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The following is an imagined account from the life of Susanna Hall, William and Anne Shakespeare's eldest child. She married John Hall in 1607 and together they raised their only child Elizabeth. Susanna and John were left the bulk of Shakespeare's estate, including New Place, upon his death. 


Was I my father’s favourite? That’s a windy question, and I should blow you away with it! And it’s not fair on Judith. He wrote plays for both of us, you know. He deliberately changed Juliet’s age from the original story so that she was the same age as me – and she is the very pattern of love; and Judith was Viola, reunited with our poor Hamnet at the end of What You Will. But there were always books and papers around us, and he let us read whatever we wanted to. When he came home he used to allow us to engrave things on the windows. The panes in my bedroom were covered with the names of actors, fragments of his verse, Juliet’s speeches – even some Latin. And he taught us both how to play chess. Here I can boast. I had a much better head for it than Judith, and I could even beat our mother when I set my mind to it, which is saying something! John Hall came into my life when I was twenty-four. He was thirty-one. Devoted every moment to medicine he had, and, looking back, I think I was a bit star-struck by his learning and his, well, goodness. We loved; we laughed – I more than he perhaps – and we raised our daughter, Elizabeth. I’m not going to go into all that nasty business with John Lane and all he said about me. Suffice to say, my husband and father stood by me and all ended well.

It seemed quite natural my becoming mistress of New Place, looking after mother. I eventually took up all of the family industries, but we don’t produce so much these days. Except malt – mother showed me how to do that, and it still brings in a tidy sum. I do like visiting London from time to time, and try and see it through my father’s eyes. Elizabeth and I go on shopping sprees and bring back fancy goods. My husband never said very much when we got back, but we both like dressing up, and visiting the neighbours - cheering up those who are sick. And, of course, the Queen Henrietta Maria herself came to stay at New Place last year! She was on her way to meet the King Charles in Oxford. She talked to me most kindly about my father’s plays – told me how the King enjoyed them, too – so I gave her one of my father’s books. I think he had been given it by that nice Huguenot family, the Mountjoys. Years ago! Anyway, I didn’t want it anymore, and I’m told her Majesty was most grateful.

Cast: Jane Lapotaire

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