She grows up feeling wrong, out of place, too dark, too tall, too unruly, too opinionated, too silent, too strange. She grows up with the awareness that she is merely tolerated, an irritant, useless, that she does not deserve love, that she will need to change herself substantially, crush herself down if she is to be married.
She thinks, This cannot happen, it cannot, how will we live, what will we do, how can Judith bear it, what will I tell people, how can we continue, what should I have done, where is my husband, what will he say, how could I have saved him, why didn’t I save him, why didn’t I realise that it was he who was in danger? And then, the focus narrows, and she thinks: He is dead, he is dead, he is dead.
I find,′ he says, his voice still muffled, ’that I am constantly wondering where he is. Where he has gone. It is like a wheel ceaselessly turning at the back of my mind. Whatever I am doing, wherever I am, I am thinking: Where is he, where is he? He can’t have just vanished. He must be somewhere. All I have to do is find him. I look for him everywhere, in every street, in every crowd, in every audience. That’s what I am doing, when I look out at them all: I try to find him, or a version of him.
He can feel Death in the room, hovering in the shadows, over there beside the door, head averted, but watching all the same, always watching. It is waiting, biding its time. It will slide forward on skinless feet, with breath of damp ashes, to take her, to clasp her in its cold embrace, and he, Hamnet, will not be able to wrest her free.
And Agnes finds she can bear anything except her child’s pain. She can bear separation, sickness, blows, birth, deprivation, hunger, unfairness, seclusion, but not this: her child, looking down at her dead twin. Her child, sobbing for her lost brother. Her child, racked with grief.