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106

SCENE IN THE PLAY-HOUSE.

play was over. Placards had already told the public what was to be the performance of the day. The audience consisted of two classes; the groundlings, or lower orders, who paid a trifle for admission to the pit; and the gallants, who paid sixpence apiece for stools upon the rush-strewn stage, where they sat in two rows smoking, and showing off their ruffs and doublets, while the actors played between them. The circle of the pit resounded with oaths and quarrelling, mingled with the clatter of ale pots and the noise of card-playing. Nor did the occupants of the full-dress stools show better breeding than the unwashed groundlings. Noise, tobacco smoke, and the heavy fumes of ale, formed the main parts of the atmosphere, in which our noblest plays were ushered into fame. When the trumpets had sounded, a figure in a long black velvet cloak came forward to recite the prologue. Then the play began; and, if its early scenes did not suit the taste of the audience, a storm of noises arose; hisses, yells, cat-calls, cockcrowing, whistling drowned the actors' voices, and stopped the progress of the play. In short, Elizabeth's loyal subjects used or abused their lungs just as vigorously as those of Queen Victoria can do in Parliament, and out of it as well. The actors-attired in the costume of their own day-played in masks and wigs; and the female parts—the Violas, the Portias, the Rosalinds—were filled by boys, or smooth-faced young men, in women's dress. All was over by three or four o'clock, and then the audience went home to an early supper.

The players—of whom Shakspere was one --held no very exalted place in the society of the day. The very familiar way in which their Christian names have come down to us—as Will and Ben-shows that they were lightly esteemed by the courtiers and nobles ; looked upon, if not exactly as menial servants in livery, yet as something not far above the jester who shook his cap and bells at the supper tables of the great. They were formed into companies generally under the patronage of some nobleman, at whose parties they acted in presence of the guests. Neither their acting nor their play-writing—they nearly all held the dramatist's pen-did so much for the more prosperous players as

HOW SHAKSPERE GREW RICH.

107

their shares in the Globe, or some other of the London theatres. The sum which managers paid before 1600 for a new play, never exceeded £8 or £10; when, a little later, the number of theatres increased, the price rose to £20 or £25, and the receipts of the second day became the author's perquisite. A few stray shillings might be also made by writing prologues to new pieces. It was the pennies of the groundlings, and the sixpences of the gallants, not the sale of his splendid dramas, that enabled Shakspere to buy his house at Stratford, and retire a rich man to die in his native town. Many a university man, however, like Jonson and Chapman, earned his manchets and his sack, his steaks and ale, by acting and writing for the stage. The two occupations were nearly always united ; and the wiser brethren of the buskin and the sock added, as Shakspere did, a third and more fruitful source of income, by investing their early gains in theatre shares. Shakspere acted at the Globe, wrote for the Globe, and pocketed so much of the money taken at the doors of the Globe. A sensible and prudent man was this glorious dramatist, utterly unsympathizing with the ridiculous notion, bardly yet extinct, that a real poet must of necessity be a reckless, improvident fool.

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ROGER ASCHAM, an eminent teacher as well as a great writer, has thus won double fame as a man of letters. He acted as classical tutor to Queen Elizabeth, whose fondness for him was very great; and he left behind him two works, which rank high among our English classics.

At Kirby Wiske, near Northallerton in Yorkshire, he was born in 1515, the son of an honest yeoman who acted as steward to the Scroopes. A certain Sir Anthony Wingfield, noticing the studious boy, took him among his own sons, gave him a good education, and in 1530 sent him to St. John's at Cambridge. To the study of Greek—which was just then taking root in our universities—the

young student applied himself with such ardour, that he was soon qualified to read Greek lectures to his younger associates. In 1534 he took B.A., and M.A. in 1536. And then he entered on the life of a teacher, for which he was remarkably well qualified. When Cheke resigned in 1544, he was chosen to fill the honourable office of University Orator. One year later, his first great book, T'oxophilus, was published.

