SHAKESPEARE’S mother goes under the TV spotlight next week.
While the current hit BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall focuses on political intrigue at the court of Henry VIII, Shakespeare’s Mother: the Secret Life of a Tudor Woman focuses on what life was like for ordinary Tudor folk.
The BBC Four documentary explores the life of Mary Arden, from her small beginnings as the daughter of a peasant farmer in the Warwickshire hamlet of Wilmcote, through her marriage to John Shakespeare and her new life in the rising Tudor middle class in Stratford.
Filmed at Mary Arden’s Farm, Shakespeare’s Birthplace and across South Warwickshire, historian Michael Wood uncovers the tale of Mary Arden and the Shakespeare family during one of the most dramatic periods of change in history.
With access to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s extensive Shakespeare-related museum and library collections, and Borough archives dating back to the twelfth century, Mr Wood investigates the role of the Tudor woman, how she raised and educated her children, the beliefs she passed down in an age of religious persecution, and how the political battles of the Elizabethan state could touch even an ordinary family.
Dr Diana Owen, SBT chief executive, said: “The world has heard a lot about Shakespeare and his extraordinary life, the boy from Stratford who grew up to be a successful playwright and man of substance.
“But very little has been made of his mother, the woman who steered her family through an age of revolution, secrecy and suspicion, in the process raising the world’s most famous poet! This long overdue portrayal uncovers Mary’s intriguing story of survival and hope – she truly was a remarkable woman and arguably an inspiring role model for women of today.”
Mr Wood – who previously made the TV series In Search of Shakespeare – said it had been a pleasure working with the Trust to bring Mary Arden’s story to life.
He added: “I can think of few nicer places to work as a filmmaker – the terrific locations, the staggering resources of the library and archive, and the unrivalled expertise, enthusiasm, commitment-and sheer helpfulness of everyone who works there.
“When we were filming at Mary Arden’s Farm, I remember crouching in the barn during a November rainstorm clutching a hot drink, as two Tudor women hurried along the path outside with a dog and a ferret, and a basket of kindling, geese scuttling under their feet to find shelter.
“In that moment, as so many visitors do I am sure, I felt, as Bottom would say, “transported”! I hope some of that magic comes over in our film.”
Shakespeare’s Mother: The Secret Life of a Tudor Woman airs on Thursday February 12.
Historian Michael Wood switches his attention from son to mother in Shakespeare’s Mother: the Secret Life of a Tudor Woman. (s)
Mr Wood with volunteer Tudors at Mary Arden’s Farm at Wilmcote. (s)
The documentary focuses on what life was like for ordinary Tudor folk rather than life at the royal court. (s)