THE HERBAL BED is based on actual events that occurred in Stratford-upon-Avon in the summer of 1613, when William Shakespeare's elder daughter Susanna Hall was publicly accused of having a sexual liaison with Rafe Smith, a married neighbor and family friend. Susanna sues her accuser, young Jack Lane, for slander in the court of Worcester Cathedral. Susanna's husband, the respected physician of Stratford, John Hall, is desperate for her to clear her name in order to save his practice, and he gives her his complete support. But how can he avoid the fact that one summer's night, while he was away from Stratford, Rafe Smith was seen secretly leaving their herbal garden? Faced with political divisions within the church, the hearing in the bishop's court becomes a risky gamble as three people's private lives are held up to the glare of intense public scrutiny in this emotional thriller whose outcome is anything but certain.
"In his probing new play, THE HERBAL BED…Peter Whelan muses about a sidelong event in the life of Shakespeare's family and creates a finely textured tapestry of love and lies in the early seventeenth-century Stratford…Mr. Whelan is a speculative playwright with a keen sense of history." —NY Times. "In THE HERBAL BED, Peter Whelan takes the few basic facts known about Susanna Hall, elder daughter of William Shakespeare, and conjures up a whole world and a knotty moral dilemma…Whelan creates a play about relative and absolute truth, about morality, compromise and love. The result is absorbing, intelligent and funny." —Financial Times (London). "Peter Whelan's THE HERBAL BED…[is] a marvelous piece, tender, wise and generous of spirit…Whelan has created a remarkably persuasive and touching portrait of a family in crisis. Every character comes to life and, although he doesn't appear, Shakespeare is a powerful presence…Whelan's exploration of what Susanna calls 'love's alchemy' is deeply moving. He writes beautifully…" —Daily Telegraph (London). "It is a first rate drama with interesting moral issues of truth and expediency." —NY Post.