A Life of William Shakespeare

By Joseph Quincy Adams | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXII
TRAGI-COMEDY AND ROMANCE

Coriolanus marks the point where Shakespeare's production of plays begins seriously to diminish. Possibly he no longer worked under the double spur of necessity and ambition, for he was both rich and famous; and he may have desired to spend more leisure with his family in his attractive home at Stratford-on-Avon. But the King's Men had to have a supply of new plays, and for this purpose they began to take on other writers. They had always been ready to purchase good manuscripts from the free-lances -- for example, Wilkins, Day, Rowley, Dekker -- but, like the other city companies, they desired to have also "regular poets," whose industry could be counted upon, and whose plays were available to the public only at one theatre. In 1609 they secured the service of two promising young dramatists, Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher.

Both these men were of aristocratic birth. Beaumont belonged to the younger branch of an ancient titled family; his father was one of the Queen's Justices of the Court of Common Pleas;1 his mother was "connected with several of the most influential noble families of England and Scotland";2 and his two brothers and his uncle were knights. He himself was reared at Grace Dieu, the beautiful country estate of the Beaumonts, was educated at Oxford University, and later entered the

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1
Dyce, Rigg (in D.N.B.), Macaulay (in C.H.E.L.), and other scholars state that he was knighted, and the Inner Temple Records on one occasion gives him the title "Sir." But this seems to be an error. See C. M. Gayley, Beaumont the Dramatist, 1914.
2
Gayley, op. cit., pp. 16-17, 421.

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