Monday, February 1, 2010

Laid-Back Shakespeare

Today I’d like to begin a regular feature on this blog.

My hobby is Shakespeare. So every once in a while I’d like to write about the Bard of Avon’s life and times, the Elizabethan era, the plays, with little nuggets of information – odd, whimsical, whatever – that we might call Shakespeare trivia.



I’d like to avoid the serious approach, the heavily didactic; in other words, the boring stuff. Instead, I’d like this to be an entertaining series of posts that will be informal and relaxed, and, I hope, of interest to everyone.

(You don’t have to take notes; none of this will be on the final. :-D)

For example, here’s an odd nugget just to get the ball rolling. I’ll call it “That Whatley Girl.”

In a recent post, we were talking about young Will Shakespeare’s marriage to Anne Hathaway. But there’s a mystery about that marriage that has had scholars puzzled for a couple of centuries. When the clerk of the court wrote out the license, he gave the bride’s name as “Anne Whatley.” Her name – she’s known as the Second Anne – appears there and nowhere else.

Could it be that the clerk was just careless or incompetent? That he had meant to write “Hathaway” but it had been a long day and he was tired? Because it’s a fact that the mistake, if it was a mistake, was corrected and the marriage that finally did take place was definitely between Will S. and Anne Hathaway; she was his wife and the mother of his children.



So novelists have made up a True Romances story; it would make a good TV soap. In their scenario, Teenager Will had as his true love the beautiful Anne Whatley (they might have looked like the couple above); she was the girl he wanted to marry. He went so far as to make application for the marriage with the clerk of the court.
But the Hathaway family, not to mention his own family, told Will that was out of the question. The Hathaway Anne was visibly pregnant and he was responsible so he could just forget about that other Anne, the Whatley girl – who wasn’t even from Stratford.



So Will had to forget about his true love.

Well, that’s the story. It’s all pure speculation, but it makes for a more interesting scenario than the one about the clerk of the court who simply had a bad day and mistakenly wrote down the wrong name.

25 comments:

French Fancy said...

I guess you have read the Bill Bryson book about Will. It just proves how little is known about him and how most of it is - as you've said - just made up.

Pat said...

Maybe the clerk was lysdexic?

Berowne said...

Pat: "Maybe the clerk was lysdexic?"

Not a dad ibea. :-)

Berowne said...

French Fancy -- No question, the life of Will S. encourages a lot of imaginative theorizing.

Jeanne said...

I always picture him in heaven, looking down sardonically as we try to piece together his life in a way that aligns with his writings.

"Lord, what fools these mortals be!"

Berowne said...

Jeanne - Yes, and I've made up a list of questions I would ask of him if I ever time-traveled back to that era. It's quite a long list! :-)

lakeviewer said...

Interesting tidbit.

Berowne said...

Thanks, lv.

willow said...

I'll be looking forward to more Shakespeare stuff! Great idea for a regular feature.

Berowne said...

Thanks for the encouragement, willow.

Eleonora said...

Keep the Will I Es stuff coming, I can never get enough of the guy.

As far as converting metric to standard US weight, volume and temperatures I suggest you visit a site called Gourmet Sleuth and use their nifty conversion tool

Ciao,
Eleonora xx

Berowne said...

"Keep the Will I Es stuff coming, I can never get enough of the guy."

Good to know. Thanks Eleonora, Ciao.

Everyday Goddess said...

Great idea for a series!

Most everything that was a chore to learn in school is so much more pleasant to learn in middle age.

Thanks!

Jeanie said...

I like the true love lost theory best, too. Or maybe he was like Henry VIII and had lots of loves named Anne.

Berowne said...

Jeanie: "Or maybe he was like Henry VIII and had lots of loves named Anne."

Interesting. I hadn't thought of that.

Berowne said...

Everyday Goddess: "Great idea for a series!"

Very encouraging. Thanks, Goddess.

Simon said...

If you haven't seen it, try find Michael Woods' "In Search of Shakespeare". It's a fascinating BBC series presented by one of the best TV historians.

Berowne said...

Yes, it was on PBS over here.

If I may, I would hesitantly offer a tiny ounce of criticism. Michael Wood unfortunately offers as fact things that are far, very far, from fact. As with the Anne Whatley story, we are often, when studying Shakespeare's life, dealing with suppositions, theories, assumptions. It is important that these guesses, since that is what they are, be kept separate from the items of Shakespearean information that are indeed undisputed fact -- and there are quite a lot of those, too.

Madame DeFarge said...

If only I could make the reason for my spelling mistakes so interesting, work would be way more fun.

Molly Potter said...

Your speculation made me go into automatic detective mode and mouth 'Hathaway' and 'Whatley' in my best Elizabethan tongue (fluent! ha!) to see if they did in fact sound a bit similar and if the clerk was drunk - it might have.

Apologies for Lavender Hill Mob mix up!

Berowne said...

Mme DeF: "If only I could make the reason for my spelling mistakes so interesting,,,"

Ah, that reminds me of the topic of Elizabethan spelling -- another interesting subject for discussion.

Berowne said...

Molly Potter: "...if the clerk was drunk."

Certainly a possibility. Welcome to our blog, Molly P.

Derrick said...

Hi! Thanks for visiting me a few times recently. I'm here to redress the balance (hopefully) and sign up for future Shakespearean snippets! What's in a name? Bit like "Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter"!

Berowne said...

Derrick: >> Bit like "Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter"!<<

Thanks -- that's a good idea for a topic.

Shakey said...

Just found your blog. Great reading! I too am interested in all things to do with Shakespeare the man rather than his plays, which I find a bit hard going at times. I have a book entitled 'Shakespeare's Other Anne' by W.J.Fraser Hutcheson which tells the life story of Anne Whately who was an accomplished poet herself. The book claims that William and Anne Whately were lifelong lovers!

 
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