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Anne Hathaway Biography

William Shakespeare the Great Bard of Stratford

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Anne Hathaway Biography - the wife of William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare Biography - Life, times, ancestors, family, lost years, actor, Globe, playwright and works
Children and Grandchildren Biography Judith, Hamnet, Susanna - Shakespeare, Richard and Thomas

There are few documents recording the life and biography of Anne Hathaway. Her actual date of birth is unknown but reference to  her monument (gravestone) gives her first name as Anne, and her age as sixty-seven in 1623. We are therefore able to deduce her year of birth as 1556. As William Shakespeare was born in 1564 this gave an age gap between them of eight years. This page is dedicated to piecing together the biography of Anne Hathaway, the wife of the great Bard.

The reference to the first name of Anne on her monument is interesting as any tracing of the possible early life of Miss Hathaway leads to a family of Richard Hathaway who were located in a village called Shottery which is about one mile from Stratford. The daughter of Richard Hathaway is identified as Agnes Hathaway. The names Anne and Agnes are legally distinct, however, it was a common custom for these names to be interchangeable. We therefore are assuming that Anne Hathaway and Agnes Hathaway are one and the same person, the daughter of Richard Hathaway. The identification of Richard Hathaway 's daughter is made in his will. Richard Hathaway died in September 1581, bequeathing her £6 13s 4d 'atte the day of her maryage'. Richard Hathaway owned a farmhouse in Shottery. 

Anne Hathaway was the eldest of the eight children of the twice-married farmer 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. Anne Hathaway and her family lived in a big farmhouse, called Hewland Farm in Shottery. Few facts are known about her early life but it can be safely assumed that she never attended any school and was illiterate. 

The girls of Anne Hathaway 's background would not have attended school or received any formal type of education. She would have  had to learn how to govern a household and become skilled in all housewifely duties. Her education would have been purely of the domestic nature in preparation for the only real career option for a girl - marriage! Single women were sometimes looked upon with suspicion. It was often the single women who were thought to be witches by their neighbours. Every woman would be expected to marry, and would be dependant on her male relatives throughout her life. At one time single women might spend their life in a convent or nunnery but due to the dissolution of the monasteries this was no longer an option. The only alternative to marriage was therefore domestic service. The married state was therefore seen as highly desirable by all women of Anne Hathaway 's social standing. With parental permission it was legal for boys to marry at 14 and girls at 12 although it was not usual for marriages at such young ages. The age of consent was 21 and boys would generally not marry until this age. Anne Hathaway would have been viewed as being in danger of being 'left on the shelf'. 

When Richard Hathaway died in 1581, he requested that his son, Bartholomew Hathaway move into Hewland Farm and maintain the property for his mother Joan Hathaway. Anne Hathaway would have therefore continued living in her father's home with her step-mother and brothers and sisters but the status of head of the household would have moved to her brother Bartholomew Hathaway. Hewland Farm later became known as ' Anne Hathaway's cottage '.

The hamlet of Shottery was only a mile from the town of Stratford where William Shakespeare lived with his family. Miss Hathaway would have often visited the town and would have therefore had the opportunity to meet William Shakespeare. At this time she would have been 26 and William 18. A considerable age difference. It is apparent that Anne became pregnant prior to their betrothal or marriage which would have no doubt caused a scandal for both of the families. Shakespeare's father, in particular, would not have been pleased at the detrimental effect that the gossip would have had on his own social standing in Stratford. A hasty marriage would have been arranged between the Hathaway and Shakespeare families.

From the will of her late father it seems that Anne Hathaway brought a dowry to the marriage. A dowry was an amount of money, goods, and property that the bride would bring to the marriage. It was also referred to as her marriage portion. The arrangements for the wedding of Anne Hathaway and William Shakespeare would have been with the local church. Weddings were always a religious ceremony, conducted by a minister. There were no Registry Office marriages or marriages conducted by a Justice of the Peace. The first stage was Crying the Banns, announcing a couples intention to marry. The same procedure still applies to Church marriages in England today. The intention to marry must be announced in the church three times on three consecutive Sundays or holy days. This allows time for any objections to be raised or pre-contracts to be discovered. Any marriage not published before hand was considered clandestine and illegal. An alternative, faster, route to legalising a marriage required a marriage bond which acted as security and proof to a bishop that the issue of a marriage licence was lawful with a sworn statement that there were no pre-contracts. The existence of a marriage bond would require only one reading of the Banns. 

