Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Mistress Shakespeare” as Want to Read:
Mistress Shakespeare
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Mistress Shakespeare

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  1,407 ratings  ·  210 reviews
A bold and intriguing novel about the woman who was William Shakespeare's secret wife, by the national bestselling author.

As historical records show, Anne Whateley of Temple Grafton was betrothed to William Shakespeare just days before he was forced to wed the pregnant Anne Hathaway. Here, Anne Whateley takes up her pen to tell the intimate story of her daring life with
Kindle Edition
Published (first published February 5th 2009)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Mistress Shakespeare, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Mistress Shakespeare

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
I have to admire the courage it took for Karen Harper to take something as small as a discrepancy on William Shakespeare's marriage certificate and create an entire novel from it. Although the idea that Shakespeare had a mistress is not a new one, it is a fantastic literary premise sure to draw attention and potentially, criticism.

There are plenty of areas in which this novel does deliver and can be commended. First of all would be the clever way Harper weaves lines of Shakespeare's sonnets and
I enjoyed this "what-if" drawn from a single line in a legal register from 1582 that had Shakespeare applying for a marriage bond to a woman named Anne Whately the day before he applied for one for Anne Hathaway, who was pregnant. Harper, assuming that the first Anne was no mistake and was a love match, imagines what might have happened if Shakespeare had two wives.

Having recently read Peter Ackroyd's biography of Shakespeare, I recognized many of the details known about his life and milieu as
As always, Karen Harper takes on a subject that while seeming small or inconsequential, has the potential to be larger than life. Sometimes, she nails her subject, as she did in her novel The Last Boleyn, but in the case of Mistress Shakespeare, I did not quite catch the same spark, the same magic that I did in her other novel.

(view spoiler)
Shala Howell
I ended up enjoying this book, but only gave it two stars because:
1) I put it down somewhere between page 30 and page 50 and didn't give it another thought
2) I finished it only because I felt like I might as well
3) Even when I started enjoying it (somewhere between page 100 and 150, I think) I was plagued by the thoughts of all the other books that I could have been reading

Just okay. I was really looking forward to this because like most, the whole back story of: "Was there really another Anne?" "Who was she?" "What happened to her?" was pretty fascinating. I knew going in that this was a novel, not non-fiction, but to me, this read more like a teen love story. Even the language in "Shakespeare In Love" was more complex than this. The character of William Shakespeare just seemed so ... simple-minded, which then had my mind wandering to the notion that if he was re ...more
I enjoyed this novel about a possilble other love of William Shakespeare. It was interesting to have theorized the way William Shakespeare's plays come about, with Anne Whateley being his muse, inspiration and means of his poems and plays getting to the public. I liked how the author wove in lines from the plays. The descriptions of the plague and daily life and the intrigues of Elizabeth's reign were eyeopening and quiet intersting. The desciption of Maud's death of the black death are heartren ...more
In the reviews here on Goodreads, it seems this book got mostly three stars. I'm giving it five stars because I really loved it. Yes, there were moments that I thought were somewhat annoying, but Karen Harper is a Shakespeare scholar and if this is indeed her theory of Shakespeare's Dark Lady, I think she really did an excellent job with this story.

I loved all the references to Shakespeare's many plays, and there were so many quotes from his plays, poetry, and sonnets, which made the book all t
I loved the story! I'm amazed that I enjoyed it so much, who would have thought....Let me explain, I enjoy Shakespeare as much as the next person, but during a class I took at University I had to dwell into his history, which there's isn't much, his life and works don't mesh together and there's a lot of historians that believe that Shakespeare the author was a completely different person. And let me say I do not know enough to have an opinion.

But that's the beauty of fiction, and this one real
Lordy, so many feelings in this book. So much emotion! So much like a stuck record. But I felt that I had to get to the end of the damn thing for some reason so I struggled through. I guess this is a kind of fan fiction, as the writer is obviously obsessed with Shakespeare and "name-drops" play titles and quotes all the way through the book. Maybe if you're equally as obsessed, you'll enjoy this what-if-there-was-another-wife- fictional version of history... it's fluffy, sometimes I don't mind a ...more
I seem to be going through an Elizabethan phase, I’ve been picking up so many books from this era.

The fact that Shakespeare had married Anne Hathaway is a well known fact. What is not so well-known is that there is two days before Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, there exists a permission for him to marry Anne Whateley of Temple Grafton, a place close to Stratford-Upon-Avon. Two days later, some family friends of Anne Hathaway seem to have placed a bond for Shakespeare to marry Anne Hathaway S
This is quite possibly one of the worst books I have ever started to read. The author clearly thinks that her audience has no grasp of the period key people or events of the reign of Elizabeth I.

