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?