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Shakespeare's Wedding and Marriage

Who did William Shakespeare marry?

William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway in November 1582 and they remained married until Shakespeare's death. At the time of their marriage William was 18, while Anne was 26 and pregnant with their first child.

The average age of marriage was 26 years of age, so Anne would have been an eligible young lady of her time. William, on the other hand, was still a minor in the eyes of the law and required permission from Anne's father in order for the wedding to go ahead. 

To avoid any scandal surrounding Anne's pregnancy, William sped up proceedings by applying to the Bishop's Court in Worcester. A huge sum of £40 was pledged as surety against the bond, to be paid if the marriage proved invalid.

Shakespeare's early marriage meant that he wouldn't legally be able to complete an apprenticeship. 

Courtship of William Shakespeare
The Courtship of William Shakespeare

Tudor Wedding Customs

On her wedding day, a Tudor bride would have worn her best set of clothes, with her hair worn loose and crowned with a garland of herbs. She would have been escorted by her bridesmaids who would spread rushes before her to protect her shoes and clothes from mud. 

The groom would dress in his finest doublet and hose, and been escorted by his male friends to the bride's house with the musical accompaniment of the pipe and tabor. It was common for the groom to bring gloves for wedding guests in exchange for herbs and flowers (an appropriate gift since Shakespeare's father was a glover). 

The wedding ceremony began at the door of the church and the ring was blessed. Afterwards the wedding party entered the main body of the church for nuptial mass.

Anne and William's first daughter, Susanna, was born six months after their marriage, and they would go on to have twins Judith and Hamnet a few years later. Read the article, 'How Many Children did Shakespeare Have?' to learn more about Shakespeare’s children.

It is difficult to define the exact nature of Anne and William's relationship due to a lack of documentary evidence. In Shakespeare’s will he leaves his second-best bed to Anne, which some have read as a slight against her; but the second-best bed would have been their marriage bed, since the best bed was typically reserved for guests. According to law at the time, it was assumed that the wife would inherit some of her late husband's estate.

Listen to experts discussing this topic further in our "Let's Talk Shakespeare" podcast episode "Did Shakespeare Love His Wife?"

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