Whilst a good deal is known about William Shakespeare, comparatively little is known about the life of Anne Hathaway. As such, just who did Shakespeare marry?
Like many women in history, Anne Hathaway left little evidence of her life which, as Shakespeare’s wife, was one marked by prolonged absences’ whilst Shakespeare pursued his career as a playwright, and one which would have been shadowed by her famous playwright of a husband.
Nevertheless, from a limited number of contemporary documents inferences about Anne’s life can be drawn. From these a picture of Anne Hathaway as Shakespeare’s wife, as the mother of his children, and the mistress of the Shakespeare family home in Stratford-upon-Avon from 1597, emerges from the historical gloom, despite the inevitable blanks and silences, a selection of which have been compiled below.
Anne, The ‘Shottery’ Years: 1556 – 1582
1556 – the year of Anne Hathaway’s birth, and the year that the third Oxford Martyr, Thomas Cranmer, was burnt at the stake having been found guilty of treason.
90 – the number of acres attached to Newlands Farm, Shottery – Anne’s home until her marriage to the Stratford playwright and son of a Glover.
1.6 – the distance, in miles, between Newlands Farm, the Hathaway’s family home (now known as Anne Hathaway’s cottage), and the Shakespeare family home in Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon.
12 – the total number of Anne’s siblings. Seven of whom were born to Anne’s mother, and five of whom were the offspring of Richard Hathaway (Anne’s father) and his second wife Joan.
2 – the number of names ascribed to the wife of Shakespeare as a result of confusion caused by conflicting contemporary documents – specifically Anne and Agnes.
£6, 13s, and 4 d – the sum left to Anne by her father who died in 1581 – the year of Sir Francis Drake’s knighthood. It was specified that this sum was to be paid to her groom on their wedding day.
18 to 25 – the approximate percentage of women nationally whom, it has been suggested, were pregnant at the time of their wedding. Anne Hathaway was, therefore, by no means alone in being pregnant at the time of her betrothal to William Shakespeare – albeit that current theories concerning the timing of her first pregnancy are, in fact, correct.
Anne, The Playwright’s Wife: 1582 – 1616
27 – the date in November that a marriage license was issued to William Shakespeare which stated: “Anno Domini 1582, Novembris 27, die eiusdem mensis. Item eodem die supradicto emanavit Licentia inter Wm Shaxpere et Annam Whateley de Temple Grafton”.
1582 – the year in which Anne’s life as William Shakespeare’s wife began on 29th November.
26/27 – the age at which Anne was to marry the 18 year old William Shakespeare in what is thought to have been a shotgun wedding.
15 – the number of years that Anne probably resided at the Shakespeare home in Henley street Stratford following their marriage. In fact, throughout Shakespeare’s career as a playwright, and his subsequent travels, Anne remained in Stratford-upon-Avon.
£60 – the amount paid for New Place, the home of Anne and William from 4th May, 1597, and the first household at which Anne was mistress in accordance with the social mores of the period.
34 – the total number of years that Anne Hathaway and William Shakespeare were married.
Anne, The Mother: 1583 – 1623
1583 – the year that John Whitgift became the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the year that Susanna, the first of Anne and William’s three children, was born.
3 – the number of children born to Anne Hathaway and William Shakespeare. Their names were Susanna, the eldest child by 2 years, and the twins Judith and Hamnet Shakespeare (b.1585).
11 – the age at which Hamnet Shakespeare died, possibly of the plague, in what was a so-called ‘plague year’ in 1596.
Anne, The Widower 1616 – 1623
7 – the number of years than Anne was to outlive William Shakespeare following his death on 23rd April, 1616.
1 – the number of items specifically left to Anne Hathaway. In particular, she was left a bed.
1/3 – the amount of the overall estate to which Anne would have legally been entitled as Shakespeare’s wife following his death.
3 – the number of children to whom Anne was to be grandmother, all of whom were born after the death of Shakespeare. These children were Shakespeare Quiney (b.1616), who was to die at the tender age of just 6 months, and Richard Quiney (b.1617) & Thomas Quiney (b.1619).
The Dance Macabre
67 – the age at which Anne died. She was buried at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon on 6th August, 1623, and was interred next to William Shakespeare.
1623 – the year of Anne Hathaway’s death, and also the year that the first folio of Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies was published “according to the True Original Copies”
1607 – the year that Anne was to become mother-in-law to Dr. John Hall, the husband of Anne’s first daughter Susanna.
1616 – Judith Shakespeare marries, and assumes the name Quiney.
1892 – the year that the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust acquired ‘Anne Hathaway’s cottage’, and the year that the last of the Hathaway line occupied the building as tenants.
1846 – the year that the Hathaway family home finally passed from their ownership as a result of financial hardship, although the Hathaway ‘line’ did remain there as tenants.
Read more facts about Shakespeare’s family