Beautiful short stories from Shakespeare

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Dr.LeonBurns,New Zealand,Researcher
Published Date:21-07-2017
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TWENTY BEAUTIFUL STORIES FROM SHAKESPEARE A BRIEF LIFE OF SHAKESPEARE IN the register of baptisms of the parish church of Stratford-upon-Avon, a market town in Warwickshire, England, appears, under date of April 26, 1564, the entry of the baptism of William, the son of John Shakspeare. The entry is in Latin— “Gulielmus filius Johannis Shakspeare.” The date of William Shakespeare’s birth has usually been taken as three days before his baptism, but there is certainly no evidence of this fact. The family name was variously spelled, the dramatist himself not always spelling it in the same way. While in the baptismal record the name is spelled “Shakspeare,” in several authentic autographs of the dramatist it reads “Shakspere,” and in the first edition of his works it is printed “Shakespeare.” Halliwell tells us, that there are not less than thirty-four ways in which the various members of the Shakespeare family wrote the name, and in the council-book of the corporation of Stratford, where it is introduced one hundred and sixty-six times during the period that the dramatist’s father was a member of the municipal body, there are fourteen different spellings. The modern “Shakespeare” is not among them. Shakespeare’s father, while an alderman at Stratford, appears to have been unable to write his name, but as at that time nine men out of ten were content to make their mark for a signature, the fact is not specially to his discredit. The traditions and other sources of information about the occupation of Shakespeare’s father differ. He is described as a butcher, a wool- stapler, and a glover, and it is not impossible that he may have been all of these simultaneously or at different times, or that if he could not properly be called any one of them, the nature of his occupation was such as to make it easy to understand how the various traditions sprang up. He was a landed proprietor and cultivator of his own land even before his marriage, and he received with his wife, who was Mary Arden, daughter of a country gentleman, the estate of Asbies, 56 acres in extent. William was the third child. The two older than he were daughters, and both probably died in infancy. After him were born three sons and a daughter. For ten or twelve years at least, after Shakespeare’s birth his father continued to be in easy circumstances. In the year 1568 he was the high bailiff or chief magistrate of Stratford, and for many years afterwards he held the position of alderman as he had done for three years before. To the completion of his tenth year, therefore, it is natural to suppose that William Shakespeare would get the best education that Stratford could afford. The free school of the town was open to all boys, and like all the grammar-schools of that time, was under the direction of men who, as graduates of the universities, were qualified to diffuse that sound scholarship which was once the boast of England. There is no record of Shakespeare’s having been at this school, but there can be no rational doubt that he was educated there. His father could not have procured for him a better education anywhere. To those who have studied Shakespeare’s works without being influenced by the old traditional theory that he had received a very narrow education, they abound with evidences that he must have been solidly grounded in the learning, properly so called, taught in the grammar schools. There are local associations connected with Stratford which could not be without their influence in the formation of young Shakespeare’s mind. Within the range of such a boy’s curiosity were the fine old historic towns of Warwick and Coventry, the sumptuous palace of Kenilworth, the grand monastic remains of Evesham. His own Avon abounded with spots of singular beauty, quiet hamlets, solitary woods. Nor was Stratford shut out from the general world, as many country towns are. It was a great highway, and dealers with every variety of merchandise resorted to its markets. The eyes of the poet dramatist must always have been open for observation. But nothing is known positively of Shakespeare from his birth to his marriage to Anne Hathaway in 1582, and from that date nothing but the birth of three children until we find him an actor in London about 1589. How long acting continued to be Shakespeare’s sole profession we have no means of knowing, but it is in the highest degree probable that very soon after arriving in London he began that work of adaptation by which he is known to have begun his literary career. To improve and alter older plays not up to the standard that was required at the time was a common practice even among the best dramatists of the day, and