Not much is known about William Shakespeare’s early life before he moved to London and became famous. That includes his marriage to Anne Hathaway.
Anne was a daughter of Richard Hathaway, a local yeoman landowner from Shottery, a small village near Stratford-upon-Avon. It is unclear who her biological mother was, and it is presumed that she was Richard’s first wife. The big house she grew up in is now a major tourist attraction, known as the Anne Hathaway’s Cottage. Interestingly enough, the house is neither a cottage, being too big for that, nor did it ever belong to Anne.
There are almost no details about her childhood or early life. Whether she received some education is unknown, but claims that she was illiterate are highly dubious since hew family was devoutly Protestant and reading was deemed necessary, for reading a Bible at least if nothing else.
Anne was eight years older than William, and the events surrounding their marriage are unclear. After her father died, he left her some money in his will, but only after she gets married. Young William, who was 18 at the time of the wedding, paid 40 pounds to the local priest to expedite the marriage, the reason for this becoming obvious six months later when Anne gave birth to a baby girl named Susanna in 1583. Two years later, she birthed twins named Hamnet and Judith.
Age difference and Anne’s pregnancy have given reason to some historians to claim that their marriage was, in fact, a shotgun wedding, forcing Shakespeare into wedlock he detested. While this is certainly a possibility, there isn’t any evidence to confirm it.
Despite spending the majority of his time in London, Shakespeare always spent a portion of each year in Strafford. Another interesting and revealing detail of his life is that, after he retired from the theater in 1613, he quit London altogether, although he could have easily stayed there, and came to Strafford to live with Anne Hathaway.
Their life together lasted only three years and William died in 1616. His will caused more mysteries when it comes to his relationship with Anne. For instance, she wasn’t even included in the original testament. She was only added about a month before Shakespeare died as if she was an afterthought. Even then, he only left her his “second-best bed with the furniture.” There are many interpretations of this bequest. Some say that Anne was entitled to one-third of his estate anyway and thus no inheritance was needed in the first place. Others claim that, according to the tradition of the time, the best bed was reserved for guest and that the second-best bed was, in fact, their marital bed, which could be worth quite a lot, as beds of rich citizens at the time were quite elaborate affairs. Still, the fact is that we simply don’t know. Anne Hathaway outlived her famous husband by seven years and is buried next to him in Stratford’s Holy Trinity Church.