Shakespeare Circle

Voices from His Life

The Shakespeare Circle

This original book casts fresh light on Shakespeare by examining the lives of his relatives, friends, fellow-actors, collaborators and patrons both in their own right and in relation to his life. Written by a distinguished team of Shakespeare scholars, this collection of biographical essays is perfect for anyone looking to learn something new about our most famous dramatist and the time he lived in.

"Anyone who reads these collected biographical essays and sketches will come to know Shakespeare himself better." -Dame Margaret Drabble.

Out now

Paul Edmondson

Head of Research and Knowledge for The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Stanley Wells C.B.E.

Honorary President of The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, and Professor Emeritus, University of Birmingham.

Listen to the voices from
Shakespeare's Circle

Imagined accounts, written by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells, and based on the contributions to the book.
These creative scripts are read by friends of The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust.

Mary Shakespeare

It’s very comfortable here in New Place, where I’ve been living since John died in1601, and...

John Shakespeare

I was really pleased when William got us the coat of arms. Mind you we ought to have had it twenty years before,...

Anne Shakespeare

Of course I was captivated by him – who wasn’t? He spoke beautifully – it was like listening to music on...

Susanna Hall

Was I my father’s favourite? That’s a windy question, and I should blow you away with it! And it’s not fair...

Hamnet Shakespeare

It’s not easy being a twin, Judith tends to get all the attention, because she’s a girl, and very...

Joan Hart

It’s thirty years since the two Williams in my life died. I know you want to know more about William the First – my elder brother...

Edmund Shakespeare

I was the youngest by quite a long way: there are six years between me and Richard and sixteen...

John Hall

My own father was more of an astrologer than a medical man – interested in alchemy, too, and the stars...

Thomas Quiney

It was a privilege to be asked to supply the wine for the Queen when she visited New Place on her way to join Prince Rupert in...

William Walker

The Shakespeare families and mine go back a long way together, right back to the time of my grandfather in the 1550s...

Thomas Greene

One branch of my family hails from nearby Warwick, and I was brought up being told about my distant...

Richard Field

Isaac Jaggard has just slipped me a copy of his latest book – Master William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, and...

Thomas Combe

A playmaker and poet. When I was studying at the Middle Temple I used to see him on...

Christopher Mountjoy

Master Shakespeare was a modest man. He was already famous for having written a long...

Ben Jonson

Well we certainly had similar backgrounds. His father made gloves and mine was a brick-layer,...

Earl of Southampton

I don’t know how Will Shakespeare first became aware of me, but maybe it was when he was acting...

Robert Armin

Pancakes and mustard! That’s what I like to say. That’s why he chose me! You know - Touchstone in As You Like It! It...

Will Kemp

Master Shakespeare and I got on fine - at first. We joined together with Burbage to found the Lord...

Christopher Marlowe

That Will Shakespeare’s a very promising young man. We were born within a couple of months of each other,...


John Fletcher

It came as a surprise to my family that I went into the theatre. My father was a bishop...

Thomas Middleton

I always enjoyed writing in collaboration with other playmakers, like Thomas Dekker and William Rowley, early...

John Heminges

It was the burning down of the Globe that broke his spirit. He loved that place. He’d helped to put it up...

Henry Condell

He used to come and worship with us quite often at St Mary’s, Aldermanbury, which was only ten minutes...

William Basse

As soon as I heard that Master Shakespeare had died at his home in Stratford-upon-Avon I thought he should be buried in...

George Wilkins

I expect you’re surprised to find me in this company aren’t you, after all the...

Elizabeth Barnard

I was only eight years old when grandfather died, but I remember what a solemn time it was. New Place...


Judith Quiney

My father? Yes, I suppose he was an important man. He had a fine coat of arms and a scarlet livery and...