Shakespeare’s abilities would speedily mark him out as eminently fitted for this kind of work. When the alterations in plays originally composed by other writers became very extensive, the work of adaptation would become in reality a work of creation. And this is exactly what we have examples of in a few of Shakespeare’s early works, which are known to have been founded on older plays. It is unnecessary here to extol the published works of the world’s greatest dramatist. Criticism has been exhausted upon them, and the finest minds of England, Germany, and America have devoted their powers to an elucidation of their worth. Shakespeare died at Stratford on the 23d of April, 1616. His father had died before him, in 1602, and his mother in 1608. His wife survived him till August, 1623. His son Hamnet died in 1596 at the age of eleven years. His two daughters survived him, the eldest of whom, Susanna, had, in 1607, married a physician of Stratford, Dr. Hall. The only issue of this marriage, a daughter named Elizabeth, born in 1608, married first Thomas Nasbe, and afterwards Sir John Barnard, but left no children by either marriage. Shakespeare’s younger daughter, Judith, on the 10th of February, 1616, married a Stratford gentleman named Thomas Quincy, by whom she had three sons, all of whom died, however, without issue. There are thus no direct descendants of Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s fellow-actors, fellow-dramatists, and those who knew him in other ways, agree in expressing not only admiration of his genius, but their respect and love for the man. Ben Jonson said, “I love the man, and do honor his memory, on this side idolatry, as much as any. He was indeed honest, and of an open and free nature.” He was buried on the second day after his death, on the north side of the chancel of Stratford church. Over his grave there is a flat stone with this inscription, said to have been written by himself: Good friend for Jesus sake forbeare To digg the dust encloased heare: Blest be ye man yt spares these stones, And curst be he yt moves my bones. CONTENTS A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM 1 THE TEMPEST 13 AS YOU LIKE IT 23 THE WINTER’S TALE 31 KING LEAR 43 TWELFTH NIGHT 49 MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING 59 ROMEO AND JULIET 75 PERICLES 87 HAMLET 95 CYMBELINE 105 MACBETH 116 THE COMEDY OF ERRORS 128 THE MERCHANT OF VENICE 140 TIMON OF ATHENS 150 OTHELLO 165 THE TAMING OF THE SHREW 179 MEASURE FOR MEASURE 190 TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA 201 ALL’S WELL THAT ENDS WELL 215 PRONOUNCING VOCABULARY OF NAMES 227 QUOTATIONS FROM SHAKESPEARE 230 A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM HERMIA and Lysander were lovers; but Hermia’s father wished her to marry another man, named Demetrius. Now, in Athens, where they lived, there was a wicked law, by which any girl who refused to marry according to her father’s wishes, might be put to death. Hermia’s father was so angry with her for refusing to do as he wished, that he actually brought her before the Duke of Athens to ask that she might be killed, if she still refused to obey him. The Duke gave her four days to think about it, and, at the end of that time, if she still refused to marry Demetrius, she would have to die. Lysander of course was nearly mad with grief, and the best thing to do seemed to him for Hermia to run away to his aunt’s house at a place beyond the reach of that cruel law; and there he would come to her and marry her. But before she started, she told her friend, Helena, what she was going to do. Helena had been Demetrius’ sweetheart long before his marriage with Hermia had been thought of, and being very silly, like all jealous people, she 1 BEAUTIFUL STORIES FROM SHAKESPEARE could not see that it was not poor Hermia’s fault that Demetrius wished to marry her instead of his own lady, Helena. She knew that if she told Demetrius that Hermia was going, as she was, to the wood outside Athens, he would follow her, “and I can follow him, and at least I shall see him,” she said to herself. So she went to him, and betrayed her friend’s secret. Now this wood where Lysander was to meet Hermia, and where the other two had decided to fol- low them, was full of fairies, as most woods are, if one only had the eyes to see them, and in this wood on this night were the King and Queen of the fairies, Oberon and Titania. Now fairies are very wise people, but now and then they can be quite as foolish as mortal folk. Oberon and Titania, who might TITANIA: THE QUEEN OF THE FAIRIES have been as happy 2 A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM as the days were long, had thrown away all their joy in a foolish quarrel. They never met without saying disagreeable things to each other, and scolded each other so dreadfully that all their little fairy followers, for