Hi Friends,

In my last newsletter I gave you some of the details of Emilia Bassano’s life, and how circumstances put her either in Denmark (where Hamlet is set) or in close proximity to the ambassador to Denmark. On the contrary, Shakespeare never left England, and did not move in those elite circles of court. But it isn’t just Emilia’s upbringing that led me to believe she was the actual writer of Hamlet. Let’s dive into the text for more reasons.

In the famous play-within-a-play scene of Hamlet, Hamlet lies about the storyline they are about to see. He says an Italian woman set the story in motion, and that her name is Baptista. In the First Folio version of the play, Baptista is written as the character who becomes the Player Queen in the vignette.  

Baptista is not a common name for the time. But it happened to be the first name of Emilia’s father, and it was her middle name in her baptismal records.

Hamlet then goes on to say that the recorder music they are about to hear will not be eloquent but excellent - a pun on “exilent” – which is the name of the smallest kind of recorder. It’s an instrument all of Emilia’s family (employed as the court recorder consort) would have played, yet Shakespeare did not play any musical instruments. Moreover, in spite of Shakespeare’s lack of knowledge of instrumentation, there are over 3000 references to music in the plays attributed to Shakespeare. 

And then there’s poor, mad Ophelia. In recent years, scholars have posited that her madness is the result of an unwanted pregnancy thanks to Hamlet sleeping with her, and Hamlet’s fake madness prevents her from finding a solution to this via marriage. In a very famous rant before she commits suicide, Ophelia lists herbs -- fennel, rosemary, rue – all known to be plants with contraceptive or abortifacient qualities at the time. Shakespeare got Anne Hathaway pregnant, and married her as a result. But Emilia would have known firsthand what it was like to be a woman in Elizabethan times, pregnant outside of marriage, with no option to marry the father of the child. In fact, it was the very circumstance she found herself in after ten years of being the mistress of the Lord Chamberlain.

Add to this the timing of the writing of Hamlet – right around the time when Emilia’s second child, a daughter, died at ten months of age…and the crushing blows that life kept sending her seems well-suited to the question, To be…or not to be. She was a woman who had been bartered as a mistress at age 13, who lived with the wealth of court for ten years before being evicted and married off to a man who abused her, who buried a child, who lost all the money she had, who hid her true religion (Judaism), and who could not write under her own name without penalty from society. It’s a bit harder to imagine William Shakespeare – by then making money off plays to which he attached his name – being despondent.

I don’t think Emilia was the only person using Shakespeare’s name as a front to publish their own writing…but I do think she was the most interesting one. This example of Hamlet is only one of many where Emilia’s life story and the subject matter or content of the plays intersect in ways that point toward her as the real author…with Shakespeare as her cover, to keep her anonymous.  

Or in other words: don’t judge a book – or a Shakespearean play – by its cover.



BY ANY OTHER NAME: Available Later This Year!

In 1581, Emilia Bassano—like most young women of her day—is allowed no voice of her own. But as the Lord Chamberlain’s mistress, she has access to all theater in England, and finds a way to bring her work to the stage secretly. And yet, creating some of the world’s greatest dramatic masterpieces comes at great cost: by paying a man for the use of his name, she will write her own out of history.

In the present, playwright Melina Green has just written a new work inspired by the life of her Elizabethan ancestor Emilia Bassano. Although the challenges are different four hundred years later, the playing field is still not level for women in theater. Would Melina—like Emilia—be willing to forfeit her credit as author, just for a chance to see her work performed?

Told in intertwining narratives, this sweeping tale of ambition, courage, and desire asks what price each woman is willing to pay to see their work live on—even if it means they will be forgotten.


US/CA/AU/NZ: August 20th

UK: October 10th

Ask Jodi: Answers To Your Questions 
Have you always wanted to ask me a question, but thought it might get lost amidst the clutter of social posts? Well, I've created a special email account just for you! Submit your question to jodi@askjodipicoult.com and I promise to answer a few each month in my newsletter.

Q: What are you listening to?

JP:  Kasey Musgraves.

Q: What are you reading?

JP: Expiration Dates by Rebecca Serle and The Princess of Las Vegas by Chris Bohjalian.

Q: What Books Would You Recommend?

JP: Meg Shaffer’s The Wishing Game is a beautiful novel - part Willy Wonka, part magical realism, and wholly moving. It broke my heart and patched it over and reminded me that even as an adult, if you look hard enough, you can find the child still inside you.

Q: What are you watching?

JP: Just finished Blown Away!

MAD HONEY Paperback Edition Is An Instant NY Times Bestseller

Olivia McAfee knows what it feels like to start over. Her picture-perfect life—living in Boston, married to a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon, raising a beautiful son, Asher—was upended when her husband revealed a darker side. She never imagined she would end up back in her sleepy New Hampshire hometown, living in the house she grew up in, and taking over her father's beekeeping business.


Lily Campanello is familiar with do-overs, too. When she and her mom relocate to Adams, New Hampshire, for her final year of high school, they both hope it will be a fresh start. 


And for just a short while, these new beginnings are exactly what Olivia and Lily need. Their paths cross when Asher falls for the new girl in school, and Lily can’t help but fall for him, too. With Ash, she feels happy for the first time. Yet at times, she wonders if she can trust him completely . . .


Then one day, Olivia receives a phone call: Lily is dead, and Asher is being questioned by the police. Olivia is adamant that her son is innocent. But she would be lying if she didn’t acknowledge the flashes of his father’s temper in him, and as the case against him unfolds, she realizes he’s hidden more than he’s shared with her.


Mad Honey is a riveting novel of suspense, an unforgettable love story, and a moving and powerful exploration of the secrets we keep and the risks we take in order to become ourselves.


Have You Seen...

The UK cover-reveal video for By Any Other Name? Women have long been written out of history, but what if they held the pen all along? 🌹


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Facebook Post Of The Month #1: Glynda

One of my top favorite books ever (Mad Honey)! I loved it! So so good! Anyone who has not read this is missing out on a beautiful story! So take my word for it and read it! 😊😊😊

Win A Signed Edition Of WISH YOU WERE HERE

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Each month, one person will be chosen from my newsletter subscribers or Facebook fans as a winner of a free signed edition of Wish You Were Here.

Facebook Post Of The Month #2: Sally

My late father was a secondary school teacher of English and English Literature. I can recall having arguments with him about William flipping Shakespeare nicking stories of the time and passing them off as his, whilst I was at school. We had to agree to disagree.... I can't stomach Shakespeare at all. Will be fascinating to read this work (By Any Other Name). Sorry Dad!

Need A Good Paperback To Read This Spring?

Wish You Were Here, The Book of Two Ways, A Spark of Light, Small Great Things, and Leaving Time are all available in paperback.

You can read summaries and purchase the books via the links below.


Facebook Post Of The Month #3: Alice

Just preordered the signed copy (of By Any Other Name) to add to my collection, cannot wait!

Jodi In The News

Jodi Picoult: NH Is Not Florida. Book Ban Bill Should Be Defeated.


Jodi Picoult, Timothy Allen Mcdonald Musical BREATHE NOW Available To License Via Music Theatre International


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