17 of History's Most Unusual Wills

William Shalespeare’s bequest to his wife Anne was not overly generous. Wikimedia

2. Shakespeare in Love was not reflected in the Bard’s last will and testament

William Shakespeare was the credited author of nearly forty plays (some authorship is disputed) more than 150 sonnets, epic poems, and other works, many of which are still being discovered from time to time. According to extant records he married Anne Hathaway in 1582, when she was 26 and he but 18 years of age. Six months later Anne was delivered of their first child together, Susanna, explaining the suddenness of the marriage which had surprised Shakespeare’s friends. Twins would later follow, a son and another daughter, though the son, Hamnet, died at the age of 11. The couple would have no further children, and lived together in London after Shakespeare began his career as an actor and writer there in 1592.

Shakespeare died, somewhat suddenly, in 1616, just 52 years of age. How and from what remains unknown, he had described his health as perfect when signing his last will and testament just a month before. One rumor was that he died as the result of an extensive drinking binge. In his will Shakespeare left nearly all of his estate – which was large for its time – to his eldest daughter, Susanna, with instructions that it would pass to her firstborn son upon her death. His wife, Anne, was for the most part ignored in the document, though by English law she should have been entitled to a portion of the estate. Shakespeare did specifically bequeath her his “second best bed”. The strangeness of the phrasing by the man considered the father of the English language by many remains a subject of dispute among scholars.