Hamnet and Judith
Hamnet Shakespeare (1585 – 1596)
Hamnet Shakespeare was named after Hamnet Sadler, a local Catholic man and friend of the Shakespeare family. Hamnet Sadler was remembered in William’s will.
The cause of Hamnet’s death is unknown, and it is not clear whether his father was able to attend his funeral in Stratford. Many scholars argue that the pain of losing a beloved son is echoed most strongly in the words of Constance in the history play, King John:
Grief fills the room up of my absent child,
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me,
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words,
Remembers me of all his gracious parts,
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form.
Then, have I reason to be fond of grief?
Fare you well: had you such a loss as I,
I could give better comfort than you do.
I will not keep this form upon my head,
When there is such disorder in my wit.
O Lord! my boy, my Arthur, my fair son!
My life, my joy, my food, my all the world!
Judith Shakespeare (1585 – 1662)
Judith was Hamnet’s twin sister, and named after Hamnet Sadler’s wife, Judith Sadler.
At age 31, Judith married Thomas Quiney, the son of a prominent local family. Thomas, aged 26, married the much older Judith in Lent of 1616. Scandal ensured when, one month after the wedding his lover, Margeret Wheeler, gave birth to his son and both, tragically, did not survive. As a result of his conduct, Thomas was sentenced to perform penance clad in a white sheet before the congregation for three Sundays, and he gave 5 shillings to the poor.
Susanna was left much more than her younger sister in her father’s will. Judith received £150 and a silver gilt bowl, plus additional money if she and her children survived another 3 years. In 1616, shortly after her father passed away, Judith gave birth to a son named Shakespeare. Sadly, all three of her sons died before adulthood.