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The following is an imagined account from the life of John Hall, who married Susanna Hall, William Shakespeare's daughter, in 1607. He was a compassionate and diligent physician of some renown, and Hall's Croft, his family estate, still stands as evidence of their prosperity.


My own father was more of an astrologer than a medical man – interested in alchemy, too, and the stars. I was always more excited by flesh and blood, and how to cure it. After my father died, I became good friends with one of his household servants, Matthew Morys. He followed me to Stratford – after I’d come down from Cambridge University and that spell I had travelling the continent. Morys named his two children after my good wife and me: Susanna and John. As medical as I am, I never use the title of ‘doctor’, and don’t really like to hear it used either. ‘Mr’ John Hall is good enough for me – actually I prefer just John Hall. I know my father-in-law would have been very disappointed about my turning down a knighthood a few years ago – I used to think that he was after a knighthood himself. But he was always fascinated with what I had to say about the human body, and its ‘thousand natural shocks’, as he would call them. He liked including the characters of doctors in his plays sometimes – but he was never seriously inclined to medicine.

Susanna said he wouldn’t take kindly to correction, but in the end it was the idea of healing, of healing the soul, that he was most interested in. Cerimon in Pericles says ‘this Queen shall live.’ The number of times I’ve said that to myself as I’ve trotted away from a patient who I knew would pull through! I’ve treated quite a lot of his friends, over the years: Francis Collins’s daughter, Alice; Thomas Greene’s daughter, Anne – and gentle Michael Drayton when he was staying over at Clifford Chambers. And I treated my father-in-law, too, but there was nothing to be done. That wretched ditch running down the side of New Place probably gave him the final bout of fever. Susanna and I soon cleaned that up when we moved in, and we always had to keep an eye on it. His books are still there in New Place, but I’m too busy with my daily calls to spend much time with them.

Cast: Andrew Rawle, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

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