Here's the thing if you choose to read Historical Fiction for a certain period there is an extremely high chance that the reader will have an interest in there period. In my case an undergrad thesis. I found the tone patronizing. Key figures over explained and if you need to explain what a summer progre
Abi Gurden
Wow, what an incredibly brave subject for a novelist to take on! Not only does she risk the objections of those who believe themselves 'experts' on The Bard, but she takes on the formidable task of weaving a story about a character who has no proof of existence, around solid, indisputable fact. It's an astonishing work.
Let's get this straight - this is not a story about William Shakespeare. He must, of course, feature in the story, but he plays a secondary role. The story is about the 'other Ann
Veronica Ibarra
This was not a book that grabbed me or held me rapt. I walked away from it several times to do other things, engage my mind in other ways. However, I cannot say that it was an uninteresting or even boring story. Harper's knowledge and insight into the England of Shakespeare's time provides a rich backdrop to the story giving it a non-fiction feel. Perhaps that is the primary reason for my reluctance to like the story better. Though it is a fanciful what-if for the argument that Shakespeare may h ...more
I'm in two minds about this book. I thought the premise of "Shakespeare's Mistress" was really interesting and definitely admire the author for putting together a 400 page story inspired by a potential mistake/discrepancy in a 400 year old marriage register! There were some lovely descriptive passages and at certain points in the story Elizabethan London and Stratford felt very real to me. However there were times when I was really bored and just wanted to get to the end of the book! It seemed t ...more
(quote from book jacket): "As historical records show, Anne Whateley of Temple Grafton was betrothed to William Shakespeare just days before he was forced to wed the pregnant Anne Hathaway of Shottery."

Their wedding had been done in secret but it was doomed. Two powerful families exerted pressure on Shakespeare to marry the woman who was to bear his child, even though he loved another woman. Though Anne Whateley was his first and true wife, she must bow to social convention and step aside. They'
Jenn (Booksessed)
I loved this title and I normally hate cheating in books. This book made me root for Shakespeare and Anne Whateley to end up together, even though you know they probably won’t. The feelings I got when I read this book were similar to the feelings you get when you watch The Notebook or Titanic.

The novel tells of their childhood friendship that blossomed to love. They plan to marry in secret because their parents would not approve the match and then the monkey wrench of another woman pregnant kil
There are three big mysteries pertaining to William Shakespeare: Did he really write all those plays and sonnets, what happened to him during the lost years between grammar school and acting on the stage in London, and lastly whom did he marry? It is generally thought he married (very quickly because she was with child) Anne Hathaway of Stratford, but in the same official record where this marriage is recorded there is another made just days before with the name William Shakespeare and a woman n ...more
“Mistress Shakespeare” by Karen Harper. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2009.
Call Number: HARPER

Keeping in mind that this is historical fiction, it is commendable the way the author, Karen Harper, took a supposed discrepancy on William Shakespeare’s marriage certificate and created an entire story from it. Although there is some, but little, evidence to support the claim that Shakespeare had a second wife, it is clear that Harper did her research. She supplies details of Elizabethan England to portray what
I LOVED this book! I have been a fan of Shakespeare for years and I have always been interested in his life and the mysteries surrounding it. I became a fan of Karen Harper’s a few years ago after reading “The First Princess of Wales” and again, I was not disappointed with this novel. “Mistress Shakespeare” is a tale of the “other Anne” in Will Shakespeare’s life.

I love how Harper was able to take a small piece of history that most have dismissed as an error and turn it into a great piece of hi
Merry Bones
I wish half stars were an option; I can't quite give it 4 stars, but 3 stars isn't quite generous enough. I did enjoy the book and learned more about William Shakespeare in the process as I'm more familiar with his writings than his personal life. I like stories that take a history mystery and present a feasible "what if" scenario, and this was a fun read.

The story entails this: what if the back-to-back marriage records at the Register at Worcester were not the result of a "clerical error" but
Sarah Beth
I love historical fiction but I do get tired of the same historical figures' stories being rehashed time and again. So Mistress Shakespeare was refreshing in that in its change in scenery and characters. Harper's novel is based on the discrepancy in the the town records that list William Shakespeare as marrying an Anne Whateley the day before he is listed as marrying an Anne Hathaway. Harper extrapolates that Shakespeare was in love with the first Anne who he secretly married, before being force ...more
Margaret Fisher
Wow, what a ridiculous, annoying, foolish book. First of all, let's ignore the fact that most historians agree upon the fact that William Shakespeare was gay and turn what was probably a faulty record into one of the most irritating books I've ever read.