The recordings in the episcopal register at Worcester on November 27th 1582 and November 27th 1582 
show that William Shakespeare wanted to marry a girl named Anne. The confusion begins. Each day has a different entry.

November 27th 1582 the issue of a marriage license to one Wm Shakespeare stating the following: 

Anno Domini 1582...Novembris...27 die eiusdem mensis. Item eodem die supradicto 
emanavit Licentia inter Wm Shaxpere et Annam Whateley de Temple Grafton.

On 28 November, 1582, two husbandmen of Stratford, named Sandells and Richardson, became sureties for £40 in the consistory court of Worcester to free the bishop from liability in case of lawful impediment, by pre-contract or consanguinity, to the marriage of “William Shagspeare and Anne Hathwey” which might proceed hereupon with only one publication of banns. 

The episcopal register records the marriage bond granted to one Wm Shakespeare stating that the condition of this obligation is such that if hereafter there shall not appear any lawful let or impediment by reason of any precontract, consanguinity, affinity or by any other lawful means whatsoever, but that William Shagspere on the one party and Anne Hathwey of Stratford in the diocese of Worcester, maiden, may lawfully solemnize matrimony together, and in the same afterwards remain and continue like man and wife according unto the laws in that behalf provided... 

The documents apparently refer to two women; Anne Whateley of Temple Grafton and Anne Hathwey of Stratford. The interpretation of these documents have led to all sorts of speculation. Was Shakespeare involved with two women, both called by the same first name?  Did he intend to marry Miss Whateley but as soon as the license was issued did Miss Hathaway intervene saying that she was pregnant? Did he really love Miss Whateley but  was forced to marry Miss Hathwey due to her pregnancy? Or was the name simply entered incorrectly on the first document? 

There is no way that this mystery can be solved. We know that the documents exist. We also know that as William Shakespeare was under the age of consent that his father would have had to agree to the marriage. We know that the marriage bond via the Bishop would have enabled Anne Hathaway and William to marry more quickly than the conventional route via Reading of the Banns at the local church. And we of course know that William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway.

William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway were granted a marriage licence by the Bishop of Worcester. They were married at Temple Grafton, a village approximately five miles (8 km) from Stratford. The details of the wedding of Anne Hathaway and William Shakespeare are not, of course, known for sure. We do however know a little of the traditional Elizabethan wedding for a man of Shakespeare's social standing.  Wedding invitations were not issued. People lived in small communities and knew what was happening in their neighbourhood. If there was a wedding then people would just attend. The bride did not wear white, this was a later tradition. Instead she would wear her best gown, or even a new gown if the money was available. Fresh flowers were central to the celebrations. The bride would wear flowers in her on and they would also adorn her gown. It was also traditional to carry a bouquet. A bride would have bridesmaids and these would be similarly attired. A bridal procession would move from the family's house to the church. This was a particularly festive event and the procession would be accompanied by musicians. Once at the church the ceremony would be a solemn one. In Elizabethan times everyone would stand as there were no pews in the churches. When the marriage ceremony was over the procession would return to their homes. The families of the couple would sometimes enjoy a wedding feast and were wished a long and happy life. It is, of course, possible that due to the necessity of such a hasty ceremony that the marriage between Anne Hathaway and William Shakespeare would have been a very quiet one.

After her marriage to Shakespeare, as was the custom, she left her home at Hewland Farm to live with William in John Shakespeare's house on Henley Street. Six months after the marriage, in May 1583, Anne and William became the parents of Susanna Shakespeare. The baptism of Susanna Shakespeare was conducted on May 26, in Stratford Parish Church. William probably helped with his father's businesses during this time and possibly also took work as a teacher and perhaps even worked with a lawyer. Ann would have shared the household chores with her mother-in-law Mary and cared for the baby Susanna. The house would have been full of various members of the family. William's father, John Shakespeare, had at one time run quite a prosperous business and had gained a high standing in the Stratford community but this was in a decline. 

Anne became pregnant again and Ann and William's twins, Hamnet and Judith, were born two years after Susanna. On February 2nd  1585 the baptism of Hamnet and Judith Shakespeare was celebrated. Anne would have been 28 years old and William 21. The twins were named after two very close friends of William and Anne, the baker Hamnet Sadler and his wife, Judith. The Sadlers became the godparents of the twins and, in 1589, they in turn named their own son William. Despite the arrival of more children, and his coming of age, William still did not have a real career and the Shakespeare family fortunes were still in the decline.  Anne, William and the children continued to live with Shakespeare's parents. Sharing the house on Henley Street with her in-laws must have caused some difficulties on occasions, especially with some of the problems that John Shakespeare was experiencing at the time. The family struggled on but in 1586 her father-in-law John Shakespeare was  removed from the Board of Aldermen. In 1589 William Shakespeare was named, with his parents, in a legal action against a neighbour called John Lambert. The case was over a dispute about some land in Wilmcote.

