Page images

upon Mr. Halliwell, writing more advisedly, has the follow. ing : “There is no peculiarity to be observed in it, nor can I agree with Mr. Collier that the whole proceeding seems to indicate haste and secrecy.' In fact, the bond is exactly similar to those which were usually granted on such occasions; and several others of a like kind are to be seen in the office of the Worcester registry. It is necessary in these discussions to pay attention to the ordinary usages of the period ; and the more minutely we examine them, the less necessity will there be in this case for suggesting any insinuation against the character of the Poet.”

The parish books all about Stratford and Worcester have been ransacked, but no registry of the marriage has been discovered. The probability seems to be, that the ceremony took place in some one of the neighbouring parishes, perhaps Weston or Billesley or Luddington, where the registers of that period have not been preserved. Anne Hathaway was of Shottery, a pleasant village situate within an easy walk of Stratford, and belonging to the same parish. No registry of her baptism has come to light; but the baptismal register of Stratford did not commence till 1558. She died ou the 6th of August, 1623, and the inscription on her monument informs us that she was sixty-seven years of age. Her birth, therefore, must have occurred in 1556, eight years before that of her husband.

It appears, from old subsidy rolls, that there were Hathaways living at Shottery before 1550. And among the “ debts which are owing unto me,” specified in the will of Roger Sadler, 1578, quoted in note 16 of the preceding chapter, is one “ of Richard Hathaway, alias Gardiner, of Shottery,” £6 8s. 4d. This Hathaway had several children born after the beginning of the Stratford register, and their baptisms are duly entered. But the best information we have of him is from his will, which was lately discovered by Mr. Halliwell, and is printed at length in his Life of the Poet. It was made September 1st, 1581, and proved July

9th, 1582, which shows that the testator died in the interval; and its contents fully bear out Rowe's statement of his being “a substantial yeoman." He makes bequests to Joan his wife, to Bartholomew his oldest son, also born before the commencement of the Stratford register, and to six other children, named Thomas, John, William, Agnes, Catharine, and Margaret. He makes no mention of Anne, neither does he of Joan, another daughter, born in 1566; probably because he thought them well enough provided for in other quarters. He appoints his wife sole executrix, deşires his “ trusty friends and neighbours, Stephen Burman and Fulk Sandels to be supervisors” of his will; and among the witnesses are the names of William Gilbert, curate of Stratford, John Richardson and John Heminge. He had the advantage of John Shakespeare in one respect, at least : he could write his name.

One item of the will is, -"I owe unto Thomas Whittington, my shepherd, £4 6s. 8d.” Whittington died in 1601, and in his will, also found by Mr. Halliwell, we have the following: “I give and bequeathe, unto the poor people of Stratford 40s. that is in the hand of Anne Shakespeare, wife unto Mr. William Shakespeare, and is due debt unto me, being paid to mine executor by the said William Shakespeare or his assigns, according to the true meaning of this my will." The good careful old shepherd had doubtless placed the 40s. in Anne Shakespeare's hand for safe keeping, she being a person in whom he had confidence.

At a later period, Bartholomew Hathaway is found in possession of the Shottery estate; and when he died, in 1624, Dr. Hall, the Poet's son-in-law, was one of the overseers of his will. And Lady Barnard, the Poet's grand-daughter, in her will, 1669, makes liberal bequests to Judith, Joan, Rose, Elizabeth, and Susanna, daughters of her “ kinsman Thomas Hathaway, late of Stratford,” who was most likely a nephew of Anne Shakespeare.

In respect of the Poet's marriage, Mr. Halliwell has the fo:lowing remarks, which seem so just in themselves, and so illustrative of the case, that we doubt not the reader will more than excuse us for adding them :

“The late Captain Saunders discovered two precepts in the papers of the Court of Record at Stratford, dated in 1566, which appear to exhibit Richard Hathaway and John Shakespeare on friendly terms. These precepts were issued on the same day on which the brief abstracts are dated i'. the registry of the court; and while the plaintiffs are re. spectively the same in the abstracts and precepts, the name of John Shakespeare is substituted in each instance in the latter for Richard Hathaway. Although I have not met with any similar instances, yet the only method of explanation is to conclude that Shakespeare became security for Hathaway. It appears that the distringas in each case was afterwards withdrawn.'

“ This evidence is very important in the question that has been raised respecting the father of Anne Hathaway. The intimacy which probably existed between Richard Hathaway and John Shakespeare at once explains the means through which the two families became connected. The bond sufficiently proves that the marriage must have taken place

9 The following are copies of them, superfluities omitted.

"11 Sept. 8 Eliz. Johannes Page queritur versus Ricardum Hatheway de placito detencionis &c. ad valenc. octo librarum. Johanna Byddoll queritur versus Ricardum Hatheway de placito detencionis, &c. ad valenc. xi. li.

