William Shakespeare

Marriage

When he was eighteen Shakespeare married twenty-six year old Anne Hathaway. They may have been rushed into marrying because Anne was pregnant – their first child, Susanna, was born just six months after their wedding. Pregnant brides were not unusual, however, and nothing concrete is known about William and Anne’s relationship. Shakespeare spent his working life in London, leaving his family at home in Stratford, but he invested in property in Stratford and he may have returned there frequently. Because Anne was nearly a decade older than Shakespeare, some critics suggest she was the origin of Shakespeare’s particular interest in female characters older and more experienced than the usual maidenly romantic lead. Many of his most complex characters are wives and mothers. In Gertrude ( Hamlet ) and Cleopatra ( Anthony and Cleopatra ), Shakespeare showed deep sympathy for the sexuality of women no longer in their maidenhood. In other plays he explored how the ambition of a wife like Lady Macbeth ( Macbeth ) or of a mother like Volumnia ( Coriolanus ) can shape the course of a husband’s or a child’s life.