Church records at Holy Trinity Stratford record the baptismal of William and Anne Shakespeare’s first child, Susanna on 26 May 1583. She was born only six months after her parents’ wedding! In fact, her existence was the reason for their hasty marriage.
William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway needed a special marriage license which would speed the process to formalise their marriage. The Bishop of Worcester issued a special marriage licence for them on 28 November 1582. The bishop’s licence stated that William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway were permitted to ‘lawfully solemnise matrimony after one asking of banns’. Another need for the bishop’s licence was the fact that William Shakespeare, at eighteen years old, was considered a minor who needed his father’s permission to marry.
Although William Shakespeare was younger than the average age at which men were married and Anne Hathaway, at twenty-six years old, was older than average, their marriage was both valid and fruitful. Their first daughter, Susanna, was born in May 1583 and twins, Hamnet and Judith, were born just under a couple of years later in February 1585.
Shakespeare wrote a sonnet alluding to his marriage to Anne Hathaway and including a pun on his wife’s maiden name. The lover in Sonnet 145 describes his anguish when his beloved says ‘I hate’, and then his joy when she threw ‘hate away’ and returned his love:
Those lips that Love’s own hand did make
Breathed forth the sound that said ‘I hate’
To me that languished for her sake;
But when she saw my woeful state
Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue that ever sweet
Was used in giving gentle doom,
And taught it thus anew to greet:
‘I hate’ she altered with an end,
That followed it as gentle day
Doth follow night, who like a fiend
From heaven to hell is flown away;
‘I hate’ from hate away she threw,
And saved my life, saying ‘not you.’
© 2017 Shakespeare’s World
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