Imagining Shakespeare's Wife

Shakespeare Unlimited: Episode 105

The family. The cottage. The age difference. The pregnancy. The children. The second best bed. The grave. We know so little about Anne Hathaway, but it hasn’t stopped us from speculating about her life for the past 300 years.

In this episode, we talk to Katherine West Scheil, a professor of English at the University of Minnesota, about the many, many versions of Anne Hathaway. In her new book, Imagining Shakespeare's Wife: The Afterlife of Anne Hathaway, Scheil looks at how historians, biographers, and novelists have repeatedly reinterpreted and reshaped Hathaway’s image over the centuries, and why. Scheil is interviewed by Barbara Bogaev.

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From the Shakespeare Unlimited podcast series. Published September 18, 2018. © Folger Shakespeare Library. All rights reserved. This podcast episode, “Thy Dear Self's Better Part" was produced by Richard Paul. Garland Scott is the associate producer. It was edited by Gail Kern Paster and Esther Ferington. Ben Lauer is the web producer. We had technical help from Andrew Feliciano and Paul Luke at Voice Trax West in Studio City, California, and Eric Stromstad and Steve Griffith at Minnesota Public Radio in Saint Paul.

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MICHAEL WITMORE: She's Rosalind. She's Juliet. No, she's Lady Macbeth. She's Kate, the shrew. She's the woman Shakespeare loved. No, she's the woman he spent his entire live escaping. Who was Anne Hathaway? She was Shakespeare's wife, we know, but pretty much everything else is up for grabs.

From the Folger Shakespeare Library, this is Shakespeare Unlimited. I'm Michael Witmore, the Folger's director. In her new book, Imagining Shakespeare's Wife: The Afterlife of Anne Hathaway, Katherine Scheil, a professor of English at the University of Minnesota, looks at how Anne Hathaway has been represented by historians, biographers, and novelists over the centuries, all the ways her image has been reinterpreted and reshaped, and why.

We are constantly returning to Shakespeare to make him fit our times and answer our questions, and whenever that return touches on Shakespeare's personal life, our understanding of Shakespeare's wife gets swept along. If we want him to be a moral authority, if we want him to be a libertine, if we want him to be gay, any of those choices will reflect on the woman who shared his home, bore their children, cared for them while he was in Stratford and when he was in London, and who appears, however summarily, in his will.

Professor Scheil came in recently to talk about how, over the centuries, trends in cultural archaeology, bibliography, biography, and even tourism have led us to one, and then another, impression of the woman who shared her life with the most extraordinary playwright in the English language. We call this podcast, "Thy Dear Self's Better Part." Katherine West Scheil is interviewed by Barbara Bogaev.


BARBARA BOGAEV: Well, Katherine, before we get into all the conflicting narratives about Anne Hathaway, why don't we get on some sure footing and look to the historical record. What do we know, with some certainty, about Shakespeare's wife?

KATHERINE WEST SCHEIL: Well, there are a handful of facts that we know about Anne. So, the Hathaway family were long-standing residents of Shottery since the early 16th century. That's the village just outside of Stratford. We know that the Hathaways and the Shakespeare family were friends well into the 18th century.

Of course, we know that Anne and William were married in November of 1582. We also know that Anne was pregnant when they got married, because daughter Susanna was born in May the next year, and if you do the math pretty quickly, that's not a full nine months. We know that they had three children together, the daughter Susanna and then two twins, Hamnet and Judith.

We know that Anne probably lived in New Place, that's Shakespeare's retirement home in Stratford, from about 1597 until the end of her life in 1623. We know about the infamous "my second best bed" bequest in Shakespeare's will. We'll probably get to that later in the conversation.

BOGAEV: Oh yes, we will! [LAUGHS]

SCHEIL: We also know that Anne is buried next to William in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford, so there's Shakespeare's monument on the wall of the left side of the church, and then Anne's grave, and then William's grave. And that's pretty much it.

BOGAEV: And do we know for sure that she was older?

SCHEIL: Yes. Well, if the epitaph on her grave is correct...

BOGAEV: Older than Shakespeare? I mean, older than William?

SCHEIL: Yes, yes.

BOGAEV: Eight years older?

SCHEIL: Yes, yes. Now, there have been a few biographers who've tried to say that maybe the engraving on the epitaph is incorrect, to try to make the age difference a little bit less, but that's pretty speculative.

