CHAPTER II
London Apprenticeship

HAVING REACHED THE threshold of the theatrical world, how did Shakespeare step across it? Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century memorialists, anxious to emphasize the poet's genius by dwelling on his humble origins, assured their readers that he had first entered the playhouse 'in a very mean rank',1 perhaps as a 'servitor' working in the theatre itself, even--Sir William Davenant's tale--as the attendant who held gentlemen's horses outside the doors of the Theatre or the Curtain, a calling he exercised with such 'dexterity and care' that he is said to have attracted 'a good deal of business . . .'2 These stories may well be romantic fiction; all that we know of Shakespeare's professional beginnings is that by 1592 he had acquired sufficient fame to arouse the antagonism of an unhappy fellow author; and that, probably about the same period, he joined the company known as 'Strange's Men', which in 1594 was re-named 'the Chamberlains', when Lord Strange (later Earl of Derby) died and the players, needing a new protector, sought the interest of the Lord Chamberlain, Henry Lord Hunsdon, a cultured and tolerant official, whose son inherited his post and continued to protect the company.3 Shakespeare may have gained some previous experience working with the Queen's Men, and under their aegis both glimpsed the Court--in three seasons they entertained the Queen and her courtiers on no less than nine occasions--and travelled to and fro around the kingdom,

____________________
1
Nicholas Rowe: Life of Shakespeare, 1709.
2
Manuscript note, citing Davenant's authority, 1748.
3
George Lord Hunsdon, who succeeded his father in 1596, was himself appointed Lord Chamberlain in 1597.

-41-

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Shakespeare: A Biography
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Preface xiii
  • Chapter I - Childhood and Youth 17
  • Chapter II - London Apprenticeship 41
  • Chapter III - The Climate of the Age 66
  • Chapter IV - Early Poems 95
  • Chapter V - 'His Sugared Sonnets' 120
  • Chapter VI - Romeo and Juliet 141
  • Chapter VII - Romantic Comedies 166
  • Chapter VIII - Historical Drama 196
  • Chapter X - A New Reign 252
  • Chapter XI - Othello and Antony 274
  • Chapter XII - 'Unaccommodated Man' 298
  • Bibliography 335
  • Index 339
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