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23 Feb 10:00am

Sally Bayley: what Shakespeare taught me about my family

The Guardian
Falstaff, Mistress Quickly and the fairy rulers of A Midsummer Night’s Dream helped the author through a traumatic childhood and feature in her memoir No Boys Play Here Sally Bayley was about 12 when she entered the world of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in her local library. She was immediately struck by how the terrible rows between Titania and Oberon echoed those in her own household. “There’s a lot of yelling in Shakespeare: quarrels or squabbles … but a quarrel is a more serious thing,” she writes. The lovers squabble, but the fairies quarrel, and when they do, the weather changes. “The sun goes down and the night rolls quickly on.” After spending her early childhood adrift in the down-at-heel English south-coast town where she grew up, she found herself in Shakespeare – not in any single character but in fragments that made sense of an identity forged in a chaotic and impoverished family. The Merchant of Venice gave her Jessica, forced to disguise herself as a boy to escape parental tyranny: Bayley herself escaped by refusing to eat, and turning herself in to social services at the age of 14.
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