BOGAEV: Ah, okay. Well, that's more than I thought we knew, actually, but it's still not that much to go on. And it is pretty wild that people throughout history, and. you know, that includes everyone from historians and readers and fiction writers and tour guides to just people like you and me, we've come up with these stories and these kind of myriad of detailed biographies. So, what made you first think, hmm, maybe there's a book in here about this, how people speculate about a person that they can't really know anything much definitively about.

SCHEIL: Well, I suppose it was coming across some of the really different portrayals of Anne, in both fiction and in biography, and then wondering, "What do we know about her, and then how have these facts been elaborated, suppressed, and kind of knit together?"

BOGAEV: And you've said somewhere that you had a classroom discussion, you're a professor and you had a classroom discussion, that really kind of brought it to the fore for you.

SCHEIL: Right. We read a biography and a novel, written the same year, I think. And my students were really surprised at how speculative the biography was, and how close the use of fiction in the novel was to the use of fiction in biography.

BOGAEV: Almost as if they were the same. And, of course, there is this category of "fictional biography."

SCHEIL: Right. And the expectation of most readers with biography is that you're getting the real story, or at least you're getting as close to the truth as possible, and that's actually not true. So I think that was very surprising to me, in just reading the different biographies that lay out Anne's story.

BOGAEV: And from there, you went on to look into this, and you came up with this really interesting thesis, pretty much, and I'm quoting you now, "the historical Anne Hathaway can never be retrieved or pinned down, and thus every narrative about 'Anne' is a fictional account to some degree, developed in response to cultural, social, political, historical, or literary developments." And you go on to explain that's why you get so many of these conflicting narratives about who this woman in history, Anne Hathaway, was. So, why don't we start with one of the first of those narratives. When does Anne Hathaway become part of Shakespeare's story and how was this first Shakespeare's wife portrayed? And this goes back to what, 1709, right?

SCHEIL: Exactly, right. So the first time Anne appears in print as Shakespeare's wife is Nicholas Rowe's 1709 biography and she's not actually named, it's just "the daughter of Hathaway."

BOGAEV: And Rowe only wrote two lines, right?

SCHEIL: Two lines and that's it.

BOGAEV: I have those two lines. Shall I read them?


BOGAEV: "In order to settle in the world after a family manner, [Shakespeare] thought fit to marry while he was yet very young. His wife was the daughter of one Hathaway, said to have been a substantial yeoman in the neighborhood of Stratford." So already, in two sentences, he has a take on this, right?

SCHEIL: Well, that's exactly right. And, you know, even that skeletal brief sketch that Rowe gives you of Anne, he uses the phrase, "Shakespeare thought fit to marry." I mean, of course, Rowe can have no idea what Shakespeare thought, but the very first entrance of Anne into Shakespeare's biographical narrative includes fiction.

BOGAEV: And just to understand Nicholas Rowe for a moment, who was his source and how reliable was the information provided?

SCHEIL: Right. So Nicholas Rowe sent the actor Thomas Betterton to Stratford to look at the parish records. The problem with that is that there is no parish record that records Anne's birth or the details about her family, so it's unclear if Betterton was looking at records that don't survive or if this information came from verbal accounts. It's not really clear where Betterton's...

BOGAEV: Already the plot thickens.

SCHEIL: Right. (Laugh) Right.

BOGAEV: And what can we surmise or what do you read into this very early imagining of Anne and Shakespeare and his marriage with her? And what was it responding to in the culture at that time, in 1709?

SCHEIL: Well, I think the sense of the need to give a life for an author, the sense that he had a family, he had a wife. It seems like that's important as a preface to his works.

BOGAEV: Well, that's interesting because you say in the book that we don't really know how Shakespeare was portrayed in this early time, not even 100 years after, or about 100 years after, his death.

SCHEIL: Right. Well, the thing is, before Rowe, the interpretation of Shakespeare's private life was very much "Shakespeare the libertine," and since Anne wasn't part of his life story until Rowe, you know, the idea was that Shakespeare was kind of a playboy, very much a ladies' man, and that extends, actually, even after Rowe's biography. So the 18th-century editor Alexander Pope circulated that story as well, later in the 18th century.

BOGAEV: And why did people think of Shakespeare as this rake?

