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Shakespeare shuffles off this mortal coil
Thoughts of mortality might have quite naturally been brought on by the imminent marriage of his younger daughter Judith. It is also possible that a lifetime of drinking wine and ale was drunk instead of water - was simply taking its toll. A persistent tale has William falling ill after a heavy drinking session with a party that included his old friend/rival Ben Jonson.
One should also remember that Shakespeare lived for a considerable time as a single man in London, and his work does refer to "strange maladies" possibly syphilis caught during the emotionally tumultuous time that followed the death of his son, Hamnet.
Like many a rock star, writer or actor today, William had lived hard, and in often uncomfortable conditions. The revelations of this year would surely have weakened him further.
In March, just a month after her marriage, Judith Shakespeare and her husband Thomas Quiney are excommunicated for marrying in Lent without a licence. On top of this humiliation, scandal breaks when it emerges that Quiney had got another woman pregnant; the woman had subsequently died in childbirth. A public penance is levied on Quiney, which the family manages to have commuted to a simple fine.
The affair causes William to redraw his will, imposing conditions on Quiney. The will ends with the words "where I have hereunto put my seale." The word "seale," however, is struck through and replaced by the word "hand." Some years later in 1810 a gold signet ring was found close to the Holy Trinity churchyard where Shakespeare would have watched Judith wed. The initials on it are "WS." Had William dropped his ring? Perhaps a combination of weight loss through his creeping illness and the cold had made the ring ill fitting. A gold seal ring emblem of your status - is not something that would be casually cast away.
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