A Day with William Shakespeare

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"Breakfast, in 1599, was a rite "more honoured in the breach than in the observance." Most people, having supped with exceeding heartiness the previous night, ignored breakfast altogether: especially as dinner would occur some time between 10 and 12 a.m. Those who could not go long without food had no idea of a regular sit-down meal during that precious morning hour which "has a piece of gold in its mouth." They contented themselves with beaten-up eggs in muscadel wine, as now the Mountjoy family; who, being of French origin, boggled somewhat at the only alternative—a very English one—small ale and bread-and-butter. To these good folk, standing up and swallowing their morning draught, entered their well-to-do lodger, Mr. William Shakespeare, up betimes like them—for he was a very busy person,—and shared their jug of eggs and muscadel. Mr. Shakespeare was thirty-five years of age, "a handsome, well-shap't man," in the words of his friend Aubrey,—his eyes light hazel, his hair and beard auburn. He still retained, in some degree, the complexion which accompanies auburn hair, and this imparted a tinge of delicacy to his sensitive and mobile face. He was already slightly inclined to embonpoint: for in the seventeenth century people aged soon, and thirty-five was much more like forty-five nowadays..."

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