SCHEIL: It goes back to one of the other points that I think is important about Anne, and that is, how do you explain Shakespeare's creativity? You know, what's the source for his inspiration? And one of the suggestions about that is his sexuality. So, if he has an active sex life in the London piece of his life, you've got to have someone there for him, and it's probably not Anne, because there's no evidence that she traveled from Stratford to London.

BOGAEV: And this comes from this Restoration playwright, William Davenant?

SCHEIL: Right, so William Davenant has a stake in attaching his own story to this idea of the libertine Shakespeare. So Davenant's family ran a tavern in Oxford, which was on route from London to Stratford, and the story is that Shakespeare, when he was on route back home, would stop in this tavern and meet Davenant's mother, so to speak, and that's where Davenant came from. So, and of course, that's a very attractive story for Davenant, because, you know, he wants to promote himself as having some kind of connection to Shakespeare.

BOGAEV: Did he just make up the story and start, you know, telling people this, because this is a good way to become a hot playwright?

SCHEIL: You know, it's impossible to know if there's any truth to it. And it goes all the way up to Shakespeare in Love, you know, the film.

BOGAEV: Well, that's what I was going to say, it's all because of this Restoration playwright who's trying to piggyback off of Shakespeare to puff himself up or maybe it happened, we don't know. But anyway, that's why we think of Shakespeare as the Will in Shakespeare in Love?

SCHEIL: Right. I mean that's the gist of Shakespeare in Love. In Shakespeare in Love, Anne figures very marginally, of course, because you don't want to promote the idea of Shakespeare as the adulterer. That's not really as good of a story as Shakespeare, the man who falls in love with a beautiful woman, you know, and then that inspires him to write Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night and these great love stories.

BOGAEV: Okay, so let me see if I get this right. Nicholas Rowe, the first Shakespeare biographer, he struck a certain tone with Anne Hathaway, that Shakespeare married young to a woman from the area who had some means. And meanwhile, there was this sense from the whole Davenant debacle that Shakespeare was something of a ladies' man. So how did the Anne Hathaway narrative develop from there? And you point out that around the time of David Garrick's Shakespeare Jubilee in 1769, the Hathaway family started trying to stir up interest in Anne Hathaway's cottage as an important Shakespeare tourist site, that those two things were kind of happening simultaneously, and that fostered, in turn, a fuller narrative about Anne. So tell us about Anne's cottage and how it figures into the story here.

SCHEIL: Right. So the David Garrick piece is really interesting. So we know that David Garrick and his brother George traveled to Stratford in the 1740s, so that's almost 30 years before the Stratford Jubilee in 1769.

BOGAEV: And we should say here that, for anyone who doesn't know the significance of the Shakespeare Jubilee, Garrick put it together and it pretty much cemented Shakespeare as Shakespeare. It was a big event in Stratford, it hugely elevated Shakespeare's fame, and, not coincidentally, Garrick's, also.

SCHEIL: Right. It's really the event that put Stratford on the map as a tourist destination. So we know that David Garrick and his brother George traveled to Stratford and we also know that David Garrick and his brother George went to Anne Hathaway's cottage in search of relics. So we knew that he knew the cottage existed. He knew that the Hathaway family was still there. But when he did the 1769 Jubilee, he completely erased Anne from the story, so there's no reference to Anne, no reference to Shakespeare's private family at all. So I think, from Garrick's point of view, the Shakespeare that he wanted to create, this "god of our idolatry" as he describes him, can't be married to a local yeoman's daughter. It's just not the right image.

BOGAEV: It's not done, yeah.

SCHEIL: Right, right. And Garrick obviously knew about Anne, so it's not out of ignorance or lack of knowledge. It's clearly a deliberate suppression of Anne.

BOGAEV: And keeping in mind that David Garrick ignored Anne Hathaway entirely, you write that many of the earliest travelers to Stratford literally stood on Anne's grave in order to get a better view of her husband's monument in Holy Trinity Church.

SCHEIL: Right. So Anne's epitaph, it's written in Latin on a brass plaque that dates from as early as 1634, so within 10 years or so of her death, probably written by daughter Susanna, because it talks about Anne as a mother. It's one of the most reliable pieces of evidence about Anne and it's often ignored, not just by biographers, but, as you say, by tourists. So one of the earliest sketches of those graves in Holy Trinity Church is by George Vertue, from 1737. In the sketch, he has a figure literally standing on Anne's grave, because that's the best place to stand, and Vertue has replaced this beautiful epitaph with one word, "Wife."

