Shakespeare’s Mistress

Written by Karen Harper
Review by Marilyn Sherlock

We all know that William Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, albeit unwillingly, because she was pregnant with their first child, a daughter, Susanna; but it is also recorded in the Worcester records, that the day before he married Anne he took out a marriage bond to marry Anne Whateley of Temple Grafton, a small village just outside Stratford. This is their story.

Much of Shakespeare’s work was dedicated to ‘The Dark Lady’, but no one really knows who she was. Was she the Anne Whateley he nearly married and the real love of his life? What actually happened we shall never know, but from the few facts that are known and records which are still in existence, Karen Harper has woven a story of ‘what might have been’ into the life and fabric of London and Stratford during the reign of Elizabeth I. This was a time of religious intolerance, war with Spain and another outbreak of the plague, and the novel gives a very believable account of Shakespeare’s life, his writings and his ultimate acceptance into the world of the Elizabethan theatre. His theatre has been rebuilt on the banks of the Thames just as it was when he acted there, where the crowds still flock to see his plays as they did in the 16th century. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.