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As a husband Shakespeare offered few prospects; his family had fallen into financial ruin, while Hathaway, from a family in good standing both socially and financially, would have been considered a catch.Furthermore, a "handfast" or probationary marriage and pregnancy were frequent precursors to legal marriage at the time.Germaine Greer argues that the age difference between Shakespeare and Hathaway is not evidence that he was forced to marry her, but that he was the one who pursued her.

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Shakespeare was bound to marry Hathaway, who had become pregnant by him, but there is no reason to assume that this had not always been his intention.Hathaway married Shakespeare in November 1582 while already pregnant with the couple's first child, to whom she gave birth six months later.This age difference, added to Hathaway's antenuptial pregnancy, has been employed by some historians as evidence that it was a "shotgun wedding", forced on a somewhat reluctant Shakespeare by the Hathaway family.Whittington left 40 shillings to "the poor of Stratford", adding that the money was "in the hand of Anne Shakespeare wife unto Master William Shakespeare, and is due debt unto me, being paid to mine executor by the said William Shakespeare or his assigns according to the true meaning of this my will." This passage has been interpreted in several different ways.One view is that Whittington may have lent Anne the money, presumably because she was short of cash while her husband was away.

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