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Hamnet pierces the boundary between real life and play

If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you can’t find a better place to see a play than the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. I’ve been six or seven times, and I’m always blown away by the productions they put on. Some of the shows take place in this gorgeous outdoor theater that’s decorated like it’s from the Elizabethan era. There’s something special about seeing A Midsummer Night’s Dream or Othello under the stars.

The festival has made me even more of a fan of Shakespeare than I already was. I’m in awe of the timelessness and cleverness of his plays. It’s amazing how vivid, clever, and poignant his work remains centuries later.

But who was Shakespeare really? We know shockingly little about the man behind the plays, although there have been a lot of films and books speculating about his personal life. (I’m particularly a fan of Shakespeare in Love.) Maggie O’Farrell’s novel Hamnet is the latest, and I thought it was a beautiful, well-written look at how grief tears a family apart.

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