Women Sleuths in
Historical Mysteries

Elizabethan England

©1996-2013
womeninworldhistory.com

Murder in Stratford
As told by Anne Hathaway Shakespeare

by Audrey Peterson

Anne, the wife of William Shakespeare, recounts her life with him from their marriage in 1582 to his death in 1616. Her observations mainly center on her relationship with Will since she most often was tucked away in the country town of Stratford while he followed his calling in London. The murder occurs toward the end of the story when an attractive but unpleasant neighbor, Richard Quiney, is killed in Shakespeare’s garden. Will is accused of the deed, leaving Anne to figure out who, among all those who held a grudge against Richard, was the real perpetrator.

Although we know little about the historic Anne, Peterson illustrates some of the obstacles Elizabethen period women faced. Upon marriage, a wife could not control her own money and property, and girls had little access to the type of formal education available to boys. On a whole, however, the book reads more like a fictionalized history lesson than engaging literary piece. While it is full of interesting details of, for example, the life of company actors and the London theaters, or the schemes of various known personalities, the rich flavor of the time does not come to life. Often the characters use modern or 19th century working class speech expressions. And the insertion of Anne’s opinions and her synopsis of many of Shakespeare’s plays sound like the comments of an English teacher rather than his country wife.

In her short Afterword, Peterson refers us to a book by Ian Wilson, “Shakespeare: The Evidence,” to find out “what’s true and what isn’t” in the story. It would have been more useful if she had provided this information for us herself.

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