Reinterpreting Shakespeare’s will

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Shakespeare’s original signed will comprise three sheets of paper. Since being found in the 18th century, it has generated hundreds of pages of speculation and analysis, and achieved iconic status as a national treasure. As the only personal document we have from Shakespeare’s life, the will has been used by all biographers to judge his state of health, his relations with his wife and family, and ultimately his character. Amanda Bevan has read the will anew, looking not for character but for his intentions - and casts new light on how Shakespeare conducted himself as a husband, father, brother, grandfather and friend.

Amanda Bevan has worked at The National Archives since 1979, first as a PhD student looking at law and society in Tudor England, and then as a member of staff from 1985. She is particularly interested in the interface between litigation and social history, and is responsible for the addition of over a million lawsuits from the 1380s onwards to TNA’s online catalogue.

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