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Monday, December 17, 2012

Robert Arden and Shakespeare

Robert Arden of Snitterfield, Shakespeare's maternal grandfather, died 17 December 1556.

The Ardens were a distinguished family, whose lineage in the male line goes back to the Anglo-Saxon times, and whose substantial properties were listed in William the Conquerer's Domesday Book of 1086.

Only two other families in England share that distinction.

Robert was not a prominent member of his family, but he was a successful farmer, enough so that he rented lands.

One of his tenant farmers was Richard Shakespeare, William Shakespeare's paternal grandfather.

Robert Arden's had eight daughters, and the youngest was Mary, his favorite. She probably grew up knowing John Shakespeare, William's father.

When Robert died, he left the best property to Mary, including a farm called the Asbyes in the village of Wilmcote.

Mary Arden's house still stands today


The rear of the house

A year after Robert died, Mary married John Shakespeare.

This is rather interesting. The same thing happened with William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway: when Anne's father passed away and left her a rather substantial inheritance, she then married William the next year.

I can easily imagine that Robert Arden may have disapproved of Mary's affection for John Shakespeare. I doubt he would have wanted his daughter to marry the son of a man who rented land from him, despite the fact that John was already rather successful and established in Stratford as a glove maker, a trade protected by law, and he had just become an official ale-taster, which was not an unimportant position.

I can imagine that as easily as I can imagine that Anne Hathaway's father Richard may have disapproved of her affection for William.

I like to think that William Shakespeare was one of the very fortunate people in Elizabethan England -- he married for love.

I think that he married for love because his parents also married for love, and he was inspired by their example.

It may be that both couples had been star-crossed lovers at one time -- but instead of ending in tragedy like Juliet and Romeo -- these Shakespeares, Anne and William, and Mary and John, lived rather happily ever after.

Cheers,

David