Contributors to The Shakespeare Circle: An Alternative Biography


  • His mother Mary Shakespeare - Michael Wood, Independent Scholar and Television Historian
  • His father John Shakespeare - David Fallow, Independent Scholar
  • His brothers - Catherine Richardson, University of Kent
  • His sister’s family - Cathy Shrank, University of Sheffield
  • His wife Anne Shakespeare and the Hathaways - Katherine Scheil, University of Minnesota
  • His daughter Susanna Hall - Lachlan Mackinnon, Independent Scholar
  • His son-in-law John Hall - Greg Wells, University of Warwick
  • His son Hamnet - Graham Holderness, University of Hertfordshire
  • His daughter Judith and the Quineys - Germaine Greer, Newnham College, Cambridge
  • His grand daughter Lady Elizabeth Barnard - René Weis, University College, London
  • His ‘cousin’: Thomas Greene - Tara Hamling, Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham

Friends and Neighbors

  • The Combes - Stanley Wells, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
  • Richard Field Carol - Chillington Rutter, University of Warwick
  • The Mountjoys - David Kathman, Independent Scholar
  • Ben Jonson - David Riggs, Stanford University
  • Richard Barnfield, John Weever, William Basse, and other encomiasts - Andrew Hadfield, University of Sussex
  • Neighbours and Beneficiaries - Susan Brock, University of Warwick

Colleagues and Patrons

  • Fellow Dramatists and early collaborators - Andy Kesson, University of Roehampton
  • The Burbages - John Astington, University of Toronto
  • Actors Will Kemp and Robert Armin - Bart Van Es, St Catherine’s College, Oxford
  • His literary patrons - Alan H. Nelson, University of California, Berkeley
  • George Wilkins - Duncan Salkeld, University of Chichester
  • Thomas Middleton - Emma Smith, Hertford College, Oxford
  • John Fletcher - Lucy Munro, King’s College, London
  • John Heminges and Henry Condell - Paul Edmondson, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
  • Afterword - Dame Margaret Drabble, Novelist

Soundpost Cast List


  • His mother, Mary Shakespeare – Barbara Leigh-Hunt
  • His father, John Shakespeare – Joe Moore, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
  • His wife, Anne Shakespeare – Lucy Morris
  • His daughter, Susanna Hall – Jane Lapotaire
  • His son, Hamnet Shakespeare - Nick Riley, King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon
  • His daughter, Judith Quiney – Joy Leslie Gibson, University of Birmingham
  • His granddaughter, Elizabeth Barnard, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
  • His sister, Joan Hart – Ivy Calvert
  • His brother, Edmund Shakespeare – James Burman, The Chapel Lane Theatre Company
  • His son-in-law, John Hall – Andrew Rawle, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
  • His son-in-law, Thomas Quiney – Thom Harvey-Ball, The Chapel Lane Theatre Company
  • His godson, William Walker – Clive Depper, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
  • His cousin and lodger, Thomas Green - Paul Edmondson, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

  • His friend, Richard Field – Nick Walton, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
  • His friend, Thomas Combe – Jose Perez-Diez, University of Leeds
  • His landlord, Christopher Mountjoy - Roger Howells, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
  • His friend, Richard Burbage – Christopher Harvey, The Chapel Lane Theatre Company
  • His friend, Ben Jonson – Larry Robson, St Andrews Church, Shottery Colleagues


  • His patron, The Earl of Southampton - Paul Curran,
  • His patron, The Earl of Pembroke – Stanley Wells, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
  • Actor, Robert Armin – Martin Smith, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
  • Actor, Will Kemp - Martin Owen, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
  • Fellow playwright, Christopher Marlowe – Richard Hall, The Chapel Lane Theatre Company
  • His colleague and collaborator, John Fletcher – Paul Prescott, University of Warwick
  • His colleague and collaborator, Thomas Middleton - Perry Mills, King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon
  • His colleague, John Heminges – Michael Dobson, University of Birmingham
  • His colleague, Henry Condell – Henry Goodman
  • An admirer, William Basse – Nic Fulcher, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

With special thanks to The Chapel Lane Theatre Company, @ChapelLaneTC, and Northern Gold Personal Management,