Background to Shakespeare by M. M. Badawi (auth.)

By M. M. Badawi (auth.)

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An esquire would have added to his name the word esquire or gentleman. During the Elizabethan age, according to the English social historian G. M. Trevelyan, the esquire became 'the principal figure in the life of the countryside' (G. M. , London, 1942). The country 'gentlemen' had acquired much wealth by buying from the Crown much land that had once belonged to the monasteries and now that the feudal lords and the abbots of monasteries had gone the importance of the esquires increased considerably.

Nor are we surprised to find him, after those full and exhausting years, retiring to his native town ata relatively young age, when he seemed to be still at the height of his creative power. Shakespeare rose to prosperity rapidly. In 1595 he became a sharer in the company of The Lord Chamberlain's Men. He and others were paid on behalf of their company for dramatic performances given at court in the winter of the preceding year. Under Queen Elizabeth his company was most favoured at court, and when King James succeeded to the throne it was singled out for the honour of the name The King's Men.

In the chapel was excellent music; as soon as it and the service were over, which scarcely exceeded half-an-hour, the Queen returned in the same state and order, and prepared to go to dinner. (See J. D. Wilson, Life in Slwkespeare's England, pp. ) Shakespeare, it is true, may not have been acquainted with the intricate and complicated details oflife at the court, but he must have seen something of this porn p and ceremony, at least when he acted before the Queen at Greenwich in 1594. Besides, court masques, especially during the reign of James I, were very frequent and any Londoner could see the breath-takingly colourful processions of masquers in the streets of the capital on their way to the royal palace.

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