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especially in his later years, was in conformity with the confession of his death as exhibited in his will ; * unless indeed we are to admit two of his sonnets as evidence against himself, which if they prove him at one time to have yielded to the temptations with which he was beset, prove him also to have possessed afterwards the spirit of a true penitent. Of his personal history, all that is now known may be soon told. He was born in the year 1564, at Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, the eldest son of eight children, his father being a glover of that town; and he died at his native place (whither he had retired in comfortable circumstances some years before) in 1616, when he was only in his fifty-third year. He married very young, before he was nineteen, a lady of the name of Hathaway, 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
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 had been published in his lifetime, including Titus Andronicus and Pericles, Prince of Tyre. 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
* On the contrary, see two other contemporaneous testimonies to his honest 'character in Malone's Life, p. 280, sq., and p. 284.
of life very unfavorable 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 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,t 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
* First published in 1611.
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 explain the language also by parallels which Shakspeare will afford us of the use of words and phrases (not indeed necessarily derived from the Bible, only or chiefly, but commonly current at that time) which have since undergone a change of meaning or become altogether obsolete. And upon this branch of the subject it will be natural to enter first.