The Tragic Story Of Margaret Holloway

The Tragic Story Of Margaret Holloway

“The Shakespeare Lady”

The story of Margaret Holloway is one of immense talent and acute mental illness.

Yale Alumni Magazine

"For nearly 20 years, Margaret Holloway ‘80MFA has been known to campus denizens as the “Shakespeare lady” who recites lines of Shakespeare or Chaucer for spare change. Holloway’s story has now been told in a short documentary, “God Didn’t Give Me A Week’s Notice,” which premiered at the York Square Cinema.  Margaret graduated from Bennington College and the Yale School of Drama before falling victim to schizophrenia and becoming homeless."

The film was made by Richard Dailey, who knew Holloway at Bennington.

By the time Holloway finished her MFA at Yale in 1980, erratic thoughts and behavior associated with the onset of schizophrenia were being noticed by Yale Drama School administrators, especially after Holloway handed in her master’s thesis. Titled “God’s Smoke: A Thesis Production,” Holloway’s thesis describes her theories on the use of the “theater of hunger” in which “schizophrenia is a means of survival.”

"Hers is a tragedy of theatrical proportions, propelled by schizophrenia and drug addiction. She was known to smoke Crack."   

Adrian Brune, Special to the Hartford Courant


When I handed her the money, she began to recite. I stood there half in my car half out, mesmerized. I love Shakespeare, and Margaret recitation was as passionate as if she were reciting from the stage at the Globe Theater, but on this day, her stage was on the front steps of the Yale Repertory Theater.


O all you host of heaven! O earth! What else?
And shall I couple hell? Oh, fie! Hold, hold, my heart,
And you, my sinews, grow not instant old,
But bear me stiffly up. Remember thee!
Ay, thou poor ghost, whiles memory holds a seat
In this distracted globe. Remember thee!
Yea, from the table of my memory
I’ll wipe away all trivial fond records,
All saws of books, all forms, all pressures past
That youth and observation copied there,
And thy commandment all alone shall live
Within the book and volume of my brain,
Unmixed with baser matter. Yes, by heaven!
most pernicious woman!
O villain, villain, smiling, damnèd villain!
My tables!—Meet it is I set it down
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.
At least I’m sure it may be so in Denmark. (writes)
So, uncle, there you are. Now to my word.

Footnote: I'm saddened to report, Margaret Holloway died of COVID19 on May 30, 2020. She will be missed.


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