Anne Hathaway: William Shakespeare’s Wife

Anne Hathaway (1556- August 1623)  whose real name was Agnes Hathwey was the wife of William Shakespeare who was a well-known playwright, poet as well as an actor.

Anne Hathaway

Childhood of Anne Hathaway

A very little is known about the life of Anne Hathaway, not even her birth year. Her birth year is assumed to be 1556 from the reference to her gravestone which has her age written as 67 in the year 1623.

Anne Hathaway was born in the Richard Hathaway family and grew up in Shottery, a small village just to the west of Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. She is assumed to have grown up in the farmhouse that was the Hathaway family home, which is located at Shottery and is now a major tourist attraction for the village.

Anne Hathaway was the eldest of the eight children of the twice-married Richard Hathaway. His first three children, including Anne Hathaway, were by his first wife. His second wife was called Joan with whom he is thought to have had a further five children.

Few facts are known about her early life but it can be safely assumed that she never attended any school and was illiterate. Although she had not received any formal education, Anne would have been an expert in governing the household work.

Her father, Richard Hathaway, was a yeoman farmer. He left Anne the sum of £6 13s 4d (six pounds, thirteen shillings and a fourpence) to be paid “at the day of her marriage”.

Marriage and Family Life of Anne Hathaway

 What was unusual about Shakespeare’s marriage?

William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway in the year 1582 when Anne was several months pregnant with their first child. Their marriage was considered very unusual as William was just 18 years while Anne was of 26 years which meant she was 8 years older to Shakespeare. William had to obtain his father’s permission for their marriage as he was a minor in the eyes of the law.

According to some sources, to avoid scandals of bearing a child before marriage, William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway were granted a marriage license by the Bishop of Worcester to speed up the procedures of a marriage. They were married at Temple Grafton, a village approximately five miles (8 km) from Stratford.

Life of Anne after marriage in Henley Street

As William was nit settled in his career when he married, He along with Anne and children continued living with the parents of William. It was a difficult time for Anne to share the house with her in-laws in the Henley street as John Shakespeare, the father of William was also facing a difficult time in his career. He was being removed from the Board of Aldermen. Later in 1589, William name was involved along with his parents in some dispute land case with a neighbor.

William’s Journey from Stratford to London

Shakespeare left his family and home after the birth of their twins to pursue his career in acting and as a playwright. He traveled to London. Anne and Shakespeare lived apart for many years until Shakespeare returns in 1611. Meanwhile, Shakespeare family that included Anne, continued her life in Stratford with her kids and in-laws in Henley Street.

How many children did William and Anne Shakespeare have?

Shakespeare and Anne had three children namely Susanna and the twins Hamnet and Judith in 1585. Susanna was born six months after the marriage of her parents in 1583.

In 1596 August, Hamnet died at the age of just eleven years. There is no documentation which records the cause of Hamnet’s death but it is highly likely that he died of the plague, which had wreaked so much devastation in London 6 months before. Hamnet was buried in Stratford.

Anne’s daughter Susanna got married to Dr. John Hall and gave birth to a girl named Elizabeth Hall.

The last years of Anne’s life were spent living as a widow at New Place in Stratford. In November 1616 her daughter Judith Quiney gave birth to a son and named him Shakespeare Quiney in memory of her dead father, William Shakespeare.

The happiness that the baby gave to Anne and the family was short lived as Shakespeare Quiney died at just six months old. Anne lived to see the birth of two more grandchildren when Judith gave birth to Richard Quiney in 1617 and Thomas Quiney two years later in 1619.

Anne Hathaway Shakespeare Poem

There was no mention of Anne in any of Shakespeare’s plays or Shakespeare works. He had mentioned her only in her will where he wrote: ” I give unto my wife my second best bed.” It is the only thing he left for her, not even his bed which was considered as best.

As the best bed in their house was in the guest room, he gave her wife their marriage bed which he considered as second best. With this, their relationship was considered as frosty and harsh.

A poem written by Carol Ann Duffy about the wife of Shakespeare is “Anne Hathaway”. This poem was published in 1999 in the collection of a poem called “The World’s Wife”. It is based on the famous incident from the will of Shakespeare regarding his “second best bed”.

The writer Duffy imagines the scene that it would be their marriage bed and a remembrance of their love and not their slight. It remembers Anne about their lovemaking as their  “romance and drama”.

Anne Hathaway Death

Anne Hathaway, the wife of the great Bard, died in 1623 at the age of sixty-seven. Her funeral was on August 6, 1623, and she was buried next to William Shakespeare in the chancel of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford.

More Info on- William Shakespeare Marriage Anne, Parents and Siblings, Short Biography