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The Life and Times of William Shakespeare (Biography) (Part 2)

July 25th, 2010

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Five of William’s siblings out of the eight lived beyond childhood: the first Joan, who was born in 1558, and Margaret, born in 1562, died as small children, so William was not only the eldest son but eldest surviving child. His brother Gilbert and sister the second Joan lived into adulthood, but Anne, born in 1571, died at the age of eight when William was fifteen. This must have been a very painful loss for William. Also William’s beloved grandmother, old Mrs. Arden as she was often referred to, died just after Christmas in 1580. Edward Arden, high sheriff in 1575 and cousin of William Shakespeare was Catholic, forced to worship in secret. He kept a chaplain, formally disguised as his gardener but well known to be a priest called Father Hall. In Edward Arden’s house allegedly there was wild talk against the Queen. A deranged son-in-law of his, John Someville, is said to have set off for London on a personal mission to kill the Queen. This asinine scheme supposedly was too complicated and abstract to have been contrived by Edward Arden. John Someville frequented the taverns of London, apparently declaring his intentions directed towards the Queen to whomever would listen. He was arrested, and under torture stated that he was in Edward Arden’s empowering and that Father Hall conceptualized the entire plot. John Someville was declared to have strangled himself in prison so that his evidence could not be withdrawn. Father Hall was arrested and then released without a trial, but Edward Arden was hanged, drawn and quartered, and his head stuck on a spike on the London Bridge. Edward was killed when his cousin, William Shakespeare was merely nineteen, producing a anxiety inside of William for his mother’s safety. Since she was a devout Catholic in private, he feared for her life as he had for his cousin’s life.

(Levi 19)

During William Shakespeare’s youth, he was said to have had a very mischievous personality. The Lucy family lived at the great Charlecote Park, three miles outside of Shakespeare’s hometown, Stratford-upon-Avon. In the late seventeenth century, while William Shakespeare was still a young man, it was said that he had poached Sir Thomas Lucy’s deer on several occasions. The first editor of Shakespeare’s plays and biographer of his life, Nicholas Rowe, said that he was arrested and severely punished, consequently leaving Stratford to escape further persecution. Despite these accusations, there is no direct evidence of this story. The fact that there were even deer in Charlecote Park at the end of the sixteenth century is mere speculation. Sir Thomas Lucy, however was very much involved with game-preservation, and so perhaps there could have had several deer roaming in the woods outside of his estate. If William Shakespeare had been proven guilty, which he was not, his punishment would have almost certainly have been payment of three times the damage and costs and imprisonment for three months.

The next documented event in Shakespeare’s life is his marriage to Anne Hathaway on November 28, 1582. In 1582 when William Shakespeare was eighteen, he got the orphan Anne Hathaway pregnant, who was twenty six, eight years his senior. She was of Shottery, a short walk from Stratford through the fields, providing an easy opportunity for Anne and William to meet. Anne’s pregnancy seems to have happened in late September because the child Susanna was born on May 23. At the time, William Shakespeare was a minor, and the last chance for the

calling of the banns before Advent had been missed. So on November 27, 1582 two friends of the bride’s family rode to Bishops court at Worcester to negotiate a special marriage license. The bishop, John Witgift, asked them to get letters from their consenting parents as was required for very young couples. The license was granted on November 28 and the two friends, John Rychardson and Fulke Sandells, both farmers from Stratford-upon-Avon, gave £40 that no hindrance to marriage would later come to pass. The clerk of Worcester court had probably entered the marriage license on his register on the 27th of November; in all probability it took a day to draw up the document. There is no direct documentation of the marriage of William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway although most historians accept that an entry in the Bishop’s register in November of 1582 does not refer to the famous bard. In this register is recorded the issuing of a marriage license to William Shaxpere and Anne Whateley of Temple Grafton. One of the most fascinating mysteries of Shakespeare’s personal life is the question of the identity of Anne Whateley from Temple Grafton. Some observers that the marriage clerk misheard the name Hathaway as Whateley. Others believe that William Shakespeare became engaged to an actual Anne Whateley but their betrothal was broken off when news of Anne Hathaway’s pregnancy spread.

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