The Second Best Bed and the Legacy of Anne Hathaway

in Critical Survey
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‘I give unto my wife my second best bed with the furniture’, wrote William Shakespeare in his will of March 1616, a month before his death. The repercussions of this phrase have shaped the trajectory of Anne Hathaway’s life for almost 400 years. As an object of material domesticity as well as a reminder of sexual activity, the ‘second best bed’ embodies both the sexual and domestic sides of this famous wife, linking her physically to Shakespeare and to the domestic life that likely kept her in Stratford for the duration of her life.