Belle Marshall Locke (1867–1933)
From Shakespeare in America: An Anthology from the Revolution to Now
There are commemorations and tributes around the globe this week to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death this Saturday, April 23. For over half that period the Bard has commanded an exalted place in American culture—so much so that an article by a British journalist in the London newspaper The Guardian recently carried the headline, “William Shakespeare: a quintessentially American author” and asked, “How did this icon of Englishness become a US phenomenon?”
Shakespeare-mania continues today, but it probably hit its peak a century ago, when across America over 500 Shakespeare clubs flourished—most of them established by and for women. Belle Marshall Locke, a drama coach with first-hand experience working with amateur theater gatherings, wrote an over-the-top farce lightly mocking them. “The Hiartville Shakespeare Club” became so popular that for over four decades it was a staple of community theaters, college thespians, and—yes—even the Shakespeare clubs themselves. Locke’s nearly forgotten one-act skit, recently restored to print, is our Story of the Week selection.