I’m not a big fiction reader, particularly contemporary fiction, which I generally find ham-handed and tedious. But I absolutely loved Hamnet and Judith, by Maggie O’Farrell. It’s historical fiction, about Shakespeare’s two youngest children, twins Hamnet and Judith. Hamnet died at the age of 11, and the novel is about his death, about the plague (fitting for our era of pandemic), as well as the relationship between Shakespeare and his wife. The latter’s childhood and background are part of the story, and this paragraph describing her as a child and adolescent gave me a huge pang, as this was precisely what I experienced in my family.
She grows up feeling wrong, out of place, too dark, too tall, too unruly, too opinionated, too silent, too strange. She grows up with the awareness that she is merely tolerated, an irritant, useless, that she does not deserve love, that she will need to change herself substantially, crush herself down if she is to be married.
(And yes, I have crushed myself down some.) From that rather painful recollection, though, I bring you some uplift: a clip from a sitcom I just discovered – Upstart Crow. It is about Shakespeare and his family, his career, his friends and the Elizabethan era. Hysterically funny and edifying. Unfortunately, only seems to be on at random times on PBS.