Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway: Facts & Overview

Instructor: Debbie Notari
Shakespeare is, without dispute, the greatest playwright of them all. But when it came to maintaining his responsibilities at home, it seems he had much to learn. Here is what we know about his wife, Anne Hathaway, and Shakespeare's role as husband.

Anne's Early Life

Imagine a pastoral setting, thatched roof cottages, sheep gently grazing and children playing. It is the late 1500s, and England's monarch, Queen Elizabeth I rules England with political skills that bring England a sense of pride and strength on the world front.

It is during this time that Anne Hathaway, the future wife of famed bard William Shakespeare was born in 1556. She grew up in a village called Shottery, about a mile from Stratford, Shakespeare's home town, and was the eldest of eight children. During this time period, most girls didn't have the opportunity to attend school, and it is very possible that Anne was illiterate. Anne was actually eight years older than William, who was born on April 23rd, 1564, and the most likely date of their marriage is in November or December of 1582.

In addition, Anne bore their first child, Susanna, during the month of May in 1583. One may speculate that Anne was pregnant before her marriage, which must have been disconcerting for her family during this time period. The marriage started out on an anxious note, to say the least, and it is not clear whether or not the two were actually in love, as this appears to have been a 'shotgun marriage.' However, so little is known about this famous bard's wife, and their relationship.

Married Life

Two years later, Anne bore twins, Hamnet and Judith. Shakespeare was often away in London, and it is interesting to note that Anne and the children actually lived with Shakespeare's family in a home on Henley Street for over ten years! Perhaps having family around to help with three little ones was a wise idea. At any rate, not much more is known about Anne other than the fact that the Shakespeare couple did move to their own home, New Place, where Anne spent the rest of her days, actually outliving her husband, who died in 1597. Anne lived to the age of 67, and died in 1623. She is buried at Stratford's Holy Trinity Church next to her husband.

Shakespeare's Success

It is here that we must turn our attention to Shakespeare - his career and personal choices - in order to understand Anne, as so little is known about her life. Shakespeare was born on April 23rd, 1564, and because he knew Classical Greek and Latin, it is safe to assume that he attended grammar school. Little more is known, other than his marriage to Anne, and that he turned up in London in 1588, working as an actor and playwright. His succeeded in entertaining all types of audiences, including royalty, though he was not necessarily admired by all.

To call Shakespeare a gifted writer is an understatement, as his prolific works have endured and been enjoyed by readers and audiences to this day. Shakespeare was not only a gifted poet and playwright, he was a successful entrepreneur, as well. He actually owned part of the Globe Theatre, as well as interest in the troupe itself. Of course, people, from the groundlings to nobility, loved his plays and, of course, still do. Perhaps, if Shakespeare had not gone to London, we would not know about him today.

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