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Shakespeare in grief

Maggie O'Farrell's novel explores what the death of his son Hamnet did to the playwright's family—especially his wife

A 19th-century imagining of Shakespeare's family, with Hamnet and Judith Credit: Wikipedia

A 19th-century imagining of Shakespeare's family, with Hamnet and Judith Credit: Wikipedia

Maggie O’Farrell’s new work of historical fiction takes the disputed facts of William Shakespeare’s biography and finds within the gaps a cast of enthralling characters and a new backstory for his most famous work, Hamlet. Her novel starts in 1596 with Hamnet, Shakespeare’s only son, discovering buboes on his twin sister Judith’s body. She survives the plague, but a reader with knowledge of Shakespeare’s biography…

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