The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT) has announced the launch of a three year project exploring the role of women in creating and maintaining the playwright’s legacy over the centuries.
“Prompted by the 400th anniversary of the death of Anne Shakespeare (nee Hathaway) earlier in August, we are embarking on an ambitious, multi-year project that will explore the sometimes hidden, often ignored, erased or forgotten stories of the many women who have influenced, as well as secured Shakespeare’s legacy,” said Professor Charlotte Scott, the trust’s Director of Knowledge and Engagement.
The SBT has committed to ensuring all the activity will be devised and led by women and female-identifying people.
The project will focus on the lived experiences of the women in Shakespeare’s life, including his mother Mary, his sister Joan, his daughters Susannah and Judith and the extended networks of friends, neighbours and country women who maintained those relations.
The trust, which is responsible for maintaining the family homes, documents and artefacts relating to Shakespeare and Stratford-upon-Avon, will share stories and events for every family and an exhibition at Shakespeare’s New Place in Spring 2024.
In 2025, the focus of the project will be the female gaze and the female characters who have contributed to Shakespeare’s place in theatrical history, including “lovers and Queens, witches, mothers, murderers, politicians and powerhouses”.
The final year will centre on the women who made and continue to make Shakespeare famous, from actresses to artists, writers, readers and creatives who have brought his characters to life.
“We are approaching Shakespeare not as a single genius, but as the figurehead of a community and network of people who enabled and secured his place in the canon of western literature,” Scott said.
“He wrote at a time when society was highly patriarchal and socially stratified. However, his own life and much of his career was one which was ruled by women, from the monarch to his homelife.”