Shakespeare and Son
A Journey in Writing and Grieving
by Keverne Smith
April 2011, 198pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-313-39230-6
$55, £43, 48€, A76
eBook Available: 978-0-313-39231-3
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

When William Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet, died in August 1596, Lord Hunsdon’s Men, the company Shakespeare belonged to as actor and playwright, was touring in Kent. What guilt might a father have felt who had been absent in London for most of his son’s abbreviated life? How might it have been compounded if one assumes the playwright was also away when the 11-year-old died?

A revealing examination of an under-explored area of Shakespeare studies, this work looks at the evidence for the author's deep and evolving response to the loss of his only son, Hamnet.

Although many commentators have been intrigued by the possible effects of the death of Shakespeare’s only son, Hamnet, on the writer, Shakespeare and Son: A Journey in Writing and Grieving is the first full-length study examining the evidence that Shakespeare’s later work was deeply involved with this loss. The book is also the first full-length study to explore Shakespeare’s works in light of the psychology of grief, combining psychological insights with literary analysis.

Specifically, the book explores 20 plays from all parts of Shakespeare’s career, concentrating on works known to definitely have been written after Hamnet’s death, especially Much ado About Nothing, Henry the Fourth Part 2, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, King Lear, Pericles, The Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline, and The Tempest. Examining various manifestations of grief in the plays, such as anger, depression, guilt, and hope, author Keverne Smith argues that the evidence of Shakespeare’s grief is cumulative and evident in repeated structures and patterns in plays written over a period of 14 to 15 years.


  • Discussion of 20 of Shakespeare's works, concentrating on 16 works completed after his son Hamnet's death in 1596
  • Chronological organization so readers can follow the development of Shakespeare's response to the death of Hamnet as reflected in the plays and poetry written following this tragedy
  • A cross-disciplinary bibliography, drawing especially on literary, theatrical, historical, thanatological, and psychological commentaries
Keverne Smith is course director for BA Humanities at the University Center, West Anglia, King's Lynn, UK. He is the author of various articles and conference papers, including "Hamlet and After: The Presence of Absence" and "The Report of My Death Is an Exaggeration: The Death of the Author Forty Years On."


"A searching study in literary grief. Ranging across the works with scrupulous erudition, Keverne Smith treats Shakespeare's response to the loss of his child with tact and intelligence; a remarkable study and boldly engaging the cross-over between life and literature by the greatest writer of all time." —Rene Weis, Professor of English and Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University College, London.

"It's gracefully and lucidly written and very well-informed." —Professor Stanley Wells, C B E Chairman, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

"It's gracefully and lucidly written and very well-informed." —Professor Stanley Wells, CBE, Chairman, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
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