William Shakespeare is a prolific poet and playwright, who kept his private life in darkness. In his death anniversary, here is what you need to know about Shakespeare's only wife Anne Hathaway.
Anne Hathaway’s Early Life
Anne Hathaway was born in 1556 and grew up in one-storey farmhouse on a 90-acre farm in Shottery, a short distance from Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, England.
She was the oldest daughter in a large family. It is believed that her mother died when she was ten. Moreover, her father was a yeoman farmer, and a very well-respected member of the Shottery community. When he died in 1581, he left Anne, who was also known as Agnes, sum of money, an amount of £6 13s 4d (six pounds, thirteen shillings and four pence), to be paid “at the day of her marriage.”
In 1582, Hathaway married Shakespeare when she was already three months pregnant with their first child. They had a shotgun wedding.
The marriage was considered unusual at that time, as Shakespeare was just 18 years old and so had to obtain his father's permission to marry Hathaway, who was 26.
To avoid the scandal of having a child out of wedlock, the couple obtained special permission from the Bishop's Court in Worcester to speed up proceedings and so married outside of their home parish.
Friends and family had to financially guarantee the wedding and sign a surety for £40—a huge sum in those days.
After wedding, Hathaway had moved in with Shakespeare and his parents to live in the family home on Henley Street, in which she shared the household chores with her mother-in-law, Mary, her sister-in-law, Joan, and cared for her children.
Their first daughter, Susanna, was born six months after their marriage. The following year, Hathaway became pregnant with twins, Hamnet and Judit.
Hamnet died at age of 11 from the plague, and four years later Shakespeare wrote “Hamlet”, a play which may have been inspired by the grief of losing his son.
Shakespeare’s Leaving to London
In 1588, Shakespeare left his hometown, travelling to London to pursue a career as an actor and playwright. The couple had no more children together, as they lived apart until Shakespeare returned to Stratford in 1611 after achieving financial success as an actor, poet and playwright.
Hathaway lived the life she had dreamed of as an upper middle-class housewife with her husband, children and grandchildren. She was socially respected, energetic and in good spirits until 1616 when her husband died unexpectedly at the age of 52.
Six years later, she celebrated her husband’s success when his bust was installed near the altar at Trinity Church, where he was buried.
In 1623, at the age of 67, Hathaway died and was also buried at Trinity Church next to her husband. Apparently, they were closer in death than they were in life.
Shakespeare’s will was famously examined by Carol Ann Duffy in her 1999 poem, ‘Anne Hathaway', from her collection The World's Wife.
When he died on 23rd April 1616, the playwright left his ‘second best bed…' to his wife .
“Item I gyve unto my wife my second best bed with the furniture,” according to the will.
Anne Hathaway's Cottage
Hathaway's family farm, known as Newlands Farm, was purchased by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in 1892 following her brother’s death. The cottage has been running as a museum dedicated to her and Shakespeare’s legacy.
Visitors to the 500-year old house can learn about her early years and her life with her husband, take a look around the tearooms, and follow the garden's sculpture trail, which features depictions of famous Shakespearean characters.