2
MOTHER, OF THE CHILD

At first the infant, Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.

( Jaques, As You Like It)


Mary Shakespeare at Henley Street

When her first son was born, Mary Shakespeare's town lay in the path of the worst plague since the Black Death. Yet the town's corporate council had been warned about the contagion, and for years the aldermen and chief burgesses had been trying to keep the streets clean. As early as April 1552 John Shakespeare had paid a small fine for keeping an unauthorized muck-heap (or sterquinarium) on Henley Street. At the town's northern end, this was an old, built-up street, traversed by horsemen riding through on the way up to Henley-in- Arden. Wagons drawn by oxen bumped over a cross-gutter in front of Gilbert Bradley's house, a few doors to the cast of his fellow glover John Shakespeare. Once, in 1560, nearly every tenant had to pay for pavings broken by the damaging wagons. 'All the tenauntes in Henley street from ye cros gutter befor bradleys doore', it was stated, were to blame, as many of 'the pavementes are broken befor ther doores & for not mendynge of them they stand amerced'. 1 A street also had to be kept clear, and Robert Rogers and others paid for leaving carts at their doors.

Wagons and pack-horses were less likely to use the parallel way known as the Gild Pits, or royal highway, since it was rutty. Crossing Clopton's bridge, a traveller would be led by a walled causeway into Bridge Street, and on past two inns showing the Bear and the Swan. This was a major market area, divided in the centre by a row of houses

-11-

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Shakespeare: A Life
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Illustrations vii
  • Introduction ix
  • A Note on Conventions Used in the Text xvi
  • I - A Stratford Youth 1
  • 1 - Birth 3
  • 2 - Mother, of the Child 11
  • 3 - John Shakespeares Fortunes 25
  • 4 - To Grammar School 43
  • 5 - Opportunity and Need 60
  • 6 - Love and Early Marriage 72
  • II - Actor and Poet of the London Stage 93
  • 7 - To London-- and the Amphitheatre Players 95
  • 8 - Attitudes 120
  • 9 - The City in September 145
  • 10 - A Patron, Poems, and Company Work 169
  • 11 - A Servant of the Lord Chamberlain 196
  • 12 - New Place and the Country 225
  • III - The Maturity of Genius 249
  • 13 - South of Julius Caesar's Tower 251
  • 14 - Hamlet's Questions 274
  • 15 - The King's Servants 295
  • 16 - The Tragic Sublime 318
  • IV - The Last Phase 351
  • 17 - Tales and Tempests 353
  • 18 - A Gentleman's Choices 382
  • The Arden and Shakespeare Families 412
  • A Note on the Shakespeare Biographical Tradition and Sources for His Life 415
  • Notes 425
  • Index 451
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