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Friday, September 14, 2012

Shakespeare's Father-In-Law


Shakespeare's father-in-law, Richard Hathaway died in September 1581.

Before Shakespeare later wrote his romantic comedies, and wrote of star-cross'd lovers, he was having some drama of his very own.

He was in love with Anne Hathaway, whose father may have not wanted her to marry young William Shakespeare.

Shakespeare was 17 years old. Anne was 26.



Romeo and Juliet, by Ford Madox Brown



As Germaine Greer has established in her excellent book, Shakespeare's Wife, it was an expensive proposition to get married in those days, and it was not uncommon for young men and women to wait well into their twenties before they got married, in order to establish a nest egg first.

The real question is not why Shakespeare would marry a woman so much older, but why Anne would take a risk on such a young man.



Painting by Roger Brian Dunn (2010) based on a drawing by Nathaniel Curzon (1708)


The Hathaway and Shakespeare families would have known each other very well, and I am sure that Richard admired this young man, who even as a teenager must have exhibited some of the humor and ambition that made him famous in later years.

I do not think that Richard opposed the match because Will was so much younger than his daughter, or because Will was not a fine young man.

The Shakespeare family had fallen on hard times financially, and the Hathaways were a successful and well-respected family.

Richard was probably concerned, like any father would, that a union with his daughter would bring hardship to his family.

And it is fair to say that Anne was both attractive and smart, if Will was besotted with her. She probably had other suitors. Her father may have encouraged his daughter to marry someone more promising.

In any event, with Richard's death, Anne was free to marry whom she chose.



Anne Hathaway


Once the choice was hers to make, it seems she didn't wait long in choosing her husband.

She chose Will, and she wasted no time in getting pregnant with Shakespeare and getting married.



Anne with William and their three children, Hamnet, Susanna and Judith


We don't know much of anything about their life together, and the years that Shakespeare worked and lived in London, presumably not seeing his wife and family for long stretches of time.

One might think that their marriage was not a happy one.

But after the early drama of their courtship and eventual marriage, I like to think that they lived (mostly) happily ever after.

Cheers,

David B. Schajer


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