At the end of 1582 Shakespeare, when little more than eighteen and a half years The poet's marriage. old, took a step which was little calculated to lighten his father's anxieties. He married. His wife, according to the inscription on her tombstone, was his senior by eight years. Rowe states that she ‘was the daughter of one Hathaway, said to have been a substantial yeoman in the neighbourhood of Stratford.’

The house at Shottery, now known as Anne Hathaway's cottage, and reached from Stratford by field-paths, undoubtedly once formed part of Richard Hathaway's farmhouse, and, despite numerous alterations and renovations, still preserves many features of a thatched farmhouse of the Elizabethan period. The house remained in the Hathaway family till 1838, although the male line became extinct in 1746. It was purchased in behalf of the public by the Birthplace trustees in 1892.

Shakespeare's apologists have endeavoured to show that the formal betrothal or ‘troth-plight’ which was at the time a common prelude to a wedding carried with it all the privileges of marriage. But neither Shakespeare's detailed description of a betrothal ( Twelfth Night , act v. sc. i. ll. 160–4) nor his frequent notices of the solemn verbal contract that usually preceded marriage lend the contention much support ( Measure for Measure , act i. sc. ii. 1. 155, act iv. sc. i. 1. 73); while the exceptional circumstance that the lady's friends alone were parties to the bond renders it improbable that Shakespeare had previously observed any of the more ordinary formalities.

Baconiana, 1905, Vol. 3: A Quarterly Magazine (Classic.


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