Thursday, January 9, 2014
The Shakespeare Houses.
My trip to Stratford-upon-Avon back in November was a borderline spiritual experience, similar to my first glimpse of the Globe in London. When I arrived I had two plans: see a show at the RSC and go to Shakespeare's house. I got off the train on a Tuesday afternoon and made the short walk to my accommodation at the Arden Park Guest House, got myself some dinner from Tesco, and explored the town a little before settling in to watch some episodes of Downton Abbey before I got ready for the play. By this time of year it had already started to get dark fairly early in the evening, and as I'd already figured out the path I intended to walk to the RSC theatre, I didn't feel comfortable gallivanting around too much in the darkness, for all that Stratford is a pretty quiet town.
The show I had a ticket to see (a five pound ticket, thank you RSC youth promotions!) was Antony & Cleopatra, a story I knew only vaguely and had never seen done before. I went in with average expectations despite my excitement to be at the RSC, and left with a tear on my cheek and awe in my heart. Keeping up with their reputation, the production was innovative and gut-wrenching, even when you know how it's going to end. I left the theatre feeling very lucky and excited to continue studying these old words I'm continuing to learn about.
The next morning I was up early and on my way to the four Shakespeare houses I had purchased a pass to see, beginning with the Anne Hathaway cottage. It was a lovely morning and there were many pretty things to see, but as I'd been doing so much solo traveling I was starting to feel a little bit lonely. I actually arrived at the cottage a few minutes before they opened for the day, so I crossed the street and sat on a bench next to a lovely little creek alongside the oddly placed field of grazing sheep. (I mean, I was on my way out of town, but I still wasn't expecting sheep in someone's backyard inside the city limits.) I'd only been there for two or three minutes when the sweet brown tabby in the above picture came trotting along and kept me company for a good quarter of an hour. She was eager for some affection and cheered me up considerably. The rest of the day way spent visiting the birthplace, Nash's House and Hall's croft. All of them contained bits of the story of his life, and were interesting to think about either him or his relatives and the footsteps they left on the floorboards. I finished my day with a trip to the church where Shakespeare is buried, and I stood in the nave and just tried to soak everything in. It made me rather sad to see a church turned into such a commercial center, but it was a special experience in spite of all the camera flashes and selling of trinkets.
I felt so incredibly lucky to stand and see the places where my favorite man was born and baptized. The next class I take or teach about him will be all the more textured for the experience.