Onwards with this week’s ‘Shakespeare 400’ theme – a cracking book by the inimitable Germaine Greer.
Poor Anne – such is the low-regard in which she is held by ‘Bardolaters’, that they seem to be in denial about the fact she ever even married their idol, in the way they only refer to her as Anne ‘Hathaway’. Greer asserts that this is because ‘the Shakespeare wallahs have succeeded in creating a Bard in their own likeness…incapable of relating to women, and have then vilified the one woman who remained true to him all his life, in order to exonerate him.’ Greer seeks to illuminate the life of Anne in order to give her a higher standing – not just as the wife of the world’s most famous playwright, but as an independent 16th/17th century woman.
The huge caveat here is that if there is little source material about Shakespeare, there is even less about his wife, meaning that much of what Greer proffers is essentially an estimation of Anne’s history based on our understanding of 16th/17th century women and their role in society at that time. This includes what Greer herself describes as her ‘absurd suggestion’ that Anne Shakespeare could have been involved in the First Folio project, in terms of financing it from the brewing/money-lending activities that Greer believes Hathaway may have engaged in (I enjoyed the brewing/money-lending stories – they made Anne seem quite gangster). But if you can accept that Greer is trying to (rightfully) turn a few assumptions on their head here, you will be rewarded with a fascinating book that combines a biography of both Anne and William and their respective families, with information on the role of women in Shakespearean England, and society as a whole.
I am the girlfriend of Bromley’s most famous plumber. Jason-fans try to write me out of history, too. I just hope someday my true story is told. I may be overthinking this.