« Preceptum est servientibus ad clavem quod distr. seu unes vestrum distr. Johannem Shakespere per omnia bona et callala sua, ita quod sit apud proximam curiam de recordo tent. ibidem ad respondend. Johanni Page de placito debiti, &c. Datum sub sigillo meo xi. mo die Seplembris, anno regni Dominæ Elizabeibæ, &c, octavo.

« Preceptum est servientibus ad clavem quod distr. seu unus vestrum distr. Johannem Shakespere per omnia bona et cattala sua, ita quod sit apud proximam coriam de recordo tent. ibidem aii respondendum Johanni Byddele de placito debili, &c. Dalurr.. sub sigillo meo xi. mo die Septembris, anno regni Dominæ Elizu. bethæ, &c., octavo."

with the consent of the Hathaways ; and the bride's father was most likely present when Sandels and Richardson executed the bond, for one of the seals has the initials R. H. upon it. There can be little doubt that the connexion also met with the approval of Shakespeare's parents, for there was no disparity of means or station to occasion their dissent, and the difference between their ages was not sufficient to raise it into any reasonable obstacle. Nothing can be more erroneous than the conclusions generally drawn from the marriage-bond. Anne Hathaway is there described as of Stratford; but so are the two bondsmen, who were respectable neighbours of the Hathaways of Shottery. They are mentioned together as being bail for a party, in the registry of the Court of Record,10 Thus we find that the entire transaction was conducted under the care of Anne Hathaway's neighbours and friends. It has been said that Sandels and Richardson were rude, unlettered husbandmen, unfitted to attend a poet's bridal. They could not, it is true, write their own names, but neither could Shakespeare's father, nor many of the principal inhabitants of Stratford. Richardson was a substantial farmer, as appears from an inventory of his goods made in 1594, his friend Sandels being one of the persons engaged in its compilation. The original is preserved at Stratford.” 11

10 The entry is as follows: “26 April, 29 Eliz. Elizabethe Smythe, vidua, attachiata fuit per servientes ad clavam ibidem ad respondendum Roberto Parreti in placito debiti, Johannes Richardson de Shottrey et Fulcus Sandells de Shottrey præd. m. pro prædicta Elizabethe, &c., concord.

11 The Inventory is given in full by Halliwell, and fully bears out the statement that “ Richardson was a substantial farmer," the sum total of his goods being set down as £87 3s. 8d. It is pref. aced as follows : “ The tru inventory of the goodes and chaltells of John Richardsons, late of Shottre in the perish of Stratford upon Avon, in the countye of Warwycke, decessed ; taken the jiji. th day of November, 1594, and in the yeare of the raygne of our soverayne Lady Elizabeth, &c., and by the dys. cretyon of Mr. John Gibbs, Mr. John Burman, Fowc ke Sandells and Jobn Barber."

The Poet's match was evidently a love-match: whether the love were of that kind which forms the best pledge of wediled happiness, is another question. It seems not unlikely that the marriage may have been preceded by the ancient ceremony of troth-plight, or handfast, as it was sometimes called ; like that which all but takes place be tween Florizell and Perdita in Act iv. sc. 3, of The Winter's Tale, and quite takes place between Olivia and Sebastian in Twelfth Night, Act iv. sc. 3; and which the Priest there officiating describes thus :

A contract of eternal bond of love,

Confirm’d by mutual joinder of your hands,
Attested by the holy close of lips,
Strengthen’d by interchangement of your rings ;
And all the ceremony of this compact

Seal'd in my function, by my testimony." 12 The custom of troth-plight was much used in that age and for a long time after. In some places it had the force and effect of an actual marriage ; and if the parties were formally united within a reasonable time their reputation stood perfectly clear, whatever may have happened in the interim. Evils, however, often grew out of it; and the Church has done wisely, no doubt, in uniting the troth-plight and the marriage in one and the same ceremony.13 Whether such

12 The Poet has several other instances of the like solemn betrothment, as in the cases of Claudio and Juliet, and of Angelo and Mariana, in Measure for Measure. See, also, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act ii. sc. 2, note 1. What liberties it conferred, may be judged from the language used by the jealous Leontes in The Winter's Tale, Act i. sc. 2 :

“My wife's a hobby-horse ; deserves a name

As rank as any flax-wench, that puts to

Befor: her troth-plight.13 Brand, in his Popular Antiquities, speaks thus of the cus. tom : “ There was a remarkable kind of marriage-contract among the ancient Danes called hand-festing. Strong traces of this remain in our villages in many parts of the kingdom. I have been more than once assured from credible authority on Portland Island, that something very like it is still practised there very gen

« PreviousContinue »