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Shakespeare's Sister (song)

"Shakespeare's Sister" is a non-album single by British band The Smiths, released in March 1985. It first appeared on albums in 1987 via the Louder Than Bombs and The World Won't Listen compilations. Rock writer Jon Savage described it as "essentially a suicide drama set to a demented rock'n'roll rhythm."[1]

"Shakespeare's Sister"
Single by The Smiths
Released 18 March 1985
Recorded Ridge Farm, Surrey, January 1985
Genre Alternative rock
Length 2:09
Label Rough Trade
Songwriter(s) Johnny Marr, Morrissey
Producer(s) The Smiths
The Smiths singles chronology
"How Soon Is Now?"
"Shakespeare's Sister"
"Barbarism Begins at Home"
"How Soon Is Now?"
"Shakespeare's Sister"
"Barbarism Begins at Home"

Its title refers to a section of Virginia Woolf's feminist essay A Room of One's Own in which Woolf argues that if William Shakespeare had had a sister of equal genius, as a woman she would not have had the opportunity to make use of it.[1][2] In reality, William Shakespeare had four sisters but the only one who survived past the age of eight was Joan.[3] Sean O'Hagan says that Woolf's essay was "one of the many feminist texts Morrissey embraced as a sexually confused, politically awakened adolescent."[1]

According to Simon Goddard the lyrics also draw on Elizabeth Smart's novella By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept and the minor Billy Fury song "Don't Jump".[1] The song's narrative has been compared to the play by Tennessee Williams 'The Glass Menagerie'.[4]

The original single's sleeve featured Pat Phoenix, best known for her long-running role as Elsie Tanner in the UK TV series Coronation Street.

The song reached number 26 in the UK Singles Chart.

The band Shakespears Sister [sic] took their name from the song.[5]


Track listingEdit

7" RT181
No. Title Length
1. "Shakespeare's Sister" 2:09
2. "What She Said" 2:40
12" RTT181
No. Title Length
1. "Shakespeare's Sister" 2:09
2. "What She Said" 2:40
3. "Stretch Out and Wait" 2:37

Etchings on vinylEdit

British 7" and 12": HOME IS WHERE THE ART IS/none


"Holland cutting" was an etching on the Dutch version of the album Meat Is Murder.


Chart (1985) Peak
Ireland (IRMA) 11
UK Singles (The Official Charts Company) 26


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic      [6]

Jack Rabid of Allmusic wrote, "The Smiths' weakest is still quite good, is what we can infer from this. What wit Morrissey still shows, record after record? Who is else is writing an opening line like 'Young bones groan/And the rocks below say/Throw your skinny body down, son!' – thus evoking the tragic Romeo and Juliet quality of so much teenage romance in the most poetic terms?"[6]


  1. ^ a b c d Sean O'Hagan (2007). "Morrissey – so much to answer for". Observer (Sunday 6 May 2007.): 12. 
  2. ^ Woolf, Virginia (1929). A Room of One's Own. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. 
  3. ^ "The Brothers & Sisters of William Shakespeare". 2005. Retrieved 9 April 2011. 
  4. ^ "Kate Bush Week: Five Great British Literary Songs - BBC America". 
  5. ^ Jonathan Buckley; Mark Ellingham; Justin Lewis (1996). Rock: the rough guide. Rough Guides. ISBN 978-1-85828-201-5. Retrieved 22 December 2010. 
  6. ^ a b Rabid, Jack. "Shakespeare's Sister Review". Allmusic. Retrieved 29 October 2012.