Internet Shakespeare Editions


Anne's inheritance

A wife lectures her husband in bed: "I tell the truth,"
she proclaims, while her husband mutters "Don't believe women."
By permission of the British Library.

The only mention of Shakespeare's wife in his will is a line inserted in the middle of the last page, almost as an afterthought:

"Item I gyve unto my wief my second best bed with the furniture."

Shakespeare's will is a careful and detailed document, so why is Anne seemingly left with so little?

According to the laws of the day, Anne Shakespeare would in any case have been entitled to one-third of her husband's estate, but the puzzle remains.

Was it a deliberate insult?

Or was the second best bed the marriage bed, with appropriately sentimental associations? (The best bed was often reserved for guests.)

Whatever Shakespeare's intentions, it seems likely that Anne spent the rest of her days in her home at New Place with her daughter Susanna. Anne Shakespeare died on 6 August 1623, at the age of 67.