"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]

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 only one who survived past the age of eight and into adulthood: Joan Shakespeare.)[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 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.[4]


 [hide*1 Track listing

Track listing[edit]Edit

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 vinyl[edit]Edit

  • UK 7" and 12": HOME IS WHERE THE ART IS / none [5]
  • Holland: HOLLAND CUTTING / none


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]

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