Is it possible that Shakespeare was reflecting on his relationship with his wife through the tragic portrayal of love in Romeo and Juliet?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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After reading a brief biography on William Shakespeare and his marriage to Anne Hathaway, it seems clear that there is little or no similarity between his experience with Anne and that of Romeo and Juliet. There is scant information on Shakespeare's life and even less on his marriage since, after the early years, he lived in London and she in Stratford-upon-Avon.

The general opinion, though, is that while Shakespeare at age eighteen did marry a twenty-five year old woman, therefore older than he, there is scant evidence that it was a forced marriage after the conception of their child, who was born six months after the wedding. Nor does there seem to be sufficient evidence for the speculation that he resented and then hated his wife.

This opinion holds because there really is not much evidence for anything relevant to Shakespeare's marriage. He might have left her around 1589 to pursue a postponed passion for the theater or he might have left her because their marriage was never one of the heart. It is clear from archaeological evidence that it was not uncommon among the classes lower than gentility for couples to marry after the conception of a child, so their marriage need not indicate an enforced union. Therefore there seems little comparison between them and Romeo and Juliet.

On the other hand, a little creative speculation might build a case for similarity that might conceivable form a comparison between the two couples.

  • William was young. Romeo was young.
  • Romeo was passionately in love.

ROMEO: I take thee at thy word:
Call me but love, and I'll be new baptized;
Henceforth I never will be Romeo.

  • William might have been passionately in love. The child conceived between between William and Anne might indicate this.
  • Romeo met resistance to marrying Juliet. William might have met resistance: he had no financial stability to offer; she had no pressing need to marry and would have been under the guardianship of her male relatives.

This might provide some basis for suggesting Shakespeare was possibly reflecting on his own marriage in Romeo and Juliet.

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