Where there's a Will, there's a way...to cut his wife out of said will. The Bard might have been a talented playwright, but he may have been a bit of a scrooge when it came to his possessions after his death.
In his last will and testament, dating from 1616, Shakespeare bequeathed a lot of stuff, like money and land, to his two surviving daughters, Judith and Susannah. Sadly, his only son, Hamnet, died young. He went through an entire list of stuff to go to others before finally giving his poor widow, Anne Hathaway (no relation to the actress), just one thing: "my second best bed with the furniture." In reality, we can't read too much into this line, as we have no clue what Will meant or didn't mean by it.
Why would Shakespeare leave his wife so little - and not even his best furniture, at that? You can still inspect this bed at a house in the tiny village of Shottery, England, and it seems like a paltry inheritance for his spouse. Some scholars have speculated that there were major tensions in the Shakespeares' marriage, and that Will tried to forget his wife on his deathbed by just including her in one throwaway line at the end.
But others have suggested that leaving Anne the second-best bed was a sign of affection for his wife. The best bed would always be reserved for guests, some have theorized, so it was a hallmark of Shakespeare's devotion that he left his wife the next-best thing she could take with her.
A bed – probably the one he and Anne shared – might have been a Renaissance symbol of spousal devotion. Finally, it might have been presumed that Anne's daughters would take care of her, so she didn't need cash or property. It could even have been a sign of affection that he added a bunch of personal items at the very end of his will, including something for Anne.
Feature image via Angelica Kauffman/Wikimedia Commons.