-
mented by the income he derived from his various high
offices in the state; but his wealth was scattered with
a royal liberality. It is said that he daily fed thirty
thousand people at his numerous mansions.
The Lady Anne of Richard III., whom the hero of
the play wooes in such novel fashion, was the youngest
daughter of the King-maker, born at Warwick Castle in
1452. Richard says, in his- soliloquy at the end of the
first scene of the play :-
"I'll marry Warwick's youngest daughter.
What though I killed her husband and her father ?"
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
Her husband was Edward, Prince of Wales, son of
Henry VI., and was slain at the battle of Tewkesbury.
The Earl of Warwick who figures in 2 Henry IV
was the Richard Beauchamp already mentioned as the
father of Anne who became the wife of the King-maker.
He appears again in the play of Henry V, and also in
the first scene of Henry VI, though he has nothing to
say; and, as some believe, he (and not his son) is the
Earl of Warwick in the rest of the play, in spite of cer-
tain historical difficulties which that theory involves.
In 2 Henry IV (iii. i. 66) Shakespeare makes the mis-
take of calling him Nevil instead of Beauchamp.
The title of the Warwick earls became extinct with
the death of the King-maker on the battle-field of Bar-
net. It was then bestowed on George, Duke of Clar-
ence, who was drowned in the butt of wine by order of
his loving brother Richard. It then passed to the young
son of Clarence, who is another character in the play of
Richard III. He, like his unfortunate father, was long
imprisoned in the Tower, and ultimately murdered there
after the farce of a trial on account of his alleged com-
plicity in a plot against Henry VII. The subsequent
vicissitudes of the earldom do not appear in the pages
of Shakespeare, and we will not refer to them here.
GUY OF WARWICK.
The dramatist was evidently familiar with the legen-
dary renown of Warwick as well as its authentic history.
Doubtless he had heard the story of the famous Guy of
Warwick in his boyhood; and later he probably visited
" Guy's Cliff," on the edge of the town of Warwick,
where the hero is said to have spent the closing years
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
of his life. Learned antiquarians, in these latter days,
have proved that his adventures are mythical, but the
common people believe in him as of old. There is his
"cave in the side of the "cliff on the' bank of the
Avon, and his gigantic statue in the so-called chapel;
and can we not see his sword, shield, and breastplate,
his helmet and walking-staff, in the great hall of War-
wick Castle? The breastplate alone weighs more than
fifty pounds, and who but the mighty Guy could have
worn it? There too is his porridge-pot of metal, hold-
ing more than a hundred gallons, and the flesh-fork to
match. We may likewise see a rib and other remains
of the famous "dun cow," which he slew after the beast
had long been the terror of the country round about.
Unbelieving scientists doubt the bovine origin of these
interesting relics, to be sure, as they doubt the existence
of the stalwart destroyer of the animal; but the vulgar
faith in them is not to be shaken.
Of Guy's many exploits the most noted was his con-
flict with a gigantic Saracen, Colbrand by name, who
was fighting with the Danes against Athelstan in the
tenth century, and was slain by Guy, as the old ballad
narrates. Subsequently Guy went on a pilgrimage to
the Holy Land, leaving his wife in charge of his castle.
Years passed, and he did not return. Meanwhile his
lady lived an exemplary life, and from time to time be-
stowed her alms on a poor pilgrim who had made his
appearance at a secluded cell by the Avon, not far from
the castle. She may sometimes have talked with him
about her husband, whom she now gave up as lost, as-
suming that he had perished by the fever of the East or
the sword of the infidel. At last she received a sum-
mons to visit the aged pilgrim on his death-bed, when,
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
to her astonishment, he revealed himself as the long-
lost Guy. In his early days, when he was wooing the
lady, she had refused to give him her hand unless he
performed certain deeds of prowess. These had not
been accomplished without sins that weighed upon his
conscience during his absence in Palestine; and he
had made a vow to lead a monastic life after his return
to his native land.
The legend, like others of the kind, was repeated in
varied forms; and, according to one of these, when
Guy came back to Warwick he begged alms at the gate
of his castle. His wife did not recognize him, and he
took this as a sign that the wrath of Heaven was not
yet appeased. Thereupon he withdrew to the cell in
the cliff, and did not make himself known to his wife
until he was at the point of death.
Shakespeare refers to Guy in Henry VIII (v. 4. 22),
where a man exclaims, I am not Samson, nor Sir Guy,
nor Colbrand"; and Colbrand is mentioned again in
King yohn (i. i. 225) as Colbrand the giant, that same
The scene of Guy's legendary retreat on the bank of
the Avon is a charming spot, and there was certainly a
hermitage here at a very early period. Richard Beau-
champ founded a chantry for two priests in 1422, and
left directions in his will for rebuilding the chapel and
setting up the statue of Guy in it. At the dissolution
of the monasteries in the time of Henry VIII. the chapel
and its possessions were bestowed upon a gentleman
named Flammock, and the place has been a private
residence ever since, though the present mansion was
not built until the beginning of the eighteenth century.
There is an ancient mill on the Avon not far from the
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
house, commanding a beautiful view of the river and
the cliff. The celebrated actress, Mrs. Siddons, lived
for some time at Guy's Cliff as waiting-maid to Lady
Mary Greatheed, whose husband built the mansion.
But we must now go on to Kenilworth, though we
cannot linger long within its dilapidated walls, majestic
even in ruin. If, as Scott says, Warwick is the finest
example of its kind yet uninjured by time and kept up
as a noble residence, Kenilworth is the most stupen-
dous of similar structures that have fallen to decay. It
was ancient in Shakespeare's day, having been origi-
nally built at the end of the eleventh century. Two
hundred years later, in 1266, it was held for six months
by the rebellious barons against HernlIII. After hav-
ing passed through sundry hands and undergone divers
vicissitudes of fortune, it was given by Elizabeth to
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, who spent, in en-
larging and adorning it, the enormous sum of 60,000o
-three hundred thousand dollars, equivalent to at least
two millions now. Scott, in his novel of Kenilworth,
describes it, with no exaggeration of romance-for ex-
aggeration would hardly be possible-as it was then.
Its very gate-house, still standing complete, was, as
Scott says, "equal in extent and superior in architect-
ure to the baronial castle of many a northern chief";
but this was the mere portal of the majestic structure,
enclosing seven acres with its walls, equally impreg-
nable as a fortress and magnificent as a palace.
There were great doings at this castle of Kenilworth
in 1575, when Shakespeare was eleven years old, and the
SHAKESPEARE THE BO Y
good people from all the country roundabout thronged
to see them. Then it was that Queen Elizabeth was
entertained by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and
from July 9th to July 27th there was a succession of
holiday pageants in the most sumptuous and elaborate
GATE-HOUSE OF KENILWORTH CASTLE
style of the time. Master Robert Laneham, whose ac-
curacy as a chronicler is not to be doubted, though he
may have been, as Scott calls him, as great a coxcomb
as ever blotted paper," mentions, as a proof of the earl's
hospitality, that the clock bell rang not a note all the
while her highness was there; the clock stood also still
14 SISHAKESPEARE THE BOY
withal; the hands stood firm and fast, always pointing
at two o'clock," the hour of banquet! The quantity of
beer drunk on the occasion was 320 hogsheads, and the
total expense of the entertainments is said to have been
00ooo ($5ooo) a day.
John Shakespeare, as a well-to-do citizen of Stratford,
would be likely to see something of that stately show,
and it is not improbable that he took his son William
with him. The description in the Midsummer-Night's
Dream (ii. I. 150) of
"a mermaid on a dolphin's back
Uttering such dulcet and harmonious sounds
That the rude sea grew civil at her song,"
appears to be a reminiscence of certain features of the
Kenilworth pageant. The minstrel Arion figured there,
on a dolphin's back, singing of course; and Triton, in
the likeness of a mermaid, commanded the waves to be
still; and among the fireworks there were shooting-stars
that fell into the water, like the stars that, as Oberon
"shot madly from their spheres
To hear the sea-maid's music."
When Shakespeare was writing that early play, with its
scenes in fairy-land, what more natural than that this
youthful visit to what must then have seemed veritable
fairy-land should recur to his memory and blend with
the creations of his fancy ?
The road from-Warwick to Kenilworth is one of the
loveliest in England; and that from Kenilworth five
COVENTRY CHURCHES AND PAGEANT
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY 15
miles further on to Coventry is acknowledged to be the
most beautiful in the kingdom; yet it is only a different
kind of beauty from the other, as that is from the beauty
of the road between Warwick and Stratford.
Till you reach Kenilworth you have all the varieties
of charming rural scenery-hill and dale, field and
forest, river-bank and village, hall and castle and church,
grouping themselves in ever-changing pictures of beauty
and grandeur; and now you come to a straight road for
nearly five miles, bordered on both sides by a double
line of stately elms and sycamores, as impressive in its
regularity as the preceding stretch had been in its kalei-
This magnificent avenue with its over-arching foliage
brings us to Coventry, no mean city in our day, but re-
taining only a remnant of its ancient glory. In the
time of Shakespeare it was the third city in the realm-
the "Prince's Chamber," as it was called-unrivalled
in the.splendor of its monastic institutions, "full of as-
sociations of regal state and chivalry and high events."
In 1397 it had been the scene of the famous hostile
meeting between Henry Bolingbroke, Duke of Hereford
(afterwards Henry IV.), and Thomas Mowbray, Duke
of Norfolk, which Shakespeare has immortalized in
Richard II Later Henry IV. held more than one
parliament here ; and the city was often visited and
honored with many marks of favor by Henry VI. and
his queen, as also by Richard III., Henry VII., Eliza-
beth, and James I.
Coventry, moreover, played an important part in the
history of the English Drama. It was renowned for
the religious plays performed by the Grey Friars of its
great monastery, and kept up, though with diminished
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
pomp, even after the dissolution of their establishment.
It was not until I58o that these pageants were entirely
suppressed; and Shakespeare, who was then sixteen
years old, may have been an eye-witness of the latest
of them. No doubt he heard stories of their attractions
in former times, when, as we are told by Dugdale, they
were "acted with mighty state and reverence by the
friars of this house, had theatres for the several scenes,
very large and high, placed upon wheels, and drawn to
all the eminent parts of the city for the better advan-
tage of spectators; and contained the story of the New
Testament composed into old English rhyme." There
were forty-three of these ancient plays, performed by the
monks until, as Tennyson puts it,
"Bluff Harry broke into the spence,
And turned the cowls adrift."
When the boy Shakespeare saw them-if he did see
them-they were played by the different guilds, or as-
sociations of tradespeople. Thus the Nativity and the
Offering of the Magi, with the Flight into Egypt and
the Slaughter of the Innocents, were rendered by the
company of Shearmen and Tailors; the Smiths' pag-
eant was the Crucifixion; that of the Cappers was the
Resurrection; and so on. The account-books of the.
guilds are still extant, with charges for helmets for
Herod and gear for his wife, for a beard for Judas and
the rope to hang him, etc. In the accounts of the
Drapers, whose pageant was the Last Judgment, we
find outlays for a "link to set'the world on fire," the
barrel for the earthquake," and kindred stage "prop-
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
In the books of the Smiths or Armorers, some of the
charges are as follows:-
"Item, paid for v. schepskens for gods cote and for
Item, paid for mendyng of Herods hed and a myter
and other things, iis.
Item, paid for dressing of the devells hede, viiid.
Item, paid for a pair of gloves for god, iid."
The most elaborate and costly of the properties was
"Hell-Mouth," which was used in several plays, but
specially in the representation of the Last Judgment.
This was a huge and grotesque head of canvas, with
vast gaping mouth armed with fangs and vomiting
flames. The jaws were made to open and shut, and
through them the Devil made his entrance and the lost
souls their exit. The making and repairing of this
was a constant expense, and frequent entries like the
following occur in the books of the guilds:-
Paide for making and painting hell mouth, xiid.
