Susanna Hall

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Susanna Hall
Born Susanna Shakespeare
Baptised 26 May 1583
Died 11 July 1649(1649-07-11) (aged 66)
Nationality English
Known for Daughter of William Shakespeare
Spouse(s) John Hall (1607-1635)
Children Elizabeth Barnard
Signature SusannaHallsignature1647.jpg

Susanna Hall (baptised 26 May 1583 – 11 July 1649), née Shakespeare, was the oldest child of William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway, and the older sister of Judith Quiney and Hamnet Shakespeare. She married John Hall, a local physician, in 1607. They had one daughter, named as Elizabeth, in 1608.

Birth and early life[edit]

Susanna was baptised on 29 May 1583—which that year fell on Trinity Sunday, a church feast—in the Church of the Holy Trinity, Stratford-upon-Avon.[1][2]

Shakespeare's wife Anne was already pregnant with Susanna when the couple were married. The name "Susanna" derives from the story of Susanna and the elders in Book of Daniel and suggests "purity and spotlessness",[3] and had associations that appealed to the Puritans.[4] It first appeared in Stratford parish registers in 1574, so the name was still rather novel, but it was shared by two other children born that spring. As such it may have been an assertion of virtue for a child born "perilously close to the wrong side of marriage" as the historian Peter Ackroyd put it.[5]

She was raised in Stratford-upon-Avon along with her brother Hamnet and younger sister Judith. Stratford school records of the time are lost, so no record of her education exists, but she was able to sign her name.[6]

Marriage to John Hall[edit]

John and Susanna Hall lived at Hall's Croft in Stratford until 1616.

Susanna married John Hall, a respected physician, on 5 June 1607 in Holy Trinity Church. She was 24; he was about 32. Some slight evidence indicates that Shakespeare settled a substantial dowry on Susanna of 105 acres of his land in Old Stratford he had bought in 1602, probably retaining a life interest in it.[7] John Hall's Select Observations, cases studies of his patients, was published in 1657, 22 years after his death. The earliest case, a local one, dates from 1611, making it almost certain that he lived and worked in Stratford from at least the time of his marriage.

Their one child, Elizabeth was baptised on 21 February 1608 in Holy Trinity Church. The couple had no other children, and Elizabeth was the only grandchild Shakespeare knew, as Judith's children were born after his death.

Suit for slander[edit]

In June 1613, a man named John Lane, Jr., 23, accused Susanna of adultery with a Rafe Smith, a 35-year-old haberdasher, and claimed she had caught a venereal disease from Smith. As a notable Puritan of the community, Hall supported the Puritan vicar, Thomas Wilson, against whom Lane would later participate in a riot, and it is possible that Lane's charges had political motives in defaming Susanna. On 15 July the Halls brought suit for slander against Lane in the Consistory Court at Worcester. Robert Whatcott, who three years later witnessed Shakespeare's will, testified for the Halls, but Lane failed to appear. Lane was found guilty of slander and excommunicated.[8] In 1619 Lane was found guilty of slander again, this time for attacks on the vicar and local aldermen. He was also named in court as a persistent drunkard.[9]

Inheritance[edit]

When Shakespeare died on 23 April 1616, he left the bulk of his estate, in an elaborate fee tail, to Susanna and her male heirs, which included his main house, New Place, his two houses on Henley Street, and various lands in and around Stratford, and all his “goodes Chattels, Leases, plate, jewles and Household stuffe whatsoever after my dettes and Legasies paied and my funerall expences discharged” to her and her husband. In the case of Susanna’s death, the estate was bequeathed, in descending order of choice, "to the first sonne of her bodie lawfullie yssueing & to the heires Males of the bodie of the saied first Sonne lawfullie yssueing"; and in default of such issue, to her second son and his male heirs and to the third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh sons and their male heirs. In case no sons were born or they died, the estate would then go to her daughter Elizabeth Hall and her male heirs; to Judith and her male heirs; or to whatever lawful heirs survived.[10] He also named the Halls as executors of the will, and John Hall proved the will in London 22 June 1616 at the archbishop's prerogative court at Canterbury.[11]

Death and burial[edit]

Susanna died when she was 66 years old. She was buried in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford next to her parents. Her tombstone epiphet reads:

Here lyeth the body of Susanna, wife of John Hall, gent., the daughter of William Shakespeare, gent. She deceased the 11 day of July, Anno 1649, aged 66.

Witty above her sex, but that's not all,
Wise to Salvation was good Mistress Hall,
Something of Shakespeare was in that, but this
Wholly of him with whom she's now in blisse.
Then, passenger, hast nere a tear
To weep with her that wept with all
That wept, yet set herself to chere
Them up with comforts cordiall?
Her love shall live, her mercy spread
When thou hast nere a tear to shed.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Schoenbaum, S. William Shakespeare: A Compact Documentary Life. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987, p. 93.
  2. ^ Ackroyd, Peter. Shakespeare: The Biography. New York: Anchor, 2005, pp. 93-4.
  3. ^ Ackroyd, 93-4
  4. ^ Schoenbaum, 93.
  5. ^ Ackroyd, 98.
  6. ^ Schoenbaum, 286.
  7. ^ Honan, Park. Shakespeare: A Life. Oxford UP: Oxford, 1998, pp. 291-2.
  8. ^ Honan 384-5.
  9. ^ Kate Emery Pogue, Shakespeare's family, Greenwood Publishing, 2008, pp.72-3.
  10. ^ Schoenbaum 304-5.
  11. ^ Schoenbaum 306; Honan 398.