BOGAEV: Okay, but despite that, the traffic then really starts pouring into Stratford and that includes people going to see Anne Hathaway's cottage nearby in Shottery, too. So tell us about something that they'd encounter there, Shakespeare's courting chair.

SCHEIL: Right. So probably the next important group of travelers were the Irelands in the 1790s, so that's Samuel Ireland and his son, William Henry. So when the Irelands went to visit Anne Hathaway's cottage, they were also in search of relics, and they found the courting chair, which Samuel Ireland purchased. There was also a bed there, which is still in the Hathaway cottage, which the Hathaway family refused to sell to the Irelands, presumably because it was still in use.

BOGAEV: And what is a courting chair? I mean, I assume that's where Shakespeare recited lovely poetry to Anne. Is that the story that they tell?

SCHEIL: Well, that's the story. They very much, at least William Ireland, very much wanted to create a more positive Anne. So William Henry Ireland is infamous for creating this large collection of forgeries, and some of the forgeries have to do with filling in a missing archive about William and Anne, so a series of love letters from William to Anne, including locks of Shakespeare's hair. Unfortunately, there's no evidence that Shakespeare himself ever set foot in Hathaway's cottage, but having a piece of furniture, where you can imagine Shakespeare courting Anne, really makes a lot of sense in selling that story.

BOGAEV: Sure. Well, we've talked about the Hathaway family bed, which, as you've said, is still on view at the Hathaway cottage. Now I'd like to go onto a much more famous and controversial bed that is also a vital part of this story. So, Shakespeare famously left his wife his "second best bed" in his will. What's the common consensus now among historians about Shakespeare's will and what he left his wife?

SCHEIL: Well, those 12 words in Shakespeare's will about the "second best bed" are really problematic for Anne, and most interpretations of her rest on how you interpret that bequest. Was the "second best bed" a term of endearment, you know, was that a bed that they shared together? Was it an insult? Was it completely something else? And there's really no way of knowing exactly what it was. I think the consensus is that there were other wills that included second best beds, not as an insult. So I think that's the way most scholars want to read this line.

BOGAEV: Well, we do know that it's kind of been added in to the will. It looks like an afterthought on Shakespeare's part, and certain people imagining things into this have made a really big deal about that.

SCHEIL: Right. So this is the other problem with that line in the will. It's interlineated, meaning it's written above the main text of the will and in a different ink. So of course, we want to know, what's the story behind this line? Who added it in? When was it added in? You know, was it Shakespeare himself who got done listening to the reading of the will and thought, "Oh my God, I've forgotten Anne. Somebody, think of something we can put in," you know, and then someone says, "How about the second best bed?" And he says, "Great, somebody add that line in." So that's one option. But, of course, there are other options, too. I mean, the will was copied, so it certainly could have been the person copying the will that lost his place. But I think the temptation is to find a story behind this line, because then you can animate Shakespeare, you can give him an opinion about something.

BOGAEV: Well, people have taken this short line from the will and just run with it. And one of them is the great Shakespeare editor and scholar, Edmond Malone. He's read just a lot into that one line in the will.

SCHEIL: Yeah, so Edmond Malone really relies on the will kind of as the cornerstone for his interpretation of Shakespeare as an unhappily married man. I think his phrase is, Shakespeare dismissed his wife "with an old bed." So the sense that Malone wants to read into that line of the will is that Shakespeare was unhappily married, insulted his wife in his will, and that is an eternal statement about the mistake that Shakespeare made. So Malone is contemporary with the Irelands, and Malone's interpretation of Shakespeare's marriage is much more negative. So I think the point is that you have these two positive and negative Annes existing at the same time.

BOGAEV: Okay. Let's see. Right now, we've only gotten to about the end of the 18th century. But you say it's at that moment that interpretations of Anne Hathaway began to proliferate, in tandem with antiquarianism and tourism and bibliography and biography, and all of this encouraged additional interest in Shakespeare's private life. And a shift happens. Shakespeare is not the libertine any more. He's the devoted father.

