Anne Hathaway was the wife of William Shakespeare, though she is almost always referred to by her maiden name. She was born around 1556 at Hewlands Farm, home of her father, the yeoman farmer Richard Hathaway. (This family home, a mile east of Stratford-upon-Avon, is now a tourist attraction.)

She and William married in November 1582 when he was 18 and she was 26; the couple had a daughter Susannah the next year, and twins, Hamnet and Judith, two years later. The attraction of William to a woman eight years older than he was has puzzled many, but Anne was already three months pregnant when they married. The couple got a special license to be married from the Bishop of Worcester after announcing their betrothal once in church, rather than the more time-consuming process of publishing of the banns three times. No marriages were performed during Advent (the four weeks before Christmas), so there was certainly some time pressure involved with a pregnant bride.

Oddly enough, a normal marriage license was issued the day before for a "William Shaxpere and Anne Whateley of Temple Grafton," a village not too far away. It is not known if this was a mistake on the clerk's part in writing down William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway from Stratford, or if these are two different people. It is recorded in Stratford that a guarantee of £40 was undertaken by two yeomen of the town, apparently friends of Anne's father, keeping the bishop from any liability over marriage of "William Shagspere and Anne Hathway" after only one reading of the banns. In 1582, £40 was a lot of money -- someone wanted them to get that license. (This has led some to believe that William was involved with someone else who might protest his marriage to Anne Hathaway, and that the license for Anne Whateley refers to the same man but a different woman.) William was still legally a minor, being under 21, and may have had to get his father's consent to the marriage as well. (It is also interesting that Anne's father, who had died the year before, had willed Anne "6 pounds 13 Shillings and 4 pence," but it was not to be paid to her until the day she got married. No one knows if he merely meant her to have some money of her own when she married, or if he was encouraging her to abandon being an old maid.)

William probably left Stratford for London about five years after his marriage; there are several unproven legends about his reasons for so doing (getting caught poaching, etc.). At least once Anne needed money enough to borrow 41 shillings from a local person while William was out of town; William tried to avoid paying this back and was eventually taken to court. But William apparently came home from London sometimes; he bought a large home in Stratford for the family in 1597, though he did not retire from the theater in London until around 1610. After that, he lived in Stratford with Anne and their children.

William died in 1616. His will rather famously leaves Anne the "second-best bed," which was probably the everyday sleeping bed for the couple -- the best bed would have been saved for guests. Most of William's property was left to the oldest child Susannah (their son Hamnet had died young) -- the sources I've found say this was a common practice and that it was assumed the child would care for her mother. Legally, Anne was already entitled to one-third of her husband's goods and real estate and to the use of their house for the rest of her life. However, some views still say that the bed bequest was a sign that the two weren't that close.

Anne lived seven years as a widow until her death on 6 August 1623; Anne and William are buried together at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford.


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