Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Loving Will Shakespeare

Loving Will Shakespeare

Carolyn Meyer
Historical Fiction
For ages 12 and up
Harcourt, 2006   ISBN: 978-0152054519

Agnes Hathaway is a seven year old girl when she attends the christening of little Will Shakespeare. Her family has close ties with his and her mother is fond of pretty kind Mary Shakespeare. It is a merry occasion and one which Agnes has cause to remember in the years ahead for Agnes and Will’s lives are tied together and their paths cross again and again.

Not long after this pleasant time the plague comes to Stratford and then it spreads out into the country. Agnes’ dear mother is one of the casualties. Agnes and her little sister Catty simply cannot manage to run the household on their own and so their father Richard gets himself a new wife. Joan is a shrewish unkind woman who dislikes her stepchildren. She goes out of her way to make their life miserable and this state of affairs only gets worse as she adds to the family with children of her own. Agnes does her best to please but nothing she does is good enough. She works hard and gets her pleasures where she can at dances and in time spent with her friend Emma.

As she enters her twenties Agnes naturally begins to think of marriage. First there is Kit, a traveling worker who is perfect for Agnes until he gets caught poaching and has to run for his life. Then there is kind gentle scholarly Ned. He and Agnes are all ready for their wedding when Ned is stricken with the sweating sickness and dies. Next Agnes’ stepmother tries to marry her off to a boorish man whom Agnes cannot abide. Luckily Agnes’ brother steps in to save her from that dreadful fate. Just when Agnes thinks she is going to be thrown out of her own home she meets up with Will Shakespeare again. The two young people have met over the years many times. Always good friends, they have enjoyed one anothers company, dancing and talking easily together. Now it is different though, for this time Agnes and Will fall in love. Will this handsome young man who has dreams of becoming a poet and a player be able to save Agnes from the poorhouse?

This beautifully crafted novel takes what little we know about William Shakespeare and Agnes Hathaway and turns it into a fascinating story about a young woman who wishes for a different sort of life, and a young man who has grand dreams which he is able to fulfill. Today we know for a fact that poor Agnes ended up spending much of her life waiting for her famous husband to come home from his adventures in London. She was trapped by the societal rules of her times and could not have the freedom that she, perhaps, dreamed of when she was a young girl. In this novel Carolyn Meyer not only tells the story of two compelling characters, but she also paints a portrait of a fascinating period in English history.