We have few records from the life of William Shakespeare.
Most are related to petty lawsuits or the purchase of property. The most personal document that remains is his Last Will & Testament.
Researcher Bonner Miller Cutting looked at some 3,000 wills from Shakespeare’s day, and in this fascinating interview she describes what she learned about the daily lives of people of that era and about Gentle Will from Stratford-upon-Avon.
She sets the infamous “Second Best Bed” bequest in its context, giving us a look into Shakespeare’s relationship with his wife, Anne Hathaway.
Books and articles for further exploration:
- Samuel Schoenbaum, William Shakespeare: A Documentary Life
- E.K. Chambers, William Shakespeare: A Study of Facts and Problems (in 2 volumes)
- Bonner Miller Cutting, Shakespeare’s Will…. Considered Too Curiously (please note that this link opens a pdf, which can take a moment to load)
Please visit our Resources page for websites relating to the Shakespeare Authorship Question
Read the Will
A transcript of the Will that preserves much of the original formatting (but still adds a few periods):
Shakespeare’s Last Will and Testament
Bonner Miller Cutting is a Trustee of the Shakespeare Fellowship, and on the Board of Directors of the Shakespeare Authorship Coalition, and has presented papers at several authorship conferences. Ms. Cutting has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Tulane University and a Masters of Music degree in piano performance from McNeese State University. She has been doing research into early modern English wills for several years, and is planning to compile her findings into a book.
This interview was recorded on August 27, 2011.