ABSTRACT

When Shakespeare left his "second-best bed" to his wife, Anne Hathaway, in his will, he left as well a seductive historical conundrum. Is the phrase "second-best" a sign of his estrangement from the marriage, or was the "best" bed in the house given to guests, so that the "secondbest" was the connubial couch-the one, as Shakespeare biographer Sam Schoenbaum remarks with deadpan wit, "rich in tender matrimonial associations"?1