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children, a daughter named Anne, who migh: have dandled William Shakespeare in his infancy upon her knee; for she was eight years old when he was born, in 1564. Whether or no Anne Hathaway had a fair face and a winning way which spontaneously captivated William Shakespeare, or whether he yielded to arts to which his inexperience made him an easy victim, we cannot surely tell. But we do know that she, though not vestally inclined, as we shall see, remained unmarried until 1582, and that then the woman of twenty-six took to husband the boy of eighteen. They were married upon once asking of the banns; and the bond given to the Bishop of Worcester for his security in licensing this departure from custom was given in that year, on the 28th day of November.* About those days
* “Noverint universi per præsentes nos ffulconem Sandells de Stratford in comitatu Warwici, agricolam, et Johannem Rychardson ibidem agricolam, teneri et firmiter obligari Ricardo Cosin generoso, et Roberto Warmstry notario publico, in quadraginta libris bonæ et legalis monetæ Angliæ, solvend. eisdem Ricardo et Roberto, hæred. execut. vel assignat. suis, ad quam quidem solucionem bene et fideliter faciend. obligamus nos et utrumque nostrum per se pro toto et in solid. hæred. executor. et administrator. nostros firmiter per præsentes sigillis nostris sigillat. Dat. 28 die Novem. anno regni dominæ nostræ Eliz. Dei gratia Angliæ, Franc. et Hiberniæ reginæ, fidei defensor, &c. 25.
“The condicion of this obligacion ys suche, that if herafter there shall not appere any lawfull lett or impediment, by reason of any precontract, consangui[ni]tie, affinitie, or by any other lawfull meanes whatsoever, but that William Shagspere one thone partie, and Anne Hathwey of Stratford in the dioces of Worces
there was great need that Anne Hathaway should provide herself with a husband of some sort, and that speedily; for in less than five months after she obtained one she was delivered of a daughter. The parish register shows that Susanna, the daughter of William and Anne Shakespeare, was baptized May 26th, 1583.
There have been attempts to turn aside the obvious bearings of these facts upon the character of Anne Hathaway. But it is a stubborn and unwise idolatry which resists such evidence as this, - an idolatry which would exempt Shakespeare,
ter, maiden, may lawfully solennize matrimony together, and in the same afterwardes remaine and continew like man and wiffe, according unto the lawes in that behalf provided : and moreover, if there be not at this present time any action, sute, quarrell, or demaund, moved or depending before any judge ecclesiasticall or temporall, for and concerning any suche lawfull lett or impediment: and moreover, if the said William Shagspere do not proceed to solemnizacion of mariadg with the said Anne Hathwey without the consent of hir frindes : and also, if the said William do, upon his owne proper costes and expences, defend and save harmles the right reverend Father in God, Lord John Bushop of Worcester, and his offycers, for licensing them the said William and Anne to be maried together with once asking of the bannes of matrimony betweene them, and for all other causes which may ensue by reason or occasion thereof, that then the said obligacion to be voyd and of none effect, or els to stand and abide in full force and vertue.”
To this instrument are attached the rude marks of Sandells and Richardson, and a seal which bears two letters, R, and another, imperfect, which seems to be an H. This seal is conjectured to be that of the bride's father, who at the execution of the bond had been dead five months.
and not only him, but all with whom he became connected, from human passion and human frailty. That temperament is cruel, and that morality pharisaic, which treats all cases of this kind with inexorable and indiscriminating severity, and that judgment outrageously unjust which visits all the sin upon the weaker and already suffering party. Yet if in the present instance it must be that one or other of this couple seduced the other into error, perhaps where a woman of twenty-six is involved with a boy of eighteen, for the honor of her sex the less that is said about the matter the better. Besides, Anne Hathaway rests under the implied reproach of both the men whose good opinion was to her of gravest moment. Her father, like Mary Arden's, had died about a year before her marriage ; but while Mary Arden had special legacies, and was assigned to the honorable position of executrix by her father's will, Anne Hathaway was passed over even without mention by her father, who yet carefully and minutely remembered all but one of his other children. And to look forward again, — which we well may do, for Shakespeare's wife will soon pass entirely from our sight, - when her husband was giving instructions for his will, he left her only his secondbest bed, the one that probably she slept upon. It is true, as Mr. Knight has pointed out, that she was entitled to dower, and that so her livelihood was well provided for; it is true also, that a bed
with its furniture was in those days no uncommon bequest. But William Shakespeare's will was one of great particularity, leaving little legacies to nephews and nieces, and also swords and rings as mementoes to friends and acquaintance; and yet his wife's name is omitted from the document in its original form, and only appears by an afterthought in an interlineation, as if his attention had been called to the omission, and for decency's sake he would not have the mother of his children unnoticed altogether. The lack of any other bequest than the furniture of her chamber is of small moment in comparison with the slight shown by that interlineation. A second-best bed might be passed over; but what can be done with secondbest thoughts? And second-best, if good at all, seem to have been all the thoughts which Shakespeare gave her; for there is not a line of his writing known which can be regarded as addressed to her as maid or matron. Did ever poet thus slight the woman that he loved, and that too during years of separation ?
The cottage in which Anne Hathaway lived is still pointed out in Shottery. It is a timber and plaster house, like John Shakespeare's, standing on a bank, with a roughly paved terrace in front. The parlor is wainscoated high in oak; and in the principal chamber is an enormous and heavily carved bedstead. Though a rustic and even rude habitation when measured by our standard, it was
evidently a comfortable home for a substantial yeoman in the time of Queen Elizabeth, and is picturesque enough for the cradle of a poet's love. But it never can be looked upon without sadness by those who rightly estimate the sorrow and the shame which there were born to William Shakespeare, sorrow and shame which not all the varied successes of his after-life could heal and obliterate, and his sufferings from which find frequent expression both in his plays and sonnets. True, he was of all poets the most dramatic, and therefore the most self-forgetful ; but his trouble he did not forget. His works are full of passages, to write which, if he had loved his wife and honored her, would have been gall and wormwood to his soul ; nay, which, if he had loved and honored her, he could not have written. The nature of the subject forbids the marshalling of this terrible array ; but did the “flax-wench” whom he uses for the most degrading of all comparisons do more “before her troth-plight” than the woman who bore his name and whom his children called mother ? * It is not a question whether his judgment was justifiable, but of what he thought and felt.
And even if Anne Hathaway's fair fame, if indeed it was ever fair, remained untarnished, the marriage at eighteen of such a man as her boy husband proved is one of the saddest social events
* The Winter's Tale, Act I. Sc. 2.