Paid for keeping of fyer at hell mouthe, iiiid."
Many curious details of the actors' dresses have come
down to us. The representative of Christ wore a coat
of white leather, painted and gilded, and a gilt wig.
King Herod wore a mask and a helmet, sometimes of
iron, adorned with gold and silver foil, and bore a sword
and a sceptre. He was a very important character, and
the manner in which he blustered and raged about the
stage became proverbial. In Hamlet (iii. 2. i6) we
have the expression, "It out-herods Herod" ; and in the
Merry Wives of Windsor (ii. i. 20), "What a Herod of
Jewry is this!"
All the actors were paid for their services, the amount
varying with the importance of the part. The same
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actor, as in the theatres of Shakespeare's day, often
played several parts. In addition to the payment of
money, there was a plentiful supply of refreshments,
especially of ale, for the actors. Pilate, who received
the highest pay of the company, was moreover allowed
wine instead of ale during the performance.
Reference has been made above to the "lost souls"
in connection with Hell-Mouth. There were also "saved
souls," who were dressed in white, as the lost were in
black, or black and yellow. There is an allusion to the
latter in Henry V (ii. 3. 43), where the flea on Bar-
dolph's rubicund nose is compared to "a black soul
burning in hell-fire."
The Devil wore a dress of black leather, with a mask,
and carried a club, with which he laid about him vigor-
ously. His clothes were often covered with feathers or
horsehair, to "give him a shaggy appearance; and the
traditional horns, tail, and cloven feet were sometimes
The regular time for these religious pageants was
Corpus Christi Day, or the Thursday after Trinity Sun-
day, but they were occasionally performed on other
days, especially at the time of a royal visit to Cov-
entry, like that of Queen Margaret in 1455. Prince
Edward was thus greeted in 1474, Prince Arthur in
1498, Henry VIII. in 151o, and Queen Elizabeth in
Shakespeare has other allusions to these old plays
besides those here mentioned, showing that he knew
them by report if he had not seen them.
Historical pageants, not Biblical in subject, were also
familiar to the good people of Coventry a century at
least before the dramatist was born. "The Nine Wor-
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
thiss" which he has burlesqued in Love's Labour's Lost,
was acted there before Henry VI. and his queen in
1455. The original text of the play has been preserved,
and portions of Shakespeare's travesty seem almost
like a parody of it.
But we must not linger in the shadow of the "three
tall spires" of Coventry, nor make more than a brief
allusion to the legend of Godiva, the lady who rode
naked through the town to save the people from a bur-
densome tax. It was an old story in Shakespeare's
time, if, indeed, it had not been dramatized, like other
chapters in the mythic annals of the venerable city. It
has been proved to be without historical foundation,
being mentioned by no writer before the fourteenth
century, though the Earl who figures in the tale lived
in the latter part of the eleventh century. The Bene-
dictine Priory in Coventry, of which some fragments
still remain, is said to have been founded by him in
1043. He died in 1057, and both he and his lady were
buried in the porch of the monastery.
The effigy of Peeping Tom is still to be seen in the
upper part of a house at the corner of Hertford Street
Shakespeare makes no reference to this story of Lady
Godiva, though it was probably Well known to him.
I CHARLECOTE HALL.
Returning to Warwick, and travelling eight miles on
the other side of the town, we come to Stratford. By
one of the two roads we may take we pass Charlecote
Hall and Park, associated with the tradition of Shake-
20 SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
speare's deer-poaching-a fine old mansion, seen across
a breadth of fields dotted with tall elms.
'The winding Avon skirts the enclosure to the west.
The house, which has been in the possession of the
Lucy family ever since the days of Shakespeare, stands
at the water's edge. It has been enlarged in recent
times, but the original structure has undergone no ma-
terial change. It was begun in 1558, the year when
Elizabeth came to the throne, and was probably finished
in 1559. It took the place of a much older mansion of
which no trace remains, the ancestors of Sir Thomas
Lucy having then held the estate for more than five
centuries. The ground plan of the house is in the form
of a capital letter E, being so arranged as a compli-
ment to the Virgin Queen; and only one out of many
such tributes paid her by noble builders of the time.
SHAKESPEARE- THE BOY
Over the main door are the royal arms,, with the letters
E. R., together with the initials of the owher, T. L.
Within there is little to remind one of the olden time,
but some of the furniture of the library,-chairs, couch,
and cabinet of coromandel-wood inlaid with ivory,-is
said to have been presented by Elizabeth to Leicester
in 1575, and to have been brought from Kenilworth in
the seventeenth century. There is a modern bust of
Shakespeare in the hall.
The tradition that the dramatist in his youth was
guilty of deer-stealing in Sir Thomas's park is not im-
probable. Some critics have endeavored to prove that
there was no deer-park at Charlecote at that time; but
Lucy had other estates in the neighborhood, on some
of which he employed game-keepers, and in March,
1585, about the date of the alleged poaching, he intro-
duced a bill into Parliament for the better preservation
The strongest argument in favor of the tradition is
to be based on the evidence furnished by the plays that
Shakespeare had a grudge against Sir Thomas, and car-
icatured him as Justice Shallow in Henry IV and The
Merry Wives of Windsor. The reference in the latter
play to the "dozen white luces" on Shallow's coat of
arms is palpably meant to suggest the three luces, or
pikes, in the arms of the Lucys. The manner in which
the dialogue dwells on the device indicates that some
personal satire was intended.
It should be understood that poaching was then re-
garded, except by the victims of it, as a venial offence.
Sir Philip Sidney's May Lady calls deer-stealing "a
prettie service." The students at Oxford were the
most notorious poachers in the kingdom, in spite of laws
making expulsion from the university the penalty of de-
tection. Dr. Forman relates how two students in 1573
(one of whom afterwards became Bishop of Worces-
ter) were more given to such pursuits than to study;
and one good man lamented in later life that he had
missed the advantages that others had derived from
ENTRANCE TO CHARLECOTE HALL
these exploits, which he believed to be an excellent
kind of discipline for young men.
We must not assume that Sir Thomas was fairly rep-
resented in the character of Justice Shallow. On the
contrary, he appears to have been an able man and
magistrate, and very genial withal. The Stratford rec-
ords bear frequent testimony to his judicial services;
and his attendance on such occasions is generally
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
coupled with a charge for claret and sack or similar
beverages. It is rather amusing that these entries
occur even when he is sitting in judgment on tipplers.
In the records for 1558 we read: "Paid for wine and
sugar when Sir Thomas Lucy sat in commission for
That he was a good husband we may infer from the
long epitaph of his wife in Charlecote Church, which,
after stating that she died
in 1595, at the.age of 63,
goes on thus: "all the time
of her life a true and faith-
ful servant of her good
God; never detected of any
crime or vice; in religion
\ most sound; in love to her
Husband most faithful and
true; in friendship most
constant; to what in trust
was committed to her most
Secret; in wisdom excelling;
Sin governing of her house
SIR THOMAS LUCY and bringing up of youth
in the fear of God that did
converse with her, most rare and singular; a great
maintainer of hospitality; greatly esteemed of her bet-
ters, misliked of none unless of the envious. When all
is spoken that can be said, a woman so furnished and
garnished with virtue as not to be bettered, and hardly
to be equalled by any. As she lived most virtuously,
so she died most godly. Set down by him that best
did know what hath been written to be true, Thomas
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
The author of this beautiful tribute may have been
a severe magistrate, but he could not have been a
Robert Shallow either in his official capacity or as a
Stratford lies on a gentle slope declining to the Avon,
whose banks are here shaded by venerable willows,
which the poet may have had in mind when he painted
the scene of poor Ophelia's death:-
"There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream."
The description could have been written only by one
who had observed the reflection of the white underside
of the willow-leaves in the water over which they hung.
And I cannot help believing that Shakespeare was
mindful of the Avon when in far-away London he
wrote that singularly musical simile of the river in one
of his earliest plays, The Two Gentlemen of, Verona, so
aptly does it give the characteristics of the Warwick-
"The current that with gentle murmur glides,
Thou know'st, being stopped, impatiently doth rage;
But when his fair course is not hindered,
He makes sweet music with the enamell'd stones,
Giving a gentle kiss to every sedge
He overtaketh in his pilgrimage;
And so by many winding nooks he strays,
With willing sport, to the wild ocean.
Then let me go, and hinder not my course:
I'll be as patient as a gentle stream,
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
And make a pastime of each weary step,
Till the last step have brought me to mylove;
And there I'll rest, as, after much turmoil,
A blessed soul doth in Elysium."
The river cannot now be materially different from
what it was three hundred years ago, but the town has
changed a good deal. I fear that we might not have
enjoyed a visit to it in that olden time as we do in
these latter days.
It is not pleasant to learn that the poet's father was
fined for. maintaining a sterquinarium, which being
translated from the Latin is dung-/eap, in front of his
house in Henley Street-now, like the other Stratford
streets, kept as clean as any cottage-floor in the town
-and we have ample evidence that the general sani-
tary condition of the place was very bad. John Shake-
speare would probably not have been fined if his ster-
quinarium had been behind his house instead of be-
Stratford, however, was no worse in this respect than
other English towns. The terrible plagues that devas-
tated the entire land in those "good old times" were
the natural result of the unwholesome habits of life
everywhere prevailing-everywhere, for the mansions of
noblemen and the palaces of kings were as filthy as the
hovels of peasants. The rushes with which royal pres-
ence-chamber and banquet-hall were strewn in place of
carpets were not changed until they had become too
unsavory for endurance. Meanwhile disagreeable odors
were overcome by burning perfumes-of which practice
we have a hint in Much Ado About Nothing in the refer-
ence to smoking a musty room."
But away from these musty rooms of great men's
houses, and the foul streets and lanes of towns, field
and forest and river-bank were as clean and sweet as
now. The banished Duke in As You Like It may have
had other reasons than he gives for preferring life in
the Forest of Arden to that of the court from which he
had been driven; and Shakespeare's delight in out-of-
door life may have been intensified by his experience
of the house in Henley Street, with the reeking pile of
filth at the front door.
His poetry is everywhere full of the beauty and fra-
grance of the flowers that bloom in and about Strat-
ford; and the wonderful accuracy of his allusions to
them-their colors, their habits, their time of blossom-
ing, everything concerning them-shows how thorough-
ly at home he was with them, how intensely he loved
and studied them.
Mr. J. R. Wise, in his Shakespeare, His Birthplace and
its Neighbourhood, says: "Take up what play you will,
and you will find glimpses of the scenery round Strat-
ford. His maidens ever sing of 'blue-veined violets,'
and 'daisies pied,' and 'pansies that are for thoughts,'
and 'ladies'-smocks all silver-white,' that still stud the
meadows of the Avon. I do not think it is any ex-
aggeration to say that nowhere are meadows so full of
beauty as those round Stratford. I have seen them by
the riverside in early spring burnished with gold; and
then later, a little before hay-harvest, chased with or-
chises, and blue and white milkwort, and yellow rattle-
grass, and tall moon-daisies: and I know nowhere wood-
lands so sweet as those round Stratford, filled with the
soft green light made by the budding leaves, and paved
with the golden ore of primroses, and their banks veined
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
with violets. All this, and the tenderness that such
beauty gives, you find in the pages of Shakespeare;
and it is not too much to say that he painted them be-
cause they were ever associated in his mind with all
that he held precious and dear, both of the earliest and
the latest scenes of his life."
THE EARLY HISTORY OF STRATFORD.
