The other day I went to Stratford-upon-Avon. It was like having tea with Shakespeare (1564-1616) and his family. Replete with gossip and a walk around the house to see the gardens. 🙂 I met his wife and his daughters, sons-in-law, and his last descendant Elizabeth, his granddaughter. I was shown the room where he was born, and the workroom where his father made and sold gloves through a window overlooking the street. I sat on the courting settle which according to legend is where William too used to sit when wooing Anne Hathaway, and peeked into the bedrooms of the Hathaway farmhouse with its lopsided floors, crooked roofs and minuscule beds. Apparently they used to sleep half-seated during Tudor times and that is why their beds were so tiny.
I heard about William’s hurried wedding to Anne to legitimise the birth of his daughter. He was simply 18. How he never really loved Anne. It was all lust. And lust, alas, does not last. I commiserated with him over the loser, his younger daughter Judith, ended up marrying, and heard his rationale as to why he, thus, bequeathed all his wealth to Susanna. She was the sensible one who married well, lived well. We walked over to the school he studied in and on to the church he lay buried in, his coffin emblazoned with a verse cursing anyone who would dare to move his bones elsewhere!
It was all personal and intimate, far removed from the fame he had achieved. His career was in London. But this was where his dreams took shape and he built relationships with the people he called family.
Stratford-upon-Avon pays homage to its son at every turn and corner. The Royal Shakespeare Company is based here. Scenes from William’s plays adorn building facades. And every second shop’s name refers to some character or the other from his classics. Stratford is Shakespeare’s home. And that has not changed in 400 years.
Clockwise from top left: A character from one of his plays carved on stone for posterity; the gardens in his house; and the Holy Trinity Church where he was laid to rest
Shakespeare is everywhere in Stratford-upon-Avon—in the Gower monument, on the facade of a bank
This is the school he attended
Anne Hathaway’s cottage. I walked one mile to take the above two pictures
By the steps of Anne Hathaway’s cottage. I still had a mile to walk back, but then a dear old lady came and gave me a lift back to the station. Angels take all forms and shapes 🙂