Shakespeare and His Sisters on Site looks at the parallels between plays by Shakespeare and by women dramatists of the sixteenth and seventeenth century Lady Jane Lumley, and two women writers of the Sidney household, the Countess of Pembroke and her niece, Lady Mary Wroth. We aim to connect local communities with the drama and cultural history of their environments.
Virginia Woolf famously declared that no sister of Shakespeare would ever have been able to write drama. Wroth was part of the Sidney family of writers, men and women, who wrote poetry, drama and prose romance that changed the literary landscape in the English Renaissance. Her play Love’s Victory is a pastoral tragicomedy that dramatizes the trials and tribulations of love between the hero Philisses and heroine Musella, and the shepherds and shepherdesses and foresters who are their companions. Overseeing the action are Venus, the Goddess of Love, and her son Cupid who are determined to make the mortals suffer in love, thus renewing their respect for Venus and the power of love.
Lady Mary Wroth’s play is part of an alternative tradition of women’s drama in Shakespeare’s day that looked forward to the work of female playwrights like Aphra Behn in the Restoration theatre. Unlike Behn’s work, little is known because it was never printed. The only complete manuscript is at Penshurst Place, owned by the Sidney family.
In its current phase, the project concentrates on two different venues (Lancaster Castle and Penshurst Place, Kent) and is working with two collaborative partners: the Duchy of Lancaster and Penshurst Place.
The site currently shows examples of our work and previous events at these two venues which have already broadened our knowledge of theatre practice including that by Shakespeare’s sisters. Our work over the next year is to engage with local communities, including tutors and members of the Kent Adult Education groups, local schools and Kent History and Library Centre. Please see our Instagram, Twitter and YouTube for updates.