The Second Best Bed
In his Will, Shakespeare left most of his estate (including his land) to his elder daughter, Susanna and 300 pounds to his younger daughter, Judith, with some restrictions because she had just married a widower who was recently busted for "incontinence", and he was worried about the guy getting his hands on the money. He left his clothing and a life tenancy in the house that he owned and in which she was living to his sister, Jone. He left cash gifts to his nephews (Jone's sons) and to others (including 10 pounds to the poor of Avon, and other cash gifts). He left money for three theatre friends - John Heminges, Richard Burbage and Henry Condell - so they could buy themselves rings. All three men were actors in Shakespeare's company, The King's Men. Burbage was, in fact, the lead actor, and originated the roles of Hamlet, King Lear, Richard III, and Othello, as well as appearing in plays by other writers of the age. Heminges and Condell were the editors of the 1623 First Folio of Shakespeare's works. Shakespeare left his sword to Thomas Combe. To his wife he left his "second best bed with the furniture".
Much has been said about the bequest to his wife, Anne Hathaway, but according to the good folks at the National Archives in the U.K., it was common practice in his time to leave one's best things for one's children, and the second-best to one's wife. As Jonathan Bate notes in Soul of the Age: A Biography of the Mind of William Shakespeare, the best bed would have been set aside for guests, and would have gone with his house to his daughter Susanna and her husband. The second-best bed would likely have been the bed in which Shakespeare and his wife slept, so leaving it to her isn't necessarily a slight. I assume that Mrs. Shakespeare would have been kept as a member of her elder daughter's household, which explains why no land or money went directly to her in the Will. It is possible as well that she had her own money (perhaps inherited from her father), and she would of course have kept all her personal belongings as well.
What his Will actually said, complete with Latin, cross-outs and Elizabethan spellings
Vicesimo Quinto die
In the name of god Amen I William Shackspeare of Stratford upon Avon in the countrie of Warr' gent in perfect health and memorie god by praysed doe make and Ordayne this my last will and testament in manner and forme followeing that ys to saye first I Comend my Soule into the hands of god my Creator hoping and assuredlie beleeving through thonelie merittes of Jesus Christe my Saviour to be made partaker of lyfe everlastinge And my bodye to the Earthe whereof yt ys made.
Item I Gyve and bequeath unto my
Item I gyve and bequeath unto my saied Daughter Judyth One Hundred and ffyftie Poundes more if shee or Anie issue of her bodie Lyvinge att thend of three yeares next ensueing the daie of the date of this my will during which tyme my executors to paie her consideracion from my deceas according to the Rate afore saied. And if she dye within the saied terme without issue of her bodye then my will ys and and I doe gyve and bequeath One Hundred Poundes therof to my Neece Eliabeth Hall and ffiftie Poundes to be sett fourth by my executors during the lief of my Sister Johane Harte and the use and proffitt therof cominge shalbe payed to my saied Sister Jone and after her deceas the saied L li shall Remaine Amongst the childredn of my saied Sister Equallie to be devided Amongst them. But if my saied daughter Judith be lyving att thend of the saeid three yeares or anie issue of her bodye then my will ys and soe I devise and bequeath the saied Hundred and ffyftie poundes to be sett out by my executors and overseers for the best benefit of her and her issue and the stock not to be paied unto her soe long as she shalbe marryed and Covert Baron by
Item I gyve and bequeath unto my saied sister Jone XX li and all my wearing Apprell to be paied and delivered within one yeare after my deceas. And I doe will and devise unto her the house with thappurtenances in Stratford where in she dwelleth for her naturall lief under the yearelie Rent of xiid
Item I gyve and bequeath unto her three sonnes William Hart—Hart and Michaell Harte ffyve pounds A peece to be payed within one yeare after my decease
Item I gyve and bequath unto her the said Elizabeth Hall All my Plate (except my brod silver and gilt bole) that I now have att the date of this my will.
Item I gyve and bequeath unto the Poore of Stratford aforesaied tenn poundes; to Mr Thomas Combe my Sword; to Thomas Russell Esquier ffyve poundes and to ffrauncis collins of the Borough of Warr' in the countie of Warr' gent. thriteene poundes Sixe shillinges and Eight pence to be paied within one yeare after my deceas.
Item I gyve and bequeath to
Item I Gyve Will Bequeth and Devise unto my Daughter Susanna Hall for better enabling of her to performe this my will and towardes the performans thereof All that Capitall Messuage or tenemente with thappertenaces in Stratford aforesaid called the newe plase wherein I now Dwell and two messuags or tenementes with thappurtenances scituat lyeing and being in Henley Streete within the borough of Stratford aforesaied. And all my barnes, stables, Orchardes, gardens, landes, tenementes and herediaments whatsoever scituat lyeing and being or to be had receyved, perceyved or taken within the townes and Hamletts, villages, ffieldes and groundes of Stratford upon Avon, Oldstratford, Bushopton and Welcombe or in anie of them in the saied countie of warr And alsoe All that Messuage or tenemente with thappurtenances wherein one John Robinson dwelleth, scituat, lyeing and being in the blackfriers in London nere the Wardrobe and all other my landes tenementes and hereditamentes whatsoever. To Have and to hold All and singular the saied premisses with their Appurtenances unto the saied Susanna Hall for and during the terme of her naturall lief and after her deceas to the first sonne of her bodie lawfullie yssueing and to the heiries Males of the bodie of the saied Second Sonne lawfullie yssyeinge and for defalt of such heires Males of the bodie of the saied third sonne lawfullie yssye ing And for defalt of such issue the same soe to be Reamine to the ffourth
Item I gyve unto my wief my second best bed with the furniture; Item I gyve and bequeath to my saied daughter Judith my broad silver gilt bole.
All the rest of my goodes Chattels, Leases, plate, jewles and Household stuffe whatsoever after my dettes and Legasies paied and my funerall expences discharged, I gyve devise and bequeath to my Sonne in Lawe John Hall gent and my daughter Susanna his wief whom I ordaine and make executors of this my Last will and testament. And I doe intreat and Appoint the saied Thomas Russell Esquier and ffrauncis Collins gent to be overseers herof And doe Revoke All former wills and publishe this to be my last will and testament. In witnes whereof I have hereunto put my
Witness to the publishing hereof: Fra: Collyns, Juilyus Shawe, John Robinson, Hamnet Sadler, robert Whattcott.
By me William Shakespeare
Probatum coram Magistro Williamo Byrde legum doctore Commissario etc xxiido die mensis Junii Anno domini 1616 Juramento Jahannis Hall unius executorum etc. Cui etc de bene etc Jurati Reservata potestate etc Sussane Hall alteri executorum etc cum venerit etc petitur.