"TO be or not to be:" that is the question facing pupils at a Kington school after a letter addressed to a 'Good Mrs Shakspaire’ was found within the school archives.
Pupils at Lady Hawkins’ School are looking into the find as a way of marking the 400th anniversary of the death of the great bard.
Staff at the school believe the letter could have been addressed to William Shakespeare’s wife, Anne (née Hathaway).
Author and historian Mark Griffiths and Edward Wilson, Emeritus Fellow in English at Worcester College, Oxford University, have examined the fragments and cannot confirm their beliefs.
They said: “The letter strikes us as dating from the first half of the 17th Century.
"The use of two handwriting styles, secretary and italic, is not uncommon in documents of this period. This manuscript may well be all in the hand of one person.
"Modern though it may seem, the usage ‘Mrs’ was current by the 1610s. The spelling ‘Shakspaire’ falls within the range of 16th and 17th Century orthographic variants of ‘Shakespeare’, and so one would be right to describe the addressee of this letter as a Mrs Shakespeare.”
The letter relates to a Shakespeare family at the time of William Shakespeare, and provides a fascinating insight, and raises intriguing questions, about Lady Hawkins’ School at this time and the lives of the people mentioned in its fragments.
However, Mr Griffiths and Mr Wilson doubt that the ‘Mrs Shakspaire’ of the letter is addressed to the wife of the famous poet.
The main obstacle to establishing a link lies in the writer’s statement to Mrs Shakspaire, ‘when you dwelt in trinitie lane’.
They added: “There’s no reason to suppose that Anne Shakespeare ever dwelt in a Trinity Lane.
"Yes, the letters writer may have mistakenly thought that Chapel Street or Chapel Lane, Stratford-upon-Avon, was called Trinity Lane on the basis that Stratford’s Church is Holy Trinity.
"But this seems unlikely when they were evidently well-acquainted with Mrs Shakspaire’s circumstances and whereabouts."
The experts cannot link this letter to William Shakespeare of Stratford and his immediate family.
However, Mr Griffiths says that this is still a fascinating discovery.
He added: “The fact that it lay hidden for centuries in the binding of a book owned by Lady Hawkins’ School is in itself fascinating.
"Then there’s the tale that these fragments partially convey."
The letter is currently on display within the Hereford Mappa Mundi and Chained Library Exhibition at Hereford Cathedral until September.
Anybody wanting to find out more about the exhibition and Lady Hawkins’ School’s remarkable library of historic books can email: firstname.lastname@example.org