SCHEIL: Right. In the 19th century, there was very much a desire to have a moral Shakespeare, you know, Shakespeare who could be a moral authority about love and about life. But if you're going to have a moral Shakespeare, you need a moral story for him. So, the idea of Shakespeare the family man becomes important, and Anne, of course, is perfect for that. So then the story you can tell is that Anne is the perfect domestic helpmeet. You know, she's supportive of Shakespeare, she nurtures his artistic creativity, she provides a home for him, and then having the cottage as a tourist destination in order to fulfill that narrative was really influential. It's also the period where you have a lot of women critics of Shakespeare and women scholars. So Mary Cowden Clarke, for example, describes Shakespeare as "the girl's friend," and she attributed Shakespeare's sympathy to women to his relationship to his wife, and that extends really throughout our own historical moment, as well. Through Anne, you can see a different side of Shakespeare. You can see a side of Shakespeare that's appealing to women.

BOGAEV: Well, Harriet Beecher Stowe also wrote a historical novel about Anne, "The True Story of Mrs. Shakespeare's Life," and it sounds just like, out there. (Laugh) She makes Anne look good by painting her as the ultimate loyal, supportive wife, because she helps Shakespeare be a serial killer and not get caught.

SCHEIL: Doesn't she? Yeah, it's actually a short story. Very entertaining. Shakespeare's dark secret is that he's been murdering his rival playwrights as a way to promote his own artistic reputation and that he brings them back to Stratford, buries them under his famous mulberry tree, and this is a secret that Anne holds until the moment of her death, and then she's on her deathbed and then reveals that this is the secret that she's kept for him.

BOGAEV: Well, also this period in the 19th century, this is where there are fictions speculating about, perhaps Anne is the inspiration for Portia and Rosalind or Juliet?

SCHEIL: Right, there are a number of works that come out from the 19th century about trying to connect Anne with Shakespeare's literary works. And of course, that's really problematic, because we have no idea if Anne was the inspiration for any of Shakespeare's characters or any of his stories. Nevertheless, in the 19th century, that becomes a very popular mode of imagining Anne.

BOGAEV: Well, definitely the cottage kind of cemented at least a positive view of Anne as this woman who was tending the home fires and being courted by Will Shakespeare, and, you know, a very glowing picture. And also in the 20th century, there were Anne Hathaway reproduction cottages in the US.

SCHEIL: Right. So there's one in South Dakota, which is still a place I think you can get married. I think that's the only thatched roof in the state of South Dakota, for what that's worth. There's another one at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, North Carolina.

BOGAEV: So all of this is still reflecting some of the older, 19th century ideas?

SCHEIL: Well, I think it's a compelling romantic narrative, you know, meeting this woman there and carrying on his courtship and being inspired to write these plays by the natural beauty of that countryside. That's very much the 19th century story. She came from the heart of England, in this beautiful place, and that that was some kind of inspiration for the plays.

BOGAEV: There are also, you write, a lot of American Shakespeare clubs and literary societies that are named for Anne in the late 19th century.

SCHEIL: Yes, you know, a lot of interest in Anne amongst American women. In fact, at the end of the 19th century, in the early 20th century, there are a number of American women who traveled to Stratford and traveled to Anne Hathaway's cottage, as well.

BOGAEV: Well, moving into the early 20th century, there seems to be a bit of revisionist history going on. Since your premise is that social conflicts are reflected in these versions of Anne, how was Anne Hathaway imagined in this early stage of the women's movement?

SCHEIL: Right. Well, I mean, as you might guess, you know, there are some certainly very negative Annes in this time period. I mean, I think one of the most disturbing ones is Frank Harris's. So, this is from a book called The Women of Shakespeare from 1911, and here, Anne is what Harris describes as a "jealous scolding shrew wife" who should be jettisoned and then, this is another one of Harris's phrases, to "the lowest hell of jealousy, rage and humiliation."

BOGAEV: Oh, burn.

SCHEIL: Right. (Laugh) Completely not based in any kind of factual information, but, you know, clearly, a lot of animosity behind that depiction. And I find it surprising that the book is called The Women of Shakespeare, and, you know, with growing interest in women to read about Shakespeare, you wonder how many women picked up this book, you know, read through, and came away pretty shocked. And this is at the same time that women and a number of other tourists, of course, men, too, are traveling to Anne Hathaway's cottage to see this home, and you wonder how many of them would have gone to see the home of a woman who should be consigned "to the lowest hell of jealousy, rage, and humiliation." A completely different Anne from the one that tourists were seeking in her family home.

