Thursday, July 20, 2006

"Let's choose executors and talk of wills"

Peter O'Connell has called to my attention a very interesting item about Shakespeare's will, which is on loan to the Yale Center for British Art until September. Unfortunately, the article is only available on dead trees at the moment, having been published in the July/August edition of the Yale Alumni Magazine. They are slow to post their material to their website, as the items now available seem to be from the last issue. An any rate, check this space for updates.

Shakespeare signed each page of the three page will, hand written by his lawyer. The writing on page one is noticeably more cramped than the next two pages. The article speculates that the will was amended, but on page one only, and the lawyer deliberately forced the new version to fit on a single page to avoid the necessity of copying the remaining two pages.

I believe that I've heard before that Shakespeare left his wife his "second best bed," and now I'll have to think of a way to put that idea into an article.


JLM said...

Jim Gust doesn't mention the reason Shakespeare revised and expanded the first page of his will.

Like generations of fathers in subsequent centuries, he was worried about a daughter's unfortunate marriage. To protect her from her ne'er-do-well spouse, he placed half her legacy in something like a trust.

(As every trust marketer learns, it was the Statute of Uses, c. 1536, that led to the development of trusts in England around Shakespeare's time.)

Anonymous said...

The article is on the web now: