Reading Update: ‘Nothing Like the Sun’, 157?-1587: Chapters IV-VII

Mrs. Shakespeare, Anne Hathaway, probably looked more like the portrait on the left than the one on the right…

Chapters IV-VII move quickly despite the great many events that occur: after seeing a girl he fancies with another man, WS gets drunk in an alehouse, gets punched in the stomach, vomits, and passes out; he wakes up in a wooded area next to a half-nude woman [later revealed to be Anne Hathaway, future Mrs. Shakespeare], and they proceed to do what comes naturally in such a situation, mostly because WS cannot remember who she is and, being a sensy through and through, he doesn’t want to hurt her feelings by making this known. (Not that there is much reason for him to protest in said predicament.)

Nevertheless WS wants to forget this woman, and he begins to court another, younger girl named Anne (this one with black hair — typical WS, what with his earlier fantasies of his dark-haired, dark-skinned goddess), but he is eventually violently informed by two men of the Hathaway clan that the older Anne is with-child and that it’s time for young Master Shakespeare to do the honorable thing. He doesn’t want to marry her, but he has little choice. Plus, being a sensy, he surely would die of guilt were he to leave older Anne and baby high and dry.

Married life is strenuous for WS, though mainly because of his husbandly duties to sate his new wife’s lawful matrimonial pleasures. Anne Hathaway, it turns out [in this tale, at least] is one kinky dame! Role-playing, violence, props — the list of her fetishes goes on, and poor WS can hardly keep up, forcing himself forward only as she berates his masculinity. (Perhaps this is the “hell” he alludes to at the close of Sonnet 129?)

He finally realizes the possibility that the new baby, Susanna, might not be his, and so he devises an excuse to depart from Anne: he will need to leave home to seek out greater income elsewhere. (Perhaps true, perhaps not.) But something causes him to delay; he muses this something might be Susanna, his poor maybe-daughter, for whom he feels affection and, of course, his trademark pity.

In the midst of a glove-making deal (making a single glove), WS meets John Quedgeley, who eventually gets the apprentice glove-maker drunk on hard cider at the delivery of the glove in question. After slithering home and sleeping off his cider-drunkenness, he is informed by his brother (who had to deliver the glove that WS forgot to bring the first time) that Mister Quedgeley will be by the following morning to pick him up to begin his new post as live-in teacher for the Quedgeley kids. Just as with his first meeting with Anne, drunkenness has prevented him from having any recollection of this.

It’s interesting that Burgess leaves even WS in the dark about some important aspects of his life: we know so little about it, so why shouldn’t he himself, too? How he met Anne, how he got out of glove-making–of what other important life events will WS be as clueless as us? Why he goes to London? How he gets into acting? Why he stays married to Anne until death, despite the lack of love? Why he retires early? How he dies?! I cannot wait to find out.


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