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2024 Proclaimed Year to Explore The Women Who Made Shakespeare

SBT Christmas 2022 071

The museum dedicated to sharing the work, life and legacies of William Shakespeare has announced a bold new, multi-year project to explore the impact that women have had on creating and maintaining the enduring legacy of the Stratford-born playwright.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT), the independent charity responsible for caring and maintaining the Shakespeare family homes, documents and artefacts relating to Shakespeare and Stratford-upon-Avon has today (Tues 22 August 2023) announced a new approach to exploring William Shakespeare’s legacy, through the lens of the many women across the centuries who have had a significant influence in how we experience Shakespeare today.

“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.”

Commented Prof Charlotte Scott, Director of Knowledge and Engagement at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

This multi-year project, beginning in 2024 will launch with a focus on the lived experiences of the women in Shakespeare’s lifetime, including his mother, Mary, his sister, Joan, his daughters, Susannah and Judith and the extended networks of friends, neighbours and country women who upheld and maintained those relations.

These stories will be shared across every aspect of engagement across the organisation, including events, learning and interpretation in each of the Shakespeare family homes open to the public in Stratford-upon-Avon and special exhibition at Shakespeare’s New Place in Spring 2024.

Looking ahead to 2025 the Trust will extend its focus to the female gaze and the women characters who have secured Shakespeare’s place in theatrical history: from lovers and Queens, witches, mothers, murderers, politicians and powerhouses, Shakespeare’s women remind us that ‘we know what we are but not what we may be’ (Ophelia).

Finally, in 2026 will shine that light on the women who made and continue to make Shakespeare famous. Exploring the powerhouse performances of actresses (and actors) as well artists, writers, readers and creatives who have brought his characters, male and female, to life.

The SBT has also announced its commitment that all the activity will be devised and led by women and female-presenting identifying people.

“Put simply, we are going to tell the stories of the women, on stage and behind the scenes, those who lived and worked during his lifetime, and who followed after him, who have contributed to the ongoing legacy of William Shakespeare and his works.

Importantly, we will deliver everything from a female perspective, delivered and developed by female-identifying people.”

Added Rachael North, director of Visitor Services and Business Development at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

What About Shakespeare Himself?

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust are aware that questions may arise about the position of William Shakespeare himself in this project, and if this work will diminish his own, personal, impact on the creation and ensuring legacy of his work.

Indeed, this couldn’t be further from the truth, with the SBT team keen to emphasise that this project is about shining a light on those female voices who played their part in his success and have continued to champion the work across the centuries.

They see this project as adding to the Shakespeare stories that are told, not replacing them with new narratives.

“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.

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.”

Continued Prof Scott.

The Women Who Made Shakespeare will start in 2024 across the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, with a new exhibition opening in Spring 2024. For more information, please visit