A Woman Scorned

By Arliss Ryan

Virtually nothing is known about Anne Hathaway, the wife of William Shakespeare, yet plenty of unkind words have been written about her. Shakespeare scholars in particular have not hesitated to portray her as a coarse, illiterate, country wench who seduced an innocent boy and made him miserable thereafter.

With my blood boiling, I set out to prove otherwise, and so began The Secret Confessions of Anne Shakespeare. On one hand, since we don’t have even a portrait of Anne, I could give my imagination free rein. I proceeded to make her not only a smart, funny, sensual woman but the true author of the most famous plays.

But I also wanted my story to be both historically accurate and plausible, and since some experts protest that even a man from Stratford could not have written the plays, therein lay the challenge. For example, How could Anne have learned to read and write when girls were barred from the grammar schools? Aha, she might have gone to a “petty school” for children aged 5-7, which both girls and boys could attend.

How could she have become adept at playwriting when women were excluded even from acting? Why, she was tutored by her budding playwright husband when she joined him in London and learned still more from her literary lovers, the utterly delicious Christopher Marlowe and the troublesome Ben Jonson.

At every step I had to weave together major historical events like the Spanish Armada and the complicated literary history of the composition of the plays. But gifted with natural intelligence and a vivid imagination and trained in the rough-and-tumble world of Elizabethan theater, why couldn’t a woman have done it?

Why couldn’t Anne?

Arliss Ryan is the author of The Secret Confessions of Anne Shakespeare (NAL, June 2010) and two previous novels. A native of Michigan, she now lives in Florida with her husband. To learn more about the author and her books, please visit her website by clicking here.

IMAGE: The graves of Anne (left) and William (right) Shakespeare, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon

Congratulations to the following W & M winners of this book:

Kelcie, Cheryl and Sherri


  1. says

    Have you read Janet Warner’s Secret Sorrows, Secret Joys, the marvellous book about Catherine Blake? Janet was one of my profs at university – I was so glad she managed to get the novel written and published at age 72 – it was delightful. Sadly, she died before she could write another and I think it’s now out of print (I’m clinging to my copy). I’m in Canada, so not eligible for your contest, but looking forward to reading The Secret Confessions of Anne Shakespeare and some of your other work. There are times I wish I was still in university – would love to do a Master’s thesis on novels about the wives of famous men. That reminds me, I’ve owned a copy of Germaine Greer’s Shakespeare’s Wife for two years now – must read it too!

  2. librarypat says

    I have read about this book on several sites and have heard good things about it. Why not a woman as the author of some or all of Shakespeare’s works. There are certainly some different in tone. In earlier years, women often wrote using a man’s name so their works would be accepted. It is a shame we will never know for sure.
    Best of luck with your book.

  3. Audra says

    Oh, I am so pleased to see someone writing about Anne Hathaway — I’d love to be entered in the giveaway.

  4. says

    I would truly enjoy reading this book – and would love to be able to review this book on my blog!
    Thank you for making it easy to enter for te drawing…sometimes all of the steps make me just not want to even try!

  5. says

    So many times when a person is maligned through history – particularly a woman – it is found it is because she was smarter than the men around her and that those men changed the history to suit their needs.

    Will we ever know the truth? Probably not but I love the premise of this book!
    please enter me

  6. Kimberly says

    There are so many rumours about Shakespeare’s love life, that I love that someone has written a story about its most prominent character! What a neat book!

  7. Laura S. says

    Just a comment, don’t throw my name into the hat on this one (never was a Shakespeare fan ::gasp:: so don’t know if I’d read this one) but, it is such a shame that so little is known about so many of the women throughout history. It would be nice to know much more about some of these ‘non-persons’.

  8. Cheryl Smith says

    The book looks like a good read. I am mostly entering for my daughter who is a real Shakespeare buff, but I am very fond of books taking a part of history and fleshing it out into the every day details. csmith

  9. says

    Thanks all! We appreciate all our readers. Please continue to enjoy the site! The winners for this book are: Kelcie, Cheryl and Sherri! Congrats!


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