This work won for him the kind wishes and cordial sup1545 port of troops of friends, besides the notice of King

Henry, who granted the writer a pension of £10 a

year. Ascham was shortly afterwards chosen to act as private tutor to the Princess Elizabeth. It was a fortunate choice for both the royal girl and the Cambridge man. Fortunate for her, because

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her fine intellect was intrusted to the culture of one who knew his profession and loved it well; fortunate for him, because during two happy years (1548–50) he enjoyed the delight of teaching one who loved to learn, and in after days he found, in his submissive and hard-working pupil, a royal mistress, who loved and honoured her Greek master to the last.

The last three years of King Edward's reign (1550-53) Ascham spent in Germany, acting as secretary to Sir Richard Morysine, who was English ambassador at the Imperial Court.

His experiences of German life are embodied in a work on that country and court. During these three years of absence his friends at home were endeavouring to do him good. His pension, which had ceased at the death of Henry VIII., was restored, and he received in addition the important office of Latin Secretary to the king.

Upon the accession of Queen Mary a cloud seemed to hang over the fortunes of the scholar, who was a keen Protestant. But the shadows passed. Bishop Gardiner was induced to look kindly on him, and on the strength of his book " Toxophilus," his pension was doubled, and his appointment as Latin Secretary was renewed. Nor was his college standing altered, for he still held his fellowship, and still wore the honours of Public Orator.

Under the sceptre of Elizabeth his life was a smooth and quiet stream. Bụt it was fast gliding to its rest. Her majesty read Greek and Latin with her honoured tutor for some hours almost every morning, and in the evening they often played at tables or shovel-board together. At last the studies, that he loved so well, proved too much for the scholar's weakened frame. A feverishness, which prevented him from afternoon study and broke his night's rest, had long hung about him. Anxious to finish by New Year's day 1569 a poem, which he was writing in honour of his royal pupil, he began to work at night. Ague seized him, and in a week laid him on his death-bed (December 30,1568). So old Roger Ascham died, as many of his life's best hours had been spent, in the service of his pupil-queen. When she heard that the kind heart was still in death, whose warmest pulses had throbbed for

110

WORKS OF ROGER ASOHAM.

her, she cried out, “I would rather have thrown ten thousand pounds into the sea than have lost

my

Ascham.” The titles of Ascham's three chief books are here given in full, as a specimen of the way in which the writers of this time named their works. We have, 1. “Toxophilus, the Schole or Partitions of Shootinge, contayned in II. Bookes. Written by Roger Ascham, 1544, and now newly perused. Pleasaunt for all Gentlemen and Yeomen of Englande, for theyr pastime to reade, and profitable for theyr use to followe both in Warre and Peace.” 2. "A Report and Discourse, written by Roger Ascham, of the Affaires and State of Germany, and of the Emperor Charles his Court, during certain years while the sayd Roger was there." 3. “ The ScholeMaster; or Plain and Perfite Way of teaching Children to Understand, Write, and Speake the Latin Tongue, but specially purposed for the private bringing up of Youth in Jentlemen and Noblemen's Houses."

The Toxophilus is, in many things, a sensible and pleasant book on archery, cast into the form of a dialogue, between a lover of study (Philologus), and a lover of archery (Toxophilus). But, while it very properly insists on the use of out-door recreation to the studious man, it gives an undue prominence to the pastime whose name it bears, and needlessly undervalues some fine old English athletic sports. The language of the book-in the preface he half apologizes for not writing it in Latin-is good honest English prose, pretending to no great elegance, but full of idiomatic strength.

Ascham’s greatest work is The Schoolmaster, which was not published until after the author's death. It is noted as being the first important work on Education in our literature. The idea of the book sprang from a discussion at Cecil's dinner-table at Windsor. Some of the Eton boys having run away from school to escape a flogging, the conversation turned upon this bit of local news; and Ascham spoke out his mind. On the encouragement of Sackville, who sat by, he committed his thoughts to paper, and so the book began. The first section of the work condemns severity in the treatment of the young, while the second develops a new way of

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