If I had to pick a favorite journey, this might be it. I adore roaming the streets of Stratford-Upon-Avon. The water is beautiful, the houses are charming. I feel certain that even if I did not love Shakespeare, I would still love this quaint town.
I hoped a train on my own to do a bit of research in the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. My reaseach paper is on the influence of Shakespeare’s world on his works, and so this is the place I most needed to visit! The first day was spent chatting with the lovely librarian at the Birthplace Trust and getting set up with my Reader’s card. She was so excited to have someone in the Reading Rooms actively studying Shakespeare that she filled me with a wealth of information on that very first day! Unfortunately, the time spent their mixed with the long train ride meant that by the time I’d left all of the other sites were closed. I roamed anyway. Stopping to meditate in the graveyard of Holy Trinity church, reading beside the Avon river, and having a lovely dinner on the outdoor patio of The Dirty Duck–a pub I’d visited 6 years before, and had fallen in love with then! After dinner, I walked to the Shakespeare statue and roamed through the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre before retiring at my charming bed and breakfast.
In the morning, I was joined for breakfast by the other women staying in the house: one from Germany, one from Australia, and one from Canada–the latter two were cousins on vacation together. As the vote for whether or not Britain would be staying in the EU was happening that day, our conversation quickly turned to politics. We were all in agreeance that it seemed impossible that Britain would leave, but it did not bode well for the future of America that they were allowed to get so close!
The Reading Room of The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust wouldn’t be open until 10 so Madeline, the librarian, recommended that I take some time to go through Shakespeare’s birthplace and to look through the new exhibit that happened to be on his local friends! I bought my ticket and slowly made my way through the house. Attempting to slip through time and truly live in those moments. How far we’ve come, and yet how similar are the matters of our hearts.
As I stepped into the gardens, I noticed that the exhibition doors were still closed. I walked over to an actor waiting to perform monologues for the guests and asked if he knew when it would be opened. 10am he said. Apparently they were opening late today because they were a bit short staffed. The look of panic must of have registered on my face because he gave me a look of genuine concern and asked if I could come back in an hour? When I explained to him my time predicament, he said he would speak with his manager. 20 minutes later a charming older gentleman was opening the exhibit for me, saying he would never leave a Shakespeare scholar out. We chatted briefly about our favorite plays and performances and then I was left alone in the room. What a feeling! Within the exhbit I found maps of Shakespeare’s neighborhoods denoting the houses of his friends, letters and deeds to property, and his original funeral bust from Holy Trinity Church. I spent as long as I was able before heading up to the Reading Room.
There was such a short time window in the day, but I think I made the most of it. I gathered as much information as I was able from the Reading Room, and then made my way to the only destination that I could not miss: Holy Trinity Church.
Interestingly enough, this time I did learn something new. The gentleman manning the line into the grave pointed out that though she was married, Anne Hathaway was always referred to by her maiden last name. This has apparently led to a bit of speculation about their marital status, but he said that was ridiculous. Shakespeare was such a prominent member of the church that there was no way he would have lived and had children with Anne without actually being married to her. As a woman who greatly values her own name, I found this to be a rather interesting mystery! One that I intend to investigate in the future, but right now I need to focus on the tasks at hand.
Our last order of business was to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the RSC. I brought my Shakesbeare, Oberon Puck, with me and placed him between myself and my friend Melody. In the middle of the show, Puck crawled over us and grabbed him! She tucked him into her hat and later placed him on the opposite side of the stage! That’s what we get for having such fantastic seats! It was solidyly one of the most incredible performances I have seen. Expect a full report later!
For more information on Stratford-Upon-Avon and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, click here!