Stratford is a very ancient town. Its name shows
that it was situated at a ford on the Roman street, or
highway, from London to Birmingham; but whether it
was an inhabited place during the Roman occupation
is uncertain. The earliest known reference to the town
is in a charter dated A.D. 691, according to which
Egwin, the Bishop of Worcester, obtained from Ethel-
red, King of Mercia, the monastery of Stratford," with
lands of about three thousand acres, in exchange for a
religious house built by the bishop at Fladbury. It is
not improbable that Stratford owes its foundation to
this monastic settlement. Tradition says that the mon-
astery stood where the church now is; and, as else-
where in England, the first houses of the town were
probably erected for its servants and dependants. These
dwellings were doubtless near the river, in the street
that has been known for centuries as Old Town."
The district continued to be a manor of the Bishop
of Worcester until after the Norman Conquest in io66.
According to the Domesday survey in o185, its territory
was "fourteen.and a half hides," or about two thou-
sand acres. It was of smaller extent than in 691, be-
cause the neighboring villages had become separate
manors. The inhabitants were a priest, who doubtless
28 1 SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
officiated in the chapel of the old monastery (of which
we find no mention after the year 872), with twenty-one
villeins and seven bordarii, or cottagers. The families
of these residents would make up a population of about
one hundred and fifty. "Every householder, whether
villein or cottager, evidently possessed a plough. The
community owned altogether thirty-one ploughs, of which
three belonged to the bishop, the lord of the manor."
The agricultural produce was chiefly wheat, barley, and
oats. A water-mill stood by the river, probably where
the old mill now is; and there the villagers were obliged
to grind all their corn, paying a fee for the privilege.
In 1085 the annual income from the mill was ten shil-
lings, but the bishop was often willing to accept eels in
payment of the fees, and a thousand eels were then
sent yearly to Worcester by the people who used the
During the i2th century Stratford appears to have
made little progress. Alveston, now a small village on
the other side of the Avon, seemed likely then to rival
it in prosperity. The boundaries of the Alveston manor
were gradually extended until they reached their pres-
ent limit on the south side of the bridge at Stratford
(at that time a rude wooden structure), and there a
little colony was planted which was known until after
the Elizabethan period as Bridgetown.
We get an idea of the life led by the majority of the
inhabitants of Stratford and its vicinity in the 12th and
i3th centuries from the ecclesiastical records of the
various services and payments rendered as rent. Many
of the large estates outside of the town had been let as
"knight's fees," that is, on condition of certain military
services to be performed by the holders. Some of the
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
villeins within the village had become "free tenants,"
or free from serfdom, and were permitted to cultivate
their land as they pleased on payment of a fixed rental
in money, with little or no labor service in addition.
But most of the inhabitants were still villeins or cot-
tagers, from Whom labor service was regularly exacted.
"Villeins who owned sixty acres had to supply two men
for reaping the lord's fields, and cottagers with thirty
acres supplied one. On a special day an additional
reaping service was to be performed by villeins and cot-
tagers with all their families except their wives and
shepherds. Each of the free tenants had then also to
find a reaper, and to direct the reaping himself. ..
The villein was to provide two carts for the conveyance
of the corn to the barns, and every cottager who owned
a horse provided one cart, for the use of which he was
to receive a good morning meal of bread and cheese.
One day's hoeing was expected of the villein and three
days' ploughing, and if an additional day were called
for, food was supplied free to the workers No
villein nor cottager was allowed to bring up his child
for the church without permission of the lord of the
manor. A fee had to be paid when a daughter of a
villein or cottager was married. On his death his best
wagon was claimed by the steward in his lord's behalf,
and a fine of money was exacted from his successor-
if, as the record wisely adds, he could pay one. Any
townsman who made beer for sale paid for the priv-
In 1197 the inhabitants obtained for the town from
Richard I. the privilege of a weekly market, to be holden
on Thursday, for which the citizens paid the bishop a
yearly toll of sixteen shillings. The market was doubt-
SHAKE.SPEARE THE BOY
less held at first in the open space still known as the
Brother Market, in the centre of which the Memorial
Fountain, the gift of Mr. George W. Childs of Philadel-
phia, now stands. Brother is an old word, of Anglo-
Saxon origin, applied to cattle, which must have been a
staple commodity in the early Stratford market. The
term was familiar to Shakespeare, who uses it in Timon
of Athens (iv. 3. 12):-
"It is the pasture lards the brother's sides,
The want that makes him lean."
In the course of the iith century Stratford was also
endowed with a series of annual fairs, "the chief stimu-
lants of trade in the middle ages." The earliest of
these fairs was granted by the Bishop of Worcester in
1216, to begin "on the eve of the Holy Trinity, and to
continue for the next two days ensuing." In 1224 a
fair was established for the eve of St. Augustine (May
26th) and on the day and morrow after"; in 1242, for
the eve of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (Septem-
ber I4th), "the day, and two days following"; and in
1271, "for the eve of the Ascension of our Lord, com-
monly called Holy Thursday, and upon the day and
morrow following." Early in the next century (1313)
another fair was instituted, to begin on the eve of St.
Peter and St. Paul (June 29th) and to be held for fifteen
Trinity Sunday was doubtless chosen for the open-
ing of the first of these fairs because the parish church
was dedicated to the Holy Trinity, and a festival in
commemoration of the dedication of the church was
celebrated on that Sunday by a wake," which attracted
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
many people from the neighboring villages. "There
was nothing exceptional in a Sunday of specially sacred
character being turned to commercial uses. In most
medieval towns, moreover, traders exposed their wares
at fair-time in the churchyard, and chaffering and bar-
gaining were conducted in the church itself." Attempts
were made by the ecclesiastical authorities to restrain
these practices, but they continued until the Reforma-
At the close of the. 3th century the prosperity of
Stratford was assured. Alveston had then ceased to be
a dangerous rival. The town was more and more profit-
able to the Bishops of Worcester, who interested them-
selves in promoting its welfare. It appears also that
Bishop Gifford had a park here; for on the 3d of May,
1280, he sent his injunctions to the deans of Stratford
and the adjacent towns "solemnly to excommunicate
all those that had broke his park and stole his deer."
In the i4th century the condition of the Stratford
folk materially improved. Villeinage gradually disap-
peared in the reign of Edward III. (1327-1377), and
those who had been subject to it became free tenants,
paying definite rents for house and land. Three na-
tives of the town, who, after the fashion of the time,
took their surnames from the place of their birth, rose
to high positions in the Church, one becoming Arch-
bishop of Canterbury, and the others respectively
Bishops of London and Chichester. John of Stratford
and Robert of Stratford were brothers, and Ralph of
Stratford was their nephew. John and Robert were
both for a time Chancellors of England, and there is no
other instance of two brothers attaining that high office
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
All three had a great affection for their native town,
and did much to promote its welfare. Robert, while
holding the living of Stratford, took measures for the
STRATFORD CHURCH, WEST END
paving of some of the main streets. John enlarged the
parish church, rebuilding portions of it, and founded
a chantry with five priests to perform masses for the
souls of the founder and his friends. Later he pur-
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
chased the patronage of Stratford from the Bishop of
Worcester, and gave it to his chantry priests, who thus
came into full control of the parish church. Ralph, in
135 built for the chantry priests "a house of square
stone for the habitation of these priests, adjoining to
the churchyard." This building, afterwards known as
the College, remained in possession of the priests until
1546, when Henry VIII. included it in the dissolution
of monastic establishments. After passing through va-
rious hands as a private residence, it was finally taken
down in 1799.
Other inhabitants of Stratford followed the example
set by John and Ralph in their benefactions to the
church. Dr. Thomas Bursall, warden of the College in
the time of Edward IV., added "a fair and beautiful
choir, rebuilt from the ground at his own cost"-the
choir which is still the most beautiful portion of the
venerable edifice, and in which Shakespeare lies buried.
The only important alteration in the church since
Shakespeare's day was the erection of the present spire
in 1764, to replace a wooden one covered with lead and
about forty feet high, which had been taken down a
year before. The tower is the oldest part of the church
as it now exists, and was probably built before the year
1200. It is eighty feet high, to which the spire adds
eighty-three feet more.
The last of the early benefactors of Stratford was
Sir Hugh Clopton, who came from the neighboring vil-
lage of Clopton about 1480. A few years later he built
" a pretty house of brick and timber wherein he lived
in his latter days." This was the mansion afterwards
known as New Place, which in 1597 became the prop-
erty of William Shakespeare, and was his residence
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
after he returned to his native town about 1611 or
Sir Hugh also built the great bridge upon the Avon,
at the east end of the town," constructed of freestone,
with fourteen arches, and a "long causeway" of stone,
"well walled on each side." Before this time, as
Leland the antiquarian wrote about 1530, "there was
but a poor bridge of timber, and no causeway to come
to it, whereby many poor folk either refused to come to
Stratford when the river was up, or coming thither
stood in jeopardy of life." This bridge, though often
repaired, is to this day a monument to Sir Hugh's pub-
THE STRATFORD GUILD.
In the latter part of the i3th century an institution
attained a position and influence in Stratford which
were destined to deprive the Bishops of Worcester of
their authority in the government of the town. This
was the Guild.of the Holy Cross, the Blessed Virgin,
and St. John the Baptist, as it was then called. The
triple name has suggested that it was formed by the
union of three separate guilds, but of this no historical
evidence has been discovered.
This guild, like other of these ancient societies, had
a religious origin, being collected for the love of God
and our souls' need" ; but relief of the poor and of its
own indigent members was also a part of its functions.
The "craft-guilds," formed by people engaged in a
single trade or occupation, were a different class of so-
cieties, though in many instances offshoots from the re-
ligious guilds, and often, as in London, surviving the
decay of the parent institution.
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY 35
Members of both sexes were admitted to the Strat-
ford Guild, as to others of its class, on payment of a
small annual fee. "This primarily secured for them
THEI GUILD CHAPEL AND GRAMMAR SCHOOL, STRATFORD
the performance of certain religious rites, which were
more valued than life itself. While the members lived,
but more especially after their death, lighted tapers
were duly distributed in their behalf, before the altars of
SHAKESPEARE THE BO Y
the Virgin and of their patron saints in the parish
church. A poor man in the Middle Ages found it very
difficult, without the intervention of the guilds, to keep
this road to salvation always open. Gifts were fre-
quently awarded to members anxious to make pilgrim-
ages to Canterbury, and at times the spinster members
received dowries from the association. The regulation
which compelled the members to attend the funeral of
any of their fellows united them among themselves in
close bonds of intimacy."
The social spirit was fostered yet more by a great
annual meeting, at which all members were expected
to be present in special uniform. They marched with
banners flying in procession to church, and afterwards
sat down together to a generous feast.
Though of religious origin the guilds were strictly
lay associations. In many towns priests were excluded
from membership; if admitted, they had no more au-
thority or influence than laymen. Priests were em-
ployed to perform the religious services of the guild,
for which they were duly paid; but the fraternities were
governed by their own elected officers-wardens, alder-
men, beadles, and clerks-and a council of their repre-
sentatives controlled their property and looked after
When the Stratford Guild was founded it is impos-
sible to determine. "Its beginning," as its chief offi-
cers wrote in 1389, was from time whereunto the mem-
ory of man reacheth not." Records preserved in the
town prove that it was in existence early in the 13th
century, and that bequests were then made to it. The
Bishops of Worcester encouraged such gifts, and appar-
ently managed that some of the revenues of the Guild
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
should be devoted to ecclesiastical purposes outside
its own regular uses. Before the time of Edward I.
the society was rich in houses and lands; and in 1353,
as its records show, it owned a house in almost every
street in Stratford.
In 1296 the elder Robert of Stratford, father of John
and Robert (p. 31), laid the foundation of a special
chapel for the Guild, and also of adjacent almshouses.
These doubtless stood where the present chapel, Guild-
hall, and other fraternfty buildings now are.
