BBC Radio 7, 11 December 2009
This play hinged on the fact that Shakespeare's wife Anne (Maggie Steed)
was only bequeathed her husband's second best bed on his death in 1616. The best bed was deemed too significant to be given
to the wife, having been bought for Shakespeare (Kenneth Cranham) by one of his wealthy patrons, Sir Henry Wriothesley, Earl
of Southampton. Anne told the listeners in flashback exactly why this was the case.
In Robert Nye's retelling, Anne is not really interested in Shakespeare's work;
she stayed in Stratford while her husband moved to London to seek his fortune. Anne comes down to stay, and finds that Shakespeare
has discovered fame and fortune, as symbolized by the presence of a large four-poster bed in his room. Hitherto the couple
have not enjoyed a healthy sex life (despite producing two children), but by sheer luck they discover a mutual love of sex
games played out on the bed. Anne takes on many of the parts associated with Shakespeare's plays: Rosalind in As You Like
It, Miranda in The Tempest, Goneril in King Lear, while her husband plays opposite her as Touchstone,
Caliban and Lear. However their love life soon peters out once Anne discovers that Shakespeare is bisexual, as he carries
on a parallel love-affair with the attractive twenty-one-year-old Sir Henry. Anne eventually moves out of the house, and only
receives the second-best bed, because Sir Henry's bed had a special significance for her husband - a memento of his homosexual
affair, as well as the place where he could experiment (so to speak) with various dramatic situations.
Patrick Rayner's production characterized Anne as a down-to-earth person, willing
to accept a subordinate role in her marriage yet determined to maintain her identity as a person. Although her husband seldom
respected her (except as an object for his sex-games), she nonetheless retained sufficient presence of mind to tell the story
in an affectionate, though somewhat relieved manner. It seemed as if she was somehow glad to escape from her marriage and
begin a new life on her own.