fear, would creep into acorn cups and hide them there. So, instead of keeping one happy Court and dancing all night through in the moonlight as is fairies’ use, the King with his attendants wandered through one part of the wood, while the Queen with hers kept state in another. And the cause of all this trouble was a little Indian boy whom Titania had taken to be one of her followers. Oberon wanted the child to follow him and be one of his fairy knights; but the Queen would not give him up. On this night, in a mossy moonlit glade, the King and Queen of the fairies met. “Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania,” said the King. “What jealous, Oberon?” answered the Queen. “You spoil everything with your quarreling. Come, fairies, let us leave him. I am not friends with him now.” “It rests with you to make up the quarrel,” said the King. “Give me that little Indian boy, and I will again be your humble servant and suitor.” “Set your mind at rest,” said the Queen. “Your whole fairy kingdom buys not that boy from me. Come, fairies.” 3 BEAUTIFUL STORIES FROM SHAKESPEARE And she and her train rode off down the moonbeams. “Well, go your ways,” said Oberon. “But I’ll be even with you before you leave this wood.” Then Oberon called his favorite fairy, Puck. Puck was the spirit of mischief. He used to slip into the dairies and take the cream away, and get into the THE QUARREL churn so that the butter would not come, and turn the beer sour, and lead people out of their way on dark nights and then laugh at them, and tumble people’s stools from under them when they were going to sit down, and upset their hot ale over their chins when they were going to drink. “Now,” said Oberon to this little sprite, “fetch me the flower called Love-in-idleness. The juice of that little purple flower laid on the eyes of those who sleep will make them, when they wake, to love the first thing they see. I will put some of the juice of that flower on my Titania’s eyes, and when she wakes she will love the first thing she sees, were 4 A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM it lion, bear, or wolf, or bull, or meddling monkey, or a busy ape.” HELENA IN THE WOOD While Puck was gone, Demetrius passed through the glade followed by poor Helena, and still she told him how she loved him and reminded him of all his promises, and still he told her that he did 5 BEAUTIFUL STORIES FROM SHAKESPEARE not and could not love her, and that his promises were nothing. Oberon was sorry for poor Helena, and when Puck returned with the flower, he bade him follow Demetrius and put some of the juice on his eyes, so that he might love Helena when he woke and looked on her, as much as she loved him. So Puck set off, and wandering through the wood found, not Demetrius, but Lysander, on whose eyes he put the juice; but when Lysander woke, he saw not his own Hermia, but Helena, who was walking through the wood looking for the cruel Demetrius; and directly he saw her he loved her and left his own lady, under the spell of the purple flower. When Hermia woke she found Lysander gone, and wandered about the wood trying to find him. Puck went back and told Oberon what he had done, and Oberon soon found that he had made a mistake, and set about looking for Demetrius, and having found him, put some of the juice on his eyes. And the first thing Demetrius saw when he woke was also Helena. So now Demetrius and Lysander were both following her through the wood, and it was Hermia’s turn to follow her lover as Helena had done before. The end of it was that Helena and Hermia began to quarrel, and Demetrius and Lysander went off to fight. Oberon was very sorry to see his kind scheme to help these lovers turn out so badly. So he said to Puck— “These two young men are going to fight. You must overhang the night with drooping fog, and lead them so astray, that one will never find the other. When they are tired out, they will fall asleep. 6 A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM Then drop this other herb on Lysander’s eyes. That will give him his old sight and his old love. Then each man will have the lady who loves him, and they will all think that this has been only a Midsummer Night’s Dream. Then when this is done, all will be well with them.” So Puck went and did as he was told, and when the two had fallen asleep without meeting each other, Puck poured the juice on Lysander’s eyes, and said:— “When thou wakest, Thou takest True delight In the sight Of thy former lady’s eye: Jack shall have Jill; Nought shall go ill.” Meanwhile Oberon found Titania asleep on a bank where grew wild thyme, oxlips, and violets, and woodbine, musk-roses and eglantine. There Titania always slept a part of the night, wrapped in the enameled skin of a snake. Oberon stooped over her and laid the juice on her eyes, saying:— “What thou seest when thou wake, Do it