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1583 their first child Susanna was born, followed in February 1585 by the twins Hamnet and Judith, and early next year the poet in all likelihood withdrew from Stratford. That he was com
pelled to leave his native town in consequence of his share in a poaching raid over the estates of Sir Thomas Lucy of Charlecote, is proved a myth by the fact that the Charlecote deer forest was not in existence at the time. Certainly Sir Thomas Lucy was an extensive game-preserver, and, as Lee says, "owned at Charlecote a warren in which a few harts may have found a home, but there
was no deer forest the e." The tradition goes on to say that Lucy, having prosecuted and punished Shakespeare, the latter retaliated in a satire so bitter in tone that the local magnate's wrath was increased to such a degree against its author, that the latter judged it expedient to withdraw from the district for a time. Whether due to this cause, or to the increasing expenses of a young family, towards the support of which he could contribute but little, or to his conviction that continued association with his wife was impossible under existing conditions, certain it is that by 1586 they were living apart, and the poet was either in London or directing his steps thither.
His First Position in London.-Tradition reports many tales, obviously fictions, as to his employment during the six years between 1586 and 1592. By one narrator he is said to have been a schoolmaster, by another a soldier in the Low Countries, by a third a vintner's drawer, by a fourth a holder of horses in front of the theatres, and so forth. The most probable of all such tales is that which states that he had been recommended to the players by some of those Stratford friends they had made during their visits there, and that he was employed as prompter's assistant or "call-boy" at Burbage's playhouse, "The Theatre."
The Lot of the Elizabethan Player.-If Shakespeare arrived in London in 1586, he would find two theatres in existence, viz., “THE THEATRE," erected in 1576 in Shoreditch by James Burbage, father of the great tragic actor, and "THE CURTAIN," built about the same time as the other in Moorfields. Both were without the City boundaries, as the Corporation of London would not permit playhouses within the municipality. To the former of these Shakespeare became attached, and in the company he then joined the Earl of Leicester's-he remained until he quitted the stage. Actors in those days were all obliged to shelter themselves under the name of some leading personage. By an Act of Parliament passed in 1571 (14 Eliz., Cap. 2), they were enjoined, if they would escape being treated as rogues and vagabonds, to procure a license to pursue their calling from the monarch, from a peer of the realm, or from some high official of the Court. Both Elizabeth and the leading nobles of the time, however, were so liberal in granting permits that no player of any standing had difficulty in procuring the license which gave him a social status. There were at least six companies of adult actors playing at this time, and owning the licenses respectively of the Earls of Leicester, Oxford, Sussex and Worcester, the Lord Admiral (Charles Lord Howard), while one of them held the permit of the Queen, and was called the "Queen's Servants" or company of players. In addition, there were three companies of licensed boy-actors, formed from the choristers of St Paul's and the Chapel Royal, also from Westminster School. Between the adult and the boy-players intense rivalry existed, and the dramatists took sides in the dispute. For instance, the most of Lyly's plays are stated on the title-pages
to have been produced by "Her Majesty's Children and the Children of Paul's."
The Company to which Shakespeare belonged.Shakespeare's company was, as we have seen, licensed by the Earl of Leicester. On the death of the latter, Lord Strange (afterwards Earl of Derby) issued their licenses, and when he died in 1594 the first and second Lords Hunsdon-both of whom successively held the office of Lord Chamberlain-took the company under their protection. After the accession of James I. to the throne of England, he became their patron, and they were henceforth called "The King's Players."
Shakespeare's Work in connection with the Theatre. Subordinate though the position might be in which. Shakespeare commenced his dramatic career, his surpassing genius would not be long in asserting itself and raising him rapidly up the successive rungs in the social as well as the dramatic ladder. As an actor, his success was said to have been only mediocre, but that estimate was a comparative one, based on the high standard of Burbage and Alleyn, and influenced moreover by the splendour of Shakespeare's own success in dramatic composition. Contemporary report passed this criticism upon his playing, that he performed parts of a regal and dignified character with a majestic impressiveness that was most effective.
From Editor to Dramatist. But it was as an adapter and reviser of other men's plays to meet contemporary tastes and circumstances that Shakespeare proved of such signal service to his company, and almost imperceptibly he passed from redactor or editor into dramatist. His life henceforward, as far as its facts have reached us to-day, was really summed up in the production of the successive dramas in the great Shakespearian cycle. There is little else to chronicle from 1592, when the first undeniable contemporary references to him occur, to the time of his death in 1616. Of his career independent of his plays, suffice to say that he appeared along with his company before the Queen at Greenwich in 1594, his name being mentioned second on the list. In 1596, on the death of his son Hamnet, he probably visited Stratford, and afforded material assistance to his old father, for henceforth John
Shakespeare's monetary troubles come to an end, and he even applied to the College of Heralds for a "Coat of Arms." The application was not successful until 1599, but there can be little doubt that both the proposal and the suggestion as to device and motto proceeded from the poet.
Shakespeare purchases "New Place" and adjoining Lands-In the following year renewed evidences of prosperity were furnished. Shakespeare purchased New Place, the largest house in Stratford, which, after having repaired and otherwise improved it, he let for a term of years. A few years later he purchased from his neighbours, the Combes, on two several occasions, property to the extent of 127 acres of pasture and arable land adjoining the house.
Becomes a Shareholder in the "Globe." In 1599 Richard and Cuthbert Burbage, having built the "Globe Theatre" on the Bankside, in part at least from the materials of the old "Theatre,' leased out for a term of twenty-one years, shares in the revenue accruing from the new house, "to those deserving men, Shakespeare, Hemings, Condell, Phillips A and others." The shares were sixteen in number, and
of these Shakespeare probably held two. They of course entailed responsibility for providing a share of the current working expenses of the theatre.
Shakespeare at the Zenith of his Powers and Fame.-John Shakespeare died in 1601, and William, as the eldest son, inherited the two houses in Henley Street, the only portion of the property of the elder Shakespeare or his wife, as Mr Sydney Lee points out, which had not been alienated to creditors.