LOVE AND EARLY MARRIAGE
I hope upon familiarity will grow more
contempt. But if you say 'marry her', I
will marry her. That I am freely
dissolved, and dissolutely.
( Slender, The Merry Wives of Windsor)
In a Tudor parish one's life was under review by parents, friends, and neighbours so that almost no change in one's fate went unnoticed. One's private behaviour tended to be observable, too. A young man in the 'May of youth and bloom of lustihood' might, of course, sow his wild oats, but he was likely to hear from the vicar's apparitor and have to explain his fornication and apologize for it. Anyone's sexual affairs, outside marriage, concerned the community, and William's involvement with the Hathaways affected his career even as it touched on a web of social relationships.
The summer of 1582 had favoured lovers and crops. Great spreading green fields cultivated in strips, at Stratford and Shottery, lay in the sun, and the nation's harvest was the best since 1570, or about 20 per cent better than average. 1 Near the end of their new civic year Stratford's council in fact acted with largesse and, for the first time on record, sponsored local mummers. The aldermen were to pay the troupe's leader Davy Jones, whose wife Frances Hathaway was related to Richard Hathaway's people at Shottery. Davy's troupe were to perform at Whitsun a week before Shakespeare's first child was baptized -- and his familiar name would echo in Justice Shallow's