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October 13, 2018

All Shakespeare All the Time

by Rosemary West


The first thing we did in Stratford-upon-Avon was to get dressed up and go to a production of Macbeth by the Royal Shakespeare Company. (A couple of days later, we saw their modernized version of Tartuffe.)

The theatre, like the town, is full of images of Shakespeare and the many characters he created. This portrait is made of Legos.


Stratford dates back to Roman times, but was first recognized as a market city in 1196. There were several devastating fires in the early 1600s, so most of the structures are from the 17th century or later. After the fires, the highly flammable thatched roofs were outlawed, but the Old Thatch Tavern, the only surviving thatched building, was allowed to stay.



A swan floating slowly down the River Avon.


Looking across the river toward Trinity Church.


The huge monument in the market square was donated to the city by an American in honor of Queen Victoria's 1887 Golden Jubilee.


This large statue of Shakespeare is surrounded by sculptures of characters from some of his plays.



One of the newer sculptures in town is this jester, unveiled in 1994. Its pedestal is inscribed with relevant quotations. "Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb like the sun. It shines everywhere." (Twelfth Night)


Shakespeare's birthplace was restored in the 1800s. Inside the walls, some of the original wattle-and-daub construction remains. Its furnishings and decorations are reproductions in the style of the 1570s. Costumed guides in the rooms provide information about the house and the life of the Shakespeare family.


Hall's Croft was the home of Shakespeare's daughter Susannah, who married a doctor named John Hall. The rooms contain period furniture and are set up as they might have looked when the Halls lived here. The house has been extended, remodeled, and restored over the past 400 years. We were told the stone floor was original, so we were walking where Shakespeare had walked.




The New Place was the big house that Shakespeare bought when he became successful. The house was torn down in the 1700s, but archaeology and other research provide information about its layout and appearance. The space where the house once stood is now a garden that includes sculptures and informative signs. There is a museum in the house next door, which belonged to Shakespeare's granddaughter and her husband.



During his career as a writer, actor, and entrepreneur, Shakespeare spent most of his time in London. When he retired, he moved back to Stratford, and it was there he died in 1616. He was buried in Trinity Church, the same church where he had been baptized 52 years earlier. It is the oldest building in Stratford (dating back to 1210). Its doors and door knocker are from the 15th century. There are other prominent citizens buried here, but most visitors come to see Shakespeare and his family members, whose graves are near the altar. The carved funerary monument was placed on the wall a few years after Shakespeare's death.






We managed to cover a lot of ground in just two days here. Then we hopped a train for Liverpool.


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