Shortlist year: 2008

Shortlist category: Non-fiction

Published by: Bloomsbury Publishing

Little is known of the wife of England's greatest playwright. In play after play Shakespeare presents the finding of a worthy wife as a triumphant denouement, yet scholars persist in believing that his own wife was resented and even hated by him.

Here Germaine Greer strives to re-embed the story of their marriage in its social context and presents new hypotheses about the life of the farmer's daughter who married our greatest poet. This is a daring, insightful book that asks new questions, opens new fields of investigation and research, and rights the wrongs done to Ann Shakespeare.

About the author

Germaine Greer

Germaine Greer gained her PhD from the University of Cambridge in 1967 with a thesis on Shakespeare's early comedies and has taught Shakespeare at universities in Australia, Britain and the US.

In 1986 she was invited to contribute the volume on Shakespeare to the prestigious Past Masters series.

In 1989 she set up her own publishing imprint, Stump Cross Books, and went on to publish scholarly editions of Katherine Philips, Anne Wharton and Anne Finch, Countess of Winchilsea.

She lives on three acres in north-west Essex, with two dogs, thirteen geese and a fluctuating number of doves.

Judges’ comments

This book sets out to rehabilitate Ann Hathaway’s history, long dismissed as a minor detail in Shakespeare’s life.

As an examination of life in Stratford in the 16th century it is superb, the detail extraordinary and the style engrossing. It is a work of considerable scholarship -- the amount of detail the author has recovered from tomb stones and forgotten records is impressive – as well as displaying great mastery of prose. Shakespeare’s plays are brilliantly used to shed light on his domestic relationships. The argument is lively and engaging.