There is speculation that it was about this time that William might have offended Sir Richard Lucy by poaching a deer on his grounds. What with this, and what with the general misfortunes of the family, William left his young family and Stratford to seek his fortune in London. Acting troupes regularly visited the town of Stratford and this would have been a major form of entertainment. It is likely that William Shakespeare knew Will Kempe and possible that Shakespeare went to London with a troupe of actors when he left Stratford between 1585 and 1592. The rest, as they say, is history.

Life continued for Anne with her children and in-laws in Henley Street. She never moved away from Stratford in the whole of her life. William, meanwhile in London, had started to become a success as a poet and was also making his name as an actor and playwright in Theatres of London. He occasionally returned home to see his wife and the family. He still kept an interest in the family businesses. 

By 1592 William was mixing with the elite of the literary and theatrical worlds. But the role of a playwright was still not viewed as a creditable occupation. It could, in fact , be a very dangerous one as plays could be used as vehicles for propaganda. The State understood the power of plays. Therefore, all plays that were to be printed had to be registered, which ensured a form of censorship. Shake-speare never published any of his plays during his lifetime.  Henry VI Part 1 is produced by Strange's Men at the Rose Theatre in London. And William comes in for some criticism as a writer. Robert Greene, the author, complains about Shakespeare as an "upstart crow" in the Groatsworth of Wit. This must have been most unsettling for Anne. Being illiterate, Anne and the rest of Shakespeare's family, would have held the written word in some esteem. They would have been appalled that a criticism of William had been put into print. His first play had just been produced and the family would have been concerned that William might get involved with political and religious propaganda. They would have been only too aware that this particular road could lead to the Tower of London. An exciting time for William but a worrying time for Anne.

Although some doubts may have lingered with Anne and his family, William was clearly making his name in London society. The aristocrats, courtiers and nobles of the Realm were his friends. In 1594 he would even play before the Queen in the banqueting hall at Whitehall. 
So William's success in Theatre was getting well underway when in 1593 there was a setback. A devastating outbreak of the plague hit London and all of Theatres were shut. It is possible that William and his acting troupe moved out of the city to produce plays in the provinces. It seems reasonable to assume that William would have visited Anne and the children at this time. William and Anne did not have any more children. It was very unusual for couples only to have 3 children during the Elizabethan era as there was such a high mortality rate amongst children. Large families were the norm. William Shakepeare was enjoying the life of a single man in London and the time spent with Anne would have been minimal. The marriage between Anne and William might have suffered. William however was making his name as a poet and in 1593 his poem, Venus and Adonis, was registered. Poets, as opposed to playwrights, were held in high esteem. And by 1594 the outbreak of the plague had subsided and the London theatres re-opened.

William continued his life in London in 1594 and more plays were produced including the second part of Henry IV, Titus Andronicus and the Comedy of Errors. William also registered another poem, the Rape of Lucrece. His reputation as an actor and writer was increasing. Anne had a successful husband. The popularity of plays continued but the reputation of Theatres received a blow. In 1596 the London authorities banned the public presentation of plays within the city limits of London. New theatres were built just outside the city limits. The authorities may have disliked this new form of entertainment but the people of London loved it. 

In 1596 the Shakespeare family continued to prosper. But the good fortune came to an untimely and abrupt end when, in August, their son 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. 

The financial affairs of Anne's father-in-law, John, improved as did his standing in the community. His rise in fortunes were no doubt effected by the success of his son William. John Shakespeare had again applied to the College of Heralds for a Coat-of-Arms and this time it was granted. The Coat-of-Arms and crest would have brought considerable prestige to the whole of the Shakespeare family. The formal description or ‘blazoning’ of the coat of arms was detailed as gold with a black banner bearing a silver spear. The motto was "Non sans droit" or "not without right". This description would have been used to design a crest. John and his sons were then entitled to put "gentleman" after their name, they were officially part the Gentry. This title was reserved for those who were below knights but who had been granted the right to bear arms. The coat-of-arms could be displayed on their door and all their personal items. This right would have therefore also provided Anne with a considerable amount of prestige in the community.

