This article, translated by Melville B. Anderson, was first published in English in William Shakespeare. Victor Hugo. Chicago: A.C. McClurg and Co., 1886. p. 9-10.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE was born at Stratford-on-Avon, in a house under the tiles of which was concealed a confession of the Catholic faith beginning with these words, "I, John Shakespeare." John was the father of William. The house, situated in Henley Street, was humble; the chamber in which Shakespeare came into the world, wretched: the walls were whitewashed, the black rafters laid crosswise; at the farther end was a tolerably large window with two small panes, where you may read today, among other names, that of Walter Scott. This poor dwelling sheltered a decayed family. The father of William Shakespeare had been an alderman; his grandfather had been a bailiff. Shakespeare signifies "shake-spear;" the family had for a coat-of-arms an arm holding a spear,--allusive arms, confirmed, they say, by Queen Elizabeth in 1595, and visible, at the time we write, on Shakespeare's tomb in the church of Stratford-on-Avon. [1] There is little agreement about the orthography of the word Shakespeare as a family name; it is written variously,--Shakspere, Shakespere, Shakespeare, Shakspeare: in the eighteenth century it was habitually written Shakespeare. The present translator [2] has adopted the spelling "Shakespeare" as the only true one, and gives for it unanswerable reasons.

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1 An application for a grant of coat-armor to his father was made in 1596, and another in 1599; but the matter seems to have gone no farther than the drafting of designs by the heralds. The poet's relatives, however, at a later date assumed his right to the coat suggested by his father in 1596. The obvious pun upon the name was not overlooked either by eulogists or by defamers. For example, an ancient epigram reads: "Thou hast so used thy Pen (or shook thy Speare), That Poets startle, nor thy wit come near."

2 That is, the translator of Shakespeare's works.

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