Shakespeare’s two Annes: 1. Anne Hathaway & Daughters (first part)

Anne Hathaway married Shakespeare in 1582, when she was 26 years old and he was only 18.
Very little is known about her life beyond a few references in legal documents, but her personality and relationship to Shakespeare have been the subject of much speculation by historians and writers.

Hathaway grew up at Shottery, a village only a mile from the town of Stratford where William Shakespeare lived with his family.
Her father was a prosperous yeoman who farmed sheep. He owned an estate that included a farmhouse (now known as a cottage , which a major tourist attraction for the village), a lot of farmland, another house, and other possessions.
He died wealthy enough to leave each of his children a decent fortune.
His daughter inherited a sum of money as a dowry to be paid “at the day of her marriage”. In her father’s will, her name is listed as “Agnes”.

The names Anne and Agnes are distinct, however, it was a common custom for these names to be interchangeable. Agnes (the ‘g’ was not pronounced) was considered as a variant of Anne.
Shakespeare’s other Anne – Anne Whateley – was also named ‘Agnes’ in her father’s will which mentions “Agnes my daughter”.

Anne Hathaway probably was illiterate because girls of her social and geographic background neither attended school nor received any formal education. They learnt how to govern a household and become skilled in all housewifely duties, in preparation for a girl’s only real career option for a girl: marriage. Single women were sometimes looked upon with suspicion and some were even thought to be witches by their neighbours. Every woman would be expected to marry. Generally the age of consent was 21 and Anne Hathaway was already 26.
According to some historians, the age difference, as well as Anne’s pregnancy, were evidence that it was a wedding forced on an unwilling Will.
On the other hand, others remark that as a husband Shakespeare offered few prospects since his father’s finances were on the decline, while Hathaway came from a family in good standing both socially and financially. Far from being a spinster in danger of being ‘left on the shelf’, Anne might have been considered an eligible lady, or simply a good deal.
In addition it is nearly certain that the respective families of the bride and groom knew each other and fact that she had become became pregnant prior to their betrothal or marriage would have caused a scandal for both families. Shakespeare’s father, 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 marriage was necessary.
Therefore two men from Stratford, named Sandells and Richardson, became sureties for £40 in the Worcester Consistory Court to free the bishop from any liability in case of lawful impediment, thus allowing for publication of banns.

The episcopal register thus 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, William Shagspere on the one party and Anne Hathwey of Stratford in the diocese of Worcester, maiden, may lawfully solemnize matrimony together…”

They were married at Temple Grafton, a village about five miles (8 km) from Stratford. Details of the wedding are not known for sure but a traditional Elizabethan wedding for a man of Shakespeare’s social standing can be said to include a bridal procession from the family’s house to the church, often accompanied by musicians. Once in the church the ceremony was solemn: everyone remained standing because in the Elizabethan era there were no pews in the churches. At the end of the rite the procession returned to their homes where the families of the spouses could prepare a wedding feast.
The bride did not wear white, which was a later tradition, but her best gown, or a new one if she could afford it. She ador ned her hair and dress with fresh flowers and carried a bouquet.

… to be continued…

Le due Anne di Shakespeare: 1. Anne Hathaway e figlie (prima parte)

Anne Hathaway sposò Shakespeare nel 1582, quando lei aveva 26 anni e lui solo 18.
Si sa molto poco della sua vita oltre a pochi riferimenti in documenti legali, ma la sua personalità e il suo rapporto con Shakespeare sono stati oggetto di molte speculazioni da parte di storici e scrittori.
Hathaway crebbe a Shottery, un villaggio a solo un miglio da Stratford, dove William Shakespeare viveva con la sua famiglia.
Suo padre era un ricco contadino che allevava pecore. Possedeva una tenuta che comprendeva una fattoria (ora nota come cottage, che rappresenta una grande attrazione turistica per il villaggio), terreni, un’altra casa e altri possedimenti.
Morì abbastanza ricco da lasciare a ciascuno dei suoi figli una discreta fortuna.
La figlia ereditò una somma di denaro come dote da pagare “il giorno del suo matrimonio”. Nel testamento di suo padre, il suo nome è indicato come “Agnes”.
I nomi Anne e Agnes sono distinti, tuttavia era consuetudine comune che fossero intercambiabili. Agnes (la “g” non era pronunciata) era considerata una variante di Anne.
Anche l’altra Anne di Shakespeare – Anne Whateley – fu chiamata “Agnes” nel testamento di suo padre che ha riferimento a “Agnes mia figlia”.