Anne's standing in the Stratford community continued to rise through the fortunes of her husband, William. Although William continued with his life based in London he clearly saw Stratford as his home. On May 4th 1597 William Shakespeare purchased New Place, the second largest house in Stratford, for £60 together with two cottages and two barns. Anne at last had her own household. The house was impressive building, the only house that was made of brick, with a courtyard at the front, and barns, spacious gardens and orchards at the rear. Also in 1598 William is mentioned as among the chief holders of corn and malt in Stratford. He was clearly a man of considerable importance in the Stratford community. He extended his business in London as a member of the company who financed the building of the Globe Theatre. He therefore became entitled to a 'cut' of the profits. His plays continued to be produced and his personal wealth increased. In 1602 Shakespeare bought land in Stratford for £320
, a considerable sum of money in the Elizabethan era. It was an estate consisting of 107 acres in the open fields of Old Stratford, together with a farm-house, garden and orchard, 20 acres of pasture and common rights. The standing of Anne Shakespeare in the town and surrounding districts of Stratford continued to increase. The properties owned by her husband would have required servants including a gardener. Her responsibilities as the wife of Shakespeare would have substantially increased. 

In 1601 (probably the year Hamlet was composed) Shakespeare's father died. The Essex rebellion fails, leaving Essex and Shakespeare's patron Southampton condemned to death in the tower. A sad time for William. In 1603 yet again the plague ravages London in 1603. The death toll is frightening and 33,000 people die. Another great tragedy strikes the nation when Queen Elizabeth dies on the 24th March 1603.
James the VI of Scotland, the son of Mary Queen of Scots, became the new monarch, known in England as King James I. The new King also enjoys Theatre and William becomes a member of the King's Men acting troupe. Her husband's wealth was increasing due to his activities in Theater in London and the patronage of the King but he continued to invest in his businesses in Stratford. In 1605 William spent another £440 in the outstanding term of a lease of certain great tithes in Stratford parish, which brought in an income of about £60 a year. The country was unsettled and Anne, together with the rest of the nation would have received news of The Gunpowder Plot with the arrest and gruesome execution of Guy Fawkes. 

It's the year of 1607 and Anne and William's daughter Susanna announces her betrothal to Dr.
John Hall. Anne would have been making preparations for the wedding . Dr. Hall had settled in Stratford around 1600, where he had founded a prosperous medical practice and became one of the town's leading citizens. The wedding would have been the talk of Stratford and most of the town would have attended the wedding. The wedding took place on June 5th 1607.  Eight months later Susanna gave birth to a daughter. Elizabeth Hall, Shakespeare's granddaughter, was baptised on February 21, 1608. Mary Shakespeare, Anne's mother-in-law, lived to see the birth of her great-grandchild but died in September 1608 at the grand age of sixty-eight. The burial of William Shakespeare's mother took place on September 9th 1608.

Anne was probably experiencing the happiest time of her life. William was successful and had provided a wonderful home for her. His reputation was continuously being enhanced by the production of plays such as The Winter's Tale, Macbeth, and The Tempest and performing before King James I and his court. Anne was enjoying the status of being a member of the wealthiest family in Stratford. And she was also able to enjoy sharing in the upbringing of her granddaughter, Elizabeth. 

In 1610, with his fortune made and his reputation as the leading English dramatist unchallenged, Shakespeare appears to have retired to Stratford.  Anne had her husband home at last. His business interests took him to back to London on occasion but the majority of his time is spent at home. He would have been able to enjoy life with his family including his daughters and granddaughter, Elizabeth.

On January 25th 1616 William Shakespeare drafts his will. The decision to draft the will was perhaps due to his advancing years and possibly his declining health.  It could have been due to the change in his daughter's Judith's circumstances and her intention to marry. Anne and William's daughter Judith married
Thomas Quiney, a vintner and tavern owner from Stratford, on February 10th 1616. This did not turn into a happy event as a scandal erupted over Thomas Quiney. The initial approval of the marriage quickly changed with the scandalous news that Thomas Quiney had made another girl pregnant. Anne must have been desperately worried about Judith. The scandal would have spread through Stratford. It then appeared that Quiney did not receive the special licence necessary for a wedding during lent before his marriage. The situation was really serious and on  March 12th Judith and Thomas were excommunicated. William must have been mortified with the turn of events. He summoned his lawyer and promptly modifies and signs his will on March 25th 1616.  The modification of the will was to ensure that Judith would receive a sum of money (£300) inherited in her own name. Shakespeare would leave the bulk of his fortune to his daughter, Susanna. On March 26th, to the shame of Anne and William Shakespeare, Quiney was prosecuted for 'carnal copulation' with a woman named Margaret Wheeler, who had died in childbirth that month along with her baby. Quiney confessed and was sentenced to perform public penance. His penalty, however, was commuted to a small fine of five shillings and private penance.