BOGAEV: Well, this continued into the later 20th century and then the 21st century. We have these two diametrically opposed takes on Anne Hathaway and one's represented by the writer Anthony Burgess and then, much later, by the popular Shakespearean scholar, Stephen Greenblatt, who I should say has been a guest on our podcast more than once. And these two men seem to take their lead from an early 20th-century interpretation of Anne Hathaway, as you say, as the harridan.

SCHEIL: Right. So Burgess's novel Nothing Like the Sun, still taught in college classrooms, a very negative depiction of Anne. So if I can just give a few phrases to capture that.

BOGAEV: And this, of course, is Anthony Burgess who wrote A Clockwork Orange.

SCHEIL: Right, and also wrote a biography six years later than his novel, which is equally negative about Anne. So in the novel, Anne forces Shakespeare into what Burgess calls "bed-slavery," until finally, and then this is a passage from Burgess, "hatred rose in him like black vomit, seeing that she had turned him into a manner of a whoremaster." And then, Burgess's biography is not any more sympathetic. So in the biography, Shakespeare felt what Burgess calls "disgust" at Anne and had to escape her "nagging him about his lack of ambition" and "with bitter resignation," Shakespeare "was led to the slaughter, or the marriage bed." And this is the biography.

BOGAEV: The biography, right, where he's holding back.

SCHEIL: Right.

BOGAEV: I think you sum up his Anne as the "groaning old crone."

SCHEIL: Right. And that's his phrase.

BOGAEV: Does Stephen Greenblatt's version of Anne, did it draw from that? Or where is he getting, what story does he tell of her and what is he drawing from to flush it out in Will in the World?

SCHEIL: He's definitely in the line of Edmond Malone and Anthony Burgess. So the story that Greenblatt tells is that Shakespeare "made a disastrous mistake," that's his phrase. He "was dragged to the altar," he viewed his wife with distaste and contempt, he felt "sour anger" towards her, and then I'll just read you the bit from the end of Shakespeare's life. He writes, "So much for the dream of love. When Shakespeare lay dying, he tried to forget his wife and then remembered her with the second-best bed. And when he thought of the afterlife, the last thing he wanted was to be mingled with the woman he married." So, you can certainly hear echoes of Edmond Malone there, you know, the sense that he cut off his wife with an old bed and didn't want anything to do with her at the end of his days.

BOGAEV: Well, what do you make of these two interpretations of Anne, then? Where is the animus coming from?

SCHEIL: Well, part of the issue is that Stephen Greenblatt and Anthony Burgess are trying to tell a good story. So I think part of that is figuring out a way to explain Shakespeare's creative genius, the sense that a domestic wife is not very exciting. It's much more exciting to create someone who's exotic, who can motivate Shakespeare's creativity. You know, that's not the person who's home taking care of his kids. And, of course, I mean, every biography is fictional, to one degree or another. The issue is, how do you alert readers to the fact that you're telling one story, and that there are other stories that could be told using that same evidence. So, Graham Holderness, for example, in his book Nine Lives of William Shakespeare does that. So he tells Shakespeare's life nine different times, using the same evidence, but from nine different ways. I don't think I would want to write a biography of Shakespeare after writing this book of Anne. (Laugh)

BOGAEV: You anticipated my last question.

SCHEIL: Yeah, well, because you have to make choices and I think the choices that you make a biographer... You know, as a biographer, you can't... If you're creating a single narrative, it means that you're not writing the other, you know, 27 narratives that could be written.

BOGAEV: So then, in 2007, we get a biography of Anne by Germaine Greer, and she pretty much represents that other 20th and now 21st-century version of Anne Hathaway, the feminist readings of Anne Hathaway. What do the feminist readings draw on and where do you find them leading?

SCHEIL: Well, I think with Germaine Greer's book, you know, her desire is certainly to create as independent-minded Anne as possible. There is evidence from the excavation of New Place, this is Shakespeare's final home in Stratford, that there was a brewing business that happened at New Place. So Germaine takes that evidence to say Anne must have been running this brewery, while her husband was off writing his plays, so then Anne is an independent business woman, financially talented and savvy and whatnot. And Germaine Greer also makes an interesting connection with the year of Anne's death and the First Folio, which are both 1623. So Germaine suggests that perhaps Anne had a role in instigating the collection of Shakespeare's works and perhaps Anne is behind, you know, this amazing book that we have that pulls all of Shakespeare's work together. One book that we haven't talked about is Arliss Ryan's The Secret Confessions of Anne Shakespeare.