In 1332 Edward III. gave the Guild a charter con-
firming its right to all its property and to the full control
of its own affairs. In 1389 Richard II. sent out com-
missioners to report upon the ordinances of the guilds
throughout England, and the report for Stratford is still
extant. It shows what a good work the society was
doing for the relief of the poor and for the promotion
of fraternal relations among its members. Regulations
for the government of the Guild by two wardens or
aldermen and six others indicate the progress of the
town in the direction of self-government. An associa-
tion which had come to include all the substantial house-
holders naturally acquired much jurisdiction in civil
affairs. Its members referred their disputes with one
another to its council; and the aldermen gradually be-
came the administrators of the municipal police. The
College priests were very jealous of the Guild's increas-
ing influence, and when the society resisted the pay-
ment of tithes they brought a lawsuit to compel the
fulfilment of this ancient obligation; but in all other
respects the Guild appears to have been independent
of external control.
SA curious feature of the conditions of membership in
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
the i5th century was that the souls of the dead could
be admitted to its spiritual privileges on payment of the
regular fees by the living. Early in the century six dead
children of John Whittington of Stratford were allowed
this benefit for the sum of ten shillings.
The fame of the institution in its palmy days spread
far beyond the limits of Stratford, and attracted not
a few men of the highest rank and reputation. George,
Duke of Clarence, brother of Edward IV., and his wife,
were enrolled among its members, with Edward Lord
Warwick and Margaret, two of their children; and the
distinguished judge, Sir Thomas Lyttleton, received the
same honor. Few towns or villages of Warwickshire
were without representation in it, and merchants joined
it from places as far away as Bristol and Peterborough.
To us, however, the most remarkable fact in the his-
tory of the Guild is the establishment of the Grammar
School for the children of its members. The date of
its foundation has been usually given as 1453, but it is
now known to have been in existence before that time.
Attendance was free, and the master, who was paid ten
pounds a-year by the Guild, was forbidden to take any-
thing from the pupils. In this school, as we shall see
later, William Shakespeare was educated, and we shall
become better acquainted with it when we follow the
The Guild Chapel, with the exception of the chancel,
which had been renovated about 1450, was taken down
and rebuilt in the closing years of the century by Sir
Hugh Clopton (see page 34 above), who was a promi-
nent member of the fraternity. The work was not fin-
ished until after his death in September, 1496, but the
expense of its completion was provided for in his will.
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
THE STRATFORD CORPORATION.
The Guild was dissolved by Henry VIII. in 1547,
and its possessions remained as crown property until
1553. For seven years the town had been without any
responsible government. Meanwhile the leading citi-
zens-the old officers of the Guild-had petitioned
Edward VI. to restore that society as a municipal cpr-
poration. He granted their prayer, and by a charter
dated June 7, 1553, put the government of the town in
the hands of its inhabitants. The estates, revenues, and
chattels of the Guild were made over to the corpora-
tion, which, as the heir and successor of the venerable
fraternity, adopted the main features of its organization.
The names and functions of its chief officers were but
slightly changed. The warden became the bailiff, and
the proctors were called chamberlains, but aldermen,
clerk, and beadle resumed their old titles. The com-
mon council continued to meet monthly in the Guild-
hall; but it now included, besides the bailiff and ten
aldermen, the ten chief burgesses, and its authority cov-
ered the whole town. The fraternal sentiment of the
ancient society survived; it being ordered "that none
of the aldermen nor none of the capital burgesses,
neither in the council chamber nor elsewhere, do revile
one another, but brother-like live together, and that after
they be entered into the council chamber, that they nor
none of them depart not forth but in brotherly love,
under the pains of every offender to forfeit and pay for
every default, vjs. viijd." When any councillor or his
wife died, all were to attend the funeral "in their honest
apparel, and bring the corpse to the church, there to con-
tinue and abide devoutly until the corpse be buried."
40 SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
The Grammar School and the chapel and almshouses
of the Guild became public institutions. The bailiff
became a magistrate who presided at a monthly court
for the recovery of small debts, and at the higher semi-
annual leets, or court-leets, to which all the inhabitants
were summoned to revise and enforce the police reg-
ulations. Shakespeare alludes to these leets in Ihe
Taming of the Shrew (ind. 2. 89) where the servant tells
Kit Sly that he has been talking in his sleep:-
"Yet would you say ye were beaten out of door,
And rail upon the mistress of the house,
And say you would present her at the leet
Because she brought stone jugs and no seal'd quarts."
And lago (Ohello, iii. 3. 140) refers to leets and law-
days." Prices of bread and beer were fixed by the
council, and ale-tasters were annually appointed to see
that the orders concerning the quality and price of malt
liquors and bread were enforced. Shakespeare's father
was an ale-taster in 1557, and about the same time was
received into the corporation as a burgess. In 1561 he
was elected as one of the two chamberlains; in 1565 he
became an alderman ; and in 1568 he was chosen bailiff,
the highest official position in the town.
The rule of the council was of a very paternal char-
acter. If a man lived immorally he was summoned to
the Guildhall, and rigorously examined as to the truth
of the rumors that had reached the bailiff's ear. If his
guilt was proved, and he refused to make adequate
reparation, he was invited to leave the town. Rude
endeavors were made to sweeten the tempers of scold-
ing wives. A substantial 'ducking-stool,' with iron
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
staples, lock, and hinges, was kept in good repair. The
shrew was attached to it, and by means of ropes, planks,
and wheels was plunged two or three times into the
Avon whenever the municipal council believed her to
stand in need of correction. Three days and three
nights were invariably spent in the open stocks by any
inhabitant who spoke disrespectfully to any town officer,
or who disobeyed any minor municipal decree. No one
might receive a stranger into his house without the
bailiff's permission. No journeyman, apprentice, or
servant might 'be forth of their or his master's house'
after nine o'clock at night. Bowling-alleys and butts
were provided by the council, but were only to be used
at stated times. An alderman was fined on one occa-
sion for going to bowls after a morning meeting of the
council, and Henry Sydnall was fined twenty pence for
keeping unlawful or unlicensed bowling in a back shed.
Alehouse-keepers, of whom there were thirty in Shake-
speare's time, were kept strictly under the council's con-
trol. They were not allowed to brew their own ale, or
to encourage tippling, or to serve poor artificers except
at stated hours of the day, on pain of fine and imprison-
ment. Dogs were not to go about the streets unmuzzled.
Every inhabitant had to go to church at least once a
month, and absences were liable to penalties of twenty
pounds, which in the late years of Elizabeth's reign com-
missioners came from London to see that the local
authorities enforced. Early in the l7th century swear-
ing was rigorously prohibited. Laws as to dress were
regularly enforced. In 1577 there were many fines
exacted for failure to wear the plain statute woollen
caps on Sundays, to which Rosaline makes allusion in
Love's Labour's Lost (v. 2. 281); and the regulation
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
affected all inhabitants above six years of age. In
1604 'the greatest part' of the inhabitants were pre-
sented at a great leet, or law-day, 'for wearing their
apparel contrary to the statute.' Nor would it be diffi-
cult to quote many other like proofs of the persistent
strictness with which the new town council of Stratford,
by the enforcement of its own order and the statutes of
the realm, regulated the inhabitants' whole conduct of
THE TOPOGRAPHY OF STRATFORD.
No map of Stratford made before the middle of
the i8th century is known to exist. The one here
given in fac-simile was executed about the year 1768,
and, as Mr. Halliwell-Phillipps tells us, it clearly ap-
pears from the local records that there had then been
no material alteration in either the form or the extent
of the town since the days of Elizabeth. It may there-
fore be accepted as a reliable guide to the locality as
it existed in the poet's own time, when the number of
inhabited houses, exclusive of mere hovels, could not
have much exceeded five hundred."
The following is a copy of the references which are
appended to the original map: i. Moor Town's End;
-2. Henley Lane;-3. Brother Market;-4. Henley
Street;-5. Meer Pool Lane;-6. Wood Street;-7.
Ely Street or Swine Street;-8. Scholar's Lane alias
Tinker's Lane;-9. Bull Lane;-- o. Street called Old
Town;-ii. Church Street;-12. Chapel Street;-13.
High Street;-14. Market Cross;--5. Town Hall;-
16. Place where died Shakespeare;-- 7. Chapel, Public
Schools, &c. ;-18. House where was Shakespeare
born;-19. Back Bridge Street;-2o. Fore Bridge
SHAKESPEARE THE BO Y
Street;-21. Sheep Street;-22. Chapel Lane;-23.
Buildings called Water Side;-24. Southam's Lane;-
25. Dissenting Meeting ;-26. White Lion."
Moor Town's End (i) is now Greenhill Street. The
Town Hall (15) did not exist in Shakespeare's time,
having been first erected in 1633, taken down in 1767,
and rebuilt the following year. The Place where died
Shakespeare (16) was New Place, the home of his
later years. The "Dissenting Meeting" or Meeting-
house (25) was built long after the poet's day. The
"White Lion" (26) was also post-Shakespearian, the
chief inns in the i6th century being the Swan, the
Bear, and the Crown, all in Bridge Street. The Mill
and Mill Bridge (built in 1590) are indicated on the
river at the left-hand lower corner of the map; and the
stone bridge, erected by Sir Hugh Clopton about 1500,
is just outside the right-hand lower corner.
The only important change in the streets since
the map was made is the removal of the row of small
shops and stalls, known as Middle Row, between Fore
Bridge Street (20); and Back Bridge Street (19); thus
making the broad avenue now called Bridge Street.
The Market Cross" (14) was "a stone monument
covered by a low tiled shed, round which were benches
for the accommodation of listeners to the sermons
which, as at St. Paul's Cross in London, were some-
times preached there." Later a room was added above,
and a clock above that. The open space about the
Cross was the chief market-place of the town. Near
by was a pump, at which housewives were frequently
to be seen washing of clothes and hanging them on
the cross to dry, and butchers sometimes hung meat
there; but these practices were forbidden by the town
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
council in 1608.- The stocks, pillory, and whipping-
post were in the same locality.,
SThere was also a stone cross in the RotherMarket
(3), and near the Guild Chapel (I7) was a second pump,
which was removed by order of the council in 1595.
The field 'on the river, near the foot of Chapel Lane
(22), was known as the Bank-croft, or Bancroft, where
drovers and farmers of the town were allowed to take
their cattle to pasture for an hour daily. "All horses,
geldings, mares, swine, geese, ducks, and other cattle,"
according to the regulation established by the council,
if found there in violation of this restriction, were put
by the beadle into the pinfoldd," or pound, which was
not far off. This Bancroft, as it is still called, is now.
part of the beautiful little park on the river-bank, ad-
jacent to the grounds of the Shakespeare Memorial.
Chapel Lane, which bounded one side of the New
Place estate, was one of the filthiest thoroughfares of
the town, the general sanitary condition of which (see
page 25 above) was bad enough. A streamlet ran
through it, the water of which turned a mill, alluded to
in town records of that period. This water-course
gradually became "a shallow fetid ditch, an open re-
ceptacle of sewage and filth." It continued to be a
nuisance for at least two centuries more. A letter writ-
ten in 1807, in connection with a lawsuit, gives some
interesting reminiscences of it. "I very well remem-
ber," says the writer, the ditch you mention forty-five
years, as after my sister was married, which was in Octo-
ber, 1760, I was very often at Stratford, and was very
well acquainted both with the ditch and the road in
question;-the ditch went from the Chapel, and ex-
tended to Smith's house;-I well remember there was
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
a space of two or three feet from the wall in a descent
to the ditch, and I do, not think any part of the new
wall was built on the ditch ;-the ditch was the recep-
tacle for all manner of filth that any person chose to
put there, and was very obnoxious at times ;-Mr. Hunt
used to complain of it, and was determined to get it
covered over, or he would do it at his own expense, and
I do not know whether he did or not;-across, the road
from the ditch to Shakespeare Garden was very hollow
and always full of mud, which is now covered over, and
in general there was only one wagon tract along the
lane, which used to be very bad, in the winter particu-
larly;-I do not know that the ditch was so deep as to
overturn a carriage, and the road was very little used
near it, unless it was to turn out for another, as there
was always room enough." Thomas Cox, a carpenter,
who lived in Chapel Lane from 1774, remembered that
the open gutter from the Chapel to Smith's cottage
"was a wide dirty ditch choked with mud, that all the
filth of that part of the town ran into it, that it was four
or five feet wide and more than a foot deep, and that
the road sloped down to the ditch." According to other
witnesses, the ditch extended to the end of the lane,
where, between the roadway and the Bancroft, was a
narrow creek or ditch through which the overflow from
Chapel Lane no doubt found a way into the river.
