It is a well-known fact that Shakespeare left to his wife only his second-best bed. This fact is often used as evidence of the lack of love in that relationship, sometimes in favor of his relationships with other women, sometimes in favor of his relationships with men. In this poem, however, the bed's symbolic meaning is reversed: it is seen as a ground for both poetic creativity and love. It also thus symbolizes how history's narratives often favor the male perspective, which has the effect of obscuring facts or other perspectives.
Writing is a powerful symbol in this poem. Alongside love, writing transforms the second-best bed into a fantastical world. Now that Shakespeare is dead, Anne, his widow, can use words to reanimate him. When he was alive, his writing amplified their love because Anne felt woven into it. The speaker slides through a series of metaphors that link love to poetry, which in turn is defined as love, and so on.
The guests (symbol)
This interpretation is implied, not explicit, but the guests, who "dribble their prose," seem to act as a stand-in for the audience, like a chorus in a Greek play. Like the guests, the readers cannot hope to understand the full depth of Hathaway and Shakespeare's relationship.
Anne Hathaway Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Anne Hathaway is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.