Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A Wife by Any Other Name...

Shakespeare was married to both Ann Hathaway and Agnes Gardner of Shottery. At the same time!

The only evidence that Richard Hathaway alias Gardner of Shottery had a daughter called Ann is a reference in his will to a daughter called Agnes. Scholars have demonstrated convincingly that in this period Agnes and Ann were simply treated as versions of the same name, pointing out dozens of examples where Agnes, pronounced 'Annis', gradually becomes 'Ann'. Richard Hathaway left a sheep to a great-niece he calls Agnes, though according to the parish record she was actually christened Annys; in 1600 she was buried as Ann. Theatre manager Philip Henslowe called his wife Agnes in his will but she was buried as Ann. Ann's brother Bartholomew called a daughter Annys, but she was buried as Ann. The curate William Gilbert alias Higgs who wrote Hathaway's will married Agnes Lyncian, but she was buried as Ann Gilbert. This is not simply serendipitous. Agnes was the name of a fourth-century virgin martyr of the kind whose lurid and preposterous adventures are the stuff of The Golden Legend, justly ridiculed by protestant reformers. Ann (or Hannah) was the solid biblical name of the Redeemer's grandmother. It is only to be expected that as protestantism gained hearts and minds Agnes would be silently driven out by Ann. We may accept that the child born Agnes Hathaway grew up to be Ann Shakespeare. [Link]


I can accept the Agnes/Ann exchange. My question is that in the beginning of the paragraph Agnes/Ann is Richard Hathaway's daughter, and later in the paragrah she is his niece.

Was the word 'daughter' and the word 'great niece' synonyms back then?


According to this book, Richard's will mentions both his daughter Ann and his niece Agnes, who was the daughter of Thomas Hathaway and was christened as "Anne."

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