One of my new year’s resolutions for 2017 is to read all of Shakespeare’s plays, something I’ve been meaning to do for ages. Although I’ve read quite a few of them over the years, mostly for university assignments, I think it’s about time I should fill in the blanks of the plays I haven’t read yet. So, on 1 January I walked over to my bookshelf and picked up the ridiculously heavy edition of the Collected Works of William Shakespeare that I bought when we visited Stratford-upon-Avon back in 2000. Queue flashback moment, along with minor wrist injury.
In retrospect, I’m quite disappointed by our visit. I was there with Gareth and my parents, and none of them were extremely interested in the Bard. This meant that we didn’t spend nearly as much time exploring his history as I would have liked.
We visited Anne Hathaway’s cottage first, touring the inside to see what a 16th century dwelling looked like. We were intrigued by the fact that, although the cottage has twelve rooms, there isn’t a single corridor between them and one room leads straight into the next one. Talk about a lack of privacy and bad layout planning. The exterior of the cottage is quite charming, with the whitewashed walls and dark timber framing you expect from Tudor architecture, and surrounded by a beautiful English garden.
Next on the itinerary was Shakespeare’s Birthplace. Unfortunately, the entrance fee was a little steep, the Rand being at an all-time low against the Pound that year, and with no else particularly keen on seeing a house that probably looks much the same as the one we had just seen, the consensus was to give it a miss. At least I managed to grab that copy of his works that now stands in a place of honour among the classics on my bookshelf.
Our last stop was at Trinity Church, where Shakespeare was both baptised and buried. His grave is famously engraved with the following words:
Good friend for Jesus sake forbear,
To digg the dust enclosed here.
Bleste be ye man yt spares these stones,
And cursed be he yt moves my bones.
Ever eloquent, even in death. And presumably this is also the reason why he hasn’t been reinterred at Westminster Abbey, where so many of Britain’s famous writers lie.
New resolution: when next I’m in England again, I have to revisit Stratford-upon-Avon. I need to go and see everything that I’ve missed, and I would be over the moon to see a production of one of Shakespeare’s plays in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (or even better, at the Globe Theatre in London!). Stratford-upon-Avon also hosts a regular book fair, which would just be my ultimate bookish dream come true.
Are you a fan of the Bard? Do you visit places just because your favourite author used to live there? What other literary destinations have you been to?