Mr. Halliwell-Phillipps believes that the fever which
proved fatal to Shakespeare was caused by the "wretch-
ed sanitary conditions surrounding his residence "-an
explanation of it which would never have occurred even
to medical men in that day.
HIS HOME LIFE
SHAKESPEARE HOUSE, RESTORED
THE DWELLING-HOUSES OF THE TIME
THE house in Henley Street in which William Shake-
speare was probably born and spent his early years has
undergone many changes; but, as carefully restored
in recent years and reverently preserved for a national
memorial of the poet, its appearance now is doubtless
not materially different from what it was in the latter
part of the 16th century.
There are a few houses of the same period and the
same class still standing in Stratford and its vicinity,
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
which, according to the highest antiquarian authority,
are almost unaltered from their original form and finish.
Mr. Halliwell-Phillipps mentions one in particular in
the Rother Market, "the main features of which are
certainly in their original state," and the sketches of
the interior given by him closely resemble those of the
These houses were usually of two stories, and were
constructed of wooden beams, forming a framework,
the spaces between the beams being filled with lath
and plaster. The roofs were usually of thatch, with
dormer windows and steep gables. The door was
shaded by a porch or by a entice, or penthouse, which
was a narrow sloping roof often extending along the
the front of the lower story over both door and win-
dows, as in Shakespeare's birthplace on Henley Street.
In the MAerchant of Venice (ii. 6. 1) Gratiano says:-
This is the penthouse under which Lorenzo
Desired us to make stand."
In Much Ado About NVoling (iii. 3. IIo) Borachio
says to Conrade: Stand thee close, then, under this
penthouse, for it drizzles rain." We find a figurative
allusion to the penthouse in Love's Labour 's Lost (iii.
1. 17): "with your hat penthouse-like o'er the shop
of your eyes "; and another in Macbeth (i. 3. 20):-
"Sleep shall neither night nor day
Hang upon his penthouse lid";
the projecting eyebrow being compared to this part of
the Elizabethan dwelling.
ROOM IN WHICH SHAKESPEARE WAS BORN
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
The better houses, like New Place, were of timber
and brick, instead of plaster, though sometimes entire-
ly of stone. Shakespeare appears to have rebuilt the
greater part of New Place with stone. The roofs of
this class of dwellings were usually tiled, but occasion-
ally thatched. We read of one Walter Roche, who in
1582 replaced the tiles of his house in Chapel Street
with thatch. The wood-work in the front of some
houses, as in a fine example still to be seen in the High
Street (page 59 below), was elaborately carved with
floral and other designs.
The gardens were bounded by walls constructed of
clay or mud and usually thatched at the top. Fruit-
trees were common in these gardens, and the orchard
about the Guild buildings was noted for its plums and
apples. When the mulberry-tree was first introduced
into England, Shakespeare bought one and set it out
in his grounds at New Place, where it grew to great
size. It survived for nearly a century and a half after
the death of the poet, but in 1758 was cut down by the
Rev. Francis Gastrell, who had bought the estate in
There was little of what we should regard as comfort
in those picturesque old English houses, with their great
black beams chequering the outer walls into squares
and triangles, their small many-paned windows, their
low ceilings and rude interior wood-work, their poor
and scanty furnishings.
Chimneys had but just come into general use in Eng-
land, and, though John Shakespeare's house had one,
the dwellings of many of his neighbors were still un-
provided with them. In 1582, when William was eigh-
teen years old, an order was passed by the town council
52 SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
that "Walter Hill, dwelling in Rother Market, and all
the other inhabitants of the borough, shall, before St.
James's Day, 3oth April, make sufficient chimneys,"
under pain of a.fine of ten shillings.
This was intended as a precaution against fires, the
frequent occurrence.of which in former years had been
mainly due to the absence of chimneys.
William Harrison, in 1577, referring to things in Eng-
land that had been marvellously changed within the
memory of old people,", includes among these "the
multitude of chimneys lately erected, whereas in their
young days there were not above two or three, if so
.many, in most uplandish towns of the realm (the re-
ligious houses and manor places of their lords always
excepted), but each one made his fire against a reredos*
in the hall, where he dined and dressed his meat.
In another chapter Harrison says: "Now have we
many chimneys;. and yet our tenderlings complain of
rheums, catarrhs, and poses. Then had we none but
reredosses; and.our heads did never ache. For as the
smoke in those days was supposed to be a sufficient
hardening for the timber of the house, so it was re-
ported a far better medicine to keep the goodman and
his family from the quack or pose, wherewith, as then,
very few were acquainted."
THE HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE.
Of the furniture in these old houses we get an idea
from inventories of the period that have come down to
A reredos was a kind of open hearth or brazier. Pose, just
below, means a cold in the head, and quack a hoarseness or croak-
ing caused by a cold in the throat.
SHAKESPEARE .THE BOY
us. We have, for instance, such a list of the house-
hold equipment of Richard Arden, Shakespeare's ma-
ternal grandfather, who was a wealthy farmer; and
another of such property belonging to Henry Field,
tanner, a neighbor of John Shakespeare, who was his
From theseand similar inventories we find that the
only furniture in the hall, or main room of the house-
often occupying the whole of the ground floor-and the
parlor, or sitting-room, when there was one, consisted
of two or three chairs, a few joint-stools-that is, stools
made of wood jointed or fitted together, as distinguished
from those more rudely made-a table of the plainest
construction, and possibly one or more "painted cloths"
hung on the walls.
These painted cloths were cheap substitutes for the
tapestries with which great mansions, were adorned,
and they were often found in the cottages of the poor.
The paintings were generally crude representations of
Biblical stories, together with maxims or mottoes, which
were sometimes on scrolls or "labels proceeding from
the mouths of the characters.
Shakespeare refers to these cloths several times; for
instance, in As You Like It (iii. 2. 291), where Jaques
says to Orlando: You are full of pretty answers ; have
you not been acquainted with goldsmiths' wives and
conned them out of rings ?"-referring to the mottoes,
or "posies," as they were called, often inscribed in
finger-rings. Orlando replies.: Not so; but I answer
you right painted cloth, from whence you have studied
your questions." Falstaff (i Henry IV. iv. 2. 28) says
that his recruits are "ragged as Lazarus in the painted
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
In an anonymous play, No Whipping nor Tripping,
printed in 160o, we find this passage:-
Read what is written on the painted cloth:
Do no man wrong; be good unto the poor;
Beware the mouse, the maggot, and the moth,
And ever have an eye unto the door," etc.
When carpets are mentioned in these inventories,
they are coverings for the tables, not for the floors,
which, even in kings' palaces, were strewn with rushes.
Grumio, in The Taming of the Shrew (iv. i. 52) sees
"the carpets laid" for supper on his master's return
home. A Stratford inventory of 1590 mentions "a
carpet for a table." Carpets were also used for win-
dow-seats, but were seldom placed on the floor except
to kneel upon, or for other special purposes.
The bedroom furniture was equally rude and scanty,
though better than it had been when the old folk of the
time were young. Harrison says :-
Our fathers and we ourselves have lien full oft upon
straw pallets covered only with a sheet, under coverlets
made of dagswain or hopharlots [coarse, rough cloths],
and a good round log under their heads instead of a
bolster. If it were that our fathers or the good man
of the house had a mattress or flock-bed, and thereto
a sack of chaff to rest his head upon, he thought him-
self to be as well lodged as the lord of the town, so
well were they contented."
But feather-beds had now come into use, with pillows,
and "flaxen sheets," and other comfortable appliances.
Henry Field had one bed-covering of yellow and
green" among his household goods.
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
Kitchen utensils and table-ware had likewise im-
proved within the memory of the old inhabitant, though
still rude and simple enough. Harrison notes the
exchange of treen [wooden] platters into pewter, and
wooden spoons.into silver or tin."
He adds: So common were all sorts of treen stuff
in old time that a man should hardly find four pieces
of pewter (of which one was peradventure a salt) in a
good farmer's house"; but now they had plenty of
pewter, with perhaps a silver bowl and salt-cellar, and
a dozen silver spoons.
The table-linen was hempen for common use, but
flaxen for special occasions, and the napkins were of
the same materials. These napkins, or towels, as they
were sometimes called, were for wiping the hands after
eating with the fingers, forks being as yet unknown in
England except as a curiosity.
Elizabeth is the first royal personage in the country
who is known to have had a fork, and it is doubtful
whether she used it. It was not until the middle of the
i7th century that forks were used even by the higher
classes, and silver forks were not introduced until
Thomas Coryat, in his Crudilies, published in 1611,
only five years before Shakespeare died, gives an ac-
count of the use of forks in Italy, where they appear
to have been invented in the i5th century. He says:-
"The Italian and also most strangers do always at
their meals use a little fork when they do cut their
meat. For while with their knife, which they hold in
one hand, they cut the meat out of the dish, they fasten
the fork, which they hold in their other hand, upon the
same dish; so that whosoever he be that, sitting in the
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
company of others at meals, should unadvisedly touch
the dish of meat with his fingers, from which all the
table do cut, he will give occasion of offence unto the
company, as having transgressed the laws of good
Coryat adds that he himself "thought good to imitate
the Italian fashion by this forked cutting of meat,"
not only while he was in Italy, but after he came
home to England, where, however, he was sometimes
"quipped" for what his friends regarded as a foreign
The dramatists of the time also refer contemptuously
to "your fork-carving traveller"; and one clergyman
preached against the use of forks ".as being an insult
to Providence not to touch one's meat with one's fin-
Towels, except for table use, are rarely noticed in in-
ventories of the period, and when mentioned are speci-
fied as "washing towels." Neither are wash-basins
often referred to, except in lists of articles used by
Bullein, in his Government of Health, published about
1558, says: "Plain people in the country use seldom
times to wash their hands, as appeareth by their filthi-
ness, and as very few times comb their heads."
Their betters were none too particular in these mat-
ters, and in personal cleanliness generally. Baths are
seldom referred to in writings of the time, except for
the treatment of certain diseases.
Reference has already been made to the use of rushes
for covering floors. It was thought to be a piece of un-
necessary luxury on the part of Wolsey when he caused
the rushes at Hampton Court to be changed every day.
INTERIOR OF ANNE HATHAWAY'S COTTAGE
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
From a letter of Erasmus to Dr. Francis, Wolsey's
physician, it would appear that the lowest layer of
rushes-the top only being renewed-was sometimes
unchanged for years-the latter says "twenty years,"
which seems hardly credible- becoming a receptacle
for beer, grease, fragments of victuals, and other or-
Perfumes were used for neutralizing the foul odors
that resulted from this filthiness. Burton, in his Anat-
omy of Melancholy, 1621, says: "The smoke of juniper
is in great request with us at Oxford, to sweeten our
chambers." [See also page 25 above.]
SFrom the correspondence of the Earl of Shrewsbury
with Lord Burleigh, during the confinement of Mary
Queen of Scots at Sheffield Castle, in 1572, we learn
that she was to be removed for five or six days to
cleanse her chamber, being kept very uncleanly."
