Shakespeare's Sister (song)

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"Shakespeare's Sister"
Single by The Smiths
Released18 March 1985
RecordedJanuary 1985
StudioUtopia Studios, Primrose Hill, London
GenreAlternative rock
LabelRough 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"

"Shakespeare's Sister" is a song by the English rock band the Smiths. Released in March 1985, it reached No. 26 in the UK Singles Chart. It is also featured on the compilation albums Louder Than Bombs and The World Won't Listen.


The title refers to a section of Virginia Woolf's feminist essay A Room of One's Own in which she 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] Sean O'Hagan says that the 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 Billy Fury song "Don't Jump".[1] The song's narrative has been compared to The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams.[3]

Track listing[edit]

7" RT181
1."Shakespeare's Sister"2:09
2."What She Said"2:40
12" RTT181
1."Shakespeare's Sister"2:09
2."What She Said"2:40
3."Stretch Out and Wait"2:37

Artwork and matrix message[edit]

The original single's sleeve cover featured Pat Phoenix, best known for her long-running role as Elsie Tanner in the British soap opera Coronation Street.

The British 7" and 12" vinyls contained the matrix message: HOME IS WHERE THE ART IS/none

The Netherlands versions contained the message: HOLLAND CUTTING/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
Allmusic3/5 stars[4]

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 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?"[4]

Writer Jon Savage described it as "essentially a suicide drama set to a demented rock'n'roll rhythm."[1]


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


  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. ^ "Kate Bush Week: Five Great British Literary Songs - BBC America".
  4. ^ a b Rabid, Jack. "Shakespeare's Sister Review". Allmusic. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
  5. ^ Jonathan Buckley; Mark Ellingham; Justin Lewis (1996). Rock: the rough guide. Rough Guides. ISBN 978-1-85828-201-5. Retrieved 22 December 2010.