A Life of William Shakespeare

By Joseph Quincy Adams | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XXIV
RETIREMENT TO STRATFORD

HAVING now definitely given up not only acting but also the composition of plays, Shakespeare retired to Stratford, and spent his remaining years in the quiet life of that obscure village. No doubt he made frequent visits to the city to look after his interests there, to meet his old comrades at the theatre, and to renew for a time the more stirring existence he had formerly led. But his London career was run. Possibly, as has already been suggested, he was not a well man; for, though we can readily understand why he might desire relief from the arduous duties of acting, we cannot believe that he would have given up the writing of poetry -- "what I most enjoy," he seems to say in his Sonnets -- before he had passed the forties, had not the condition of his health rendered it imperative. It may be significant that when he came to London in November, 1614, he was accompanied by the physician John Hall. The age at which he died, and the circumstances which provoked his final illness, suggest that he might have been suffering from Bright's disease, or at least from some chronic trouble which gradually sapped his strength.

Yet in his withdrawal from "the brave world" of London and the Court, in which he had long played such a conspicuous rôle, life still held for him reasonable happiness. Rowe puts it thus: "The latter part of his life was spent, as all men of good sense will wish theirs may be, in ease, retirement, and the conversation of friends." In his beautiful home of New Place, surrounded by his family and his early friends, gossiping with the neighbors,

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