William Shakespeare Biography
The Wife of William Shakespeare - Anne Hathaway
THE COURTSHIP OF ANNE HATHAWAY AND WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
The hamlet of Shottery was only a mile from the town of Stratford where William Shakespeare lived with his family. Anne Hathaway 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 an auspicious 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 in Stratford. A hasty affair would have been arranged.
ARRANGEMENTS FOR THE WEDDING
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. There were no Registry Office marriages or marriages conducted by a Justice of the Peace. The first stage was Crying the Banns, 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 clandestine and illegal. An alternative, faster, route to legalising a ceremony required a marriage bond which acted as security and proof to a bishop that the issue of a marriage licence was lawful with a sworn statement that there were no pre-contracts. The existence of such a marriage bond would require only one reading of the Banns, thus speeding the marriage process.
THE LEGAL DOCUMENTS RELATING TO THE MARRIAGE
The recordings in the Episcopal register at Worcester on November 27th 1582 and November 27th 1582
show that William Shakespeare wanted to marry a girl named Anne. The confusion begins. Both days have different entries.
November 27th 1582 the issue of a marriage license to one Wm Shakespeare stating the following:
Anno Domini 1582...Novembris...27 die eiusdem mensis. Item eodem die supradicto
emanavit Licentia inter Wm Shaxpere et Annam Whateley de Temple Grafton.
On 28 November, 1582, two husbandmen of Stratford, named Sandells and Richardson, became sureties for £40 in the consistory court of Worcester to free the bishop from liability in case of lawful impediment, by pre-contract or consanguinity, to the marriage of “William Shagspeare and Anne Hathwey” which might proceed hereupon with only one publication of banns. The episcopal register records the marriage bond granted to one Wm Shakespeare stating that the condition of this obligation is such that if hereafter there shall not appear any lawful let, or impediment by reason, of any precontract, consanguinity, affinity or by any other lawful means whatsoever, that William Shagspere and Anne Hathwey may lawfully solemnize matrimony together...
The documents apparently refer to two different women; Anne Whateley of Temple Grafton and Anne Hathwey 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 Whateley but as soon as the license was issued did Anne Hathaway intervene saying that she was pregnant? Did he really love Miss Whateley but was forced to marry Miss Hathwey 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 Whateley or Hathwey ( Hathaway ) by local people?
There is no way that this mystery can be solved. We know that the documents exist. We also know that as William Shakespeare was under the age of consent that his father would have had to agree to the marriage. We know that the marriage bond via the Bishop, John Whitgift, would have enabled Anne and William to marry more quickly than the conventional route via the Reading of the Banns over a three week period. And we of course know that William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway and took her as his wife.