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William Shakespeare’s Wife: A Glimpse into Anne Hathaway’s Life and Love

Delve into the Life of Anne Hathaway, William Shakespeare's Wife: Marriage, Family, and Unyielding Support throughout the Bard's Literary Journey.
by Robyn Kerkhof | Oct 16 2023

Discover the extraordinary woman behind the world’s most renowned playwright in this insightful article on William Shakespeare’s devoted wife, Anne Hathaway. Explore their marriage, Anne’s role in William’s life, family dynamics, and an overview of Shakespeare’s bestselling works.

William Shakespeare, one of history’s most significant literary figures, was born in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. His exact date of birth is unknown, but records suggest he was baptized on April 26, 1564, indicating he was likely born a few days prior.
 

Anne Hathaway: William Shakespeare’s Wife, the Woman Behind the Genius

Anne Hathaway was born in 1556 in Shottery, England; however, the exact date of birth is unknown. She came from a humble family in Shottery, a village near Stratford-upon-Avon. Her father was a yeoman farmer and well-respected in the area.

Due to limited available information in historical records, Anne Hathaway’s life remains shrouded in mystery, but she is believed to have been educated and well-regarded in her community. Researchers and writers have extensively debated her personality and the nature of her relationship with William Shakespeare.
 

Shakespeare’s Unconventional Marriage to Anne Hathaway: Their Age Difference and a Shotgun Wedding

William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway were married on November 28, 1582, and remained together until William’s death. At the time, Shakespeare was 18 years old, while Anne was 26. Their marriage is considered unconventional for the era, as Shakespeare was relatively young and Anne was significantly older than him.

Anne was believed to be expecting their first child at the time, as she gave birth just six months later. Some historians have speculated that the couple had a “shotgun wedding,” hastily arranged due to Anne’s pregnancy and their age difference.

To prevent scandal, William expedited their marriage before her pregnancy became apparent. He applied for a wedding license at the Bishop’s Court in Worcester, with two farmers as guarantors. After the wedding, Anne likely moved in with William and his parents in their family home on Henley Street.

William and Anne’s love story shares a resemblance to the profound love depicted in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Like the star-crossed lovers, William and Anne faced challenges and obstacles in their relationship, yet their love prevailed.

Their marriage was a union that defied societal expectations and norms of the time. Both couples faced adversity, but their love remained strong and profound, leaving a lasting legacy that continues to captivate audiences today.

 

William Shakespeare’s Children: How Grief Became a Masterpiece

Anne and William Shakespeare had three children together. Their first child, Susanna, was born in 1583, followed by twins Hamnet and Judith in 1585. Sadly, Hamnet passed away at the age of 11 during a devastating outbreak of the bubonic plague.

He was laid to rest in Stratford-upon-Avon on August 11, 1596,  leaving Susanna and Judith as the sole heirs to Shakespeare’s legacy.

Four years later, William wrote one of his most famous plays, Hamlet, widely regarded as one of the most impactful and influential tragedies in the English language. Its timeless story has captivated audiences throughout the centuries, leading to endless retellings and adaptations by countless other artists and creators.

Shakespeare experts and scholars suggest that the names Hamnet and Hamlet could be used interchangeably during that era, so there might be a connection between his son’s loss and Hamlet. 

 

From Stratford to London: William Shakespeare’s Separation for His Career

Anne Shakespeare lived most of her life in Stratford-upon-Avon, frequently separated from her husband due to his theatrical commitments in London. Historians suggest that Anne managed the family home and finances during Shakespeare’s absences and was actively involved in her husband’s business affairs.

With William’s growing success in the London theater scene, he amassed considerable wealth. By 1597, they acquired New Place, the largest residence in Stratford-upon-Avon. Despite his career being centered in London, Shakespeare maintained strong connections to his hometown throughout his life.

While little information exists about the specifics of Anne’s involvement in Shakespeare’s career, it is believed that she supported his artistic endeavors. Her steadfast support enabled him to pursue his literary ambitions undeterred, and she stood by his side throughout their married life despite their challenges.

There is a belief that William Shakespeare wasn’t actually in love and that he left his wife and young family in Stratford to pursue fame and fortune in London. However, it is essential to note that he eventually returned to Stratford and remained by his wife’s side until his passing.
 

William Shakespeare’s Last Will to Anne Hathaway

In William Shakespeare’s will, he left a poignant bequest to his wife, Anne Hathaway. Despite the challenges that may have existed in their relationship, Shakespeare ultimately remembered Hathaway in his final testament.

The bequest consisted of his “second-best bed,” a seemingly modest gift that has sparked curiosity and speculation among scholars and Shakespeare enthusiasts alike. While the exact significance of this gesture remains uncertain, it is widely believed that the “second-best bed” was not a slight or an indication of Shakespeare’s lack of affection towards Hathaway.

Instead, it may have held a deeper symbolic meaning, perhaps representing their shared marital history or personal memories that were special to them alone. Regardless, the inclusion of this gift in his will serves as a reminder that even in his final moments, Shakespeare wanted to leave a part of himself with his wife, acknowledging her importance and presence in his life.
 

Shakespeare’s Influence on Contemporary Literature

William Shakespeare penned 38 plays, 154 sonnets, and two long narrative poems. His most renowned works include “Romeo and Juliet,” “Hamlet,” “Macbeth,” and “Othello.” His literary contributions have enduringly influenced the English language and continue to captivate audiences worldwide.

Right before Hamnet passed away, his playwrights were predominantly comedies. Only in the years following Hamnet’s death, did he begin crafting his notable tragedies. Some scholars speculate that Shakespeare’s personal experience may have infused his later tragedies with a profound depth and emotional resonance.

Anne Hathaway, William Shakespeare’s wife, played a crucial role in the life and success of the legendary playwright. Together, they navigated the complexities of marriage, family, and Shakespeare’s illustrious career. Anne’s unwavering support and dedication undoubtedly contributed to the enduring legacy of William Shakespeare and his timeless works of literature.

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