Study Guide

Anne Hathaway Themes

By Carol Ann Duffy

  • Love

    "Anne Hathaway," like many sonnets, is about love and all those nice things that come along with it: sex, passion, and of course poetry. It's a message to the world from Shakespeare's wife that she and her husband were very much in love, despite the way other people might interpret his will. Their love is beautiful, romantic, sexy; sounds like a pretty good relationship to us.

    Questions About Love

    1. What is the relationship between love and writing in the poem?
    2. Why does Duffy use so many metaphors to describe Anne and Shakespeare's relationship? What do metaphors have to do with love?
    3. Who has the power in this relationship? Is this a marriage of equals? What is the relationship between love and power?
    4. After reading the poem, have your thoughts about the meaning of Shakespeare's will changed? Do you think that he and Anne were really in love?

    Chew on This

    "Anne Hathaway" convincingly argues that Anne Hathaway and Shakespeare were really in love.

    "Anne Hathaway" shows that Anne really loved Shakespeare, but the only word we have from Shakespeare himself is his will. We can't be sure that he loved Anne the way that she loved him.

  • Literature and Writing

    "Anne Hathaway" is a poem about writing as much as it is a poem about love. Duffy compares sex to writing throughout the poem; sometimes it's even hard to figure out which she's talking about. Shakespeare is considered by many people to be the greatest writer ever, but in this poem, it's his wife Anne who's got the skills.

    Questions About Literature and Writing

    1. Is "Anne Hathaway" supposed to remind us of Shakespeare's writing talent, or is it more about Anne's talents?
    2. Is Anne in competition with Shakespeare in this poem? Or is her sonnet just a tribute to him?
    3. Why does Duffy compare sex to writing so often? What's the connection between the two?
    4. What effect does the final couplet have on the poem? How are memory and writing connected?

    Chew on This

    This poem suggests that Anne Hathaway subordinates her writing powers to her husband's (meaning that his are more valuable). The poem is just a tribute to her husband's skilled writing.

    This poem shows that Anne Hathaway is just as talented as her husband was. She just never got to show her skills because of the time and culture in which she lived.

  • Truth

    In "Anne Hathaway," Carol Ann Duffy wants to set the record straight about Anne Hathaway and Shakespeare's relationship. People tend to interpret Shakespeare's will to mean that he didn't love his wife. This seems to frustrate Duffy, so she writes a poem that imagines a totally different point of view. In doing so, she questions the assumptions that we all make about other people's lives. Is it really possible to know the truth of someone else's relationship?

    Questions About Truth

    1. Why does Duffy include part of Shakespeare's will as the epigraph to the poem?
    2. Is Duffy's poem any more true than other interpretations of Shakespeare's will by other scholars? In her poem, does Duffy say "this is how there relationship was"? Or does she say, "this is how their relationship might have been"? What's the difference?
    3. What other perspectives on Anne and Shakespeare's relationship would you like to have?

    Chew on This

    In her poem, Duffy argues that Shakespeare really did love his wife. The poem intends to be the final word on the subject.

    In her poem, Duffy suggests that Shakespeare might have really loved his wife. She provides just one alternative point of view to the standard theory.