In a memoir written by Anne, Countess of Dorset, in
1603, we read: "We all went to Tibbals to see the
King, who used my mother and my aunt very gracious-
ly; but we all saw-a great change between the fashion
of the Court as it was now and of that in the Queen's,
for we were all lousy by sitting in Sir Thomas Ers-
FOOD AND DRINK.
The food of the common people was better in some
respects than it is nowadays, and better than it was in
Continental countries. Harrison says that whereas what
he calls white meats "-milk, butter, and cheese-were
in old times the food of the upper classes, they were in
his time only eaten by the poor," while all other classes
ate flesh, fish, and "wild and tame fowls."
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
Wheaten bread, however, was little known except to
the rich, the bread of the poor being made of rye or
barley, and, in times of scarcity, of beans, oats, and
Tea and coffee had not yet been introduced into Eng-
land, but wine was abundant and cheap. It is rather
surprising to learn that from twenty to thirty thousand
tuns of home-grown wine were then made in the
Of foreign wines, thirty kinds of strong and fifty-six
of light were to be had in London. The price ranged
from eightpence to a shilling a gallon. The drink of the
common people, however, was beer, which was generally
home-brewed and cheap withal.
Harrison, who was a country clergyman with forty
pounds a year, tells how his good wife brewed two
hundred gallons at a cost of twenty shillings, or less
than three halfpence a gallon. When nobody drank
water, and the only substitute for malt liquors was milk,
the consumption of beer was of course enormous.
The meals were but two a day. Harrison says:
"Heretofore there hath been much more time spent
in eating and drinking than commonly is in these
days, for whereas of old we had breakfasts in the fore-
noon, beverages or nuntions [luncheons] after dinner,
and thereto rear-suppers [late or second suppers] gen-
erally when it was time to go to rest, now these odd re-
pasts-thanked be God-are very well left, and each
one in manner (except here and there some young
hungry stomach that cannot fast till dinner time) con-
tenteth himself with dinner and supper only."
Of the times of meals he says: With us the nobility,
gentry, and students do ordinarily go to dinner at eleven
OLD HOUSE IN HIGH STREET
before noon, and to supper at five, or between five and
six at afternoon. The merchants dine and sup seldom
before twelve at noon and six at night, especially in
London. The husbandmen dine also at high noon, as
they call it, and sup at seven or eight; but out of the
term in our universities the scholars dine at ten. As
for the poorest sort, they generally dine and sup when
60 SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
they may, so that to talk of their order of repast it were
but needless matter."
Rising at four or five in the morning, as was the cus-
tom with the common people, and going until ten or
even noon without food must have been hard for other
than the "young hungry stomachs" of which Harrison
speaks so contemptuously.
THE TRAINING OF CHILDREN.
In the i6th century, children of the middle and up-
per classes were strictly brought up. The "Books of
Nurture," published at that time, give minute direc-
tions for the behavior of boys like William at home, at
school, at church, and elsewhere. These manuals were
generally in doggerel verse, and several of them have
been edited by Dr. F. J. Furnivall for the Early English
Among them is one by Francis Seager, published in
London in 1557, entitled The Schoole of Vertue, and book
of good Nourture for Chyldren and youth to learned their
dutie by. Another is The Boke of Nurture, or Schoole
of good maners for men, servants, and children, compiled
by Hugh Rhodes, of which at least five editions were
printed between 1554 and 1577.
The Schoole of Vertue begins thus* (the spelling
In the original each of these lines is divided into two, thus:
First in, the mornynge
when thou dost awake
To God for his grace
thy peticion then make;" etc.
To save space,-I arrange the lines as Dr. Furnivall does.
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
First in the morning when thou dost awake
To God for his grace thy petition then make;
This prayer, following use daily to say,
Thy heart lifting up; thus begin to pray,"
A prayer of eighteen lines follows, with directions to
repeat the Lord's Prayer after it. Then come rules
" how to order thyself when thou risest, and in apparel-
ling thy body."
The child is to rise early, dress carefully, washing
his hands and combing his head. When he goes down
stairs he is to salute the family:-
"Down from thy chamber when thou shalt go,
Thy parents salute thou, and the family also."
Elsewhere, politeness out of doors is enjoined:-
"Be free of cap [taking it off to his elders] and full of
At meals his first duty is to wait upon his parents,
after saying this grace:-
"Give thanks to God with one accord
For that shall be set on this board.
And be not careful what to eat,
To each thing living the Lord sends meat;
For food He will not see you perish,
But will you feed, foster, and cherish;
Take well in worth what He hath sent,
At this time be therewith content,
He is then to make low curtsy, saying "Much good
may it do you!" and, if he is big enough, he is to
bring the food to the table.
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
In filling the dishes he must take care not to get them
so full as to spill anything on his parents' clothes. He
is to haye spare trenchers and napkins ready for guests,
to see that all are supplied with "bread and drink," and
that the "voiders "-the baskets or vessels into which
bones are thrown-are often emptied.
When the course of meat is over he is to clear the
table, cover the salt, put the dirty trenchers and nap-
kins into a voider, sweep the crumbs into another, place
a clean trencher before each person, and set on cheese
with fruit, with biscuits or caraways" comfitss contain-
ing caraway seeds, which were considered favorable to
digestion, and, according to a writer on health, in 1595,
"surely very good for students"], also wine, "if any
there were," or beer.
The meal ended, he is to remove the cloth, turning
in each side and folding it up carefully; a clean towel
then on the table to spread," and bring basin and ewer
for washing the hands. He now clears the table again,
and when the company rise, he must not "forget his
"Before the table make thou low curtsy."
The boy can now eat his own dinner, and equally
minute directions are given as to his behavior while
doing it. He is not to break his bread, but "cut it
fair," not to fill his spoon too full of soup, nor his
mouth too full of meat-
Not smacking thy lips as commonly do hogs,
Nor gnawing the bones as it were dogs.
Such rudeness abhor, such beastliness fly,
At the table behave thyself mannerly."
SHAKESPEARE. THE BOY
He must keep his fingers clean with a napkin, wipe
his mouth before drinking, and be temperate in eat-
ing-" For 'measure is treasure.' the proverb doth say."
The directions how to behave thyself in talking
with any man" are very minute and specific:-
" If a man demand a question of thee,
In thine answer-making be not too hasty;
Weigh well his words, the case understand,
Ere an answer to make thou take in hand;
Else may he judge in thee little wit,
To answer to a thing and not hear it.
Suffer his tale whole out to be told,
Then speak thou mayst, and not be controlled;
Low obeisance making, looking him in the face,
Treatably speaking, thy words see thou place,
With countenance sober, thy body upright,
Thy feet just together, thy hands in like plight;
Cast not thine eyes on either side.
When thou art praised, therein take no pride.
In telling thy tale, neither laugh nor smile;
Such folly forsake thou, banish and exile.
In audible voice thy words do thou utter,
Not high nor low, but using a measure.
Thy words see that thou pronounce plaine,
And that they spoken be not in vain;
In uttering whereof keep thou an order,
Thy matter thereby thou shalt much forder [further];
Which order if thou do not observe,
From the purpose needs must thou swerve,
And hastiness of speed will cause thee to err,
Or will thee teach to stut or stammer.
To stut or stammer is a foul crime;
Learn then to leave it, take warning in time;
How evil a child it doth become,
Thyself being judge, having wisdom;
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
And sure it is taken by custom and ure [use],
While young you be there is help and cure.
This general rule yet take with thee,
In speaking to any man thy head uncovered be,
The common proverb remember ye ought,
'Better unfed than untaught.'"
Though this may be very poor poetry, it is very. good
advice; and so is this which follows, on "how to order
thyself being sent of message":-
"If of message forth thou be sent,
Take heed to the same, give ear diligent;
Depart not away and being in doubt,
Know well thy message before thou pass out;
With possible speed then haste thee right soon,
If need shall require it so to be done.
After humble obeisance the message forth shew,
Thy words well placing, in uttering but few
As shall thy matter serve to declare.
Thine answer made, then home again repair,
And to thy master thereof make relation
As then the answer shall give thee occasion.
Neither add nor diminish anything to the same,
Lest after it prove to thy rebuke and shame,
But the same utter as near as thou can;
.No fault they shall find to charge thee with than
Similar counsel is added "against the horrible vice of
"In vain take not the name of God;
Swear not at all for fear of his rod.
: '* *
ANNE HATHAWAY'S COTTAGE
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY 65
Seneca doth counsel thee all swearing to refrain,
Although great profit by it thou might gain;
Pericles, whose words are manifest and plain,
From swearing admonisheth thee to abstain;
The law of God and commandment he gave
Swearing amongst us in no wise would have.
The counsel of philosophers I have here exprest,
Amongst whom swearing was utterly detest;
Much less among Christians ought it to be used,
But utterly of them clean to be refused."
There are also admonitions against the vice of filthy
talking and against the vice of lying "; and a prayer
follows, to be said when thou goest to bed."
The rules laid down in the Boke of Nurture are similar
and in the same doggerel measure. It is interesting, by
the bye, to compare the alterations in successive editions
as indicating changes in the manners and customs of
the time. A single illustration must suffice.
When the first edition appeared, handkerchiefs had
not come into general use; and how to blow the nose
without one was evidently a difficulty with the writer
and other early authorities on deportment. Even in
1577, when handkerchiefs began to be common, Rhodes
"Blow not your nose on the napkin
Where you should wipe your hand,
But cleanse it in your handkercher."*
The spelling handkercher, common in these old books, and in
the early editions of Shakespeare, indicates the pronunciation of
the time. In As You Like It, The Tamingof the Shrew, Hamlet,
Othello, and other plays, napkin is equivalent to handkerchief.
This, indeed, is the only meaning of the word in Shakespeare, as
often in other writers of the period.
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
The Booke of Demeanor, printed in 1619, says:-
"Nor imitate with Socrates
To wipe thy snivelled nose
Upon thy cap, as he would do,
Nor yet upon thy clothes:
But keep it clean with handkerchief,
Provided for the same,
Not with thy fingers or thy sleeve,
Therein thou art to blame."
The introduction of toothpicks, the gradual adoption
of forks, already referred to, and sundry other refine-
ments, can be similarly traced in these interesting hand-
It would appear that this Schoole of Vertue, or some
other book with the same title, was used in schools for
boys. John Brinsley, in his Grammar Schoole of 16iz
(quoted by Dr. Furnivall), enumerates the Bookes to
be first learned of children." After mentioning the
Primer, the Psalms in metre-" because children will
learned that booke with most readiness and delight
through the running of the metre"--and the Testa-
ment, he adds: If any require any other little book
meet to enter children, the Schoole of Vertue is one of
the principal, and easiest for the first enterers, being
full of precepts of civilitie, and such as children will
soone learned anrd take a delight in, thorow [through]
the roundnesse of the metre, as was sayde before of the
singing Psalmes: and after it the Schoole of good man-
ners, called the new Schoole of Vertue, leading the child
as by the hand, in the way of all good manners."
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
Of the indoor amusements of country people we get
an idea from Vincent's Dialogue with an English/ Court-
ier, published in 1586. He says: "In foul weather
we send for some honest neighbors, if haply we be with
our wives alone at home (as seldom we are) and with
them we play at Dice and Cards, sorting ourselves ac-
cording to the number of players and their skill; .
sometimes we fall to Slide-Thrift, to Penny Prick, and
in winter nights we use certain Christmas games very
proper, and of much agility; we want not also pleasant
mad-headed knaves, that be properly learned, and will
read in divers pleasant books and good authors; as
Sir Guy of Warwick, the Four Sons of Aymon, the
Ship of Fools, the Hundred Merry Tales, the Book of
Riddles, and many other excellent writers both witty
and pleasant. These pretty and pithy matters do
sometimes recreate our minds, chiefly after long sitting
and loss of money."
"Slide-thrift," called also "slip-groat" and "shove-
groat," is a game frequently mentioned by writers of
the i6th and i7th centuries. Strutt, in his Sports and
Pastimes of England, describes it thus:
"It requires a parallelogram to be made with chalk,
or by lines cut upon the middle of a table, about twelve
or fourteen inches in breadth, and three or four feet in
length: which is divided, latitudinally, into nine sec-
tions, in every one of which is placed a figure, in regu-
lar succession from one to nine. Each of the players
provides himself with a smooth halfpenny, which he
places upon the edge of the table, and, striking it with
the palm of his hand, drives it towards the marks; and
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
according to the value of the figure affixed to the par-
tition wherein the halfpenny rests, his game is reck-
oned; which generally is stated at thirty-one, and must
be made precisely : if it be exceeded, the player goes
again for nine, which must also be brought exactly or
the turn is forfeited: and if the halfpenny rests upon
any of the marks that separate the partitions, or over-
passes the external boundaries, the go is void. It is
also to be observed that the players toss up to deter-
SHILLING OF EDWARD VI
mine which shall go first, which is certainly a great
Shovel-board, or shuffle-board, which some writers
confound with slide-thrift, was also played upon a table
with coins or flat pieces of metal; but the board was
longer and the rules of the game were different.
In 2 Henry IV. (ii. 4. 206), when Falstaff wants Pis-
tol put out of the room, he says to Bardolph: "Quoit
him down, Bardolph, like a shove-groat shilling."
In The Merry Wives of Windsor (i. i. 159), Slender,
-when asked if Pistol had picked his purse, replies:
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
"Ay, by these gloves, did he of seven groats in
mill-sixpences and two Edward shovel-boards, that cost
me two shillings and twopence apiece." "Edward
shovel-boards were the broad shillings of Edward VI.
which were generally used in playing the game. It
has been suggested-that Slender was a fool to pay two
shillings and twopence for a shilling worn smooth; but
it is possible that these old coins commanded a pre-
mium on account of being in demand for this game.
The silver groat fourpencee) was originally used for the
purpose, but the shilling, especially of this particular
coinage, came to be preferred by players. Taylor the
Water Poet makes one of these coins say:-
"You see my face is beardless, smooth, and plain,
Because my sovereign was a child 't is known,
When as he did put on the English crown;
But had my stamp been bearded, as with hair,
Long before this it had been worn out bare;
For why, with me the unthrifts every day,
With my face downward, do at shove-board play."
"Penny-prick" is described as "a game consisting
of casting oblong pieces of iron at a mark." Another
writer explains it as "throwing at halfpence placed on
sticks which are called hobs." It was a common game
as early as the fifteenth century, and is reproved by a
religious writer of that period, probably because it was
used for gambling.
Card-playing had become so general in the time of
Henry VIII. that a statute was enacted forbidding ap-
prentices to use cards except in the Christmas holi-
days, and then only in their masters' houses. Many
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
different games with cards are mentioned by writers
of the time, but few of them are described minutely
enough to make it clear how they were played.
Backgammon, or "tables," as it was called, was
popular in Shakespeare's time. He refers to it in
Love's Labour 's Lost (v. 2. 326), where Biron, ridiculing
"This is the ape of form, monsieur the nice,
That, when he plays at tables, chides the dice
In honourable terms."
"Tick-tack" was a kind of backgammon; alluded
to, figuratively, in Measure for Measure (i. 2. 196):
"thus foolishly lost at a game of tick-tack."
"Tray-trip" was a game of dice, in which success
depended upon throwing a "tray" (the French trois,
or three); mentioned in Twelfth Night (ii. 5. 207):
"Shall I play my freedom at tray-trip, and become
thy bond-slave ?"
"Troll-my-dames" was a game resembling the mod-
ern bagatelle. The name is a corruption of the
French trou-madame. It was also known as "pigeon-
holes." Dr. John Jones, in his Ancient Baths of Buck-
stone (1572) refers to it thus : The ladies, gentlewom-
en, wives and maids, may in one of the galleries walk;
and if the weather be not agreeable to their expecta-
tion, they may have in the end of a bench eleven holes
made, into the which to troll pummets, or bowls of
lead, big, little, or mean, or also of copper, tin, wood,
either violent or soft, after their own discretion: the
pastime troule-in-madame is called."
In The Tempest (v. I. 172) Ferdinand and Miranda
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
are represented as playing chess; but there is no other
clear allusion to the game in Shakespeare's works. It
was introduced into England before the Norman Con-
quest, and became a favorite pastime with the upper
classes, but appears to have been little known among
the common people.
Of books there were probably very few at the house
in Henley Street. Some of those mentioned by Vin-
cent were popular with all classes. The story of Guy
of Warwick had been told repeatedly in prose and
verse from the twelfth century down to Shakespeare's
day, and some of the books and ballads would be like-
ly to be well known in Stratford, which, as we have
seen, was in the immediate vicinity of the hero's legen-
dary exploits. The Four Sons of Aymon was the trans-
lation of a French prose romance, the earliest form of
which dated back to songs or ballads of the i3th cen-
tury. Aymon, or Aimon, a prince of Ardennes whose
history was partly imaginary, and his sons figure in
the works of Tasso and Ariosto, and other Italian
and French poets and romancers.
The Hundred Merry Tales was a popular jest-book of
Shakespeare's time, to which he alludes in Muc/ Ado
About Nothing (ii. i. 134), where Beatrice refers to what
Benedick had said about her: "That I was disdain-
ful, and that I had my wit out of the Hundred Merry
The Book of Riddles was another book mentioned by
Shakespeare in The Merry Wives of Windsor (i. I. 205),
in connection with a volume of verse which was equal-
ly popular in the Elizabethan age:-
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
Slender. I had rather than forty shillings, I had my
book of Songs and Sonnets here.-
How now, Simple! Where have you been? I must wait
on myself, must I? You have not the Book of Riddles
about you, have you ?
Simple. Book of Riddles? why, did you not lend it
to Alice Shortcake upon Allhallowmas last, a fortnight
afore Michaelmas ?"
The title-page of one edition reads thus: "The
Booke of Merry Riddles. Together with proper Ques-
tions, and witty Proverbs to make pleasant pastime.
No lesse useful than behoovefull for any yong man
or child, to know if he bee quick-witted, or no."
A few of the shortest riddles may be quoted as sam-
The li. Riddle.-My lovers will
I am content for to fulfill;
Within this rime his name is framed;
Tell me then how he is named?
Solution.-His name is William; for in the first line is
will, and in the beginning of the second line is I am, and
then put them both together, and it maketh William.
The liv. Riddle.-How many calves tailes will reach to
the skye ? Solution.-One, if it be long enough.
The lxv. Riddle.-What is that, round as a ball,
Longer than Pauls steeple, weather-
cocke, and all?
Solution.-It is a round bottom of thred when it is
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
The Ixvii. Riddle.-What is that, that goeth thorow the
wood, and toucheth never a twig? Sotution.-It is the
blast of a horne, or any other noyse."
A bottom of thread was a ball of it. The word oc-
curs in The Taming of the Shrew (iv. 3. 138), where
Grumio says, in the dialogue with the Tailor: Mas-
ter, if ever I said loose-bodied gown, sew me in the
skirts of it, and beat me to death with a bottom of
brown thread; I said a gown." The verb is used in
The Two Gentlemen of Verona (iii. 2. 53):-
"Therefore, as you unwind her love from him,
Lest it should ravel and be good to none,
You must provide to bottom it on me."
This old meaning of bottom doubtless suggested the
name of Bottom the Weaver in the Midsummer-Night's
If books were scarce in the homes of the common
people when Shakespeare was a boy, there was no lack
of oral tales, legends, and folk-lore for the entertain-
ment of the family of a winter evening. The store of
this unwritten history and fiction was inexhaustible.
In Milton's L'Allegro we have a pleasant picture of a
rustic group listening to fairy stories round the even-
"Then to the spicy nut-brown ale,
With stories told of many a feat,
How lairy Mab the junkets eat.
She was pinch'd and pulled, she said,
And he, by Friar's lantern led,
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
Tells how the drudging goblin sweat
To earn his cream-bowl duly set,
When in one night, ere glimpse of morn,
His shadowy flail hath thresh'd the corn
That ten day-laborers could not end;
Then lies him down the lubber fiend,
And, stretch'd out all the chimney's length,
Basks at the fire his hairy strength,
And crop-full out of doors he flings
Ere the first cock his matin rings.
Thus done the tales, to bed they creep,
By whispering winds soon lull'd asleep."
Of "fairy Mab" we have a graphic description from
the merry Mercutio in Romeo and yuliet (i. 4. 53-94);
and the "drudging goblin," or Robin Goodfellow, is
the Puck of the Midsummer-Night's Dream, to whom
the Fairy says (ii. i. 40):-
"Those that Hobgoblin call you and sweet.Puck,
You do their work, and they shall have good luck."
In the same scene Puck himself tells of the practical
jokes he plays upon the wisest aunt telling the sad-
dest tale" to a fireside group, and of many another
sportive trick with which he frights the maidpns and
vexes the housewives.
The children had their stories to tell, like their elders;
and Shakespeare has pictured a home scene in The
Winter's Tale (ii. I. 21) which may have been suggest-
ed by his own experience as a boy. As Mr. Charles
Knight asks, "may we not read for Hermione, Mary
Shakespeare, and for Mamillius, William ?"
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
"Hermione. What wisdom stirs amongst you ? Come.
I am for you again ; pray you, sit by us,
And tell 's a tale.
Mamillius. Merry, or sad shall 't be ?
Hermione. As merry as you will.
Mamillius. A sad tale 's best for winter. I have one
Of sprites and goblins.
Hermione. Let's have that, good sir.
Come on, sit down; come on, and do your best
To fright me with your sprites; you 're powerful at it.
fMamillius. There was a man-
Hermione. Nay, come, sit down; then on.
Mamillius. Dwelt by a churchyard:--I will tell it softly;
Yond crickets shall not hear it.
Hermione. Come on, then,
And give 't me in mine ear."
Just then his father, Leontes, comes in, and the tale is
interrupted, never to be resumed.
Mr. Knight assumes, with a good degree of proba-
bility, that William had access to some of the books
from which he drew material for the story of his plays
later in life, and that he may have told these tales,
whether "merry or sad," to his brothers and sisters at
He had," says this genial biographer, "a copy, well
thumbed from his first reading days, of The Palace of
Pleasure, beautified, adorned, and well furnished with
pleasant histories and excellent novelles, selected out
of divers good and commendable authors; by William
Painter, Clarke of the Ordinaunce and Armarie.' In
this book, according to the dedication of the translator
to Ambrose Earl of Warwick, was set forth 'the great
valiance of noble gentlemen, the terrible combats of
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
courageous personages, the virtuous minds of noble
dames, the chaste hearts of constant ladies, the won-
derful patience of puissant, princes, the mild suffer-
ance of well-disposed gentlewomen, and, in divers, the
quiet bearing of adverse fortune.' Pleasant little apo-
thegms and short fables were there in the book; which
the brothers and sisters of William Shakespeare had
heard him tell with marvellous spirit, and they abided
therefore in their memories. There was _Esop's fable
of the old lark and her young ones, wherein 'he pret-
tily and aptly doth premonish that hope and confidence
of things attempted by man ought to be fixed and
trusted in none other but himself.' There was the
story, most delightful to a child, of the bondman at
Rome, who was brought into the open place upon
which a great multitude looked, to fight with a lion of
a marvellous bigness; and the fierce lion, when he saw
him, 'suddenly stood still, and afterwards by little and
little, in gentle sort, he came unto the man as though
he had known him,' and licked his hands and legs; and
the bondman told that he had healed in former time
the wounded foot of the lion, and the beast became his
friend. These were for the younger children; but Wil-
liam had now a new tale, out of the same storehouse,
upon which he had often pondered, the subject of which
had shaped itself in his mind into dialogue that almost
sounded like verse in his graceful and earnest recita-
tion. It was a tale which Painter translated from the
French of Pierre Boisteau. It was 'The goodly his-
tory of the true and constant love between Romeo and
Julietta.' From the same collection of tales had
the youth before half dramatized the story of Giletta
of Narbonne,' who cured the King of France of a pain-
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
ful malady, and the king gave her in marriage to the
Count Beltramo, with whom she had been brought up,
and her husband despised and forsook her, but at last
they were united, and lived in great honor and felicity.
