My Little Green Shakespeare

I have this great little volume of Shakespeare that I got for six bucks years ago, volume 12 of a set of The Works of Shakespeare, edited by Israel Gollancz, published in London by J. M. Dent & Co. in 1900. This volume includes Annals of the Life of Shakespeare, the King’s License to Shakespeare to hold plays, Shakespeare’s Will, Venus and Adonis, The Rape of Lucrece, A Lover’s Complaint, The Phoenix and Turtle, a Glossary to the foregoing works, a Preface to the Sonnets, the Sonnets themselves (the reason I bought this lovely little volume), and a separate Glossary for the Sonnets. A small note at the beginning of the volume indicates that it uses the Cambridge text, with annotations indicating the differences in the then-contemporary Temple Shakespeare. When I first bought this volume, most of the pages were uncut! I now wish I’d bought the remaining volumes that were available, even though the set was incomplete. The paper is very thick, with a heavy rag content, and the printing is two color (red and black). You can see and feel the imprint of the type in every page. There are numerous illustrations in the Annals, and frontispiece plate of an engraving by T. Trotter of the Felton Portrait. There is a red silk register (bound-in bookmark), and the cover is olive green buckram with gilt imprint, and the upper edge of the pages are also gilt. It’s small, too, which was another reason I picked it up, roughly the size of a common paperback (about 5.25 x 7.5 x 1.25 in, 14 x 19 x 3 cm).

Though I do love My Little Green Shakespeare, my “reading Shakespeare” is now a set that a friend recommended to me, The World of Shakespeare, published by Penguin Books using the Pelican Shakespeare text edited by Stephen Orgel and A. R. Braunmuller, a set of 38 small hardbacks that I picked up on sale for just under $60! Unfrortunately the set is now more than four times as expensive, so my recommendation is not as ecstatic. These are nice little hardcovers, mostly one play per volume, a volume for the Sonnets, and some doubling up. They’re very nicely made, and it’s nice to have something small for a vade mecum Shakespeare. Each volume is smallish (about 5.75 x 8.5 x .5 in. or 14 x 21.5 x 1.5), hardcover, blue cloth with silver imprint, each with a blue satin register, and the paper is matte, but thick, and the type is Garamond, one of my favorites. (See the pictures at Amazon.) They’re quite nice. But, in the end they’re not as nice as My Little Green Shakespeare!

Anyhow, the following is from the Annals of the Life of Shakespeare in My Little Green Shakespeare, author unknown, though perhaps Mr Israel Gollancz, dating to 1900 or before. It is the entry for 1613.

1613. On February 4 Shakespeare’s third brother Richard was buried in the parish church, Stratford-upon-Avon. Soon afterwards Shakespeare was in London, and purchased a house, as an investment, in Blackfriars. The purchase-deed, dated March 10, with the poet’s signature, is preserved in the Guildhall Library, London. Next day a mortgage-deed relating to the purchase was signed : this is also extant, and is now in the British Museum.

To this year, July 15, belongs an entry by the Registrar of the Ecclesiastical Court of Worcester, concering an action for slander brought by Shakespeare’s eldest daughter, Susanna Hall, against a person of the name of Lane. Robert Whatcott, Shakespeare’s friend, was the chief witness on behalf of the plaintiff, whose character was vindicated, and the defendant who did not appear in court was excommunicated.

The Tempest, one of a series of nineteen plays, was performed at the festivities in celebration of the marriage of Princess Elizabeth with the Elector Frederick.

Besides The Tempest, six more of Shakespeare’s plays were produced on this occasion:—Much Ado, Tempest, Winter’s Tale, Sir John Falstaff, (i.e., Merry Wives), Othello, Julius Caesar, and Hotspur (probably I Henry IV).

In the same list occurs the lost play of cardenno or cardenna, which on September 9, 1653, was entered on the “Stationers’ Registers” as “by Fletcher and Shakespeare,” but was never published.

On June 29th of this year the Globe Theater was burned down during the performance of a play on the subject of Henry VIII (cp. Preface).

A Sonnet upon the pitiful burning of the Globe playhouse in London” was composed by one who was well acquainted with the details of the fire:—

“Now sit ye down, Melpomene,
Wrapt in a sea-cole robe,
And tell the doleful tragedy,
That late was played at Globe ;
For no man that can sing and say
Was sacred on St. Peter’s daye.
     Oh sorrow, pitiful sorrow, and yet all this is true.

     .     .     .

Out run the knights, out run the lords,
And there was great ado ;
Some lost their hats and some their swords,
E’en out-run Burbidge too ;
The reprobates though drunk on Monday,
Prayed for the fool and Henry Condye.
     Oh sorrow, pitiful sorrow, and yet all this is true.

The perriwigs and drum-heads fry,
Like to a butter firkin,
A woeful burning did betide
To many a good buff jerkin.
Then with swoll’n eyes, like drunken Flemminges,
Distressed stood old stuttering Hemminges.
     Oh sorrow, pitiful sorrow, and yet all this is true.

I’ll leave you with (rather than the above dreck) my favorite of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, the one hundred and ninth:

O, never say that I was false of heart,
Though absence seem’d my flame to qualify.
As easy might I from myself depart
As from my soul, which in thy breast doth lie :
That is my home of love : if I have ranged,
Like him that travels, I return again ;
Just to the time, not with the time exchanged,
So that myself bring water for my stain.
Never believe, though in my nature reign’d
All frailties that besiege all kinds of blood,
That it could so preposterously be stain’d,
To leave for nothing all thy sum of good ;
     For nothing this wide universe I call,
     Save thou, my rose; in it thou art my all.

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