MY FATHER HAD A DAUGHTER: Judith Shakespeare's Tale

Grace Tiffany, Author
Grace Tiffany, Author . Berkley Signature $21.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-425-19003-6
Reviewed on: 04/21/2003
Release date: 05/01/2003
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-425-19638-0
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An ordinary girl seeks revenge on her celebrated father in Tiffany's debut, a fictionalized "memoir" by the Bard's youngest daughter, Judith. From earliest childhood, Judith and twin brother Hamnet are in awe of their "da," "the scribbling one," whose rare visits to their Stratford home bring tales of London playhouses and fairy queens. When Hamnet accidentally drowns during a game Judith proposes, she is guilt stricken; when she finds her grief used as material for Twelfth Night, she blames her absentee father. "Why should I not steal to London and shame him?" she asks rhetorically. Now a big, gawky 14-year-old, she arrives in London disguised as "Castor Popworthy," determined to sabotage the play's opening night. But as Judith infiltrates her father's state-of-the-art Globe Theater, she's swept up by the joys of playacting, hobnobbing with such legendary thespians as Richard Burbage, Will Kemp and the dangerously attractive Nathan Field, who demands her "maidenhead" to safeguard her secret . These London scenes, though wildly implausible, provide a brisk and vivid introduction to Elizabethan theater. But when "da" finally figures out that his new Viola is none other than his daughter and grimly ships her back to Stratford, Tiffany has nowhere to go with Judith's character. Unlike the tragic, talented "Judith Shakespeare" Virginia Woolf imagined so memorably in A Room of One's Own, Tiffany's character merely ages, mired in adolescent angst and gender confusion. Despite the use of Elizabethan flourishes, her language is often jarringly modern ("post-play pride," "stylized"). But what's most contemporary is Tiffany's assumption that readers will be interested in one more tell-all account by the neglected offspring of a celebrity parent. (May)

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