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Mistress Shakespeare
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Group Reads > November 2013: Mistress Shakespeare

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Christie (cereale) | 202 comments Mod
In Mistress Shakespeare, Elizabethan beauty Anne Whateley reveals intimate details of her dangerous, daring life and her great love, William Shakespeare. As historical records show, Anne Whateley of Temple Grafton is betrothed to Will just days before he is forced to wed the pregnant Anne Hathaway of Shottery. The clandestine Whateley/Shakespeare match is a meeting of hearts and heads that no one, not even Queen Elizabeth or her spymasters can destroy. From rural Stratford-upon-Avon to teeming London, the passionate pair struggles to stay solvent and remain safe from Elizabeth I's campaign to hunt down secret Catholics, of whom Shakespeare is rumored to be a part. Often at odds, always in love, the couple sells Will's first plays and, as he climbs to theatrical power in Elizabeth's England, they fend off fierce competition from rival London dramatists, ones as treacherous as they are talented. Persecution and plague, insurrection and inferno, friends and foes, even executions of those they hold dear, bring Anne's heartrending story to life. Spanning half a century of Elizabethan and Jacobean history and sweeping from the lowest reaches of society to the royal court, this richly textured novel tells the real story of Shakespeare in love.


Christie (cereale) | 202 comments Mod
Discussion Questions

1. When rehearsing The Taming of the Shrew, Anne says “I had always thought I would make a fine actor, that I could learn my lines and stay in my part.” Does Anne ever seem as though she’s deliberately acting a part? Is she as accomplished an actor as Will?

2. Although Will and Anne Whateley are in love from their early days, they disagree—and openly conflict--about many things. Anne even says “We argued heartily and far too often.” Do you think this weakens or strengthens their relationship? In love, do opposites really attract?

3. Many of Shakespeare’s biographers have speculated on why Anne Hathaway and her husband spent most of their married years apart. Besides the possibility of Shakespeare’s loving another woman, what else could have led to this arrangement? In what way might it have actually benefited them both?

4. In Henry VI, Shakespeare wrote: “Hasty marriages seldom proveth well.” Do you think he might have been speaking of his marriage to Anne Whateley? Or Anne Hathaway? Or both? By the end of this novel, do we think Anne Whateley’s marriage to William Shakespeare proved well?

5. Anne says of Will: “It was flattering perhaps, in some perverted way, that he was jealous of me but he had no right—“ Why do you think Will is so jealous of Anne? Is it merely sexual jealousy about her friendships with other men or are there other reasons he might envy her lifestyle?


Christie (cereale) | 202 comments Mod
1. I definitely felt that from time to time in the novel Anne seemed to be acting a part. She sometimes hid her true feelings about her relationship with Will in order to help him succeed. I think, especially when it came to Will's other family, she had to play a part for her own survival.

2. I think that their arguments made it difficult for them to have a relationship at times, but coming together afterward made their bonds stronger. I do not think that Will and Anne argued so much because they were opposites, but rather because they were so much like one another.

3. There are many reasons that Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway would have spent that time apart. Anne Hathaway may not have liked London and did not want to expose her children to the city. Another reason might have been monetary. I am sure the cost of living in London was much more than the countryside. Shakespeare might not have had the income to put his family up in London, especially during his early career. It was not unheard of for husbands and wives to live separately during the 1500s and 1600s.

4. If Shakespeare truly loved Anne Whateley, he was probably speaking of Anne Hathaway when he said that hasty marriages seldom proveth well. However, he probably also had regrets regarding his marriage to Anne Whateley, making promises to her that he ended up being unable to keep. Though I think Will and Anne made the best of their situation, I do not think they were as happy as they might have been and I think many of the problems they had in their relationship resulted from Will's other marriage.

5. I think Will was jealous of Anne because he projected his own promiscuity onto her. I think he felt trapped in his two marriages and envied Anne her freedom.


April (AJoyS) | 129 comments I have a confession I started but didn't finish the last two book club selections. They just did capture my interest. So, I happy to say I thoroughly enjoyed Mistress Shakespeare.


Christie (cereale) | 202 comments Mod
April wrote: "I have a confession I started but didn't finish the last two book club selections. They just did capture my interest. So, I happy to say I thoroughly enjoyed Mistress Shakespeare."

I am glad you liked this month's read and hopefully you will enjoy The Winter Sea as well. I am always unsure what people like to read which is why I had group nominations and the poll last month. I know what I like but that is not always what other people enjoy :-).


April (AJoyS) | 129 comments I have loved a vast majority of the book choices from the past two years. Also sometimes my own mood affects how I perceive a book and I will try reading it again at another time and like it. My sister Kathi and I enjoy the group because we are introduced to books we might otherwise not read. I am enjoying Winter Sea so far!


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