If Shakespeare had owned a dog--but we need not go into that: we know he would have mentioned it in his will. If a good dog, Susanna would have got it; if an inferior one his wife would have got a dower interest in it. I wish he had had a dog, just so we could see how painstakingly he would have divided that dog among the family, in his careful business way.
He signed the will in three places.
In earlier years he signed two other official documents.
These five signatures still exist.
There are NO OTHER SPECIMENS OF HIS PENMANSHIP IN EXISTENCE. Not a line.
Was he prejudiced against the art? His granddaughter, whom he loved, was eight years old when he died, yet she had had no teaching, he left no provision for her education although he was rich, and in her mature womanhood she couldn't write and couldn't tell her husband's manuscript from anybody else's--she thought it was Shakespeare's.
When Shakespeare died in Stratford IT WAS NOT AN EVENT. It made no more stir in England than the death of any other forgotten theatre- actor would have made. Nobody came down from London; there were no lamenting poems, no eulogies, no national tears--there was merely silence, and nothing more. A striking contrast with what happened when Ben Jonson, and Francis Bacon, and Spenser, and Raleigh and the other distinguished literary folk of Shakespeare's time passed from life! No praiseful voice was lifted for the lost Bard of Avon; even Ben Jonson waited seven years before he lifted his.
SO FAR AS ANYBODY ACTUALLY KNOWS AND CAN PROVE, Shakespeare of Stratford-on-Avon never wrote a play in his life.
SO FAR AS ANYBODY KNOWS AND CAN PROVE, he never wrote a letter to anybody in his life.
SO FAR AS ANY ONE KNOWS, HE RECEIVED ONLY ONE LETTER DURING HIS LIFE.
So far as any one KNOWS AND CAN PROVE, Shakespeare of Stratford wrote only one poem during his life. This one is authentic. He did write that one--a fact which stands undisputed; he wrote the whole of it; he wrote the whole of it out of his own head. He commanded that this work of art be engraved upon his tomb, and he was obeyed. There it abides to this day. This is it:
Good friend for Iesus sake forbeare To digg the dust encloased heare: Blest be ye man yt spares thes stones And curst be he yt moves my bones.
In the list as above set down, will be found EVERY POSITIVELY KNOWN fact of Shakespeare's life, lean and meagre as the invoice is. Beyond these details we know NOT A THING about him. All the rest of his vast history, as furnished by the biographers, is built up, course upon course, of guesses, inferences, theories, conjectures-- an Eiffel Tower of artificialities rising sky-high from a very flat and very thin foundation of inconsequential facts.
The historians "suppose" that Shakespeare attended the Free School in Stratford from the time he was seven years old till he was thirteen. There is no EVIDENCE in existence that he ever went to school at all.
The historians "infer" that he got his Latin in that school--the school which they "suppose" he attended.
They "suppose" his father's declining fortunes made it necessary for him to leave the school they supposed he attended, and get to work and help support his parents and their ten children. But there is no evidence that he ever entered or retired from the school they suppose he attended.
They "suppose" he assisted his father in the butchering business; and that, being only a boy, he didn't have to do full-grown butchering, but only slaughtered calves. Also, that whenever he killed a calf he made a high-flown speech over it. This supposition rests upon the testimony of a man who wasn't there at the time; a man who got it from a man who could have been there, but did not say whether he was or not; and neither of them thought to mention it for decades, and decades, and decades, and two more decades after Shakespeare's death (until old age and mental decay had refreshed and vivified their memories).