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Friday, November 30, 2012

Anne and William Shakespeare's Wedding

Happy Anniversary William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway!

They received their bond of marriage on 28 November 1582 -- 430 years ago.




Most of what I have read about their wedding focuses on the fact that he was 18 years old and she was 26, and whether or not it was a marriage of love or not.

I think they did love each other, and they had as happy a marriage as was possible in those days. I'm not going to argue that case now.

But I have often wondered what the wedding would have looked like.

Germaine Greer, in her wonderful book Shakespeare's Wife, has given us a wonderful word-picture of that special day in their lives:

October and November were the most popular months of the year for weddings, and it would have been a day-long event -- not just for friends and family, but for the entire community.

William might have been woken up with the sound of music, played by his gallants, and other musicians -- playing the pipe and the tabor drum for example.




These gallants, attendant knights, would help him dress in new clothes and escort him to the church -- all the while drawing a crowd, whose excitement would only grow as the crowd got larger.

At the same time, Anne's bridesmaids and other village girls would form a procession and walk to her house, singing as they went, and wake her up with the sound of their singing.

The bridesmaids would help her dress into a new gown, which may have not been white, as other colors such as russet were common.

They would arrange her hair, which could be worn spread on her shoulders for the very last time, since as a married woman she would be expected to put it up and cover it with a kerchief.

They would escort Anne to the church, and perhaps cover the ground with flower petals for her to walk over.

The bridesmaids would wear garlands and have made Anne a special one, made of lilies and roses, bound with a silk ribbon.

A crowd would be large as she entered the church. It was a celebration for the community as well, and instead of bringing the newlyweds gifts, they would bring them flowers and herbs.

In fact, it was customary that the guests were given gifts, such as twopenny gloves.

It must have been a lovely sight, and I can just imagine what how excited William and Anne must have been when he said "I take thee Anne to be my wife" and she said "I take thee William to be my husband".

Germaine Greer suggests that they might have spoken these words before the wedding day -- the exchange of vows could have happened earlier, witnessed or not, and forever binding them together, and making them ineligible for a match with any other party.

I like to think that they did exchange vows before the wedding and since Shakespeare would go on to write some of the greatest lines in the English language, it is not hard to imagine that he not only wooed her with poetry but that their exchange was scripted by him.

What if Sonnet 145 was written for the wedding?

I find it very hard to believe that he would not have written something to celebrate their union.

Of all that he has written (which has survived) this would seem the most likely thing he wrote for his wedding day.




Did he speak it aloud, in the church, or afterwards to the gathered guests and neighbors during the -- hopefully loud, raucous and delightful -- wedding feast?

Perhaps he wasn't quite the actor and showman yet, and preferred to share it with her privately -- that night perhaps, in the privacy of their bedroom.

I think there is so much we don't know about their marriage, and it is due to a lack of documentation -- letters and so forth -- but it is also due to a lack of imagination.

I like to imagine that they were courting for months and months before they got married.

For example, since they would give twopenny gloves to their guests, and since Shakespeare's father was a glovemaker, and William himself was believed to have been apprenticed to his father -- then I think that William was making gloves for weeks if not months before his own wedding.

I also think that if he was making them, and Anne was to be his wife, and would join their household, and perhaps would want to gain knowledge of her father-in-law's trade -- then it is likely that she would have joined William in his father's shop to help make the gloves.

I like to imagine the two of them, working together, side by side, for weeks on end -- making glove after glove -- in love, and falling more in love with every glove they made.


Cheers,

David B. Schajer