"There was another collection, too, which that youth
had diligently read, -the 'Gesta Romanorum,' trans-
lated by R. Robinson in 1577,-old legends, come down
to those latter days from monkish historians, who had
embodied in their narratives all the wild traditions of
the ancient and modern world. He could tell the story
of the rich heiress who chose a husband by the ma-
chinery of a gold, a silver, and a leaden casket; and
another story of the merchant whose inexorable creditor
required the fulfilment of his bond in cutting a pound
of flesh, nearest the merchant's heart, and by the skilful
interpretation of the bond the cruel creditor was de-
"There was the story, too, in these legends, of the Em-
peror Theodosius, who had three daughters ; and those
two daughters who said they loved him more than them-
selves were unkind to him, but the youngest, who only
said she loved him as much as he was worthy, suc-
coured him in his need, and was his true daughter. ....
Stories such as these, preserved amidst the wreck
of time, were to that youth like the seeds that are found
in the tombs of ruined cities, lying with the bones of
forgotten generations, but which the genial influence of
nature will call into life, and they shall become flowers,
and trees, and food for man.
"But, beyond all these, our Mamillius had many a tale
'of sprites and goblins' Such appearances were
above nature, but the commonest movements of the
natural world had them in subjection:-
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
"'I have heard,
The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn,
Doth with his lofty and shrill-sounding throat
Awake the god of day; and at his warning,
Whether in sea or fire, in earth or air,
The extravagant and erring spirit hies
To his confine.'
Powerful they were, but yet powerless. They came
for benevolent purposes: to warn the guilty; to dis-
cover the guilt. The belief in them was not a debasing
thing. It was associated with the enduring confidence
that rested upon a world beyond this material world.
Love hoped for such visitations; it had its dreams of
such-where the loved one looked smilingly, and spoke
of regions where change and separation were not. They
might be talked of, even among children then, without
terror. They lived in that corner of the soul which had
trust in angel protections, which believed in celestial
hierarchies, which listened to hear the stars moving in
harmonious music. .
"William Shakespeare could also tell to his greedy
listeners, how in the old days of King Arthur
"' The elf-queene, with her jolly compagnie,
Danced full oft in many a grene mede.'
Here was something in his favorite old poet for the
youth to work out into beautiful visions of a pleasant
race of supernatural beings; who lived by day in the
acorn cups of Arden, and by moonlight held their
revels on the greensward of Avon-side, the ringlets
of their dance being duly seen, 'whereof the ewe not
bites'; who tasted the honey-bag of the bee, and held
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
counsel by the light of the glowworm; who kept the
cankers from the rosebuds, and silenced the hootings
of the owl Some day would William make a little
play of Fairies, and Joan should be their Queen, and he
would be the King; for he had talked with the Fairies,
and he knew their language and their manners, and
they were 'good people,' and would not mind a boy's
sport with them.
"But when the youth began to speak of witches there
was fear and silence. For did not his mother recollect
that in the year she was married Bishop Jewell had told
the Queen that her subjects pined away, even unto the
death, and that their affliction was owing to the in-
crease of witches and sorcerers? Was it not known
how there were three sorts of witches,-those that can
'hurt and not help, those that can help and not hurt,
and those that can both help and hurt? It was unsafe
even to talk of them.
"But the youth had met with the history of the murder
of Duncan King of Scotland, in a chronicler older than
Holinshed; and he told softly, so that 'yon crickets'
shall not hear it,' that, as Macbeth and Banquo jour-
neyed from Forres, sporting by the way together,
when the warriors came in the midst of a laund,
three weird sisters suddenly appeared to them, in
strange and wild apparel, resembling creatures of
an elder world, and prophesied that Macbeth should
be King of Scotland; and Macbeth from that hour
desired to be king, and so killed the good king his
"And then the story-teller would pass on to safer
matters-to the calculations of learned men who could
read the fates of mankind in the aspects of the stars;
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
and of those more deeply learned, clothed in garments
of white linen, who had command over the spirits of
the earth, of the water, and of the air. .Some of the
children said that a horseshoe over the door, and ver-
vain and dill, would preserve them, as they had been
told, from the devices of sorcery. But their mother
called to their mind that there was security far
more to be relied on than charms of herb or horse-
shoe-that there was a Power that would preserve
them from all evil, seen or unseen, if such were
His gracious will, and if they humbly sought Him,
and offered up their hearts to Him in all love and
trust. And to that Power this household then ad-
dressed themselves; and the night was without fear,
and their sleep was pleasant."
In the olden time the christening of a child was an
occasion of feasting and gift-giving. It was an ancient
custom for the sponsors to make a present of silver or
gilt spoons to the infant. These were called "apostle
spoons," because the end of the handle was formed
into the figure of one of the apostles. The rich or
generous gave the whole twelve; those less wealthy
or liberal limited themselves to the four evangelists;
while the poor contented themselves with the gift of
a single spoon.
There is an allusion to this custom in Henmy VIII
(v. 3. 168), where the King replies to Cranmer, who
has professed to be unworthy of being a sponsor to
the baby Elizabeth, "Come, come, my lord, you'd
spare your spoons,"- a playful insinuation that the
SHAKESPEARE THE BOY 81
archbishop wants to escape making a present to the
It is related that Shakespeare was godfather to one
of Ben Jonson's children, and said to his friend after
the christening, "I' faith, Ben, I'll e'en give him a dozen
ANCIENT FONT AT STRATFORD
good Latin spoons, and thou shalt translate them."
That is, as Mr. Thors explains it, Shakespeare, will-
ing to show his wit, if not his wealth, gave a dozen
spoons, not of silver, but of latten, a name formerly
used to signify a mixed metal resembling brass, as
being the most appropriate gift to the child of a father
After baptism at the church a piece of white linen
was put upon the head of the child. This was called
the chrisomm" or "chrisom-cloth," and originally was
worn seven days; but after the Reformation it was
"SHAKESPEARE THE BOY
kept on until the churching of the mother. If the child
died before the churching, it was buried with the
chrisom upon it. In parish registers such infants are
often referred to as chrisomss." In Henry (ii. 3. 12),
Dame Quickly says of Falstaff, "A' made a finer
end, and went away an it had been any christom
child"; that is, his death was like that of a young
infant. "Christom" is the old woman's blunder for
The "bearing-cloth" was the mantle which covered
the child when it was carried to the font. In the
Winter's Tale (iii. 3. z19), the Shepherd, when he finds
the infant Perdita abandoned on the sea-shore, says to
his son : Here's a sight for thee; look thee, a bearing-
cloth for a squire's child Look thee here; take up,
take up, boy; open 't." John Stow, writing in the clos-
ing years of the i6th century, says that at that time
it was not customary "for godfathers and godmothers
generally to give plate at the baptism of children, but
only to give 'christening shirts,' with little bands and
cuffs, wrought either with silk or blue thread. The best
of them, for chief persons, were edged with a small lace
of black silk and gold, the highest price of which, for
great men's children, was seldom above a noble [a gold
coin worth 6s. 8d.], and the common sort, two, three, or
four, and six shillings apiece."
The "gossips' feast" (or sponsors' feast) held in
honor of those who were associated in the christening,
was an ancient English custom often mentioned by
dramatists and other writers of the Elizabethan age.
In the Comedy of Errors (v. i. 405) the Abbess, when
she finds that the twin brothers Antipholus are her
long-lost sons, says to the company present:-
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"Thirty-three years have I but gone in travail
Of you, my sons; and till this present hour
My heavy burthen ne'er delivered.-
The duke, my husband, and my children both,
And you the calendars of their nativity,
Go to a gossip's feast, and go with me;
After so long grief, such nativity!"
And the Duke replies, With all my heart I'll gossip
at this feast."
In the Bachelor's Banquet (1603) we find an allusion
to these feasts: "What cost and trouble will it be to
have all things fine against the Christening Day; what
store of sugar, biscuits, comfets, and caraways, marma-
let, and marchpane, with all kinds of sweet-suckers and
superfluous banqueting stuff, with a hundred other odd
and needless trifles, which at that time must fill the
pockets of dainty dames." It would appear from this
that the women at the feast not only ate what they
pleased, but carried off some of the good things in
A writer in 1666, alluding to this and the falling-off
in the custom of giving presents at christenings, says:-
'Especially since gossips now
Eat more at christenings than bestow.
Formerly when they used to trowl
Gilt bowls of sack, they gave the bowl-
Two spoons at least an use ill kept:
'T is well now if our own be left."
He insinuates that some of the guests were as likely
to steal spoons from the table as to give gilt bowls or
"apostle spoons" to the infant.
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The boy Shakespeare must have often seen this
ceremony of christening. His sister Joan was baptized
when he was five years old; his sister Anna when he
was eight; his brother Richard when he was ten; and
Edmund when he was sixteen.
SUPERSTITIONS CONNECTED WITH BIRTH AND BAPTISM.
In the time of Shakespeare babies were supposed to
be exposed to other risks and dangers than the infantile
disorders to which they are subject. Mary Shake-
speare, as she watched the cradle of the infant William,
may have been troubled by fears and anxieties that
never occur to a fond mother now.
Witches and fairies were supposed to be given to
stealing beautiful and promising children, and substi-
tuting their own ugly and mischievous offspring.
Shakespeare alludes to these changelings," as they
were called, in the Midsummer-NVight's Dream (ii. I.
23), where Puck says that Oberon is angry with Ti-
"Because that she as her attendant hath
A lovely boy, stolen from an Indian king;
She never had so sweet a changeling."
This "changeling boy" is alluded to several times
afterwards in the play.
In the Winter's Tale (iii. 3. 122), when the Shepherd
finds Perdita, he says: "It was told me I should be
rich by the fairies; this is some changeling" ; and the
money left with the infant he believes to be "fairy
gold." As the child is beautiful he does not take it to
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be one of the ugly elves left in exchange for a stolen
babe, but a human changeling which the fairy thieves
have for some reason abandoned. If it were not for
the gold left with it, he might suppose that the stolen
infant had been temporarily hidden there. We have
an allusion to such behavior on the part of the fairies
in Spenser's Faerie Queene (i. 10. 65):-
"For well I wote thou springs from ancient race
Of Saxon kinges, that have with mightie hand,
And many bloody battailes fought in face,
High reard their royall throne in Britans land,
And vanquisht them, unable to withstand:
From thence a Faery thee unweeting reft,
There as thou slepst in tender swadling band,
And her base Elfin brood there for thee left:
Such men do Chaungelings call, so chaung'd by
Thence she thee brought into this Faery lond [land],
And in a heaped furrow did thee hyde;
Where thee a Ploughman all unweeting fond [found],
As he his toylesome teme that way did guyde,
And brought thee up in a ploughmans.state to byde."
In i Henry IV (i. I. 87), the King, contrasting the
gallant Hotspur with his own profligate son, exclaims:
that it could be proved
That some night-tripping fairy had exchang'd
In cradle-clothes our children where they lay,
And called mine Percy, his Plantagenet!
Then would I have his Harry, and he mine."
The belief in the "evil eye" was another supersti-
tion prevalent in Shakespeare's day, as it had been