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The Life and Times of William Shakespeare Essay

John Whitgift was the bishop of Worcester from 1577 to 1583, when he was “translated” to the see of Canterbury. Worcester was 21 miles west of Stratford, and the consistory court there the place where a marriage license, issued to a local parish priest, might be obtained. Whitgift’s register for the date November 27, 1582 indicates the issuance of a license for marriage between William Shaxpere and Anne Whateley of Temple Grafton. At the time, Shakespeare would have been 18 years old.

I reproduce the register entry below in facsimile, from Joseph William Gray, Shakespeare’s Marriage, Chapman & Hall, 1905; followed by the context and literal translation from Cartae Shakespeareanae. Note that this is the entry from the Bishop’s register, not the license itself, which has not survived. The next day, November 28, 1582, a marriage bond was entered into by Fulke Sandells and John Rychardson, farmers of Shottery, Anne Hathaway’s village.

The purpose of the bond was to indemnify the church in case some later lawful impediment is found to the marriage since the banns were only going to be pronounced once, rather than the stipulated three times. The gentlemen in question were friends of the Hathaway family from Shottery, and stood surety for ? 40. In fact, Sandells seems to have been acting as agent for the Hathaway family, performing the duties of father since Richard Hathaway was recently deceased.

Sandells had supervised his will, i. e. , acted as trustee, and Rychardson had witnessed it. Richard Hathaway had been married twice. Anne was the firstborn of four children (1556) by his first wife. His first wife’s name is unknown, but lived in Temple Grafton. His second wife was named Joan who died about 1600. Richard Hathaway died in September, 1581. The bond clearly describes intended marriage between William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway of Stratford.

I reproduce it in transcript below, from the Cartae Shakespeareanae, the beginning paragraph in Latin simply states the parties, amounts, date, and officers of the diocese acting as witnesses: Noverint universi per praesentes nos Fulconem Sandells de Stratford in comitatu Warwici agricolam et Johannem Rychardson ibidem agricolam, teneri et firmiter obligari Ricardo Cosin generoso et Roberto Warmstry notario publico in quadraginta libris bonae et legalis monetae Angliae solvend.

Eisdem Ricardo et Roberto haered. execut. et assignat. suis ad quam quidem solucionem bene et fideliter faciend. obligamus nos et utrumque nostrum per se pro toto et in solid. haered. executor. et administrator, nostros firmiter per praesentes. sigillis nostris sigillat. Dat 28 die Novem. Anno regni dominae nostrae Eliz. Dei gratia Angliae Franc. at Hiberniae Regime fidei defensor &c. 25.

The condicion of this obligacion ys suche that if herafter there shall not appere any lawfull lett or impediment by reason of any precontract, consanguitie, affinitie or by any other lawfull meanes whatsoever, but that Willm Shagspere one thone partie and Anne Hathwey of Stratford in the dioces of Worcester, maiden, may lawfully solemnize matrimony together, and in the same afterwardes remaine and continew like man and wiffe according unto the lawes in that behalf provided;

And moreover if there be not at this present time any action sute quarrell or demaund moved or depending before any judge ecclesiasticall or temporall for and concerning any such lawfull lett or impediment; and moreover if the said Willm do not proceed to solemnization of mariadg with the said Anne Hathwey without the consent of hir frindes.

And also if the said Willm do upon his owne proper costes and expenses defend and save harmles the right reverend Father in God Lord John Bishop of Worcester and his offycers for licencing them the said Willm and Anne to be maried together with once asking of the bannes of matrimony betwene them and for all other causes which may ensue by reason or occasion therof that then the said obligacion to be void and of none effect or els to stand and abide in full force and vertue.

The bond is signed with the marks of Sandells and Rychardson, who are described as being “de Stratford” but were actually from Shottery. I reproduce the marks below, from Halliwell-Phillipps The Life of William Shakespeare, p. 112: The chancellor of the diocesan consistory court was Richard Cosin (“Ricardo Cosin”) assisted by registrar Robert Warmstry (“Roberto Warmstry”). The effect of the bond was that the marriage might proceed “with once asking of the bannes,” as noted above, rather than asking the banns on three succeeding weeks.


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