BOGAEV: Oh, I love this one. Tell us about this.

SCHEIL: (Laugh) So this is a 2010 novel, and in this story, Anne is actually the ghostwriter of Shakespeare's plays.

BOGAEV: Yeah, she's the real Shakespeare.

SCHEIL: Right, she's the real Shakespeare.

BOGAEV: And she lives in London, right, while she's having affairs with all his rivals?

SCHEIL: Right, so she has affairs with Marlowe and with Jonson. Avril Rowlands's play, Mrs. Shakespeare ... The Poet's Wife, that's from 2005, tells a really similar story. So there, Anne is the full-time mother, who's writing the plays of Shakespeare on the side, and she's only married to Shakespeare as a business partnership, so he's like the front for her artistic creativity. Another really fun version of Anne is Amy Freed's play, The Beard of Avon, and in this story, Anne get revenge on her cheating husband by copulating with the Earl of Oxford, so it's really like the ultimate story of the woman's victory over her philandering husband.

BOGAEV: And appropriating her own sexuality, taking it back. Well, you do ask this question, whether there's a responsibility to acknowledge all of these possible Annes that we are talking about, or is Anne's only purpose to shed light on her famous husband? So where have you come down on both of those possibilities?

SCHEIL: It's a good question. I mean, I think, you know, somewhere behind all of these fantasies, there is a real woman. So I think there is this sense that there should be some justice for this actual historical woman. I think the more fantastical the works, the better, because you're obviously in the realm of fantasy and you're not trying to pass off one of these works as the true Anne.

BOGAEV: Well, in that spirit, what future Anne Hathaways do you see on the horizon? And I’m picturing, you know, alien Anne, Black Mirror or Cylon killing machine robot Anne Hathaway. We already have those for all the Jane Austen novels, you know, Vampire...

SCHEIL: Right, right. It's only a matter of time.

BOGAEV: Post-gender Anne. And will this Madonna-whore paradigm continue, do you think?

SCHEIL: It's hard to say. I think one complication with Anne is still the survival of her family home, of this beautiful English cottage, so whatever fantasy Anne you create, you know, most readers are going to have that beautiful, picturesque cottage in the back of their minds, so you have to tie it to that idea, that beautiful pastoral space in some way.

BOGAEV: Huh, that's interesting, although you write that the fastest growing market for Shakespeare-related fiction is adult women. So what Anne do they prefer? You know, you've had your Arliss Ryan, and your Pamela Berkman, and the Anne who's appropriating her sexuality, the Anne who exists in her own right, and no one should be justified by being someone's wife.

SCHEIL: Right. I mean the Annes really written by women for women are the most independent. You know, it's really kind of the #MeToo moment for Anne in these fictional accounts of the 21st century.

BOGAEV: And there's our sound-bite, the #MeToo moment for Anne Hathaway. (Laugh) This has been so interesting. Thank you so much.

SCHEIL: Thank you so much. It's been a pleasure.


MICHAEL WITMORE: Katherine West Scheil is a professor of English at the University of Minnesota. Previously, she is the author of She Hath Been Reading: Women and Shakespeare Clubs in America and The Taste of the Town: Shakespearian Comedy in the Early Eighteenth-Century Theater. Her new book, Imagining Shakespeare's Wife: The Afterlife of Anne Hathaway, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2018. She was interviewed by Barbara Bogaev.

"Thy Dear Self's Better Part" was produced by Richard Paul. Garland Scott is the associate producer. It was edited by Gail Kern Paster and Esther Ferington. Ben Lauer is the web producer. We had technical help from Andrew Feliciano and Paul Luke at Voice Trax West in Studio City, California, and Eric Stromstad and Steve Griffith at Minnesota Public Radio in Saint Paul.

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Shakespeare Unlimited comes to you from the Folger Shakespeare Library. Home to the world’s largest Shakespeare collection, the Folger is dedicated to advancing knowledge and the arts. You can find more about the Folger at our website, For the Folger Shakespeare Library, I'm Folger Director Michael Witmore.