Anne Shakespeare (née Hathaway)
20 Facts and Speculations on the Life of William Shakespeare’s Wife
@ChasquiPenguin (Twitter) has gathered 20 interesting facts about the life of Anne Hathaway:
- Anne Hathaway was born in 1556, probably in the Warwickshire village of Shottery, though there are no records of either her date of birth or her baptism.
- She was the eldest of yeoman farmer Richard Hathaway’s eight children.
- The family lived in a large farmhouse called Hewland Farm, in Shottery.
- It is unlikely that Anne could read and write, as girls received no such education in Tudor times.
- In 1582 her father died, leaving Anne £6.13.4d in his will, stipulating this sum for his daughter Agnes Hathaway, so it is thought that this was Anne’s baptismal name.
- There is mention of Anne continuing to live with her siblings and step-mother after this, so it seems that her father outlived her mother and he married again.
- Anne and William Shakespeare were married in the church at Temple Grafton, probably on 30th November 1582. He was 18, she was 26.
- There is much confusion over the marriage itself. Worcester diocese records show that on 27th November 1582 a licence was granted for the marriage of William Shaxpere to Anne Whatley. However, the next day a surety bond was posted for the marriage of William Shakespeare to Anne Hathaway. Opinion on this is divided between
- a clerical error quickly corrected
- William involved with two women but forced to marry Miss Hathaway who was pregnant with his child
- the official documents referring to two entirely different marriages.
Most scholars agree that the first is the probable explanation.
- Following their marriage the couple lived with William’s parents and siblings in Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon.
- In May 1583 their daughter Susanna was born.
- Their twins Judith and Hamnet were born in January 1585.
- William spent much of their married life living in London, returning to Stratford to visit the family, while it is thought that Anne never travelled to London.
- In 1597 William bought New Place, a large house in Stratford, and shortly after this Anne and her daughters moved there, Hamnet having died in 1596.
- In 1607 Susanna married Dr John Hall and their daughter Elizabeth, Will and Anne’s first grandchild, was born in 1608.
- There is little known, though much speculation, about the relationship between Anne and William during their marriage but he retired to New Place to live with her in his final years, and they were visited by luminaries from the London literary world, including Ben Jonson.
- On his death in 1616 William famously left his “second best bed” and furniture to Anne, who lived the rest of her life in New Place. This house was bequeathed to Susanna and her husband by William but the Halls did not move in until after the death of her mother.
- There is speculation that the terms of Shakespeare’s will displayed a lack of love and respect for his wife, but there are other indications suggesting that this practice was not uncommon in the era and the children, who were the beneficiaries, were expected to care for their mother.
- Anne died on 6th August 1623 and is buried in a grave beside her husband, in the chancel of Holy Trinity Church, Stratford.
- There is no extant portrait of Anne other than a drawing by Sir Nathaniel Curzon from 1708 (below). This is said to be of her but was probably traced from an Elizabethan painting. Whether any authenticity can be attached to this drawing is open to speculation but it refers to “Shakespear’s Consort”. While it seems unlikely that any image of her was ever produced if she never visited London, perhaps Will commissioned an artist in Warwickshire.
- Anne Hathaway’s Cottage in Shottery is a tourist attraction but this “cottage”, where she was born and grew up, was actually a sizeable 12-roomed house on a 90-acre farm which her brother Bartholomew inherited on the death of their father. It had been built in 1463, as a single-storey home with 3 rooms but was extended by members of the Hathaway family over the years. With mounting debts, the family sold it in 1883, continuing to live in the house as tenants till 1911. However, in 1892 the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust bought it from the then landlord and still own this and the Henley Street house, giving visitors a chance to have a glimpse of the lives of Mr and Mrs William Shakespeare.
The above details are correct to the best of my ability but please let me know if you notice any inaccuracies. I am indebted to a variety of online resources, including The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.