One of the ways we fund the podcast is through affiliate links. If you purchase these items through our links, we make a commission. This, and all the posts here on our website, may contain such affiliate links. Welcome to Episode #91 of That Shakespeare Life, the podcast that takes you behind the curtain and into the life of William Shakespeare. When you study the life of William Shakespeare, one of the first facts you will learn pretty quickly is that his wife, Anne Hathaway was pregnant when she and William were married. We know she was pregnant based on the birth records of Susanna Shakespeare, who was born just about 5 months after the November 2, 1582 marriage of Anne and William Shakespeare. But as anyone who has had children will tell you, until you are far enough along to start feeling the baby, you use a pregnancy test to confirm if a woman is pregnant, which brings up two important questions about the life of Shakespeare: Did Anne Hathaway know she was pregnant when she got married? Did William know it, too? And if they did know, what did they use to find out? Here to answer all of these questions and to help us explore the history of prenatal medicine, and 16th century pregnancy tests, is our guest, Alicia Andrzejewski.
Join the conversation below.
No time to listen? Keep scrolling to explore more history on this topic right here on this page or if you would like to read the full conversation, you can download a transcript here at this link.
Dr. Alicia Andrzejewski is an Assistant Professor at William & Mary. She holds a PhD from the English program at the Graduate Center, City University of New York and an MA from Appalachian State University. Her current book project, Queer Pregnancy in Shakespeare’s Plays, addresses a conspicuous absence in queer readings of Shakespeare’s work: the pregnant body. This project reflects her ongoing research interests: early modern literature and culture, with an emphasis on drama and performance studies; queer and feminist theory; LGBTQ+ studies; the medical humanities; and critical race theory. Her work is forthcoming or has appeared in the peer-reviewed journals Shakespeare Studies, Shakespeare Bulletin, and The Tennessee Williams Annual Review.
In this episode, I’ll be asking Alicia about :
- We think of pregnancy tests today as being either a blood test, or the most popular, urinating on a test strip which then changes color to indicate pregnancy. As I understand it, the idea of the proof of pregnancy being revealed in a woman’s urine has a 16th century basis in the concept called piss prophets. What did a piss prophet do and how did they determine pregnancy?
- We know based on the birth date for Susanna Shakespeare that Anne Hathaway and William Shakespeare were expecting their first daughter when they married in 1582. Do you think Anne Hathaway knew that she was pregnant when she married William?
- If they did know that they were pregnant, would they have had to declare her condition before getting married?
- … and more!
Books and Resources Alicia Andrzejewski Reccomends
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But wait! There's more!
These show notes expand to show these great bonuses:
- The Pee Test for pregnancy
- 1574 woodcut of a woman giving a urine test to her physician
- 16th century painting of a doctor using the Ribbon Test to determine pregnancy in his patient
- 16-17th century portrait of Jaques Guillemeau, French surgeon who was a pioneer in obsterics
- The Wine Test for pregnancy
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