for thy true love take.” Now, it happened that when Titania woke the first thing she saw was a stupid clown, one of a party of players who had come out into the wood to 7 BEAUTIFUL STORIES FROM SHAKESPEARE rehearse their play. This clown had met with Puck, who had clapped an ass’s head on his shoulders so that it looked as if it grew there. Directly Titania woke and saw this dreadful monster, she said, “What angel is this? Are you as wise as you are beautiful?” “If I am wise enough to find my way out of this wood, that’s enough for me,” said the foolish clown. TITANIA PLACED UNDER A SPELL “Do not desire to go out of the wood,” said Titania. The spell of the love-juice was on her, and to her the clown seemed the most beautiful and delightful creature on all the earth. “I love you,” she 8 A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM went on. “Come with me, and I will give you fairies to attend on you.” So she called four fairies, whose names were Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth, and Mustardseed. “You must attend this gentleman,” said the Queen. “Feed him with apricots and dewberries, purple grapes, green figs, and mulberries. Steal honey-bags for him from the bumble-bees, and with the wings of painted butterflies fan the moonbeams from his sleeping eyes.” “I will,” said one of the fairies, and all the others said, “I will.” “Now, sit down with me,” said the Queen to the clown, “and let me stroke your dear cheeks, and stick musk-roses in your smooth, sleek head, and kiss your fair large ears, my gentle joy.” “Where’s Peaseblossom?” asked the clown with the ass’s head. He did not care much about TITANIA AWAKES the Queen’s affect- tion, but he was very proud of having fairies to wait on him. “Ready,” said Peaseblossom. 9 BEAUTIFUL STORIES FROM SHAKESPEARE TITANIA AND THE CLOWN 10 A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM “Scratch my head, Peaseblossom,” said the clown. “Where’s Cobweb?” “Ready,” said Cobweb. “Kill me,” said the clown, “the red bumble- bee on the top of the thistle yonder, and bring me the honey-bag. Where’s Mustardseed?” “Ready,” said Mustardseed. “Oh, I want nothing,” said the clown. “Only just help Cobweb to scratch. I must go to the barber’s, for methinks I am marvelous hairy about the face.” “Would you like anything to eat?” said the fairy Queen. “I should like some good dry oats,” said the clown—for his donkey’s head made him desire donkey’s food—“and some hay to follow.” “Shall some of my fairies fetch you new nuts from the squirrel’s house?” asked the Queen. “I’d rather have a handful or two of good dried peas,” said the clown. “But please don’t let any of your people disturb me; I am going to sleep.” Then said the Queen, “And I will wind thee in my arms.” And so when Oberon came along he found his beautiful Queen lavishing kisses and endearments on a clown with a donkey’s head. And before he released her from the enchantment, he persuaded her to give him the little Indian boy he so much desired to have. Then he took pity on her, and threw some juice of the 11 BEAUTIFUL STORIES FROM SHAKESPEARE disenchanting flower on her pretty eyes; and then in a moment she saw plainly the donkey-headed clown she had been loving, and knew how foolish she had been. Oberon took off the ass’s head from the clown, and left him to finish his sleep with his own silly head lying on the thyme and violets. Thus all was made plain and straight again. Oberon and Titania loved each other more than ever. Demetrius thought of no one but Helena, and Helena had never had any thought of anyone but Demetrius. As for Hermia and Lysander, they were as loving a couple as you could meet in a day’s march, even through a fairy wood. So the four mortal lovers went back to Athens and were married; and the fairy King and Queen live happily together in that very wood at this very day. 12 PROSPERO, the Duke of Milan, was a learned and studious man, who lived among his books, leaving the management of his dukedom to his brother Antonio, in whom indeed he had complete trust. But that trust was ill-rewarded, for Antonio wanted to wear the duke’s crown himself, and, to gain his ends, would have killed his brother but for the love the people bore him. However, with the help of Prospero’s great enemy, Alonso, King of Naples, he managed to get into his hands the dukedom with all its honor, power, and riches. For they took Prospero to sea, and when they were far away from land, forced him into a little boat with no tackle, mast, or sail. In their cruelty and hatred they put his little daughter, Miranda (not yet three years old), into the boat with him, and sailed away, leaving them to their fate. But one among the courtiers with Antonio was true to his rightful master, Prospero. To save the duke from his enemies was impossible, but much 13

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