No one can possibly no the true effect of this scandal on William and Anne. Shakespeare did, however, draft his will in January of 1616. Perhaps he was unwell. There are no records or documented evidence which throws any light as to the health of Shakespeare in 1616. The strain of the scandal surrounding Judith would not have helped. William’s son-in-law, Dr. John Hall, oversees his final days and treatment. And in April 1616 William Shakespeare dies. (The exact date or cause of death is unknown but it seems fitting that he died on April 23rd April, the same approximate date of his birth, on St. George's Day, the patron Saint of England). The funeral of William Shakespeare was on April 25th 1616  when he was buried in the chancel of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford. Anne, of course, would have been the chief mourner supported by the family of William Shakespeare.

The only mention that Shakespeare specifically makes of his wife was to leave her his "second best bed." This is probably the most famous entry of any last will and testament. To bequeath such an item sounds totally ungenerous.
It is, however, understood that it would have been Anne's right, through English Common Law, to one-third of William's estate as well as residence for life at New Place.

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 the following May 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, 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. The timeline below provide information regarding the descendants of Anne Hathaway and William Shakespeare.

Birth of Anne Hathaway
1564 Birth of William Shakespeare, he was baptised April 26 1564
November 27, A marriage licence was granted by John Whitgift, the Bishop of Worcester, 
         Episcopal register, to Wm Shaxpere and Anne Whateley of Temple Grafton, Warwickshire.
1582 November 28, A Marriage Bond on the episcopal register records issued to William Shagspeare
         and Anne Hathwey (
Hathaway )of Shottery, Stratford
1583 May 26, The baptism of Susanna Shakespeare in Stratford Parish Church Susanna was Anne and
         William's first child, born six months after the wedding of her parents.
1585 Anne and William's twins, Hamnet and Judith Shakespeare, were born
1585 February 2,  The baptism of Hamnet and Judith Shakespeare in Stratford Parish Church
1589 Shakespeare & his parents named in a legal action against a neighbour called John Lambert.
1592 September 3, Death of Robert Greene author of Groatsworth of Wit in which he complains about
         Shakespeare as an "upstart crow"
1596 August 11, Hamnet Shakespeare died, possibly from the plague, at the age of eleven. He was
         buried in Stratford
1596 October 20, John Shakespeare, Anne's father-in-law, Granted Coat of Arms
1597 May 4, William Shakespeare purchased New Place, the second largest house in Stratford for £60.
1598 William Shakespeare is mentioned as "a principal comedian."
1598 William Shakespeare is mentioned as among the chief holders of corn and malt in Stratford. 
1598 Shakespeare and other members of the company financed the building of the Globe Theatre 
1602 May 1, Shakespeare buys land in Stratford for £320
1602 November, Shakespeare purchased a cottage across from New Place, his private residence in
1607 June 5, Marriage of Anne and William's daughter Susanna to Dr. John Hall
1608 February 21, The baptism of Elizabeth Hall Anne and William's granddaughter
January 25th - Shakespeare drafts his will
1616 February 10th -  Marriage of Anne and William's daughter Judith to Thomas Quiney
March 12th Judith and Thomas are excommunicated
1616 March 25,
revises his will William Shakespeare's will
March 26th Quiney was prosecuted for 'carnal copulation' with a local woman named Margaret

1616 April 23, William Shakespeare dies
1616 April 25, Burial of William Shakespeare in the chancel of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford.
1616 The will of William, his bequests to Anne. The only mention that Shakespeare specifically makes of
         Anne was to leave her his "second best bed." It is, however, understood that it would have been
         Anne's right, through English Common Law, to one-third of his estate as well as residence for life at
         New Place
November -  Shakespeare Quiney, Judith Quiney's son ( Anne and William Shakespeare's
         grandson) was born
1617 May - Shakespeare Quiney, grandson, dies just six months old
1617 October - Richard Quiney, grandson, was born
1619 January - Thomas Quiney, grandson, was born
1623 August 6, Anne Hathaway, wife of the Great Bard, dies at the age of sixty-seven and is buried next
         to William Shakespeare in the chancel of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford

The timeline provides information regarding the descendants of Anne Hathaway and William Shakespeare.

Anne Hathaway Biography - the wife of William Shakespeare

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