On this day in 1582, William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway. We know little about Shakespeare’s personal life, but based on marriage records, we do know that he was 18-years old when he married, and Anne was 26. Six months after the wedding, Will and Anne’s first child, Susanna, was born. Two years later, Anne gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl named Hamnet and Judith. Soon after the birth of the twins, Shakespeare left his family in Stratford upon Avon and traveled to London where he began his career as an actor and playwright. When Shakespeare retired from the theater in 1610, he returned to Stratford, where he lived with Anne until his death in 1616. Anne died seven years after her husband in 1623. The couple is buried next to each other in the Church of the Holy Trinity in Stratford (1).
In Shakespeare’s plays there are many memorable marriages as well as memorable married couples. In Romeo and Juliet, for example, we have one of the most memorable and hasty marriages in literary history. The young lovers meet at the end of Act I and are married by the end of Act II. And of course there are the many marriage ceremonies that bring closure to the plots of Shakespeare’s comedies.
But when it comes to the topics of love and marriage and Shakespeare, what probably comes first to mind are his sonnets.
Shakespeare did not invent the sonnet form, but he certainly perfected it. Among his 154 sonnets we have not only the greatest examples of the form, we also have some of the greatest poetry in the English language.
Notice, for example, Sonnet 116. It follows the usual form of the Shakespearean sonnet, fourteen lines consisting of three quatrains and a final couplet. The rhyme scheme is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. The basic structure and form of these immortal love notes may be the same, but like flowers, each features its own unique combination of images, argument, diction, and pathos:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved. (2)
Today’s Challenge: Not Just Another Thank You Note
Who are some people you care enough about to write a heartfelt note expressing your love, affection, and/or thanks? In addition to commemorating Shakespeare’s marriage and verse on this day, we might also remember that it is the anniversary of the very first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, which took place in New York City in 1924.
Write a prose sonnet, a 14-line heartfelt note, addressed to an individual you care about, expressing your love, affection, and/or thanks. It does not need to be a romantic note, but it should provide specific details that show the addressee why he or she is special to you and why you are thankful for this person. Carefully craft each sentence to balance your reasons and your emotions. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can try to write it as a Shakespearean sonnet. If you write in prose, make sure you have 14 lines, but don’t go just for word count; instead, like Shakespeare did when he wrote in either prose or poetry, make each word count. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)
1-Pressley, J. M. Mrs. Shakespeare: Anne Hathaway. Shakespeare Resource Center. http://www.bardweb.net/content/ac/hathaway.html.
2-Shakespeare, William (1564-1616). Sonnet 116. Public Domain.