Anne Hathaway era probabilmente analfabeta perché le ragazze del suo ambiente sociale e geografico non frequentavano la scuola né ricevevano alcuna istruzione formale. Imparavano a governare una famiglia e svolgere i doveri di casalinga, in preparazione all’unica vera opzione di carriera per una ragazza: il matrimonio. Le donne single erano talvolta guardate con sospetto e alcune erano persino ritenute streghe dai loro vicini. Ogni donna avrebbe dovuto sposarsi: in genere l’età del consenso era di 21 anni e Anne Hathaway ne aveva già 26

Secondo alcuni storici la differenza di età, così come la gravidanza di Anne, erano prova che si trattava di un matrimonio imposto a forza a un riluttante Will.
D’altra parte, altri osservano che come marito Shakespeare offriva poche prospettive poiché le finanze di suo padre erano in declino, mentre Hathaway proveniva da una famiglia appetibile sia socialmente che finanziariamente. Lungi dall’essere una zitella in pericolo di essere dimenticata in un angolino, Anne poteva essere considerata una donna desiderabile, o semplicemente un buon affare.
Inoltre è quasi certo che le famiglie degli sposi si conoscessero e il fatto che lei fosse rimasta incinta prima del loro fidanzamento o matrimonio poteva uno scandalo per entrambe le famiglie. Il padre di Shakespeare, in particolare, non sarebbe stato contento dell’effetto dannoso che il pettegolezzo avrebbe avuto sulla sua posizione sociale a Stratford. Era necessario un rapido matrimonio.
Pertanto due uomini di Stratford, di nome Sandells e Richardson, si fecero garanti per £ 40 nel tribunale concistoriale di Worcester per salvaguardare il vescovo da ogni responsabilità in caso di legittimo impedimento, consentendo in tal modo una sola lettura delle pubblicazioni.

Il registro episcopale registra così il vincolo matrimoniale concesso ad un certo Wm Shakespeare affermando che “la condizione di questo obbligo è tale che se in seguito non comparirà alcuna lecita locazione o impedimento per qualsiasi precontratto, consanguineità, affinità o per qualsiasi altro mezzo lecito qualunque, William Shagspere da una parte e Anne Hathwey di Stratford nella diocesi di Worcester, nubile, possano legittimamente celebrare il matrimonio…”

Si sposarono a Temple Grafton, un villaggio a circa otto chilometri da Stratford. I dettagli del matrimonio non sono noti con certezza, ma si può dire che un tradizionale matrimonio elisabettiano per un uomo della posizione sociale di Shakespeare includesse una processione nuziale dalla casa di famiglia alla chiesa, spesso accompagnata da musicisti. Una volta in chiesa la cerimonia era solenne: tutti restavano in piedi perché in epoca elisabettiana non c’erano banchi nelle chiese. Alla fine della cerimonia il corteo tornava alle case dove le famiglie degli sposi potevano imbandire un banchetto di nozze.
La sposa non indossava il bianco, una tradizione posteriore, ma il suo abito migliore, o uno nuovo se poteva permetterselo. Si adornava i capelli e il vestito con fiori freschi e portava un bouquet.

…continua…

Image: William Shakespeare: The Chandos Portrait (the National Portrait Gallery, London). The artist may be a painter called John Taylor  (1585–1651)

76 thoughts on “Shakespeare’s two Annes: 1. Anne Hathaway & Daughters (first part)

    1. Thanks so much, Pat. As I have already told you I enjoy doing research, but it is a bit time consuming, These days I rarely go out so I don’t have much else to do, but when the pandemic ends or when I have learned to live with it without too many fears, maybe I will resume a certain social life and I will have less time to devote to writing my posts

      Liked by 3 people

  1. I would like to ask a question if you don’t mind Luisa. Do you still keep finding out new information when writing these blogs? I know I certainly do – and also when reading these fabulous posts.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow, this was fascinating! Interesting how we dissect the conditions surrounding their marriage all these centuries later and learn more about them now than was known at that time.
    This was very enjoyable to read.
    18 and 26 would be an acceptable age gap between a couple where I live, only if the genders were switched. But ofcourse, we youngsters don’t see it that way. It’s obviously a BIG gap, regardless of the gender.
    I can’t come to terms with how “Agnes” could possibly be pronounced without the G 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Now that was a most enjoyable way to start my morning break! Your research into Shakespeare is so thorough and that’s what makes it so enjoyable to read. You have a way of placing the information before us and bringing it to life that holds my attention from the first word to the very last, you are an accomplished story teller. I felt like I was walking through the streets of Stratford (not my favourite place to visit I confess) taking in the arrangement of Wm and Anne’s upcoming nuptials. I could feel Wm’s frustration at the forced marriage situation but then also felt his acceptance because money has always been the God of men. I wish I’d had a teacher of your calibre when I was a student. I would never have left your classroom! Thank you for this post, I eagerly await the continuation!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your generous appreciation, which almost makes me blush.
      I have always liked doing research, and now that I’m retired and I don’t have a busy working or social life due to the pandemic, I enjoy spending my afternoons browsing here and there 🙏💜🙏

      Liked by 1 person

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