Share this page

Did Shakespeare Love His Wife?

In the second episode of Let’s Talk Shakespeare, we ask “Did Shakespeare love his wife?”

Jennifer Reid
Courtship of William Shakespeare
Courtship of William Shakespeare by D. Woodcock, 1995

Many an artist has put paint to paper to imagine what William and Anne Shakespeare's courtship would have been like. Image copyright of the artist.

The question 'did Shakespeare love his wife' has tantalised for years, since we have very little evidence of the relationship between William Shakespeare and his wife. In truth all we know for certain is that they married, had three children, and stayed married until William's death in 1616. 

In this week's podcast we discuss how William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway may have met, the unusual circumstances in which they married, what William's prolonged absence from his family while he was in London may have meant for his wife and children, and of course the frustratingly vague reference to his wife in his will.

Image: Anne Hathaway by Roger Brien Dunn BA, 2010

We do not know for certain what Anne looked like, this painting is based on a drawing by Nathaniel Curzon on the reverse of title page of a copy of the third folio in 1708.

DR59/1: Near contemporary copy of the will (dated 25 March 1616) of William Shakespeare's, c.1630

For years people have tried to read meaning into the tantalising reference to his wife that Shakespeare makes in his will, in which he leaves her his "second best bed". You can see this reference in the second and third lines of this near contemporary copy.

This week's guests on the podcast are:

- Professor Stanley Wells, Honorary President of the SBT
- Professor Michael Dobson, Director of the Shakespeare Institute
- Dr Elizabeth Dollimore, Outreach and Primary Learning Manager at the SBT
- Dr Tara Hamling, Senior Lecturer in Early Modern history at Birmingham University
- Ben Crystal, actor, writer and producer

What do you think? Did Shakespeare love his wife? Please get in touch, tweet us at @ShakespeareBT or using the hashtag #talkshakespeare.

Related posts on Finding Shakespeare:

Teasels and Tales of Romance at Anne Hathway's
Imagining Anne Hathaway
Hathaway Bed
Shakespeare's Courting Chair 
When and Where Did He Marry?
Much Ado About Marriage 

Recommended blogs

See all blogs