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November 29, 2011

Posted Friday, December 2, 2011, at 3:20 PM

On this day in history, William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway were bound in marriage. Interesting information leading up to this event follows:

Anne lived only a mile from the town of Stratford where William Shakespeare lived with his family. Anne would have often visited the town and would have therefore had the opportunity to meet William Shakespeare. At this time Anne would have been 26 and William 18. A considerable age difference, with William Shakespeare still under the age of consent (21). It is apparent that Anne Hathaway became pregnant prior to marriage which would have no doubt caused a scandal for both of the families. Not a great start for a marriage or a perfect choice of a wife for the son of an ambitious family. William Shakespeare's father John, in particular, would not have been pleased at the detrimental effect that the gossip would have had on his own social standing. A quick wedding would have been arranged.

From the will of her late father it seems that Anne Hathaway brought a dowry to the marriage. A dowry was an amount of money, goods, and property that the bride would bring to the marriage. It was also referred to as her marriage portion. The arrangements for the wedding of Anne Hathaway and William Shakespeare would have been with the local church. Weddings were always a religious ceremony, conducted by a minister. The first stage was "Crying the Banns", which meant announcing a couples intention to marry. The same procedure still applies to Church marriages in England today. The intention to marry must be announced in the church three times on three consecutive Sundays or holy days. This allows time for any objections to be raised or pre-contracts to be discovered. Any marriage not published before hand was considered scandalous and illegal.

The recordings in the Episcopal register at Worcester on November 27th 1582 and November 28th 1582 show that William Shakespeare wanted to marry a girl named Anne. The confusion begins. Both days have different entries. November 27th 1582 the marriage license was issued to Wm Shakespeare and Anne Whatley. On 28 November, 1582, another license was issued to Wm Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway.

The documents apparently refer to two different women; Anne Whatley of Temple Grafton and Anne Hathaway of Stratford. The interpretation of these documents have led to all sorts of speculation. Was Shakespeare involved with two women, both called by the same first name? Did he intend to marry Miss Whatley but as soon as the license was issued did Anne Hathaway intervene saying that she was pregnant? Did he really love Miss Whatley but was forced to marry Miss Hathaway due to her pregnancy? Or was the name simply entered incorrectly on the first document? Or was she in fact a widow and therefore known by either Whatley or Hathaway by local people?

Whatever the case, William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway were granted a marriage licence by the Bishop of Worcester. They were married at Temple Grafton, near Stratford. After their marriage, as was the custom, Anne Hathaway Shakespeare would have left her home to live with William Shakespeare in his father, John Shakespeare's house. Six months after the wedding and marriage, in May 1583, Anne and William became the parents of Susanna, the first of three children born to this union.



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