There are actually MANY things that piss me off about this book:
1) Elizabethan England was so culturally rich! Karen Harper could have written so much about what things looked like, what London looked like, felt like, sounded like, smelled like!
Published as 'Shakespeare's Mistress' in the UK.

I had such high hopes for this novel. It’s a book that I’ve really wanted to read given that I am interested in both Shakespeare and Elizabethan times. That’s why it pains me to say that to be honest, it was a bit of a let down and a story that I struggled to finish.

I do commend the author for writing this novel and weaving a believable scenario out of something that has long been pure speculation: the notion that prior to his marriage to Anne Hat
Karen Harper set herself a challenging task: to balance the historical record of who William Shakespeare was with her speculation about a second Anne in his life, the Anne Whately who may have been a typo, but who Harper posits as a real person. Also, she had to write a story about Shakespeare without the connection to his writings feeling contrived or too neatly wrapped up. Third, she had to depict about 50 years in time without it feeling like a summary. In the second and third tasks, I feel s ...more
My entrance to this world was in the same year as Will's, 1564, though he made an appearance in the spring and I in the autumn.

It is a well-known fact that William Shakespeare was married to Anne Hathaway. What is not so well-known though is that in the church register that records this fact there is another record of Shakespeare marrying an Anne Whateley a few days before the wedding to the other Anne. It is this Anne's life that Karen Harper explores in Mistress Shakespeare. What if there was
Bernadette Robinson
I picked this up randomly in my local Library and am I glad that I did.

This is the story of Anne Rosaline Whateley, who if we are to believe certain facts and this fictional account of her life was the first Mrs William Shakespeare.

In this book Karen Harper has done some research into the mystery about whether or not Anne Whateley actually existed and has woven a fictional tale about the relationship of William Shakespeare and Anne Whateley. In this book Harper makes it look like William shared
Ambrosia Sullivan
Posted first at Fire & Ice

Whether or not there was another Anne in Shakespeare's life has been something that has been hotly debated. Some say there was a clerical error and she never existed others have found some fairly supporting evidence that she did exist at the very least. The book starts off a little bit slow for me but it does pick up once Anne goes to London. The story is not a typical oh they meet oh they fall in love story and I love it for that. The two love each other deeply a
Joanna Johnson
A pretty good book, it was a clever way of engaging the reader with the era and the subject of Shakespeare. It is of course a work of fiction and previous reviewers of this book have often complained about using a mistress that there are only small amounts of evidence for. However, I didn't feel this detracts from enjoying the book if you remember it is only historical fiction.
The author does a great job of placing the reader in the era and there is a great set of characters in the book to keep
Mistress Shakespeare had so much potential, yet it ultimately did not live up to my expectations. The idea of a secret and forbidden love affair is romantic and will attract many readers. However, this novel lacks the intensity Romeo and Juliet had. With all due respect to Karen Harper, I found the plotline boring because it quickly becomes repetitive and tiresome. Points of suspense are practically non-existent, and I actually felt relief when I finished the last page.

This book’s main problem
This was a frustrating read. I was fascinated by the idea of Shakespeare's 'other wife' and the characters were well drawn and believable. But as a whole, the book didn't work for me. Although there were several points where doom threatened, I never really believed that the worst would happen - and it didn't. I felt like I was following them from averted crisis to averted crisis, so there was no real suspense or feeling of real danger. Although the narrator tells us at each bad turn that she was ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Beyond Mr. Darcy:...: November 2013: Mistress Shakespeare 6 10 Dec 09, 2013 04:29PM  
  • All the Queen's Players
  • The Perfect Royal Mistress
  • Plain Jane
  • His Last Letter: Elizabeth I and the Earl of Leicester
  • The Countess and the King: A Novel of the Countess of Dorchester and King James II
  • Gay Lord Robert (Tudor Saga, #11)
  • The People's Queen
  • Lady of the Butterflies
  • Young Bess (Elizabeth Trilogy, #1)
  • Harlot Queen
  • At the King's Pleasure  (Secrets of the Tudor Court, #4 )
  • The King's Daughter
  • Secrets of the Tudor Court
  • Pale Rose of England
  • The Queen's Handmaiden
  • The September Queen
  • Wicked Company
A New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Karen Harper is a former college English instructor (The Ohio State University) and high school literature and writing teacher. A lifelong Ohioan, Karen and her husband Don divide their time between the midwest and the southeast, both locations she has used in her books. Besides her American settings, Karen loves the British Isles, where her Scott ...more
More about Karen Harper...
The Last Boleyn The Queen's Governess The First Princess of Wales The Poyson Garden (Elizabeth I, #1) The Irish Princess

Share This Book