Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Anne Hathaway

“Plowed this forenoon.  Went and helped about trimming the church for Thanksgiving Service this afternoon.  Rained quite a good deal this afternoon and evening.”

This drawing by Sir Nathaniel Curzon, dated 1708, purports to depict Anne Hathaway. Samuel Schoenbaum writes that it is probably a tracing of a lost Elizabethan portrait, but there is no existing evidence that the portrait actually depicted Hathaway.
Anne Hathaway (1555/56 – 6 August 1623) was the wife of William Shakespeare. They were married in 1582. She outlived her husband by seven years. Very little is known about her beyond a few references in legal documents, but her personality and relationship to Shakespeare have been the subject of much speculation by historians and creative writers.
Anne Hathaway is believed to have grown up in Shottery, a small village just to the west of Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. She is assumed to have grown up in the farmhouse that was the Hathaway family home, which is located at Shottery and is now a major tourist attraction for the village. Her father, Richard Hathaway, was a yeoman farmer. He died in September 1581 and left Anne the sum of £6 13s 4d (six pounds, thirteen shillings and fourpence) to be paid "at the day of her marriage".
Hathaway married Shakespeare in November 1582 while pregnant with the couple's first child, to whom she gave birth six months later. Hathaway was 26 years of age; Shakespeare was only 18. This age difference, together with Hathaway's ante nuptial pregnancy, has been employed by some historians as evidence that it was a "shotgun wedding", forced on a reluctant Shakespeare by the Hathaway family. There is, however, no evidence for this inference.
Three children were born to Anne, namely Susanna in 1583, and the twins Hamnet and Judith in 1585. It has often been inferred that Shakespeare came to dislike his wife, but there is no existing documentation or correspondence to support this supposition. For most of their married life, he lived in London, writing and performing his plays, while she remained in Stratford, spiralling in loneliness. However, according to John Aubrey, he returned to Stratford for a period every year. When he retired from the theatre in 1613, he chose to live in Stratford with his wife, rather than London.
Hathaway was interred next to her husband in the Church of the Holy Trinity, Stratford-upon-Avon. The inscription states, "Here lyeth the body of Anne wife of William Shakespeare who departed this life the 6th day of August 1623 being of the age of 67 years." A Latin inscription followed which translates as "Breasts, O mother, milk and life thou didst give. Woe is me – for how great a boon shall I give stones? How much rather would I pray that the good angel should move the stone so that, like Christ's body, thine image might come forth! But my prayers are unavailing. Come quickly, Christ, that my mother, though shut within this tomb may rise again and reach the stars." The inscription may have been written by John Hall on behalf of his wife, Anne's daughter, Susanna.

A nineteenth century engraving depicting Shakespeare as a family man surrounded by his children, who listen entranced to his stories. Anne is portrayed at the right as an idealized housewife, sewing a garment.

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