In Shakespeare’s house
2016 sees the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. Stratford-upon-Avon, in England, is home to the birthplace of this literary great.
400 years after his death, Google search offers 113 million results including his name. Shakespeare is the most famous writer in the English language and his plays are the most performed in the world. ‘Macbeth’ is staged somewhere in the world every four hours. The legendary film ‘West Side Story’ is based on the tragic story of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Hamlet’ inspired Disney to create ‘The Lion King’. The literary legacy he left after his death confirms the statement made by the English playwright Ben Jonson: “Shakespeare was not of an age, but for all time”.
He changed the history of literature, but in order to discover his past you have to travel to Stratford-upon-Avon, the town where he was born in 1564. The town still boasts rows of Tudor houses and wooden roofs, but one in particular stands out: the house where the playwright was born. Its size, bigger than the others, shows that the writer’s father, a businessman by profession, was a prosperous man.
A group of actors cook together and feed animals to recreate life on the farm of the Shakespeare’s mother’s family.
Photo: © Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
Shakespeare’s life is a mystery. He dissapeared off the radar in 1585 to return again in London decades later, having become a famous writer. During this time, his children and his wife, Anne Hathaway, remained in the village. Their marriage was more than a little complicated: the playwright expressed the desire for her remains not to be buried next to his. This was not the only insult: in his will he left her his “second-best bed”. The eldest daughter from the marriage, Susan, married a doctor and they lived in Hall’s Croft, which you can also visit. 80% of the house is composed of the original structure from 1613. Shakespeare’s son died at eleven, and this event inspired Shakespeare to write ‘Hamlet’. You can also visit his wife’s house. Part of the original family furniture has been preserved, including Anne’s canopied bed.
‘Macbeth’ is staged somewhere in the world every four hours.
At the very height of his career, Shakespeare returned to his home village, then a rich man. He bought a house called New Place. This was demolished in 1759, but the foundation that manages his legacy will be reopening it in July. It will host an exhibition of objects related to the writer’s life, which were found during archaeological excavations.
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre is on the banks of the River Avon. It is also open to the public at night.
Due to a dispute over dates, Shakespeare died on 23rd April for the English, while in the view of the Catholic countries, he died on 3rd May. This is not the only topic of disagreement concerning the writer: some even doubt his existence. A group of English intellectuals published a document that questioned the authorship of his works.
The curse worked: nobody has dared to touch the writer’s bones, not even when the tombstone was repaired in 2008.
Photo: Claudio Divizia / Shutterstock.com
Leaving these theories to one side, Stratford is preparing its homage to the man also known as ‘The Bard of Avon’. His mother’s family’s farm will be open from March to October. The Swan Theatre (owned by the Royal Shakespeare Company) will be hosting an exhibition of accessories used in the playwright’s works. The local school where he studied will be reopening its historical amenities to the public. This was where he had his first contact with the world of words which later, he himself, would make universal.