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Paul Mescal to Play Young Shakespeare in Chlóe Zhao’s ‘Hamnet’ Adaptation

In an unexpected yet intriguing twist, actor Paul Mescal is set to take on the role of a young William Shakespeare in Chlóe Zhao’s upcoming film, Hamnet (yes, you read that right!). Based on Maggie O’Farrell’s fictional novel of the same name, Zhao’s film will be a fresh take on William Shakespeare’s early years, delving into the heart-wrenching tale of Agnes, Shakespeare’s wife, grappling with the devastating loss of her son and the profound echoes it leaves on the iconic play.

O’Farrell’s novel mainly revolves around Agnes and William’s son, Hamnet, who dies at age 11 in 1596. The book explores the grief of the parents, Agnes and William, after Hamnet’s death, and describes William Shakespeare as “a young Latin tutor—penniless and bullied by a violent father—(who) falls in love with an extraordinary, eccentric young woman.”

The synopsis for O’Farrell’s ‘Hamnet‘ reads, “England, 1580: The Black Death creeps across the land, an ever-present threat, infecting the healthy, the sick, the old and the young alike. The end of days is near, but life always goes on. A young Latin tutor—penniless and bullied by a violent father—falls in love with an extraordinary, eccentric young woman.”

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Paul Mescal
Paul Mescal | Image: Corbis/Getty Images

It further adds, “Agnes is a wild creature who walks her family’s land with a falcon on her glove and is known throughout the countryside for her unusual gifts as a healer, understanding plants and potions better than she does people. Once she settles with her husband on Henley Street in Stratford-upon-Avon, she becomes a fiercely protective mother and a steadfast, centrifugal force in the life of her young husband, whose career on the London stage is just taking off when his beloved young son succumbs to sudden fever.”

While details about Chlóe Zhao’s ‘Hamnet‘ adaptation are currently scarce, it’s reported that ‘Gladiator 2‘ star Mescal will star opposite Jessie Buckley, who’s set to play Shakespeare’s wife, Agnes. In an interview with British Vogue, Mescal expressed his excitement, stating, “That book – it’s just devastating. I can’t wait. If I told a younger version of myself that this would be (shooting) this year, I wouldn’t believe it.” He further added, “I’ve obviously been in a film with Jessie before (Maggie Gyllenhaal’s The Lost Daughter) but we’ve never shared the screen or a working process together. I think she’s one of our present-day greats.”

The Irish star is also equally excited about working with Zhao, whose debut film ‘Nomadland’ nabbed a bunch of awards, including Best Picture and Best Director at 2021’s Academy Awards. Mescal said, “Chloé is somebody I can’t wait to get in the weeds with… and get into the heads of those characters.” As of writing, Zhao’s ‘Hamnet‘ has no release date and there’s no official word on the ensemble cast or how far along the production/filming is.