This year is the 400th anniversary of Anne’s death; and this Wednesday, a Royal Shakespeare Company adaptation of Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet is opening in Stratford. The script, which has been adapted by Lolita Chakrabarti, leaves little doubt who is the star: Shakespeare’s wife, Anne (who might actually have been named Agnes), the mother of his children and the head of his household, who brims with spirit and practical intelligence, and runs rings around her partner and everyone else.
Of the numerous puzzles about William Shakespeare, those concerning his marriage to Anne Hathaway are the most tantalizing. Why did he have three children with her, then decamp to London for a life in the theater? What was their relationship really like? And why do we know so little about Anne herself?