« PreviousContinue »
he was nineteen, Anne Hathaway, a yeoman's daughter, eight years older than himself, by whom he had two daughters and one son; and who survived him seven years; dying in 1623, at the age of sixty-seven. In that same year appeared the first edition of his collected plays, thirty-six in number, which are generally allowed to be genuine; though not more than fourteen (or sixteen, including Titus Andronicus and Pericles Prince of Tyre) had been published in his lifetime. And there seems no reason to doubt that a great portion of what he wrote was composed, if not under the actual pressure of want, yet in a condition of life very unfavourable to carefulness and maturity of composition.
Whatever blemishes there may have been in the character of the first Scottish sovereign who sat upon the throne of England, it is only just to bear in mind that we owe to him, under the good Providence of God, that inestimable work, the translation of the Bible which we all use; and moreover that to him we owe also the satisfaction which we must all feel when we learn that the best of uninspired writers was not without royal encouragement. Detract what we may from the merit of King James, on the score of pedantry, or of disingenuousness, the facts will remain, which, considering the subject I have now in hand, I rejoice to mention in his praise, and to interweave, as among the
brightest ornaments of his crown—that he wrote to William Shakspeare a letter of commendation with his own hand, * and that he gave 'special command' for the publication of the Scriptures in the revised and improved form, which Shakspeare and his contemporaries were the first to read.
Our great poet, then, and our translators of the Bible lived and flourished at the same time, and under the same reign. This is an interesting fact in the enquiry upon which we are about to enter, and suggests the propriety of dividing it into two parts. That is, we may not only seek to illustrate the subject matter of the Bible by comparison with passages in Shakspeare which prove his knowledge and study of the Scriptures; but we may also explain the sacred text by parallels which Shakspeare will afford us of the use of words and phrases commonly current at that time, but which have since undergone a change of meaning or become altogether obsolete. And
this branch of the subject it will be natural to enter first.
See Variorum Shakspeare, vol. i. p. 467, and vol. ii. p. 481. Our poet also received marks of favour from Queen Elizabeth. See Drake's Shakspeare and his Times, vol. ii. p. 590. Dyce's Life, P: 78.
Of noticeable Forms of Speech found in the English Bible
and in Shakspeare.
N order to deal fairly with this former part
of our investigation, it is necessary to
remark, in the first instance, that, while the whole contents and general language of the Bible would be known to our poet from translations previously in use, in regard to particular words and modes of speech, it is probable that our translators of 1611 owed to Shakspeare as much as, or rather far more than, he owed to them. According to the chronological order of our poet's plays, as determined by Mr. Malone, only two of them were written after 1611 ; all the rest having been composed in the interval between that year and 1591. And the Bibles most commonly used during that period were either Parker's, called also the Bishops' Bible, of 1568, required to be read in churches; or various reprints of the Genevan Bible of 1560, with short marginal notes, and much used in private families (a translation which was due in part to John Knox,